Why better energy management is crucial in 2023 by Tim Ross, Commercial Director at Advantage Utilities
There is no denying that energy management will continue to prove indispensable for campuses looking to alleviate ongoing financial pressures this year. Fortunately, there are numerous ways that campuses can take advantage of better energy management techniques to help reduce energy consumption from the National Grid and lower bills in the process. Investing in on-site electricity generation is one key method of enabling this, as well as unleashing the potential that voltage optimisation holds for campuses and preparing the site for the continued evolution of EVs will also be crucial.
On-site generation is key to meeting your net-zero ambitions
With many campuses establishing net-zero roadmaps to action their ambitions, it is clear that having this framework in place allows campuses to best make savings on energy and reduce CO2 emissions in the process. External pressure on campuses to be environmentally aware and manage their carbon footprint has never been greater; in fact a recent survey revealed that over half of UK universities did not meet their target in reducing emissions by 43% between 2005/6 and 2020/21. As a result, we will certainly continue to see a huge uptake in demand from campuses wanting to address their Scope 1, 2 and Scope 3 emissions. On-site generation – through solar PV as well as onsite efficiency through LED lighting – holds the answer for these campuses. Given that energy sourced from the grid is not currently environmentally friendly due to the bulk origin of its generation, campuses looking to offset their emissions will be enthused by green-minded onsite generation which decreases grid consumption through onsite efficiency. This has become profoundly more affordable through enhancements in technology and optimisation of manufacturing and supply chain processes over the past decades. As a result, the typical return on investment for many technologies is just 1 to 5 years. When operations and maintenance contracts and embodied carbon have been factored in, onsite generation is largely low-cost and produces significantly less carbon dioxide.
Voltage optimisation is an easy win for your campus
Voltage optimisation provides a golden opportunity to campuses who are looking to reduce electrical spend across their estate. The technology requires no operation changes whilst cutting the electrical spend between six and twelve percent, making the technology incredibly attractive at this crucial time for campuses across the UK. The savings are made possible through matching a campus’ electricity supply to the supply voltage of their equipment, meaning energy consumption costs are lowered through a reduction in the voltage required to supply equipment. As a result of turbulent energy prices over the past 18 months, voltage optimisation also offers campuses additional security, allowing them to make indefinite gains simply through using enhanced technology.
Though the energy price cap alleviated some pressure off of campuses during the winter, campuses are now attempting to make efficiency savings given that government support is coming to an end. Voltage optimisation is therefore an excellent way to reduce the amount of voltage coming in from the national grid, which in turn lowers costs to campuses - as well as their carbon footprint. Additionally, optimising voltage to equipment across a campus can protect valuable electrical equipment which is often exposed to voltage spikes which have a devastating effect. And the cost of not having voltage optimisation equipment on site can be significant. Electrical equipment including motors, HVAC and LED lighting are all far less efficient when exposed to excessive voltage and/or poor power quality. For instance, if a 230V lamp is run at the incorrect voltage of 240V, it will fail after 550 hours instead of 1000 hours, meaning additional and unnecessary costs for your campus. Not only this, but it will draw nine percent more energy in the process which can be especially costly when magnified across every piece of electrical equipment across a site.
Aligning your energy and environmental strategies through preparing your estate for the future: the rise of electric vehicles
It is now possible for campuses to align their energy and environmental strategies through effective energy management such as reducing energy consumption via voltage optimisation. However, it also remains important for campuses to ensure their sites are prepared for the future, especially with fast-moving innovations in private transport. Last year, we witnessed the number of pure-electric cars on the UK’s roads increase to over 620,000, up from about 390,000 in 2021. Progress has been so swift that it was projected that electric cars would outsell diesel and mild hybrid diesel cars by the end of 2022.
As the government has announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, EVs will eventually replace traditional combustion engine vehicles completely. This is why it is crucial for any campus to look at how prepared their site is, with EV charge points increasingly becoming as necessary as providing parking. With a report by Deloitte estimating that there will be around seven million EVs on the UK’s roads by 2030, campuses do have an excellent opportunity at their fingertips.
Many campus estates including those at Liverpool John Moores University, the University of St. Andrews and University of Winchester have publicised their adoption of EV technology, with 17, 17 and 15 EVs charging point installed on campus grounds respectively. For those that are still considering installing EV charge points, it’s worth considering the following benefits:
Installing an EV charger on your premises will result in your campus being included on websites and apps which indicate charging facilities near to users. This exposure will be crucial in the years to come, so getting ahead and providing this technology today will allow your campus to gain a competitive advantage through an increase in the awareness of your site’s green credentials. Websites that indicate EV charge points also allow users to leave reviews which would also allow your campus to excel through forward-thinking technology and positive reviews.
Create additional revenue
Each time somebody uses an EV charge point on your site, they can pay through a variety of methods including smartphone apps, bank cards, or on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. This would not only help recoup the initial cost of installing the charge points but will also provide you with an additional revenue stream going forward.
Capitalise on tax allowances
Momentum around installing EV charge points has remained steady over the past few years. In 2019 England became the first country in the world to introduce mandatory electric car charging points for new-build homes and businesses – the rules state that there must be at least one charge point in non-residential buildings with more than 20 parking spaces. Additionally, the UK government offers the Workplace Charging Scheme which covers up to 75% of the total costs of the purchase and installation of EV charge points, capped at a maximum of £350 per socket. This demonstrates the seriousness and pertinence of these technological developments, and the super-deduction tax allowance only makes the investment even more cost-effective.
It is evident that net-zero planning is crucial when it comes to efficient energy management on campus estates. Acting on the guidance above would not only result in significant environmental benefits but would also encourage progress towards net-zero and reduce energy costs overall in the process. By exploring on-site generation, voltage optimisation and providing EV charge points, campuses can confidently minimise their energy losses, maximise their green credentials and have peace of mind that they are best prepared for the future.
About the author
Tim Ross is the Commercial Director at Advantage Utilities.