Phil Foster, CEO of Love Energy Savings warns small and medium enterprises (SMEs) over rising energy cost despite the warm season and suggests ways to improve energy efficiency and save money.
It’s time to rejoice, summer is finally here! As a nation of weekend sun worshippers, we couldn’t be happier to see the rays shining through our windows and warming up our homes. However once the weekend is over and it’s back to business, our enthusiasm for a warm temperature starts to decline. After all, who wants to be in a stuck in a stuffy office for an entire day?
Summer months may turn the heat up on energy bills
Business owners who have consistently struggled with their energy bills may think that June will be the answer to their prayers, but unfortunately the warmer months may actually increase the size of energy bills for some companies. While it certainly does cost a large amount to have the heating running all of the time during the winter months, the addition of air conditioning throughout summer can also add a substantial chunk to your overall energy bills.
Air conditioning can increase a building’s overall energy consumption by 100%, according to the Carbon Trust. It takes up to ten units of electricity to produce just one unit of compressed air, when you consider how many air conditioning vents you have in an average sized office that operates at a typical 40 hour week, you can understand how summer energy bills rise so steeply.
Employee temperature wars can also cause energy bills to rise. Whatever time of the year it may be, there will always be some people who insist on having the heating on and others who are desperate to open all of the windows. This constant cooling and warming to meet employee demand can equate to a chaotic general temperature, as well as causing your energy bills to soar. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has estimated that electricity prices will rise by almost 30% for SMEs over the next five years, so the time has come to put our bad summer energy habits to bed.
In addition to this, brightly shining sun beaming into the office may seem pleasant at first but after spending an hour squinting at your computer screen it will be time to pull down the blinds and turn the lights on. Research by DECC revealed that lighting can create up to 40% of a business’ energy consumption, so it is crucial to keep these costs to a minimum.
Don’t take a vacation from being energy efficient
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has estimated that SMEs could reduce their energy bills by 18-25% by installing energy efficient measures around the office. But energy management is full-time, year-round job, which businesses should never take a break from.
Staff annual leave during the summer months means that everyone in the business should be even more vigilant when it comes to being energy efficient. While there may be less people in the office, it only takes a few pieces of equipment to be left on for a couple of weeks while people are away to significantly affect the cost of your energy bills.
It’s still not too late to transform your bad energy habits. Becoming more energy efficient doesn’t have to cost your business an arm and a leg, there are plenty of simple and cost effective strategies that can reduce your energy consumption.
Simple steps for saving money
1) To reduce the cost of your air conditioning, ensure that it is switched off in rooms that aren’t being used, for example meeting rooms and the kitchen.
2) Decide whether you are going to open windows or use the air conditioning to cool the room, never use both as these will waste energy.
3) Many systems operate with a controlled timer, so be sure to program the timer so that it doesn’t operate during weekends, bank holidays and evenings when employees are out of the workspace.
4) Utilise natural light by rearranging your office so that it doesn’t interfere with computer screens or people’s eyeline. If this is unavoidable, install sensored lights that are triggered by movement so that the lights will only switch on when people are working in the space.
For smaller businesses the DECC has released a guide for SMEs to enhance their energy efficiency. The report claims that energy prices are expected to rise by 30% over the next five years with a third of firms in the UK claiming it is the cost of energy which is a key barrier for growth. Despite this, many businesses are still falling into the trap of paying overly expensive energy tariffs.
New regulations mean that it now only takes six weeks to switch suppliers and energy price comparison sites, such as Love Energy Savings, can make the switching process even simpler. A business would only need to take 10 minutes out of their day to enter their postcode and estimated energy consumption for the best deal to be highlighted to them.
By implementing energy saving actions as soon as possible businesses could start saving money today. It is important that energy management is not pushed down to the bottom of the to-do list but starts to become a more important part of cash-flow and business management.
Phil Foster is the CEO of Love Energy Savings. Phil has always had a strong desire to support UK SMEs, helping them to make much needed savings on their energy bills. With that in mind, he created a business energy comparison service to help business owners not only improve their profits, but also save valuable time in the process of comparing and switching suppliers. Advocating energy efficiency and awareness of energy usage, alongside tariff comparison, he is committed to helping SMEs save money so they can continue to grow.
Photo: oatsy40 via flickr
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New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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