By Mark McLoughlin, Siemens Industries and Markets
With mounting public pressure and increasing legislation placed on businesses to reduce their carbon footprints commercial building operators are looking for more creative options to help them reach their sustainability goals.
To help fast track energy improvement projects many go the route of Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) and invite energy service companies in to develop, design, build and potentially, finance energy-saving projects. EPCs are sold on the premise of zero-upfront costs with the savings made on energy consumption offset by the cost of installing any conservation measures. Limited access to funds or expertise often stifle projects at an early stage but EPCs can unlock cash reserves for improvement programmes. EPC use has been growing and numerous projects have been successfully delivered across a range of building types and sectors. There is growing interest among retail, industrial, airports and other markets across both public and private sectors.
Ageing buildings in both the public and private sector, either through fabric or design, waste significant amounts of money. Typically, 46% of an organisation’s operating costs is spent on energy and utilities with approximately 33% of that expended on wasted-energy.
To start the process of improving energy performance a comprehensive audit about an organisation’s consumption is undertaken to provide the insight to help plan the modernisation works. Good quality information, listing any historical or future issues, forms the bedrock of planning. Certain buildings may have known problems that aren’t apparent during a site visit i.e. excessive heating or cooling faults that are only present at certain times of the day or year. Knowing these peculiarities provides the opportunity to factor in measures to improve comfort levels for occupants etc. Altering the use of a building in the future would also affect a project such as the planned transfer of people or machinery to area building a year or so down the line.
Existing energy and water usage also play a critical part in the analysis stage. Data, stretching back a number of years, will help in developing a robust business case that would include an outline of the conservation measures, costs and quantifiable savings and energy consumption expected. Key performance targets could be set for minimum payback periods [e.g. 10, 15 or 20 years], compensating for inflation or loan interest/charges, CO2 savings or the generation of renewable energy sources. An Investment Grade Plan (IGP) takes the EPC onto the next stage and provides the necessary groundwork to add more detail to the plan.
To ensure an EPC a business has signed up to is effectively delivering the energy savings expected measurement and verification takes place. Generated energy is relatively straightforward to measure but energy reduction can be much harder to both quantify and control. If there was a particularly harsh winter or hotter-than-average summer then this would greatly affect the demand for both gas and electricity in air-conditioned buildings. Ongoing calculations within the EPC would need to compensate for any seasonal changes. Additionally, more advanced metering may have to be deployed to gain a better picture of the savings.
EPCs provide businesses with access to the newest technologies and expertise across the entire spectrum of energy management. ISO 9001: 2008 accredited improvements include HVAC and lighting management, renewable or storage energy opportunities, retrofit and upgrade/replacement, smart IoT deployments to energy purchasing strategies and water efficiency measures.
The UK is already legally bound by the Climate Change Act to reduce emissions 80% by 2050 and with energy costs forecast to rise over the coming years anything organisations can do to reduce usage is going to have a positive impact on their finances. EPCs are an option that many businesses should consider. Not only will businesses help the environment but they will also help deliver sustainable environments built for future generations.