Engage with your energy bill – or lose out

Published:  07 October, 2016

Demand-side engagement with energy can only lower costs. 

Recently, the Tesla Energy company (of the electric sports cars) warned that not enough businesses were ‘engaging’ with their energy bills. As a result, companies are walking into an energy price-hike nightmare.

Tesla is now focused on developing better batteries to store energy from renewables so that it’s more widely usable. Although the company is not a disinterested observer of the market, it has been at the leading edge of energy technology for some time. So theirs is a warning to take heed of.

And the UK energy market is changing quickly. National Grid is increasingly focused on demand management, not simply energy generation and distribution. There have been a number of moves in the market since National Grid committed (in 2015 ) to procuring 30% to 50% of balancing services from demand-side sources not power stations by 2020.  This is a change of focus that should have businesses scrutinising their energy use more carefully than ever.

Demand-side response is a growing sector in the UK, with a number of ‘aggregators’ now popping into the market. Essentially they will work with smaller businesses (ie not huge factories) to aggregate their demand-side response and engage with National Grid on their behalf. Everyone saves because energy use is lowered at times of peak demand (when it’s expensive) and there may also be incentives from National Grid to engage in these schemes.

More businesses are becoming involved in these schemes, though it’s still early days. But factors such as rising energy prices and the enforced move to smart half-hourly metering will be pushing companies to ‘engage’ with their energy bills.

For those in building services, and particularly controls and BEMS, this is an important opportunity. For too long, energy has been down the agenda for business because, in spite of rising prices, the cost has still been a lot less than the cost of employees or office space. It’s unlikely that energy will ever be top of that cost list, but why pay more than you have to?

The building services sector has been developing better controls and integration methods over the past few years, putting the ability to engage with demand-side response schemes much more in the reach of building managers.

With building services being a major user of energy in non-dwellings it will doubtless be the focus of businesses looking to find ways to keep energy costs under control, and perhaps even to make money. We may well now be on the brink of a time when building services are not simply energy users, but also a source of energy that can be ‘saved’ by powering down during peak periods, putting cash straight back on the bottom line for business. 

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications. 

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