Authored by Max Kamali (Optimisation Lead), B. SC (Eng), M Eng (Energy), CEM ®, CMVP ®
Managing and reducing operational energy expenditure has always been of importance for business owners and energy users. However, during a Pandemic or any significant operational change that causes cash flow issues for businesses, energy-saving measures and energy cost reduction opportunities come to the forefront to stay financially healthy.
This is a simple guide to assist both small and large businesses to reduce their energy use and energy-related operational expenditure during these times. This guide is also applicable to any business that goes through an operational change impacting how much and how often energy is used at the premises.
Short Term Measures:
Identify and reduce energy-intensive equipment:
Whether it is your warehouse’s or showroom’s lighting, the shop’s Air-conditioning, ovens, stoves, boilers, baking equipment or a refrigerator to store fresh produce you need to know what the most significant users of electricity and gas in your premises are.
Which equipment are they? When and how often are they used? Which part of your premises do they relate to?
Assess if the equipment should be switched off or put on a reduced operation cycle:
Assess if the equipment is required to run when the operating hours are drastically reduced, or the business is closed.
- Could you set your refrigerator’s compressor cycle or its set temperature to a lower setting now that the staff or customers do not go to the cool room that often?
- Can you turn off lighting and air-conditioning for the sections of the building that is not occupied?
- Could you tighten your water taps now that facilities are not used that often?
- If you need to use air-conditioning or refrigerators, consider cleaning the filters and minimise the leakage from door gaskets and ductwork.
Try to understand your energy bills structure:
Do you have peak and off-peak rates? What are your demand rates, energy rates and daily supply rates?
- Can you shift the non-essential operation to off-peak hours to incur cheaper rates?
- Can you charge the equipment during weekends or off-peak hours?
- How can you avoid, reduce or spread energy consumption in different hours of a day to smoothen energy spikes?
Speak with your energy retailers and power authorities about your energy accounts:
If you are experiencing financial hardship, speak with your retailers or local power authorities. Your retailer and other players in the energy sector can guide you through the situation.
The retailors have hardship polices and local governments have programs and rebates that may apply to you.
If you are a large business owner, your retailer or energy consultant can liaise and negotiate with distributors and other power authorities to use for temporary measures such as temporary demand reduction applications.
If you are a small business owner and do not require your water, gas or electricity supply for an extended period, you may be better off closing your accounts to avoid daily supply and service charges.
Search your local government websites for their relief measure and the industry’s plans to respond to the Pandemic. You can start your search using the below links.
Government measures and announcements:
- Energy sector response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Victoria Safety net for Victorians suffering energy bill stress & COVID-19 business grants (VIC)
- SA https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/
- TAS Energy consumers protected (TAS)
- NSW Grants, loans and financial assistance (NSW)
- NT Business Relief for Payroll, Power, Rent and Rates (NT)
- WA Energy Assistance Package (EAP) & WA Government stimulus
- ACT Initial economic survival package to support Territory Economy
- QLD Electricity Relief For Households and Businesses
- The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set reasonable expectations of energy companies to protect householders and small business customers during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- WINConnect WINConnect’s response to COVID-19 – Protecting our people and our communities.
Winconnect commercial customers are those who operate a business such as cafes, restaurants, clothing stores, markets or office spaces. There is a range of options WINconnect can offer to support commercial customers. Still, these are based on approvals from your property/centre manager and in consideration of other support measures they maybe also providing to their tenants.
For this reason, we ask that you contact either your WINconnect Commercial Account Manager or Centre Manager who will we able to offer you more information on the options available to you on a case by case basis.
Put timers, temperature sensors, motion sensors and occupancy sensors on key energy users where possible. Where possible, install automatic water taps.
Raise awareness (switch off equipment or set them to hibernate or sleep mode):
You can train your staff, operators and occupants of your buildings to switch off the equipment after use, where applicable.
- If the equipment is not used for extended hours, they should be unplugged or put in sleep or hibernate mode where possible.
- Remember, many appliances continue to use a small amount of energy even when they are turned off.
- Are your copiers, monitors and computers still on or plugged in while the office is closed.
Long Term Measures:
Upgrading your equipment to energy efficiency products is a guaranteed method of reducing your ongoing energy costs. For example:
- Can you upgrade your showroom’s lights to LED lighting?
- Can you use Variable Speed Drives for pumps and compressors?
- Can you upgrade your air conditioning equipment to more energy-efficient models?
During reduced operation hours, such as a pandemic, these initiatives could be implemented with minimal impact on the regular business operation.
On-site renewable energy generation:
Consider solar power as a method of reducing your ongoing energy consumption and expenditure.
Conduct an Energy Audit:
When was the last time your business went through an energy audit? If you haven’t completed an audit lately, consider engaging an energy auditor to identify energy losses and energy savings measures for your premises.
Sealing air ducts and adding insulation:
Check for leakages and airtightness of your windows, doors and building envelopes and pipework and improve insulation
- Can you keep the windows and doors shut when the air conditioner is running?
- Do you need to improve the duct seals?
- Do you need to replace windows?
Ongoing Energy Management Plan:
Lastly, it is worthwhile to add that any business needs a holistic energy management plan, that is why many companies employ energy managers or engage energy consultants to assist them with their long- and short-term energy and sustainability goals. Energy management is a dynamic cycle rather than a set-and-forget approach. As the new regulations, technologies and market demands and mechanisms are evolved, new initiatives and agile responses are required to stay financially healthy and operationally efficient.
The whole world has faced unprecedented challenges during this Pandemic. As with the health aspect of this pandemic, people and businesses need to follow specific precautionary measures for energy wellbeing and financial stability.
At WINconnect, the health and safety of our people and our communities are our number one priority in this unprecedented event we are facing.
To assist you in accessing the help and support necessary during a time when many are facing hardship, we have put together our COVID-19 Community Support Package.
About the Author:
Max Kamali is the Optimisation Team Lead for WINconnect and works with WINConnect’s internal and external stakeholders to optimise the technical, operational and financial performance of WINConnect’s and Property Owners’ Community Energy Networks.
Max is a Certified Energy Manager and has a range of experience within the energy sector in Australia as well as the Middle East and South East Asia. Max worked as an Energy Engineer for Utilacor energy management company and Flow Power prior to joining WINConnect in 2017.