Going green is no easy task – but it is emerging as an essential one. Cutting energy was once seen as a virtuous goal that would be a nice-to-have for many organisations but, in many cases, seen as unaffordable, especially at times when businesses are worried about future economic uncertainty. But as many companies have struggled with soaring energy costs, it has become increasingly clear that reducing their organisation’s carbon footprint just makes good business sense.
Research shows that an increasing number of UK organisations see managing their gas and electricity consumption as a major concern. Nearly two-thirds of British businesses (64%) say energy is now their top business risk, with 91% saying their board is concerned about how they are dealing with this issue, according to the npower Business Energy Tracker 2023.
Until recently, businesses had some support in the face of rising energy prices through the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) for businesses. But when that programme ended in the first quarter and was replaced by a far less generous, one-year Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS), the risk to many organisations went up in the eyes of their management teams, investors, and other stakeholders. As a result, many began seeking practical ways to control and reduce rising energy costs.
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Where To Begin
To better control its energy spending, a company must first understand how much it is spending on energy consumption. This task is rarely straightforward for businesses operating across numerous properties, especially in multiple markets. More than half of the companies we at MRI Software deal with don’t have easy access to all the data they need in this area to fully grasp what is going on with their energy use.
The heart of the problem is usually the scale and complexity involved. For example, a business operating 100 buildings with, on average, 10 energy metres per site could create over 17.5 million records per year that it would have to process to get a complete and accurate picture of its energy consumption. A global enterprise might have, say, 55,000 properties that it manages worldwide, making the magnitude of processing the data much greater. It can be daunting for any company with a significant property portfolio.
The good news for these businesses is that, today, there are software tools that capture, measure, and analyse massive amounts of energy usage data – leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to do so. These AI-driven tools make it much more manageable for organisations to turn efficiency and sustainability goals into tangible insights that result in real actions.
Deciphering The Data
To harness the mass volumes of energy data any organisation generates across its property portfolio, it needs to identify where and how that information can be captured. When you look at a retail store, an office block, a hotel, a shopping centre, a medical facility, or another commercial building, you will find that sensors can be – and in many cases already are – used to track and manage footfall, air quality, desk occupancy, meeting room use, WiFi and other everyday aspects of the building use. These provide a great starting point.
The next challenge to overcome is to bring together all this data in a way that provides the business with actionable insights. Increasingly, the solution for many is to put in place technologies that automate energy data collection, compiling it into a user-friendly application for analysis and reporting – employing AI-enabled analytics that makes sense of the vast amounts of complex data being processed.
This tech-enabled approach empowers organisations to identify and combat common and often unnoticed energy wasters across their property portfolios, giving them complete visibility of energy consumption and ways to eliminate wastage.
Making Energy Management Work
Helping organisations we work with to tackle energy inefficiency this way, MRI has encountered the occasional glaring problem. For example, one retailer taking a closer look at energy consumption discovered it had been leaving on escalators connecting its four floors running 24/7 for five years. Other issues that have come to light have gone beyond energy issues. In another instance, sensors installed to track energy usage in an office meeting room discovered very high CO2 levels, explaining why staff got headaches when they met there.
On the whole, companies generally see hugely positive results in their efforts to cut energy use – and spending. For instance, in deploying energy management technology, Carlsberg UK was able to measure and understand its utility usage in a way that was not previously possible. As a result, it was able to reduce energy consumption in its brewing process by 10% – while cutting its water consumption by 10% and its effluent costs by 16%.
In another case, Apleona, a leading European real estate and facilities management company, required a centralised energy management system to report on energy consumption and carbon emissions while identifying energy conservation measures. For one typical project, the company managed to reduce energy consumption by 25% across 10 buildings and has seen similar results in others.
Looking To A Cleaner Future
For many companies, tapping technology tools to reduce carbon use and energy bills can also help them to better position themselves to comply with regulatory standards across their lease and property portfolios.
Some companies operating across large property portfolios have begun to use lease abstraction to understand how environmentally friendly and energy efficient their property portfolio is. Deploying AI-enabled contract intelligence solutions that scan and organise data from leases and other documents allows companies to quickly gather and evaluate information from hundreds or even thousands of contracts that are each often hundreds of pages long.
In one example, a managing agent handling over 2,000 leases was able to build a picture of environmental practice and compliance across all the properties it manages using an AI-powered contact intelligence solution. The company was able to benchmark its properties in areas such as energy rating and performance, waste handling and facilities, the use of sustainable materials, and other elements relating to environmentally friendly practices to create a ‘green scorecard’ for each property it manages.
Having the information at its fingertips has then enabled the managing agent to address environmental sustainability issues as and when new lease negotiations have come up. The upshot of such AI-enabled analysis is that it allows companies such as this to improve their energy use and future proof their assets and lease portfolios.
A Strategic Pillar
Energy management of usage is becoming more strategic and centralised among businesses of all types and sizes as they tap tech tools and AI capabilities to measure, monitor, analyse and manage energy consumption. The result is a clear picture of energy usage that empowers any organisation to make smarter decisions, with most seeing energy efficiency boosted by 30%.
By Richard Smith, Senior Director Energy Management Solutions, The Property Buying CompanyMRI Software