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Expert interview: How SMEs can contribute to SDG 13

The Energy Agency for Industry (EnAW) supports companies in identifying and assessing energy efficiency potential, developing individual measures, agreeing on targets with the government, reporting and, finally, in achieving the set targets. By the end of 2019, over 4000 companies, which account for about 50 percent of the CO2 emissions of Swiss industrial and service companies, had concluded 2,405 target agreements with the EnAW. UBS supports its corporate clients in participating in the energy check-up of the EnAW and in the implementation of measures that help to increase energy efficiency and thus reduce operating costs.

Interview with Jacqueline Jakob, Managing Director of the Energy Agency for Industry (EnAW)

Business Sustainability Today:

Ms Jakob, how do you think Switzerland can implement the Energy Strategy 2050 and become climate-neutral by that time?

Jacqueline Jakob:

Climate neutrality by 2050 is an enormous challenge for society as a whole. It is therefore important that everyone is aware of this issue, and that SME know that they can also contribute to this. In fact, the earlier SME start to deal with it, the more stable their futures and the better their competitiveness.

Business Sustainability Today:

Where do companies have the greatest potential to save energy and which efficiency measures are most effective?

Jacqueline Jakob:

Proven approaches include above all increases in efficiency, technical improvements, renewals and operational optimization. In addition, companies need to look at their products and consider substitutions where appropriate. This is undoubtedly difficult. In the next step, we recommend focusing on renewable energies. A good mix of renewable, CO2-free and CO2-neutral energies and the right infrastructure are best suited. Intensive research is also being conducted in this area. Greta Patzke, a professor of chemistry for example, is looking at how photosynthesis can be technically reconstructed to produce renewable energy.
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Business Sustainability Today:

Where is the most energy consumed?

Jacqueline Jakob:

Among EnAW participants we have noticed that the greatest potential still exists in process heat. Around 70 percent of the fuels used in industry are used for heating. These processes must be optimized and made sustainable. That takes courage.

Business Sustainability Today:

Why can SME in particular benefit from the EnAW energy check?

Jacqueline Jakob:

It is understandable that SME focus on their core business and not necessarily on energy consumption. SME therefore often do not have an energy officer but need uncomplicated access to know-how. The EnAW energy check-up closes this gap.  It also has a kind of driving effect: we start with observation, measurements and evaluations. This, in turn, sets various processes in motion. In addition, companies can learn from each other in exchange and experience groups. Furthermore, the EnAW also provides a complete overview of all the support programmes offered in this field.

Business Sustainability Today:

What advice do you give to SME that are particularly concerned about operational and financial challenges?

Ecological measures must always be economically sensible.
Jacqueline Jacob

Jacqueline Jakob:

Ecological measures must always be economically sensible. For example, the combination of a target agreement and the possibility of reimbursement of the steering levy has now developed into a successful model. More and more companies are discovering that ecological measures can also include economic benefits. Authorities set the targets, but companies are given the necessary leeway for implementation. The result of 20 years EnAW with more than 4000 participants shows that this approach has proven itself in terms of the feasibility and cost-effectiveness.

Business Sustainability Today:

Apart from financial savings: Why is it worth investing in energy efficiency?

Jacqueline Jakob:

We often experience that the management reacts somewhat critically at the beginning. However, when the process has started, benefits beyond the energy sector often become apparent. For example, better working environments, product improvements and increased competitiveness – all creating a positive dynamic that in turn encourages other SME to participate. Such internal developments are strengthened by the awareness of having already made provisions for rising energy prices and having the latest and best technologies at their disposal.

Business Sustainability Today:

What is your vision for the future, Ms Jakob?

Jacqueline Jakob:

I imagine a low-carbon economy with established renewable energies that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. And any CO2 emissions that cannot be reduced, are compensated with negative emissions.

Facts & Figures of the EnAW:

© graphic: enaw.ch
In 2019, the CO2 consumption of the participating companies was reduced by 628,412 tonnes. According to SWISS calculations, this corresponds to approximately 192,175 flights from Zurich to Auckland (NZ) and back.
© graphic: enaw.ch
In 2019, 3,578,159 megawatt hours of energy were saved by the participating companies, of which 1,471,597 megawatt hours were attributable to electricity. The savings correspond to more than 80 percent of the annual final energy consumption of the canton of Basel-Stadt.

© Photo Jacqueline Jakob: EnAW