Your business guide to energy efficiency in SMEs.

20240108 E.ON Next blog image Your business guide to energy efficiency in SMEs

Energy efficiency for small businesses.

Energy efficiency is a hot topic for UK SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), with 80% already taking action1. We understand that energy is a significant cost in the day to day running of almost every business. By reducing workplace energy use and investing in energy efficient business solutions your company could reduce your energy bills and enjoy greater profitability2.

And that’s not all. Interest in sustainable businesses is growing among SME customers3.

To help you get a head start boosting your business energy efficiency, we’ve put together insights and advice tailored to a range of SME industries. Check it out and see how you could evolve your business energy.

Preparing a tailored energy efficiency strategy.

Before diving into industry-specific advice, let’s cover the simple preparations every business can make to kickstart a new energy efficiency strategy.

First up, we're talking energy audits – the foundation of a savvy energy strategy. Think of it as a business energy ‘health check’. Despite the interest in taking action, most small businesses have never calculated their carbon footprint4. By conducting an energy audit, including your carbon footprint, you can identify areas that are draining your energy, as well as opportunities to boost your energy efficiency and carbon-cutting credentials. So go grab a coffee, crunch those numbers, and pinpoint where your energy game can move up a level.

Now you're armed with the right information, it’s time to set a defined energy strategy.

Fancy a helping hand? Try installing a smart meter – a trusty sidekick to help you understand your business’ energy consumption. Smart meters allow you to monitor your energy use and set goals to keep your new energy strategy on track.

The final step in preparing to take action is cultivating a culture of sustainability within your team. Surprisingly, less than two-thirds of SMEs have an active workplace energy policy5. However, without getting the team informed and on board, making changes will be an uphill battle. So, rally the troops, spread the word, and establish some guidelines. Get the whole team involved, because saving energy and reducing emissions is a collective effort that benefits everyone.

Taking action to boost energy efficiency.

SMEs in residential properties.

Such as: Dentist surgeries, hairdressers, and law firms.

For SMEs operating in residential properties, simple yet effective actions can have a significant impact. 

Smarter habits. Put your smart meter to good use by encouraging simple behavioural changes to avoid unnecessary energy use. From switching off lights and plugs, to only boiling the water you need when making a coffee - every little bit makes a difference. And with your trusty smart meter you can see the results in real time.

Efficient appliances. Freshen up the break room by upgrading to energy efficient appliances. Many appliances come with a handy appliance rating to help you understand how much energy they use. Whilst the upfront cost may be higher, depending on the lifespan of the appliance it can still be more cost-effective to invest in a more efficient device.

Laptop vs desktop. Try setting up colleagues with laptops instead of desktops as they are less power hungry, which saves on energy6. They also improve the flexibility of your workforce, making it easier to travel or work from home. Just be sure any devices are switched off at the end of the day, as they still use power on standby.

Reduce heat waste. The average workplace uses 40% of energy on heating7. So, it’s a great idea to look for simple improvements that could help you get more out of your heating system and reduce your energy use:

  • Check for drafts and seal them off to prevent heat loss. 

  • Ensure windows are closed when the heating is on (and vice versa in the summer if you use air conditioning). 

  • Program the thermostat for working hours to optimise your heating routine. 

  • Consider increasing insulation in the property. It is recommended to have at least 270mm of roof insulation8, and you may want to install wall and floor installation too.

SMEs in commercial properties.

Such as: Retail stores, offices, and warehouses.

While many SMEs in commercial properties would benefit from the actions advised above for residential properties - there are some great additions that could really boost those savings.

Upgrade your lighting. Larger commercial properties require a significant amount of lighting, which can really add up over time. Switch from halogen to LED lighting and see cost savings in under 3 years on average9. LED tubes are also a great energy-saving alternative to fluorescent lighting10. It’s worth paying particular attention to any lighting that is on for extended periods - such as signs, outdoor lighting, and areas that are operational 24/7.

Get smart about building management. Managing a commercial property can be a tough task, so investing in smart devices may help make energy saving more achievable. Smart plugs and smart lighting can be controlled remotely via an app to switch off the entire building with one click. Lighting sensors are another great option where spaces are used sporadically throughout the day, so that you are only lighting rooms in use. Plus, smart thermostats allow for room by room control, enabling fine tuned optimisation of heating timers to suit your business. 

Modernise your heating. If your SME owns their own commercial property, you may also want to consider investing in a more efficient heating system. Old boilers are often much less efficient than modern condensing boilers11 - meaning a significant amount of the heat you are paying for is being wasted. It may also be an option to replace your boiler with a heat pump. Not only are they energy efficient but they could significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to a gas boiler12.

SMEs in the construction and manufacturing sector.

Such as: Commercial printing, production of goods, and construction sites.

Manufacturing is one of the most energy intensive UK industries13, with a reliance on heavy machinery and power hungry production processes. Businesses working within manufacturing and construction often benefit from special consideration to help improve energy efficiency. 

Refine and upgrade key equipment and processes. Unlike many other industries, it is not always possible to significantly reduce day-to-day energy consumption in manufacturing. Many of the largest energy drains are necessary functions of the business. However, it is always worth auditing your energy use to ensure the business is not wasting energy and money running intensive processes and equipment when they aren’t needed. Try to optimise workflows to maximise productivity during operational hours - you may even be able to reduce the time machinery is active throughout the day. Plus, make sure to consider energy efficiency when investing in new equipment, as the reduced running costs should lead to greater savings on your energy bill for high consumers.

Generate power on-site. As energy is no doubt a major cost for SMEs in this sector, investing in long-term energy solutions is also well worth considering. On-site renewable generation, such as solar panel installations or wind turbines, enables businesses to produce and use their own electricity - reducing energy bills.

But that’s not all. Installing on-site generation also improves energy security by providing an alternative supply of electricity in the event of a power cut. In some cases this can prevent costly stalls in production and improve safety as a failsafe for critical processes. Particularly when combined with battery storage solutions.

Even better, 100% renewable generation could dramatically improve your business’ sustainability credentials by contributing to the UK renewable energy transition.

SMEs in the transport sector.

Such as: Taxi companies, driving instruction, and delivery services.

Transport is the second highest consumer of energy in the UK, ahead of industry as a whole14. Although, this is the result of a combination of commercial, public and private transport - not just the transport industry itself. SMEs operating in the transport sector, or any business which runs its own vehicles, could benefit from some unique energy adaptations to help improve efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.

Drive electric. Whether your SME is running a single delivery van or a whole fleet of taxis - switching to electric vehicles could help to future-proof your business. The government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 203515, as part of efforts to phase out fossil fuels. One of the biggest benefits of making the switch is the ability to install EV chargers on site for convenient recharging - so you can start every day at full power. Plus, for retail SMEs, installing a public charge point could help attract new business by being a handy pitstop for EV drivers. Learn more about the benefits of EV charging.

Fuel efficient driving. If going electric isn’t an option right now, you can still improve your energy efficiency with fuel efficient driving techniques. Train your drivers on best driving practices to save on fuel. 

  • Slow and steady. High speeds use much more fuel than driving at lower speeds16. Plus, by anticipating situations as far ahead as possible, you can avoid unnecessary braking and accelerating, which also helps conserve fuel17.

  • Step off it. When slowing down or going down a hill remove your foot from the accelerator as early as possible whilst remaining in gear. This activates the fuel cut-off switch in most vehicles avoiding unnecessary fuel use18.

  • Get in gear. It’s more fuel efficient to shift up early when accelerating, and even skip gears when appropriate19.

Now you have the tools to take action with your own energy efficiency strategy. Make saving energy your next power move.

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Published 17/01/2024