An interesting conference took place in London in October: Energy Live 2013. Energy managers, facilities managers and related professions gathered to find out where their energy costs might be going in the next few years.
The news wasn’t surprising – or good. Energy prices seem to be heading ever-upward. Some were hinting that if the UK finds itself with a supply of shale gas from fracking, this might reduce prices for a while, but nobody at the conference was offering guarantees. However, the investments in and support of renewables such as wind have to continue, and the cost of this will be carried in the fuel bills of businesses and consumers.
Another pressing issue for those interested in energy is the Government’s EMR (Energy Market Reform). The EMR aims to support investment in the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure which needs about £110 billion of capital investment over the next decade. The programme is also meant to ensure security of energy supply for the country.
Reform is necessary to meet the challenge of the country’s energy requirements now and in the future. But it was clear from the conference audience that most businesses are grappling with just how much EMR might add to energy bills. Recent research by supplier NPower found that almost all UK businesses are concerned about the EMR’s impact on energy prices, and their ability to forecast costs.
It is perhaps this uncertainty that businesses feel the most. It is difficult to plan without some firm idea of how much it will cost to run a business, and although energy used to be low down on the list of costs it is creeping inevitably upwards.
One message that did come across loud and clear at Energy Live is that businesses need to tackle that uncertainty by taking control of their energy use. Speakers from Gazprom and NPower both said that energy management is more important than ever before.
So while there is uncertainty about energy costs, businesses can simply start at home and take back some control if they monitor and manage their own energy demand. Using building controls and building energy management systems (BEMS) to track energy use, identify areas of waste and target them for reduction is the basis for a sound energy strategy.