Get to know our Use case leaders! Francesco Baldi explains why energy efficiency in SMEs is all about people

„In GEAR@SME I was forced to look at the problem from a different perspective“


Please introduce youself.

Francesco Baldi: My name is Francesco Baldi, I am 35. I am a researcher at ENEA, the National Italian Agency for Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Development. I studied energy technology at the University of Bologna, and have a PhD degree in maritime technology from Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden). Today I focus on doing research and providing practical support on the topics of industrial energy efficiency, citizen energy communities and on the decarbonization of small communities.

What inspires you about the GEAR@SME project?

The GEAR@SME project gave me a lot of insight about different ways to look at the question of how to make activities more energy efficient, especially from a social perspective. Being an engineer, I am generally used to deal with numbers and machines, not people: in GEAR@SME I was forced to look at the problem from a different perspective, to understand the priorities, the needs and the habits of people working in the SME environment.

What exactly do you do as a Use Case leader?

My involvement in the GEAR@SME project as a Use Case leader led me to a number of different activities. Firstly, the continuous interaction with the Trusted Partner (Confindustria Emilia), first focusing on showing him the importance of energy efficiency in general, and the value of our approach. Then we organized different events, from trainings for the Trusted Partners, to webinars for SMEs and energy service experts. We will soon go visit SMEs and help them get a better understanding of their energy use through energy scans.

What is special about the Use Case in Italy?

The Italian Use Case, the Roveri industrial district at Bologna, is quite peculiar. It is one of the oldest and largest industrial areas so close to a large town, as Bologna. It is mostly populated by small and micro companies, making it a very interesting and vibrating, but also fragile environment for business. It‘s connection to Bologna in it‘s different ways, from the subject of employment to pollution and traffic, makes it also very interesting.

What role do climate protection and energy saving play for SMEs in your region?

We are moving, but slowly. The region has tried to make changes happen, financing different mechanisms to foster energy efficiency thinking in the industry, but things are moving slowly, and SMEs have other more important concerns to stay alive in a globalized, challenging economy. Emilia-Romagna has a lot of SMEs, with a strong focus on the automotive industry (with Ducati, Ferrari and Lamborghini close by, we are rightfully known as the “motor valley”) and packaging industry. Two very important and rich sectors, but also two sectors that will need to change a lot to adapt to the transition.

What have you been able to achieve in the Use Case so far?

The experience in the Italian Use Case has certainly been difficult. As said, energy efficiency and climate change are not priorities in an area that has been struggling already for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic has made everything even more complicated: first, everyone was much more worried about that, as it had become the first priority. Then, it made it more difficult to have direct contact with people, and to organize live events, that were at the core of our engagement strategy. We have had quite a few frustrating moments, but now with the COVID-19 emergency receding and increasing energy prices, we might be seeing a turn of the tide. Starting from a difficult environment can also make you immediately understand what challenges lie ahead.

What do you have planned for the next time?

We are organizing a full course for Trusted Partners! Also, we will soon start with the energy scans at the Roveri area, one by one. Finally, we hope that we will soon be able to organise an “energy apéro” to get together again in convivial company with the SMEs and the Trusted Partner over a glass of wine and interesting energy discussions!