Sowing a ‘C-change’ in attitudes

Published:  01 November, 2013

Inteb, energy saving, energy efficiency
Carving out energy savings — Tom Kelly, consulting services manager with Inteb (right) and managing director Colin Jones.

Energy-cost savings are there to be taken by companies of all types and sizes — without major outlay and capital expenditure. 16% is a good target for year one, as Tom Kelly of Inteb Consulting Services explains.

As a specialist energy-services provider, we recently laid down a gauntlet to British businesses by revealing an ice sculpture by the River Mersey to communicate that a massive £1.7 billion could easily be saved by Britain’s biggest energy-using and carbon-emitting businesses in just one year.

However, such significant energy savings are not confined to those reporting energy bills of over £500 000 a year, and £1.7 billion is merely the tip of the iceberg. There are many ways by which commercial property owners and landlords can significantly lowering bills, without massive outlay and capital expenditure.

As a commercial-property energy specialist, we work with buildings of all shapes and sizes, including the Royal Liver Building, and with clients ranging from SMEs to big property investors such as Royal London Asset Management. Our calculations show the cost structure of many top British businesses to be at least 16% too high because of unnecessary energy usage. Many could be dramatically reducing both carbon emissions and costs through effective energy management.

This 16% reduction is achieved by our clients in year one of energy-management programmes alone. It comes from businesses gaining a better understanding of when and where energy is being consumed and assessing whether energy consumption fits in with the day-to-day operational needs of the business. It is a very realistic bottom-line saving, which could benefit very many British companies, property owners and public sector authorities.

Over a 5-year period, we find that a big and medium-sized energy user can actually save around 50 to 60% on their energy costs. You don’t need to have a great knowledge of maths to work out that this can have a dramatic impact on profitability.

The need to cut emissions has never been greater, which is why Inteb firmly believes we need a ‘C-change’ in attitudes towards energy consumption. Businesses only have a year in which to tackle their carbon buying effectively, as the price per tonne of carbon dioxide, currently held at £12 to £16, will be Retail Price Index-linked at the end of the first phase of the current CRC legislation. The price of carbon dioxide is expected to rise, so savings will need to be made to offset this increase, if operating costs are to stay on an even keel.

Additionally, after March 2014, businesses have two choices when buying carbon dioxide. They will either have to predict what they will use and buy it in advance, or pay for it in arrears, based on actual usage — with no knowledge of what the price of carbon will be at that time. Having a sound carbon strategy and calculations is absolutely key.

While all this may seem difficult-to-do, saving energy is easier and more affordable than most businesses think. Sustainability has to be an affordable option, or it is not sustainable. Our approach is to engineer behavioural change within an organisation and make energy efficiency part of the cultural fit.

Change is incentivised through the sharing of information. Here, the relationship between the property owner and the occupier is often crucial, as transparency of energy data and an analysis of that data are key requirements. Co-operation between all stakeholders needs to be achieved if high savings are to accrue, but when benefits can be shared all round — such as lower rents that reflect reduced energy costs — all are usually happy to play a part.

The next step is to verify and monitor savings opportunities through real data analysis and a study of how the building is used by its occupants. This can highlight quick-fix areas that all mount up to big impacts on energy saving, whether that is by changing the hours in which the building is heated, turning down thermostats, or ensuring staff turn off lights and switch off computers when not in use and cease wasting heat through unnecessary uses of ventilation.

If a business wishes to go further and maximise energy savings the best initial investment is a building management system (BMS) — a computer-based system that controls and monitors a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment. This can control lighting, ventilation, power systems, water services, CCTV, lifts and even magnetic-card access systems.

With a BMS, a business can adjust dead bands to avoid conflicts between heating and cooling systems, control areas individually, ensure the building reflects the needs of its occupants at the times that they are using it, and effectively monitor energy usage.

This assists landlords looking for higher rental value and provides individual billing for different tenants. It can also help schedule in maintenance and form the basis of long-term asset replacement plans. Despite an initial capital outlay, a BMS should pay for itself through lower energy bills fairly quickly.

However you go about it, the message is clear. Take more interest in your energy bills and you can easily save considerable sums. It’s time to make a C-Change that won’t cost the earth.

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