Following the Coronavirus pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war there has been a very large increase in the costs of oil and gas, which have fed through to higher costs of electricity. Energy prices are predicted to be two to three times higher than pre-pandemic levels until 2030, according to some estimates.
During this period many businesses will need to reduce their energy consumption to reduce their costs. The impact of increases in energy costs will depend upon the nature of each business – size, activity, fuel use etc. A large manufacturing facility will obviously have different priorities and capabilities to a small shop.
Many businesses will have a good understanding of their energy consumption, whilst others may not have paid much attention to energy costs until the recent escalation. Where companies can carry out energy audits and/or commission expert advice about how to make reductions in energy consumption they should do so.
This guidance is intended to prompt consideration of some steps and to provide information about where expert advice can be sought such as:
Supporting businesses in Wales | Business Wales (gov.wales)
Climate Action Plans & Business Sustainability | The Carbon Trust
It is important for businesses to have a good understanding of their energy use, across all their activities. Having an energy audit could be very helpful in identifying areas where energy savings can be made.
There is useful guidance on managing energy, provided by Business Wales: Energy | Business Wales (gov.wales).
2. Temperature Control
The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that working temperatures inside workplaces shall be reasonable:
Temperature in indoor workplaces
- During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.
- A method of heating or cooling shall not be used which results in the escape into a workplace of fumes, gas or vapour of such character and to such extent that they are likely to be injurious or offensive to any person.
- A sufficient number of thermometers shall be provided to enable persons at work to determine the temperature in any workplace inside a building.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued an Approved Code of Practice which suggests that the minimum temperatures for indoor working should be 16oC or 13oC where the nature of the work involves rigorous physical effort: Workplace health, safety and welfare. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L24 (hse.gov.uk) Whilst there is no suggested maximum temperature, the requirement is that indoor workplace temperatures be reasonable. HSE has issued further guidance on thermal comfort: HSE - Thermal Comfort: Homepage
Businesses should ensure that heating systems and air conditioning are adjusted to provide reasonable workplace temperatures, in line with requirements, and that they are not resulting in warmer or cooler workplaces than required.
It may be possible to ventilate and cool some workplaces by passive ventilation (e.g., opening windows) rather than air conditioning.
In winter cold draughts can affect people, causing discomfort. Draught-proofing where practicable may lead to a more comfortable working environment and avoid waste of heat.
Where windows are not double-glazed consideration should be given to installing secondary glazing. Using blinds on windows can also help with temperature control.
These measures are all affected by the physical conditions of premises. It will be easier to manage energy use in well maintained, properly insulated and draught-proofed premises (excluding manufacturing processes).
There can be issues affecting the improvement of premises, including the relationship between tenant and landlord. Wherever possible landlords should co-operate to ensure premises are in good condition and business tenants are able to reduce energy consumption.
These issues and more are explored in detail in guidance from Business Wales: Heating | Business Wales (gov.wales).
The savings to be achieved by switching from conventional incandescent light bulbs can be up to 80% and up to 50% by switching from fluorescent lighting. LED lighting also lasts for longer than other sources. LED Lighting | Business Wales (gov.wales)
When lights are not in use they should be switched off.
4. Electrical Equipment
Most businesses will have office functions that depend upon electrical equipment, including use of computers and associated equipment (routers, printers etc). Smart meters are one way of sending more accurate meter readings to energy suppliers and of monitoring consumption.
When electrical equipment is not in use it should be switched off rather than be left on standby.
5. On-site Renewables
For some businesses, installing renewable technology may help them reduce fuel bills, reduce their carbon footprints and provide resilience against grid supply failures.
The installation of on-site renewables will be simpler for those businesses that own their premises. Where businesses lease their premises there are several factors affecting potential investment in on-site renewables:
- How long does the business plan to stay at the premises?
- What are the lead times for installation of equipment?
- How will investment be funded?
- How conducive is the relationship between landlord and tenant?
There are other factors that will influence any investment in renewables and businesses will need to take these into account when considering possibilities. Suitable technologies include:
- Solar panels (photovoltaic)
- Solar panels (thermal)
- Heat pumps (air source)
- Heat pumps (ground source)
6. Access to Funding
If, following evaluation, businesses are interested in investing in equipment to reduce energy consumption or to generate renewable energy on-site, they are recommended to explore the services provided by the Development Bank of Wales: Business Finance For Companies In Wales - Dev Bank (developmentbank.wales) which manages the following funds: Funds We Manage - Dev Bank (developmentbank.wales).
The Business Wales website also acts as a source of information for private providers and other sources of finance. See specific link below
Finding Finance | Business Wales (gov.wales)
In addition, the British Business Bank contracts with delivery partners who provide different types of finance for multiple purposes. The attached link may be of interest, as it seems to relate to what you are looking at.
What is the UK Business Climate Hub? - British Business Bank (british-business-bank.co.uk)