How can I find out how much energy my business is using?
The obvious answer is to look at your utility bills (electricity and gas/oil), but that’s only part of the story. The average small business uses between 15,000 and 25,000 kWh or units of electricity per year, however, the amount of energy your business uses will also depend on the type of business - whether it is an office, shop, factory, workshop etc - all have different needs, equipment/processes and working hours.
Do some detective work:
- The first thing to do is gather all of your electricity bills over one full year and read them. Properly! Yes it is important to look at the ££ at the bottom, but it's better to look at the units (kWh) used over the billing period. Does the total number of units seem high? If you can, compare it to the same bill from the previous year – the unit cost may be different so it's better to look at the units used. If there is a big difference, check if any new equipment/machines have been installed, new processes or a change to working hours which can explain it.
- Look at the tariff - is the unit rate too high? - speak to your energy supplier and compare rates from other electricity suppliers. A full list of electricity suppliers is available on the NI Utility Regulator website. (Supply licence list)
- Are you using a lot of energy between 7pm and 7am? If so talk to your supplier about night/economy 7 tariffs.
- Metering - does your business have half-hourly metering? Half-hourly meters use a communications device that allows your electricity usage information to be accessed remotely. Using this data can help you to track electricity-use throughout a typical working day and identify anomalies e.g. high usage outside of normal working hours would suggest equipment/lighting left switched on. If you think half-hourly metering would be beneficial, speak to your current supplier.
- Check your equipment - ageing equipment is less likely to be energy efficient. Check the energy rating of the appliance and keep a register of equipment. Review this every 2-3 years or as more energy efficient models become available.
Where to get help
Depending on your industry, you should have a trade body that may produce an energy efficiency guide appropriate to your business. Currently, 53 business sectors participate in the Climate Change Agreement (CCA) Scheme - each sector has an association, for example food and drink, textiles, printing, plastics, metals, packaging and more…
The Carbon Trust has produced energy efficiency guides for various industries e.g. retail and distribution, manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare as well as general guides on lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, refrigeration and carbon footprinting.
Take it further...
Now you have a better idea of when and where your energy is, you may want to look at ways to reduce your energy usage and improve energy efficiency. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Start a staff awareness campaign - staff will feel like they are making a difference and can have the added benefit of improving comfort and working conditions. Read our blog on how to motivate staff to save energy. The Carbon Trust has lots of downloadable resources, such as posters and stickers.
- Set targets - publicise these internally in newsletters or staff meetings. Keep staff updated on the progress.
- Take part in energy days - ask your energy supplier for resources.
- If you have a large business - get some training on energy invoicing such as this training run by Naturgy.
- Carry out a basic energy audit or ‘walkaround’ of your business premises at different times of the day. Look for equipment, heating and lighting that is left running unnecessarily. Look for opportunities e.g. replacing older lights with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), put heating on timers, install motion sensors for lights in suitable areas.
- If your site is more complex, think about having an energy audit conducted.
Action Renewables’ technical team can provide organisations with energy audits and independent feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Have a look at our case studies here, or contact our team on 028 9072 7760.