Carbon Reduction Commitment – keeping the momentum going

It is nearly a year since we started down the road of the Carbon Reduction Commitment and things have moved on quite a bit since then.   After much delay the appropriate paperwork was sent out to the qualifying companies and the registration period has arrived.  However, it would appear from various reports on the web that only about 13% of the aforementioned companies have registered.  The good news for us is that the first part of our application has been started, but I guess that is just the start.

For those of you that have missed out on all the news relating to CRC (somehow) there is an early action league table which was introduced to pacify all those companies that had put time and money into reducing their energy usage before the start of the CRC season.  There are only two parts to this though, one is to introduce automated metering (which we have, but which is fraught with its own problems and not always reliable) and the other is to apply for the Carbon Trust standard.

The Carbon Trust standard is good in many ways; it requires a continuous commitment to reduction (going back over three years) and that awareness is maintained at an individual level – they will audit one or more sites to see what is in place.  (The bad news is that it costs in the region of £12k to apply with assistance – a worthwhile investment, but not always easy to make the powers that be see the light!)

So, how do you maintain energy awareness?  I think this is one of the hardest things to do as there are often other things that take priority – after all, which site manager does not have a to do list longer than tailbacks on the M6?  When you are spending half a million pounds or more on electricity, how easy is it to persuade individuals that turning off a couple of 18W light fittings will make all the difference?  When you have done the easy projects and turn to the ones that will cost money or payback over more than 12 months how convinced are you that the justification is worth the effort if capital expenditure is being squeezed?

We are planning to run some shorter energy awareness sessions (by we, I mean I will be planning and delivering them).  I am hoping to be able to relate the spends on site to things that individuals can relate to, and not to just talk about cost cutting, but more about waste in general.  I know that there are already a number of converts, but some that will never be convinced, but I have seen at Daventry that the middle 40% can be made to think about their energy use at work.  I will let you know how successful the sessions are.

In addition to that I am displaying the energy data that is sent through each week, with an explanation where possible if there are sudden peaks or troughs, and I am putting together some more meaningful data to show the trend in usage month by month as well as a comparison to last year.  I am also resorting to the occasional bit of nagging gentle reminding so that people don’t just walk past things that have been left on – I have even noticed a growing tendency to turn lights off in the warehouse!  Once you start to think about it there are many ways to keep the momentum going, some of them even cost money.

I guess that the gist of my message is that although it appears that there may be resistance – as they say, it is futile and eventually the barriers will come down – it is just a case of thinking of different ways to get the message across – threats are not always necessary! Once bad habits are banished you from the majority the few left to be convinced will probably go along with the rest – good old peer pressure.

Next on my hitlist is a reduction in the outdoor lighting – I am in the middle of some surveys so will update you when I get some quotes.

Switch Off Campaign

A decision was made at Head Office that a switch off campaign sounded like a good idea, so we (the Carbon Reduction steering committee) were told to organise one in our respective division. So, that will be easy then. After some debate as to what constituted a switch off campaign with a leading light thinking that it would involve lots of surveys and the appointment of green champions to look for energy saving opportunities, I finally got them to see sense and realise that it was just what it said on the tin:  a campaign to raise awareness and get everyone switching things off when they were not in use.  Back to the real world and the rush of the every day job kicked in and I did not really think about the switch off campaign.

A month later a reminder came out with a start date of 4th January. OK, so now I have a deadline, but still no guidance. So, what to do?  I could email the Site Managers and tell them to organize a switch off campaign – that would work! I turned once more to my trusty friend Google and found a couple of bits of information, mainly from local councils who had jointly run just such a scheme and used these as the starting point for my ideas.

The first thing I did was make an action plan for the actual campaign which was to be over a two week period:

  • Energy measurements to be taken at the same time each week for two weeks before, during and after the campaign.
  • Site Managers to brief all of the staff about the campaign
  • Site Managers to conduct a walk around the site during the campaign and provide positive and negative feedback to staff
  • Staff to be encouraged to submit energy saving ideas

etc, etc.  The action plan was emailed out to the Site Managers a couple of weeks before the start to give them a little advance warning.  I have found that each of the seven sites we have is very different in size and culture, and so, one size does not necessarily fit all, so the Site Managers were the best people to decide how to get local buy-in.

Next on my list was to create some advertising material, something that would remind staff about the campaign and why they should be turning things off.  So, back to Mr Google for some more helpful hints and tips, followed by a trip to an online stock photo site for some appropriate pictures (yes, I know that one of my other passions is photography, but I was in a hurry and did not have the appropriate props).  A couple of late nights later and I had a series of posters for display at the sites detailing environmental facts and energy saving tips.  You can view them here:


If you would like to use them please feel free to download – just let me know – it is always interesting to see where others are in their quest for energy efficiency as well as being good for the ego.

OK, so now I needed a bribe for the energy saving ideas bit.  I settled on the promise of a tree planted in the name of the person with the best idea or a box of chocolates – should appeal to a lot of people I thought.

The campaign ran with mixed success, I will outline the reasons for this, along with the results, in my next post.

Lighting – do we have too much?

As mentioned in a recent article, we have had a couple of surveys conducted on the site, and both immediately singled out lighting as an area where we can cut our expenditure / consumption.  This is an obvious place to look really as we are a large warehouse with a lot of lights. 

As a brief intro, we essentially have 5 warehouse areas built over the last 20 years or so, of different heights, lit by fluorescent tubes for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; such is our working pattern.  In addition, we have a few office areas that are, in the main, occupied only during office hours. 

Whilst I will admit there is plenty we can do to cut our lighting bill, I think those auditing the site are under the impression that it is a bigger problem than the data actually suggests. The Carbon Trust report estimated that lighting accounted for 27% of our electricity consumption, and this is what I have discovered to date.

  1. We have over 500 tubes of varying sizes on site.
  2. If a room lit by fluorescent tubes is unoccupied for more than 9 minutes it is more energy efficient to turn the light off.
  3. Getting people into the habit of turning off lights when leaving a room is difficult, but not impossible – I deem this a work in progress.
  4. Two of our warehouses which were built in the last 10 years were fitted with daylight sensors – these warehouses have higher roofs and are generally lighter.
  5. These sensors are in an unsuitable place, and in failing to control the lighting acceptably they have been covered up.
  6. There are no light switches for these warehouses; the lights are on all day, every day.
  7. Indoor lighting is responsible for approximately 11% of our consumption, with outdoor lighting on a sensor and adding about another 0.5-1%.

As stated at the beginning, there are measures we can take, but at only 11% of consumption, they will have a limited effect. I will update you with the results of these efforts at reducing our lighting bill in a later post.

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.

My first attempt at a carbon footprint calculation was less than satisfactory.

Whilst browsing the internet today I decided that I would make a first pass at looking at our carbon footprint so I checked out the government website. Whilst I admit that I didn’t have my energy bills to hand so it possibly wasn’t as accurate as it could be I found the recommendations that it gave to be somewhat disappointing.
Firstly I should apparently buy a microwave as this is more economical than heating in an electric oven – sorry but I cannot find a use for a microwave, my kitchen is not big enough to fit one in, we do a lot of our cooking on the gas hob and most people I know use a microwave to heat things that I would use a hob for or to reheat things that they should have eaten hot, i.e. they use the oven and then the microwave.
Their second recommendation was to buy an A rated dishwasher – first I would need to buy a bigger house to put it and all of the extra pots that I would need to buy in order to fill it – we don’t create that much washing up. Am I missing something or is it better not to buy all of these electricity using appliances that use up quickly vanishing resources?
Another recommendation involved travel – I should walk or cycle for small journeys – it wasn’t listening, I already do that. Then when I replace my car I should get one that is more efficient – sorry car manufacturers, but I am not planning to do that for a long time. My mileage is small enough that I am hoping to keep this car for at least the next 10 years rather than buying another one.
I noticed nothing on the website about recycling, reducing waste, buying less.
Now call me cynical if you like, but many of the recommendations seemed to me to involve me spending more money, a more efficient this, an extra that, and therefore creating more tax revenue for the economy.
I think I need to find a better starting place in my bid to live a greener lifestyle.