A combination of new digital technology and financial incentives could help to encourage businesses across the Greater Manchester area to lessen the effects of poor energy management.
15,000 homes across the metropolitan area could be powered by the energy wasted by 750 office buildings. This wastage is an equivalent to the carbon footprint left by approximately 12,000 cars annually.
The news comes amid a wider examination of the environmental impact of commercial buildings in the UK, so far relatively unaddressed in climate policy.
Energy wastage is not merely a climatic concern, but also a question of financial interest for businesses across the region. An estimated £9 million annually is spent on unused or wasted energy in the Greater Manchester region.
Caterina Brandmayr, a senior policy analyst at Green Alliance, expressed surprise that businesses were not more concerned about the financial implications of energy wastage:
“We all work for or know businesses that waste energy, whether it’s leaving lights on at night or wasting heat. It’s hard to see why dealing with this problem isn’t yet a priority, for companies in terms of cost savings or for the government in reaching its carbon targets.
“Digital technology is an obvious and inexpensive way to track and control energy use, cutting business costs and carbon emissions. Manchester would be a great place to start the UK’s business energy efficiency revolution.”
A combination of smart technologies and business incentives could lead to an £83 million drop in business energy bills over the next 10 years.
Artificial intelligence is a possible option, and can be used to optimise energy use through grid-learning processes, which then produce forecasts and recommendations for energy use. American AI company C3.ai, offer a wide range of utilities management systems, and boast a high profile range of clients, including the U.S Air Force and Royal Dutch Shell.
Smart sensors and algorithms can also be used to help regulate energy usage levels across different parts of buildings. Such recommendations were made by a Green Alliance-authored report.
Financial incentives could also be applied, for example, applying penalties to organisations that do not meet certain targets, or refuse to disclose energy performance reports for their company. In Australia, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) has resulted in a 40% drop in energy use across Australian buildings.
A range of policy revitalisation and development is needed to cut commercial energy use and fulfil the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Rodney Turtle, the Vice-President for public policy and government affairs at Schneider Electric stressed the need to incorporate digital solutions.
“Much greater ambition is needed to improve the energy performance of UK buildings, ensuring that new buildings are much more efficient and promoting extensive refurbishment of existing ones. Digital solutions to accelerate progress are already available and other countries are already racing ahead in making the most of these new opportunities.”