Exporting energy efficiency

Examining energy-efficient technologies and services for export

Global energy consumption is rising and fossil fuels are becoming more scarce forcing us to look for alternative energy sources and create strategies to generate and consume energy more efficiently. The subsequent rise in global demand for “energy-efficient technologies” was to be expected and it has created new business opportunities. Against this background, the “Gesellschaft für Innovationsforschung und Beratung” (GIB) carried out a study with four Steinbeis transfer centers into products and services offered by German companies. After capturing the scope of services on offer, the team developed a process for gauging the suitability of services for different scenarios and markets.

The aim of the joint study was to examine the scope of energy-efficient products and services supplied by German companies, and categorize them systematically. The team was also keen to work up a catalog of questions for capturing the data needed to assess the energy efficiency of individual types of products and services culminating in suggested processes for evaluating and comparing business solutions.

In the first phase, the GIB worked up different categories to break down the broad range of energy-efficient technologies and services into relevant groups. The main areas of application turned out to be: 

  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Buildings
  • Transport and mobility
  • End users/consumers
  • Energy provision (electricity and thermal energy)
  • Technology

In parallel with the quantitative assessment, the team pulled out all of the products and services with a high level of significance with respect to energy efficiency. This could be because they make a tangible difference to the energy consumption of an industrial country or because they reduce the energy consumption in another key field. Services were given a particularly high rating as in many areas the energy efficiency of an en tire system could be improved just by linking up certain technologies.

In the second phase, the Steinbeis partners worked out assessment methods and made recommendations on the best way to evaluate the energy efficiency of the key product and service categories. A technology can be deemed energy-efficient if it uses less energy than a currently available technology (or the most commonly used technology) with the same (or even better) results in terms of product quality or quantity, availability, convenience, or user-friendliness.

The energy efficiency evaluation makes it possible to assess the extent to which a product saves energy versus typical products within a category. As a rule, products are assessed against reference products and a so-called efficiency factor that captures the relationship between the energy consumption of the conventional technology and the new technology. This is based on the assumption that the conventional technology can be substituted in its entirety by the new energy-efficient technology, i.e. the output is identical.

Specific evaluation profiles were drafted for around 50 different product and service categories. A list of special questions was used to check the plausibility of information provided by the supplier. Apart from technical qualities, each product was rated for its innovative value, business development and the export standing of the provider. The evaluation model also poses questions about where the product is used, how easy it is to adapt or replace it, and overall reliability. The overall product score pulls together all points and weightings. The criteria are summarized, too, with a total made up of the individual scores and the weightings.

At the end of the assessment each product is given a total score in the form of an index number. This index number can be used for an initial ranking of different products destined to be used in a market, based on assumptions captured beforehand with respect to important product attributes. The evaluation system has been specially designed so that it can be adapted to market factors. The system developed by the team is a useful tool for assessing the spectrum of energysaving products and services now on offer in Germany.  

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