Top five ways you can save on energy bills
Jason Smith outlines some simple measures construction companies can take to reduce carbon emissions and save money at the same time.
The construction industry not only accounts for 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions, but it’s estimated that buildings, from office blocks to leisure centres, account for half the energy usage of the whole country.
That energy relates to the entire lifecycle, from construction, refurbishment and operational phases through to demolition. Although it was previously assumed that the operational phase consumed more than the energy used to construct it, this is not always the case.
Advances in energy efficiency mean that the costs during the operation or maintenance of a building is falling in unit terms. Companies are now also concentrating on non-operational aspects to reduce costs and improve their environmental impact.
Below are five areas that will improve your bottom line and reduce carbon emissions. Some may seem obvious, but are often ignored or forgotten by many businesses, despite the fact that they can have a significant impact.
Ensure you’re contracted to the cheapest tariff
When starting a job, you might simply hook up with the local electricity supplier to get access to power in the building phase. You pay little regard to price because it’s part of the project cost. However, those short-term “out of contract” agreements are ridiculously expensive.
Businesses that don’t have the time to manage the process and want an expert to find them the lowest deals available should use the services of a gas and electricity broker.
These specialists won’t charge you for their services, and you’ll have access to all available energy contracts in the UK. As there are over 30,000 permutations because of different meter types and regional variations, that’s a five-minute call that could save you thousands of pounds.
Depending on the tariff you’re on, you could instantly cut costs by 50%, sometimes 70%. There are large fluctuations between a standard variable or fixed tariff and emergency or temporary contracts.
Install renewable energy generation schemes
Although the unit cost to install most renewable energy sources is high, the prices are falling due to improving technologies and demand.
There are four main benefits from installing renewable energy:
- The impact on the environment is greatly reduced;
- The cost of the energy produced is zero;
- A company is exempt from paying the Climate Change Levy, which has increased by 67% from 0.51p/ kWh in 2012 to 0.85p/ kWh starting in April 2019;
- A company is exempt from the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme
Even with the industry’s best efforts, a truly carbon zero building is still a rarity in the UK. Although there is still much talk about a zero carbon future, little is championed by the government, so it’s left to pressure groups.
Become energy efficient
Just introducing a few changes in your management or lifestyle could reduce bills by 10-20% per year. Everyone knows the easiest way is to simply switch things off when not in use, but unless that’s ingrained into every employee, it’s a wasted tactic.
For larger buildings, sophisticated monitoring products can do the hard work of showing where potential waste is happening. Facilities managers can use the data to make changes where necessary.
Sensors can now automatically turn lights on and off, but in offices computers and cooling systems often take the bulk of the power. Make sure everything in the building is turned off or down when you’re not there.
Investigate life-cycle measurement audits and control systems
As part of the project development process, a simple additional process to measure material used and their environmental impact could be introduced. Although this won’t necessarily have an impact on costs directly, it will help meet government carbon emission targets and potentially lower tariffs.
Use energy-efficient fixtures and fittings
Finally, everything that uses energy should use the least amount possible while still providing the service required. In recent years the costs have reduced significantly on everyday items that can reduce running costs. For example:
- Using LED spotlights instead of halogen bulbs cuts consumption by 85%;
- Installing A++ heating and cooling systems reduces bills by 20%;
- Fitting zonal controls and keeping thermostats at optimal levels lowers bills by 12%.
Overall, most of these tips are part and parcel of the knowledge we’ve gained since we went to school. Construction businesses could cut their bills in half if they followed all the advice.
Research shows that the majority of businesses invest time and money into energy efficiency but fewer than 40% actively manage their contract tariffs. And it’s the latter where the most savings are made but takes the least time, effort, and money to achieve.
Jason Smith is the operations manager at B2B energy advice website businesselectricityprices.org.uk. He advises small and medium companies on reducing their energy bills.
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