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Adoption of energy efficiency measures for non-residential buildings: Technological and organizational heterogeneity in the trade, commerce and services sector

: Olsthoorn, Mark; Schleich, Joachim; Hirzel, Simon


Ecological economics 136 (2017), pp.240-254
ISSN: 0921-8009
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
energy efficiency; barriers; agency; absorptive capacity; adoption; SMEs

Drawing on agency theory and absorptive capacity literature, this paper empirically analyzes factors of adoption and barriers to adoption of four crosscutting, ancillary energy efficiency measures (EEMs) for non-residential buildings (efficient lighting, building insulation, heating system replacement, and optimization of heating system operations). The empirical analysis employs a large representative sample of organizations in the German trade, commerce and services sector. Results from econometric analyses provide evidence for a negative effect of principal–agent relationships (landlord-tenant; owner-user of energy supply equipment; parent-subsidiary) and for a positive effect of organizational attributes that contribute to absorptive capacity (energy manager in place; energy audit conducted; experience with decentralized low carbon energy). However, the significance of these effects varies by measure. For non-adopters, heterogeneity of crosscutting ancillary EEMs has little impact on the ranking of barriers to adoption. The most relevant barriers for all EEMs are rented spaces, high investment costs, and other priorities; least relevant are technical risk to production and risk to product quality. Finally, we find little evidence for differences in the factors of adoption and barriers to adoption between manufacturing and non-manufacturing organizations. These findings are robust to alternative model specifications.