Energy-saving technologies cutting firms' fuel bills

Low-energy light bulb

Electricity costs have doubled for businesses over the last decade, says energy saving body the Carbon Trust, pushing sustainability issues to the top of the agenda.

Technology of Business

But these days "going green" is as much about business survival as reducing impact on the environment.

Yet surveys show many businesses still struggle to understand the technologies available and are wary about the upfront costs involved.

Technology of Business offers a guide to the most effective ways businesses can cut their energy bills and begin operating more sustainably.

LED lighting

Switching to LED - Light Emitting Diode - lighting is the quickest and simplest action any business can take to reduce energy usage, argues Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust.

A traditional 60 watt incandescent bulb would produce about 750 to 1,000 lumens - a measure of lighting power - but 95% of the energy used to create that light would typically be wasted in heat.

Modern LED lights are much more thermally efficient and can now produce between 50 and 100 lumens per watt (lm/W) in normal working conditions.

LED strip Switching to LED lighting is the simplest way for businesses to cut their energy bills

One US manufacturer, Cree, reckons it has produced a white light LED bulb that can produce 300 lm/W.

Mr McCarthy says payback on investment in LED is typically between one and three years. For example, one retail outlet client invested £74,000 in new lighting, resulting in a 74% lighting energy reduction and savings of around £33,000 per year, he says.

"This is why we've seen considerable investment in LED in recent years."

Smart monitoring

Smart meters, thermostats, and sensors - part of what's being called "the internet of things" - are giving us data about our energy consumption patterns that we never had before.

"It's the ability of these meters to communicate that's smart, not their ability to record energy usage," argues Joel Hagan, chief executive of smart metering company, Onzo.

"They give us far more visibility than we ever had before, down to the energy usage of individual appliances."

Microsoft Redmond campus aerial view Applying "internet of things" data analytics to Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington could reduce energy usage by 10% a year, the company says, saving it "millions of dollars"

This increased visibility is helping businesses identify energy wastage more easily and make potentially huge savings.

Quentin Clark, head of Microsoft's data platform group, told the BBC: "By implementing internet of things control systems and big data analytics at our headquarters campus [in Redmond, Washington] we were able to spot aberrations in our energy usage, such as a garage that had air conditioning."

Microsoft says its 88 Acres project, involving 125 buildings, 30,000 pieces of equipment generating 500 million data transactions every day, could produce energy savings of up to 10% a year for the company, saving it "millions of dollars".

Walgreens store Walgreens' first "net zero energy" store just outside Chicago
LED lighting inside Walgreens store The store uses low-energy LED lighting controlled by an energy management system

In another example, Mike Franco, chief executive of California-based smart building systems firm, RiptideIO, says his company implemented a $20m [£12m; 14m euros] energy management system for US drugstore chain, Walgreens.

The project, which involved thousands of stores, saved the retailer $14m last year alone, he says.

Walgreens completed its first "net zero energy" store just outside Chicago late last year, incorporating solar photovoltaic (PV), LED lighting and wind turbines to produce more energy than it takes from the grid.

Up the junction

Any conglomeration of buildings can benefit from lighting and energy control systems, says Chris Bedford, managing director of intelligent lighting controls company, Open Technology.

A recent project at Clapham Junction railway station in London reduced lighting energy usage by 40%, he says.

Train at Clapham Junction Control systems have cut lighting energy usage by 40% at London's Clapham Junction railway station

The initial investment of about £30,000 formed part of a wider energy reduction strategy to achieve total annual savings of over £7m for Network Rail and South West Trains.

Smaller energy control system projects can cost about £6,000 and above, depending on the size of the business, he added.

With savings like these on offer, it's no wonder Martin Chilcott, founder of sustainable business community 2degrees, says: "Our Trends Tracker survey shows that businesses consider smart metering and energy management software to be second only to LED lighting in importance."

Solar gain

Once a business has made efficiencies to its current equipment and energy usage patterns, generating its own electricity through renewable technology could be a sensible next step, experts advise.

The Energy Saving Trust's Greg Shreeve describes solar PV as a "sure-fire" investment for businesses with the necessary capital.

Giant solar panel wall The National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan features a giant wall of solar panels

The cost of installing PV panels has fallen dramatically over the last 10 years while their efficiency has improved, making them an obvious useful addition to business buildings big or small.

Not only can they help reduce your electricity bills but you'll get paid for the electricity you generate and export to the grid thanks to the UK's Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) scheme.

Introduced in April 2010, the scheme pays businesses for the electricity they generate through solar, wind turbines, hydro, anaerobic digesters or combined heat-and-power systems. The rate of generation subsidy - currently more than 14p per kilowatt hour for small schemes - is under review and could be reduced.

And how much support you receive also depends on your property's Energy Performance Certificate rating, so it makes sense to have improved your firm's energy efficiency before applying.

But with small-scale solar PV systems currently costing between £5,000 and £10,000, you could still see a return on investment within six to 10 years, installers say.

Electric fruit

Local delivery companies should consider switching their fleets to electric vehicles, advises Tim Anderson, senior transport manager at the Energy Saving Trust.

When Fruit4London, a small company delivering fresh fruit to city workers, invested in a fleet of four electric vans, "It was one of the best decisions we ever made," says co-founder Laszlo Mulato.

Fruit 4 London electric vans Fruit4London says switching to electric vans was "one of the best decisions we ever made".

A £5,000 government subsidy for electric vehicles reduced the cost of each Renault van to about £13,000 (plus VAT), says Mr Mulato. And each van saves the business £9,000 a year in congestion charge fees, maintenance and fuel costs, he adds.

"We haven't been able to increase our prices for five years, so savings like these help keep us competitive."

The company leases the vehicle battery from Renault for about £70 a month and it costs less than £1 a day to charge. With each van doing up to 60 miles a day, range is not an issue, he adds.

The switch to electric vehicles has had the added advantage of pleasing big clients who want their suppliers to be green as well, says Mr Mulato.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    AIRBUS CANCELS ORDER 10:15:
    A380

    Airbus confirms it has cancelled a deal for six A380 superjumbos for Japan's Skymark airline. The statement came a few hours after Skymark said it was locked in "difficult" talks over the order. There doesn't seem to be the vastest amount of confidence in Skymark's finances. Shares closed down 13% in Tokyo earlier.

     
  2.  
    BITCOIN BIG IN ROMANIA 09:58:
     bitcoin medals

    Bitcoin is big in Romania, says Reuters. The citizen's of Europe's second poorest country apparently remain distrustful of officialdom but are also tech savvy. Reuters adds Romania is among the worst at collecting taxes and fighting fraud, making it poorly equipped to manage the bitcoin.

     
  3.  
    INSOLVENCY FIGURES 09:47:

    Some 27,029 people went into personal insolvency in the second quarter of this year, a 5.1% increase on the same quarter last year, official figures from the Insolvency Service show.

     
  4.  
    MARKET UPATE 09:36:

    European shares are mixed. They started out good after a batch of encouraging company results. Retailer Next is among the big winners - up 2.45% to 6680p on the FTSE 100 so far.

    • The FTSE is 0.12% higher at 6796.35
    • Germany's Dax has just turned negative and is now 0.09% lower at 9589.54
    • The French Cac-40 is also down 0.18% at 4336.92
     
  5.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Next now worth slightly more than Sainsbury's and Morrison's put together."

     
  6.  
    GHERKIN SALE 09:14:
    An aerial view of the "City", London"s business disctrict

    London landmark and general troubled child of the City's tall buildings, the Gherkin - otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe - has been put up for sale for £64m. It was put into receivership with accountants Deloitte managing the place since April. Co-owners Evans Randall and German firm IVG told it to put it up for sale after they failed to reach a deal with their lenders over restructuring the building's mounting debts.

     
  7.  
    BANKERS ETHICS 08.58:
    Book

    Back to the proposed bankers' oath. Would it mean an end to such fines as the £218m Lloyds received yesterday for fiddling rates? Think tank ResPublic, which operates "on the premise that human relationships should once more be positioned as the centre and meaning of an associative society", hopes so. Click here to read what it suggests are the magic words.

     
  8.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:45: BBC Radio 4
    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is talking to the Today programme about the potential impact of sanctions on Russia. He says President Putin is unconcerned about his popularity at home. "This isn't about his popularity this is about imposing sanctions that will require Putin to change his policy," he says. Up to now, he says, sanctions have been "pretty useless". Sanctions need to be about serious economic damage to Russia, he adds.

     
  9.  
    UBS PROBE 08:35:
    The floor of the New York Stock Exchange on 28 March, 2014.

    The "Dark Pools" investigation widens to include UBS. The Swiss bank became the latest bank to say it is cooperating with inquiries about these alternative trading systems. Its second quarter report this morning said a clutch of US regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Attorney General, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had made inquiries. Banks Barclays and Credit Suisse are also involved in probes.

     
  10.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:25:

    Separately the US State Department has accused Russia of violating a key arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile. Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US says. A senior US official described it as "very serious" but gave little more in the way of detail.

     
  11.  
    PAY KICK? 08:13:

    Two fund managers overheard on the 06:45 to Vauxhall: "It's called a pay away, not a kick back." Business Live (not being perfect) does not know what this means. Any ideas?

     
  12.  
    HEADLINES
  13.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 08:05: BBC Radio 4

    One more from Malcolm Bracken on Today. He doesn't mince his words. He says: "Putin has looted an enormous amount of money from the Russian people." Mr Bracken adds he doesn't think the aim of sanctions will be to "devastate the Russia economy or isolate it from the world." But squeezing "the cronies" will be language Mr Putin can understand, he says.

     
  14.  
    NEXT PROFITS 07:53:
    Woman in picture

    Next also has results. First half profits at the clothing and homeware retailer rose 10.7%. Next tells investors to stand by for better profits of between £775m and £815m. Sales at the physical stores were up 7.5% and through the Next Directory were 16.2% higher.

     
  15.  
    BP PROFITS 07:43:

    BP says rising oil and gas production from new or recently started projects led to increased processing of heavy crude oil by the newly-modernised Whiting refinery contributed to operating cash flow of $7.9bn in the quarter. Total operating cash flow for the first half of 2014 was $16.1bn.

     
  16.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 07:36: BBC Radio 4

    The purpose of sanctions is to target the regime and [Russian president] Putin's cronies, not really the Russian people, Malcolm Bracken, analyst at Redmayne Bentley, tells the Today programme. "The mismatch," he says "Is that Russia needs German money from gas sales even more than Germany needs Russia gas." Germany can get its gas from countries other than Russia, he adds. But Putin can impose far greater economic pain on his people than Angela Merkel can on hers.

     
  17.  
    MORRISON'S CHAIRMAN 07:30:
    Signage for Morrisons supermarket on a trolley handle

    There's confirmation that former Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson will become the the new chairman of rival supermarket Morrison's when Sir Ian Gibson retires in 2015. Mr Higginson will join the board on 1 October as non-executive deputy chairman. He was finance director at Tesco between 1997 and 2012. He is currently chairman of Poundland, N Brown Group and McCurrach UK as well as a non-executive director at BSkyB.

     
  18.  
    BP PROFITS 07:17:
    British Petroleum sign

    BP has reported profits (second-quarter replacement cost profit - which strips out the effect of oil price movements) of $3.2bn, compared with $2.4bn a year earlier.

     
  19.  
    BIG CHEESE 07:13: BBC Breakfast
    Cheese

    The biggest event in the global cheese calendar starts today in Nantwich in Cheshire. Steph McGovern is at the International Cheese Fair for Breakfast along with the 4,500 cheeses there. Andrew Loftus, agriculture manager for Morrison's supermarkets says: "Customers need a big variety, the block cheese, the cheddars, but we also have our own range that we cut and grate in our factories."

     
  20.  
    BANKING ETHICS 07:03: Radio 5 live

    Control Risks' Charles Hecker on Wake Up to Money pulls together the two big topics of the morning - Russia and banking ethics. He says it's the ethics that attract them: "There is a reason why the British banking sector is by a mile the preferred destination for Russian financial transactions. It's seen as transparent and liquid market that is well regulated and is seen as clean." And they also like the flight time and the restaurants, he says.

     
  21.  
    UBS RESULTS 06:53:
    The logo of Swiss bank UBS

    Swiss bank UBS reports second quarter net profit of 792m Swiss francs (£516m), up from 690m francs last time. Results were whacked last year by a $885m settlement with the US housing regulator over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed bonds. The bank has still had to set aside 254m euros (£165.4m) this year, mainly to settle legal claims that it helped wealthy Germans to dodge taxes.

     
  22.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:41: BBC Radio 4

    In case you were wondering why sanctions were back on the news menu, last week, European leaders agreed there should be tougher sanctions on Russia after Ukrainian separatists brought down Malaysia Airlines MH17. This week they decide what sanctions should be applied and against whom or what.

     
  23.  
    BANKING ETHICS 06:31: Radio 5 live
    Triumph of Virtue and Nobility

    Would getting bankers to swear an oath promising good behaviour work? That's a suggestion by one think tank, ResPublica. It wants to introduce "Virtuous Banking". But the chairman of the Banking Standards Review Council, Sir Richard Lambert, tells Wake Up to Money an oath won't help to bring that about.

     
  24.  
    GAS GUZZLER 06:21:
    Mayor of London Boris Johnson

    London mayor Boris Johnson wants the drivers of diesel cars to pay an extra £10 - on top of the congestion charge it should be noted - for the pleasure of driving into the centre of the capital according to a report in the Daily Mail today. Other cities are also considering introducing low-emission zones to crack down on diesel fumes. These cars were once encouraged as being less polluting...

     
  25.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:08: Radio 5 live

    More from Charles Hecker. He tells Wake Up to Money: "I don't think anybody is that keen on sanctions that are going to impact on their own economic sectors." Part of the problem with European sanctions against Russia is the French have defence deals with Russia, there is a substantial amount of Russia money in the UK's financial services sector and Germany has energy deals with Russia, he adds

     
  26.  
    RUSSIAN SANCTIONS 06:01: Radio 5 live

    Charles Hecker of consultancy Control Risks tells Wake Up to Money targeted sanctions, whether against sectors of the Russian economy or against individuals, would have a potential impact and suggests the Russian economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. But he adds both Cuba and Iran have been subject to far more stringent sanctions and that further sanctions against Russia are unlikely to change the country's behaviour.

     
  27.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Yes, we're back. And we're here: bizlive@bbc.co.uk @bbcbusiness - should you wish to get in touch.

     
  28.  
    06.00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning everyone. Yesterday afternoon we had a £218m fine for Lloyds for its part in the 2012 Libor scandal, while the think-tank ResPublica has suggested this morning bankers should take an oath - a bit like doctors - to fulfil their "proper moral and economic purpose". We also have second quarter trading updates from BP and Next this morning, plus more on Russian sanctions.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A digger operated via an Oculus Rift and a controllerClick Watch

    Why controlling a heavy digger with a virtual reality helmet might improve safety

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.