Guest post by Angie Needle, Head of Products and Propositions

Winter proofing your business starts with an energy audit

In the first of my new blog series on “Winter energy”, I’ll be looking at how many businesses and organisations can improve energy efficiency and make savings throughout the winter and beyond by analysing their energy use.

What is an energy audit?

An audit looks at equipment and processes that consume energy, such as heating, cooling and lighting – along with how well buildings and premises are built, maintained and used. Energy could be electricity, gas and other fuels such as liquid petroleum gas, gas oil or kerosene. The end objective is to increase understanding of where energy is used and how it can be reduced. Often your site electricity and gas meters can only show you trends in whole building consumption. A good audit will also help you to identify where more efficient technologies could be introduced. If you don’t know how something is controlled in your building, then the chances are that it is running inefficiently.

Why audit your business?

Managing energy consumption of single or multiple buildings is even more challenging during the winter. Heating appliances come under additional pressure in freezing weather and issues such as ill-fitting windows and faulty boilers tend to manifest themselves just when you don’t need them to, causing disruption to the smooth running of your business.
Employees tend to behave differently during the winter too. For anyone involved in facility management, you’ll know that workspace temperature is always going to be an emotive issue and it is difficult to keep everyone happy when it comes to the right temperature. Many buildings will have hot and cold spots. If you have an ineffective BMS system (Building Management System), no BMS, or limited ability to control heating you’ll find that in winter those mini-space fan heaters tend to make an appearance under peoples desks or dotted around your buildings!

Keeping employees comfortable in their work space is obviously important, and there are many varied and cost-effective ways of avoiding the fan heater syndrome, such as mini-BMS deployment to provide better local temperature. Conducting an audit and identifying potential trouble spots is a good first start. Done early enough in the autumn, you’ll be able to help keep your business running smoothly all winter and you’ll save some money too.

Energy Audits don’t have to be of the external professional variety either. These have their place and are well known to enable identification of significant energy cost savings by exploring options for new and improved technologies. These can help you make a step-change in your energy consumption. You may already use such audits as part of your own sustainability, corporate social responsibility agenda, or part of your accreditation to ISO 50001, ISO 14001 standards or the Carbon Trust Standard for example. However, a more general audit that you can conduct yourself will be very valuable and something that you can conduct more frequently over the winter to ensure that your sites run as they should, that set points, and controls, where they ought to be and that the right employees are aware. They can be a great staff engagement tool too.

Getting Started

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There is quite a lot of information you would want to gather before an audit should start. The numbers of buildings to include, the historical energy used in those buildings from your energy bill, or half hourly consumption if you have it. You’ll also need an idea of the principle energy using assets in the building and some information on how they are controlled, how old they are and when they were last serviced. Detail on what the building is used for, operating hours and safe access to all areas will also be useful. If you choose to seek professional support in conducting energy audits due to available time and experience, then having an understanding of the audit process, any considerations and the potential benefits before you start will help you get the most from them.

Start by conducting a thorough examination of all business premises. Make a list of potential trouble spots that you think will have the biggest impact on your energy consumption. Talk to staff and find out how they use – and waste – energy during working hours. And have a look at your night time energy consumption. I’m always amazed at how much energy people use out of hours… when we are asleep our buildings should be too. View the full checklist.

Regulatory Update – Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme

Energy Saving Oportunity Scheme (ESOS)

Businesses with 250+ employees/more than €50m required to carry out energy audits every 4 years.

Carry out first audit by December 5, 2013.

Whilst on the subject of audits, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make you aware of the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). The Department of Energy and Climate Change have just consulted on their proposals for member states to meet obligations under the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. In short, the regulation will require all large businesses (more than 250 employees and turnover of more than €50m) to conduct an energy audit every 4 years with the first being completed by 5th Dec 2015. It is expected that over 7000 non-public sector organisations will need to comply and the details of what is entailed is still being worked out. The main purpose is to help organisations to identify real opportunities to permanently reduce their energy consumption. I am hearing groans that the last thing you need is yet more legislation to promote energy efficiency and at British Gas we have responded to the consultation with a view that it must be fair to those organisations already burdened with the CRC and other such schemes. The most important thing though is that this regulation is not just a tick box exercise but one which really adds some value to organisations who pay for the audit and the savings that the audits identify are realistic and can be implemented at a reasonable cost and payback.

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