Best practices for greater energy efficiency

Greater energy efficiency benefits not only the environment, it makes good commercial sense for businesses too. Read our guide to how your business can make its operations more energy efficient.

Under the Climate Action Plan 2021, the Irish government has set a legally binding target of a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.

It’s an ambitious plan to tackle a major problem. In 2019, Ireland had the second-worst greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the EU. The country’s businesses have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the targets are achieved.

Becoming more energy efficient is not just about the benefits to the environment; there are also plenty of business advantages. Organisations can enjoy reduced costs, increased productivity, improved reputation and increased profits.

Measuring energy use and taking action

The first step to improving your business’ energy efficiency is conducting an internal energy audit on buildings, processes and systems. This will highlight how much energy you use, and which equipment and processes are responsible for the most energy. You will then be able to formulate a plan with the actions you need to take to save energy and cut costs.

Under the Energy Efficiency Directive, large businesses employing more than 250 people or with a turnover in excess of €50m and an annual balance sheet totalling over €43m are legally required to complete an energy audit every four years.

There is no mandate for smaller companies to carry out an energy audit, but it is highly recommended. All businesses have a role to play in tackling climate change. According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), completing an internal audit that identifies tailored energy saving opportunities can save a business up to 30% on their energy bills.

To carry out such audit, you can use the services of an external expert who will assess your business’s energy usage and draw up a plan of action.

Alternatively, you can do the audit yourself by checking how your premises, equipment and processes use energy and looking for issues such as air leaks and energy inefficient lighting. You should then draw up a plan of what you need to do to save energy and how much it will cost.

Business energy efficiency and ISO 50001

Once an internal audit is complete, many businesses implement an energy management system (EnMS) and choose to have it certified to ISO 50001.

The standard has many benefits, including reducing energy usage by up to 10% during the first 12 months, cutting an organisation’s carbon footprint, assisting in compliance with voluntary and mandatory energy efficiency targets and improving brand image and reputation.

Our expert led-ISO training delivers valuable guidance on how to implement and maintain the ISO 50001 standard. It ensures relevant employees within a business are confident in how to approach implementation.

Business energy efficiency tips

There are many practical steps organisations can take to improve business energy efficiency. They include:

Premises

If a building is well insulated, it requires less heating which can reduce energy costs.

You should regularly check that your premises are maintained in good condition with no holes or gaps. SEAI says installing just 100-150mm of glass fibre insulation in loft space can reduce heat losses by up to 90%.

Poorly fitted and older windows, particularly single glazing, should be replaced with double or triple glazing. Draughts can be prevented by using draught strips.

Ensure that windows and skylights are kept clean so natural light isn’t prevented from entering the premises. This means you’ll use less electrical lighting and cut down on costs.

Lighting

According to SEAI, lighting can be responsible for up to 40% of an organisation’s electrical use, so it’s wise to take steps to make it less energy-intensive.

Replace as much traditional lighting as possible with light-emitting diode (LED) units, which is the most energy-efficient lighting technology. LEDs use up to 90% less energy than traditional lamps and last up to five times longer.

You can ensure lights are only used when and where needed by installing movement sensors and timers that automatically turn lighting on and off.

Heating and cooling systems

Upgrading boilers, chillers and air conditioning systems to those with A-rated energy efficiency and turning down heating can reduce an organisation’s energy consumption.

business energy efficiency tips for business

According to SEAI, turning the heating down by 2°C saves around €160 on a €1,000 bill and non-condensing boilers with limited controls are 10-30% less efficient than modern condensing boilers.

Thermostats should be set appropriately. SEAI recommends heating in offices be set at 19°C, and lower than 19°C in corridors, storerooms and areas of higher physical activity.

Air conditioning units are very energy-intensive, so make sure they are turned off in rooms that are not used. Never open windows and switch on air conditioning at the same time.

Business equipment and appliances

If possible, use laptops instead of desktop PCs as they require much less energy. Users should be encouraged to switch off their computer if they are away from their desk for more than 10 minutes. Computers should also be turned off at the mains at the end of the day. This can reduce energy consumption by up to 75% a year.

business energy efficiency - sustainable energy Ireland

Appliances such as water coolers, microwaves, coffee makers, printers and photocopiers should also be switched off at the end of the day. Unnecessary printing and photocopying should be avoided. According to The Carbon Trust, a photocopier left switched on overnight uses enough energy to make over 5,000 A4 copies.

Fridges and freezers in staff kitchens or storage facilities should be regularly serviced and defrosted with worn out or damaged door seals replaced.

Transport

If you have a business vehicle fleet running on diesel, consider switching to electric alternatives which can save you as much as 70% on fuel costs.

Electric vehicles produce zero emissions, require less maintenance due to fewer moving parts and are liable for lower tax charges and road tolls. Electric vehicles qualify for Ireland’s lowest motor tax band of €120 a year, while there are 50% tolling reductions for battery electric vehicles and 25% for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

You can compare the features and costs of electric and diesel vehicles on the SEAI website.

Renewable energy

Switching to renewable energy can significantly reduce your organisation’s environmental impact. Contact your energy supplier about switching to a green tariff or consider moving to a dedicated renewable energy supplier.

Installing a smart meter, which monitors gas and electricity consumption in real time, can help reduce your energy bill by providing more accurate data and removing the need for estimated readings. As part of the Irish government’s Climate Action Plan, ESB Networks is upgrading all existing electricity meters in Ireland to smart meters.

If you have the budget and facilities, you can generate your own renewable energy. Options include solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps.

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