In Decision Time, a report launched today by the CBI, the body calls for a significant shift in the direction of UK energy policy, warning the current approach is making energy security harder to achieve, and jeopardising the UK's ability to meet climate change targets.

The report states current policy, incentivising investments in wind power, will result in too little investment in other forms of low-carbon energy, such as nuclear and clean coal. The government must surely pursue policies that deliver a more balanced energy mix, including wind and other renewables, nuclear, gas and clean coal.

"The government's disjointed approach is deterring the private sector investment needed to get our energy system up to scratch, bolster security and cut emissions," said CBI deputy director general John Cridland. "While we have generous subsidies for wind power, we urgently need the national planning statements needed to build new nuclear plants. If we carry on like this, we will end up putting too many energy eggs in one basket."  And, presumably, end up upsetting the large-scale power generators who make up a considerable part of the CBI's energy policy committee.

Ever increasing demands from large customers to reduce the cost of Capital Projects  must inevitably affect the reliability of the equipment supplied unless new ways are established to determine value for money. Iain Campbell, Industrial Director UK & Ireland for AEG Power Systems, proposes a wider look at the lifetime cost of ownership of mission critical UPS systems as an alternative to simply ‘reducing the bottom line'

Large industrial projects are being restructured in response to the current global downturn, falling oil and gas revenues and increasing operating costs. New projects are seeking ever lower equipment costs to minimise capital expenditure. While large organisations have some control over their own overheads there is a drive to reduce the cost of materials and services they buy and an expectation that their suppliers will respond to these demands. Failure to respond may well put existing and future business in jeopardy with work being deferred or cancelled.

Active cost management is seen as a key step required to maintain this kind of business relationship but does this necessarily mean reducing prices to the point that performance must suffer? Significant emphasis must now be placed on making every euro or pound spent as effective as possible and also ensuring that each supplier involved in a potential project contribute in a positive way to managing costs.

AEG Power Solutions, is an approved supplier to key industries worldwide, including oil and gas, power generation and transmission, transportation and the manufacturing industry, and has received several requests to propose positive solutions to reducing key project costs. From a purely financial perspective it would seem simple to reduce costs by reducing manufacturing labour or material content and passing any savings on to the end customer. In reality the very nature of the ‘mission critical' UPS products and services provided to customers means such cost reduction must not be allowed to compromise the reliability and operational compliance required, limiting this as a viable option.

In common with most major electronics manufacturers AEG employ state of the art designs and manufacturing facilities to ensure highly cost effective manufacturing processes delivering reliable products. AEG designs feature ‘designed-in redundancy' and have minimised the numbers of system elements, rectifier, static bypass and inverter. This not only improves reliability but simplifies service, reduces any potential downtime and overcomes any potential component obsolescence over the lifetime of the UPS.

If the product design and manufacturing processes are already at optimum price-competitiveness, how then to respond to the continuing calls for cost efficiencies? AEG's solution is to provide a complete project management infrastructure to engage with the client at the earliest stage of a new project and create a solution that fully meets the customer's requirements. This ensures the elimination of any wasteful over-specification that will not add to the overall system function or reliability. Further overall cost reductions may be achieved by early consideration of installation scheduling, future service requirements and agreeing on a realistic documentation package which can be produced and distributed electronically, eliminating expensive hard copies, saving many hours of correspondence and producing documentation that adds little or no operational benefit to the customer.

From its foundation in 1887, AEG has pioneered advanced electrical engineering. Today's UPS solutions major on providing technical solutions that deliver significant savings on total lifetime costs by considering all aspects of any initial proposal that have an impact on the total cost to the customer when providing a standby power solution for critical loads.

With a portfolio of AC and DC power solutions up to 8MVA, remote monitoring options for all standard operating systems or custom software if required, AEG aims to deliver commercial UPS systems on short lead times and offer rental of UPS systems for short-term projects or while power infrastructure is being replaced or upgraded.

As LED technology matures, modern manufacturing companies predict solid-state  lighting technology will rapidly outrun conventional lighting sources in performance, emissions and cost. Gary Ashburner, Managing Director of SH Lighting explains

Given that lighting accounts for almost 20% of the world's electricity consumption, it is logical to look at ways to save lighting energy, as a top priority. Compact fluorescents have been around for a good few years now but have not been as well received as ‘the powers that be' thought. Yes, they offer an extended life of around seven years, but they are bulky, ugly, have a restricted range and cannot be dimmed.

Although, manufacturers have introduced a new generation of these lamps that are definitely more acceptable, they are still seen as being too expensive; dim by comparison to current incandescent light bulbs and still contain toxins which means they have to be disposed of in a responsible way.

As technology advances, the most significant development in lighting is embodied in the field of LED lighting technology.

Over the last few years a relatively small amount of LED's have been installed in replacement or retrofit applications in certain industrial niche areas; mainly those used in fire hazard and explosive risk areas, due to their low operating temperature features. They have also created a huge impact on the ‘high street' retail and fashion markets too, as they have allowed lighting designers the opportunity to create cost saving, 24-7 low energy lighting displays, perfect for creating the desired market ambiance and consumer mood creation, through their ability to flexibly produce dynamic lighting effects and colour washes of large areas, or buildings, without creating light pollution.

Throughout the world, there is an expanding college of Government bodies, scientists and industrial partners who are currently looking at ways develop the latest generation of LED lighting technologies in an effort to fulfil a vital role across the entire range of municipal lighting infrastructures.

Faced with ever soaring energy prices, based on OPEC and other international suppliers controlling the availability of rapidly diminishing fossil fuels, together with the mounting pressure on world leaders to tackle climate change and the sustainability of the environment; a total re-think on our current lighting technology is definitely overdue
For over 130 years incandescent light bulbs have become the standard form of illumination that literally brightened and warmed the lives of millions of people as they replaced candles, gas and oil lamps; the problem is they are extremely inefficient as they are more proficient at producing heat than light, because as much as 90% of the energy that goes into lighting a bulb, is converted into heat!

However, with constant advances over the last decade or so, lighting manufacturers are now producing a whole new class of LED (Light emitting diodes) products, designed for general illumination and ready to revolutionise the way we approach urban lighting.
According to a published report by the US Department for Energy, it was estimated by switching to LED based lighting, it would be feasible for a medium sized city to save between 40% - 70% of the electricity needed to power specific lighting applications such as parking facilities, outdoor public areas, walkways and street lighting. It also reported over the next 20 years, by changing to LED lighting technology they could reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62% and eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions - negating the need to build an estimated 133 new power plants and offering an anticipated financial saving in excess of $280 billion.

So what are LED's? Basically, light emitting diodes are solid state components that have no moving parts, are incredibly robust and last for decades; which significantly reduce maintenance costs. They are a highly efficient light source with a potential to reduce electricity consumption by 50% or more and offer the most efficient and environmentally clean, no mercury lighting source available.

The long service life coupled with the efficiency of LED lighting, delivers significant benefits for a whole range of applications, especially those that are currently using incandescent bulbs, making urban lighting an attractive application for LED lighting due to several factors: 
- Large number of lights needed
- Energy saving 
- High maintenance costs due to positioning and location. 
- Quality of light solutions to minimize glare and light pollution.
- Climate change

A typical example where LED's offer an economic alternative to current lighting applications is in multi-storey car parks, where lights must burn 24-hours-a-day - mostly during peak rates. Lighting in these locations has to be designed to accommodate and function correctly with vehicular and pedestrian traffic, must endure harsh environments and be required to fully comply with all aspects of public safety.

LED lighting fixtures are considered perfect for operation in these surroundings for a number of reasons:
- Long lifetimes coupled with highly reliable service, greatly reduces maintenance costs. 
- LED's are not affected by most vibrations and typical temperature variations. 
- Highly efficient light source with a potential to reduce electricity consumption by over 50%. 
- Variable high quality ‘white light' available in colour temperatures from ‘warm to cool'. 
- Compatible with modern control systems to further reduce electricity consumption.
So, with the entire world standing at an industrial, environmental and economical crossroad, there may be no better time for Governments to skip their single minded introduction of compact fluorescent lamps and look a little bit further into the future, using their influence to encourage system designers, urban developers in conjunction with the electrical utilities suppliers to make a more thoughtful lighting choice: Invest in an emission free lighting technology that will greatly benefit the taxpayer and the environment by synergistically engaging advanced LED lighting solutions, with their blend of sustainable energy sources, to economically light our cities, long into the future.

By Cal Bailey, sustainability director at NG Bailey

It's official: Britain is in a recession, and while one might argue the downturn reduces carbon emissions through a decrease in economic activity, on the flip-side it can cause surviving businesses to take the risk of delaying investment in sustainable measures in order to reduce short-term costs, without considering the effect this might have over time.

I'd argue this is not a long-term strategy for success, and urge businesses who may be pushing sustainability measures down the list of priorities because of the downturn to have a serious rethink if they're to stay ahead of the game. The changing property landscape means it makes better business sense to future-proof a building today, so as to maximise its asset value and payback in the longer term. 

The overall trend of rising energy prices, concerns over energy security and the strong direction of EU and UK policy increases the desire towards lower energy consumption and, as a result, a lower carbon output. Those that choose not to turn this desire into reality by investing in sustainable measures now, will fail to reap the rewards in the long run.

The long-term value of a property will be significantly affected by its energy performance. This will in part be a result of the implementation of policies such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) which will be introduced in April 2010 and the recent introduction of EPCs and DECs. These policies are mandatory and as a result will drive the demand for organisations to occupy energy efficient buildings, with weaker performing buildings losing value.

Through Carbon Action Yorkshire, NG Bailey is currently participating in a trial of the implementation of the CRC and when the policy comes into force, some 5,000 public and private sector organisations will form part of this emissions trading scheme, and will be required to report their UK-based CO2 emissions from all their fixed point energy sources. So, it has never been more important for companies to get their estate in ‘green' order; those that don't will suffer a penalty.

Companies looking to reduce carbon emissions do not merely require investment in technology - there must be an overall commitment to the strategy. My view is that there are three key priorities; the first is the measurement of energy consumption, which is increasingly required by law, and which is essential to good control.

The second priority is to manage this lower energy use of buildings. Poorly maintained and monitored buildings waste energy and generate unnecessary cost and carbon emissions. At the very least, organisations should implement a regular maintenance schedule for their services. However, an intelligent building management system is the key to controlling as much as 70% of a building's energy use.

The third is engaging stakeholders and the workforce and creating a culture to encourage people to get behind a carbon reduction strategy, so they feel empowered to take necessary action in their own area of work.

The industry must consider not only cost minimisation and emissions reduction, but also the cost to run a building and maintain its value throughout its lifespan - instead of just focusing on the initial capital expenditure. Reducing whole-life costs through innovative specification and ongoing maintenance, rather than simply concentrating on the short-term build cost, means adopting a complete ‘cradle to grave' responsibility, focused towards better environmental efficiency and creating a better life in buildings for occupiers.

Minimum standards will only become more stringent.  A new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is anticipated in 2010, which will further increase the requirement for low carbon building design and performance once in operation. With environmental policies continuously strengthening in order to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, it will prove to be good planning and highly cost effective for companies to adopt sustainable measures, even during the economic downturn. Those that choose not to take this route should heed the implications this might have in the future.

New Labour in a nutshell

Given the government's determination to be the first to raise money by selling the right to pollute (see story below), you might think that our Lords and Masters would be determined to auction the maximum number of EU emissions trading allowances that European rules permit. Not so.

After all, there has been a considerable scandal attached to the way in which all the electricity generators have managed so far to get all their emission allowances for free. But then have promptly put up all their prices on the pretence they had bought the permits on the open trading market. Consequently they are now receiving windfall profits worth around £ 70bn. That is right. £70bn. All paid for by we consumers.

It is, therefore, entirely reasonable for the generating companies to be forced to pay out of their own pockets for the maximum number of permits permitted. Which up until 2013 is just 10% of the allowances set aside for the electricity industry.

Fair enough, you might think. The government could take the money in from at least that 10%. And maybe follow the example of the Dutch or the Austrians, and ring-fence the money to help poorer people cope with these inflated power bills?

So is that what is planned? Not on your life. The UK government has decided it won't take up the right to sell all 10% of the allowances to the generators. Instead, it has decided to take pity on these poor penurious multinationals. And just auction 7%. Rather than the permitted 10%.

Why have the Whitehall mandarins decided to hand out the extra 3% free and gratis, and so forgo around £600m. Money that could have gone to help eliminate fuel poverty. Apparently, the official explanation is that they were worried that if they did auction more than just 7%, they might overshoot that 10% maximum. Such caution might have justified limiting the amount to be auctioned to (say) 9.75. But only 7%? Phooey.

Oh ,and apparently it is "not government policy" ever to ring fence revenues for any specific piece of expenditure. Instead at the start of this financial year, the government celebrated by cutting the main fuel poverty programme, Warm Front, by 20%. It is New Labour's philosophy in a nutshell: Take away from the poor. Give to the rich.

Pipped to the post

Such is the decline in the value of the pound that, in its rush to be the first European government to auction  allowances under the EU carbon emissions trading scheme, ministers have ‘lost' the taxpayer around £10m.

This is because the entire trading system - which covers all types of electricity generation -   only recognises the euro as a currency. In consequence, all such auctions have to be in euros. But whereas,  when the sale took place in mid-November, the pound was worth 84 eurocents, right now it is around parity - in other words, worth one whole euro.

With the right to emit each tonne of carbon dioxide selling at 16.15 euros, this converted to an income for the government of some £54m in November. However, had the government waited until the New Year, the exchange rate would have upped the value to around £64m. I really don't think the loss of revenue was worth the dubious honour of pipping all those other European governments to the post to start auctioning.

Can't beat them? Join them

Back in 2006, the government set up a competition. It offered to pay the majority of the costs to build the first 400 megawatt Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) demonstration plant.
Most of the Big Six electricity generators decided to compete. Last July the government announced which  schemes were on the short list. The German power company RWE, which trades here as npower, was mightily miffed when its entry was eliminated.

It huffed and puffed. It announced it was considering legal proceeding against the government. For six months m'learned friends were rubbing their collective hands with glee, at the prospect of a lengthy full-scale battle in the Courts.

But then suddenly the threat of Court proceedings disappeared. Why? Because RWE has gone and bought 75% of a company called Peel Energy Carbon Capture. Which, unlike RWE, happens to have made not just the government short-list. It also just happens to be the bookies' favourite to be the winning CCS proposal. As they say, if you can't beat them, then you just have to join them.

Cost of imcompetence

The late Professor Roland Levinsky was a pioneering immunologist, and vice-chancellor of the University of Plymouth. He died because, in atrocious weather conditions, he walked into a live 11,000 volt power cable left dangling across a footpath near Wembury, Devon.
It was not as if the cable owners, Western Power Distribution (WPD), did not know about their insecure high-voltage cable. The company had been contacted several times by concerned people who had seen the cable hanging loose.

But instead of logging the problem as "dangerous", the company call centre instead listed it as just "miscellaneous". So the power was never turned off. And an engineer despatched to fix the fault was diverted elsewhere.

And the cost to WPD for its incompetence, which took the life of a distinguished academic? The paltry total of £270,000. Including legal costs. In a world where electricity companies are walking off with billions worth of unearned, windfall profits, such judicial generosity makes me despair.

The introduction of two key European Directives in 2005/2006 changed the face of emergency lighting--and most particularly emergency lighting testing--forever. These two Directives--EN50172 Emergency escape lighting systems and EN62034 Automatic testing for battery powered emergency escape lighting--opened the door to new opportunities in the emergency lighting domain, and brought with them implicit challenges. Paul Wilmshurst explains

To-date, many of the challenges faced when implementing emergency lighting schemes have derived from a disjoint in conventional design approach. Emergency lighting schemes have traditionally been addressed by disparate systems--systems that are typically split along the boundaries of architectural and commercial energy management lighting.

The 2005/2006 European directives, coupled with significant advances in lighting control and monitoring technology, are creating a trend towards a more holistic approach to emergency lighting system design. This approach ‘engineers in' the emergency lighting functionality--most notably the mandatory testing regime--across the building or campus as a whole, rather than patching together disparate systems, or tacking on testing functionality as an afterthought.

Such holistic emergency lighting system design is empowered by four key technologies: advanced luminaire communications, centralised system monitoring tools, total campus distributed control architectures, and the increased use of campus-wide Ethernet backbones.
Innovative luminaire, ballast and inverter control and monitoring protocols - such as DALI and DALI's extended command-set, (which is currently under industry discussion) - provide the system ‘eyes and ears'. Complementing this, user-friendly PC-based graphical control and monitoring interfaces provide a centralised ‘total view' of the entire lighting installation, both operational and emergency. Powerful lighting system distributed control architectures empower the holistic design, by providing ubiquitous connectivity across the entire building or campus. Increasingly, such distributed control architectures are complemented by a building- or campus-wide Ethernet backbone, allowing system-to-system bridging, plus connectivity to services outside the building, such as Internet monitoring and e-mailing of event alarm notifications.

These four core technologies, coupled with advanced lighting system design, are underpinning an essential holistic view of the building emergency lighting network. Together, they are empowering a new generation of emergency lighting testing - one that is seeing automated and semi-automated testing actually engineered into the system itself.

Jim Wallace of Seaward Electronic urges employers to take a common sense approach to ensuring the safety of electrical equipment, as any cutbacks on safety procedures carry considerable risks

With HSE reporting around 1,000 workplace electrical accidents and 25 deaths each year, reducing the dangers associated with the use of unsafe electrical appliances in the workplace is of vital importance. Fires started by poor electrical installations and faulty appliances also cause many more deaths and injuries - and considerable disruption to business activities.

Nevertheless, in pursuit of maintaining cost efficiencies during difficult economic times, health and safety procedures are often among the first activities to be reviewed for cost cutting purposes.

However, before taking any action in this respect, company owners should fully understand their obligations and the risks associated with any short circuiting of proper health and safety procedures.

Employers have a duty of care obligation under the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 to ensure the electrical safety of all those using their premises.
As well as facing penalties from the HSE, those that ignore their responsibilities not only put their employees and customers at risk, but may also invalidate their commercial insurance policies and liability protection.

In addition, the introduction earlier this year of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act also makes it easier to convict organisations guilty of negligence - with fines of more than 10% of turnover with no upper limit one of the penalties in waiting.
For any organisations contemplating a less rigorous approach to health safety in the interests of cutting costs, the stakes have never been higher.

The legal requirements relating to the use and maintenance of electrical equipment in the workplace are contained in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR).  Regulation 4(2) of the EAWR requires that all electrical systems are maintained so as to prevent danger.
This requirement covers all items of electrical equipment including fixed, portable and transportable equipment. Crucially Regulation 29 adds that a suitable defence is proof that all reasonable steps and due diligence were exercised in avoiding unsafe regulations.
In response to this situation, the IEE's Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing recommends that maintenance of electrical equipment is carried out in four stages - visual inspection, a test to verify earth continuity, a test to verify insulation and a functional test.
Electrical portable appliances are often roughly handled when moved from place to place, operate in a variety of environments and in many instances have more arduous and onerous usage compared to fixed equipment. As a result, at any time around 20% of electrical appliances used in workplaces could require re-testing to ensure that they do not pose a hazard to users.

Workplace safety programmes must therefore be capable of detecting potential problems with electrical appliances before they occur. For example, how can gradual deterioration in the electrical integrity of power tool, kitchen appliance or piece of IT equipment be diagnosed?

he emphasis on maintaining a safe working environment is therefore constant and some examples of the sort of horror stories uncovered by periodic inspection and test programmes illustrate this point perfectly.

For example, one public sector employer now insists all faulty equipment must have the whole lead cut off as close to the appliance as possible.  This is the result of an earlier situation when a caretaker rewired a plug onto an appliance that had previously had the plug removed after failing its regular test.  The failed but reconnected appliance was then responsible for causing a fire causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

In an engineering company, factory workers risked their lives by continually replacing a fuse that persistently failed in a power tool with a solid metal bar, rather than raise the issue and question why the fuse was always blowing. The temporary modification was uncovered during a periodic portable appliance test.

Warehouse equipment when left around floor areas can be particularly liable to cable damage from fork lift trucks.  In one case a warehouse operative preferred to continue to use an electric drill with exposed wires rather than admit that it had been left out and damaged.

Even in offices, employees have been found to be taping up cracked power packs with cellotape rather than having them replaced. Elsewhere, in a school laboratory, a safety engineer had to take all the soldering out of service after the students had used them to burn through their own plugs.

All of these highly dangerous situations would not have been detected without the presence of regular inspection and testing procedures. Although many obvious defects can be identified by visual checks, inspection needs to be linked with a programme of testing to reveal potentially invisible electrical faults such as earth continuity, insulation integrity, correct polarity, unacceptable earth leakage and other potential problems.

Of course the need for establishing effective safety measures has to be balanced against practical aspects; realistic precautions for one organisation might be unacceptable for a larger or different type of business. In this respect guidelines on periodic safety testing intervals are provided in the IEE Code of Practice and supported by various HSE guidelines.
Given this situation, companies engaged in cost efficiency introductions need to think very clearly about the potential consequences.

In considering any cost reductions a clear distinction needs to be made between, for example, what might be regarded as potentially unnecessary and costly advice against those potentially vital life (or business) saving procedures.

This particularly applies to in-service electrical safety testing and ever more at a time when companies may be tempted to delay the replacement of older or damaged equipment with new tools and appliances, which so often happens during difficult economic conditions.
Where electrical safety is concerned, there is absolutely no room whatsoever for taking risks or adopting dangerous cost cutting practices.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) is due to unveil its impact assessment report on smart metering next month. Decision makers across the utilities industry are on the edge of their seats, as the Government is expected to decide on a UK-wide smart meter roll-out based on BERR's December report. However, it has recently been suggested there isn't enough data for the Government to make its decision on time. David Hughes, utilities practice director, ABeam Consulting, discusses why the industry should move ahead with smart metering regardless of a public mandate

As UK plc prepares for an energy efficient future, the utilities industry is under the microscope. While using green energy sources is important in the long-term, empowering customers to be more energy efficient is part of the solution in the short-term. It is clear smart metering technologies will play a crucial role in this, enabling customers to better understand and regulate their own energy consumption.  Providing customers with real-time visibility of the energy they use enables them to see how they can save money, which is the ultimate incentive to change their behaviour. 

At first glance, the introduction of smart metering within the UK energy market could be viewed as extremely problematic. The installation of 26 million new smart electricity meters across the country will be costly, time-consuming, and complicated from a logistical perspective. There is also the immediate and very real impact on revenue: customers using less energy and ultimately paying less - which will hit the bottom line. An increasingly competitive market also creates issues around capital investment, ongoing asset ownership and supplier switching.

Then there are the customers, who are becoming increasingly intolerant of poor service. This is driving the need to focus efforts on external change, managing customer expectations and communication, to avoid additional costs associated with unplanned customer contact and complaints.

Yet, there are massive benefits that can be achieved with smart metering. Aside from the environmental advantages, it enables on-demand meter readings whilst eliminating manual meter reading costs. Smart meters eliminate the human error in meter reading and predicted costs based on previous history.  Removing such errors also eliminates any room for disagreement about billing, saving the customer time.  The cost to serve the customer will be reduced further, as customers tend to respond well to more accurate and frequent billing.  In fact, when tackled in the right way, smart metering can be seen as a huge business opportunity, which suppliers should take advantage of regardless of the Government's pending decision. ‘Smart' suppliers should look beyond the basic logistics and economics of implementation and begin to exploit smart metering as the catalyst for really getting to grips with their customer relationships.

Smart metering can provide a unique source of real-time customer information, which can be used across a retail energy providing organisation to drive efficiency and guide each individual customer journey. It also marks a shift in the evolution of customer management, from a reactive relationship that is geared towards problem solving, to a proactive relationship aimed at continually realigning and improving the customer experience. In the future, customers can expect to have personalised conversations centred on their individual tariff, product and service needs. 

The real-time consumption data provided through smart metering can also go a long way to address ‘green disadvantages', such as reduced revenue. It is important that tariff development taps into this detailed consumption information. This enables the delivery of a range of flexible tariffs that suit the needs of the customer, whilst supporting the revenue needs of the business. If applied intelligently, tariffs that help to control consumer demand can be developed, without a hugely detrimental impact on energy sales. Additionally, when combined with effective back office processes aimed at identifying the customer, real-time consumption information can be used to confront energy theft and minimise unbilled periods.

The advanced metering technology itself offers network maintenance benefits that often exceed expectations. For example, it enables auto and remote diagnostics, which support field force optimisation. This enables meter faults to be identified centrally, tapping into the work management system to send the right operative to complete the job. Additionally, smart metering enables some meter problems to be fixed remotely, eliminating the need for a visit completely.

In parts of the US and Europe, smart metering is delivering considerable benefits already. In Italy for example, the introduction of these technologies has resulted in customers making fewer unnecessary bill enquiries and paying their bills more diligently. To reap the benefits of smart metering for business and customers alike it is crucial that suppliers treat it as a fundamental catalyst to business-wide change.  Merely tinkering with smart metering will lead to creating inefficiencies in processes, systems and working practices.  Smart metering should be seen as a driver for standardisation and simplification - both internally and for the customer. Moreover, it should be regarded as a business transformation programme with the customer at the heart of future operating models, not just an IT project.

The question of if and how the Government eventually decides to move ahead with a smart meter roll-out should therefore be almost irrelevant for suppliers. The industry should start pushing for smart metering adoption before it becomes a legal necessity, because those that won't wait for Government enforcement will ultimately have the competitive edge. Suppliers need to remember that they dealing with increasingly demanding, price-sensitive customers in an extremely competitive market, and plan accordingly. To make the most of smart metering, suppliers need to be smart about it.

Anyone involved in specifying or installing lighting needs to be aware of who is responsible for what under the WEEE regulations, says Lumicom chief executive Ernest Magog

While the WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) regulations have introduced a valuable ‘imperative to recycle' that will make a positive contribution to sustainability, they have also created some confusion. In particular, many of the people involved in the procurement and disposal of WEEE such as lighting are often unclear about their own responsibilities.

This is an area where specifiers and installers need to have clarity with regard to their own involvement and can also guide the end user to the most straightforward solutions.
My organisation - Lumicom - is a not-for-profit organisation that has been created to manage the recycling of luminaires under the WEEE Directive. It works closely with Recolight, which is responsible for light sources such as discharge lamps. And while our experience is with lighting products many of the general principles apply to all types of WEEE and serve to help clarify the situation.

As far as the WEEE Directive is concerned there are two categories of waste - historic waste, installed before 13th August 2005, and future waste, installed after that date. Future waste is marked with a crossed out wheelie bin to indicate that it cannot be consigned to the general landfill waste stream.

With historic waste, the producer of any replacement equipment is responsible for facilitating an infrastructure that will accept historic waste. In the case of future waste, it is the producer of the discarded waste that bears this responsibility. This effectively means that lighting manufacturers are responsible for the disposal of the majority of discarded light fittings from refurbishment and refit projects.

Similarly, suppliers of lighting equipment for current new-build projects will be responsible for disposing of those products when they are removed in the future. In most cases this will be through an accredited scheme such as Lumicom. However, if there are no replacements, such as in a demolition project, then the responsibility for disposal falls to the end user if the products were installed before 13th August 2005.

As with other forms of waste disposal, the building operator has a responsibility to ensure that this is carried out by whichever contractors or sub-contractors are involved. This means that while specifiers and installers do not have any direct responsibility for the disposal of light fittings, other than ensuring that waste is sorted properly on site (see below), there is an implied responsibility to the client.

Many would argue that it's reasonable for the client to expect and receive specialist advice on such matters from the experts employed to do the work. There is certainly a benefit to adding value to the service in this way and could be beneficial in terms of future work from that client.

For example, the high proportion of lighting projects will use light fittings from a number of different manufacturers to meet the needs of all the spaces. However, at the end of life of those fittings, which manufacturer will be responsible for disposal? Or will the building operator have to deal with a dozen or so different suppliers to dispose of used fittings. This is one of the reasons for the formation of schemes such as Lumicom as it brings manufacturers together under a single umbrella. So as long as all of the fittings are sourced from members of the same scheme there is still just one disposal body to deal with. Nor should this mean the designer's flexibility is hampered, as any such scheme ought to incorporate a significant number of the key players. Thus far, Lumicom is the only such scheme to have the necessary infrastructure in place.

In all cases, the contractor would be well advised to draw the client's attention to the need to have the discarded equipment transported to bulking up points established by recycling schemes as the cost for doing this will be additional to the stripping out work. If the client or specifier is unwilling to source all luminaires from members of a single scheme, contractors should also protect themselves by amending terms and conditions of trade. In particular, they need to exclude themselves from any WEEE responsibility for either the old luminaires coming out or the new ones going in. Such actions by contractors could have an impact on the design and specification of the lighting scheme, so specifiers also need to be aware of the implications of this.

Sorting on site
Another issue to be aware of is that the key components that make up a light fitting need to be recycled through different waste streams, so these have to be separated before being sent for recycling. Some waste disposal contractors will collect the entire fitting and separate the components themselves, while others will require the separation to be carried out before collection. In the latter case, this has implications for the waste management on site and the project managers responsible for this.

The three most important components that need to be handled separately are lamps, batteries in self-contained emergency luminaires and liquid filled power factor correction capacitors. Ensuring this separation is carried out is very important.

For example, discharge lamps - such as fluorescent, metal halide and sodium sources - are classified as hazardous waste because of the small amounts of mercury they contain. Consequently, not only do they need to be separated, they also have to be stored carefully on site in compliance with the CoSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations.

Another reason for separation is that the majority of discarded luminaires are shredded into small pieces of metal and plastic and sold as raw material - much of which ends up in the Far East and goes back into manufacturing. If the hazardous components were not separated first the entire batch could be contaminated. This would significantly increase the cost of disposal and could lead to legal action under hazardous waste regulations.

This highlights a further benefit of compliance schemes, namely that they will ensure all waste disposal in compliance with legislation, backed by a full audit trail. Yet another reason for ensuring that lighting suppliers for the project have a WEEE registration number and are members of a suitable compliance scheme.

As the WEEE regulations ‘bed down' and people are coming to accept waste disposal considerations as an integral part of any project, it is also becoming second nature to address these issues as part of the design and installation process. Equally, taking advantage of the schemes that have been put in place to make disposal safe and straightforward is also becoming the obvious and most sensible way forward.

Pledge to make european system carbon neutral

The European electricity generating industry is currently the beneficiary of what Point Carbon, the research group,  has identified as a stupefying £56bn windfall.

Where has all this money come from? It is arriving simply because to date the generators have received all of their permits to pollute under the European emissions trading scheme absolutely free and gratis. And then factored into their prices the official trading price of the permits - as Dorothy Thompson, the boss of the UK's biggest generating-only company, Drax, unguardedly admitted in an obscure media interview.

To counter the criticism, the industry's trade body Eurelectric is planning a big announcement this autumn. It will pledge that the entire European electricity system will become completely carbon neutral.  All very welcome of course, and guaranteed to bring the power boys lots of unusually positive publicity. Even if effectively we are talking two generations of power stations from now.

Because what will be stated rather more quietly is that this pledge will not be realised until  2050. Getting from the carbon filled present  to the promised Nirvana  40+ years on, will mean a big change from the status quo. There are at present plans to build at least a dozen massive new coal fired power stations like Eon's controversial Kingsnorth, all over Europe.
It would help Eurelectric's credibility if at this stage the industry would at least make provision for these new carbon-guzzlers to be ‘carbon capture and sequestration' ready. Even if the technology in question is still untried, and unlikely to be around for at least a dozen years - if we are lucky.

Of course by 2050 all of today's electric company bosses will be long since off on their retirement yachts. These will of course naturally be solar powered.

A minor detail

Was I alone in finding it ironic it was some of British Energy's private shareholders, like M&G, who rejected Electricite de France's initial bid to run the UK's existing nuclear power station? This thwarted the Labour Party, after 11 years of government, being able at last to respond to the demands of its' principal funders, the trade unions.

Because, after the nationalisation of Northern Rock, some nostalgic trade unionists are beginning to smell blood in the electricity sector, folowing its outrageous price increases. Bring it back into public ownership, they argue.

Electricite de France - which opts to trade in the UK as the much more language neutral EDF - is also known to be circling around Iberduero of Spain. Contemplating a wholesale take-over. If they succeed, that will mean Scottish Power (an Iberduero subsidiary) joining its vast empire, which includes such erstwhile famous - but now forgotten - names as Seeboard, London Electricity and SWEB. As well as British Energy.

All this is very pleasing to  these 1970s-style trade unionists. After all, EDF is still to all intents and purposes a wholly owned subsidiary of government. The fact the government in question resides in Paris rather than London is surely but a minor detail.

Brave new atomic world

The repercussions from the recent contretemps in the Caucasus rumble on. One of the main reasons why the USA is so concerned about little Georgia - which for centuries was very much part of Russia -  is the two oil and gas pipelines which have recently been built below ground, to carry these fossil fuels from the Caspian Sea to the West. During the days of Russian bombardment of Georgia, it was instructive to note how much of it was targeted on these pipelines.

Why? Because they exist to offer the West an alternative source for these hydrocarbons, rather than Mother Russia. Many of the more easterly countries in Europe have grown heavily dependent upon Gazprom, and desperately need to diversify. Hence also the horror with which the news of faults in the Norwegian gas pipelines are restricting supplies for this winter.

Next month the French presidency is ensuring the European Union debates a new policy paper, to emerge from the European Commission, on energy security. As far as President Sarkozy is concerned, there is one obvious response to these concerns. And that is for more European countries to follow the example of the Finns. Reject Russian gas. Build more nuclear power plants. And just guess which is the only country will can offer the expertise to deliver this brave new atomic world? Why, you can hear the laughter all the way from Paris.

Credit where it is due

In my August column, I told the happy story about how the arrival of integrated digital tuners upon the market place had reduced the anticipated growth of electricity consumption from the television market. Their success is knocking set-top boxes off the market. And thus reduces the previously anticipated growth in terawatt hour (TWh) consumption from the television sector by an impressive 40%.

I had used this as an example as to how the arrival of a new electricity consuming technology could - contrary to received opinion about gadgets - actually reduce demand. A triumph for the marketplace , I opined. Not so, say the regulators Ofgem. Apparently this only happened because of its specific intervention.

It oversees the Energy Efficiency Commitment scheme. Between 2005 and 2008, this forced the Big Six energy companies to stimulate some 151 TWh of savings in homes. One way the companies were encouraged to achieve this was by Ofgem providing direct incentives to install certain technologies. One of these was integrated digital tuners.

Hence the market transformation. It was obviously Ofgem's masterful insight which achieved this remarkable feat. I am always glad to give credit where credit is due.

A sensible leave of absence

My congratulations to Dr Timothy Stone. Who is Dr Stone, you ask? He has been the head of global infrastructure at consultancy firm KPMG. And is the man chosen by (shortly to be former) DTI Secretary Alistair Darling, to look after the entire nuclear clean-up.
Or to give the task its more formal title, to oversee “arrangements for the costs of new build, decommissioning and waste management.” And with clean-up costs alone now estimated to be well over £70,000m, he will have quite a task before him.
This month’s much delayed Energy White Paper repeats the government’s volte face on nuclear. Having spent the previous nine years bad-mouthing anything to do with the Great God Atom, last summer New Labour suddenly got religion, and declared itself in favour of lots of new nukes.
But with one crucial condition. Any new power stations must not only be built and run by the private sector, these private operators must be prepared to pick up the tab for handling all the consequent costs.
That is the brief Dr Stone has. Were he to fulfil it to the letter, it would undoubtedly infuriate his former colleagues at KPMG. At present, the consultancy makes millions from advising the different parts of the nuclear industry.
For instance, last year the firm won an award for its work on the sale by British Nuclear Fuels of its construction subsidiary, Westinghouse to Toshiba. Working it has to be said for the purchasers. In the judges’ words, “KPMG Corporate Finance used its contacts with the UK Government and BNFL to market (sic) the Japanese player.”
Wisely Dr Stone has not become a full-time civil servant to carry out his new duties. Instead, he has simply taken leave of absence from his former employers. Really, the last thing a consultancy like KPMG wants is somebody intervening on behalf of the UK government, trying to ensure all the relevant nuclear costs are carried by the private sector. I am sure that Dr Stone will bear that particular concern in mind in his new, temporary, role.

Gordon keeps it in the family

In his current seven week round tour of the UK, prior to becoming our prime minister, Gordon Brown has endlessly stressed how ‘family friendly’ his new administration would be. That will come as excellent news for the nuclear industry.
Take for instance Andrew Brown, younger brother of the aforesaid Gordon, who is chief spin doctor (whoops, press officer) for EDF Energy. Which has long been the only electricity company prepared to openly champion new nuclear stations. Possibly to do with being French-owned, and therefore heavily subsidised by the French state?
Or take Tony Cooper, the father-in-law of Brown’s right hand man Ed Balls, effectively our new deputy prime minister. A former general secretary of Prospect, covering employees in nuclear power stations, Cooper is still very active within the TUC, plugging away on the pro-nuke cause. And who should the present construction minister be? Step forward Yvette Copper, Tony’s daughter.
All that is needed now is for Sir Bernard Ingham, the one person member of SONE, Supporters of Nuclear Energy, to declare himself as Brown’s long-lost uncle, and the Happy Family pack will be complete.

Planning for the future

When a Minister creates a public body to award lucrative contracts to the private sector, he or she will of course never be giving any thought as to whether they might be able to benefit from such contacts when they leave office.
Take Brian Wilson, for instance. When, as energy minister in 2000, he set up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, it will never have crossed his mind that it might be advantageous to any private sector company bidding for such contracts to have an ex- energy minister on its board.
So it is of course as complete a surprise to him, as to everybody else, to learn the construction company Amec is bidding for clean-up contracts from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Well, perhaps not quite as much of a surprise to Wilson as everybody else. Just a few months before the bid was made, Wilson joined the Amec board of directors.

Gas suppliers ignored by Ofgem compensation scheme

Any electricity consumer who spots a billing mistake, is entitled to £20 compensation from their supplier, if the matter is not dealt with speedily. The compensation kicks in if the supplier has not made a “substantive response”, known as an ESG10, to a query on charges and payments within five working days.
At least, that is true if you have remained with your initial electricity supplier. Quaintly, Ofgem only insists upon such compensation being available to those who reside within the suppliers’ home market. At a time when Ofgem seems to believe the main value of its drive to deliver ‘competitive markets’ is the number of households who switch suppliers, this restriction seems utterly bizarre.
But not as bizarre as the compensation levels required for those who find they have been incorrectly billed for their gas consumption. There is absolutely no requirement for Centrica, or indeed anybody else, to provide any such recompense at all.
I do not understand why this occurs. I do think Ofgem should explain.

By Nick Guite, director, Utilities, Construction and Professional Services at BT

For companies with a large number of mobile field workers, to say it is a challenge to keep in touch with their workforce whilst keeping them employed is probably an understatement. Yet, remarkably, many industries – not least those for whom the challenge is most acute, such as utilities, remain unaware of the rapid pace of technological change in this area, and the benefits it can bring.
Traditionally, or at least since the early ’90s, the communication and work scheduling challenge has been tackled by deploying a standard mobile phone coupled with a manual job allocation process back at headquarters. Perhaps not surprisingly, the results over the years have been mixed. Marked variations in customer service experiences and costly internal resource overheads make the traditional solution an inefficient and unsatisfactory one – and therefore no ‘solution’ at all.
Meanwhile, the evolution of technology designed specifically for mobile working – GPS (Global Positioning System) locators, mobile communications, automated work scheduling – has continued apace. Real solutions are out there. The problem has been that, even where they have deployed the technology, the pace of change may have outstripped businesses’ capacity to exploit it and reap the full benefits. Automating a force of field workers, essentially, is about improving service. That’s it. Or is it?
Certainly, getting the right engineer with the right skills to the right job at the right time is about making sure your army of people-on-the-ground are giving the best possible service to customers. As is improving productivity and responsiveness of service contact centres or keeping promises with customers by adhering to well-defined appointment slots.
But is it all about customer service? Is it just the customer that you should be thinking of? Or is the field force automation strategy, which companies like Northumbrian Water are embarking upon, where they are planning to roll-out field force automation (FFA) across the company’s fleet of approximately 900 vehicles and 1,100 field operatives over the next 12 months, slightly more complex?
As you’d expect in the 21st century, technology’s role in that strategy is increasingly critical, but is not in itself where the complexity lies. Behind the jargon and the esoteric acronyms, the technological process is actually rather straightforward. No matter the type of device being used, put plainly, it’s about connecting all the dots to reveal the – until now – hidden picture. The dots, of course, are a business’s field engineers, service representatives, or indeed any workforce that spends a large part of the working day out of the office and physically isolated from colleagues. And today, in 2007, that last aspect of the job is where the complexity of the issue lies. Giving HQ a full picture of where vehicles are, whether their engines are running, where workers are and what they are working on is vital not only for efficiency but also for duty-of-care to staff. The dangers of being ‘physically isolated’ whilst at work represent one of the most compelling drivers for adopting the type of field force technology which BT has developed for a number of utilities companies and fleet operators.
Working in remote or isolated locations or, particularly, working alone, carries inherent risks. Frequently, the areas in which service engineers, carrying money and valuable equipment, have to go to conduct critical repair or maintenance work are secluded and potentially threatening. Working in the dark, in bad weather, or in any unwelcoming environment can and does make field workers feel vulnerable. BT itself allocates 18 million jobs a year to 24,000 engineers and the reality is that as their employer it has a responsibility to ensure their safety.
The technology utilised to monitor field worker whereabouts and improve customer response times can equally be used to increase worker safety. One new solution is a round-the-neck ID card-sized device with an inbuilt GPRS SIM card – exactly like that which makes our mobile phones work. If entering a vulnerable area or situation, lone workers can put themselves on amber alert by sending an instant message that will flash up on HQ or customer screen – “I’m arriving at the back door” – or they can put themselves on red alert, whilst remaining discreet, and open a one-way voice channel that enables HQ to monitor them, and initiate support if necessary.
The value of such a straightforward piece of technology to a worker operating in a threatening environment is incalculable. The technology itself is, as it always should be, relatively simple – but sometimes the simple solutions are the best. And it is the responsibility of the companies developing the technology to explain it in simple terms.
Organisations are recognising the benefits of technology for their field workers. It’s worth remembering that those benefits do not only help customers, but extend to your own workers too.