Businesses need to get that lightbulb moment to save a fortune in energy
IT'S the little things that make the difference – and changing the lightbulbs could cut energy bills by as much as 10pc a year.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) says thousands of businesses have reduced annual bills by €40m a year, with average bills dropping by as much as 20pc.
And expensive works are not always needed to reduce costs, chief executive Dr Brian Motherway says. Often it's just a question of looking at the bill.
"We have situations where a shop which is closed on a Sunday uses the same power as during the working week. Why? Because the heating is on, even though no-one is there, and all it needs is a simple timer.
"Changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs will give you an immediate saving of up to 10pc. People can also be on the wrong billing type, and we've gone into businesses and saved them thousands of euro in the first 20 minutes because they're on the wrong bill."
The authority has worked with more than 2,000 companies, ranging from small shops to large factories, to help them become more energy efficient. Doing so not only cuts businesses' costs but also helps reduce carbon emissions.
Power generation needed for the residential and commercial sector makes up 22pc of emissions, with another 15pc coming from industry and commerce.
Small businesses making simple changes can make substantial savings.
In Tuam, Co Galway, the local shopping centre reduced its energy costs by 28pc by investing in light control upgrades, conducting energy awareness for staff and installing timers on water heaters.
Last year, 160 of Ireland's largest energy users in the so-called Large Industry Energy Network – which use about 15pc of all energy – achieved savings of over €16m.
Dr Motherway says that energy efficiency is going "from niche to normal", and that there's plenty of existing technology out there.
"We know lots of solutions, and there's so much stuff which is under exploited. If a hotel has done exceptional work on lighting, why haven't others done so? There are apps to control heating, to turn on and off lights, there's controls for escalators which slow down when not in use and remote street lighting sensors.
"Six years ago no-one had heard of retrofit. We use less energy now because of efficiencies and behavioural change."
Some of the companies which have made the changes will be honoured at the SEAI's annual Sustainable Energy awards in Dublin tonight.
But what about financing the works? A new Energy Efficiency Fund with €35m from government and €35m from the private sector will be launched next year to help.
The SEAI has 25 exemplar projects ready to demonstrate how investment can result in savings. They include swimming pools, meat plants, shops and schools, with the savings used to repay the loans over time.
"I think if the fund works it will kick itself out of business," Dr Motherway says.
Some facilities companies are also funding the work. In one hospital, better lighting and heating systems were installed at no cost. The savings were used by the facilities company to claw back its investment.
So what should a small business do?
"The first thing is ring us," Dr Motherway says. "We'll help you on the phone or direct you to our website, or send someone out to you. If you've a shop, we'll send someone who'll have done 50 shops.
"We can put in devices to collect data and we've been to every type of business. If you haven't looked at your energy bills you can probably save 20pc overnight – the average of our 3,000 SMEs we've worked with was 11pc."