Making the most of an energy audit

rbs natwest energy audit

If your energy bills are too high, take charge of rising costs with an independent energy audit.

Whether it’s increased profit or showing your commitment to the planet, businesses stand to benefit from making energy-saving choices. A combination of economic uncertainty, fluctuating gas and electricity prices, legislation, and the increased emphasis on sustainable business practices means energy efficiency has never been more important for UK firms.

This is why NatWest has introduced a programme of energy audits aimed at businesses that spend more than £10,000 on power annually.

The Independent Energy Saving Audit Scheme gives firms the opportunity to bring in third-party experts to analyse their energy usage, as well as look at what measures they can implement to meet the latest legislation, reduce their power bills, increase efficiency or even create new income by generating renewable power on site. An audit carried out on NatWest’s own flagship offices, for example, identified savings of £355,000 a year.

Earlier in 2018, energy company SSE carried out an independent audit for Torus, a provider of social housing based in north-west England.

“The audit was carried out in our main offices in Warrington and St Helens,” explains Carl Talbot-Davies, assistant director of asset management at Torus.

“These buildings are quite new – four and seven years old respectively – but things have moved on since they were built, so we thought they were a good place to start.”

Talbot-Davies says Torus was having issues with the air-conditioning in one of the sites. “It was uncomfortable and people were complaining about it. And we were probably paying a lot of money out on heating or cooling areas when it wasn’t necessary.

“Quick wins might include encouraging staff to understand what role they play in saving energy, as well as measures like putting timers on point-of-use boilers for hot-water taps to make sure they’re not on all the time” Eunice Mabey, energy optimisation director, SSE

“We’ve used consultants in the past but they’ve been a bit more general. The SSE guys who came out were really good – they obviously knew their stuff.”

Prior to SSE’s site visits, Torus provided the company with a raft of information including their current billing arrangements, the size of the buildings, staff numbers, and what plant was in use.

“The auditors spent a couple of days on site with our facilities team, and then in a couple of weeks we got the reports and had a follow-up meeting to go through the conclusions,” Talbot-Davies says.

“Aside from simple fixes like configuring the building-management systems in different ways, they gave us some tangible ideas about how we could change operational times for the building – for example, when things come on and off, and matching this to the operational times of the site.”

Changing ways

Another recommendation was to encourage behavioural changes among staff. “One of the problems we had was people turning the air-conditioning up or down every five minutes,” Talbot-Davies adds. “So we’re looking at running campaigns and nominating energy champions in our workforce so that certain people can lead by example.”

Torus is also working with SSE to establish how it can use data from its other sites to generate a ‘league table’ of potential priorities for action.

“We saw the initial audit as the start of a journey: essentially, we wanted to find out if there was any technology we could invest in to make savings, as well as whether we could expand this approach to, say, sheltered accommodation blocks where older people are living.”

Eunice Mabey, energy optimisation director at SSE, says businesses are often surprised at how much they’re spending on energy and even more surprised when they can find out how much they can potentially save.

“Manufacturing businesses are probably a bit more aware of their spend because it makes a difference to their production and goes straight on to their bottom line,” Mabey explains. “But in general businesses do tend to want a quick payback of between two and four years.”

The introduction of LED lighting is one easy, and popular, save because the payback is relatively rapid – around three years, adds Mabey.

“Other quick wins might include encouraging staff to understand what role they play in saving energy, as well as measures like putting timers on point-of-use boilers for hot-water taps to make sure they’re not on all the time.”

For Torus, the initial outlay has been quite low, says Talbot-Davies adds:

“It’s been around £15,000 or £16,000. But there has been a tangible impact. We’ve replaced some plant and machinery – and the air-con seems to be working and people aren’t moaning about it any more.”

So how do the audits work?

  • businesses that are interested in having an audit carried out should talk in the first instance to their relationship manager to find out whether they are likely to benefit from an audit
  • the bank will then provide a list of accredited companies who will carry out the audit – or a business can choose its own
  • the supplier will complete the audit and compile a report showing where potential savings lie, as well as what opportunities there are to change the way your energy is sourced
  • where appropriate, NatWest can also discuss the financing of potential energy-saving projects or investments

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