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Thinking small is a big energy saver (Irish Independent)

(26 Jun 2008)
With the ESB looking for a 30pc increase in the price of electricity, and the sky-high cost of petrol these days, tackling energy usage can be a valuable way for a small firm to save money.

You don't have to be a big multinational with millions of euros to invest in green projects; it's as simple as installing energy efficient light bulbs to using less paper.

That's according to Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), which assists small and medium private sector enterprises that are keen to take action to save energy but are unsure where to start.

Through this programme, SEI said it provides at no direct cost, one-to-one advice and mentoring from one of our specialist energy advisors.

These advisors help and motivate small and medium businesses to assess their own energy use, to identify opportunities for savings and to take action to realise these savings, it said.

In some cases, the advisors visit a small business to kick-start this process by assessing current energy use and identifying immediate savings opportunities, as well as advising on appropriate monitoring and management.

Costs
SEI said that it has given direct energy advice to almost 200 firms in its first six months of operation.

Brian Motherway, head of industry programmes at SEI said that a small business, which has not looked at energy before, will be able to save 10-20pc on costs without too much effort. He says SEI's dedicated energy-saving programme for small and medium businesses has attracted "a lot of interest" driven by the awareness of energy costs and environmental issues. "Every time there is a story in the paper about climate change or energy prices, we get calls from businesses. We dealt with over 1,000 companies last year and word is spreading that there is something you can do. In the past, people thought energy was not that controllable," Mr Motherway said.

Energy

He believes energy issues can sometimes get "pushed to one side" as many simply just don't have the time or the technical expertise. "People do not realise how much savings you can make without having to spend a lot of money," he said. And those firms that do avail of the programme, afterwards are often very surprised at how much they are spending on energy. "We find if you ask a business how much their electricity bill was in the last quarter, they often have trouble finding it," he said.  Mr Motherway says it is easy to adopt energy saving measures, no matter how big or small the size of the business. "I think it's the same for everyone. For a small business, improving energy efficiency can be very simple, like switching appliances off," he said.

Efficient
Monique Bonner, sales director and general manager for small and medium business in the UK and Ireland at Dell, said it is neither costly nor difficult to be energy efficient. "There are some basic things that small businesses can do to improve their energy efficiency such as double-sided printing, virtual working methods that allow employees work from home. "From a technology point of view, server consolidation is not only energy efficient, it makes better use of existing hardware. Investing in power efficient products can also deliver energy benefits," she said. Ms Bonner also says it is easy for any business to adopt green policies. "The benefit for small business is that it's simple and flexible to make changes."

Case Study Sleepzone Hostel Connemara

Sleepzone Hostel Connemara, which can accommodate up to 103 guests, has reduced its electrical energy costs by 35pc since the beginning of the year.

After the hostel group took part in a Sustainable Energy Ireland energy awareness programme, it changed its power usage practices.

The group installed low-energy lighting by replacing all-candle lighting with compact fluorescent efficient lighting.

Ronan Garvey, director of Sleepzone, said the business has plans to invest in solar panels and biomass heating in its Connemara hostel. He added that those expenditures will have "a big cost but a long-term payback".

"Despite investing a six-figure sum in the project, we assume that we will have free hot water for many years to come and lower bills," he said. Mr Garvey said it is too early to say if they have saved any money as energy prices have been increasing.

"Possibly without the energy measures, they would have gone up a lot more, but I think it's important for businesses to be aware of energy, purely from a cost-saving or an environmental point of view," he said.
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