Driving down overheads doesnt take a lot of energy

Driving down overheads doesnt take a lot of energy

Why is it important to conduct an energy survey at your business? I’ll set out my case: energy is central to any enterprise and, to put it bluntly, energy costs money (in many of instances, quite a lot of money).

Financial reasoning is the driver behind the time you spend talking about wages, staffing levels, investment opportunities, growth forecasts and the like. So, employing the same rationale, you should talk about energy consumption too. But to discuss this issue in an informed manner, you need to really understand the ways in which your organisation uses energy.  Enter, the energy survey...

Energy audits, surveys and assessments are used as generic terms for an examination into the energy efficiency of a business. They can comprise activities ranging from ‘walk-around’ assessments, conducted quickly and cheaply, making non-intrusive observations, all the way up to full forensic, technical analyses of equipment and materials backed up with recommendations and a financial business case.

The level/depth of the survey depends upon an organisation’s needs, and there will be a variety, such as:

  • Legal compliance (e.g. DEC, EPC, ESOS). There are a number of legislative requirements that require some form of energy auditing, measuring and reporting. Each targets a specific business size or legal need.
  • ISO requirements (ISO 50001/2). ISO 14001 does not specify energy auditing but some companies will believe this to be good practice. Those, predominantly large, companies that are using energy management strategically will carry out energy surveying and measurement as a part of the ISO 50001 process.
  • Supply-chain demands. Many businesses, particularly in the public sector, but increasingly in the private sector, are asking their supply chain for evidence of their carbon-reduction credentials. This is driving energy management further and further down the supply chain.
  • Cost reduction. One of the obvious reasons for a business to survey the way it uses its energy is that, by using less energy, it will save money on its annual variable costs.
  • To back up investment decision-making. When planning capital expenditure,  it is important to present a business case both in terms of increased production efficiency and energy consumption per unit produced (for example), comparing the potential of the new with that of the existing.
  • For behavioural reasons. New equipment, more energy efficient procedures and processes will not fulfil their objectives if personnel are unable or unwilling to change the ‘way they have always done things’. Assessment of staff behaviour is an important factor in measuring energy efficiency.
  • To reduce the carbon footprint. At a fundamental level energy use contributes to climate change. The less we use, the longer it takes to use up what is not a limitless resource – unless we use renewable sources.

What does a survey comprise of? Very roughly;

  1. Identification of energy-using equipment/materials. What do you use, why, how often and under what conditions?
  2. Measurement of usage. Data from metering, utility bills.
  3. Analysis of collected data. Are there patterns and trends of usage? Can they be explained?
  4. Recommendations for improvement. What can be done that improve the business in terms of costs and efficiencies?
  5. Implementation of improvements and continued measurement.

Survey costs are proportional to the depth of survey but, so too, are the potential benefits in terms of knowing your business better. Whatever field you work in, and whatever the size of your enterprise, one thing is certain – there is always room for improvement in the way a business uses energy. And getting an energy survey is the first step on the journey to realising the potential of the benefits on offer.