Europe is leading efforts to design policies that encourage energy efficiency in the buildings sector, but many obstacles — such as lack of funds or fear of technology — still compromise the adoption of these policies. The EU-funded HERON project identified the main social, cultural, educational, economic and institutional barriers to adopting energy efficiency, both in the building and the transport sectors. The team then developed effective energy efficiency policies to overcome these barriers. "HERON conducted case studies on energy efficiency in seven different European countries to help policymakers develop and monitor energy efficiency strategies," says Project Coordinator Prof. Dimitrios Mavrakis. New software tool to aid energy efficiency policymaking Researchers devised several energy scenarios for Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom. These included business-as-usual scenarios, scenarios that do not take account of behavioural barriers, others that include the effects of the barriers, and a best scenario based on policies adapted in response to the identified behavioural barriers. More specifically, "the HERON Decision Support Tool (DST) calculates the impact of behavioural barriers on input drivers — i.e. technologies and policies — along with the desired energy efficiency scenarios," explains Prof. Mavrakis. The tool, which was developed by the Energy Policy and Development Centre of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, was assessed by two independent groups of EU evaluators who deemed it an innovative and successful solution for identifying and addressing barriers to energy efficiency. The result of the research carried out by HERON is a new integrated methodology based on the HERON DST. The methodology reveals what stops end-users from adopting energy efficiency policies. According to Prof. Mavrakis: "This allows policymakers to update and fine-tune the policies, and ultimately create the best policy recommendations." Principal barriers to energy efficiency Interestingly, four key barriers emerged from the seven case studies. "The two cultural barriers were, on the one hand, people's hard-to-change habits concerning energy efficiency, and on the other, mistrust of technologies and contractors," reveals Prof. Mavrakis. He also highlighted the chief social barrier, which is the disadvantaged socioeconomic status of building users. The key educational barrier was identified as "the lack of awareness, knowledge on savings potential, and/or information gap regarding relevant technologies." Support at local, regional and national levels Thanks to the HERON DST, policymakers at all government levels — local, regional and national — can identify the optimal policy mix. "The Decision Support Tool helps transform behavioural barriers of end users into factors that impact energy efficiency drivers and targets," notes Prof. Mavrakis. "This provides a pathway for relevant policymakers in all EU countries to adopt the most effective combination of policies for overcoming behavioural barriers," he concludes. The project team is now exploring how to apply the project outcomes in other areas, like the oil and natural sectors, and is considering scenarios developed with the aid of other energy models. Thus, the positive impact on Europe's environment and its citizens' well-being, as well as on cost savings, could be considerable.
HERONenergy efficiency, transport, building, policymaking