United for more energy efficiency
EU project funds networks promoting energy saving in Adlershof
There’s no alternative to saving more energy—for economic as well as ecological reasons. The harmful effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident in the form of heat waves, melting arctic ice, or dangerous floods. The climate must be protected. On a global scale.
Whether in private households, businesses, or the public sphere, saving energy also pays off financially. For small and medium-sized companies (SMUs), energy is considered one of the largest cost factors. Particularly for commercial businesses, the question as to how energy can be saved and more efficiently used is highly relevant. The potential is considerable. Experience shows that up to 70 percent of energy consumption can be saved in lighting and up to 50 percent in production systems. By replacing boilers, heating costs can be reduced by around a third.
This is where GEAR@SME comes into play, an EU project that has partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Italy, and Romania working together. The Berlin Energy Agency (BEA) is responsible for implementing it in Germany. “As one of these project partners, we are looking for companies that want to get involved in climate protection networks,” says BEA employee Robert Spanheimer. These networks are aimed at local businesses parks, which is why they are applicable to Adlershof and its SMEs. Spanheimer now partnered up with Beate Mekiffer, the Innovation Projects team lead at WISTA Management GmbH.
During the pilot phase of the Adlershof network, Spanheimer’s aim is to generate positive effects as well as motivating other business parks in Berlin to join the GEAR@SME project. Thanks to its attractive offerings, this should not be too difficult. They include a free-of-charge energy scan that has an engineer visiting the companies to assess their energy consumption. Combine this assessment with the data provided by the companies themselves and you get very detailed look into a company’s current energy activities.
These are divided into different areas. First, they look at buildings’ envelopes, including insulation, heat, and photovoltaics. They then take a close look at the companies’ production process, including things like the use of transformers or the production of compressed air. Does it produce, say, waste heat that could be used elsewhere? After doing so, the focus can be put on possible changes. “We know from experience that the people in charge often already have ideas about the potential within the company,” says Spanheimer.
These assessments of individual companies come first, then networking and bringing people together are on the agenda. This happens at workshops, which, like the consultancy and the initial energy scan, are free. “We organise and overlook these the events, which deal with specific topics,” says Spanheimer. He knows from experience that these workshops generate good ideas and help to involve and motivate employees.
This also applies to energy efficiency measures. The fact that the GEAR @ SME project can draw on the Horizon 2020 programme (an EU funding programme for research and innovation) also has a positive effect here. However, participation of partners from other EU countries is one of its key eligibility criteria. This is something the multinational GEAR@SME project excels at. Spanheimer emphasises that the free-of-charge energy scans are not out to compete with energy audits offered by specialised companies. However, unlike larger companies, SMEs, which by definition do not have more than 250 employees and a maximum annual turnover of 50 million euros, are not obliged to perform this type of regular energy audit every four years. These systematic examinations serve to record and analyse all relevant energy flows within a company.
The site in Adlershof, which includes the Technology Park, the Media City as well as commercial businesses and service providers, currently comprises around 1,200 small and medium-sized companies that qualify for GEAR@SME’s services. “Everybody can apply, from newsstands to machine-building companies,” says Spanheimer. The most important criterion for joining the network is not the type of industry, but a connection to the locality and physical proximity. That way people can also network at a café over lunch or at a restaurant in the evening. All it takes then is good energy.
Paul Janositz for POTENZIAL – The WISTA Magazine