With energy prices soaring at an all-time new high we take a look behind the scenes and share some tips
It’s been in the news and splashed all over our screens, energy prices hiking to an all-time high, energy companies struggling to keep afloat and fuel levels poverty rising, all down to the energy price rise over the past 2 months. There are several reasons for this, such as:
The UK now has 25GW of wind capacity – enough to power 12,500 toasters, which generates about 65TWh of electricity annually (roughly 25% of the country’s electricity). However, if the wind doesn’t blow strongly then less electricity is generated. The summer of 2021 was the UK’s calmest summer for 60 years, with wind speeds at record lows – 60% less.
Our electricity grid is joined up to the grids in France, Belgium, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands. This allows us to buy their surplus and sell them our excess. A fire at one of the inter-connectors to France a few weeks ago has taken one of the two connections to France offline. Until it is repaired next year there will be around 1GW less capacity, which reduces the amount of electricity we can buy and sell from other grids.
The UK has a fleet of nuclear power plants totalling around 8GW, which produce 20% of our electricity. These power plants must be shut down periodically for re-fuelling and other essential maintenance. 2021 saw several reactors taken offline for essential maintenance.
Despite great advances in our renewable capacity, the majority of our electricity is produced by gas power plants, and this is the core of the problem. Most of this country’s heating also relies on gas boilers and much of the available natural gas has already been bought up by other countries who also rely heavily on it.
Prices are expected to stabilise in the coming months as some of these problems alleviate. We are unlikely to see such low wind speeds again for a while, and the connection to France and our nuclear power plants will soon be back to full capacity. Going forward though, it is obviously imperative for your business to minimise your energy demand.
What can I do to reduce my energy bills?
- Firstly, you need to make sure you are being billed correctly. Take gas and electric meter readings and contact your supplier to request a smart meter installation, which will automatically take readings for you.
- Make sure you are not on a standard energy tariff since these are much more expensive. If you are already tied into a contract, then you should probably stick with it. Your prices should be fixed until it expires, and you are unlikely to find a cheaper deal right now. Make sure you know when your tariff is due to expire and begin the process of setting up a new one no less than 6 weeks before this date.
- If your business uses large amounts of energy you may be charged more at peak times – 4pm – 7pm. See where you can reduce demand during this period – can production be moved to earlier or later in the day? The tips below are especially important during this evening period.
- Lights only need to be switched on when a room is occupied. Encourage staff to make sure they switch out all unnecessary lights. Opportunities seen in most businesses include circulation areas, the staff canteen, production areas which are often empty over breaks and external lighting, which can be set to timers or motion sensors. Upgrading your lighting to LEDs is usually the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures you can invest in (60+% on lighting usage). You can get more light into your building without spending anything if you make sure your windows, skylights and light fittings are clean.
- Heating is only required when the building is occupied. If your heating system has a timer then you should make sure it is set to come on half an hour or so before opening and half an hour before closing. For heating systems with radiators, you should make sure they have been bled recently to get any trapped air out this trapped air takes up space that should be occupied by hot water, reducing the radiator’s capacity to heat the room it’s in.You can also get more out of your heating system by making sure the radiators are clean with no objects blocking air flow in front of them. All piping should be insulated. If you already have LEDs, then you should consider improving your building’s insulation wherever possible. Simple curtains and draft excluders will make a difference. For large warehouses, consider plastic strip curtains. Discourage staff from using electric fan heaters, which are expensive to run and are an ineffective way to heat a room. If your building has gutters, make sure you keep them clean. Blocked gutters can lead to water running down your walls, which speeds up the heat loss through them.
- If your business has fleet vehicles, then you may be responsible for the petrol/diesel. Encourage staff to drive conservatively – avoid aggressive acceleration and slow down when approaching red lights. Have you considered a switch to electric vehicles instead?
- Small savings can be made on each appliance which can add up to a significant saving if you are diligent. Avoid standby on anything that can be unplugged out of office hours – security systems and servers are vital and cannot be switched off, but for most businesses almost everything else can be. Don’t overfill the kettle, reduce screen brightness on laptops and computers (and switch them off/put them in sleep mode on breaks). There are many, many small things you can do to reduce demand and they will quickly add up over the winter.
- Finally, it may be worth appointing an energy champion to help your business orchestrate all these measures (and more). This person’s job is simply to communicate to their colleagues how much energy is being used, what it is costing and encourage others to follow good energy efficiency practice.
And don’t forget BEEP is here to support you with a fully funded audit and help you with on point advice tailored to your needs.