Energy efficiency - driven by legislation and finance

I was fortunate to be asked to chair the Energy Information Theatre presentations at September’s Energy Event.  It was very interesting to see how important energy efficiency is becoming in the political and business arenas.

Trevor Hutchings, head of the strategy and delivery division of the Government’s Energy Efficiency Deployment Office (EEDO) put energy efficiency firmly at the top of the agenda.

“Energy efficiency is a growth opportunity,’ he commented during his presentation in the Energy Information Theatre. He estimated that the energy efficiency business, including products and services, is worth around £8 billion. As a global industry, the energy efficiency sector is growing at 4% per year.

These figures sound almost too good to be true, but even if they were half that level, they indicate a growing interest in reducing energy consumption in homes and commercial buildings.

As Hutchings went on to point out, saving energy is not simply a case of cutting our utility bills. “Energy efficiency increases our energy security and displaces the requirement for more costly clean energy generation.”

But as Hutchings admitted, energy efficiency can be a bit of a hard sell. Green energy in the form of photovoltaics or wind turbines, is easy to see. You can’t demonstrate energy saving so publicly – and that does matter to corporations and government.

However, as a number of case studies at the same event demonstrated: you can’t argue with the financial bottom line. Presenters such as Colin Braidwood, energy manager for electrical retailer Dixons and Paul Hasley energy manager for Cambridge University both demonstrated the real driving forces for reducing energy use in their buildings: cost and legislation.

“Tax and other government policies are driving change,” said Braidwood. “It’s all about saving money and being efficient as a business.”

And Paul Hasley pointed out: “The Carbon Reduction Commitment has added £1 million to the university’s energy bill, and our funding is now linked to having a carbon management plan in place.”

In both cases, the key to reducing energy use was information. Collecting and collating data from meters and the building energy management system (BEMS) was crucial for both energy managers, even though their buildings have very different purposes.

Business managers should take note: don’t ignore your energy use until it’s too late. Competitors may already be reducing their operational costs by taking control of their energy efficiency.