In this age of burgeoning green legislation, high fuel prices and depleting energy supplies, UK businesses simply must become more energy efficient. With this comes a number of considerations for the building services engineer.
Going green is a change most UK businesses will have to make sooner or later, whether the drivers are environmental, financial or corporately led. With this in mind, the government has announced new supportive initiatives such as the introduction of a green investment bank, a carbon price floor, the forthcoming Green Deal and pilot schemes for electric vehicles. This is in response to an overriding aim of pushing Europe towards a 30% cut in emissions by 2020.
More recently, as part of its Energy Efficiency Scheme, the CRC launched its first official league table, ranking UK organisations in terms of their performance in relation to early actions taken to reduce carbon emissions. This important ranking will be repeated annually, as the scheme works towards its aim of reducing carbon emissions in large organisations by 1.2 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020.
The onus is therefore most certainly on UK businesses to become intrinsically more sustainable. But where do building service engineers and facilities managers fit into this? Now is the ideal time for building operators to prepare for the long term by taking full advantage of the increasing number of energy efficient products and technologies designed to make it easier for businesses and organisations to become a lot more energy efficient, as well as offering financial benefits.
Take for example time scheduling solutions, which can be introduced to control lighting and heating. The use of these solutions is simple as the timer is programmed to switch lights and heating on and off at set times. For instance, these could be set to come on at 8am before employees arrive at work, and switch off at 7pm when the last person leaves the building.
However, settings such as these would only be necessary during colder months and when the mornings and nights are dark. This means the programme needs to be adjusted to suit changing environmental conditions, which the UK experiences throughout the different seasons. This may seem like basic common sense, but some companies are wasting thousands of pounds and generating unnecessary carbon emissions from not undertaking simple tasks such as this.
Another example of an energy efficient solution is variable speed drives. These are commonly associated with manufacturing to control processes however, the technology can equally be used in commercial premises where fixed speed motors are prevalent. For example, variable speed drives can be used to optimise the delivery of air or fluids in HVAC systems. By controlling the speed of pumps and fans, a 20% reduction in speed can deliver an energy saving of 50% which will result in a reduction in energy consumption, energy cost and CO2 emissions.
Looking more holistically, a sophisticated approach to measurement, analysis and improvement is imperative. Each year, UK businesses waste thousands of pounds in wasted energy due to failing to understand their utility energy consumption. By measuring energy consumption through energy audits, metering and simple bill analysis, it is possible to generate data that can help businesses gain a detailed understanding of what equipment or what areas of the building are consuming power and where savings can be made.
Better still, although this might have once seemed liked a long and complicated process, technologies have evolved to make this easier than ever before. For example, the newest generation of energy management solutions combine the processes of metering, monitoring and control within one simple and easy-to-use system.
Where to start
But with so much to consider where do you begin? The good news is that for those looking to widen their skills set on energy efficiency matters, help is at hand as many leading manufacturers have invested significant resources in developing dedicated training tools. At Schneider Electric, for example, we offer Energy University which is a free online educational community to provide all the latest information and professional training on energy efficiency concepts and best practice across various applications.
The new energy world is emerging fast, bringing with it a plethora of changes to get to grips with, which can appear rather daunting. The best advice then is to embrace these changes as they evolve, and make sure that you prepare early for the inevitable by keeping up to date with the latest technology through regular training and events run by leading manufactures. By doing this, building operators can make sure they properly manage energy and benefit from the substantial financial and environmental benefits of doing so.