The role of smart technology in cutting energy costs

By Ken Warner, managing director, Energy Renewals

Reducing energy consumption is a noble cause which does wonders for your corporate social responsibility policy, but it also delivers cost savings on a scale that securing a cheaper tariff can never achieve.

We’re not saying shopping around for the best deal or fixing your tariff for a number of years on a competitive rate isn’t a good move, but that it should form part of a wider energy management strategy which has reducing energy usage at its heart.

The problem for most businesses is the former is straightforward and in most cases, easily implementable even without making use of an outsourced energy consultancy, but the latter can be difficult to comprehend, let alone put in place.

At Energy Renewals, we believe the combination of smart technology, analysing the data it collates and implementing an energy management programme based on the information gathered is the key to both driving down costs and reducing your carbon footprint.

We are so passionate about smart technology as the way forward for all companies, no matter how big or small, that we will be taking part in the forthcoming 11th Facility Management and Property event which takes place at Cambridge University on 6 October 2016.

Let’s start with a bit of context.

Did you know buildings are responsible for a staggering 200 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year?

What’s more, that’s the equivalent of the annual emissions from the United Arab Emirates or those of Greece and Chile combined.

Figures from the Carbon Trust show buildings emit 37% of the UK’s carbon emissions with non-domestic buildings accounting for 60%. However, the Trust maintains by adopting cost effective measures savings of 35% are attainable by 2020 resulting in a £4 billion net benefit to the UK economy. By 2050, the Trust believes CO2 reductions of 75% are feasible at no net cost to the economy.

But, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

As one retail chain found after adopting technology developed by Measure My Energy, which we also use in and is known as Smart Billing. The smart technology enabled the chain to pinpoint a major energy consumption issue whereby staff were using both the air conditioning and heating units at the same time. Not only was more energy being consumed by using both when only one was clearly needed, but each were working harder to compensate for the other. With the problem pinpointed and a simple solution of switching one off whilst the other was in use, the retailer achieved energy cost savings of more than 40%.

However, further monitoring revealed some stores soon fell back into bad habits. A high staff turnover in the retail sector meant new recruits were not made aware of the issue and the savings attainable by following this simple process underlining the need for continual monitoring and staff training.

Our own energy consultants have come across similar scenarios. At a school we visited recently, it was noticed that a south facing courtyard was acting as a sun trap and was putting additional and unnecessary demand on the air conditioning unit. A simple solution of placing heat absorbing solar film on the windows was the answer which resulted in reduced energy consumption and a lower bill followed suit.

Whilst measurement is indeed the first step, interpreting the information and acting accordingly are the essential next steps. We follow a six-step energy management strategy – audit, collate data, evaluate, recommend, implement and measure. As the retail chain and our experience with the school proves.

Whatever the business, time and again, our experience indicates there are always gains to be made quickly and easily. To the expert eye, it is easy to spot the quick wins which are not quite so obvious to non-specialists. Turning to the experts will inevitably result in a win-win. We undertake the audit, analyse the data, recommend a course of action, manage the entire project and provide on-going monitoring and tweaking. Businesses continue to function as normal whilst benefitting from reduced energy consumption and lower costs.

Our view is simple: smart technology is the blueprint for a reduced carbon footprint resulting in lower costs.