Since 2021, energy costs have more than doubled for most businesses.

The government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme ended in April 2023 having provided a temporary grace period during the previous winter, but projections suggest that energy prices will remain extremely high by historical standards for the foreseeable future.

Here are three big steps you can act on immediately, at low or no cost, to prepare your business for successfully identifying and delivering a range of energy-saving projects.

1. Get a handle on your data

As the saying goes: if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Understanding where and when you’re using energy is a vital pre-requisite to identifying and quantifying good energy-saving projects. You can do this in several ways, depending on your circumstances:

  • Manual meter readings: Take meter readings yourself, including at the start/end of each day and before you close for the weekend/when you open up again on Monday
  • Use your bill: Use meter readings and costs from your bills
  • Use half-hourly data (preferred): The more granular your data, the easier it will be to identify where and when you are using energy. Most businesses should now be able to access half-hourly electricity data from their supplier (from December 2022, there will be a legal requirement on your supplier to provide half-hourly electricity data and hourly gas data, so contact your supplier if you don’t have access to this information yet)

Tracking energy data

Tracking your energy use over time in a visible format will help you to spot anomalies in consumption. These anomalies should be your first go-to target for saving energy because they are likely signs that energy is being consumed wastefully or equipment is being left on accidentally.

The example below is a comparison of two months’ worth of half-hourly energy data at a business using a relatively straightforward contour chart in Excel. This is a quick and easy way to spot anomalies and identify energy being used outside of normal patterns or hours.

Preparation Contour Graph (1)

You can see very clearly that a lot more energy is being used in the second month. Does this reflect increased business activity, or is there another reason for this change?

There has also been a jump in consumption in the evenings. Why is this? Perhaps processes or shifts have changed and it has resulted in equipment being left on at the end of the day.

Identifying your baseload

You should also use your energy data to identify your baseload. Also known as phantom load, this is the level of energy consumption that is always running continually in the background.

Your baseload is important to look at because it will include machinery or equipment that may be left on standby and therefore constantly consuming energy every day unnecessarily. Your baseload can build up to quite considerable amounts of money over a year, especially now, so try to identify every item that contributes to it and see what can be managed better.

2. Walk around your site

Once you have a process in place for collecting and visualising your data, the next step is to walk around your site at different times of the day (including during breaks and after closing), using your data as a guide.

As you survey your site, keep an eye out for when and where people may be adjusting temperatures for heating, or times when different equipment or machinery are being used. Take note of every item that is being left on unnecessarily.  

3. Get everyone involved

The ‘people element’ of how energy is used is something that many businesses underestimate. The only way you can achieve lasting, embedded energy savings that continue to pay back indefinitely is by bringing everyone along with you on the journey.

Encouraging and incentivising staff to adopt more energy-efficient behaviours will also generate energy savings faster than any other method and often at no upfront cost – making an instant impact on your bottom line.

Making sure equipment is being used as efficiently as possible by staff will also help to extend the life of your equipment, saving you more money in the long run.

Level with people

It’s worth levelling with your staff right now how big a challenge energy costs are going to be over the next year. It may well be that you need to use some relatively strong tactics to make sure everyone understands the risks if they don’t play their part.

Another useful way to look at behaviour change is that any knowledge and training on energy efficiency you can pass on to your staff is something they can also use at home to reduce their own energy bills as well.

Create a team of ‘energy champions’

Bring together a team of like-minded people who have a good understanding of what’s required to save energy throughout your business. The team should meet regularly to discuss opportunities and assign responsibilities for taking action. Make sure the group is representative of every level of your organisation, from upper management to those at the coalface.

The team should be responsible for engaging with everyone in your organisation to gather their energy-saving ideas. It’s the people on the frontline who are most likely to have noticed wasteful processes you may not be aware of.

Offer incentives

If you’re struggling to get people to come along with you as a matter of urgency, there are various ways of offering incentives. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Offer a prize for the best, or most successful, energy-saving idea
  • Create teams to compete with each other, with a prize on offer for the team that makes the most improvements. If you run shifts, you could actually measure each shift’s performance using your energy data
  • Incorporate energy-saving performance into your annual bonus scheme

Ensure there is continuous feedback

As you can’t physically ‘see’ energy, it’s absolutely vital that you have processes in place for regular feedback so everyone can see the results of the changes they’re making:

  • Add energy as a regular item in team meetings
  • Communicate achievements and progress on noticeboards
  • If you have one, share achievements and progress in your staff newsletter

Only by making the right behaviours routine and habitual will you save energy indefinitely.

Need support?

If you are seeking a trusted, local supplier for installing energy-saving technologies, use our online marketplace

Energy efficiency is also a key element of our popular Journey to Net Zero programme for Greater Manchester SMEs. Visit businessgrowthhub.com/netzero

 


This blog was originally published on the Bee Net Zero website.

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Alasdair Dalzel-Job

Sustainability Business Advisor

Alasdair provides resource efficiency and environmental risk support to businesses, helping them to identify and implement low carbon solutions. As well as a Master’s degree in clean technology, Alasdair has two decades' experience in the environmental field. He is an ESOS Lead Assessor, a member of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, an Associate Member of IEMA and an IEMA Associate Environmental Auditor.