Re-thinking energy efficiency in European policy: Practitioners' use of ‘multiple benefits’ arguments
There is increasing interest in the idea that energy efficiency has economic, environmental and social impacts beyond energy and cost saving - a ‘multiple benefits’ perspective. However, present EU-decision making on energy efficiency is based on assessment of a very narrow range of costs and benefits. This paper investigates whether and how advocates of energy efficiency have used multiple benefits to frame their interactions with policy-makers at EU and UK level, and to broaden the appeal of energy efficiency. Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with key practitioners from industry-backed or trade organisations and environment-focussed NGOs. All respondents regularly made use of multiple benefits arguments. Their experience is that these arguments are most persuasive when linked to the values and priorities of decision-makers and politicians, most of whom do not value energy efficiency as a benefit in itself. Different contexts and different benefits are more or less salient for different stakeholders. This framing sets energy efficiency decisions in a broad economic, environmental and social context. As such it requires more evidence than a simple focus on energy savings, and different sorts of evidence which can connect with a variety of decision makers. The importance of recognising differing contexts, actors, values, priorities has led to the development of an alternative visualisation of multiple benefits, which de-centres energy efficiency.