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Business energy efficiency: How to achieve your goals in 2024

Simon Concar explores the most effective ways in which businesses can achieve their decarbonisation goals

With decarbonisation being at the forefront of business’ goals and strategies in 2024, many are seeking effective ways to reduce their carbon footprints to make a positive impact.

What’s more, following on from the changes that took place across the past three years, the energy crisis is still affecting businesses, causing many to reconsider existing practices and implement more energy efficient systems and procedures to reduce expenses.

Whatever each individual objectives, struggles or concerns of a business may be, there are both simple and more complex measures that can be adopted to take steps in the right direction, helping both reduce carbon emissions and save costs.

Lighting upgrades

A topic that has been increasingly discussed in the past few years in the context of energy efficiency, making the right lighting upgrades has been proven to have a positive impact on energy savings.

Replacing traditional incandescent and fluorescent lights with LED technology is a vital starting point. LED lights are highly energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan, using up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and lasting up to 25 times longer.

Further, implementing smart lighting systems with occupancy sensors, daylight harvesting and scheduling features can help optimise energy usage, automatically changing lighting levels based on occupancy and natural light.

Lighting controls such as dimmers and timers can also enable better control over lighting levels, allowing businesses to adjust lighting according to specific needs, reducing unnecessary energy consumption.

Control systems

Control systems such as BEMS allow businesses to monitor energy consumption in real-time and can be utilised to make significant improvements towards both carbon reduction and energy efficiency.

They are generally recognised to lead to energy savings ranging from 10 to 50%.

By having data readily available on the likes of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and other systems, businesses can more easily identify areas of inefficiency and implement corrective measures.

Automated controls within BEMS can optimise heating and cooling systems, including temperature setback during unoccupied periods, ensuring that energy is not wasted when it’s not needed.

Integrated occupancy sensors and smart lighting controls can also manage lighting based on occupancy levels, automatically adjusting lighting intensity or turning off lights in unoccupied areas, therefore reducing energy usage.

BEMS can also be utilised to control and optimise energy-efficient equipment, ensuring that it operates optimally and alerting owners of when it is reaching the end of its life cycle.

Regular systems maintenance

Performing regular maintenance to ensure equipment operates efficiently is vital, particularly for energy intensive industries such as manufacturing and industrial services.

Well-maintained systems operate more efficiently, minimising energy wastage and subsequently lowering carbon footprints. By conducting routine inspections, businesses can identify and rectify issues promptly, ensuring that equipment operates as they should.

Additionally, preventive maintenance reduces the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns and the need for emergency repairs, and decreases equipment downtime by up to 85%, as well as decreasing costs by 12%, thus contributing to overall energy and cost savings.

Energy audits

Energy audits provide a detailed analysis of energy consumption patterns, identifying inefficiencies and areas for improvement. By implementing the recommended energy-saving measures, businesses can optimise their operations, reduce energy waste, and subsequently lower carbon emissions.

Moreover, the insights gained from energy audits enable informed decision-making regarding energy-efficient technologies and practices, fostering a more sustainable and cost-effective approach.

Replacing and retrofitting electrical systems

Relying on outdated electrical systems not only poses clear health and safety risks but also increases the chances of unplanned downtime, reduces performance, and requires extended time to secure replacement parts.

In certain situations, it is essential to invest in more energy-efficient systems. For instance, replacing energy-intensive components like transformers with models that not only save energy but also reduce CO2 emissions can result in long-term cost savings.

Fifty per cent of electrical equipment, including the metal cabinets, steel plates, and busbars, all of which possess significant carbon footprints, can be continuously utilised without replacement if regular monitoring, maintenance, and upgrading of outdated components such as circuit breakers, electrical switches, fuses, and contactors are implemented.

What is more, the adoption of a circular economy approach has been gaining momentum for some time now, with emphasis being placed on retrofitting and recycling over outright equipment replacement.

Extending the lifecycle and productivity of electrical systems is key to cost reduction and eliminates the need for complete system replacements.

Replacing obsolete electrical components can cut equipment operating costs by a third, prolonging its life cycle by up to 30 years and yielding substantial energy savings in the process.

Renewable energy

Embracing renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power presents businesses with a multifaceted approach to decreasing carbon emissions, saving energy, and cutting costs.

By transitioning to clean and sustainable energy alternatives, businesses significantly reduce their reliance on traditional fossil fuels, consequently mitigating their carbon footprint.

Solar and wind energy systems often provide a consistent and cost-effective energy supply, helping businesses stabilise and reduce their energy expenses.

Overall, wind and solar remain considerably cheaper than gas in the UK. And because of increases in the price of energy, generating solar power yourself can translate to significant savings, with businesses using solar panels saving up to 70% on energy bills.

The initial investment in solar panels or wind turbines is increasingly becoming more affordable, particularly where business owners take advantage of relevant incentives, green rate reliefs and grants for businesses adopting renewable energy.

Beyond immediate financial benefits, the long-term savings derived from lower utility bills and potential revenue from excess energy production can be substantial.

Simon Concar is managing director of adi Electrical, a division of UK engineering firm adi Group.

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