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From energy costs to carbon emission reduction, business owners’ questions answered

Colin Bebbington, retail director, Bord Gáis Energy, explains the latest solutions that will enable customers to generate their own heat and power

At a time when most Irish businesses are hoping to make savings, anything that can deliver improvements in operational performance, create opportunities for growth and reduce energy spend is a bonus.

Bord Gáis Energy is offering a range of innovative energy management solutions to help Irish businesses do just that. Colin Bebbington, retail director at Bord Gáis Energy, explains the latest solutions in the portfolio that will enable customers to take much greater control of their energy usage and profit from new sustainable energy opportunities to help succeed through challenging times.

The reality for most businesses is that with a few small changes they can significantly reduce their energy use, generate savings and boost their brand’s reputation. For those willing to take it further they can generate a substantial return on investment.

For those reasons, they’re seeing increased interest from customers in energy saving and management solutions. These include Energy Insight which provides business managers with the intelligence they need to reduce wasted power, improve operational and energy efficiency and create a comprehensive energy strategy.

Q. What is Energy Insight?

A.  Energy Insight gives your energy-using devices the ability to talk and tell you how much energy they’re using and when, how efficiently they’re operating, and even to alert you when something is about to go wrong.

Q. How does it work?

A. Energy Insight is a network of wireless, self-powered sensors which are attached to energy-using devices in a business. They communicate with Bord Gáis Energy’s cloud-based analytics platform, PowerRadar, to deliver unique insights into energy usage allowing customers to manage and reduce energy consumption throughout their business.

Q. What benefits does it offer?

A. Energy spend is among the top three operating costs for most businesses and this will help bring it under control. The commodity cost of energy might go up over time, but the overall bill might go down as a result of reduced consumption.

A large 24/7 manufacturing plant will have machines consuming power all the time. Energy Insight can analyse power consumption at the individual machine level and highlight if one machine is using more power than the others and requires attention. Moreover, if a single machine is using a lot less power than the others it might be a case that the majority of the machines have performance issues.

Another case is a launderette. Customers typically go to the first free machine nearest the door. The business could have 15 machines with five of them not being used very often. Using Energy Insight, the owner will be able to see which machines get least use and swap around to even out machine use. Treadmills in a gym can present the same issue.

In a retail setting, groups with multiple stores can see the outliers in terms of power performance. One customer in the UK found its Oxford Street store was using far more power than others in the group and was able to identify the reasons why and make significant savings as a result.

Q. How quickly will I see the benefits?

A. Customers typically start to realise energy reduction and cost benefits within one or two billing cycles. However, benefits are often immediate as the system can alert users to energy being used at unusual times such as lights being left on in an empty office building.

Q. What kind of businesses can benefit?

A. Every kind of business stands to gain. They include manufacturing and production facilities, leisure centres and hotels, supermarkets, warehouses and distribution centres, hospitals, universities and schools, and commercial real estate.

Q. What does installation involve?

A. Installation is very simple. The non-invasive sensors are simply clamped to the power lines going into the devices you want to monitor. Hundreds of sensors can be deployed within hours. Once in place they draw their power from the cable they are clamped to meaning they are very low maintenance with no batteries to replace. The sensors connect to a bridge which uploads the data to the PowerRadar platform.

Q. Are there any other benefits?

A. Using the product means businesses can reach their sustainability goals. Every business needs to reduce energy consumption to become more sustainable and the first step to doing that is to know precisely what is being used, when and where.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

For larger businesses, Bord Gáis Energy offer Combined Heat & Power (CHP), a highly efficient source of onsite energy generation which can not only cut costs and reduce a company’s carbon footprint but also become a potential revenue earner and source of sustainable competitive advantage.

Q. What is CHP?

A. CHP is a sustainable, efficient, cost-effective, and low carbon source of energy. CHP plants generate power and heat simultaneously on the business’s own site. It is ideal for businesses who want to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Q. How does CHP reduce energy costs and carbon emissions?

A. At present, electricity is generated by power plants far away from the point of consumption. All of the heat created during the generation process is dumped as waste. In a CHP, that heat is captured for use in the building or buildings served by the plant. That in itself considerably reduces energy costs and carbon emissions. In addition, there is no loss of power between the generating plant and the user as happens in the transmission network at present.

Q. What fuel does it use?

A. At present, natural gas. However, the plants are designed to be able to use hydrogen, biogases and blends of those with natural gas. This means they are future proofed to be able to use decarbonised gases as they become available. This will further reduce carbon emissions over time.

Q. How much do they cost?

A. The cost varies with the size of the CHP plant. However, the average payback time on the investment as a result of reduced costs is between three and five years. For larger plants the payback time is typically less than three years. We also offer attractive finance packages to spread the cost over a number of years.

Q. What kind of business are they suited to?

A. Anything from a small office building right up to a major manufacturing plant and everything in between including supermarkets, leisure centres, hotels, hospitals, universities and school. Bord Gáis Energy can provide CHP plants ranging in output from 50kW to 10MW which are suitable for every size of business from small to medium enterprises right up to large scale industrial users.

Q. Do they take up a lot of space?

A. A typical CHP is not much larger than a normal plant room for a boiler in a hotel or leisure centre. We can also supply a containerised CHP which sits alongside the existing plant room. This is a plug and play solution favoured by many customers.

Q. What about operation and maintenance?

A. We offer attractive design, manufacture, operate and maintenance packages which allow the customer to enjoy all the benefits of heat and power on tap on site along with the reduced energy costs and carbon emissions while we look after everything else. Our turnkey service includes 24/7 monitoring and maintenance and customers can rest assured that the plant is running at optimal efficiency at all times.

Q. How does CHP help with sustainability?

A. Increased energy efficiency leads directly to reduced carbon emissions. In addition, our CHP is designed to be able to use decarbonised gases as they come on stream thus further lowering emissions. Furthermore, localised CHP plants have an important role to play in what is known as grid balancing. As the amount of renewable power sources on the grid increases, the possibility of them going offline due to sudden drops in wind also increases. Localised CHP can act as an important back-up for such occasions. This enables more renewables to be added to the grid as well as representing another revenue stream for customers as the grid operator will pay for this back-up capacity. CHP plants therefore have an important role to play in helping Ireland meet its 2030 climate action targets.