Why Americans Misunderstand European Energy Policies (and vice versa)

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Conference Proceedings



Europe and North America would appear to offer excellent opportunities for crossfertilization of energy efficiency policies and programs. But it is important to understand the context and background; otherwise, innovations will be misinterpreted and good ideas dismissed prematurely. Through a survey of the literature, we compiled a list of major points of miscommunication between efficiency experts in the United States and Europe. Examples of the contextual differences that lead Americans to misunderstand the European situation include realizing that Europe has different institutional setting and regulatory power and there is little evaluation of energy efficiency programs. On the other hand, Europeans are mystified why American utilities don’t use “green” and “white” certificates. Europeans still think of air conditioning as a luxury and don’t understand that Texas would not be inhabited without it. Both groups fail to take into account the differing division of responsibilities for energy efficiency between Brussels and the Member States or between Washington and the states. Finally, the same word can have either subtle or enormous differences in meanings. For example “standards” in Europe refer to test procedures, not regulatory efficiency requirements. Although institutional differences dominate interpretations of energy efficiency policies on both sides of the Atlantic, setting up a Rosetta Stone or primer on energy policy will improve understanding and can be a first step of more effective learning from each other.


2016 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

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