"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bus" or "Nothing ventured, nothing gained"?
The more security-oriented people are, the more they devalue options that lie in the future (this phenomenon is called 'temporal discounting') - short-term gain is preferred to the uncertainty of a greater success that lies further in the future. To mitigate such 'future anxiety', people need a sense of agency, the feeling that they can take happiness into their own hands.
Energy efficiency measures are such preferred short-term gains and continue to be the talk of the town in the implementation of the energy transition. However, the progress we are making in energy efficiency is no longer great in many sectors, and the potential in many companies has been exhausted. In order to remain capable of action in the implementation of the energy transition, we therefore need another tool that is no less powerful in terms of implementation - process flexibilisation.
Balancing the forecast error with flexibility
Flexibility is one of the tools the system needs to compensate for the forecast error of renewables. So far, however, there has been a lack in many cases of incentive systems for retrofitting, planning certainty for refinancing investments and a suitable regulatory framework for implementation. All this has already arisen for the efficiency measures tool. The necessary regulatory frameworks for these two options may be very different, but here the legislator has already taken action. On the other hand, in order to create planning and refinancing security for flexibilisation measures, one or the other instrument from the area of energy efficiency promotion could certainly be opened up for flexibilisation offensives.
Unfortunately, flexibilisation often stands in the way of the desired efficiency efforts. Most processes work most efficiently when they do not leave their optimal operating point, i.e. when they "run the line". From an individual point of view, the optimal operating point may even lead to success more quickly in terms of energy consumption and CO2 savings, but the energy transition must be thought of systemically and from the point of view of the system, (fossil) energy consumption and CO2 emissions are lowest when renewable energy is consumed when it is available. A line-driving process does not take into account the weather forecast, which is becoming an increasingly important factor in our energy production.
Energy efficiency and flexibility measures in harmony
To take this into account, there should be an equalisation of energy efficiency and flexibility measures. The system needs both. But where flexibility is possible, efficiency targets should not lead to the elimination of investment in flexibility, but rather to efficiency improvement targets being waived while load flexibility is provided. This accompanying upgrading of flexibility projects has the potential to give many companies new capacity to act and new perspectives for participating in the Energiewende project.