Time to find those extra energy savings

A rather sobering message last month from Ofgem: the UK can look forward to serious power cuts and a ‘jump’ in electricity prices in 2015. Analysis by Ofgem shows that the UK’s electricity generation margins (the amount of spare capacity in the system) will drop from 14% to 4% over the next four years.

The closing of coal-fired generation is set to happen earlier than expected under EU environmental legislation, and the risk of shortfalls in electricity supplies is likely to be highest in 2015 to 2016.

This situation will impact on the UK’s security supply, and also see an increase in utility bills for consumers and businesses as the government has to invest in utility infrastructure to close the gap.

Clearly, energy is going to become an ever-more important business and political issue. However. research by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) * shows that over the past decade, the UK has in fact demonstrated one of the largest reductions in energy consumption in Europe.  In the service sector (i.e. non-industrial business) energy consumption fell by 13% between 2000 and 2008. And energy consumption per employee fell by 26% in the same period.

The challenge therefore is going to be to find more energy savings than we already have. DECC’s Energy Efficiency Deployment Office (EEDO) sent out a call for evidence earlier in 2012 with the aim of identifying where to look for the big efficiencies.

But for most businesses, the question is more pressing: how can we reduce our energy consumption and as a result our bills, or at least stop them spiralling ever-higher? From the BCIA’s point of view, we believe that the most powerful tool to bring about better energy efficiency is information.

Metering is now a requirement in commercial buildings, but energy- and facilities managers must turn that raw data into usable and actionable information. The controls industry has produced numerous software tools and systems for collecting, monitoring and analysing data from meters.

It is this information that will show exactly where savings can be made on a building-by-building basis. Information can also be used to highlight areas of a business that are particularly efficient – or otherwise. There are a growing number of case studies showing how energy managers in large organisations are using data to measure the energy performance of individual stores or departments.

If the news about our energy supply looks bad, the silver lining is that the tools to get a grip on our energy use are already available, and probably installed in most buildings. All we have to do is use them.

*European Energy Efficiency (February 2012)  published by DECC