Awareness of environmental issues and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions has increased considerably in recent years. With various government targets in mind, and the ever-growing issues and concerns around energy consumption, the environment and sustainability; it is now essential that it is understood what effect can be had on the efficiency and environmental impact of buildings.
When Labour came into power in 1997, the Government set the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010, exceeding the 12.5% reduction outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.
In April 2006 Part L of the Building Regulations, Conservation of Fuel and Power, was revised and reissued to ensure compliance with the legal obligations set out in the European Union Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
The draft Climate Change Bill – the first of its kind in any country – and accompanying strategy set out a framework for moving the UK to a low-carbon economy. It demonstrates the UK’s leadership as progress continues towards establishing a post-Kyoto global emissions agreement.
Key points of the draft bill include:
- A series of clear targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions – including making the UK’s targets for a 60% reduction by 2050 and a 26% to 32% reduction by 2020 legally binding..
- A new system of legally binding five year carbon budgets, set at least 15 years ahead.
- A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide independent expert advice and guidance to Government.
- New powers to enable the Government to more easily implement policies to cut emissions.
- A new system of annual open and transparent reporting to Parliament by the Committee on Climate Change.
- A requirement for Government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change.
Spiralling energy costs
The Electricity Retail Price Index has shown a steady increase from January 2004 through to January 2006. However, from January 2006 there has been a marked step change, and the trend clearly shows prices increasing at a greater rate. There are direct cost implications in the way of more expensive bills, and users are also feeling the effect as higher energy costs are passed down to customers by manufacturers, retailers and other service providers. We could also see wider, longer-term implications to economic growth for businesses such as manufacturing.
In conclusion, it is clear, Government and social focus highlights the need to reduce energy consumption and to continue developing methods of producing energy which have a less harmful effect on our environment.
Effective lighting control
The provision of effective and efficient lighting controls should therefore be a key priority and the introduction of new sensor ranges assists in complying with the relevant regulations and in providing an energy conscious product choice.
Statistics published by the Building Research Establishment show that, across a broad selection of nondomestic applications, lighting represents 40% of a building’s total energy consumption. In each example (with the exception of catering for obvious reasons) lighting was by far the function with the highest energy usage, also representing the largest opportunity for energy savings.
In addition, the late Department of Environment’s Energy Efficiency Office and the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) showed that an office rest room which changes from a light which is centrally controlled, and thus switched on whenever a building is occupied, to one which is controlled by a PIR and only switched on when required, can show potential energy savings of up to 90%.
Sensors not only help realise the highest potential savings in energy consumption, and thus to energy bills, but they also offer the shortest payback periods. There are a variety of ways to make lighting more energy efficient, from switching to energy efficient lamps to the installation of High Frequency Electronic Ballasts. However, the Building Regulations clearly state the need to provide energy efficient fixed building services with effective controls.
The associated costs of specifying and installing lighting control products can be offset against the potential energy savings and thus associated costs. The potential energy savings are affected by a number of variables, including the type of space, the footfall within that space and the presence of ambient light or natural daylight. Significant savings have been shown in a variety of installations, in particular, bathrooms, corridors, storage and other low usage areas.
When considering these potential savings and taking into account the initial cost of specification and installation of lighting control; the payback period can vary dramatically from less than one year for Room Sensor Controls (such as MK Electric Sensors) to up to five years for Automatic Lighting (Building) Controls.
The research statistics in figure 1, produced by CIBSE, shows the quickest payback period, combined with the highest potential energy savings which occur when installing Room Sensors Controls, such as MK’s.
In addition to fast payback periods, at the time of writing, many suitable energy-saving lighting controls and associated equipment qualify for Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs). ECAs enable businesses to claim 100% first year capital allowances on qualifying investments via their Corporation Tax Return. In addition to equipment costs, installation charges, and any changes to the building needed to install the equipment also qualify for tax relief. The Carbon Trust offer interest-free loans of £5,000 – £100,000 for energy efficient projects, repayable over four years.
These loans are available to small and medium sized enterprises in England and Wales that have been trading for at least 12 months. Any project which saves energy and has a payback of less than five years may qualify, and the loan can cover installation and commissioning costs as well as equipment costs.