An ESCo (Energy Service Company) is a company that offers energy management to clients by providing energy solutions, installing energy systems and formulating favourable financial constructions. ESCo services increasingly also offer interesting opportunities for organising and financing more sustainable property. At the same time however, the demand for ESCo services appears to be hampered by a lack of awareness, knowledge and trust in the ESCOs.
'Facilitators' (e.g. energy agencies, knowledge centres, and consultancies) can intermediate between ESCOs and (potential) clients to lower these barriers. As such they can help to realise the latent and apparent demand for ESCo services and contribute to achieving a more sustainable, low-energy and future-proof property.
The Co-Operating Agents of IEA DSM (www.ieadsm.org) Task 24 on Behaviour Change were asked by Task 16 (on Energy Services) to provide some behavioural insight into how to increase uptake and use of ESCo Facilitators. We have written a report which focuses on possible solutions and practical guidance for (Project) Facilitators in dealing with potential clients' perspectives, expectations and possible barriers concerning the outsourcing of comprehensive energy service packages (either Energy Supply or Energy Performance Contracting or other business models) to an ESCo.
The report was based on a review of the literature and 11 interviews with ESCo organisations, their clients and ESCo facilitators. It was broken into the following headline findings:
1. If only the client knew... Challenges were found to be due to lack of knowledge of ESCOs or misinformation of their services. The solution we offered was to inform and to simplify the information, using best practice stories and ambassadors and ensuring to connect and to offer a 'real ESCo experience'.
2. If only the client was willing or motivated... Challenges were a lack of interest from the client, the (often overestimated) thought that their business was already operating at maximum energy efficiency and fear of how long it would take and how to mobilise the right sectors in an organisation. Our solutions were to tailor to the interests of clients, ensuring that a Facilitator understood their needs which often go far beyond simple energy efficiency (eg comfort, production efficiency, cost savings...), to tailor to organisational strategies, clarify energy and cost savings, chosing the right client, timing and location and to listen to, and communicate with all levels in an organisation.
3. If only the client engaged with us and trusted us... Lack of trust is one of the greatest challenges an ESCo or ESCo Facilitator face. Solutions are to use ambassadors, stories and best practice as trust building tools, to concentrate on listening and relationship building up front and to use individual projects as building steps towards long-term trust. Monitoring of the ESCo's perfomance, transparency, independency and partnering were other obvious solutions. All up, the roles and task of an ESCo Facilitator go way beyond simple technical knowledge. They also have to be a knowledge broker, bridge builder, intermediary, relationship expert and storyteller.
By Dr. Sea Rormann and Dr. Ruth Mourik