By Steve Harrison, President of the Building Controls industry Association
At recent industry discussions about how to raise awareness of demand-side energy issues with government, it became clear that we’ve been hiding our achievements rather than shouting about them.
Supply-side policies have dominated the debate about how the UK can meet its energy requirements. Energy suppliers have the ear of government, and they have been successful in focusing ministerial minds on issues affecting them and their businesses.
However, when the demand-side sector tries to put across the point that reducing energy use is a highly effective approach, the question is often raised: “If reducing energy use is so easy, why isn’t anyone doing it?”
The usual response has been to try to explain what the barriers to energy reducing in businesses are, and hence why no one is apparently doing it. But that’s not true – many businesses are focusing on their energy use, and the case studies, presentations and reports are out there to prove it. You only have to visit our industry’s conferences and exhibitions to hear big companies like Tesco and Boots talking abut their achievements in saving millions on their energy costs.
It is difficult to say why energy saving projects aren’t being made more of. Perhaps it’s because using VSDs, identifying areas of energy waste by analysis of energy data or voltage optimisation just aren’t eye-catching enough for government.
Although there can be quick wins in energy saving, it really requires a long term strategic approach to plan investment and track payback. Government likes solutions that appear more straightforward – building more power stations is more appealing than measuring, monitoring and managing your energy.
But we cannot expect government to change its way of doing things, or to prefer long explanations to soundbite solutions. If demand-side solutions are going to find their place, then we need to speak their language. We need to be ready with figures – the value of energy management technology in terms of money saved; how many jobs our industry supports; potential for growth of the sector.
So next time someone asks why no-one is ‘doing’ energy demand reduction, the answer should be “They are… ” . By changing the way we talk about energy management we can make more of our achievements, and gain the attention that this side of the energy chain deserves.
It is only by ensuring that supply and demand are regarded as equally important that we can build a stable energy future.