Discover how businesses can improve their energy efficiency. Actionable steps, cost-saving methods, eco-friendly practices and more in our helpful guide.
As the extent of the environmental challenges facing us starts to truly reveal itself, the importance of businesses operating as efficiently as possible has never been greater. But the good news is that there are plenty of potential benefits to your business should you decide to improve yours, too. From cost savings to environmental impact, making sure that your company has become a hot-button topic in recent years, and this is only likely to intensify. By improving your business energy efficiency, you’re also staying ahead of the curve.
A 2022 study by Mustafa Yousel of the Kastamonu University Department of Management found that energy management (that’s to say, energy efficiency and energy saving combined) “has high impact on business performance, in terms of efficiency, quality, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and last but not least, profitability”
Consumption is an inevitable component of doing business, but the environmental problems directly related to energy production and consumption are significant, including air pollution, climate change, water pollution, thermal pollution, and solid waste disposal. The emission of air pollutants from fossil fuel combustion is the biggest cause of urban air pollution.
Any good business owner knows that the key to saving money is efficiency. Consuming less saves you money, and the financial benefits don’t have to end there, either, with grants even being available for some green initiatives, but there’ll be more on that later in this guide.
Definitely! It is well-established that adopting eco-friendly practices, such as reducing energy consumption or using recycled materials, leads to cost savings for a brand. These cost savings are passed on to customers, which further enhances a brand's image as socially responsible and customer-focused.
There are plenty of things that you can do to improve your energy efficiency through the use of lighting and other appliances. Check your light bulbs to ensure that they’re as energy efficient as possible and consider motion sensors where appropriate. Many businesses waste energy (and therefore money) on unnecessary lighting. Think about how you can encourage staff to turn off lights when they leave a room. If you’re redecorating, consider lighter paint colours or reflective paint to make better use of natural light.
As well as lighting, turn off other sources of energy when you leave the office, such as monitors, vending machines, and kitchen equipment where safe to do so. Encourage staff to throw out old things from the fridge so it’s not too full, only boil the kettle for the amount of water they need and use a washing-up bowl at the sink. One ten-minute chat could save you a considerable amount of money over the course of a year.
A good proportion of heating costs can be prevented by stopping cold air from getting in, and warm air from escaping. The larger the gap, the bigger the cost. Draught-proofing is one of the most effective actions you can take to stop or prevent heat escaping and reduce your energy bills. Block unwanted gaps around windows, doors and floors that let the cold air in and warm air out. Window film is a form of temporary secondary glazing which helps stop heat from escaping through the glass. A layer of that on your windows should stop draughts a little further.
Set the heating in offices to 19°C and cooling or air-conditioning at 24°C or higher, which should ensure a comfortable but low-cost temperature on your premises. If you have it set to switch it on in the morning and off in the evening, you could try switching it on an hour later and off an hour earlier.
Sustainable office practices should be at the centre of any business activities. Encourage staff to prioritise email and converting documents to PDFs over printing off hard copies and wasting paper, and keep plenty of recycling bins available. The photocopier is one of the biggest electricity-guzzlers in your entire office. Restrict its use to the absolutely necessary only.
Scrutinise your electronic equipment and the way your staff use it. Laptops are more energy efficient than desktop computers, while staff should be encouraged to turn off monitors and computers at the plug when they leave and avoid standby. Just turning down the brightness on your computer monitors can deliver surprisingly high energy savings.
Alongside the obvious benefits of reducing your carbon emissions, cutting our dependency on fossil fuels and cutting your energy bill, making the change to renewable energy also includes other, less obvious benefits. For example, renewable energy sources are not affected by the fluctuations of the global gas and electricity markets, which should lead to more stable energy. Your reputation will benefit, because both customers and stakeholders increasingly value commitments to sustainability.
You may even earn yourself an exemption from the Climate Change Levy, the government-imposed tax designed to encourage energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction among businesses.
When first implementing energy-saving technologies you’ll need to consider target dates, costs and resources needed, key roles and who will carry out the measures, investment in energy-saving equipment and even the availability of financial assistance. Staff training may also be required. Technology is only as efficient as those who use it.
It’s advisable to start by creating an action plan, detailing what you feel you need to do, how long it should take and how much it should cost. One of the biggest benefits of energy efficiency is that it saves you money in the long term. Don’t squander that by spending your money inefficiently.
This is unlikely to be a job that you’ll be able to do completely alone, so have a think about who would be able to assist you with it. You should be able to delegate different tasks to different people, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be short on offers of help; time and time again, it’s been proven how popular this sort of initiative can be with staff.
No matter what business you’re in, poorly maintained or outdated equipment is usually a drain on resources, whether through working more slowly or not reaching the energy efficiency standards of modern equipment.
It’s important to make sure that your staff are fully trained in whatever new procedures and practices you decide to implement. Your initiative is unlikely to get very far if your staff haven’t been properly briefed on what’s changing, what they need to do differently, and why this is happening. Any new technology is always only as efficient as those who use it.
Technology and smart solutions have the potential to be among the key drivers behind greater energy efficiency. Modern technology has been designed with greater energy efficiency in mind for years, while IoT technologies such as smart meters allow for the real-time observation of your energy costs, as well as allowing better visibility of the processes that are pushing your consumption up.
But while your smart meter will offer you a degree of visibility of your use, it might not provide the granular level of detail that you’d expect or hope for. Energy monitors are usually purchased separately to measure the amount of power drawn from individual plug sockets. By attaching to individual plug sockets, you can measure the amount of power being drawn by individual appliances and devices and tailor your own usage accordingly.
It’s not all about manually plugging things into sockets, either. In the modern, interconnected era, software also has a role to play. Metasys connects your commercial HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), lighting, security and protection systems – enabling them to communicate on a single platform to deliver the information you need, while Energy Elephant has won multiple awards and is specifically focused on sustainability.
Many government schemes offer loans, grants or subsidised energy-saving measures to support small businesses in reducing their impact on the environment.
Tenant organisations, trade unions, built environment bodies and energy companies have all criticised the Prime Minister’s announcement about changing some of the UK Government’s key green policies, including proposals to water down housing energy efficiency standards and a weakening of targets to phase out gas boilers.
In 2020 the government consulted on raising Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) to EPC Band C (for new tenancies by 2025 and all tenancies by 2028). But in 2023 speeches, Mr Sunak said that he was scrapping these proposals.
The Government proposed a phased implementation of the ‘B’ minimum EPC standard by setting an interim milestone in 2027 for a minimum standard of ‘C’, but this has now been scrapped.
In April 2023 the government estimated that around 10% of non-domestic let buildings are below the ‘E’ rating. As of 1st April 2023, a landlord could only lawfully continue to let a non-domestic building if the building has an energy rating of ‘E’. Whether this is still the case in a few months time, however, remains to be seen.
There are several small business energy grants available in the UK:
This scheme provides grants of up to £6,000 to help businesses switch to more energy-efficient heating systems, such as air source heat pumps and biomass boilers.
This scheme provides grants to manufacturers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to help them reduce their energy costs and emissions by investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.
This scheme allows businesses to generate their own renewable energy and sell it back to the grid.
The Energy Bill Discount Scheme provides a discount on energy bills for non-domestic customers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In addition to these government-funded grants, there are also a number of grants available from local authorities and charities. For example, some local authorities offer grants to help businesses install energy-efficient measures, such as insulation and renewable energy systems.
Firstly, you need to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions. To calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each business activity, you will need to convert the data you’ve collected using what’s called an ‘emission factor’.
This is a representative value that allows you to convert the activity data you’ve measured (see step one) into greenhouse gas emissions. There are online guides from The Carbon Trust and The McKay Carbon Calculator. Once you have these figures, you can use this data to reduce your emissions and save money.
There remains a possibility of political motivations changing the direction of the government over environmental policy, but there’s little evidence to suggest that anything on the ground has actually changed. Climate change is real, and it continues to make as much sense as ever to pivot your company towards a more sustainable future. Greater efficiency will continue to yield lower consumption and lower costs. By putting energy efficiency at the heart of your business priorities, you can save, and in more ways than one.
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