Saving energy, carbon and costs: Are you embracing the quick wins?

Saving energy, carbon and costs: Are you embracing the quick wins?

With more than 75% of local authorities declaring a Climate Emergency, the expectation is that many organisations in the public sector will now be leading by example when it comes to reducing emissions.

It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that the more high-profile ‘visible’ projects such as installing renewable generation assets or swapping to electric vehicle fleets are often viewed as priorities. But budget and resource constraints can make delivering these challenging. And starting with a top-down rather than a bottom-up approach can make successfully tracking a path to net zero far more difficult.

We asked energy specialist Mark Griffin, who’s worked with hundreds of organisations to support effective energy saving strategies, to share his top five tips for covering the essentials and embracing the quick wins as part of a successful strategy to net zero.

1. Get data savvy

Gathering data may not sound especially sexy – but it’s absolutely necessary if you are to understand exactly where and how you are using energy – as well as tracking emissions – throughout your estate. So ensure you record all your consumption data from meters/energy bills into a spreadsheet or energy management system. Only then can you start to spot anomalies and take the necessary action to reduce wastage. This will start saving money you can then use to finance the bigger projects. You can also rank your buildings in efficiency order (eg red, amber and green) by, for example, comparing energy spend to floor area. This can then help you to develop a plan of where to focus attention and activity.

2. Create a hit list

Once you have a clear view of your estate, you can create a ‘hit list’ when it comes to prioritising ‘boots on the ground’ action. This can take the form of a thorough energy audit to understand what’s using energy and whether or not it can be made more efficient (eg matching lighting and heating to occupancy times) or requires upgrading or a new technology solution (eg swapping fossil-fuel boilers for low-carbon heat pumps).

3. Home in on temperature control

Together, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) are responsible for around 60-70% of a building’s energy use. So when you are looking to improve efficiencies and make savings, this is often a good place to start. Start by looking at your building management system (BMS) to ensure HVAC activity is synchronised with building occupancy times. Also look at options to control HVAC individually in rooms that are not used daily (eg meeting rooms). A responsive BMS can typically save around 20% in building running costs, depending on the level of controls. So it may be worth investing in a more sophisticated system to ensure energy usage can be monitored and controlled or even automated effectively. Then look at the types of HVAC equipment you have. Are they end of life, inefficient or ripe for upgrade (eg oil or gas systems that could be replaced by more efficient heat pumps)? But before working out the best replacements, remember to consider how best to improve whole building efficiency so you install the right-size system for what you need (see building fabric below).

4. Investigate your building fabric

The quality of your building fabric is also an important focus, as this will determine how efficient you can make your site – and reduce the need for any unnecessary HVAC activity. So look in detail at the envelop of your buildings and their construction to determine how best to minimise heat loss. For example, is cavity wall insulation an option, or is the building too old? Is there loft and ceiling insulation – and does it need improving? How are any bridged ceilings in office environments structured – can these be insulated? Are the windows double glazed? Building fabric improvements can reduce energy bills by as much as 15%, as well as reducing the required capacity of any replacement HVAC systems. Again, an energy audit can help provide these answers if you don’t have appropriate internal resource.

5. Review lighting options

As lighting typically accounts for around 20% of a building’s energy consumption, this is another important area for review. Swapping from florescent or incandescent bulbs to LED can save around 60% on running costs. But for maximum efficiency, it’s also worth looking at lighting design, as LED gives off more light, so you can often reduce the number of fittings. Building use also changes, so review too the actual requirement for lighting levels in different areas – and does this still need to be centralised, or should you now consider more localised options? Syncing lighting to operational hours and adapting to natural light are also important, and here occupancy and daylight sensors are invaluable. Overall, you can realistically reduce lighting spend by 40-50% with the appropriate actions and upgrades.

There are, of course, a number of other areas to consider – from the type of equipment being used in your buildings, to the way visitors and building users interact with your services. That’s why a thorough investigation and energy audit can provide all the necessary points to target – and make these specific to each building in your estate. Once you are able to maximise energy efficiency and minimise energy use and spend, you will then free up more budget to fund other options to support the realisation of net zero targets. For example, on-site generation, battery storage or electric vehicle fleets.

If you need help or support, talk to your Account Manager at YPO/LASER – or ask to speak to the Public Sector Team at npower Business Solutions.

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