What is the energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency refers to the minimum amount of energy that can be consumed to carry out a process, either to light a room or to heat a house, without having a negative impact on the living conditions of the users.

The concept of energy efficiency is closely linked to self-sufficiency, near-zero consumption and renewable energies. Every time we turn on a light bulb or cook, we are consuming a series of natural resources that, in some cases, are not recoverable.

This fact leads us to the fact that reducing energy consumption and, therefore, air pollution and natural resources, has become a priority objective for public policies.

Currently, a series of protocols and national plans have been formalized with the goal of reducing pollution and energy expenditure that we will see in this post.

Short- and long-range benefits of energy efficiency

If energy consumption is made more efficient, the distribution chain, from the final consumer to the product, becomes more sustainable and allows for a lower rate of production and emissions.

Among its benefits, both for individuals and companies:

  • More efficient use of energy-saving electrical appliances reduces electricity bills
  • In the case of companies and factories, in addition to the electricity bill, the production process also becomes cheaper
  • Lower electricity consumption reduces the emission of Greenhouse Gases and the exploitation of natural resources, as well as energy dependence

How to make a house more efficient

Taking into account that the cost of energy is a “resource” which can be high depending on its source, as well as highly polluting or limited except in the case of renewable energies, increasing the energy efficiency of industry and housing is one of the usual objectives of energy policies.

As final consumers, and in order to improve the energy efficiency of a house, owners or tenants can choose to:

  • Use energy-saving bulbs
  • Check insulation and leaks in the enclosure, which results in less use of air conditioning and heating systems
  • Replace old appliances with current ones with a better energy rating (A+, A++, A+++)

These small changes can be very beneficial in the long run, not only in terms of consumption, but also in terms of higher levels of comfort within the home.

Energy requirements for new construction buildings

Since 2007, new buildings have been required to present their energy rating from the project phase. Once the work is completed, the rating submitted must be confirmed.

Specifically, the CTE (Technical Building Code) specifies a series of requirements that must be met for the construction and maintenance of buildings. These are:

  • Limitation of energy demand
  • Performance of thermal installations
  • Energy efficiency of thermal installations
  • Minimum solar contribution for domestic hot water
  • Minimum electrical energy contribution

At present, and by 2021, new buildings should have a near-zero energy demand which should be covered by renewable sources with a contribution of up to 50%.

At the same time, the obligation to use specific renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic solar energy it is
been removed and the inclusion of other systems is allowed

In addition, one of the parameters to be taken into account will be the overall coefficient of heat transmission through the thermal envelope. Certain levels will be required for both new construction and renovation.

The Thermos residential building is the firts passivhaus certificate building in Spain - STACBOND aluminium composite panel

The Thermos building is the first passivhaus certificate residential building in Spain es el primer edificio residencial con certificación Passivhaus en España

Energy efficiency in Spain

As a member of the EU, Spain adheres to the European Union’s energy commitments and objectives. The current plan, known as Horizon 2020, sets out a series of objectives for which 64 million euros have been earmarked for innovation projects and market absorption of energy efficiency.

According to the targets agreed so far, by 2020, they should be covered in the EU:

  • 20% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to 1990 emission levels
  • 20% reduction in energy consumption to be assumed for energy efficiency
  • 20% of energy consumed from renewable sources

The following objectives, already within the Horizon 2030, are more ambitious:

  • Reduce EU emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels
  • A minimum share of 32% of energy consumed from renewable sources
  • 32.5% reduction in conventional energy consumption which must be assumed by energy efficiency sources

The benefits assumed by the Horizon 2020 and 2030 plans are directed towards:

  • Guarantee of affordable energy for all consumers
  • Increasing the security of energy supply within the EU
  • Creation of related jobs
  • Reducing dependence on energy imports

Energy intensity

In relation to the objectives of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, it is interesting to know what it means the energy intensity indicator.

The concept of energy intensity is calculated as the ratio of demand to a country’s GDP.

A high intensity indicates a high cost of energy in relation to production. In other words, high consumption with a low result.

In contrast, low energy intensity indicates low cost in relation to production.

In the case of Spain, since 2004, when energy intensity reached a peak of 104.5 (in tons of oil equivalent per million euros), the trend has been downward to 78.3 in 2017.

Energetic dependence of EU countries, including Spain - Energy efficiency

National Energy Saving and Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) 2011-2020

In 2011, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the National Energy Saving and Efficiency Action Plan for the period 2011-2020. Its main objective is to achieve an average improvement in energy intensity of 2% per year.

The Plan forecasts average GDP growth of 2.3%, with oil consumption falling by 1.8% and nuclear energy by 1.05%, while consumption of coal and natural gas is expected to increase (1.98% and 2.28% respectively), and the use of renewable energies to grow by 6.46% per year.

The NEEAP also calculates an annual growth in consumption of 0.2%.

Spain is characterised by a low contribution of own resources to meet the energy demand of the population and industry. For this reason, it has to import a large quantity of oil products.

In general terms, although the dependency percentages with regard to the rest of the EU countries have improved, Spain, with 72.3%, is still far from the European average (53.55%).

Energetic Intensity of Spain in the period 2000-2017

As you can see, energy efficiency covers a very wide spectrum, ranging from the small changes we can make as citizens to our housing, to policies for new construction and renovation or, at a higher level, actions at state level following EU objectives.