Crash Course: Seven ways to reduce your energy usage

If your fuel bills would keep a small hedge fund in business, maybe it's time you started burning a bit less.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 23 Nov 2010

At night, your building is lit up like a spaceship; in winter, it's hotter than Death Valley; and in summer, the air-con frosts up your specs. Your fuel bills would keep a small hedge fund in business, and just look at the energy-related legislation and taxation on the way. It's time you started burning up a bit less.

Get the size of it. First, understand how much energy you're using and where. Organisations spending more than £3m on fuel can get subsidised carbon management from the Carbon Trust; those over £50,000 can get a free survey. Below that, you can either conduct a walk-round survey or call in consultants to do it. Don't forget to include energy used by staff on the road.

Look for savings. Next, spot opportunities for saving on power. Many will be similar to things you can do at home: installing low-energy light bulbs, improving insulation, opting for energy-efficient appliances and just switching off. Ask your employees. 'It's really important to get accurate measurements,' says Hugh Jones, the Carbon Trust's head of solutions. 'You can meter every piece of kit, but it's often more useful to look at the usage patterns and the downtime.'

Set targets. 'Set yourself an initial target for a cut and then aim to reduce your consumption every year,' advises Jones.

Rally the troops. Leadership on energy-saving should come from board level, says Jones, but if you can get everyone involved, you'll achieve a lot more. Launch a 'switch off' campaign, hold a competition for fuel-saving ideas, and appoint energy champions to ensure that energy is not being wasted.

Check settings. Never have heating and air-conditioning on at the same time. Programme a buffer-zone between the temperatures at which one switches on and the other switches off. Make sure office equipment is programmed to go into low-energy mode when not used. And think about sensor-driven lighting that switches off automatically when nobody's active in the vicinity.

Change the climate. Over-heating and over-cooling are a big cause of wasted energy in offices. A 1% reduction in heating temperature cuts energy consumption in a typical office by 8%. Encourage staff to be realistic and dress sensibly - they shouldn't expect to go sleeveless in midwinter.

Get financial help. Financial carrots are on offer for tackling energy bills. Energy-related equipment upgrades are eligible for interest-free loans - up to £400,000 - from the Carbon Trust. And energy efficiency means tax efficiency, with enhanced capital allowances for investment in equipment that qualifies. There are grants and the opportunity to offset NI payments against the climate change levy (visit www.uk-energy-saving.com/energy-saving-business-grants.html).


Do say:
'We will benefit our organisation, our staff, and the environment if we can find ways to reduce our energy consumption.'

Don't say: 'We are way too focused on achieving success to waste our time switching off a few lights.'

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