energy efficiency and generation

The first step for any business, public authority or NGO has to be reducing energy consumption through behaviour change, for example by persuading staff to switch off lights and computers at night. Another way to do this might be to introduce a system of carbon accounting alongside the normal budget. Making the Finance Director’s bonus partially dependent on this helps focus minds.

Next in the hierarchy is energy efficiency eg lights on motion sensors, insulation, double glazing, urinals that only flush when people are in the building etc. One way to help your organisation to focus on energy efficiency is to set up a Revolving Energy Fund. Staff identify energy-saving investments which the fund invests in and the savings on energy bills are re-invested in the fund which grows in time.

Only when everything has been done in terms of reducing energy though behaviour change and fitting energy efficiency measures should an organisation embark on renewable energy generation. And even then, apart from solar water, ground source pumps, chilled beams and, in rural areas, biomass boilers, only the largest sites will really be able to make renewable energy generation work efficiently. Combined Heat & Power (CHP) produces electricity and uses the heat that is created in the process. But in urban areas it will almost certainly require natural gas as a fuel which means CO2 emissions. For now this is acceptable because CHP is so much more efficient than traditional power stations that waste 60% of their energy as heat and a further 7-9% in transmission losses over the National Grid.