Publication of CEDR2016-3 Energy efficiency in road operations and management

The report produced by CEDR’s Task Energy Efficiency Group and approved by the Governing Board identifies most of the interventions for energy efficiency currently implemented by at least one NRA and assesses the economic return, environmental and safety impact, and political acceptability of these interventions

Executive summary (full report)

In setting its third Strategic Plan[1] (SP3), the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR) recognised energy efficiency in road operations and management as one of their key challenges. The aim of Task Group I3 (Energy Efficiency) is to disseminate to CEDR members best practice on approaches to reducing energy use when operating and managing road networks.

Energy costs represent 10–20% of routine maintenance budgets. In general, those costs are rising while the budgets available to pay them are falling. Energy costs may only represent as little as 2% of the whole life costs of a length of road network. This can result in these costs not receiving as much attention as required and often being dismissed as ‘an unavoidable cost’.

There is a general consensus among the public and politicians to migrate to a low-carbon economy. However, emissions associated with maintenance and operation only account for less than 1/50th (2%) of the emissions from vehicles using the network – less if a country produces a lot of energy using renewable sources. It is, nevertheless, incumbent upon road operators to reduce the net contribution of that 2% and to do so in a cost-efficient manner without affecting the operation of the network or the safety of those using and maintaining it.

There are numerous interventions available to road operators that can be used to reduce energy use. This situation is both positive (options are available) and negative (it is hard to select the best option). This document identifies most of the interventions currently implemented by at least one NRA together with an easily understood assessment of the economic return, environmental and safety impact, and political acceptability of these interventions. The list can be used by different NRAs in different ways: for some, it will be a list of new opportunities; for others, it will be a checklist that they can use to ensure they are doing everything that can be done.

However, implementing any new initiative, such as energy reduction, into a large, complex, and inter-connected business such as national roads operators has its challenges. It can be highly disruptive if approached incorrectly. This report provides a pathway to achieve and sustain a reduction in energy use. It is based on the approach used by many multinational businesses and has a successful track record. The first step is for directors to announce that they want to see a change and will support those undertaking change.

The blockers to any change are usually a lack of budget and a lack of appropriately skilled staff. However, it should not be forgotten that using energy – and thereby generating a carbon footprint – is an unpopular, expensive, and labour-intensive activity. Reducing energy use will always result in a reduced whole life cost. It may require greater upfront costs in some instances, but if that is unaffordable, other solutions exist. Staff are generally well skilled in reducing energy costs. Again, their household energy costs are only in the region of 2% of their income, but they understand the technologies and economic cases of technologies such as LED lights, solar panels, and reducing hours of operation. They do not view it as an unavoidable cost.

Identifying what to target is relatively easy, it is every asset that consumes energy. Priority should be given to the greatest consumers of energy because that is where the greatest savings can be achieved. The greatest consumer of energy is usually road lighting. Reducing energy use for road lighting provides economic benefits in terms of reduced energy bills, environmental benefits in terms of reduced CO2 emissions and reduced light pollution, and societal benefits in terms of reduced road worker exposure to risk through a reduced maintenance burden.

[1] CEDR, 2013 http://www.cedr.eu/download/Publications/2013/Strategic_Plan_2013-2017.pdf

(full report)

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