How business can save costs through Smart energy management

Regardless of the energy supplier, significant savings can be generated by proactively managing your energy usage, says John Walsh, head of ESB’s Smart Energy Services

ESB Networks

A detailed review of a customer’s energy usage and assets onsite enables the team of engineers at ESB’s Smart Energy Service to recommend and implement a range of innovate energy solutions. Photograph: iStock


“We collaborate with large energy users - organisations who typically spend more than €0.5 million a year on energy, to help them to reduce costs and carbon emissions, saving €55 million for customers in the last 18 months,” says John Walsh, head of ESB’s Smart Energy Services.

John Walsh, head of ESB’s Smart Energy Services
John Walsh, head of ESB’s Smart Energy Services

“We work with our clients to design and develop energy projects suitable to their business and we then provide the engineers, project managers and financing that will deliver the savings for them. Our aim is to grow the energy services business over the next few years to the point where we deliver €150 million in savings for over 300 large clients in Ireland and the UK by 2020.”

At present, those clients include major organisations such as Dublin Airport Authority, Medite, BWG, Tesco, Coral Leisure and CHQ, amongst others. Our UK customers include National Trust, Manchester Metropolitan University and Ikea.

“We have worked with businesses from a variety of sectors to identify smarter and more innovative ways to reduce energy costs,” says Walsh. “Dublin Airport Authority is well on course to achieve a 33 per cent cut in its energy use by 2020, for example. We have also worked with Tesco to overhaul the energy efficiency of its stores and this has resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in the company’s energy costs across 148 locations in the Republic of Ireland in just one year.”

In addition, ESB‘s Smart Energy Services has helped Coral Leisure achieve a 25 per cent reduction in costs at its sports and recreation centres in Cork.

[To find out more about ESB’s Smart Energy Services visit esb.ie/smartenergy.]

The collaborative partnership approach is a key aspect of our service. “It is very exciting to apply new innovative technologies that deliver real energy savings for our clients. We partner with them to come up with new technologies to enable them to do the same things they are doing now but with less energy. We look at all areas including lighting, heat, electricity generation and storage to help customers use less energy, cut costs, generate new forms of revenue, and reduce their carbon emissions.”

He points to a simple example which can make a big difference. “We recently replaced some large pumps in a brewery with a more energy-efficient model which uses up to 50 per cent less electricity. This has produced very significant cost savings, whilst doing the same job.”

Another example he cites is lighting. Replacing existing lighting systems with the latest LED technology can reduce electricity consumption by up to 70 per cent, ESB can help deliver this reduction  with no upfront cost to the customer if they avail of ESB‘s Smart Energy Services’ lighting as a service offer.

We seek to install renewable energy solutions wherever possible

“We invest the capital upfront to install and maintain the new LED fixtures which generate immediate energy savings for the customer,” says Walsh. “We then share these cash savings with the customer for a defined period, typically five to seven years, during which the cost of the new fixtures is paid. After this period, the business continues to benefit from the full savings.”

The service starts with a team of engineers from ESB‘s Smart Energy Service working with the customer’s team to see how and where they use energy. “We look at what the business does, what the areas of energy consumption are, and patterns of consumption,” Walsh points out.

“After that, we have a team of analysts who use big data analytics to see where the opportunities for optimising usage lie.”

At this initial stage, the aim is to pick off what might be termed as the low-hanging fruit. “We look for quick wins early on,” Walsh adds. “One quick win is normally to optimise lighting and heating. If systems are left on at night when they are not needed it can add to costs quite considerably. This can be addressed either through the installation of smart controls or a process of engagement with staff to encourage behaviour change. The aim is to reduce consumption as fast as we can. We can typically achieve reductions of 10 to 15 per cent through staff engagement and simple process improvements at this stage. For a company spending €20 million a year on energy, that would mean an immediate saving of €2 - €3 million a year.”

Energy efficiency is just one part of the equation, however. “We seek to install renewable energy solutions wherever possible,” Walsh continues. “This can involve the installation of small or large wind turbines or solar panels on the roof of a factory. We have several customers who are using these technologies to try to create zero carbon sites.”

Battery storage is another aspect and ESB‘s Smart Energy Services is collaborating with world leader Tesla to install large batteries on customer sites. These act as back-up power supplies for the customers, improve the quality of power onsite and offer potential savings through day-time and night-time price arbitrage. The batteries which are managed with an Irish technology partner, Endeco Technologies,  can also offer flexibility to power grids increasingly dependent on intermittent renewable energy sources. When solar isn’t available at night time or when the wind drops, the batteries can supply stored power to the grid. “Our customers for this service include the National Grid in the UK and potentially Eirgrid in Ireland. Grid operators pay for flexibility services and we share that revenue with the customers whose batteries we use for that.”

Established 18 months ago, ESB’s Smart Energy Services has already helped customers in the UK and Ireland achieve over €55 million in energy savings. A business unit within ESB, Smart Energy Services provides energy reduction solutions, consultancy, project management services and the funding to deliver energy reduction projects for businesses who are large users of energy.

The company now has 35 engineers based in Ireland and a further 25 in the UK. “We are very strong in both countries and we are doing a lot of business in Scotland, the Manchester/Birmingham area, and more recently in London,” says Walsh. “We are part of ESB and we work with all large energy users in Ireland and the UK.

To find out more about ESB’s Smart Energy Services go to esb.ie/smartenergy