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Greater willingness to put energy efficiency into practice

Urban Frei is an energy efficiency expert and CEO of Alpiq EcoServices AG. He explains where the potential lies, how Alpiq taps this potential, and how energy efficiency pays off in the long term.

Urban Frei, how much electricity do you consume at home? 3,400 Kilowatt hours per year, more or less. Our family of four uses electricity sparingly. Firstly, we have got into the habit of switching off equipment and lighting when it is not needed, and secondly we systematically replace defective bulbs with energy-saving LED lamps.

Energy efficiency is the new religion. How is Alpiq contributing? Alpiq is active on many fronts and has, for example, founded Alpiq EcoServices AG which specialises in energy efficiency consulting. Plus, our colleagues at Alpiq InTec install energy-efficiency building technology solutions. Alpiq is also investing in ongoing measures to upgrade our power plants. We also help to improve energy efficiency through Alpiq EnerTrans AG, which is responsible for the upkeep of the existing grid and for building a smart electricity grid.

Where is the potential for energy efficiency particularly high? In the right design, and particularly the design of drive equipment such as pumps or fans, and in consumer goods such as electrical equipment. But intelligent systems for controlling building technology systems such as air conditioning also offer huge potential for savings, as do lighting systems. LED bulbs are on the up!

More than 4,000 employees are said to work in the energy efficiency area at Alpiq. Is that right? Yes, because as I mentioned before, energy efficiency plays an important role in many areas of Alpiq. Alpiq EcoServices AG is responsible for designing and optimising efficient buildings. Our colleagues at Alpiq InTec are responsible ensure that these measures are implemented to the highest standards, and also install for example photovoltaic systems.

You are responsible for Alpiq EcoServices AG. How has it been for you over the past five years? Extremely interesting, but also very challenging. Happily I am able to rely on a highly-skilled team. I myself have visited more than 100 companies and often felt like a missionary. But I noticed that the subject appealed to customers. This gave rise to the first orders, and now we have a large number of regular customers.

How do you overcome the scepticism shown by some companies? We show our customers new approaches and try to convince them with compelling arguments and facts. That calls for a high level of trust, because customers have yet to save a single cent so far due to, for example, having their energy measured. That only comes later. Try convincing a hospital group that they should build their new clinic to the Minergie standard! We succeeded, and it will pay off for the customer. 

But why was energy efficiency so slowly to be taken up at first? It’s always been an issue, but many companies have been reluctant to put it into practice. That’s because measures to increase energy efficiency cost a lot of money. But I’m convinced that efficiency measures will pay off more quickly now due to rising taxes based on CO2 and the feed-in tariff. Generally speaking, however, I’d like to see a greater willingness to put energy efficiency into practice.

How can Alpiq stay a front-runner in energy efficiency over the long term? Alpiq covers the entire value chain, from generation to trading and grid services, right down to energy services and building technology. We can make a difference right along the chain.

Hand on heart: Running a successful energy efficiency business is difficult. Wouldn’t it be easier just to build new power plants? That would be short-sighted. We need to look further ahead, and in my opinion, without energy efficiency there is no viable future for reliable, eco-friendly energy supplies.