Feature, Office

How new rules will force UK businesses to face facts about their energy use

Big businesses will soon have to audit their energy consumption and come up with ways they could cut it. Actually doing anything about it, however, is down to them

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (Esos) came into force in July 2014, and requires that all large organisations (defined as those with more than 250 employees) face their energy consumption head-on by conducting regular audits and setting out how they could use less. The scheme presents a significant opportunity for businesses to streamline operations, increase their competitiveness and boost the bottom line – although there is no obligation for them to implement any recommendations from the audits.

We’re now at the halfway point in the rollout of Esos – organisations that registered their eligibility for compliance back in December 2014 are now taking steps to ensure their audits are completed by December of this year. Indeed, the most forward-thinking companies may already have their compliance in the bag.

Decc wants companies to face up to their energy use

Of course, some organisations still view the procedure as an exercise in tick-box compliance. But the conversation has largely moved on from general awareness of Esos legislation to making the most of the opportunities it represents. Compulsory energy audits mean companies have no choice but to acknowledge their energy consumption, and it’s likely that once confronted with stark evidence of the potential savings to be had – UK businesses stand to save up to £1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) – many companies will at the very least want to explore some of the easier energy-efficiency wins.

A survey carried out by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reveals that, when asked, ‘How much of a priority is energy efficiency for your business?’ 91 per cent of respondents said ‘high’ or ‘quite high’.


Low-hanging fruit

Lighting, while not necessarily a big win compared to other energy-saving technologies, represents some of the ripest low-hanging fruit available to organisations wanting to implement Esos recommendations – it’s affordable, quick to implement and offers a strong return-on-investment in the face of rising electricity costs (which have doubled for businesses over the last decade, according to the Carbon Trust).

Indeed, with up to 40 per cent of a building’s electricity use accounted for by lighting, it’s little surprise that official Esos guidance lists some standard lighting measures among its energy-saving suggestions. The mention of measures such as LED lighting, occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, maintenance plans and basic employee engagement suggests that the government still believes the potential of energy-efficient lighting remains under-exploited, and that it sees Esos as a chance to push more companies into implementing these fundamental steps.

Compulsory energy audits mean companies have no choice but to acknowledge their energy consumption”

As an industry, we have a responsibility to help communicate the many benefits of energy-efficient lighting to our market, not just for complying with Esos, but as a long-term measure of cost-effective sustainability. And of course, taking energy-saving needs into account provides clients with a better value product, which is good news for customer satisfaction levels and business competitiveness. Everyone stands to benefit.


Dispelling myths

But while for many in the industry swapping outdated lighting for new low-energy offerings is a no-brainer, it’s important to remember just how swiftly technology in this arena has changed in recent years, and to be mindful of some of the lighting myths that continue to linger in the minds of decision makers.

What were once specialist solutions are now mainstream options available to a wider range of organisations at more affordable prices. Customers have greater choice, and will need support in making the right lighting investments for their needs.


Crunching the numbers

While once the conversation focused on CFLs, LED lighting has come to the fore, saving around 75 per cent energy use while offering the same, if not brighter, light output as halogen lighting. And, according to the Carbon Trust, new LED fittings (as opposed to retrofit LED lamps) have the potential in the UK to reduce electricity bills by more than £300 million and reduce carbon emissions by more than a million tonnes over the next three years.

But, these facts may be unknown to the decision makers responsible for implementing Esos recommendations.

The benefits available to those seeking to address their energy consumption through efficient lighting are ample, matched by the many opportunities the lighting industry has in the face of the Esos legislation. The term ‘low-hanging fruit’ is used a great deal these days, but if Esos regulation indicates anything, it’s that there’s still a sizeable market for these energy-saving measures, and the lighting industry is well positioned to benefit from it just as much as the companies undertaking the audits.

Colin Lawson is head of sales, marketing and product development at UK lighting manufacturer Tamlite