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Energy efficiency: the gift that keeps on giving

Taking care of the amount of energy you use makes economic and environmental sense, says the Carbon Trust’s Jeff Beyer

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By Jeff Beyer

We’re told that the best Christmas gifts are free.

So the second-best gifts must be those that have fast paybacks. If that’s the case, energy efficiency is the most cheerful present your business can receive this holiday season.

While they’re often overlooked, energy efficiency improvements are one of the safest and easiest opportunities for businesses to save money on their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint.

The context of each business is different, but the Carbon Trust has found that on average, the most profitable options have been simple behaviour changes like opening or closing windows and turning off lights (changes that are very low cost), then installing basic controls like well-programmed thermostats and lighting sensors (payback less than one year).

Next best is maintaining or replacing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment (payback less than 1.5 years), then lighting and motors (under 2-year payback). With the price of LED lights continuing to tumble, their paybacks could be just a few months depending on what they’re replacing.

That’s the surprising thing about energy efficiency: the game changes really quickly as technology advances and prices fall. So even if you had an energy audit a few years ago, it might be time for another one.

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The Carbon Trust has over a decade of experience helping businesses navigate their way through the entire energy efficiency journey.

We’ve helped over 30,000 companies identify energy efficiency opportunities, prioritise options, secure finance, buy and install equipment using accredited suppliers, and monitor and verify their success.

The results have been impressive. Organisations in the UK and elsewhere have saved £5 billion off their energy bills and over 53 million tonnes of carbon dioxide with the help of our programmes. That’s roughly as much CO2 as is absorbed by 1.7 billion Christmas trees.

Now we’re taking that experience to emerging markets.

In November, the Carbon Trust helped launch a Private Sector Energy Efficiency programme in South Africa aimed at commercial and industrial companies that replicates our proven approach to accelerating the uptake of energy efficiency improvements.

Supported by the South African Department of Energy, implemented by the National Business Initiative, and funded by the UK Department for International Development, this programme is expected to yield lifetime energy savings worth nearly £240 million while costing less than £9 million to implement over two years, and will save about 3.6 million tonnes of GHGs from the carbon-intense South Africa economy.

Saving money and carbon through energy efficiency is an opportunity that’s available to all businesses, big and small, in all countries. It might not be the hottest thing to find under your tree this Christmas, but rest assured, energy efficiency really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Jeff Beyer is a Strategy Associate, Policy and Markets at the Carbon Trust.

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