Companies neglect energy savings in buildings

An official survey has revealed that many companies are doing little to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Smaller, less energy-intensive firms seem most apathetic despite a good potential to make low-cost savings.

The survey, by the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme (EEBPP), has provided additional evidence of the low priority which many businesses attach to energy efficiency - despite complaints from many that the climate change levy is superfluous because they are already energy-efficient. Another EEBPP survey early this year highlighted the poor state of energy management in business (ENDS Report 303, p 9 ).

More than 400 companies, with both high and low energy use, were surveyed about their buildings' energy consumption. Interviews were conducted with the manager responsible for building energy management, including lighting, heating, ventilation and insulation.

Only 37% of respondents believed there was a significant potential for cost savings in reducing energy consumption. However, only 39% knew how much energy was consumed by their buildings. More than a quarter - mostly small firms - seemed "completely uninterested" in their buildings' energy efficiency.

The energy cost of buildings is significant. Even for less energy-intensive sectors such as light engineering, building-related energy use can be 20% of a site's total energy consumption.

Only 30% of companies had implemented any energy efficiency measures in the previous two years. And even among the one-third of sites where plans were in hand for building refurbishment, very few were considering implementing energy efficiency measures even though this would be the ideal time to do so.

According to EEBPP senior consultant Susan Batt-Rawden, "companies often ignore efficiency measures at industrial buildings because the potential savings seem small compared to reducing process energy use. But for less energy-intensive companies this potential is greater, and for companies who have already minimised process energy consumption and can't do much more without major investment, looking at building energy use becomes more worthwhile."

Low-cost energy saving measures include fitting energy-efficient lighting, occupancy sensors, time-controlled thermostats, improved insulation and good maintenance. "In some cases, these measures can cut a site's building-related fuel bill in half," she said.

New legislation, as well as the climate change levy, may provide the missing stimulus for some firms. Interviewees thought that the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) regime would be a powerful force for improvement. All IPPC-regulated companies will be required to provide information on their energy consumption and put in place basic energy efficiency measures.

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