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Climate Emergency and the Flood of Wasted Energy

I’m delighted that the UK Parliament has declared an “Environment and Climate Emergency”. I was campaigning about climate change in the 1970s and the relationship between atmospheric carbon concentration and mean global temperature has been known since the late 1800s. Greta Thunberg is right to point out that this stuff is not new and, compared to the scale of the challenge, virtually nothing has been done.

When 4_no-plan-b-opt - Peter Hawtin - peterhI founded The Green Consultancy 27 years ago, I resolved not to let my eco-warrior persona try to guilt-trip clients into buying consultancy – on the grounds that it had no place in the commercial world and would back-fire on me – but that policy is changing.

I used to be concerned about the effect of global warming on my son and potential grandchildren. Now I’m also concerned about what effect it will have on me in what remains of my lifetime.

The fact that (ignoring shipping, air travel and exported manufacturing) the UK has done more than most countries to reduce carbon emissions doesn’t begin to “cut it”. The overall lack of ambition, nationally and internationally, has been pathetic. Ignorance doesn’t excuse this but, in part, it explains it.

Yes, there are technological changes that, with massive investment on a global scale, can make a substantial difference but what about all the energy invisibly flooding to waste almost everywhere? Waste in the water supply system is well known and for example, Ofwat is notorious for failing to force the supply companies to reduce leaks much faster.

Energy doesn’t visibly make the ground wet but invisibly drives up atmospheric carbon, air pollution and costs. In most organisations, energy isn’t effectively managed at all and the resulting waste isn’t quantified by government.

Many organisations with energy managers are not much better. Some say that they “have picked all the low-hanging fruit” when in reality they don’t have the resources to fully look for it. This is not helped by the fact that most either don’t have a monitoring and targeting system or have systems that aren’t used properly. Even many universities fall into those categories.

The biggest cause of waste is poor or non-existent control, which can be resolved partly through technology but in the main through behaviour change. Even the best designed and run building management systems waste 10% of the energy that they control and 30-50% waste is far more common. For the causes and advice see: here.

The next greatest cause is the oversizing of plant – and I don’t mean by just a few percent! I mean hundreds or thousands of percent – and all types of plant: boilers, chillers, CHP, transformers, etc. Such plant can never run efficiently.

In most cases, system design is far from optimised. We have recently redesigned a university’s district heating system and energy savings of 70% are expected. Another such system included a one megawatt wood-chip boiler which collected government subsidy whilst wasting most of the heat generated.

I am delighted that the climate emergency message is finally hitting the headlines, and I am encouraged by the sheer size of the energy savings that can still be made by UK businesses. But, I fear that free market motivators will not be enough by themselves to drive behaviour change in those businesses. I will remain hopeful that the Government’s declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency will be followed by legislative change to ensure that energy savings opportunities are not only identified, but also delivered.

To discuss how The Green Consultancy can help your organisation save energy and costs, call John Treble on 01761 419081, or email John@GreenConsultancy.com

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Lancaster University

District Heating System Feasibility Studies for Lancaster University

"I have been consistently impressed by the level of skill, understanding and capabilities of The Green Consultancy. They have delivered a very insightful BMS health check, and subsequently a very thorough and robust set of proposals for our district heating system which helps make the system fit for the next 50 years. I look forward to continuing to work with The Green Consultancy, as we move to a low carbon future."

Jan Bastiaans, Energy Manager

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Fire Protection Company

“The Green Consultancy’s Audit was just what we needed and pointed us clearly in the right direction. The reduction in energy consumption is significant and the payback has been excellent. We are looking forward to working with the Green Consultancy to establish our next set of priorities”.

Environment, Health and Safety Co-ordinator

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