Robert Weicht is Head of Electromobility and Energy Efficient Companies at the LandesEnergieAgentur (LEA) – State Energy Agency of Hessen. The House of Energy and the LEA Hessen have been working together and learning from each other.

Christian Engers, House of Energy, interviewed Robert Weicht and asked questions about the energy efficiency in industrial SMEs.

Christian Engers, House of Energy, partner in SMEPlus project: Why is energy saving important for industrial SMEs?

Robert Weicht, LandesEnergieAgentur (LEA): The topic is important for several reasons. Most important is saving money, because an SME that saves energy will reduce its costs. Another relevant aspect is the reduction of CO2. Most entrepreneurs nowadays are aware of the negative impacts of the climate change – not only on a global level. Some even are directly affected and feel the consequences themselves. They know about their responsibility and would like to save CO2. This is connected with a growing environmental awareness, addressing the next generation and finding future employees who want to work in decent companies.

Christian: Why is energy saving important for your region?

Robert: Saving energy also means protecting the climate. As mentioned above, climate change is a global issue, but we deal with the consequences on a regional level. Extreme weather events, such as flooding production sites, can have direct impacts on regional SMEs. Or they affect them indirectly via disruptions in the supply chains and causing short supplies of commodities. Both can weaken the company, while resilient and healthy companies are important to preserve jobs in any region.

From a regional perspective, the electricity delivery also has to be considered. On the one hand, power lines have certain limits, while on the other hand more and more consumers emerge on the market (e.g. data centres). I know about several SMEs who could not install new machines because their power supplier was not able to provide enough electricity. This was yet another a reason for the SMEs to start saving energy.

Christian: Does energy efficiency have an impact on the public image of an industrial SME?

Robert: Yes of course. Therefore, many SMEs put it on their agenda. Further aspects of sustainability will become more and more important in the future.

Christian: Which existing energy policies towards SMEs in your region are, in your opinion, the most efficient?

Robert: In our region, we created the „Hessische Initiative für Energieberatung im Mittelstand – HIEM“ (Hessian initiative for energy consulting in the mid-sized sector). The idea is to offer free consultations for SMEs in Hessen: around 150 meetings per year take place. The advisors visit the SMEs and support them with technical questions. In addition, they present suitable funding opportunities.

The LandesEnergieAgentur also helps SMEs to identify the most suitable funding programmes. Due to the wide range of funds, it is hard to keep the overview. The experts from the LEA and the HIEM are happy to guide the SMEs and make sure that the best programme is found. In general, I would say that supporting SMEs in achieving energy efficiency goals is an important task, since small companies often are too busy with their daily business and just do not have the time to do it on their own.

Christian: Which policies from other regions sound interesting to you?

Robert: The Good Practice from the Netherlands (Province of Groningen) about law enforcement is very inspiring. According to the law, SMEs have to take energy-efficiency measures with a return of investment of 5 years or less. The province hired specially trained law enforcers who visited the SMEs and informed them about the obligations and presented possible solutions. The mixture of demanding and promoting measures sounds very reasonable to me. Many companies do not want the government to come up with further obligations. But I have also heard the opposite: The appreciation of clear regulations which apply to all companies because this facilitates a fair competition.

About Robert Weicht

Robert Weicht (born in 1965) studied chemical engineering and has more than 30 years of professional experience in the environmental sector. He was working for different consulting firms and public authorities, including 12 years as head of the unit Resource Efficiency at the state agency for the environment at the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Today he is head of the thematic fields Electromobility and Energy Efficient Companies at the LandesEnergieAgentur (LEA) – State Energy Agency of Hessen. Regarding the Hessian SMEs, Robert Weicht likes to emphasize that energy efficiency is not only beneficial, but can indeed be fun.