- Buildings Guide
- Policy Guide
- Appliances Guide
For existing buildings, individual advice is essential to help building owners identify concrete energy saving opportunities and to assess the related costs and benefits. Building owners need to understand these to be convinced to take action for improving energy efficiency at all, and for maximising benefits and avoiding mistakes when they invest. Policy should hence ensure there is free basic advice and consider providing grants for comprehensive energy audits and consultancy to stimulate demand for them. Policy should also support advice to investors to find qualified architects, engineers, contractors, and certified surveyors for ensuring quality control including compliance with energy efficiency standards and requirements of financial incentive and financing programmes.
Lack of information is regarded as being one of the major barriers for market transformation towards building energy efficiency (UNEP 2007; BPIE 2011; UNDP 2010). This is even more the case for existing buildings, because their owners will either not take renovation action at all without being aware of the benefits of energy efficiency, or they will forego the opportunity of improving energy efficiency when they retrofit. The latter case would lock in high energy consumption through energy-wasting walls, roofs, windows, and heating or cooling technologies for decades. Each building is different. Providing individual energy efficiency advice is, therefore, a key measure in addressing this barrier and essential for building owners and investors to take the necessary steps - from being aware of building energy efficiency to taking concrete action by adopting energy efficiency measures (SErENADE 2008). Energy consultants and advisors can assist building owners and investors buying existing buildings:
Thus, policies or measures should be in place to ensure the access to energy efficiency advice for building owners and investors, for example, by providing both free basic advice and grants for comprehensive energy audits and consultancy. In many cases, this will also be crucial for improving compliance of the building during and after renovation with the energy performance provisions as specified in the design phase and plans for the retrofit.
Many countries have implemented energy advice programmes, for instance, by providing special energy analysis / energy audit consultancy supported with a financial incentive programme, setting up a network of local energy advice agencies that are co-ordinated at central level, centralised telephone advice centres for initial advice and making relation to more in-depth audits and consultancy, time-limited projects, ad-hoc advice events organized by relevant agencies etc. (SErENADE 2008). Such programmes are often organised and implemented by national or local energy agencies.
Energy efficiency advice is an essential accompaniment to most other policy instruments and will increase their effectiveness. For example, energy advice and assistance during retrofit is useful and may be needed even for achieving energy performance levels and implementing recommended energy-saving options specified in regulations such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for major renovations in buildings and for building equipment, but is much more needed for reaching higher energy performance levels in renovation, such as Low-Energy and Ultra-Low-Energy Buildings. Such advice can also contribute to creating an Energy Performance Certificate for the renovated building. Besides, building owners and investors also become aware of available financial incentive and financing programmes through energy advice, and the consultancy will enable them attain the energy efficiency requirements of the programmes. For example, the German KfW programmes (cf. the bigEE good practice policy file) require and provide financial support to energy assistance for investors receiving preferential loans for energy efficiency retrofitting in existing buildings. Energy audits can very well be coupled with mandatory or voluntary energy performance certificates: the certificate will be based on the result of the energy audit, which can in turn enhance the information provided with the certificate on potential energy efficiency improvement actions and their benefits and costs.
Successful energy audit & advice programmes stimulating retrofit and ensuring quality during the retrofitting phase can trigger a high investment in renovation to high energy performance or in certain energy efficiency options by building owners and investors. They can also contribute to the investment being more cost-effective by optimising costs and benefits through special assistance.
Policies or measures for providing energy audits & advice & assistance during retrofit aim to ensure the building owners’ and investors’ access to impartial and high quality building energy efficiency advice. Building owners need to understand their individual options, benefits and costs to be convinced to take action for improving energy efficiency at all, and for maximising benefits and avoiding mistakes when they invest. Energy consultants will, through their advice, help them:
Worldwide implementation status
Policies or measures for providing energy efficiency audits and advice are implemented all over the world, however, they vary in government’s recognition of the need for advice, the resources devoted by the government, and the range of services. They can be implemented at national, regional, and local level.
Energy efficiency advice and assistance is provided with the following types of activities (SErENADE 2008):
Consultancy based (energy audits, assistance): The most effective is an on-site, personalised advice and assistance or coaching of investors throughout the analysis, design and construction process to stimulate energy efficiency action and investment at all and to ensure energy efficiency is achieved and made easy when action is taken. The “Energielotsen“ (Energy Guides) in the Hanover region in Germany is an energy advice and consultancy programme, where architects or engineers advise clients on energy efficiency measures for buildings during the whole construction or refurbishment process (see our good practice example). The German KfW programmes (see our good practice example under Financing and financial incentives) require and provide financial support to energy assistance for investors receiving preferential loans for very energy-efficient renovation. Also in Poland, Slovenia and Hungary, consultants carry out energy efficiency advice, which is linked to specific funding programmes.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is low-level initial advice.
Centralized telephone advice: for example, German Energy Agency (DENA) offers a free energy hotline, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology and the E.ON Ruhrgas AG.
At an intermediate level there are advice centres that potential investors can visit.
Network of energy advice centres: In France, the French government assigned ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, with the task of creating an energy advisory infrastructure. The launched EIE network has been implemented in many communities throughout the country to provide free, independent, and customized advice and to raise public awareness for energy efficiency in buildings by outreaching activities. Read more in our good practice policy example.
Services for specific target groups: The “Energy Advice in Student Housing” project was targeted at the student populations in three Dutch cities to make students be more aware of their energy consumption behaviour.
Ad hoc, occasional events: These ad hoc energy advice events are provided by national, regional or local energy agencies.
Policies or measures for providing energy efficiency advice can be implemented at national, regional, and local level.
Behaviour and Management
In principle those passive design options that can be changed, all active technology options, as well as energy management and user behaviour to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings can be subject to energy audits and advice. They may also be embedded in whole building optimisation concepts such as (Ultra-)Low-Energy Buildings to the extent possible in retrofit.
Actors on the supply side of building markets indirectly benefit from the policies or measures for providing energy efficiency advice and assistance. The underlying reason is that the energy efficiency advice stimulates the demand of building owners and investors on energy-efficient products and services.
Policies or measures for energy audits and energy efficiency advice need to be integrated into a policy package to ensure the effectiveness of other instruments. For example, regulations, such as minimum energy performance standards or mandatory energy performance certificates, but also financial incentive programmes should be accompanied by advice about which energy efficiency actions are necessary or recommendable and cost-effective, how to achieve the required energy efficiency level and how to implement recommended actions. An example is the German KfW programmes (see the bigEE good practice example). In addition, a key part of the energy advice is about supportive financing and financial incentive policies or measures available to enable building owners and investors to fully assess the costs and benefits of various options and to prioritise them. Energy audits can very well be coupled with mandatory or voluntary energy performance certificates: the certificate will be based on the result of the energy audit, which can in turn enhance the information provided with the certificate on potential energy efficiency improvement actions and their benefits and costs.
On the other hand, policies or measures for energy audits and energy efficiency advice also need support from other policies or measures. For example, continuous education and training for energy advisors is essential for them to keep up with the rapidly growing market and technology development to better advise the often rather uninformed building owners. Additionally, financial incentives such as direct grants to energy advice agencies or consultants are essential for ensuring the free or low-cost access of building owners and investors to impartial advice. Furthermore, regulations can require specific actors, for example energy suppliers, to achieve energy savings by providing advice to energy consumers or can require energy advisors to be certified.
The following pre-conditions are necessary to implement Energy audits & advice & assistance during retrofit:
Agencies or other actors responsible for implementation
Local, regional, or national energy agencies may play a key role in providing comprehensive energy audits as well as face-to-face or on-site energy efficiency advice to building owners and investors.
The government department(s) that designs, oversees, monitors and evaluates the energy advice work should be clearly defined (SErENADE 2008). National energy agencies can also have the task of designing and implementing a grant programme for supporting energy audits, advice and assistance.
Public funding from different administrative levels is essential to ensure low-cost energy audits and free or low-cost access to initial energy efficiency advice by building owners and investors.
No specific test procedures are needed for the audits and advice. Instead, they are an instrument to ensure compliance with the calculation and test procedures for building energy performance required by other policies such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards, Energy Performance Certificates, and financial incentive programmes.
Trained agency staff or independent consultants are a crucial pre-condition for the high quality energy audits, advice and assistance needed to be credible and effective.
Policy design and implementation steps vary among different types of energy efficiency audit and advice programmes. Most of them are straightforward. It starts with an analysis of the needs of building owners and users for information in order to stimulate investment in energy-efficient building retrofits and use. The policy arena needs to be screened: which MEPS, building energy performance certificates or equipment labels, and financial incentive or financing programmes exist that will have mutual benefits with the audit, advice, or assistance programme? Based on this, the choice of energy audit, advice, and assistance elements for the programme and the links to these other policies (e.g., in terms of calculation methods and tools, energy efficiency requirements, or content to be addressed and results or certificates to be produced by the energy audits and advice) can be made. The implementing agency and the funding need to be determined and secured through legislation and budget.
The establishment of a network of energy advice agencies, however, is relatively complex. It is initiated and co-ordinated by a central agency or organisation. Energy advice agencies/organisations are then established at local level. They can be located in host organisations, such as non-profit environmental and renewable energy organisations, non-profit housing organisations, local authorities, or non-profit consumer organisations. Certified private consultants can also provide the service. A certification scheme will then need to be implemented. However, in addition to the staff of energy advice agencies or the independent consultants providing the service, they need to receive special training for it.
These local energy advice agencies/organisations and consultants report to and are monitored and evaluated regularly by the central co-ordination body.
Energy efficiency advice and assistance can have a quantified target, such as the number of individual audit reports or advice contacts to be reached, the number of local energy agencies to be set up, or the number of events to be organised, etc.
However, it may not be feasible to set an energy saving target for the advice and assistance alone, because decisions on whether taking up energy-efficiency options are finally made by building owners and investors. In addition, other policies and measures such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards and financial incentive programmes also influence these decisions. Hence, energy saving targets are more advisable for the package of policies and measures targeting energy-efficient retrofit and renovation.
International co-operations that share best practices of energy efficiency audits and advice can improve the policy. Besides, for countries where building energy efficiency is less developed and training capacity is lacking, international technical assistance and grant programmes that aim at training qualified professionals who can provide energy efficiency audits and advice in these countries can have a high leverage effect.
Monitoring of audit and advice activities requires the report of data such as the number of advice activities, the recommended energy efficiency options and potential energy and cost savings, the customer satisfaction/customer service quality, the background information of customers etc. In addition, the really implemented options and/or the energy performance values calculated for Energy Performance Certificates or the real energy consumption achieved by building owners and investors who receive energy audits and advice should also be recorded (SErENADE 2008). An optimal monitoring would also collect cost-effectiveness data (investment, energy cost savings, changes in operation and maintenance costs if relevant) for the energy efficiency investments recommended in energy audits and/or implemented as their consequence, at least for a meaningful sample of participants.
Monitoring of outreach activities requires data, such as the type of event (e.g. workshop, school event, fair), the number of people reached, the (amount of) materials used etc.
Evaluation of energy efficiency advice can include the following categories of information: evaluation of results of advice (e.g. options recommended and really implemented or energy performance levels recommended and achieved), evaluation of outcomes of advice (e.g. energy consumption and savings achieved compared to previous standard of the renovated buildings, including through compliance with energy efficiency requirements), and benefit/cost ratio, but also evaluation of customer satisfaction/customer service quality, analysis of client group (SErENADE 2008).
In order to evaluate energy savings induced by the energy efficiency audits and advice, modelled energy consumption for the scenario where no energy efficiency action is taken and data of actual energy consumption are needed. However, the accuracy of modelling is sometimes questionable. It can be improved by tailoring the parameters more closely to different house types, which can increase the cost (SErENADE 2008). Thus, a compromise between accuracy and cost needs to be made.
In order to evaluate the economic costs and benefits, data on the cost of providing advice and running the programmes (design, communication, training and certification of advisors, evaluation), the investment of building owners and investors on energy-saving options triggered by the advice, and estimated energy savings are needed. The analysis of cost should avoid neglecting the cost of preparation before the advice-giving and the additional funds raised by local advice agencies. Besides, double-counting of savings should be avoided when more than one public-funded programme supports the advice and assistance, and when there are Minimum Energy Performance Standards and financial incentive programmes for investments (SErENADE 2008).
Design for sustainability aspects
Other sustainability aspects and environmental impacts can be part of energy efficiency audits and advice, e.g. health aspects, uses of other resources such as water and land.
Job creation in the energy consultancy and advice field is an important co-benefit of policy or measure providing energy efficiency advice and audits, because of the increased demand for energy consultants and advisors. Indirectly, the increasing demand for energy efficiency products and services creates job opportunities in this field.
The following barriers are possible during the implementation of the policy
Barriers for the implementation of policies or measures providing energy efficiency advice are mainly:
The following measures can be undertaken to overcome the barriers
To overcome barriers for the implementation of policies providing energy audits and advice:
Potentially achievable energy savings vary among different types of energy audit or energy efficiency advice programmes. For instance, compared to other advice approaches, energy audits and on-site advice can lead to more reliable and adequate energy efficiency recommendations and thus increase the chance that recommendations are actually implemented and higher energy savings achieved.
Furthermore, energy savings from energy audit, advice and assistance measures will often be difficult to measure or attribute to the advice and assistance measure, but they will contribute to the effectiveness of many other policies, such as Minimum energy performance standards or financial incentive programmes.
For example, in France, the local energy information centres, providing advice for both energy-efficient retrofit of existing buildings and new construction, encouraged investment on energy-saving options that saved 160,000mt of CO2 in 2009 (MURE 2010; see also the bigEE good practice policy example).
The costs differ significantly depending on the approach of energy efficiency advice and the country of implementation.
For the example of the Energielotsen in Hanover, Germany, the grant to investors is up to €500 for both new buildings and energy efficiency retrofitting of existing buildings. This is a service guiding building owners through the process of renovating to (Ultra-)Low-Energy Buildings.
A full energy audit by an energy consultant for a single family or small multi-family home in Germany will receive a grant of €400. The difference to the cost of €600 to €800 will accrue to the building owner. Energy audits for larger and non-residential buildings may of course be more expensive.
For other, often simpler examples of energy advice in European Union countries, the following table presents values for the cost per client.
For example, in France, the overall budget for operating local energy information centres, providing advice for both energy-efficient retrofit of existing buildings and new construction, is 15 million Euros per year (MURE 2010; see also the bigEE good practice policy example).
|Advice service||Sector||Country||Estimated cost of advice||Comments|
|Guichets de l'energie Wallonia||Households||Belgium||€26-34/client||Approximation|
|Guichets de l'energie Brussels energy agency||Households||Belgium||€50/hour|
|Espace Info Energie||Households and SMEs||France||€50/client||Only actual advice time included in costs, and even then only about 50% is covered by national funding: Around 26 minutes per client on average.|
|Reidener Energieatelier ASBL||Households and SMEs||Luxembourg||€450/client on average||Wide range of level of support given. Small centre with only one adviser, so no economies of scale.|
|EKIS CEA||Households||Czech Republic||€16/hour||Clients typically given one hour. Covers advice time only.|
|German Consumer Organisation||Households||Germany||€215/client||This is the cost for a site visit.|
|CTCU||Households||Italy||€45/client||Average for consumer advice (not just energy).|
|Energy Advisory Network||Households||Slovakia||€24/client||Office-based advice in regional offices.|
|ENSVET||Households||Slovenia||€70-100/client||Based on full evaluation of costs of service.|
|EEACs||Households||UK||€15/client||Based on programme costs and numbers reached in 2005-6, so covers all aspects of domestic advice provision, but includes only national funding for EEACs (not additional local).|
Successful policies or measures providing energy efficiency advice can have a very high leverage effect and result in significant reduction of CO2 emissions. For example, in France, the overall budget for operating local energy information centres, providing advice for both energy-efficient retrofit of existing buildings and new construction, is 15 million Euros per year. These centres encouraged investment on energy-saving options of 465 million Euros and saved 160,000mt of CO2 in 2009 (MURE 2010; see also the bigEE good practice policy example).
A likely result of careful energy advice and assistance during design and construction will also be that the energy-efficient building will be cost-effective for the investor, or at least the costs for improving energy efficiency will be minimised.
BAFA (n.d.). Energiesparberatung. Retrieved from:
MURE (2010): FRA16 Local energy information centres.
proKlima (2011): Förderangebote Neubau – proKlima Förderprogramm 2011.
proKlima (2012): Anforderungsprofil Energielotse:
SErENADE (2008): Energy advice in Europe 2007: A review of current practice in advice on sustainable energy in the countries of the European Union.
VPB (Verband Privater Bauherren e.V.) (2011) Energieberatung im Neubau.
Energy Efficiency Utility Program of Vermont
Type: Energy efficiency funds
Type: Energy advice & assistance during design and construction
Local Energy Information Centres
Type: Provision of information
Energy companies' efficiency efforts
Type: Energy saving obligations for energy companies