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Friday, 13 December

You Have To Know What You Do To Change What You Do

Jan Ponsford

Before you can reduce energy consumption you have to know what energy is being used, what is being wasted and where the savings are most easily made writes Jan Ponsford.

A government greenhouse gas emissions survey of the public estate in 2010, found many of the country's hospitals were amongst the worst offenders.

Things have improved since then, but there is still a lot that can be done.

Before you can reduce energy consumption you have to know what energy is being used, what is being wasted and where the savings are most easily made, by undertaking detailed evaluations across an entire estate.

Big projects like a large photo-voltaic array or a waste to energy project attract a lot of interest but it is tough for facilities managers to sell the idea that many small changes can deliver significant, guaranteed savings.

To reduce energy consumption, energy spend and carbon emissions, it is important to consider the small steps possible to improve the energy efficiency of existing, often old buildings.

 

Comprehensive evaluation is key

The evaluation of an estate needs to be detailed, consider every aspect of the energy efficiency equation and call on every source of information from half-hourly electricity bills to waste management policies. 

To establish a baseline, any evaluation also has to consider the facility’s energy spend and carbon emissions from, mechanical and electrical activities, buildings, infrastructure, land, waste, transport and workforce.

 

A good evaluation will typically focus on three distinct areas:

Power usage - consider metering and sub-metering, typically by department in healthcare facilities, where there can be a huge disparity in usage. Monitoring and benchmarking performance, comparing the in-use performance of a building to its historical energy use or that of similar healthcare facilities is crucial.

Initiatives – looking at heat recovery, use of renewables if relevant, including energy from waste, lighting systems, electrical equipment, voltage optimisation and improvements to the fabric of the building and surrounding environs.

Operational – the survey should consider the energy use awareness of the staff, the lifecycle maintenance, waste reduction strategies, procurement services, transport and ultimately the culture of the organisation – is there a shared desire to cut consumption?

 

Policies

Once it has been established who in the organisation has the day-to-day responsibility for energy consumption, purchasing and wastage, along with operational activities, the assessment can look in detail at the policies in place and the base line information needed to make recommendations.

 

Baseline information and knowledge transfer

The required information starts with the buildings, their age, construction and condition, their occupancy profile and the plans to re-develop if appropriate.

An important step of the evaluation is a thorough inspection of the building fabric and its thermal properties, along with roofs, windows, doors, flooring etc.

If no asset register is available for the mechanical and electrical systems, a thorough review of heating, ventilation, cooling and lighting systems will be needed.

The temperature and humidity set points in different locations across the estate will be critical to the overall consumption picture and will help highlight potential changes.

 

Annual savings

The problem for many hospital management teams and their facilities managers is the investment required to make the necessary changes against the estimated pay-back time.

Even a typical small Trust estate is capable of reducing energy consumption by as much 18%, with a reduction in energy spend as high as 24%.

A comprehensive evaluation combined with a committed implementation plan using the right specialist contractors ensures it is possible to achieve guaranteed savings and payback periods of under five years.

This not only cuts consumption and reduces carbon emissions but saves millions of pounds over the period. 

 

Finding the funding

How energy efficiency programmes are funded is the real stumbling block for NHS Energy Managers and Facilities Managers.

Funding options are assessed on a project specific basis, considering building type, usage, location, Trust requirements and preferences. The energy saving measures being considered will also impact the potential funding solutions.

The options usually fall into a number of categories, with the simplest perhaps the Trust capital funding the improvements. Borrowing directly from the Green Investment Bank or SALIX, which offers interest and fee free loans, are popular choices, with energy-cost savings used to pay the loan.

Salix requires NHS programmes to payback within five years and less than £120 per tonne of CO2 over the lifetime of the project. Salix funding covers over 100 energy efficient technologies including boilers, combined heat and power, LED and lighting upgrades, and heat recovery.

 

Other arrangements

Third-parties can also be involved, including ‘off-balance sheet’ options like an Energy Services Company (ESCo) agreement, a Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) arrangement, a Special Purchase Vehicles or Programme Partnership Arrangements.

For Trust managers it is all about building the Business Case for the whole project, considering:

  • Procurement and Application process with indicative timescales.

  • Compliant initiatives.

  • Levels of funding (initiatives attract differing levels of funding).

  • Risks.

  • Interest levels.

  • Payback periods.

  • Any restrictions on using different types of financing together.

  • Potential contractual or legal issues.

  • Any significant dates such as when a particular fund closes.

Experience dictates the best option is the one that offers the least risk for all stakeholders, delivers the best value, whilst meeting the Trusts’ needs and satisfy legal and statutory requirements.

 

Implementation follows evaluation

Starting with the evaluation and the baseline information, the process to implementation of the various simple changes will typically take 6-9 months.

Once the business case has been made, a tender process will follow to select the contractors experienced in delivering similar projects and guaranteeing the predicted savings and payback period.

Ideally, the project will be managed by the consultants that initially undertook the evaluation, as they will understand the organisation’s objectives, economic drivers, operational structure, existing knowledge and experience – all beneficial to the successful delivery of the project.

 

Endless

Energy efficiency projects within the healthcare sector, rarely have an end point as a lot of monitoring and verification is required to ensure targets are hit. In the fight to cut energy consumption, continual improvement through new and more affordable technologies is crucial.

Jan Ponsford, is a director at Virtus Consult, specialists in energy reduction strategies for the public sector.

Article written by Jan Ponsford

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