Daventry Environment Business Network

In many ways I feel lucky to live in Daventry, although there are probably a lot of people who think I must have received a severe blow to the head to come out with such a statement.  However, I do feel that in terms of the environment the District Council is trying quite hard to engage both households and business (after all, they were the first council to reach government targets for recycling years before the deadline).  One of the things that they are trying to do to engage local businesses is run the Environment Business Network (EBN).  It meets at different businesses four times a year, with a different theme each time.  It allows the opportunity to meet others and have a round table discussion of issues, successes, problems etc, and also allows a look round the different businesses – something that you would not usually do.  What I have found really useful is the discovery that there are other people at different stages of their environmental voyage – without the EBN it is easy to think that you are ploughing a lone furrow.  I have found a whole host of help and resources through participation in the EBN – if someone can’t help you directly they can often send you to someone that can.

Today’s breakfast meeting was at DHL Mothercare – a huge warehousing facility on the DIRFT (Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal) estate.  The theme of the day was waste minimisation.  After introductions there was a talk by someone from DHL outlining their efforts so far at waste reduction, followed by a waste quiz by RUR3.   Before we left we had a tour around the site.

So, what did I learn.  Firstly, in common with other businesses, DHL had a lot of obvious cost reductions that they could make.  The first was lighting which has helped them to halve their electricity bill.  It was a combination of power reduction (replacing the horrid metal halide hi bay lighting with strips) and controllability (wiring lights to individual controls and adding in sensors).  I must say, it was a huge warehouse with an incredibly high roof, and it did not appear to be badly lit at all (although it was daytime, it was not exactly Springlike weather today).  They have also reduced their water spend by going for waterless urinals (there is apparently a very good report comparing systems which I would like to get a copy of) and are busy reducing their waste to landfill.  They compact both plastic and cardboard and get paid for both – I will be investigating cardboard balers in the next 6 months as we are currently paying to have it taken away – although we don’t deal in such large amounts of waste, I think we should at least get it taken away for free.

Following the waste quiz (did you know that if every person in an office used one less staple each day then we would save 72 tonnes of metal?) it was noticeable how many people have problems getting rid of small amounts of waste such as cardboard and pallets.  It would appear that the council does not have the facilities for this, but perhaps it should put a forum on its website so companys can get together and have joint collections – I think I will suggest it.

The tour of the warehouse was interesting even if it was only to show the sheer scale of the warehousing business – and this is only one of the many massive warehouses on the DIRFT site.  What I noticed most was the amount of packaging that they had to recycle – and this is just a distribution warehouse – they do not make anything (I guess most is imported) although they do deal with returns.  There was, literally, tonnes of the stuff, over 900 tonnes of cardboard every year if I remember correctly.  The other thing that sprang to mind as we walked around the warehouse was the amount of plastic ‘stuff’ that was around.  There were all sorts of imported (probably) plastic (definitely) things – toys, baby accessories, all sorts of stuff.  Whilst it is all very well business recycling packaging, using reusable packaging (usually plastic), reducing packaging, surely it would be better (for the environment if not the economy) if consumers changed their habits and reduced their requirements for stuff and its attendant packaging.

This week in the garden

It seems as if Spring has finally arrived, although I am sure there will still be some frost to come.  The snowdrops have gone over this week, and the crocus are not far behind them – although the pigeon trampling is helping them on their way.

In the front garden I have a lot of Spring and Summer flowering bulbs starting to come up, and the first of my early tulips are starting to flower and bring some much welcomed colour into the mainly brown area at the front of the house – I really must find something to brighten it up in Winter and early Spring next year.  The gooseberry is coming into leaf, we will see if we have surprised the sawfly or not by moving it, and the rosemary is also flowering.

The back garden is now showing much more promise.  The daffodils are now out, and the hellebores are providing a much needed nectar source for the queen bumblebees that I am seeing in greater numbers every day and the primroses are valiantly trying to keep their flowers above the ground despite the, at times, heavy rain, which has given them a pounding.

Spring is also starting to develop its own soundtrack.  Although I have yet to hear a chiffchaff this year, the blackbirds are singing each evening as the sun is setting, adding to the slightly melancholic song of the robin which has been singing and holding its territory all Winter.  The blue tits are also getting more agressive, even the much bigger bullfinches are intimidated by the mad little beasties.

Although I have yet to see any in the garden, I also spotted my first butterfly of the year during the week; a Brimstone that I saw from my office window.

Path of Resistance

Over the last few months the requirement to reduce our energy consumption at work has increased in the build up to the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme that launches on April 1st.  Whilst I am trying to co-ordinate all the efforts of the group, I am also very aware that as the largest site in the group, I need to try to ensure that we are also making a concerted effort to improve efficiency.

For a bit of background, we are a site that operates 24/7, with two plants running most of the time, depending on customer demand – both do a slightly different job with, in the main, different customers, and are completely different in their mode of operation.  One of these plants and associated peripherals and warehousing space etc is responsible for about 70% of the electricity consumption on site.

Whilst we have started to tackle the lights (more about this in a later post), I think we also need to start looking at the processing equipment itself.  We have had a couple of surveys conducted on site, including one by the Carbon Trust, and both have mentioned the operating pressure of the two compressors that we have.  (We actually have three, but the third is kept as a spare.)  This is where the resistance has started. We have a maintenance team of four, and, unfortunately they have not bought in to the idea of using the CRCEE as a way of making any changes that they would like, and I think this is because they are too comfortable and don’t like the idea of change – I may be doing them a disservice, but I have yet to see any real evidence.

OK, now for a bit more background whilst I explain the issues at hand – sorry if you don’t find compressors overly exciting, feel free to skip to the conclusion.  The compressors are of different types and are both operating all the time (although not on load).  One is a variable speed drive (VSD) compressor which changes its power consumption to match the load, the other is either on or off load.  The VSD compressor has apparently been specified to run both plants if necessary and the pipework is in place to allow us to do that.  This compressor also has a fairly large receiver tank to store the compressed air and smooth out the load.  The compressor kicks in when the pressure in the tank is below 7.5 bar and turns off at 8.5bar (this will become relevant as my story progresses).

So, first question, is the compressor operating in the most efficient way?

Mainenance – it was the most efficient compressor we could get at the time – the suppliers said so.

Me – but, is it running in the most efficient way?  Is it set at the right pressure?

Maintenance – it has always been at that pressure since it was installed.  It is a variable speed drive compressor and the most efficient available at the time.

Me (there is a pattern here) – but can we change the settings so it is operating more efficiently?

Maintenance – it turns off when it hits 9bar and only comes on when it is at 6bar (see, I told you it was relevant).

Herein lies my perennial problem – not only do I not get the answers to the question I asked, but when I do get an answer there is no guarantee that it is the correct answer.  So, my question is, how much time do I spend trying to convince the maintenance team that this is a really good thing, that they don’t have a choice in the long run, that running production equipment inefficiently really is a waste of money and resources, and that they might actually enjoy having some projects out of the ordinary to work on instead of the routine stuff.  The alternative is to go ahead and arrange for some of these things to happen and get them annoyed with me – something I am not afraid to do, but it is hardly conducive to future co-operation, although it would mean we do save energy sooner rather than later.

With regards to the compressor – I have found a solution which I shall tell you about in my next post.

Disclaimer – I am not claiming that all maintenance departments are this obstructive, we have other maintenance personnel within the Company that are leading the way, but I bet there is someone like this in most companies.  Have you encountered similar problems, how did you deal with them?

Crikey – The Carbon Reduction Energy Efficiency Scheme is nearly upon us.

So, if you work in a Company that consumes a large amount of power you have probably heard the initials CRC banded about, and know that the start date of the government’s latest attempt at reducing electricity consumption is almost here (1st April).

I work for just such a company, and am part of a steering committee tasked with ensuring that we are compliant and that we are taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint.  However, this is not an easy thing to coordinate without having someone dedicated to ensure that it happens and we could be doing it better.  I thought that I would write a few blog posts to record the things that work well and the areas in which we can improve.  Whilst I am not sure anyone in the Corporate world would approve of such altruistic actions, as it could affect our league position, we could also improve by learning from our own mistakes.

So, firstly what is the CRCEE (as it is now called) scheme.  Well, if you don’t know by now, it is perhaps a little late – but it is not always disseminated down to those who can really make a difference  i.e. those who can turn the lights off and run the equipment that uses the electricity.  I prepared a couple of posters for the start of the Switch Off campaign so that everyone might have an idea of what it is all about and why energy efficiency has suddenly become a buzzword.  You can download them here if you like – CARBON REDUCTION COMMITMENT ENERGY EFFICIENCY SCHEME_EM.  Even those who have heard about it seem to be confused, so I have included a brief outline of timelines.

The scheme is part of the Climate Change Act (CCA) and is aimed at large consumers of electricity that are not already subject to the CCA or part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (therefore not electricity suppliers).  It will work on the allocation of carbon credits – so polluters pay, but is supposed to be non-revenue generating and therefore not a tax, those saving the most money will get the most money back.  However, as with all things these days, there is a lot of paperwork to be completed (think of the trees) and it therefore pays to be organised and set up some systems for data capture in advance – something I am working on at the moment.

The government has made a few changes, and so it is always a good idea to check the website out for the latest guidance.  Unfotunately, it has been mired in confusion for the past year, the forms weren’t sent out on time, there was a worry about finding the cash up front for two years’ worth of credits, some companies wanted recognition for their early efforts to reduce energy usage (otherwise companies were holding off any changes whilst waiting for the appropriate year in order to improve their league table position), and others didn’t seem to have a clue – mainly government departments from what I can gather from the web discussions.  So, in response, there is now no longer the requirement to buy two years’ worth of credits – only one is required and an early action league table.   (Unfortunately the only way to do well on this is to gain the Carbon Trust Standard  – which takes a year and involves at least two years of energy efficiency improvements, and to install automatic metering.) There is now more discussion on the internet about CRCEE and also, a lot more  companies willing to take your money to ‘help’ you improve your energy usage.

The first actions in the scheme involve collation of all the necessary data, then, the fun begins and, hopefully, energy efficiency takes centre stage.

Going forward I will outline the things we have tried at work with regards to improving our energy efficiency – some are the so-called low hanging fruit, some will involve a little more thought, some will require capital investment and all will need a great deal of persuasion from those both above and below me within the Company.

A bit too early maybe?

Last year I had my first ripe chillis after overwintering some that did not grow very quickly during the Summer.  Naturally I thought I would do the same again this year and planted a couple of Heatwaves a bit later trying to repeat my success.  (I also have some that I have planted early this season to see how they fare – they are three weeks old and growing well.)

As you can see from the photo, one of them is flowering already!  This is about two months earlier than last year – I am a little worried it may be peaking too soon (although I have a dwarf chilli Prairie Fire that has been flowering but not fruiting all Winter).

So, what has gone wrong this time?  Last year we put the chillis on the north facing, cooler (as we use the room for only minutes at a time), back bedroom windowsill.  This year they are on the south-facing, much warmer front room windowsill.

It will be interesting to see if these work out well again this year.