Ten Top Tips: Slash your energy bills

Business owners can look forward to double-digit price rises on their energy bills over the next three years. This will hit business efficiency and profitability right where it hurts. Protect your bottom line with these ten tips from the Carbon Trust's Myles McCarthy, and save the planet while you save the pennies.

by Myles McCarthy
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1.    Start with the basics
You don’t have to pay through the nose to cut your energy consumption. Ladbrokes did it by looking at its heating controls in 2,000 stores. By setting its systems to turn off heating outside normal opening hours, the firm made massive savings. Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, where lighting and heating are intensive, would do well to follow Ladbrokes’ example. It is also worth thinking about if you’re in the manufacturing, industrial and warehousing sectors where lots of machinery can consume energy.   

2.    Ditch bad energy habits
Encourage staff and partners to do little things on a daily basis to reduce energy. Whether that’s turning off lights in empty rooms, or boiling just the right amount of water for the tea round, it will save money and energy. When Sainsbury’s appointed an energy champion in each of its stores, it led to a 5% saving on annual energy bills across the group. It doesn’t cost anything but beware that you might have to put a bit of time aside to drive the initiative.

3.    Root out the energy guzzlers
Every business has unique patterns of energy consumption depending on how many shops or offices it has, how many staff it employs, and the technology it uses. Some areas which often have high energy consumption include lighting, heating, cooling and powering equipment. Working out where these ‘hot spots’ are and investing in new equipment can make a dramatic difference to energy bills. For example furniture retailer, WJ Aldiss saved £41,000 per year on its annual energy bill by installing energy-saving lighting in its office and showroom.

4.    Invest now to save later
Energy efficiency projects can often deliver paybacks within one or two years.  It’s worth investigating which options are available to you, and weigh up the benefits – financial and operational – that splashing out now could offer later.  Peach Pubs, the gastro pub group, invested in more efficient lighting for its restaurants, which paid for itself in less than two years. And if the idea of yet more number-wrangling  leaves you cold, there are loads of independent services available, at no cost, to help you make these calculations.  
5.    Reward your energy heroes
Don’t just expect staff on the factory floor to become energy superheroes overnight. Motivate and incentivise them to save energy. In large businesses, this may mean putting aside a little pot of money to reward the division or department that saves the most in a year.

6.    Look for the best energy deal in the first place
If you’re buying new equipment, take a minute to check out its energy consumption. You’d be surprised how often people don’t. If a company is trying to flog you the newest widget or model, ask them to provide life costings for the thing: you want the upfront capital cost of the equipment as well as the running costs (including estimated maintenance). Also make sure you receive quotes from at least three established suppliers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.  

7.    Look for trusted, accredited suppliers
Don’t just believe the hype without checking up on claims and estimates. There are cowboys out there. If you’re looking for low energy lighting or new efficient boiler systems, you could do far worse than check out the Carbon Trust’s accredited supplier list. These companies all have a proven track record and have been given our seal of approval.
8.    Securing funding
Short of cash and want to buy some energy-saving gadgets? We’re not surprised: banks are often unwilling to lend in the current climate. However, businesses can obtain finance from the Carbon Trust in partnership with Siemens Financial Services, who provide easy, affordable and flexible energy efficiency financing options. Flexible financing can often match estimated energy savings to monthly repayments, enabling investment in new capital equipment to have no impact on an organisation’s cashflow.
9.    Don’t get complacent
Keep an eye on your energy-saving projects and compare them to other initiatives that you’ve run. It may sound like a bore, but it’s the best way to work out what kind of things save you the most money and where you should be investing in the future.
10.    Street cred
It’s not just about the bottom line. There are significant reputational and commercial benefits to being energy efficient. Shout about how you’ve reduced your carbon footprint and wider environmental impact. This is the kind of thing that can sway new customers and even new staff away from rival companies. According to research by the Carbon Trust, 56% of the public are more loyal to brands that can show evidence of action to improve their environmental impact and 53% want to work for companies which can clearly demonstrate a commitment in this area.  Times are tough – this is one smart and easy way to differentiate your company from the crowd.  

Myles McCarthy is managing director of Carbon Trust Implementation Services

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