Driving energy efficiency

Registration for the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme closed on 30 September 2010, and its administrator the Environment Agency was one of the first to sign up. It is a new mandatory emissions scheme designed by the government to help reach our national greenhouse gas emissions targets.
    
For the first time large non-energy intensive organisations in the public and private sector, which account for about 10 per cent of UK CO2 emissions, are legally bound to closely monitor and report their emissions from energy use in preparation for buying carbon credits in 2012. The scheme will also give people and businesses the opportunity to compare organisations’ efforts in reducing energy consumption.
    
Participants successful in reducing energy consumption will not only save money on energy bills, they will also boost their environmental reputation. With the government announcing in the Spending Review that revenue from the scheme is not to be recycled, the financial incentive to cut energy bills is all the greater.

How does CRC work?
The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme will be phased in over the next three years. CRC participants are required to monitor their emissions and purchase allowances at the beginning of each reporting year for each tonne of CO2 they emit.
    
Organisations that reduce carbon emissions will save money both on their energy bills and by purchasing fewer allowances.
    
As I write in October 2010 over 90 per cent of the energy emissions expected to be captured by the scheme have been reported by those already registered, and we expect this to increase over the coming weeks as the final registrations are processed.
    
All government departments are now registered for the scheme. Examples of the public sector organisations registered include Kent County Council, Barts and the London NHS Trust, and Leeds Metropolitan University.
    
Participants will be closely monitoring their energy use in preparation for producing their annual report and buying carbon credits. More than ever before, they will be looking at where they can make significant energy savings and thinking about their organisation’s environmental impact.
    
As the Europe’s largest environmental regulator, at the Environment Agency (EA) we’ve always been aware of our environmental footprint and done what we can to minimise it. As the UK administrator of CRC, the EA is responsible for helping organisations understand their obligations under the scheme. We are also a full participant in the scheme, so it’s important for us to lead by example when it comes to reducing emissions and energy use.
    
Whilst CRC participants need to make their own decisions on how to reduce energy use, we’re sharing our experiences with others to help them make their own plans.
    
We have a dedicated internal environmental management team who are constantly looking at ways to make sure we do our work in the most environmentally sensitive way possible. We have targets in place to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, water use, waste sent to landfill and mileage that we are aiming to reach by 2015.

Measuring emissions
We measure carbon dioxide emissions of all the work we do, including emissions from buildings, travel and our operational work, such as pumping flood water and maintaining river levels. Through taking steps such as driving fewer miles and using renewable energy, we’ve cut our CO2 emissions by around 6,000 tonnes since 2007, which is a reduction of nine per cent.
    
We’ve also set up our internal innovative Carbon Reduction Fund. This takes our staff’s good suggestions to reduce emissions and makes them happen. Projects that received funding in 2009/10 include a hydropower turbine at a fish hatchery in Wales and fresh air cooling at a laboratory in Leeds.
    
It’s not always easy to reduce emissions from our operational work. If there’s a major flood we have to do everything we can to pump flood water away from people’s homes. We are, however, looking into all our pumping operations and trying to find more energy efficient ways of getting the job done.

Energy use
We’ve been working to cut our buildings’ energy use for several years now and have so far managed to cut our annual consumption by 5.4 million kWh compared to 2005/06 levels – that’s the equivalent energy use of making around 88 million cups of tea. This will save us around half a million pounds annually in energy bills.
    
All of the energy we buy to use in Environment Agency-owned buildings is supplied by a green tariff, meaning our supplier generates it from renewable sources. We are also working with landlords of buildings we rent to get them to supply electricity from green tariffs. This means that 95 per cent of our total energy supply is from renewable sources.
    
We’ve set a policy for heating and cooling our buildings, and looked at where buildings need more insulation. We’ve also installed energy-efficient lighting with intelligent controls, so they only come on when people are in the room and there isn’t enough light coming in from outside.
    
We’ve installed voltage optimisation across 39 of our buildings, with several more planned. This reduces the incoming voltage from the buildings from 240v to 220v, and as a result emissions and energy bills at these sites have fallen by around 10 per cent.

Top tips for reducing consumption
You don’t need to be a participant in CRC to see the benefits of energy efficiency. According to the Carbon Trust, just switching off unnecessary lighting can save an organisation 15 per cent on its energy bills. There are lots of ways to reduce your organisation’s energy use, ranging from simple behaviour change to investing in energy-saving technology. Here are some top tips:
1. Get the CEO/board/directors involved in plans to improve your organisation’s environmental performance
2. Set easily measurable targets that form part of your corporate performance
3. Expect and be prepared to make some investments in technology
4. Have good quality data for all your utilities and travel
5. Make sure you have the people resource available to help deliver environmental outcomes
6. Take simple steps to cut energy use wherever possible
7. Make sure your procurement considers sustainability issues
8. Engage your staff and help them help you
In the current economic climate the public sector is looking for ways to save money wherever possible, and reducing energy use can have significant financial benefits. That means there’s never been a better time to think about your organisation’s environmental impact, even if you just begin with the simplest steps.

For more information
For more information on CRC visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/crc . For more information on the Environment Agency’s environmental performance visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/aboutus