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The energy evolution

Facilities managers need to harness new technologies and innovate to improve efficiencies in energy management. We hear from an energy supplier, a consultant and a storage provider on the choices available

DEAN EWART 
MANAGING DIRECTOR, AVANTIGAS

Modern businesses work very differently now than they did just a couple of decades ago. We no longer start at 9am and shut up shop at 5pm. Hours are getting longer and more irregular as people have the flexibility to work remotely or around other obligations such as family commitments. Forward-thinking energy companies need to evolve with these changes to stay relevant, otherwise they will find they are losing their customer base to other more progressive suppliers.

Just as working arrangements are becoming more flexible, energy companies need to be more adaptable as modern managers seek energy partners available whenever they need them. Access out of normal office hours is essential to fully service the needs of today’s SMEs, and online portals are the perfect solution, allowing users to access, control and manage their accounts around the clock. To be able to see your consumption data online whenever you want is empowering, and this kind of autonomy is extremely valuable to users who are working beyond nine-to-five.

Living and working in the digital age means that consumers have access to a whole world of information that they didn’t have before, and are consequently a lot more informed. Managers and business owners are clued-up about fluctuating energy costs, consumer rights and the much discussed benefits of switching suppliers. As a result, energy companies are being forced to be more competitive and certainly more transparent. Customers will no longer tolerate inflated tariffs, convoluted pricing structures and unfair terms and conditions.

The switching revolution alone has transformed the energy marketplace. It is no longer the drawn-out and onerous task it used to be, which deterred a lot of people from taking the plunge. One simple call should be all it takes, and your new chosen supplier should do all the legwork for you – including liaising with your former provider.

Anyone looking for a new supplier should demand competitive pricing, and suppliers who do not offer this risk losing custom to other traders. Service users are refusing to accept overpriced standard or automatic default tariffs. Suppliers who want to build trust among their customers will make sure they are offering the best deal possible through flexible contracts without hiding unexpected costs or unwarranted penalties.

Technology is another example of how the average consumer is becoming more informed and demanding more from suppliers across the board. In particular, commercial consumers are more aware about the technology available on the market and how it could benefit them and their business.

Your energy company should be embracing this new technology to provide the best and most efficient service possible. Advanced meter technology, which has become more readily available in recent years, allows accurate remote readings to be taken without the need for on-location meter readings, and also eliminates the dubious art of estimated readings. Online consumption data enables users to pinpoint areas and timeframes of higher energy usage, creating a starting point to find ways of reducing consumption and bringing down the associated outgoings.

Smart meters will soon be commonplace in businesses up and down the country. Call on your supplier to explain how to make it work for your company and say farewell to the inaccurate estimates and unexpected bills.

This may sound like a lot to ask from your energy supplier, but it is an ever-changing market and suppliers can no longer be seen to baffle or flummox customers with complicated terms and conditions, taking advantage of its complex nature. As a consumer you should be able to demand these new services, and if your supplier can’t or won’t provide them, don’t hesitate to take your business somewhere that does. Take control of your energy usage and account management.

PAUL EGGLETON
COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, SUSTAINABILITY, MITIE

At Mitie Energy more and more customers are seeking help with strategies to manage rising costs and reduce energy waste. This is where a smarter approach and integrated technology can really play a part.

Since 2010 electricity costs for businesses have increased by around 90 per cent and are expected to rise by another 60 per cent by 2025. For many large industrial and commercial businesses, this is a huge challenge. For a typical large electricity user with an annual bill of £10 million, this equates to a £29 million additional cost by 2025 – and we’re seeing some larger customers facing increases close to £300 million. As an industry, from suppliers to consumers, we need to act now to limit that impact.

The only way to mitigate these price increases is to buy smarter and use less. However, there are several factors to consider when building and implementing an energy strategy, including the procurement of supply, bill validation and managing building assets.

Managing assets is an obvious place to start. This can be as simple as ensuring lights and air conditioning are turned off at the right time at night. With HVAC systems responsible for around 40 to 60 per cent of a building’s energy consumption, continuous monitoring and management can provide significant savings. However, gone are the days when the last one out the door turned off the lights. We need to be cleverer than that. This is where technology can really make a difference.

The promise of a ‘smart energy utopia’ using IoT, AI, blockchain, and battery technology may be on the horizon. Yet, as an industry, we still need to pay attention to the basics – such as helping our clients to procure energy in a way that mitigates the risk of rising prices, using economies of scale to help bring down costs.

Similarly, bill validation should be as important as adopting new technology. No one wants to overpay, yet tackling and resolving unusual bill charges is an obvious step which is all too often missed unless comprehensive monitoring is in place. Regular energy consumption reporting
also offers opportunities to continue evolving the strategy and track any changes over time.

All this is simply about being smarter, using less, and ensuring clients have the right tools and strategies in place to deliver savings. Building these foundations today will set us all on the path to smart energy utopia.

About Sarah OBeirne

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