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High prices shorten the payback period of energy efficiency investments

25 October 2023

Global progress in energy efficiency last year was more than twice the five-year average, while global energy demand grew by 1%. For this year, global investments in energy efficiency are estimated to exceed $600 billion.

More than 25 countries have launched major public awareness campaigns on the need to make energy consumption more efficient, while sales of equipment related to this sector have advanced strongly.

“Sales of heat pumps have increased in Europe by 40% in 2022, and globally they have increased by 10%”, said Adrian Ghiță, Executive Director of the Romanian Fund for Energy Efficiency – FREE, at the conference “Energy Efficiency for Energy Transition” organized in Iași by Energynomics together with the Romanian Energy Efficiency Fund – FREE and the Directorate for Energy Efficiency within the Ministry of Energy.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Fund spearheaded the establishment of FREE in 2001, and they later offered the Romanian government a grant of $8 million for investments in the energy efficiency sector.

Since its inception, the fund has granted funding for 52 contracts totaling nearly $30.1 million. Together with the customers’ own contributions, the total amounts allocated to investments in energy efficiency measures amount to $87 million. These contracts generated a reduction in annual carbon emissions of over 206,000 tons.

Projects financed by FREE were carried out in the field of rehabilitation of public lighting ($1.4 million), ESCO financing, including rehabilitation of public buildings ($3.4 million), modernization of industrial technological processes ($4.6 million) , photovoltaic installations for self-consumption ($3.4 million), energy recovery from waste ($8.1 million), natural gas or well gas CHP ($5.4 million), and local and district heating (1 .6 million dollars).

At the same time, FREE financed with 1.9 million dollars the first network of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in the country. FREE’s biggest client is the Chimcomplex chemical plant.

According to Ghiță, the financing of mature technologies with an acceptable technological risk and projects with a payback period of up to five years is indicated. Also, times when the price of energy goes up are good for speeding up the return on investments that are set up correctly. For energy efficiency projects to succeed, they need good technical knowledge, such as feasibility studies, energy audits, and so on.


But there are problems in the energy efficiency project segment because technical and financial analyses are not complete or adequate, most clients depend on grant funds, and clients are not sure if they want to borrow money to pay for energy efficiency investments.

The conference in Iași was the fourth of a series of 5 scheduled by the Energynomics communication platform, the Romanian Fund for Energy Efficiency – FREE and the Directorate for Energy Efficiency within the Ministry of Energy. The project is financed by Norwegian Grants 2014-2021. The final conference is scheduled on November 16 and 17, in Bucharest.

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