Business energy efficiency can sometimes feel like an impossible task for energy managers. There are a variety of reasons for this. Firstly, energy efficiency doesn't happen overnight. It often takes months to see a decrease in energy usage and typically takes years to see a return on investment for energy-saving projects. To make things more complicated, in a business setting, energy managers must also convince the rest of their organisation to act efficiently, even when they're not around.
Despite its challenges, energy efficiency has various benefits for businesses. Here's a list of the top six energy efficiency benefits that we think are the most important for businesses in 2021:
6 Top Energy Efficiency Benefits for Businesses in 2021
1. Energy efficiency helps to reduce costs
The first item on this list is probably the most obvious. Improving your businesses energy efficiency can save your company money. In the past, many businesses viewed energy as an uncontrollable cost. However, more companies are beginning to understand that energy usage is controllable, and the amount of energy your organisation consumes can have a direct positive or negative financial impact on the company.
According to the UK government, savings of 39% were achievable through energy efficiency improvements across all non-domestic buildings in England and Wales in 2014. This figure is equivalent to £3.7 billion that businesses could have saved on their energy bills.
Lighting accounted for £1.1 billion of the identified £3.7 billion of potential savings in the government report. On average, it consumes 20% of the overall electricity used in commercial and industrial buildings. Lighting projects also tend to have a relatively short return on investment period and a comparatively low initial expenditure. This makes lighting an excellent place to start if your business is only just beginning its energy efficiency journey.
There are often initial costs involved in the implementation of energy efficiency projects, but in the long term, being able to monitor and reduce energy consumption will mean more money is available to invest back into other areas of your business.
2. Reduced risk
In recent years, global energy markets have been increasing in volatility, and this means that prices have fluctuated greatly. The International Energy Agency expects this trend to continue, as the global population continues to grow and energy demand increases.
In the UK, the cost of energy has risen dramatically, and between 2005 and 2018, UK gas and electricity prices more than doubled. To make matters worse, in just three months in 2018 (between February and May) energy prices increased by 5.3%, primarily due to increases in wholesale gas and electricity costs.
One of the best ways to limit the effect volatile energy markets can have on your business is to think about generating your own energy on-site. However, for various reasons, this might not be possible for your organisation. Therefore, being as efficient as possible with your energy use is the next best way of safeguarding your business.
3. Improving brand reputation
The financial benefits of energy efficiency are just the beginning. The world is becoming more environmentally conscious and being energy-efficient can enhance your brand's reputation, which in turn can improve your business performance. Be careful not to start Greenwashing though, as this can negatively impact your businesses reputation.
According to research, a robust energy efficiency strategy has the potential to improve relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. An international study by Unilever revealed that a third of consumers (33%) are now choosing to acquire goods or services from brands they consider to be doing social or environmental good. This has resulted in many companies taking energy efficiency more seriously. Sainbury's, Google, Microsoft and Coca-Cola are just a few of the companies actively trying to reduce their energy consumption. For example, in June 2017, Sainsbury's pledged to deploy LED lighting in over 450 of their stores.
If your business doesn't already have an energy efficiency strategy in place, it may be time to think about creating one. If you don't know where to start, check out our comprehensive guide to business energy management.
4. Energy efficiency can improve working conditions for employees
So there you go, energy efficiency has the potential to reduce costs and improve your brand's reputation but did you know that it can also play a key role in creating optimum working conditions for your employees? In the past, the concept of energy efficiency was perceived as a threat to comfort. But, recent research has demonstrated that this is not the case, and energy efficiency can actually improve employee comfort levels, their well-being and performance.
Research published in the Journal Frontiers of Psychology found that individuals working for businesses that took energy efficiency seriously are more productive on average. The report found that appropriate lighting and properly installed Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) systems were largely responsible for this increase in productivity.
As well as keeping your existing employees happy and productive, your businesses energy efficiency strategy can also play a part in its ability to attract new talent. A recent study found that 79% of millennials consider a company's environmental commitments when deciding where to work. This means if your business is planning to hire from this demographic, you need to ensure your energy efficiency strategy is robust and up-to-date.
5. It's good for the planet
Global concerns about climate change have increased in recent years and rightly so. The UK Parliament even declared a climate change emergency in 2019. Energy consumption remains a principal source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the predominant cause of climate change. Therefore, there is pressure on everyone to be more efficient with their energy use. Interestingly, the focus often tends to be on households and individuals. In 2018 though, carbon dioxide emissions from the business sector were estimated to be 65.9 million tonnes and accounted for around 18% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, so businesses certainly have a big responsibility to reduce their use.
One of the best ways for a business to reduce the environmental impact of its energy use is to follow the likes of Apple and Google and switch to a 100% renewable energy supplier. More suppliers than ever before are offering 100% renewable energy and prices have got far more competitive in recent years. Which is good news because it means that lowering your organisation's carbon footprint can go hand-in-hand with reducing your energy spend, meaning both your business and the planet can benefit!
6. Being efficient can help with compliance
In 2019, the UK government passed laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, compared with the previous mark of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. With businesses accounting for around 18% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, it would be impossible for the UK to reach these targets without getting them to reduce their impact. Consequently, the government has started encouraging organisations to improve energy efficiency to limit their environmental impact.
More stringent regulations for businesses will come into play as we get closer to 2050. This means that businesses choosing to take action now will be in a far better position than those that don't. The government have already discussed introducing mandatory operational energy ratings, such as Display Energy Certificates (DEC), for all commercial buildings. It is highly likely that businesses could face strict financial punishments if they do not commit to reducing their impact, so there's no harm in starting early. The Energy Legislation Hub is a great place to look if you'd like to see the regulations businesses in the UK already need to comply with.
Business energy efficiency can be difficult, but there are so many benefits for a company that takes it seriously. Sure, using less energy can reduce your business energy costs, but an effective energy efficiency strategy can also improve your brand's reputation, protect your business against volatile energy markets, improve employee productivity and help save the planet.
With governments worldwide setting carbon reduction targets and the introduction of stricter energy use regulations looking more likely than ever before, there is no better time to start improving your businesses energy efficiency. If you're just starting out, we'd recommend checking out our Ultimate Guide to Energy Management.