Seven steps to effective energy management in your organisation

Wicklow Naturally
Written by
Fri 26th August 2022

Energy management is becoming increasingly important in the business sector with rising costs and an urgent need to decarbonise our economic activity.  High energy prices along with insecurity of supply have created increasing stress on business operations since the beginning of 2022. Prices will likely come down from their peaks but it is unlikely they will ever return to previous low prices.

There is a need to rapidly decarbonise all our activities both at work and at home in order to prevent Climate Change exceeding safe thresholds with an aim to keep warming at a temperature rise of 1.5®C for preference and certainly no higher than 2®C. Reducing our use of fossil fuel based energy sources needs to be the primary focus in delivering climate action. Carbon sequestration may help in the future but only a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions now will be effective in the timescale required to act.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out an ambitions set of target to achieve decarbonisation with 475 actions listed. The primary focus is on achieving a reduction of 51% in greenhouse gas emission by 2030 and a net zero carbon economy by 2050. A rapid energy transition through efficiency and use of renewables is required.  Better management of energy can be achieved through seven steps.

  1. Create an Energy Team or for a small business the role of Energy Steward with a view to reviewing current energy usage, identifying actions that will improve energy performance and then work to implement projects, raise awareness across the business and monitor performance with the aim of constant movement towards decarbonisation of the business’s activities. SEAI provide training through their online Energy Academy
  2. An audit of energy usage will help to identify opportunity to improve performance. A simple walk through assessing energy use with analysis of bills will often find quick options for saving on spend. A professional audit will provide more detailed analysis with expert guidance on energy saving measures.  Audits range in scope and scale with smaller businesses often only needing a one day walk through of the premise to observe operations and practice along with bills analysis. Larger organisations will undertake more detailed audits including all operations and transport.  Audits can range in price depending on the size and scale of assessment with the simplest audit starting at several hundred euro.  SEAI provide a grant of €1,000 for any business that wants to undertake an audit where it  has a spend on energy above €10,000. An audit will identify all opportunities and give information on payback for measures implemented creating a pathway to action.
  3. Seek the quick wins for awareness. Financing energy performance requires attention to payback as well as cost. Usually an audit will identify a few quick wins which are either no cost or low cost. These can be quick wins so that the audit will have paid for itself in no time. Start by implementing these measures to get everyone engaged in the process of energy improvement. Payback,  how quickly a project will pay for itself will help to decide which measures should be prioritised. has some information on financial supports. Your energy supplier may also be able to provide advice and support.
  4. Energy efficiency is the first place to start when improving your energy performance. Tackle wastage first preventing heat loss or unnecessary electricity use. Address the buildings fabric to improve insulation and air tightness. Insulation should look at roofs, walls and where possible floors. Upgrading windows and doors can improve performance where older units are in place. Look at the efficiency of boilers, cooling equipment, air compressors or any other high energy use equipment. Upgrading lighting will have a quick payback and sensor controls can assist in many situations.  Putting in place plans to replace equipment with a higher spec of energy efficiency as they become obsolete can be part of the process. Efficiency savings will carry through in annual bills year after year. SEAI offer some supports for business energy efficiency measures .
  5. Renewables particularly solar are now very worthwhile investments where suitable sites exist with some businesses having very large roof space or car parking space. The cost of solar technology has decreased significantly in recent years in direct contrast to the direction of energy prices. Solar is best installed for use directly on site but there are storage options with batteries and it can also be used to charge a transport fleet.   Wind turbines have more limited scope for use due to site requirements and the size of turbine needed to achieve economies of scale for wind power. There may also be some very limited opportunities with suitable waterways to harness hydro power.
  6. Energy use in business should also consider transport and how much is spent annually on fuel. While today HGVs still don’t have practical Electric Vehicle options all other smaller vehicles are showing increased opportunity for switching to EV. The range for cars and vans is now sufficient for the daily use of most business and commercial users.  With better and faster charging infrastructure now is the time to consider EV for any vehicles being replaced.
  7. Monitoring and Awareness raising should be a continuous part of your energy programme. Awareness activity will keep staff focused on simple measures to save energy but will also empower them to bring forward their ideas for improving performance. Monitoring will help to identify any change in pattern of energy usage, particular where wastage is creeping in and will also help to identify opportunity for improving performance on an ongoing basis. A robust monitoring and evaluation will always find options to improve.

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