Sustainability through energy efficiency: An Italian perspective

Purpose of the paper: Firms efficient use of energy contributes to social, environmental and economic sustainability, as well as to their competitiveness. The discrepancy between optimal and actual implementation of energy efficiency measures has been described in literature as the energy efficiency gap. Recently, some scholars have related this gap to both technology and energy management, thus introducing, an extended energy efficiency gap. Given these premises, this study investigates the extended energy efficiency gap from the perspective of the Italian small and medium industrial enterprises (SMEs). Specifically, it intends to identify possible solutions to overcome the major barriers to energy efficiency, in terms of technology investments and energy management.

Methodology: This is a conceptual study which adopts a solution-building approach based on literature review and secondary data analysis. Research findings: This study proposes a framework that can be used to explore and reduce the extended energy efficiency gap for Italian industrial SMEs. The possible solutions to improve energy efficiency include distributed generation, cluster energy management, result-based economic incentives and smart grids.

Research limits: Qualitative and quantitative studies should be conducted to further investigation of the major barriers of efficiency, as perceived by SMEs. Households and policy makers perspectives could also be addressed in future studies.

Practical implications: This study suggests that, through collaboration, firms could improve their energy efficiency, thus increasing their economic sustainability and competitiveness. Moreover, policy makers should encourage energy efficiency through result-based incentives and the development of smart grids.

Originality of the paper: This is one of very few studies that address the extended energy efficiency gap for Italian SMEs. Additionally, it proposes a framework of analysis that takes into account the relationship between barriers and efficiency gap levels.

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