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Finding the energy to reduce business costs

THE energy costs associated with running a business are among the biggest overheads an operation faces. However, for many businesses it is viewed as a fixed cost and a necessary evil.

But a renewed focus on the business sector’s energy use by the WA Government’s Sustain-able Energy Development Office is seeking recourse on this line.

This week it issued a number of information brochures giving tips and advice on how to cut energy use.

Concurrently, SEDO expand-ed its Energy Smart Line to include business advice on saving energy.

While the objectives are being driven fundamentally toward addressing environmental and greenhouse gas concerns, sustainable energy program manager Andrew Fairs recognises that, for small business, it is the profit push as opposed to ‘do-good’ ethical concerns that are the motivating driver in making any business decision.

Mr Fairs said it was his role to show businesses that reducing energy usage achieved direct cost savings, with the environ-mental benefits a bonus in the equation.

“The important thing in all of this is that these energy savings go straight off the bottom line,” he said.

Mr Fairs said it had immediate effects on the profitability of a business and freed up money for other uses, such as funding used for expansions or to employ more staff.

Just going through the initial step of evaluating energy usage can highlight energy cost savings of between 5 per cent and 25 per cent.

BLJ Australia managing partner Edward LaFerla, who consults with businesses on reducing costs to increase pro-fits, said any business that spent a high component on energy should consider seeking ways to reduce costs.

“If you are spending more than $15,000 it is worth looking at. It is particularly worth looking at if you are doing something out of the ordinary, like for a company that is working at night or operating cooler rooms or refrigerators 24 hours a day,” he said.

Mr LaFerla said Western Power provided advice to businesses at a cost, but often its level of interest in achieving savings for the business was limited. He said getting inde-pendent advice from consultants, whose payments were linked to ongoing energy savings, achieved better results for a business.

“We would look at more than just the tariffs. We would also look at the types of lighting that is used,” Mr LaFerla said.

“It would also be wise to do readings on the brightness of the lighting to ensure it was adequate.”

One of the greatest impediments to businesses being able to achieve their maximum energy savings was the lack of in-formation from government authorities or industry bodies that could be used as a bench-mark.

The large discrepancy between workplaces, particularly in the industrial sector, and the limited knowledge available made it difficult for businesses to reach their optimum level.

Only the office building sector has any credible data on comparisons that can be drawn.

A report compiled by the Property Council evaluates offices around Australia against each other and gives a green-star rating. The Property Council is working on a similar project with SEDO to develop a star rating system.

Mr Fairs said offices’ average usage was around 650 mega-joules per square metre per annum. A level below 500 per annum was what businesses should aim for, while offices above 750 megajoules a year were inefficient and should look to make savings, he said.

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