Improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings

Around 30 per cent of the average energy used in commercial buildings could be wasted, prompting action for commercial property owners to reduce hefty energy bills and their business’ impact on the environment.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems and lighting typically account for more than three-quarters of a building’s energy use. However, costs associated with all of these can be easily reduced if a business knows what it’s doing.

To reduce energy wastage, many owners of commercial buildings are investing in building management systems – ranging from automatically opening windows and closing blinds on hot days to calculating the number of occupants on a given day and adjusting the heating to take into account the warmth their bodies will generate.

New premises come with much of this innovation as standard but Gary Franklin, director at Matrix Control Solutions, an E.ON business, says older buildings are also ripe for investment in energy and cost savings. This could reduce their energy consumption by up to 60 per cent.

He said: “New buildings are constructed to certain statutory environmental requirements and procedures, such as BREEAM and BIM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method and Building Information Modelling), two processes for managing information during and after construction and old buildings were not.

“That means there are a lot of old buildings where we can make big energy savings and create a return on investment really quickly.

“There are lots of these quick wins right now for energy efficiency in terms of simple software changes for heating and cooling, but in the medium to long-term the next big change for businesses will be in getting all of the building’s systems working together according to real time, and we’re starting to do that right now.”

While installing new technology is an expense, the payoff can be seen in many areas beyond just energy efficiency, with smarter lighting and windows boosting security, better environmental controls making life more comfortable for staff or automated off switches increasing the lifespan of equipment that simply doesn’t need to run at all hours.

Today’s building management systems work with many different sensors all over a building to warn of the need for preventative repairs before equipment fails and causes costly damage, or alerting that an inappropriate key card has been used to try and access a restricted area.

Since power prices fluctuate throughout the day, buildings that are equipped with onsite generation from wind, solar or their own power plants can adjust when and how much additional power they buy from the grid.

Also, due to the National Grid operating a demand-response programme, participants are incentivised to reduce their purchases of grid-sourced power when national power supplies are tight. When this occurs, a building’s building management system can either reduce energy consumption by operating certain equipment at other times, or switch to onsite generation.

Building management systems are also convenient for operators and maintenance contractors for businesses that have many premises. Office complexes, hospitals, universities and schools can integrate all of their systems and allow an operator to monitor the entire facility from a single source.

Inteb reassures that smart meters are not compulsory

Reassurances have been given by Inteb Managed Services that the installation of a smart meter is not compulsory for energy consumers.

Following concerns issued nationally by Citizens Advice that some customers have been told the meters are a legal requirement, Inteb’s commercial director Raja Khan explained: “Smart meters are not compulsory; it’s entirely the consumers’ choice.

“The government requires energy suppliers to offer smart meters to all homes and small businesses across Great Britain by 2020, but whether you accept them is completely up to you.”

Citizens Advice has claimed that some energy companies have sent messages to consumers by email, letters, texts and phone calls warning they must comply with smart metering legislation.

The organisation’s Victoria McGregor reiterated: “Smart meters are not compulsory and customers shouldn’t feel pressured to have one installed.”

The government’s smart meter programme is continuing to roll with almost five million new meters now operating in the UK. But there’s a long way to go as there are more than 26 million homes for energy suppliers to get to, with the goal of every home having a smart meter by 2020.

Smart meters put consumers in control of their energy use, allowing them to adopt energy efficiency measures that can help save money on energy bills and offset price increases.

They are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and offer a range of intelligent functions. For example, they can show how much energy is being used through an in-home display and they communicate directly with the energy supplier, meaning there will be an end to visits by meter readers to your premises.

More than four in five people who have a smart meter say they would recommend one and they are being installed across the country, at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters – including pre-pay key meters. They will give consumers more control over energy use and help them to understand bills and the energy system.

What do smart meters do?

A smart meter sends automatic meter readings directly to the energy supplier, resulting in accurate bills, an end to estimates and manual meter readings. The in-home display is a portable device which shows how much energy is being used and what it’s costing in pounds and pence, in near real time. Both smart meter and display will be installed by the energy supplier at no extra cost.

How do smart meters work?

The smart meter measures how much gas and electricity being used and shares this directly and securely with the energy supplier and the in-home display, using wireless technology. You won’t have to take any meter readings manually – the smart meter will send automatic readings to the energy supplier via a secure national network which is solely for smart meters. This works in the same way as other wireless systems like car remote keys or TVs, using radio waves. Though it is a wireless system, you don’t need Wi-Fi for it to work and the meter won’t use your Wi-Fi if you do have it.

How accurate are smart meters?

Smart meters are as accurate as traditional meters. By law, all smart meters have to be certified by the National Measurement Office to prove their accuracy but if you do think there’s a fault, it can be reported to the Energy Ombudsman.

Is a broadband connection necessary to use a smart meter?

No – smart meters use an entirely separate, bespoke wireless system.

Who can access my smart meter data and how is it used?

Only the supplier, and they won’t share any of it without permission. The meter will keep your data secure. Depending on how often you agree to share it with your supplier, the smart meter will send half-hourly, daily or monthly meter readings. You can change your preference for how often you share this information at any point by getting in contact with your supplier directly. The energy supplier may also use this information to provide tailored energy efficiency advice and improve the service they provide for you.

How can a smart meter save money?

Using the information shown on the in-home display should be able to help cut energy costs. Smart meters also mean accurate bills, consumers only paying for what has actually been used rather than overpaying, as sometimes happens with estimates.

Can a smart meter help with energy efficiency?

Smart meters make it easier to identify situations where a lot of energy is being used and where consumers might want to make changes to reduce it. They are also a crucial step towards the development of the smart grid, a new way of running our energy network. Energy suppliers will be better equipped to plan and manage the country’s electricity and gas and match supply and demand. Also, smart appliances will be able to interact with smart meter systems to help save energy – for example, setting the dishwasher to come on when electricity is cheapest or by getting a text message if the heating has been left on on by mistake.

Energy firms told to boost cyber security

Energy firms could be fined up to £17m if they fail to have robust safeguards in place against cyber attacks.

New regulators will be able to assess critical industries to make sure plans are as robust as possible.

A simple, straightforward reporting system will be set up to make it easy to report cyber breaches and IT failures so they can be quickly identified and acted upon.

This will ensure UK operators in electricity, transport, water, energy, transport, health and digital infrastructure are prepared to deal with the increasing numbers of cyber threats.

It will also cover other threats affecting IT such as power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards. Under the new measures, recent cyber breaches such as WannaCry and high profile systems failures would be covered by the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive.

These incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “We are setting out new and robust cyber security measures to help ensure the UK is the safest place in the world to live and be online.

“We want our essential services and infrastructure to be primed and ready to tackle cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to services. I encourage all public and private operators in these essential sectors to take action now and consult NCSC’s advice on how they can improve their cyber security.”

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the UK’s centre of cyber excellence established in 2017, has published detailed guidance on the security measures to help organisations comply. These are based around 14 key principles set out in our consultation and government response and are aligned with existing cyber security standards.

National Cyber Security Centre chief executive Ciaran Martin said: “Our new guidance will give clear advice on what organisations need to do to implement essential cyber security measures. Network and information systems give critical support to everyday activities so it is absolutely vital that they are as secure as possible.”

The new measures follow the consultation held last year by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport seeking views from industry on how to implement the NIS Directive from May 10 2018.

Fines would be a last resort and will not apply to operators which have assessed the risks adequately, taken appropriate security measures and engaged with regulators but still suffered an attack.

Penalties will be fixed at a maximum of £17m and the new legislation will be made clearer for companies to know whether they have to comply with the NIS Directive.

The NIS Directive is an important part of the Government’s five-year £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy to protect the nation from cyber threats and make the UK the safest place to live and work online. It will ensure essential service operators are taking the necessary action to protect their IT systems.

Source: Network

American-style freezers could be wasting energy

American-style side-by-side fridge-freezers could cost more than three times as much as a conventional standalone unit to run.

These are the findings from an appliance advice group which suggests this type of appliance is becoming increasingly common among the 19 million fridge-freezers being used in the UK.

The group at collected data on 70 side-by-side models. They found their annual running costs was nearly triple the cost of running the most efficient traditional-style free-standing options available.

The main reason for the energy usage being so different is because the compressor in American-style units is positioned close to the freezer compartment. As it gets hot, the freezer has to work harder to stay cold.

Stewart Muir, product manager at the Energy Saving Trust, said: “American-style fridge-freezers have been growing in popularity but, in some cases, the cost of running these fridge-freezers can be significantly more than that of efficient, free-standing fridge freezers.

“In fact, the lifetime running cost of an A+ rated American-style fridge freezer can be as much as £350 more than a smaller A+++ rated freestanding unit – almost enough to buy a second fridge freezer.”

Home owners may be forced to upgrade their poorly insulated homes before selling

The owners of more than a million poorly insulated homes may be forced to upgrade them before they can be sold to help to meet the government’s climate change targets.

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on the targets, is calling for urgent action to reduce the amount of energy wasted in homes. It says in a report that government policies set out last year in the clean growth strategy are inadequate to meet the UK’s legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It wants the government to try to give homeowners incentives to invest in better insulation but to make it compulsory if take-up is low. The incentives could include low-interest-rate loans or discounts on stamp duty if a home is upgraded soon after being sold.

The policy would apply to at least 1.2 million homes that are in the bottom two bands, F and G, for energy efficiency. Owners would be required to upgrade them to at least band E.

Heating a band G property can cost more than £1,000 a year more than a band E home. The government is already targeting landlords who rent band F and G homes, requiring them to spend £2,500 on energy efficiency measures.

David Joffe, the committee’s head of carbon budgets, said that it was best to target properties being sold because they were often upgraded at that time anyway.

The cost of improvements ranges from £300 for loft insulation to £14,000 for external wall insulation for older properties built without cavity walls.

The committee also calls for tougher energy efficiency standards for new homes and says that some have been poorly built and use more energy than the housebuilders claim.

In addition, the committee calls for 55 million trees to be planted in England by 2025, five times more than the government has pledged to plant by 2020, to help to suck carbon from the atmosphere as well as reduce the risk from flooding linked to climate change.

It says 60 per cent of new cars and vans should be electric by 2030, compared with less than 5 per cent now.

Electric cars ‘could save’ Ellesmere Port factory

Ministers have been asked to come up with plans to secure the future of the Vauxhall car plant at Ellesmere Port and to promote it as a factory in the vanguard of the electric vehicle revolution.

The future of the Cheshire factory, home of the Vauxhall Astra, has been in doubt since it, along with the rest of the Opel Vauxhall assets in Europe owned by General Motors, was sold to Groupe PSA, the Peugeot and Citroën carmaker. Ellesmere Port’s prospects worsened in the autumn when PSA cut a shift and laid off 400 workers, about a quarter of the labour force.

Justin Madders, the local MP, has pleaded with the government to team up with the motor industry to put together a plan to save the facility.

Ellesmere Port has been one of Britain’s most important car factories over the past 60 years. At its height in the 1970s it employed 12,000 workers.

Groupe PSA employs 180,000 people, many of them in factories in its native France, and has annual revenues of more than €50 billion. It stopped making cars in Britain more than a decade ago and has declined to commit itself to keeping Ellesmere Port open, especially as Astras are also made at a factory in Poland.

Carlos Tavares, PSA’s chief executive, has said that he would be determining the future of Ellesmere Port around now, imploring the British government to clarify its transitional arrangements for the country’s departure from the European Union. Mr Tavares has to make a decision soon because the latest generation Astra is halfway through its seven-year model life cycle and the company needs to plan now on investment from 2021.

Mr Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said that the Local Enterprise Partnership had been working hard to persuade PSA to keep the plant open, but that the time had come for Downing Street to intervene.

He said: “We have been trying to persuade government to bring forward financial incentives.”
He said that the factory could be promoted as a home for Vauxhall, Peugeot or Citroën cars being developed for the hybrid or electric market and added: “There is plenty of money being made available [by the Treasury] for electric vehicles, but that focus has been on investment in charging points or on research and development. We are making the argument that this money should be made available for manufacturing, too.”

Source: The Times

Green Christmas adds to Britain’s record year for power generation

New figures show that on top of a record breaking year for power generation, Christmas Day 2017 was the greenest ever.

According to analysis of Electric Insights data by researchers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with Drax, 2017 was also on course to be the cleanest year for electricity generation.

On Christmas Day carbon emissions from power generation were just 142g/kWh – more than 10 per cent lower than on December 25, 2016.

Gas generators provided over 30 per cent of the required capacity and coal provided just 1.4 per cent on Christmas Day, compared to 17.9 per cent for gas and 7.1 per cent for coal in 2016.

Dr Iain Staffell, of Imperial College London, said: “This was achieved in spite of generation from renewables being lower than on Christmas Day last year, mainly due to the continued reduction in coal over this year, being swapped for gas power stations.”

The low carbon Christmas comes after a whole host of renewables records were broken throughout the year and with much less coal on the system, helping to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions by around half of what they were five years ago.

Dr Staffell explained: “The carbon intensity of Britain’s electricity halved between 2012 and 2016 and we think that by New Year the 2017 figure will be at least another 10 per cent lower than last year’s record. This means the average British household produced 100kg less CO2 this year than they did last year without having to lift a finger, all the changes are being made ‘behind the scenes’.”

Electric Insights data also shows that January 17, 2017 was the “dirtiest” day of the year, with carbon intensity reaching 398g CO2/kWh. Despite this, Britain’s carbon emissions have fallen sharply as renewables records were broken throughout the year.

Dr Staffell added: “Several real milestones were reached by renewable electricity throughout 2017 – we set a new record in March for renewable generation, which was then broken again in June.

“it helped that wind speeds were relatively high during the year so wind farm output was up by around one third compared to last year. Also, electricity demand was a little lower, meaning that renewable output formed a bigger part of the mix.”

Source: Network

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) – the countdown is on!

The countdown is well and truly on for landlords to comply with new legal standards for minimum energy efficiency in commercial and residential privately-rented properties. The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) will come into force in England and Wales from April this year.

From this date it will be unlawful to grant new leases, or renew tenant leases, of residential or commercial property with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of less than E unless registered as an exemption.

In practice, this will mean that landlords renting any property from April with an EPC rating of F or G will need to carry out works to improve the energy performance rating to E or above. Failure to do so can result in a hefty fine as local authorities will be able to impose civil penalties for non-compliance based on the property’s rateable value.

The penalty for renting out a property for a period of fewer than three months in breach of MEES regulations will be equivalent to 10 per cent of the property’s rateable value, subject to a minimum penalty of £5,000 and a maximum of £50,000. After three months, the penalty rises to 20 per cent of the rateable value, with a minimum penalty of £10,000 and a maximum of £150,000.


Crucially, landlords can also be further hit financially if they do not meet MEES regulations due to a loss of income while they are unable to legally let their property. Solicitors acting for both landlords and tenants will not be able to complete property transactions on F or G rated properties.

It is currently estimated that 18 per cent of commercial properties hold the lowest EPC ratings of F or G.

Urging landlords to take action now in order to minimise any risk, Raja Khan, commercial director at Inteb Managed Services, said: “A huge number of properties in England and Wales could be taken off the lettings market because they fail to meet these new minimum energy performance standards.

“Many landlords may not even know their property’s energy rating, despite needing an EPC by law, so it is vital they take immediate steps to avoid non-compliance and the possibility of not being able to grant new leases or renew existing ones.

He added: “It is important that landlords who are not sure whether this affects them or not – and therefore don’t have a strategy in place – get immediate professional advice.”

Inteb Managed Services, as a specialist energy services provider, has helped many of its landlord/managing agent clients prepare for MEES. If you need any information or need assistance, please get in touch with Suzanne Roberts on 079830 20402 or email to discuss your organisation’s needs.

Other key dates:

  • April 2020: MEES will be extended to apply to ALL residential lettings, both new AND existing.
  • April 2023: MEES will apply to ALL existing commercial leases. All PRS properties will need to meet the minimum standard or be register as an exemption.
  • 2025: Properties will need to be brought up to an energy efficiency of D or above.
  • 2030: Minimum target of all rental properties to be at least a C energy efficiency rating.

How green is Britain’s record on renewable energy supply?

As one of the UK’s renewable energy chiefs has pointed out, electric cars won’t tackle climate change if they run off fossil fuels. Matthew Wright, managing director of Dong Energy UK, said that although plug-in cars could cut local air pollution, it would be a “pyrrhic victory” if they increased greenhouse gases from coal and gas power stations.

“The fit between renewable energy and electric is a natural one”, he argued. E.ON, one of the big-six energy suppliers, agrees: its dedicated new electric car tariff is supplied with 100 per cent renewable power.

Put simply, the greener the electricity mix, the greener your electric car. Today, around half of power generated in the UK comes from low-carbon sources. Here’s how that breaks down, and how it might look in the future.


Nearly a third of the UK’s electricity between April and June was generated from renewable sources – a new record – and up a quarter on the same period last year. The milestone was driven in large part by the growing number of wind farms on land and around the UK’s coast. It also helped that wind speeds were relatively high and overall electricity generation was lower than normal. The records have continued into autumn.

Offshore wind farms have been making headlines as well as power, securing record low levels of state support in a government auction last month. Three major offshore farms will be built in the early 2020s for a subsidy price well below nuclear, and half what the technology cost just a few years ago.

The UK has more offshore wind power capacity than any other country in the world and is helping set records in Europe too. Recently Europe generated a new high of 263 gigawatt hours of power from offshore turbines, 95GWh of which came from the UK.

Some industry-watchers think that offshore wind farms, where larger and more efficient turbines are driving costs down fast, could become so cheap that they eventually outcompete their onshore counterparts in Britain too. But for now, those on land still provide 50 per cent more power than those at sea.


The number of solar panels in the UK grew at a dizzying rate between 2011 and 2016 and now provide a significant source of power in the middle of the day. Solar is a large reason the national grid went without coal power for 24 hours in April, the first time the UK had done without the dirty fuel for a day since the industrial revolution. For one brief period on a Friday in May, solar even eclipsed the UK’s eight nuclear power stations for electricity generation.

However, the outlook for the next five years is cloudier. Experts forecast the amount of solar installed will be a fifth of the capacity fitted in the past five years.


Nuclear power stations usually provide between a fifth and a quarter of the UK’s power, taking a 23.6 per cent share during April and June. EDF, which is building Britain’s first new nuclear station in decades at Hinkley Point in Somerset, thinks that by 2035 nuclear’s share should grow to around a third of UK power supply.

In the French state-owned firm’s vision of the future, another third will come from renewables and the last third from gas. Together, EDF sees the three as the best way of achieving reliable, affordable and low-carbon power.

But seven of the UK’s eight existing nuclear power stations, which began generating electricity in the 1970s and 1980s, are expected to come off the grid late next decade. That means for atomic power to supply a third of the UK’s needs, Hinkley Point C will need to be finished on time and three more plants of a similar size will need to be built. One of those could be by EDF itself, at Sizewell in Suffolk, if it can build the reactors for a subsidy price low enough that the government would agree it.

EDF is also supporting a Chinese nuclear company, CGN, which is at the start of a four-year process to get regulatory approval for a plant at Bradwell in Essex. Other international consortia are hoping to build a plant at Wylfa in Wales and Moorside in Cumbria.


Although environmentalists dispute the idea that wood-burning is green at all, it is still officially considered low-carbon by the UK and EU. The UK’s biggest power station, Drax in North Yorkshire, has already converted three of its six units from coal to biomass, and is exploring switching a fourth.

Later this year, an old coal power plant at Lynemouth in Northumberland is also slated to reopen as a biomass power station.

Source: The Guardian

Energy price rise fears over gas supply issues

Concerns have been voiced over the security of the UK’s energy supplies after a series of setbacks saw the price of gas rise sharply on wholesale markets.

Discovery of a crack in the Forties pipeline, which carries gas from the North Sea, was followed by an explosion at an Austrian distribution site which affected supplies from the continent.

Wholesale gas prices soared by 50 per cent over the course of 24 hours, pushing up costs to their highest level for six years although they have since fallen back amid warmer weather.

Massimo Di-Odoardo, an industry analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said: “The European gas market seems to be going through a perfect storm.”

Analysts at investment bank Jefferies pointed out in a research note: “The timing of the outage could not be much worse as winter weather is just materialising.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, a Conservative MP and member of the House of Commons’ Business and Energy Select Committee, said energy companies would have bought gas and oil six months in advance and called on suppliers not to raise prices for consumers.

The Forties pipeline, which has been shut for repairs, also carries oil from North Sea fields, leading to fears of price increases at filling stations by as much as 3p per litre before Christmas.

The UK is due to receive its first direct supplies of gas from Russia next week in the wake of the Forties closure. The LNG shipment is due to land at the Isle of Grain terminal in Kent on December 28.

Stuart Fegan, national officer for energy at the GMB trade union, said: “Once again we see the folly of leaving our energy needs in the hands of foreign governments and companies. Unless we shore up our own energy security, we leave ourselves at the whims of dictators, despots and unpredictable hikes in wholesale prices.

“At the same time, to make sure we can keep the lights on, the UK needs a balanced energy mix including nuclear, renewables and the necessary exploration of onshore shale gas wells.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of environmental group Food and Water Watch, said the Austrian explosion and Forties shutdown “shows Europe’s true vulnerability – it’s strong and systemic fossil fuel addiction”.

He added: “The only way to gain its independence and to guarantee access to abundant clean energy for Europe’s citizens is to swiftly move off of fossil fuels and finally put major investment and public money into 100 per cent renewables and energy efficiency measures.”
Source: SmartestEnergy