CRC EES can still deliver

CRC, M&E Sustainability
Although it is electricity consumption that determines if the CRC EES applies to an organisation, carbon allowances are based on the consumption of all fossil fuels (excluding transport)

Despite the inevitable confusion surrounding the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, Jim O’Neil believes it can still play a major role in delivering vital carbon and energy savings, but the money has to be right.

The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC EES) is a highly complex piece of legislation, so it is no real surprise that, at the last count, fewer than 10% of organisations likely to be captured by the scheme had registered. It is human nature to duck unwelcome obligations for as long as possible, and with almost every piece of carbon-related legislation the last Government produced, most people assumed there would be some kind of U turn or delay — so avoidance has become something of a culture.

However, there are two extremely good financial reasons for adopting the measures encouraged by the CRC. First, the fines are significant. If an organisation consumes more than 6000 MWh of half-hourly metered electricity annually it should have been registered by the 1 October deadline. Failing to meet this deadline faced an immediate £5000 fine followed by £500 for every subsequent working day it remains outside the scheme (up to 80 working days).

Secondly, energy costs are rising inexorably as our fossil-fuel resources dwindle, so for every day you decline to do anything about your consumption you face steadily increasing bills.

 

Money talks louder than carbon, especially in the current economic climate, and by putting a price on carbon the CRC EES gives itself a stronger chance of success. Penalties for failure to do something have some weight, but the opportunity to turn energy-efficiency measures into hard cash is far more likely to succeed, especially with all businesses now looking for ways to strengthen their bottom line in the face of a stubbornly depressed marketplace.

Carbon trading

 

Once the CRC EES carbon-trading market gets up and running a tonne of CO2 will be worth £12, but few commentators believe it will stay that low. In contrast, many of the carbon-reduction measures that our industry can implement on behalf of clients cost considerably less than the initial market price for CO2 of £12 a tonne. Therefore, any organisation with a coherent carbon reduction strategy in place can start to make serious gains in the carbon-trading market.

Basic measures such as insulation, sorting out thermal gain and having a proper maintenance regime in place are not expensive or complicated to do. Measuring and monitoring current levels of consumption are similarly straightforward, but the fact that so few organisations are able to register suggests not many are even on top of this yet.

The addition of intelligent control systems and sensors to installed building-services systems can make a major difference at relatively small cost and with minimal disruption. Voltage reduction and power-factor-correction measures can also be applied without noticeable inconvenience to building occupants; all of this can be quickly achieved before having to consider more expensive new renewable and micro-generation technologies.

However, the key is involving specialist M&E contractors early on to maximise long-term performance. Most should be able to take a customer through the seven stages of the carbon- and energy-reduction programme devised by M&E Sustainability — the joint venture between the Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association and the Electrical Contractors’ Association aimed at improving the take-up of our sector’s expertise in this area.

A new lighting strategy is a good potential starting point for most building operators, which can now take advantage of optimal lighting configurations, such as reflectors and dimmer circuits, while also considering if there is scope for energy-efficient lamps and luminaires.

Basic first steps for the heating and ventilation should also be top of the ‘to-do’ list, and these can include adjusting thermostats, ensuring that all systems default to ‘off’ rather than ‘on’ (all too common) and setting up a programme of regular, scheduled service and maintenance.

 

The visibility of energy use makes a huge psychological and practical difference; if building users can see what they are using they are more likely to do something about it. That is why we recommend wider use of local energy metering as a third step in the carbon-management strategy and ensuring control systems give staff an accurate picture of where energy is going.

Low cost

By engaging a specialist M&E contractor, an organisation included in the CRC EES scheme can quickly get on top of its obligations by following those first three steps. These approaches deliver immediate, low-cost savings —while also improving the gathering of the energy information required to complete registration.

However, to make really serious inroads into their carbon emissions, building owners need to look at the addition of sensors and timers. Motion sensors will switch off lights in unoccupied rooms. And daylight sensors will cut down on the unnecessary use of lighting. They should also look at insulation levels — both for the building fabric (cavity walls and ceilings) — and for individual items like heaters, valves and pipes. In addition, they might want to consider solar shading to reduce overheating and, therefore, the use of air conditioning.

Only once these basic measures are complete should any M&E expert start to talk to customers about replacement technologies and, even then, they should first look at introducing new pumps or variable-speed motors that do not significantly alter the set-up of the system, but which can make immediate improvements to running costs.

Finally, the building may benefit from the addition of renewable or micro-generation systems, but these will, of course, be considerably more expensive than steps one to six of the programme. However, the potential financial rewards offered by the CRC EES scheme begin to make investment in renewable or micro-generation systems look more attractive.

 

The key challenge is making the various measures work together as part of an overall and integrated strategy. Understanding the challenge and employing qualified M&E experts can unlock significant financial rewards under the CRC EES scheme. And if the economic argument stacks up, the carbon savings will follow.

Jim O’Neil is chairman of M&E Sustainability and technical services director at Shepherd Engineering Services (SES).

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