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Sailing the 5 Cs to reach the 2 Es. Your shorter guide to energy efficiency

ImageConviction, consistency, compulsory target, compliance and cash. The five essential ingredients for a successful energy-saving campaign

Energy efficiency delivers great mnemonics. Before you reach for your dictionary (whether print or virtual), that word means providing an easy aide memoire!

Because it is made up of two vowels, over the years energy efficiency has leant itself to innumerable cheerful acronyms. Like EEP. Or EEC. Or CEERT. Or EESOP. Or BEEF. Or NEEAP. Or EEAS. Or ACEEE. Or ECEEE. Or HEED. Or NEEA. Or NEEP. Or BREEAM. Or HEES. Or OEE. Or CEE.

Each of these acronyms simply encapsulates some energy-saving initiative.

But what makes for effective EE? Whether for a company or a public policy programme, I am proposing that effective EE can only be delivered by insisting always upon adopting the five Cs, without exception. My five Cs are:

Conviction

This requires everybody involved acknowledging that business-as-usual simply will not continue. The way energy is managed, how much fuel is burnt, whose responsibility it is to ensure success: each of these criteria needs to be satisfied. Mere words will not take anybody beyond the following day’s headlines. Action is required, every time.

Consistency

Delivering a successful energy-saving programme can only occur if there is a consistent commitment from those in charge. And not some short-term, headline-grabbing affair, abandoned in favour of the next gimmick.

Instead, there needs to be an acceptance that the agreed goals are set in stone and will not alter. Even if at the time of setting, it is not clear how these will be met.

Compulsory target

If you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it. That is acknowledged to be the primary rule of competent energy management. Every successful programme must have an agreed destination. And it must be certain that at any stage it is possible to see how much progress has been made.

Whether set in terms of absolute energy used, or per unit of output, or per square metre occupied, or per employee, the basic rule is the same. From the start, it must be accepted by all concerned precisely what objective is being sought.

Similarly, for public policy, a baseline date and output figure must be agreed at the start—and the goalposts must not be altered.

Compliance

No question: the best way of making sure everybody in the team delivers is to check compliance. This is as true for a government programme as it is for a factory. It is a real sign of failure if public policy officials have to build into their calculations a presumption that many will fail to meet even the minimum energy efficiency standards required by law.

Even today, the difference between departmental approaches is instructive. In charge of product policy “market transformation”, and aware of 1 in 4 failures to comply, the environment department DEFRA has just created a new Market Surveillance Authority, with criminal law powers to prosecute persistent non-compliers.

Contrast that with the attitude of the construction department, CLG: with growing evidence that many new buildings are not delivering even minimum energy standards, the main reaction has been to downgrade the anticipated savings from the 2010 building regulations by 15 per cent—effectively, bowing to the cheats.

Cash

No getting away from it. However good the housekeeping and better targeting, everyone needs to invest to save. The money has to be found up front. But with rates of return on offer that mean that comprehensive energy-saving programmes can be delivered at “negative cost” (to quote the ubiquitous management consultants McKinseys), that has to make economic sense. For smaller companies that are cash-strapped, the Carbon Trust makes zero interest loans available. For public buildings, SALIX has revolving investment funds.

The long-promised day of energy service companies (ESCOs) has surely finally arrived. The same Lend Lease principle which kept Britain going during Hitler’s War can surely be updated to cover current requirements. After all, there is no shortage of cash looking for a sound and reliable set of investments—only the absence of commitment to deliver.

So, there you have it. A simple phrase to memorise, which works well for a facilities manager as for a Secretary of State. All of us must sail the five Cs to deliver the two Es. And the sooner we all do so, the better.

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