The International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Efficiency Conference

Here’s something a little bit different – the thoughts of Community Utilities MD, Dan Clegg, on his time at the International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Efficiency Conference:

“I arrived excited to hear from leading energy efficiency experts, to find out about technological breakthroughs that would help us take major strides in what is now widely accepted to be a war against the climate crisis.

In fact, it was the words of a Dublin schoolgirl, Victory Luke, that had by far the biggest impact on me and, judging by the spontaneous standing ovation she received, most of the other attendees. In the assured, brutally honest style of Greta Thunberg, Victory explained her fear that her younger brothers and sisters would grow up in a world unrecognisable due to climate change.

She highlighted how with the support of SEAI, Microsoft and SSE her school had not only cut energy consumption by 90% and water consumption by 55% in one year, but had inspired their whole community to get stuck into energy efficiency behaviours and changes. The gauntlet was thrown down to delegates – if schoolchildren can achieve that, why can’t the collective businesses, politicians and experts in the room.

Victory Luke - IEA speech

How can businesses make a positive environmental difference?

‘How’ is the big question here, which led me to consider three things, which were generally agreed on by the panellists and experts in the room:

1.     The technologies we need to achieve our goals are available

2.     The changes we need to make are not just affordable but, in many cases, financially beneficial

3.     The majority of people believe that significant action needs to be taken and taken quickly

While these points relate to tackling the climate crisis through decarbonisation and energy efficiency, they could just as easily relate to losing weight, to breaking an unhealthy addiction to social media or to getting from ‘couch to 5K’.

This helps to understand why we currently run the risk of doing too little, too late because, as we all know from personal experience, it is really hard to make changes to our behaviour, even when we really want to achieve the end result.

But, more optimistically, it helps us understand what we need to do to be successful. We need to learn from the techniques and approaches that consistently help people to lose weight, to break addictions, to achieve fitness challenges… to change their short-term behaviours to achieve long term goals.

What are the five main drivers?

1.     Use a crisis to get started.

Often the biggest changes come after a scare. Governments around the world have declared climate emergencies, but very little has practically changed. Let’s leverage this moment to take those difficult first steps on energy efficiency and decarbonisation and build inertia for the future.

2.     Commit to a goal, write it down, make it public.

Just like letting everyone know that you’ve signed up for your first 10K race helps you get off the sofa and start lacing up the running shoes, governments are doing the same thing committing to achieve net zero or similar by 2050. This needs to flow down to businesses, to communities and to individuals so that reducing their carbon footprint is a visible, tangible goal.

3.     Use meaningful data to track progress and inspire action.

There are thousands of apps that track your fitness or calories and display it on your smartphone or watch. I keep getting told to “Move!” by my Garmin if I stay sedentary for too long which prompts me to get up and get the blood flowing. We need to capture data on energy efficiency, make engaging, meaningful and accessible to inspire people to make the right choices.

4.     Get together as a community.

Running groups, weight loss clubs, alcoholics anonymous… the benefits of groups supporting each other to make behavioural changes are clear. Group members can share tips, encourage each other and promote accountability. Our Community Utilities project aims to achieve this by letting people compare their energy usage with neighbours and national averages. The more sharing that can be done in groups of businesses and local communities the more people will be supported and empowered to take action.

 5.     Be honest and transparent.

We’ve all claimed to be on a diet, but we’ll binge on biscuits when no-one is looking. It may feel good in the short term, but it doesn’t benefit anyone. To achieve the changes we want we need to be honest and transparent. Unfortunately, this is sometimes lacking in the war on climate change: green wash is rife, governments claim to lead the way in renewables while funding coal, and fossil fuel subsidies increased while tax on renewables also increased. The list goes on and this hypocrisy affects us all and needs to stop.  

Sounds simple?

Of course it doesn’t, because it’s not.

The data is complicated and technical, the choices are hard and there’s a lot of vested interests woven through our political and economic system. But there is only one thing for sure – if we don’t all try with everything we’ve got, right now, then our children and their children will inherit a world, a home, unrecognisable from the one that we were given.


About the Author

Dan Clegg is the Managing Director of Community Utilities, a utility solution designed specifically around the needs of the build to rent community.

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