﻿Grasping the nettle
With the Carbon Reduction Commitment looming on the horizon it is important that building-services engineers do as much as possible to help their clients. Ant Wilson considers what that might entail.
Without a doubt the Carbon Reduction Commitment, or the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC EES) as it is now called, is already having an effect on the way major energy users think about their energy. Consequently, there will be a knock-on effect in relation to what is expected of building-services engineers and what they should be offering their clients.
The change of name to include ‘energy efficiency’ is highly significant. This is because there is a danger that people will focus on carbon, and reduce emissions by ‘greening’ their energy use, rather than looking at the underlying consumption. At the end of the day, it is the consumption of fossil fuels that we need to be looking at to reduce our dependence on them and achieve long-term security of supply.
In parallel, there will be many organisations that currently avoid participation in the CRC EES and would like to continue doing so. Here, again, there will be strong emphasis on reducing energy consumption in general, and electricity consumption in particular, as the criterion for organisations to become involved in the CRC EES is currently based on electricity usage.
In all these cases there are real opportunities for building-services engineers to add value to their traditional design role. These include advising clients on behavioural issues and the financial aspects of programmes such as CRC EES, as well as effective design of systems backed by detailed operation and maintenance documentation.
So it is worth taking a closer look at the financial implications of the CRC EES as an example of how this will impact on the everyday activities of assessing energy-efficiency measures such as payback calculations.
Around 20 000 organisations with half-hourly electricity metering will be captured by the CRC EES. Of these, 5000 to 6000 will consume more than 6000 MWh(e) per annum and will be required to participate fully, which includes purchasing carbon allowances based on their consumption in 2008 (the first ‘footprint’ year). The current price for carbon allowances is set at £12 per tonne.
Although qualification in the footprint year is based solely on electricity consumption, the carbon allowances are based on the consumption of all fossil fuel usage (excluding residential properties and transportation). If they are able to reduce their energy consumption significantly, they may get a rebate within about 15 months of the up-front payment. Consequently these organisations will be looking for effective ways to gain ‘quick wins’ on energy consumption.
In addition, they will be required to pay a £900 registration fee and a further £1290 per annum administration fee.
The remaining organisations, using half-hourly metering but falling between 3000 and 6000 MWh(e) per annum threshold (about 15 000 organisations), will be required to disclose their fuel consumption and could be captured in future footprint years. They, too, will have an imperative to reduce fossil fuel consumption so they remain below the threshold — and there is a chance the threshold may be lowered for future footprint years.
In terms of timescales, all qualifying organisations are required to register for the scheme between April and September 2010. Failing to do so will result in a £5000 fine plus £500 for every working day that registration goes beyond the deadline.
As virtually all building-related fossil-fuel consumption is the result of services, this clearly reinforces my earlier assertion that building-services engineers can take a broader role in the design and management of buildings. To some extent this is already happening through improved liaison with architects to ensure the fabric minimises heating and cooling loads. Engineers can also help to address behavioural issues through improved access to, for example, zoned switching for lighting and occupancy/ daylight controls.
In addition, the CRC EES helps the financial case for renewable energy sources because these will reduce the carbon allowances that have to be purchased. Furthermore, in the case of renewable electricity sources, there is the issue of feed-in tariffs to be addressed. Also introduced in April 2010, feed-in tariffs are designed to incentivise small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation by paying the operator a fee per kWh of electricity produced. In the case of a 10 to 100 kW photo-voltaic (PV) installation, for example, the feed-in tariff will be 31.4 p/kWh in the first two years, falling to 28.7 p/kWh for those that enrol in the third year. Tariffs are fixed for 25 years, though future figures will be adjusted in line with inflation.
Clearly this incentive will increase the financial viability of such schemes but, inevitably, it will also increase the complexity of the paperwork. For instance, a project involving a PV installation of less than 50 kW will have to use the Microgeneration Certification Scheme to confirm its eligibility for feed-in tariffs.
So here, again, is an area where the building-services engineer can step in to help, by assisting with the bureaucratic elements and enabling the client to take advantage of all potential grants and financial support. Similar principles, for example, apply to the Renewables Obligation scheme, which covers biomass as well as electricity generation.
Of course, in taking on a broader role, building-services engineers will have to make the effort to grasp the nettle and get to grips with the various initiatives. Once learned, however, these skills can be applied to many projects. So this is a real opportunity that should not be missed.
Ant Wilson is director of building engineering with AECOM.