Over the years we have evolved our approach to energy efficiency to maximise the benefits to our clients. We always start with an energy audit. Although there are Australian Standards for energy audits which we follow, in reality many clients are not ready or do not have the available data to complete an audit to these standards. So we take a ‘process approach’ to auditing.
1) Monitor & Measure Energy Consumption
Our starting point is a simple and low cost scoping study from which we discuss with our client a monitoring and measurement regime tailored to the site. As every CEO knows, what you can’t measure you can’t control! This is the place to start.
2) Take measures to reduce energy consumption
Once the monitoring/measuring system is in place, the initial scoping study can be expanded based on the first couple of months of data. A longer time run is ideal but there are usually a lot of cost saving initiatives that can be done based on the initial data so it is important to seize the opportunity.
Typically, in any organisation, there are a lot of no-cost/low-cost things that can be done to reduce energy consumption and the expanded scoping study will throw these up. We recommend that a small budget be established to get these initiatives in place quickly. With the monitoring in place everyone can see the effects.
3) Shift energy consumption
Once the energy reduction measures are identified, we look for opportunities to shift energy consumption away from peak periods. This is to smooth out the energy demand and reduce energy costs by moving energy use to cheaper tariff periods.
4) Reduce peak energy consumption
A common but un-noticed problem is the occasional spike in demand experienced. The monitoring system installed shows this clearly. Because a site can have occasional spikes, the electricity supplier must ensure the size of supply is adequate to accommodate the spike. The spike can often be more than double the average energy use. The size of the spike is related to service access charge levied in many commercial supply contracts. There are a number of technical options available to manage and avoid large spikes. If this is an issue it will be highlighted in the energy audit report.
5) Take up opportunities for renewable and alternative energy sources
Only at the end of the process do we consider alternative fuels and renewable energy. This is important and comes last to make sure it is considered and sized in relation to a more efficient premises not the original less efficient one. Having said that it is very common for people to start at this point and spend more than they need to on solar panels for example, because they have been sized for an inefficient premises.
The energy audit process allows all prospective initiatives to be put into context and the business case to be made for each. A lot of things that might appear ‘obvious’ at first glance may not be as important as other actions that could be taken that emerge from the audit.
6) Repeat monitoring and energy saving process
Once the process described here is completed it is repeated periodically. Typically at the end of year one and end of year 2. In this way a CEO can move ahead in discrete steps with measured results backing up each decision. Also, any costs associated with the process can be cash flowed and off-set by savings.
Investing in energy efficiency is really an investment in the business like any other investment with the advantages of high internal rates of return and paid for by savings from existing energy expenditure. A real win-win.