The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed the government’s £1bn decarbonisation strategy to improve the performance of industrial and commercial buildings.
However, it has called for clearer focus on energy efficiency backed by a renewed campaign to improve measuring and monitoring of “actual, real life energy use”, which it believes should underpin every decarbonisation project.
Schools, hospitals and other public buildings are at the heart of the government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which is designed to reduce carbon emissions from buildings by two thirds in 15 years. The strategy has already allocated almost £1bn to 429 retrofit projects across England and Wales and is promoting the uptake of low carbon solutions like heat pumps, solar power, and insulation.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the programme would create and support up to 80,000 jobs over the next three decades and was a serious statement of intent ahead of this year’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. He said the government would also introduce new rules for measuring the energy and carbon performance of the largest commercial and industrial buildings that could save businesses around £2bn per year in energy costs by 2030.
In the long-term, the government believes the decarbonisation plan can lead to a 90% cut in emissions by 2050 compared to 2018 levels with heavy industry expected to source 40% of its energy needs from low carbon technologies.
“The government deserves great credit for putting such an impressive programme together and giving it significant financial support,” said Emma Brooks, chair of BESA’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings group, which is a joint venture with the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA).
“However, while there are some very exciting plans for technology developments in the plan, we strongly believe that we must go back to the basics of energy efficiency first. There is still plenty of low hanging fruit to be plucked in the industrial and commercial building sector from making relatively low-cost improvements to the ‘real life’ energy performance of installed systems. If we can focus on those first that will give the programme a solid basis on which to build,” added Brooks.
Gathering actual energy consumption data – rather than projected or estimated statistics – is the key to delivering meaningful energy efficiency savings, according to BESA. Greater take up of smart metering and open source data sharing would provide building managers with a clear picture of where they can make the biggest savings and could be linked to specific technical improvements.
“Gathering data and then turning it into something useful around which building operators can build an energy and carbon reduction strategy could unlock millions of pounds in savings every year,” said BESA chief executive David Frise. “It would also move us relatively quickly and cheaply towards the government’s longer-term goals and ensure it got the best value from this significant investment.
“There is a very strong case for getting back to engineering fundamentals here. Poor energy performance of a building is usually an indicator of wider problems with its overall design and operation so there are comfort and safety implications as well.”
Frise also stressed the importance of approaching a building as a “complete system” rather than as a series of loosely connected components. Encouraging a more joined up approach with control systems driven by real-time energy data would be key to delivering the government’s carbon reduction goals, he added.