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SPEEDIER breaking down barriers to energy efficiency for SMEs

“Horizon funding enables you to carry out high quality, robust research that can influence policy, and policy can change behaviour”

Dr Pádraig Lyons, Head of Group, International Energy Research Centre, and coordinator of SPEEDIER

Case Study: SPEEDIER

The European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive has set an ambitious target of a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. With small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) responsible for approximately 13% of Europe’s total energy demand, their contribution to achieving the target is vital.

However, little of this potential has so far been realised with studies estimating that only 25% of SMEs in Europe have undertaken an energy audit. The reasons cited range from lack of time, resource, in-house expertise and finance, to the low priority given to energy efficiency compared to other business needs.

To address these barriers the SPEEDIER (SME Program for Energy Efficiency Through Delivery and Implementation of EneRgy Audits) project was established. Funded by Horizon 2020 and led by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) in Cork, the project developed an integrated approach to energy management for SMEs, providing information, capacity building, energy auditing, financing, implementation of energy efficiency solutions and monitoring of impacts.

Dr Pádraig Lyons, Head of Group, IERC, and coordinator of SPEEDIER, explains how it differs from other energy efficiency supports.

“At IERC we’ve done a number of projects in this space and are learning about the challenges that SMEs are facing. One of these is the difficulty getting finance for decarbonization projects. So we came up with the SPEEDIER concept which is essentially a self-funding approach to becoming energy efficient.” says Lyons

The model developed is a novel funding mechanism, which builds from no-cost energy conservation activities up to higher cost activities, using the savings from each to finance the next level of investment.

“This approach creates a revolving energy efficiency fund for the business, removing any barriers relating to lack of finance, and providing an external source of expertise via the SPEEDIER consultants,” says Lyons.

The advantages of collaboration

SPEEDIER involved nine partners across four countries – Ireland, Spain, Italy and Romania – testing the concept in different contexts from hotels to office blocks and across a range of manufacturers.

“One of the benefits of this kind of European-wide collaboration is the information we could gather across a broad range of SME types and a wide geographical area.” 

That has enabled us to draw conclusions about how we can move SPEEDIER forward post project and how it should be tailored to different sectors and countries”, says Lyons.

Although the project was hampered by the Covid pandemic, which restricted the implementation of the SPEEDIER service across businesses and meant some targets set at the start of the project had to be revised, Lyons considers that it was a success.

“It’s less about ticking boxes to say we involved this number of companies or trained that number of consultants and more about generating interest in the concept, validating and evaluating the concept and getting companies on a path. And we’re seeing a lot of interest in the SPEEDIER approach.”

Focus on the learning

As coordinator of SPEEDIER, Lyons, who took over the reins mid project, is realistic about the administration that comes with involvement in a Horizon project.

“There is a lot of reporting required and as project coordinators that fell to us at IERC. It’s challenging but that’s the reality of being part of a project with this level of funding. And of course, as the coordinator you have ultimate responsibility for the project so that can be an added pressure.

“Having said that, the substantial funding that’s available from Horizon projects enables you to carry out robust research where the findings are backed up with strong evidence. That kind of research can influence policy, and policy can change behaviour. That’s really important. I believe that there is no use completing a research project and then writing a report that just sits on a shelf. Turning results into information that somebody can actually use is the vital part of any research project.

“Horizon 2020, and now Horizon Europe, offer great opportunities to carry out high quality research if you make the time and space to get involved. But you need to stay focused on the learning as well as the deliverables and objectives set out at the start of the project. It’s the learning that can be commercialized, drive policy change and create the changes that are needed.”

Horizon Europe has a budget of over  €95 billion and one of its core aims is to tackle climate change in line with the European Green Deal and boost to the EU’s competitiveness and growth through excellent research, innovation and collaboration. Enterprise Ireland provides a number of supports for institutions and businesses who are interested in participating in a Horizon Europe project.

Learn more about SPEEDIER, or for information on applying for support from Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie.

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