Conducting an Internal Energy Audit.

I decided that following on from the surveys conducted by external agencies, I should start doing regular audits / walkrounds of the site. The aim is to find ways of saving energy and money as well as checking the general housekeeping of the site. I had downloaded some guides from the Carbon Trust website, but, as with so many things in life, never got round to reading them. I had a browse through them today, but found nothing profound and so came up with the following plan:

1. Divide the warehouse into 5 main areas; main office, warehouses, plant control rooms, other occupied areas (such as tea room, other offices, maintenance workshop) and the outside. ( I will freely admit, I left the outside for another week as it was raining.)

2. Look at lighting, heating or cooling, appliances and good or bad practices.

3. Create a sheet for each area with sections for comments and observations of things for further investigation. I will see how these work out and change them if I feel the need.

OK, nothing earth shattering there, but the Carbon Trust didn’t have any better ideas. I am going to try to do a walk round at different times (today was lunchtime) including weekends, and obviously, at different times of the year.

So, the survey. I have been round the site quite a few times in the last 10 years, so was not sure I would find many unexpected things. Unfortunately, as expected the main issues I found were all down to employees’ inability to switch anything off!

Every light within a 10 mile radius of the plant seemed to be on (OK, slight exaggeration, I had turned my office light off) – in fact I only found a couple of areas where the lights weren’t a-blazin’. How many people were working in the plant rooms – zero. In fact, in one of the areas someone from the maintenance team suggested motion detectors to control the lights because they were incapable of turning them off!

In terms of heating and cooling, I wasn’t expecting too many issues as the temperature was mild but only in the low 20s outside. So I found one large portable cooling unit left on whilst everyone was on lunch, a fan going in the plant room which no one occupies unless they are doing maintenance and, almost as worryingly, the air conditioning on in the conference room – I don’t think there had been any meetings in there for at least a week!

Appliances – no surprises here. It seems as though each indivdual had their own radio – I came across at least 7 and only two of them were near anyone who was working. Other than the radios, there were computers not in use that were left on, and torches left on charge.

So, nothing major that I could find on a quick survey, and, nothing, that couldn’t be changed, it justs needs some employee engagement, timers and power down adapters for docking stations (oh, and some motion detectors and a big stick!).

I do have a number of other things that I need to understand better such as water purifiers and compressors which are on all the time, whether we need them or not, as well as the health and safety implications of adding in motion detectors in parts of the building. My next step though is to quantify the potential savings and relate them to profits – after all, £25 a year wasted by leaving a photocopier on doesn’t sound like much does it?

Energy Management – Where does it go and what does it do?

In order to better manage our energy we first need the data to establish our base load; I need to know where the energy is being used.  As a site that uses a substantial amount of energy we pay for our data to be collected every half hour (HHD). Have I been able to get hold of our data?  Yes, but it took me tens of emails, lots of ‘phone calls and three months.  As it stands I am only receiving it monthly, rather than weekly, but it is a starting point.

So, now what?  The data is provided in Excel format and I have been provided with some simple graphing software via the Carbon Trust to illustrate the changes in consumption on an hourly or half hourly basis.  However, I am sure that this is something that I could have done for myself given the data, probably using Excel.

We operate continually with only the occasional shutdown, so finding the base load wasn’t as easy as one would think.  However, I have now estimated that when the site is unoccupied it is still consuming in the region of 860kWh per day.  This is approximately 30% of our total consumption  – at a notional cost of 10p per kWh this would equate to more than £30,000 per year.  Whilst we are only closed for a few days a year, and so not all of this is necessarily wastage, at the moment I have only discovered where 72kWh is used.

My next mission is to discover what is eating the rest of the electricity, whether it is necessary, and to try to pinpoint the costs in the various operations on site.

Energy Awareness at Work

One of the major problems highlighted as part of our energy audit was employee awareness of energy wastage.  This was obvious just on the walk around when the number of lights and computers left on was visible to anyone with their eyes open.  As a consequence, we were offered several one hour training sessions to try to raise the awareness of staff about the cost of leaving things switched on.  This was sold to us on the basis that most people, even advocates of energy saving, don’t even think about saving energy at work and are often unaware of just how much leaving some devices on standby could be costing.

So, I organised three sessions for all the employees on site that day, and was impressed to see that everyone did turn up for the sessions.  Only one person asked if they could miss it (I obviously said no as they are the biggest sceptic that I know and believe that climate change is just a government scare tactic to introduce more taxes).  I also (admittedly a bit belatedly) sent an email to other departments and sites inviting them to send someone over if they wanted (I had only one response, and everyone else ignored me) – this is obviously not currently a priority within the Company – although I believe this may be about to change with the requirements for the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

How did the training go?  Well, it was not the most dynamic of deliveries I have ever come across.  There were some interesting facts and figures about the cost of leaving appliances on standby, which did seem to be news to some people in the room, but other than that there did not seem to be very much content and certainly nothing that I thought would influence many people to change their habits.  There was also a large concentration of effort about the Carbon Reduction Commitment, despite my assurances that there really was nothing that I could do about it at my lowly level.  Maybe I was a little prejudiced though, because it wasn’t news to me, but apparently some people did not know that leaving their mobile on charge for longer than required was wasting money.

So, results of the training, no immediate effects were noticeable, although it did get some people talking about it.  I have since discovered that more warehouse staff are turning lights off as they leave the room (I discovered this second hand due to a comment from maintenance that they are having to replace more bulbs).  Most disappointing though is that people in the office are still leaving lights and IT equipment on – one of our biggest wastes of energy.  So, although it did not change the world, it was probably worthwhile as it did what it said on the tin and raised employee awareness with regards to energy usage – now it is up to me to start getting them into new, better habits.

The Verdict – The report from the Energy Audit

As previously mentioned the audit arranged by the Carbon Trust was pretty thorough, and conducted by someone who did seem to know what he was talking about.

About a month after the audit I received a report which was followed by a feedback session.  The report gave an overview of the findings, and detailed a number of carbon reduction opportunities with their pay-back time.

Two sites had been audited, and it wasn’t always perfectly clear which data and suggestions related to one or both of these sites. There were some useful (and relatively cheap) suggestions.

The report, as expected, concentrated on the use of gas and electricity at the site.  A breakdown of the electricity use for the site was provided; unsurprisingly it is the Plant itself and the lighting which constitute the biggest proportion.

The recommendations for the site vary in magnitude and expenditure from a pay-back time of less than 6 months to approximately 2 years.

The top three suggestions anticipate reducing the carbon footprint of the site (currently estimated at 642 tCO2e) by 41.3 tCO2e: a reduction of approximately 6%. The top three priorities were listed as:

  1. Implement the findings of the report with regards to our energy management.
  2. Improve lighting.
  3. Shutdown of IT equipment.

The other changes require an expenditure in excess of £10k, but expected to produce a carbon footprint reduction closer to 10%.  These are also changes that will take longer to implement and so, if deemed appropriate, may be saved for next year.

The report concluded with an energy management matrix, summarising their view of our energy management practices (to be honest, this is not very good reading).

The matrix looked at the following: Energy Policy, Organisation, Training, Performance Measurement (improvement in this area is underway — more about this in a later blog), Communication (as with most companies, we have already realised that this is an area where much improvement can be made) and Investment (this is perceived as our best performing area).

I will publish a series of posts over the coming months with the detailed verdict; planned improvements, and how I am dealing with the fact that the actual cost savings are quite minimal compared with total expenditure and our profitability.

Energy Audit at Work.

If you spend over £50k on energy each year then the Carbon Trust will perform a free energy audit of your Company and will then issue a report which will highlight areas that they feel could be improved and the cost and payback time for any such investment.

As a site we pay more than that each year on electricity alone, as a Company, goodness only knows.  So, late last year I booked a survey.  This took a little while longer to complete than initially expected, partly due to the internal requirements at our Company, and partly due to the person allocated as our Account Manager going off on paternity leave!

First of all, the Carbon Trust did not carry out the survey, they subcontract this work to a number of consultancies (this also adds to the timeframe as there is communication between the Carbon Trust and the consultancy, the Carbon Trust and the company requesting the audit and the consultancy and the company being audited)  – all a bit overly convoluted!

The audit lasted about three hours, partly discussing problems encountered / solutions offered to other (nameless for the sake of confidentiality) companies and partly walking around the site and talking to the maintenance department about electricity supplies and compressors (something I will freely admit I know little about and which I will hopefully rectify in the coming year).  It seemed as though there were areas that he had already decided would be the main places for consideration – I am not sure whether this is because he had visited one of our smaller sites or whether it was because these are usually areas for improvement at most companies.  These included the aforementioned compressor, lighting and the voltage used to power the lighting.

About a month or so later we were issued with a fairly comprehensive report with recommendations for improvement, costs and potential savings.  These varied in complexity and price, the easiest being training to raise energy awareness…