AVOIDABLE ENERGY WASTE IS EVERYWHERE

As I walk round the UK, I see avoidable energy waste everywhere; you never have to look too far. Some of it is very visible but, in my experience, for what you can see, there’s so much more you can’t see.

Significant levels of avoidable energy waste across most of our facilities and operations seems inevitable at the moment; this is much more widespread than most people think.  Many energy systems are left ‘on’ most of the time to maximise service availability or for perceived better reliability.  Engineers designing energy systems naturally err on the side of caution in their assumptions about operations, perceptions and behaviours which means they often over-provide.  Somehow along the way energy consumption has been disconnected from energy systems service.

This is a massive untapped resource. Recent studies have shown energy savings demonstrated by behaviour change projects range between 4% to 50%, with more than half of the case-studies demonstrating 10+% savings by intervening to change behaviours (reference: Energy Research & Social Science, Elsevier). Other studies have found that UK buildings consume two or three times more energy than their equivalents in Melbourne, Australia, where the best buildings are using five or six times less energy than the UK average [reference: Better Buildings Partnership].

The time for the Negawatt revolution is now.

Back in the late 1980s, Amory Lovins (from the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US) first used the term ‘Negawatt’. The story goes that he spotted a misprint in a utilities report and coined the term to describe the unit of power saved through energy conservation and energy efficiency activities (saved MWs or non-consumption).   His premise was that this one concept could drive the behaviour change required to reduce our dependence on consuming excessive amounts of energy within our society.

Amory Lovins argues that customers want energy services such as lighting, heating, hot water, cooling, entertainment, etc, rather than buying kWhs of energy.  By concentrating on the overall service, the focus for energy then is shifted to delivering better overall value for the customer rather than just managing energy supply and consumption in isolation by itself.

Many in the industry, such as Amory Lovins, have been arguing for years that we already have the technology and approaches to deliver huge savings across our economy.  Focusing on continually better energy service productivity is what generates the Negawatts that Amory Lovins visualised.  If we get this right, this can bring about large social, economic and environmental benefits for both our organisations and our society; for the last 35 years, Amory Lovins has been dreaming of a Negawatt revolution worth Gigabucks.

At its best, optimum energy service productivity can be considered to be the point that the organisation is confident its systems and practices are only using what they need, delivering best value for customers with absolute minimum avoidable energy consumption and waste.

You will know what works best for your organisation, whether it’s contracting services out or working with specialists on particular areas and engaging, empowering and incentivising the teams involved; this can be structured under the wider remit of an energy performance contract or set up through in-house initiatives such as energy crediting (bottom-up tracking of savings linked to people and teams).

To be successful, the overall approach needs to be desirable, focused, (relatively) easy and continual, but most importantly it needs to be owned by the people involved.

Look out for the CPD article I’ve just written for the Energy in Buildings & Industry magazine on ‘Energy as a Service’, due to be published in the June 2019 issue.

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