In an interview with LoveEnergySavings.com, Green Growth discusses energy efficiency: best practice for offices, how the mindset of businesses is changing and what the future holds for low carbon business.
1) What are the best practices an office-based business can do to save energy?
- Heating controls – making sure timers and thermostats are used to their full potential.
- Thermostats should be set at the recommended temperature of 19°C (remember: heating costs increase by about 8% for every 1°C increase.)
- The building should only be being heated when it’s occupied (as buildings take a while to cool, turning the heating off just 30 minutes early could save 5% on the heating bill)
- Different working hours on weekends and bank holidays should be taken into account.
- Comfort cooling is also very important. Air conditioning can double energy bills in an office. Thermostats for air conditioning should be set at 24°C or higher, it should be turned off in meeting rooms when people leave, and it should never be used when windows are open. Controls should also be set to ensure that heating and cooling aren’t on at the same time.
- Lighting – many traditional lighting products, such as older fluorescent tubes, are very inefficient in comparison to more modern, high frequency T5 fluorescent tubes or LED fittings. These upgrades do require investment, but many providers offer finance options that can make the solution cost positive from month one. The most energy efficient lighting, LEDs, can use up to 90% less energy than traditional lamps.
2) What are the worst practices office-based businesses are guilty of that raise their energy bills?
- Not switching things off – lighting can be responsible for up to 40% of a building’s electricity use, but lights are still all too often left on and forgotten about (it’s also a myth that turning them off and on can use more energy than leaving them on). The same applies to monitors and other office equipment – a single monitor left on 24/7 will cost £50 a year, and printers still use 20% of the energy needed for printing when left on standby.
- Tampering with thermostats - thinking that turning up the thermostat will warm up a room quicker is a costly myth. The thermostat only controls final temperature – turning it up will not warm the office up any quicker, but it will result in an uncomfortable working environment and wasted energy when the desired temperature is overshot (and don’t forget, the same rule applies to air conditioning controls).
- Opening windows and doors to cool heated rooms – turning the heating down or off will use less energy and make the room more comfortable.
- Blocking radiators with cupboards and filing cabinets – this wastes heat. If this can’t be avoided, turn these radiators down to ‘frost stat’ settings.
3) What changes, if any, have you seen in the mindset of businesses to saving energy?
Alasdair Dalzel-Job, Environmental Business Advisor: “One of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the last five years or so is that energy efficiency isn’t just being seen as a cost saving opportunity anymore – more and more businesses are taking action due to external pressures to improve performance.
“Increasingly, businesses need to improve environmental performance in order to retain and win new sales. For example, ‘carbon saving’ is now much more mainstream for major businesses and the public sector, and this pressure to reduce carbon footprints is being passed on to the smaller companies in their supply chains. Put simply, if you can demonstrate higher environmental performance, you’re not only reducing costs, you’re increasing resilience and opening doors to future sales.”
This is backed up by our figures – our support has not only achieved £237 million to date in cost savings, but has also helped businesses to increase or safeguard sales by £364 million.
4) How should businesses go about ensuring they find the best deal from energy providers?
We come across a vast range of prices businesses are paying for their energy – from as little as 7p/kWh to 20p/kWh or more. Businesses can start by asking their current supplier if it has any better offers. This will give a benchmark when looking at other deals. An alternative way to shop around is by using an energy broker – an organisation that acts as an interface between business users and energy suppliers to help you make better energy choices. If using an energy broker, businesses should ask them which suppliers they represent (so they know whether they are comparing the whole market) and how their services are paid for (i.e. is there a commission included in the prices quoted or is it a one-off fee?).
5) Do you think the General Election in May will have any influence on green/low carbon environmental policy?
All three major parties have made a cross-party commitment to increase efforts to tackle climate change and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy regardless of the election result – so there is already reassurance that the UK will continue to decarbonise its economy irrespective of who wins in May.
But there are also bigger changes happening at wider scales. The upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris this December is expected to deliver the most important global agreement on climate action for nearly two decades. Key elements of low carbon policy could be decided in Paris, not London.
Add to that the EU’s evolving plans to maintain its position as a global leader in the low carbon transition, and we should expect low carbon policy to progress during the next Government, whatever colour it is.
6) Are energy saving initiatives sustainable in the long-term with longer working hours and a growing company?
Absolutely. In fact, the longer your operating hours are the quicker an investment in more energy efficient equipment will pay back. Admittedly, the bigger a company becomes, the more likely it is that their energy spend will increase, but this should be benchmarked against working hours, productive output or turnover for instance to show the long-term impact energy saving initiatives have on the bottom line. Any company that takes a proactive approach to energy and other resource efficiency issues will be more sustainable in the long term, both economically and environmentally.
Once a business goes beyond the ‘low hanging fruit’ in energy efficiency, of course, new energy saving initiatives require more time and investment – but there are financial instruments available to assist with this investment and the savings available are not only significant but pay back year on year.
This interview was originally published by LoveEnergySavings.com.