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An Interview with Laurence Adams, ENWORKS

Written by at 12:52

ENWORKS provide high quality support to SMEs across Greater Manchester helping tens-of thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes. ENWORKS are also the proud winners of the RegioStars 'Sustainable Growth' Award 2013, which is an accolade presented by the European Commission to recognise environmental business support.

1) ENWORKS provides bespoke tailored on-site reviews for Greater Manchester SMEs wanting to increase energy efficiency and save money on their energy bills. What does the review entail?

ENWORKS provides a bespoke one-to-one resource efficiency service that is tailored for each business to help reduce the use of energy, water and materials in day-to-day operations – so before we go any further it’s worth noting that energy forms just one part (albeit an important part) of our business reviews.

An advisor will have a face-to-face discussion with relevant staff in the business to explore where and how the business is using energy in its day-to-day operations. The advisor will then conduct a physical on-site review of the business, looking in detail at all energy using equipment, processes, and services (including heating, cooling, compressed air, etc). The advisor then writes an in-depth report that quantifies potential savings from the opportunities they identify during the on-site review, including the payback periods should there be a capital cost involved in implementation (although it’s important to note that, according to our data, 37% of all energy efficiency savings can be made at zero cost).

The review and report will also highlight any opportunities to reduce water, raw materials and packaging waste to further cut costs and reduce the environmental impact of the business.

2) What are the best practices an office-based business can do to save energy?

- Heating controls – making sure timers and thermostats are used to their full potential.

- Thermostats should be set at the recommended temperature of 19°C (remember: heating costs increase by about 8% for every 1°C increase.

- The building should only be being heated when it’s occupied (as buildings take a while to cool, turning the heating off just 30 minutes early could save 5% on the heating bill)

- Different working hours on weekends and bank holidays should be taken into account.

- Comfort cooling is also very important. Air conditioning can double energy bills in an office. Thermostats for air conditioning should be set at 24°C or higher, it should be turned off in meeting rooms when people leave, and it should never be used when windows are open. Controls should also be set to ensure that heating and cooling aren’t on at the same time.

- Lighting – many traditional lighting products, such as older fluorescent tubes, are very inefficient in comparison to more modern, high frequency T5 fluorescent tubes or LED fittings. These upgrades do require investment, but many providers offer finance options that can make the solution cost positive from month one. The most energy efficient lighting, LEDs, can use up to 90% less energy than traditional lamps.

3) What are the worst practices office-based businesses are guilty of that raise their energy bills?

- Not switching things off – lighting can be responsible for up to 40% of a building’s electricity use, but lights are still all too often left on and forgotten about (it’s also a myth that turning them off and on can use more energy than leaving them on). The same applies to monitors and other office equipment – a single monitor left on 24/7 will cost £50 a year, and printers still use 20% of the energy needed for printing when left on standby.

- Tampering with thermostats - thinking that turning up the thermostat will warm up a room quicker is a costly myth. The thermostat only controls final temperature – turning it up will not warm the office up any quicker, but it will result in an uncomfortable working environment and wasted energy when the desired temperature is overshot (and don’t forget, the same rule applies to air conditioning controls).

- Opening windows and doors to cool heated rooms – turning the heating down or off will use less energy and make the room more comfortable.

- Blocking radiators with cupboards and filing cabinets – this wastes heat. If this can’t be avoided, turn these radiators down to ‘frost stat’ settings.

4) In the time you have been working as an Environmental Business Advisor, what changes, if any, have you seen in the mindset of businesses to saving energy?

Alasdair Dalzel-Job, Environmental Business Advisor at ENWORKS, says: “One of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the last five years or so is that energy efficiency isn’t just being seen as a cost saving opportunity anymore – more and more businesses are taking action due to external pressures to improve performance.

“Increasingly, businesses need to improve environmental performance in order to retain and win new sales. For example, ‘carbon saving’ is now much more mainstream for major businesses and the public sector, and this pressure to reduce carbon footprints is being passed on to the smaller companies in their supply chains. Put simply, if you can demonstrate higher environmental performance, you’re not only reducing costs, you’re increasing resilience and opening doors to future sales”

This is backed up by our figures – our support has achieved £237 million to date in cost savings, but has also helped businesses to increase or safeguard sales by £364 million.

5) Your website states that you have online software which can help companies monitor their energy use. Can you expand on what that software does?

Our award-winning online Resource Efficiency Toolkit is a bespoke software package that enables companies to record and prioritise improvement actions, track their progress as improvements are implemented, and measure and report on the environmental and cost savings generated.

It’s an invaluable project management tool. Put simply, the Toolkit can determine, with just a few clicks of a mouse, the economic and environmental impact of over 40,000 separate efficiency improvement actions in over 10,000 businesses.

6) Keeping energy providers competitive and costs low is a key issue in the run up to the General Election. How should businesses go about ensuring they find the best deal from energy providers?

We come across a vast range of prices businesses are paying for their energy – from as little as 7p/kWh to 20p/kWh or more. Businesses can start by asking their current supplier if it has any better offers. This will give a benchmark when looking at other deals.

An alternative way to shop around is by using an energy broker – an organisation that acts as an interface between business users and energy suppliers to help you make better energy choices. If using an energy broker, businesses should ask them which suppliers they represent (so they know whether they are comparing the whole market) and how their services are paid for (i.e. is there a commission included in the prices quoted or is it a one-off fee?). 

7) Do you think the General Election in May will have any influence on green/low carbon environmental policy?

All three major parties have made a cross-party commitment to increase efforts to tackle climate change and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy regardless of the election result – so there is already reassurance that the UK will continue to decarbonise its economy irrespective of who wins in May.

However, that doesn’t mean that all parties are on the same page – there are still considerable differences in their manifestos when it comes to environmental policy.

But there are also bigger changes happening at wider scales. The upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris this December is expected to deliver the most important global agreement on climate action for nearly two decades. Key elements of low carbon policy could be decided in Paris, not London.

Add to that the EU’s evolving plans to maintain its position as a global leader in the low carbon transition, and we should expect low carbon policy to progress during the next Government, whatever colour it is.

8) Are energy saving initiatives sustainable in the long-term with longer working hours and a growing company?

Absolutely. In fact, the longer your operating hours are the quicker an investment in more energy efficient equipment will pay back. Admittedly, the bigger a company becomes, the more likely it is that their energy spend will increase, but this should be benchmarked against working hours, productive output or turnover for instance to show the long-term impact energy saving initiatives have on the bottom line. Any company that takes a proactive approach to energy and other resource efficiency issues will be more sustainable in the long term, both economically and environmentally.

Once a business goes beyond the ‘low hanging fruit’ in energy efficiency, of course, new energy saving initiatives require more time and investment – but there are financial instruments available to assist with this investment and the savings available are not only significant but pay back year on year.

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