If the government offered your business £20 cashback on every £100 you spent on energy, you would probably head for the front of the queue. Yet that's exactly the sort of money saving opportunity an energy audit can deliver.
The Carbon Trust's analysis of a sample of recent ESOS energy savings opportunities assessments showed that an average cost reduction of 20% was achievable through cost-effective energy saving measures. On an average energy spend of £1.8m, this translates into potential savings of £360,000 per site.
This chimes with numerous ESOS audits completed by Inprova Energy, from which our assessors identified energy savings opportunities ranging from 5 to 20%.
Of course, an energy audit will not in itself save energy: it is taking action on energy and carbon management that matters. But the level of implementation of energy saving recommendations from energy audits is disappointingly small, despite the obvious attractive monetary and environmental rewards.
There's much work to be done in shaking off the 'Cinderella' status of energy efficiency and shifting it up the corporate agenda from plant room to board room so that organisations can improve both carbon and cost performance.
Without an audit, it can be difficult to prioritise energy saving opportunities and organisations can end up wasting time and money.
What does an energy audit comprise?
A commercial energy audit can vary massively according to the needs of the organisation, the key objectives and the depth of information that is required. In most cases it will cover:
- Energy use and profiling– the way energy is used and where.
- Energy policy and procedure – goals and objectives for saving
- Management systems– how energy is managed and accounted for.
- Savings - Identifying areas where wastage can be reduced
Energy audits will also often provide a review of the water use at the assessment site and will offer a range of suggestions for savings to be made from managing this efficiently.
The result of the audit is usually presented in an energy management report, with a detailed action plan that provides an accurate assessment of the potential energy/carbon reductions along with costed details of the specific measures required for implementation and the estimated payback time. Recommendations are normally divided into three broad categories:
- No-cost measures – such as good housekeeping, staff behaviour changes or simple adaptations, such as resetting heating controls.
- Low-cost measures – often not requiring capital expenditure approval.
- High-cost measures – for which capital approval will be required.
For any organisation looking to assess their energy use and become more efficient, a good starting point is a basic walk-though inspection. This allows you to identify obvious opportunities and will help you to decide whether you need further specialist support.
It is impossible to make an accurate estimation of energy savings without knowledge of the site's energy profile and knowing the factors that affect energy use. Gather as much information as possible beforehand, including copies of energy bills, meter and sub meter readings, building plans and log books, equipment lists and history, etc. This will help direct the assessor to potential problem areas. Ideally, you should compare your energy profile to other similar buildings or organisations to give you a benchmark and an indication of what level of savings you could achieve.
Your energy consultant should be able to provide an overview of specialist contractors who can help you to implement recommendations detailed in the report.
Where to focus
Every site is different, but some of the most common areas of energy wastage you should focus on are:
- Heating/hot water, ventilation and air-conditioning - space heating can be a major source of waste, where simple energy saving measures can reduce costs by as much as 30%
- Lighting - it's often possible to cut lighting costs by up to 30% through low cost measures and technologies with rapid payback, such as LED. Lighting can account for up to 40% of a building's electricity usage.
- Office equipment - 20% of a corporate energy bill can be down to office equipment, such as computers, monitors and photocopiers.
- Building structure - watch out for open or poorly insulated doors and windows, especially in areas that are being heated or cooled. Adding 100–150mm loft insulation can reduce energy losses by up to 90%.
- Refrigeration and chillers - in factories and warehouses, good quality refrigeration and chiller systems can achieve up to 50% energy cost savings.
- Compressed air systems - idling compressors are very energy hungry, so switch off inbetween uses and reduce the air pressure, if possible.
Gain better control of your energy usage to save money and shrink your carbon footprint. Download our Energy Manager's Guide to Consumption Managment.