Little excuse and every opportunity for reducing non-domestic energy use and costs

Author: 24/03/2016

Comment from our Chief Executive, Kerry Mashford. Prior to last May’s General Election, the Conservative manifesto was noticeably thin on firm energy efficiency commitments but the new Government’s subsequent approach has resulted in a dismantling of ‘green’ policies in favour of nuclear, fracking and a new ‘dash for gas’.

This reverse gear strategy has been criticised for creating uncertainty in the market and denting investor confidence with damaging consequences for business. It also risks jeopardising progress to a secure, sustainable and low-carbon economy.

The recent UN climate change talks agreed to limit global warming to below 2°C, and the UK played an important role in getting the deal agreed. However, having rolled back on many ‘green’ and energy efficiency policies during 2015, it’s difficult to see how the UK is going to meet its Paris targets.

There are no major energy efficiency changes to the Building Regulations in the offing and the ‘nearly zero’ can has been kicked down the road by five years as the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive of 2010 requires all new buildings to be "nearly zero energy" from 1 January 2021. Also, a reliance on gas, the development of shale gas as a transition fuel, the closure of our coal-fired power stations and the extended life of nuclear plants are unlikely to be enough to meet our commitments.

However, on a more positive note, it’s encouraging to see a focus on improving building performance and refurbishments that actually deliver what they predict – for example, the recently completed Building Performance Evaluation programme, an £8 million competition funded by Innovate UK which investigated the ‘performance gap’ by evaluating and assessing the post-construction and in-use performance of both domestic and non-domestic buildings.

The root causes of poor energy performance in buildings originate at all stages in the build cycle. Our experience shows that a structured approach is needed – such as our Assured Performance Process. This whole-system approach identifies and eliminates energy ‘performance gap’ issues at each stage from planning through to handover, highlighting risks that can’t be eliminated for extra attention in the detailing and construction stages. This close attention to potential risks pays dividends later and flows through to benefits in-use.

Also on a positive note, Display Energy Certificates continue to be an important way of managing and improving the use of energy in the public sector. DECs have been shown to deliver lower fuel bills that outweigh the cost of implementation as well as reduce energy use, thereby cutting carbon emissions and providing better value for taxpayers.

In the commercial sector, ESOS has significant potential. The scheme has identified some quick wins, especially through behaviour change initiatives, lighting upgrades and boiler replacements. Some of these could reduce demand by 25-50%. If anyone needs convincing of the value of ESOS, we recently worked with a number of organisations, identifying hundreds of energy-saving opportunities totalling 29 GWh per year, the equivalent of £12.5 million off annual fuel and utility bills.

Of course, the true benefit and power of ESOS compliance will be in the number and value of energy saving opportunities that are actually implemented. Without any legal obligation to do this, the danger is that Energy Managers will take their eye off the ball and the audits will be consigned to the office filing cabinet. In order to reap the substantial financial benefits, both auditors and Energy Managers will need to build the business case and convince the decision makers.

Non-domestic buildings in the UK account for approximately 13% of final energy consumption. 20% of this could be saved through quick win energy efficiency measures and better energy management. With a common sense approach and easy-to-access tools, non-domestic Energy Managers can, and should, be more aggressive in their targeting of energy improvements. Despite there being less of a push from legislation, there’s both little excuse and every opportunity for reducing energy use and costs, as well as improving efficiency, occupant comfort and staff productivity.

Originally written for ENDS Report and reproduced with permission from ENDS Report, Haymarket Business Media