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Commercial building owners are missing out on ‘easy energy savings’

Despite growing concern about energy costs, thousands of commercial and residential building owners are missing out on straightforward, low-cost ways to improve energy efficiency, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). 

The Association says that turning down thermostats and heating flow temperatures, having boilers and other plant serviced, improving insulation, and replacing inefficient lightbulbs with LEDs are all quick and easy measures that are not being widely adopted.

It welcomed the government’s announcement of a ‘public information campaign’ designed to help people cut their energy use by 15 per cent this winter and the Chancellor’s announcement of an additional £6 billion from 2025 for energy efficiency measures in his autumn statement. However, BESA said “more ambitious” financial incentives and policy measures would also be needed to deliver the scale of building upgrades required to properly address energy costs and climate change. 

It highlighted new research from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) which found that UK businesses and homeowners were missing out on over £3 billion worth of savings every year due to lack of energy efficiency awareness and financial incentives. 

The ‘Powering Energy Efficiency’ report published in collaboration with the pump manufacturer Grundfos found that 14 per cent of businesses have either never had a boiler service or have not had one in the last five years, despite three-quarters of business owners saying they wanted to make their heating system energy efficient. Twenty per cent of business owners admitted they had not had an energy efficiency audit for more than five years – many had never had one. 

Only 37 per cent of the 500 business owners contacted for the report said they checked their eligibility for business grants and only 32 per cent would seek advice on how to improve energy efficiency. Instead of improving building performance, some are looking to reduce overheads by cutting staff numbers and wages, with others making more people work from home. 

BESA Chief Executive David Frise commented: “It is very frustrating that businesses are considering taking such draconian steps when improving building energy performance can be done quickly by adopting a series of relatively simple and low-cost measures.

“A basic audit of your building services will identify where small improvements can make a significant difference – and many of those steps are completely free, such as adjusting flow temperatures and tweaking thermostats. Just having neglected equipment serviced is another basic step that will provide an instant return.”

BESA said the government’s information campaign would help, but more generous incentives and longer-term investment could unlock far greater savings by improving the energy efficiency of all UK buildings.

Frise added: “We need to transition away from fossil fuel use in the built environment, and to decarbonise heating and cooling. This would make our buildings more resilient to climate change and improve long-term energy security – as well as delivering fantastic economic and societal benefits for future generations.” 

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