Dr. James Crosby-Wrigley, Head of Sustainability for Commercial and Industrial Energy Supply and Usage at Advantage Utilities, explains how simple energy efficiency improvements could make a significant impact.
Decades of research now proves the overwhelming link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Many internationally recognised and respected agencies (e.g. the International Energy Agency and the International Panel for Climate Change) have shown that the dramatic output of CO2 (~30Gt) since 1900 is linked to the 0.5°C increase of global average surface temperatures. In fact, if the rates of emissions continue to increase at the current rate through to 2100, the Earth will have seen temperatures rise by over 4°C.
To mitigate climate change and achieve the net zero goal set by the UK Government for 2050, companies and organisations must look to reduce their scope emissions. Those being the emissions from sources that an organisation owns or controls directly (Scope 1), the indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling (Scope 2), and finally the emissions they are indirectly responsible for up and down their value chain (Scope 3).
Grid-sourced energy is not currently viable
As it stands, energy consumption from the grid is pollutive and highly expensive. According to data from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, gas and electrical consumption accounts for 0.19kg of CO2 per kWh consumed.
Moreover, the grid experienced record-high wholesale pricing during 2022 and much of 2023, with further increases to non-wholesale costs forecasted. This begs the question: What can companies and organisations do to streamline their emissions and associated expenditure?
Two key philosophies should be adopted throughout the entire supply chain which can alleviate a significant proportion of a company’s emissions and generate significant savings in their energy costs:
The greenest form of energy generation is the most affordable method of consumption.
Renewable energy generators have undergone such dramatic technological advancement over the past decades. This means technologies can now produce energy at a cheaper rate than otherwise consumed from the grid. This is achieved through technologies related to on-site generation.
The cheapest and greenest form of energy is that which is not consumed at all.
Alleviating emissions can be done through technologies that undertake or enhance the function of already existing infrastructure. The implementation of these newer, more efficient technologies consumes less gas and/or electricity but have the same performance output.
Throughout the world, there are numerous businesses who consume far more energy than necessary for functions. Whilst this is completely understandable, there are certainly technologies which enable sites to have overall less consumption.
These technologies that can help improve your energy efficiency and reduce the amount of energy consumed include, but are not limited to, LED lighting; voltage optimisation; HVAC systems; and energy management systems and building management systems.
LED lighting reduces electrical consumption (and therefore carbon emissions and financial expenditure) as less energy is required to provide the same level of luminosity.
Furthermore, they also have a longer warranty lifetime. As a result, they decrease the necessity for replacement and associated Operational Costs (OPEX).
Voltage optimisation is based on the concept that an individual site is oversupplied in voltage. Adding a voltage power optimiser seeks to decrease and stabilise the levels of voltage delivered to the site. Given that wattage (how energy is billed) is directly proportional to voltage, this enables clear decreases in the volume required by a site.
The term HVAC can be applied to boiler systems, heat pumps, heat exchangers, air handling units, cooling towers… among others. In essence, some of the most important factors to consider for HVAC systems is to ensure they are as efficient as possible and are correctly sized.
For example, boilers have evolved from standard boilers (<70% efficiency) through to high efficiency, condensing and combination boilers (70% to 90+%). Therefore, it is important that the most efficient devices are utilised within financial constraints to save energy and required fuel consumption.
Additionally, when designing and selecting system sizes, it is important to correctly size and approach changes from a modularised approach (e.g. 4 x 25kW HVAC system as opposed to a single 100kW). This way, it ensures that only the necessary seasonal energy is being consumed to power a heating or cooling system which serves the purpose it is being applied to.
Energy management systems/building management systems
Energy management systems, building management systems and behaviour implementations are key to ensure assets are only operating when required and at the required levels. This optimisation ensures energy consumption for a site’s assets are only operational and consuming when demanded. Where resources and necessity enable this, integrated energy management and building management systems can automate and track the performance of energy-consuming assets in a building. However, where budget and/or scope is limited, simple behavioural changes can service this same purpose so long as thoughtful and mindful energy-consuming practices are integrated.
To reach net zero and enable a more sustainable environmental and economic future for businesses, there are multiple approaches to consider. The simplest approach of understanding and decreasing emissions is to identify areas where less energy can be achieved. By implementing the technological solutions above, businesses can take simple and effective steps towards net zero.