Are energy-efficiency technologies cost-effective?

Yes, the vast majority of energy-efficient technologies are already profitable. However, given the need for initial capital outlay (sometimes large depending on the sector or applications), the returns on investment can take a long time.

Replacing existing equipment with a more efficient model or technology saves energy, and thus reduces the energy bill. But they are often more expensive to buy. To see the economic benefits of energy efficiency, consider the total life of the equipment. In general, the gains made on the energy bill throughout the useful life of the equipment largely offset the extra cost paid at the time of purchase, whether for appliances, lighting or vehicles.

For example, choosing a low-energy bulb, an A+++ energy class refrigerator, a heat pump for heating or a hybrid car is, most of the time, an advantageous choice from an economic point of view; provided, of course, that this effective technology is mature and widely marketed. In some sectors, this is not yet quite the case; for example, electric cars are only beginning to become competitive in terms of total cost (purchase and use) compared with petrol vehicles, a situation that will improve with the expansion of this market [→ Q34].

One of the main barriers to the diffusion of these energy-efficient technologies is their higher purchase price, from 10 to 30% higher depending on the sector and equipment. Households have increasingly tight budgets, and are often unaware of their energy bills. Swiss consumers therefore feel little incentive to choose the most effective solutions. This is especially true of household electricity consumption. The imperceptible nature of this energy and the modest amount of the electricity bill (1-2% of the budget) make attempts to cut consumption unsuccessful, especially since it takes a lot of small efforts to succeed in saving 10 or 20% of electricity, which is not very encouraging.

This situation is exacerbated in the building sector. Energy retrofitting offers return-on-investment times of between 20 and 30 years on average, given the high costs of renovation. Moreover, the economic advantage does not appear to be very attractive in the short term, as the monthly energy bill remains low compared to the amounts invested. Furthermore, since energy bills are often paid by tenants, landlords have little incentive to undertake costly energy renovation work [→ Q82].

In addition to the issue of costs, the implementation of energy-efficient technologies is hampered by the fact that old equipment is only very gradually being replaced by new equipment. We renew equipment when it comes to the end of its life or becomes obsolete: 5-10 years for household appliances, 12 years for cars, 20 years for boilers. As for buildings, renovations (with energy retrofitting) are performed only every 30 to 50 years on average. This inertia in the renewal of equipment and the retrofitting of the building stock makes it all the more crucial to make the right choices at the outset, and to opt for energy-efficient solutions when purchasing new appliances or when choosing to renovate a building [→ Q99].

It would be necessary today to move away from the notion of investment costs to communicate in terms of lifetime costs, which would allow energy-efficient technologies to express their financial advantage [→ Q97].


Agence de l'énergie pour l'économie (AEnEC) (2019)
(). Economies de coúts et d’énergie. [Online]. Available at:
Office fédéral de l'énergie (OFEN) (2018)
(). Directive - Conventions d’objectifs conclues avec la Confédération et visant l’amélioration de l’efficacité énergétique.