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Sustainability:Get a tighter grip on energy

As the UK’s need to cut carbon emissions keeps on gathering momentum – with more government legislation looming on the horizon – HVR looks at the benefits of taking a holistic approach towards energy management
A recent survey commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust revealed a series of interesting public perceptions relating to the impact of carbon emissions.

According to the survey, 41% of people believe the UK will need a carbon police force to enforce energy-efficient measures and nearly two thirds of people anticipate that the government will introduce legislation to help cut CO2 emissions.

Such beliefs reinforce growing public concern and interest in environmental preservation, and the need for the public and private sectors to prioritise sustainable working practices. Buying decisions are becoming more influenced by green rhetoric, and organisations must work harder to satisfy the demands of carbon-conscious customers.

Bespoke and well structured energy management programmes can help companies and organisations of all sizes successfully meet this challenge.

Potential emissions
Developing an energy management programme should start with conducting an energy management assessment. This will help identify areas in which a business can improve its efficiency and quantify potential emissions and financial savings.

The assessment can also provide a good basis for developing an environmental policy that clearly demonstrates an organisation's commitment to sustainable working.

Levels of assessment vary but generally it should comprise a full review of the company's buildings - including doors, windows, ventilation and roofs, operational equipment, working practices, metering and the local power supply network.

Mike Hogg, general manager of Shell Gas Direct, believes in working closely with customers.
He says: 'Shell Gas Direct focuses assessments on auditing energy usage in line with legislative requirements and the day-to-day operation of the business, including objectives and targets.

'This approach ensures a balance is struck between identifying the amount of energy needed to maintain core operation and the actual volume being consumed. An accurate scoring system can then be devised, which ranks the efficiency of the building, working practices and equipment, and realistic targets set for achieving reductions.

'Using the scoring system, high levels of inefficiency can be addressed as a priority to realise immediate emissions reductions and long-term strategies devised to deliver continuous improvement. Along with expert advice, this approach helps companies and organisations make informed decisions and progressively adapt operational strategies to accommodate sustainable methods of working.'

For example, the assessment can be used to pinpoint cost-free and low-cost measures that can be implemented straight away, such as adjusting air-conditioning temperatures by a few degrees and not leaving equipment on standby overnight.

This ensures all basic improvements are covered before more substantial investment is made in advanced energy-efficient technologies.
Similarly, an assessment can clarify the need for personnel training or the assignment
of roles and responsibilities to deliver the energy-management programme.

The success of the programme can be measured by regularly monitoring energy usage. One of the most frequently overlooked opportunities to improve sustainability is made at the procurement stage.

In many cases, businesses and organisations approach energy buying on a cost-only basis and tend not to consider how supplier expertise can assist best-practice energy efficiency.

Hogg says: 'A supplier with in-depth market knowledge, technical experience and resources will support the continued development of an energy management programme. This ensures it keeps pace with constantly evolving legislation and technology to continually deliver tangible benefits.

Energy consumption
'To help increase understanding of energy usage, Shell Gas Direct can offer Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology.

Trials from around the world show the AMRs - which are fitted to an existing gas meter and communicate usage data directly back to Shell (and the customer if required) via SMS - can help reduce energy consumption and maximise efficiency.'

The technology presents new opportunities for consumption data to be made available online, which users can access live. This level of monitoring, coupled with the ability for users to analyse consumption, will reduce the need for estimated billing, and could help customers to appreciate significant cost savings.

Better understanding of consumption can help to maximise energy cost savings which, in turn, can be invested in improving sustainable practices. Flexible gas supply contracts can be developed that: track market prices; offer fixed prices; a combination of the two; or allow customers to buy gas in advance.

Credible suppliers will be able to offer such packages, fitting in with user consumption and operational requirements. This is opposed to an off-the-shelf product that promises low prices, but costs significantly more in the long term.

Emission levels suggest the UK is suffering a major shortfall in achieving its 80% reduction target by 2050. As it strives to offset the difference, it is likely green-related funding and tax breaks will be introduced to increase energy efficiency.
11 August 2008

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