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Still time to reduce CRC impact

Author : Nigel Larkman

04 October 2011

Quarry House - a Department of Work and Pensions building

The aim of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is to reduce carbon emissions. However, compliance to it can be a cost-effective business, as Nigel Larkman explains

With the first deadline for companies to gather the necessary data related to their energy consumption now gone, the time to ensure that adequate processes, systems and controls for gathering the required information has passed. However, businesses now need to focus on reducing energy consumption to avoid the highest financial penalties and being named and shamed in the planned league table.

With the scheme no longer being revenue neutral, some of the immediate financial incentives have been removed. Despite this, energy efficiency still remains a key consideration within the decision making process for ongoing maintenance and facilities management. By doing this, businesses can work towards a sustainable operation that will actually save money, reduce carbon footprint and meet legislative compliance.

Energy management
There are opportunities for businesses to identify where savings can be made to avoid some of the financial burden of CRC and drive unnecessary cost from a building portfolio. Combining energy management with technical FM services can be a sensible approach, because it provides the opportunity to go beyond simply maintenance and repair to optimise the performance of HVAC assets in buildings and ultimately reduce consumption levels. This means that equipment and plant works better and lasts longer to achieve measurable operational efficiencies.

For example, GSH Group goes beyond its traditional technical FM platform, providing a wider range of consumption reduction activity, supported across the organisation by engineers, managers and back-office support. A dedicated Energy and Controls Bureau, utilising leading software solutions, works closely with customers to minimise utility costs and provide greater insight into energy consumption levels across their property portfolios.

Building Performance Modelling uses sophisticated software to analyse individual premises to identify and track where energy is being used and lost utilising traditional benchmarking techniques. This involves all aspects of energy analysis from whole building consumption, thermal and daylight analysis, and carbon foot printing, to assessing relative energy consumption in each room of the building or how much air ingresses through individual windows.

The process can also provide a detailed understanding of how a building will perform with future energy saving measures, supporting any carbon reduction strategy. In fact, once complete the software model of a building encapsulates all energy performance characteristics and can be used throughout the lifetime of a building to drive down consumption at every opportunity.

This integrated approach utilises engineering expertise coupled with knowledge captured from key energy data, enabling companies to better plan efficiency programmes within their business. As a result, savings are typically between 5 and 20 per cent per annum over the course of a five-year contract, which can significantly reduce the financial commitment to CRC as well as reducing operating costs across a company’s property network.

Engineering best practice
Equipment needs to be monitored across a building portfolio to ensure it is operating efficiently and is inline with the requirements of the building and people working there. Furthermore, old or obsolete equipment can be replaced or removed that may be responsible for unnecessary energy consumption.

When businesses start to look at energy efficiency, it is possible to identify “no or low cost” initiatives that can be implemented with minimum levels of investment for immediate returns. Optimisation is a typical “no cost” strategy that simply requires technical knowledge and an understanding of operational requirements to ensure that a building’s plant and equipment is operating holistically. What this means is that everything is set to operate collectively to achieve the necessary environmental requirements for lighting, air conditioning and heating at the optimum levels of energy efficiency.

Lighting in particular is an area where significant savings can be made but is often overlooked. It typically makes up between 30 and 40 per cent of a property’s energy usage, so simply switching from old technology to new can have a major impact on energy consumption. For example, adopting T5 lights – a narrow-diameter fluorescent lamp – over older, less efficient standard T8 and T12 technology offers multiple benefits in terms of efficiency and maintenance.

Immediate savings of up to 20 per cent can be achieved, but this can rise to as much as 80 per cent, whilst increased lifespan can also minimise maintenance costs by reducing the frequency of relamp cycles. In addition, using sensors and dimmable technology can optimise a lighting system based on levels of occupancy and daylight to make further savings.

Elsewhere, Combined Heat and Power systems (CHP) are likely to transform the way companies heat buildings by converting a single fuel into both electricity and heat in a single process at the point of use. CHP the simultaneous production of electricity and heat that is carbon reducing and offers an alternative to traditional fossil fuel power sources. An engine (normally gas fuelled) is linked to an alternator to produce the electricity, whist heat produced by the engine is collected from oil, jacket water and exhaust gases by heat exchangers, and used to heat the building. The process increases fuel efficiency and minimises energy loss.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has recently installed a CHP system at an office building in Leeds and is now set to save £90,000 per year and reduce annual carbon emissions by 70 tonnes. It represents the first installation of its kind within DWP’s portfolio of 1,200 properties and is designed to reduce energy consumption by over 20 per cent at the site and make a half a percent contribution to its overall carbon reduction target.

There are also ways of maintaining levels of investment without relying on a capex budget that may already be overstretched and too thinly spread. By making maintenance and refurbishment requirements part of a wider energy management initiative, a company can work with its FM partner to achieve a mutually beneficial operation that can maintain levels of investment as part of an ongoing drive to achieve efficiencies and performance.

Building monitoring and controls technology can bring extremely effective results as well, managing the required levels of optimisation and ensuring the building continues to meet the needs of the business in the most efficient manner. This means that an operation better focuses on improving the efficiency of existing M&E plant and equipment rather than creating a need for new-build applications.

One thing that is clear with the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is that the Government will not go back to a revenue-neutral format, so businesses need to combine effective compliance with a longer-term plan to reduce levels of consumption. It is clear that energy efficiency is only going to become a greater issue in years to come, so those companies willing to optimise their building portfolio through enhanced maintenance, refurbishment and management control are those businesses likely to benefit in the future.

● Nigel Larkman is Director of Energy Services at GSH

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