Lisa Gingell believes that there are plenty of drives to encourage businesses to adopt innovative approaches to reducing their energy consumption and bills.
There has never been a better time for businesses to start taking their energy costs and carbon emissions seriously. The global financial downturn has brought the cost of running a private or public-sector business sharply into focus and forced many to consider innovative ways to boost the bottom line while at the same time addressing their impact on the environment.
Innovations that businesses are increasingly turning to include automatic monitoring and targeting (aM&T) and building-management systems (BMS), which not only monitor but also control energy-intensive assets such as heating, cooling, lighting and AHUs.
Energy-inefficient companies now stand to lose even more after the introduction of the Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme, aimed at cutting emissions among the largest companies, which together are responsible for around a tenth of the UK’s total emissions.
Initially billed as an emissions trading scheme, an important incentive to comply with the CRC was removed when the decision was taken not to redistribute the revenue gathered through the scheme among the better performers — effectively turning it into a tax with the takings now flowing into Government coffers.
However this does not mean the CRC should be ignored. Instead, it should be seen as a wake-up call. Making the adjustments that ensure your business conforms with it will not only reduce costs and carbon emissions but will also demonstrate that you take corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously.
Businesses need to take control and get a clear understanding of what savings can be made and how. The trick is to throw any preconceptions in the bin and accept that technological advances have led to some fantastic products which make energy management easily achievable and affordable.
The aM&T and BMS tools produced by t-mac Technologies, for example, control and monitor equipment which use a large amount of energy and are also a fantastic way to promote understanding among staff on the need to avoid making changes to equipment such as central heating or air conditioning based on comfort rather than need.
T-mac, for example, has a wide range of private and public sector clients and provides them with hardware and software that allows for energy metering and analysis to work in tandem with building controls. Ultimately this helps clients to manage carbon emissions effectively, cut their utilities expenditure, meet internal and external energy reduction targets, and comply with Government legislation such as the CRC.
Companies that utilise aM&T technology can save up to 15% on their annual energy bill, but those who go a step further and incorporate a BMS — which allows for local or remote control and management of equipment performance and use — could save 30%, and sometimes up to 40%, on their energy costs.
Ease of use plays a key role in reducing costs, and we have developed software that makes it easier for businesses to control building conditions and equipment performance across a single site or entire estate — taking the complexity out of building controls by providing pre-defined control strategies and an easy-to-use software interface. In addition, Virtual t-mac software enables businesses which opted for a BMS from another supplier to get the most out of their previous investment.
The maximum benefits are achieved by a full site survey, aM&T and/or BMS hardware and software, and staff engagement sessions — all with the focus being on the importance of identifying, highlighting and ultimately managing energy consumption and showcasing the benefits.
In terms of spotting inefficiencies, the process is often less technical than many people think. Inefficiencies are often easy to identify simply by walking around a building. When carrying out surveys, our engineers and technicians often find heating and air conditioning running in tandem and effectively fighting each other, over-door heaters running constantly, doors left open, air-conditioning set-points programmed at 28 or 16°C and lighting left on overnight.
The presence of room controllers located throughout a building — a small digital panel often placed on an office wall — is becoming increasingly common. This is a great way to bring controls to the building occupiers, but without educating them on how to use them ‘efficiently’ there is scope for staff to use equipment uneconomically by making adjustments to heating or cooling set-points without being fully aware of the consequences of their actions — both on the building’s temperature and the company’s bottom line.
A typical BMS control strategy should be based on the findings of a site survey, with optimum settings for lighting, heating and cooling systems, as well as any other equipment identified as energy-intensive. Our focus is primarily on energy efficiency for a business, while not forgetting the building occupiers and, therefore, ensuring the controls we implement ensure the business can operate as usual. By making the most of this technology, businesses can feel confident about the future and equally confident they will not be hit with an unexpected tax bill due to their carbon emissions.
Lisa Gingell is business development director with t-mac Technologies.