Energy Management

10 Energy Saving Solutions for Commercial Buildings

21st September 2017

Or how to use less energy and pay less for it…

Around a fifth of UK businesses spend over £250,000 a year on energy – a hefty portion of any bottom line. But perhaps more surprisingly, over 54% of senior managers have “no idea” who is responsible for purchasing that energy, according to a recent survey by YouGov and the Telegraph .

It seems that managers are missing a trick when it comes to this significant cost. In this article, we look to debunk some of the myths surrounding energy management as a costly or complicated process. With very little investment, businesses can make substantial savings. Where capital expenditure is required, the energy savings are often so large that the payback periods are very short. And, of course, when you are considering the overall impact of your business, reducing energy consumption should form the backbone of your Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy.

Follow our top 10 energy saving tips to gain control of your energy bills: use less and pay less for what you do use.

1. Know what you use

Understanding your current consumption is your first crucial step, and to do this look back at your historical data. You’ll see spikes in usage, on a daily basis but also at certain points in the year. If you have multiple meters, you’ll be able to pinpoint usage to certain processes or machinery, and you’ll find that certain machine software will be churning out useful energy-related data.

Soon you’ll be able to build up a comprehensive energy map across your site and you’ll start to recognise the ‘red flags’ for the particularly energy-intensive processes. If you have access to Half-Hourly data, high out of hours’ consumption can identify plant and equipment being left switched on when not required.

2. Take control

Once you’ve gathered the data and understood your current usage, the surest way to reduce your bills is to take control of as many energy-dependent processes as possible – in one system, with one team responsible for managing it. Certain working conditions need to be met, both to provide a comfortable environment for staff, as well as optimal conditions for the operation of machinery, but these can all be pre-programmed and managed from one central point.

From heating settings to automatic machine shut downs and sensory switches for lights, a comprehensive Building Energy Management System (BEMS), such as our E-MAGINE system will manage all processes in one interface.

3. Maintenance efficiency

Machines working below their optimum efficiency settings, or in need of maintenance, often use more energy and are at an increased risk of failure. BEMS systems read machine data to anticipate failures, enabling preventive maintenance processes and lowering energy use.

4. Change habits and behaviours

You don’t have to run industrial processes to have a high energy usage, many office-based organisations rack up large energy bills from lighting, computer and server usage and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. If you can’t automate the control of any element, then change the behaviour of staff to address the issues.

Educate staff on the importance of saving energy, both for the benefit of the business and the environment. Appoint energy champions and reward behaviour that supports your energy reduction goals. And of course, monitor the changes and report back on the achievements to incentivise further reductions.

5. Retrofit and replace

Once you have carried out the low or no cost energy efficiency measures, such as switching off equipment when not in use and optimising time & temperature controls, upgrading old and inefficient plant & equipment is the logical next step. Upgrading lighting to dimmable LED with presence detector controls can reduce lighting energy consumption by up to 80%. Good quality LED lamps will significantly improve the working environment, provide greater flexibility of lighting levels and at the same time reduce maintenance costs (good quality LED lamps have an operational life of between 50,000 and 100,000 hours).

Replacing inefficient motors and/or converting to variable speed drives (VSD) will reduce energy consumption and improve process control, particularly with large motors operating with variable loads such as compressed air systems.

Whenever you’re looking to replace HVAC systems or machinery – consider the efficiency ratings, make sure the systems are correctly sized and most important that the controls are set up correctly. Although the capital cost of energy efficient systems may be higher, the return on investment is very good due to lower energy consumption and costs.

6. Regulate your usage

Energy prices fluctuate according to demand. If you’re using most of your energy at peak periods you may be paying more for your energy than you would off-peak. Large users are also subject to limits on energy – with gas its referred to as the Supply Offtake Quantity (SOQ) – and electricity, Authorised Supply Capacity (ASC).

Exceeding these limits on each supply may result in additional charges or penalties. Finding ways to balance your energy consumption and schedule usage to take advantage of cheaper off peak unit rates will help to reduce your bills.

7. Get the best rates

If you’re a large energy user, appointing a trusted energy consultant is a must. As energy prices fluctuate throughout the day, it’s important that you have access to the best rates. Half-hourly meters allow usage to be accurately mapped to the correct rate and allow better scrutiny of the data. You can see peak periods more accurately and plan more effectively. Cheaper interruptible contracts are also an option for some businesses, offering cheaper rates but with the risk of interruption in supply during peak periods.

For lower energy users, fixed term contracts are offered by most energy suppliers and can help with a more predictable cash flow – although they are unlikely to be the most cost-effective option. There are also several group-buying initiatives out there, which can help smaller users to access the cheaper prices available to those with more buying power.

8. Generate your own energy

Once you have done all you can to reduce your usage, consider generating your own heat and power to lessen your dependence on grid-distributed energy.

From solar panels to wind turbines, biomass boilers and combined heat and power (CHP) systems, there is a wide selection of technologies available, and many experienced and trusted installers available to help. With technology becoming more widespread, costs are decreasing making renewable technology an option for many businesses, accompanied with short payback periods.

For most technologies, you’ll receive government incentives for generating energy on site and, in the case of electricity generation, for feeding surplus back to the grid.

9. Know your incentives

There are several government incentives that encourage this localised, decarbonised, renewable energy production. For electricity generation, the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) delivers income for every unit of electricity generated through approved renewable technologies, even if that electricity is used on site. Any surplus electricity is fed back to the grid and attracts an additional payment. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provides the same benefits for the generation of heat through technology such as ground, water and air-source heat pumps and biomass boilers.

All large energy users are obliged to pay the Climate Change Levy (CCL), which is due to increase dramatically in 2019. Energy intensive manufacturing processes may be eligible for a Climate Change Agreement (CCA), taken out with the Environment Agency to reduce CCL payments. Energy saving technologies can also attract Enhanced Capital Allowances.

10. Keep watching – your energy plan is here to stay

Implementing energy solutions isn’t a one-off exercise. To ensure that you continue to use less energy, and pay less for what you do use, you need to continue to monitor your usage, continually looking for anomalies and spikes and to introduce new technology as it becomes available. Once you see the savings, you’ll find it hard to stop.

Discover more about bespoke energy management solutions for your business, contact Essential Control today.

About Essential Control

We have over 19 years of experience in building bespoke energy management systems across all industry sectors. Our proprietary, cloud-based, technology drives business efficiencies, reduces energy consumption, and realises your corporate and social responsibility strategy.

How can we help you today?

Try our Cost Calculator for an instant idea of how much we could save for your company, or if you would like a more detailed proposal, request a free energy survey for your business.