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European Sustainable Energy Week
News blog31 January 2024European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Energy efficiency in SMEs: great potential, but money rules

Christel Liljegren, Managing Director of the Southern Sweden Energy Agency (Energikontor Syd) and FEDARENE Vice-President for Mobility and Transport

Energy efficiency in SMEs

Great potential, but money rules! The experience gained in recent years through our various projects targeting companies reveals that there is still significant potential to enhance energy efficiency within this target group. Measured efficiency improvements have ranged from 15% to 35%.

In Sweden, the rise of energy prices in the fall/winter 2022 led to a growing demand for the expertise and knowledge of the energy agencies and for participating in different support initiatives. Numerous connections were established with companies throughout the regions, revealing the influence of financial considerations on the willingness to transition. This insight is valuable for future efforts, especially when the impact of lower energy prices can lead to decreased engagement and implementation of the clean energy transition in businesses.

Clearly communicated energy and climate (sustainability) initiatives enhance competitiveness in a business environment marked by rising sustainability reporting and a growing demand for sustainable, fossil-free value chains. Strategic energy management builds awareness of a company's energy system, empowering SMEs to minimise unnecessary energy use, optimise technology, and make informed decisions on investments or upgrades – resulting in reduced energy costs for business development or profit. This understanding of their energy system enables businesses to quickly adapt to operational changes, escalating costs, or unforeseen events.

Recommendations gathered from small and medium-sized enterprises in our area to policymakers:

  • Create incentives and establish incentive systems for SMEs to participate in energy efficiency initiatives, aiming to enhance involvement and performance. Clear communication about savings and motivation is crucial.
  • Recognise the significance of energy audits by offering support and subsidies for companies to engage experts. Emphasise the reduction of expensive energy items and encourage the shift to sustainable alternatives.
  • Support companies in strategic energy management by establishing internal organisations and appointing energy managers. Provide resources and incentives to fortify internal structures.

Energy efficiency is crucial for small and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of many European Union economies. Adopting energy-efficient practices enhances competitiveness and reduces operational costs for these businesses, vital in a dynamic business landscape with tight budgets. As the EU focuses on sustainability and climate change, enterprises prioritising energy efficiency align with regulations and market trends, contributing to both environmental sustainability and financial resilience. Recognising this importance is key for enterprises continued role in EU economies. Regional energy agencies, collaborating with municipalities and regions, play a crucial role as agents of change in driving climate adaptation efforts, supporting businesses in these endeavours.

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About the author

Christel Liljegren is Managing Director of The Energy Agency of Southern Sweden (Energikontor Syd). Throughout her career, Christel has worked on different sustainability projects – from strategic waste management to energy behavioural projects and many others in-between. From 2011, she has been working in the energy agency and since 2017 she has been the CEO. Christel is a member of the board of Energikontoren Sverige, the national association for the Swedish regional energy agencies, and Vice-President for Mobility and Transport at FEDARENE.

FEDARENE (European Federation of Agencies and Regions for Energy and the Environment) is the collective voice on the energy transition for regions and local/regional energy agencies. FEDARENE’s members drive the energy transition and climate action in their territories through ambitious policy development and strategic facilitation actions.


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Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.