Market-based instruments such as white certificates offer the potential to increase efficiency gains, reduce primary energy consumption and make energy systems more resilient. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the white certificate scheme through a case study analysis. In light of increasing decarbonization and energy efficiency targets, it is important to rethink the role that policy instruments play in the energy transition, including the energy efficiency obligation schemes within which white certificate schemes fall. We focus on Italy’s white certificate scheme because it is among the longest-lived and has achieved notable results. The scheme is characterized by annually increasing energy savings targets, flexibility, the opportunity to include many interventions, and the role of energy services companies. We provide evidence based on an empirical survey and fill the research gap left by the latest updates to the scheme along with an appraisal of those updates, which covers prominent scheme innovations such as its stability mechanism. Our research can serve as a baseline for policymakers in designing white certificate schemes in countries with little related previous experience and provide useful information from countries where similar schemes have been implemented to fine-tune similar market-based mechanisms to improve energy efficiency.