Four top tips for supercharging your organisation’s energy efficiency strategy
Three-quarters of edie readers say their organisations are investing in energy efficiency this year as a priority. But how can you get started on your energy efficiency journey, and maximise the benefits?
To help edie readers to identify the best ways to evolve their energy efficiency strategies, we hosted a 45-minute online masterclass in partnership with Schneider Electric last week.
Chaired by edie’s senior reporter Sarah George, the session provided listeners with practical guidance on both immediate measures and long-term investments and strategies on energy efficiency. These insights were provided by expert guest speakers from Schneider Electric UK&I and DatacentreUK.
This session is free to watch and is now available on-demand. It originally aired on Thursday 11 May.
But, if you don’t have time to recap in full, this handy article runs through five of the top tips provided during the masterclass.
1) Measurement is a pre-requisite to good management
edie’s 2023 Sustainable Business Leadership Survey revealed that 42% of business are placing a “high” priority on energy efficiency over the next 12 months, with a further 32% claiming energy efficiency is a “business-critical” priority.
This evidences how investing in energy efficiency is being treated with urgency at many businesses amid the price crisis.
Schneider Electric UK&I’s digital services director Keith Burnett said many of his business’s clients have seen “astronomical” increases in bills year-on-year, in some cases threefold or fourfold.
But he recommended that listeners paused before jumping in, though, to measure their baseline energy use. He provided a four-step pathway for evolving energy strategies on the road to net-zero; measuring current data was the first step and setting targets was the third. Taking action to reduce energy use, and replace high-carbon with low-carbon sources, was the third step.
By taking a more considered approach, Burnett said, businesses can reasonably expect to reduce energy use in buildings by around 15%.
2) Scope out opportunities to improve data
Of course, baselining your energy use and the costs and emissions associated with this requires the collection of good data.
Burnett pointed out that the UK has half-hourly data in the settlement market. He encouraged listeners to look for data available in as close to real-time as possible, as this enables for early identification of excessive energy use and, in turn, opportunities for interventions.
He said: “We believe that, when you digitize, you start to make the invisible visible. You start to understand how your energy assets are performing, such as chillers, boilers, transformers.”
One audience member stated that she was unable to access this data, as it sat with her landlord. Another asked for advice on engaging her landlord to respond to findings by investing in new technologies.
Burnett’s advice was to keep pressing for “open communication”. He also advised that some landlords may be moved to action when presented with opportunities to reduce running costs and attract new tenants – potentially at higher rental rates. JLL estimates that tenant demand for “highly sustainable” commercial buildings will increase by at least eight million square feet this decade, with most tenants willing to pay a premium for occupancy.
3) Small changes can make a big difference
During the webinar, presenters explained that a typical office organisation can expect to reduce its building-related emissions by at least 15% by improving energy efficiency, and up to a further 50% by taking more drastic action to change the kinds of energy used. For example, large gains can be made by switching fossil boilers for heat pumps.
But both Burnett and DatacentreUK’s head of sales Adrian Dewick agreed that, in some cases, there is still a lot of “low-hanging fruit” to be picked.
Dewick spoke of how some data centres still have layouts directing heat inefficiently around the cooling systems – an issue which can be solved by re-arranging racks. Burnett gave the example of offices which automatically power up systems before dawn, even though most staff don’t arrive until a few hours later – or which leave systems on until the middle of the night when staff depart mid-evening.
Both speakers agreed that digitally collecting energy data will help to identify opportunities for these easy wins. For example, a spike in energy use overnight suggests that technologies are running which the building occupant is not aware of.
Burnett was also asked about the recent trials of heating and cooling systems that capture waste heat from data centres and use it to heat leisure centres struggling with high energy bills. He said that while this is “a fantastic headline which shows great innovation”, it is not yet cost-effective for most small or medium-sized data centres. Instead, they may wish to redirect heat to nearby offices or to assist the cooling system onsite.
4) Don’t muddle through with new builds – seek expert help
It has been estimated that up to 80% of the buildings that will exist in the UK in 2050 – the net-zero deadline year – already exist. The webinar speakers highlighted the importance of retrofitting and Burnett stated that “the older the technology, the bigger the opportunity” to make energy and cost savings.
Equally, they acknowledged that many listeners may work at organisations involved in the construction of new buildings, which can benefit from being fitted with the latest design features and technologies to improve efficiency from day one.
Dewick said the most common pitfall he sees with new-build data centres is the company not “engaging with a specialist and, instead, leaving it to the main contractor. This can lead to poor decisions in terms of energy efficiency, as contractors “don’t have the depth of knowledge” that specialists will. Moreover, they will likely be tasked with finding the cheapest design options and products in terms of upfront cost – not those that are the lowest cost to operate.
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