UK building stock could save £1.3bn per year through efficiency

The UK’s commercial building stock has the potential to save £1.3bn per year by implementing energy efficiency measures with a payback of less than three years, a new Government report into building stock in 2014/15 has found.

The projected figures, part of the ‘Building Energy Efficiency Survey 2014/15’ from the recently formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), equate to a 39 per cent reduction from current energy consumption.

The measures with the largest potential savings are carbon and energy management, lighting replacement and control and building services instrumentation and control measures, which if put together represent 55 per cent of the total abatement potential.

The paper identifies that the most commonly perceived barriers to energy efficiency are economic, including such reasons as low capital availability, investment costs and a lack of potential profit.

Complex decision chains within companies, identifying and eliminating inefficiencies, lack of interest in energy efficiency and inertia have been cited as other barriers according to the report.

The largest sector in terms of energy consumption was offices, which consumed 27,620 GWh/year, equating to 17 per cent of the total energy usage for non-domestic buildings. Retail, industrial, health and hospitality sectors accounted for 17, 16 and 11 per cent of non-domestic energy consumption respectively.

Out of the places studied, 56 per cent of energy was used in premises where respondents indicated that they “actively seek new ways to reduce energy use,” 34 per cent was used in locations where people “try to reduce energy use where possible, but it’s not a priority” and the remainder was used in premises where respondents “have not considered ways to reduce energy use.”

Colin Lawson, Head of Sales, Marketing and Product Development at Tamlite Lighting, believes that by publishing the report, BEIS is tacitly signaling potential for future policy.

“We can't be sure, but when Government invests in research, it is often as a precursor to policy interventions to enable necessary change. So it's likely that further measures to encourage UK firms to deliver energy efficiency, similar to the ESOS scheme, are on the way,” he said.

“That means it's in your interests to futureproof your lighting estate now, and then you'll be well placed to benefit from tomorrow's policy and today's cash savings from cheaper energy bills too. Plus, of course, the advantages of modern, wonderfully lit buildings.”

The price of gas for non-domestic customers fell slightly between Q2 and Q3 last year, while electricity experienced an increase. The average cost per kW/h for electricity was 10.39 pence while gas was 2.37 pence.

Gary Stoddart, technical sales director at Remeha CHP, emphasises how energy costs are often one of the main overheads for any business, large or small, while also explaining the benefits of Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

“According to the Carbon Trust, firms are wasting on average 20 per cent of their annual spend through energy inefficient equipment3, so it’s no surprise businesses are concerned about recent price rises,” he said.

“By using a CHP system, businesses can produce electricity at gas prices, which is cheaper than buying it directly from the grid as electricity is approximately 8 pence more expensive per kW/h. Also, in comparison to purchasing from the grid, CHP electricity doesn’t suffer losses resulting from moving power over large distances, resulting in a more efficient process.” 

“By generating heat and power simultaneously CHP can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent compared to conventional methods. At the same time, where the ‘waste’ heat from the generation process is lost at gas power stations, the heat generated by CHP can be reused in the heating/hot water systems. This is especially effective when CHP is designated as the lead heat source.

“The advantages of CHP are clear, particularly for energy-intensive buildings such as hospitals. Indeed, a recent report by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) found that implementing CHP could save the NHS around £26.4m per year. And if the spark gap continues to widen as it has in recent years, this case will only grow stronger.”

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