Daily, millions of homes in Latin America and the Caribbean lose energy in the process of cooling or heating. In the case of dry climates, as in Mexicali, Mexico, households can consume more than 1,000 kWh / month for electricity in the warmer months due to the excessive use of air conditioning. In Chile, however, estimates indicate that households consume on average 830 kWheq / month in the winter months, essentially for heating. This represents a huge cost in terms of natural resources and money, which led us to think about trying to solve this problem.
This is why we undertook a study to analyze what would hypothetically be the keys to saving money and making rational use of natural resources via an energy efficiency program. The idea was to identify what is needed to encourage investment in such programs.
What should a program include to make energy efficiency the irresistible option?
This was one of the key questions asked during the development of our study “Proposals for an energy efficiency program in housing in Chile: The Case of middle and high income sectors” (available only in Spanish). What was the objective? To understand who is interested in investing in energy efficiency, why they are interested, and under what conditions they would invest.
Knowing the reasons and barriers to investment in energy efficiency is essential to understanding how to promote these decisions. Making the decision to carry out work on existing housing is complex and “not made purely based on economic criteria because it is largely influenced by perceptions and expectations.”
However, the complexity of these decisions is consistent with the high potential for energy savings in existing homes.
The first thing that we usually think of is funding. When people have budget constraints to invest in improved housing, offering good financial terms and rates removes financial barriers and increases the attractiveness of the expected benefit. But it’s not the only reason why people choose to improve their homes. Our study revealed that the following 3 considerations should be taken into account to make sure the individual takes action on energy efficiency:
An energy efficiency program in housing should report as precisely as possible what measures it promotes and what benefits are generated at the household level. It is therefore important to have a calculation tool that gives confidence to the actors (banks executives, engineers-evaluators, landlord, etc.) to estimate in a reliable, objective, and consistent manner what results the intervention will produce. The overestimation of benefits may damage the reputation of the program, because expectations will not be met. In this sense, energy efficiency labels that measure the performance of a home before and after interventions can be extremely useful tools that meet the needs of the program to improve existing housing.
It is important to have a mechanism that provides instructions for what to do when things do not go as expected. Was proposal evaluation and reconditioning conducted properly? Was everything implemented correctly? Then there must be a mechanism to provide guarantees and to define penalties or fines for those who do not comply with contractual provisions designed in efficiency program programs.
Evaluators, implementers and labor inspectors must be highly skilled in the design and implementation of housing improvement programs to ensure technical quality in the process. Certifications or accreditations are key for these professionals to provide the necessary assurance that technicians are qualified.
These are some of the key issues to be addressed when thinking about how to promote energy efficiency in existing housing. All actors in the chain must be informed and trained and should have confidence in the process and its results. A massive program of refurbishment can generate substantial energy savings and at the same time improve the thermal comfort inside the houses. Starting to promote these programs today can mean long-term savings, because, once made, the energy efficiency project continuously generates benefits over the years.
If you want to know more about energy efficiency click here.