As the energy market focuses on the impact of the EMR, Tim Hipperson from Utilitywise says there is still a huge amount of work that can be done in terms of educating people and businesses across Scotland to use less energy. Head of Supplier Relations and Regulations at the company, he has a few things to say about it all…
Asking people not to waste energy can sometimes seem like a very well-worn message. Indeed, anybody who went to school in the 1980s will remember seeing stickers above light switches reminding them to ‘switch off when they leave’.
Yet the message still hasn’t permeated every section of society or our daily lives – we still use far more energy than we need to, at home but particularly whilst at work.
The Energy Market Reform might currently be dominating headlines and conversations within the industry, but it’s highly unlikely to deliver any benefits to the end user within the near future. People and businesses need to take responsibility themselves to reduce and control their energy usage and therefore their energy costs.
Our experience of offering energy management and consultancy shows that pretty much every organisation could very easily cut 20% from their energy bills – and in some cases by as much as 40 per cent. These figures aren’t to be ignored and show that the effort is worth making. The money saved each year could equate to someone’s salary, for example.
Incredibly, a lot of these savings come from simply finding ways to change working practices so they are more efficient.
This is particularly the case with energy prices constantly rising. Companies can work with organisations such as Utilitywise to buy energy and to negotiate fixed contracts, but the fact is that the cost of energy is broadly going to go up over the coming years, decade, regardless of whether it’s being sourced from renewables, shale or traditional power stations.
We have done a lot of research and spent a lot of time looking at how people can be encouraged to do more to help reduce their employer’s bills, and we firmly believe that it boils down to the way information about energy use is analysed and disseminated.
Most people are savvy enough about the environment, and about energy costs, to know how important energy saving is, but it can be hard to keep it in mind when busy at work
However, in an age of information overload, what people don’t need is reams of analysis and data.
It is essential to find ways to give people just the right amount of information, so that they know their efforts aren’t wasted, and so that they can monitor their own performance and improve it if necessary.
The very latest technology can now analyse energy use down to a circuit board level – so energy managers can see which strip of lights use the most energy, or whether the accounts team is using more than the marketing department, for example.
This approach helped us to work with the University of Bradford’s School of Health Studies, where we were able to reduce energy bills by a third over the 16-month project.
The project has been so successful it’s now being rolled out across the university, which believes the investment in energy monitoring has more than paid for itself. Using Utilitywise’s Edd:e circuit level monitoring system, staff were able to identify energy use and measure the savings achieved. Edd:e was able to identify high energy users such as the catering department and highlight where savings could be made.
It is now also possible for this information to be divided into palatable chunks and delivered to the right people within an organisation. A facilities manager won’t want to see the same data as a finance director, so it is now possible to give them tailored reports that answer the questions they might be asking.
We are also trying to engender the feeling amongst our customers that they are now part of the energy market. Bigger operations should not just be looking at ways to save energy, but to make money from it. Self-generation is going to become increasingly popular in 2014 and beyond, while bigger companies should be looking at ways to actually make money from their energy use.
It sounds contrary, but the bigger energy users can actually receive bonuses from their energy providers if they switch machines off at peak times, thus reducing the burden on the grid.
Keeping a workforce informed and up-to-speed with real-time energy information is absolutely the best way to keep them engaged with the energy saving programme and, in most cases, is the most straightforward and cost-effective route to changing attitudes and bringing bills down.