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Control costs with energy consumption management

Published: 21/02/14

The latest npower business energy index (nBEI), which surveyed 500 of the nation’s small and medium-sized enterprises, has shown that better energy management could deliver substantial cost savings for SMEs. However, many are still struggling to find the time to focus on energy or to identify the practical measures they can take to unlock this potential.

Phil Scholes, npower SME Sales & Marketing Director, shares some of the report’s findings and outlines some simple energy management steps that every SME can take and what expert advice is available to them.

The nBEI survey showed that for nearly half of SMEs energy consumption accounts for between 25-50 per cent of their total business costs – representing a massive opportunity for saving - and yet just one in five see energy management as ‘very important’.

That said, around 44 per cent of SMEs did reduce their overall energy consumption by five to ten per cent in the last year and nearly 60 per cent say they are planning to increase their current level of energy efficiency measures over the coming 12 months, with 42 per cent saying they view energy efficiency as an ‘aid for business growth’.

So, what can we learn from those who are already reaping the benefits of energy efficiency; what other measures can SMEs take and how can energy suppliers help?

Quick wins

The nBEI highlighted a number of practical actions some SMEs are taking to help them achieve energy savings.

The most popular energy saving tactics contributing to the biggest savings include, turning off unused equipment and lights, monitoring consumption levels generally, using more energy efficient equipment and minimising heat loss. In addition, 64 per cent cited efforts to educate staff about energy efficiency and its importance as an example of trying to adopt a more holistic energy-saving strategy.

For help and guidance on implementing these types of energy saving measures, more than half are turning to their energy supplier. The energy reviews and audits offered by many energy suppliers are a good way to kick start energy saving activities as they provide baseline data from which areas for improvements can be identified and progress monitored.

Smart investments

While many practical measures come at little or no cost (for example, turning off unused equipment and lights), the nBEI showed that some SMEs put off investing in technology such as smart meters that could help with overall energy management because they don’t know enough about the costs and benefits. Again, advice in this area from companies such as npower could help business owners identify whether a small investment up front could deliver big energy savings in the future.

Getting to grips with Government initiatives

It is clear that there is a good deal of scepticism and uncertainty associated with environmental legislation and government led initiatives. For example, the Government’s Green Deal initiative aims to help small businesses to fund energy efficiency measures, but the nBEI showed that a third of SMEs haven’t heard of it and a further third say they don’t understand it. In addition, a number expressed doubt about taking on additional debt at this time. Your energy supplier can offer advice and help small businesses to gain a greater understanding of what help is available to them.

Better buying

The results of the nBEI show that the majority (71 per cent) of SMEs believe they could ‘improve’ their energy purchasing habits. Many are attracted to the idea of longer-term energy contracts and, indeed 37 per cent of those questioned said they already had a fixed price and term contract with their energy supplier. For those who have not, it is worth entering into constructive dialogue with energy suppliers to see if getting increased energy cost stability through fixed price contracts could be a positive step for them.

Practical energy saving tips for your business

A free 20 page guide on looking at lower energy consumption, plus a number of industry focused case studies can be found on the npower website.

npower has carried out energy saving audits with a number of SMEs that practically demonstrate where real savings can be made. Examples include:

  • A convenience store in Birmingham, that could save £600 annually through some air conditioning maintenance and changes to set temperature points
  • A pub in Yorkshire that could save £500 a year through water conservation measures
  • A glass manufacturer in Telford that could take over £1,000 off its energy costs by implementing a simple energy policy
  • A Somerset-based printer, that with some straightforward lighting improvements could make £100 saving.

As these examples show, small changes can result in big savings and it is certainly worth any SME spending a small amount of time identifying simple ways to potentially reduce their usage and costs.

Contact your particular energy supplier to see what they are able to offer you.

The Carbon Trust also produces its own energy saving guide for companies – down load it here. http://www.carbontrust.com/media/31675/ctv034_better_business_guide_to_energy_saving.pdf

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