Area of work:
Over one third of energy use in the UK is in the business and commercial sector. Each year around £6 billion is spent on energy. But £1 billion of this is wasted through inefficiencies, so there is huge potential for saving energy and money in the sector.
To tackle this challenge head-on, the ENWORKS partnership is working with businesses of all shapes and sizes to reduce their carbon footprint and cut waste. Their highly effective Resource Efficiency Programme works closely with each business carrying out audits, bringing in specialist advisors, providing a telephone helpline and finding ways to help them save energy, water and materials by improving their manufacturing and operating processes, and making their buildings more energy efficient.
Over one third of energy use in the UK is due to the business and commercial sector. Each year around £6 billion is spent on energy, but £1 billion of this is wasted by small firms through inefficiencies, so there is significant potential for saving money and reducing energy use, with its associated environmental benefits. However, businesses often perceive the environment as a threat, not an opportunity, and are reluctant to get involved in activities to improve their efficiency, believing that it will be a difficult and costly process.
ENWORKS was formed to tackle the problem of helping businesses in the North West to take practical action to improve their efficiency of resource use, by bringing the different advice agencies together in a partnership and enabling them to help businesses in a consistent manner.
ENWORKS is a non-incorporated partnership, governed by a 12-strong Board drawn from a range of North West organisations including the Regional Development Agency, Environment Agency, Chambers of Commerce and Regional Assembly, plus national groups such as Groundwork UK, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses. ENWORKS partnership Samantha Nicholson.
It was established in 2000, with a vision of “an improved environment and economy for the North West achieved through the engagement of business in environmentally sustainable business practice.”
ENWORKS has brought together a partnership of organisations to provide environmental and health and safety advice, training and on-site support to businesses. Working with companies of all sizes and from all sectors, ENWORKS has advised over 5,000 businesses to date on a variety of issues.
ENWORKS ensures that the services provided are co-ordinated, consistent and quality assured. It supports its partnership by accessing and managing public funding and by providing training, marketing, information and technical products like the Online Toolkit.
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The technology that has made the ENWORKS Resource Efficiency Programme so successful is the Online Toolkit; this was developed by ENWORKS, starting in January 2004, and continues to evolve and improve today. It is an online database that is used by all the ENWORKS partners to help the businesses they are working with. The process typically starts with an ENWORKS partner advisor visiting a business to provide a free initial consultation. If the business decides to join the Resource Efficiency Programme the advisor carries out a more detailed audit to identify and quantify opportunities for saving energy (electricity, gas and petroleum products), water and materials, and reducing waste. Some opportunities are zero-cost behavioural changes, like turning off equipment when not in use or optimising the settings of machinery to use less energy. Others involve improving or replacing equipment, such as the use of variable speed drives on motors, or doing entirely new things such as making use of waste heat from manufacturing processes. Refurbishment of buildings through improved lighting, heating and cooling systems is also recommended.
All the potential improvements that are identified are entered into the Toolkit, along with a preliminary assessment of the potential resource saving, the resultant financial saving and an estimate of the cost of acting on the opportunity. The Toolkit allows the business to analyse the potential opportunities according to cost/benefit and prioritise their action. It also helps to manage a number of different projects at the same time. As an opportunity progresses, its status changes in the Toolkit, beginning with ‘initial scope’ and moving on through ‘investigation’, ‘feasible/not feasible’, ‘implementation’ and finally to ‘achieved’. To reach ‘achieved’ status, the resource savings must be accurately measured and be verified by an ENWORKS advisor and the business itself.
The Toolkit is a convenient way for businesses to understand the different options for improving their resource efficiency, to compare the savings, payback periods and environmental benefits of their different opportunities, and to report on their actual achievements. It is readily accessible and understandable, and being online means that improvement projects are not left on an office shelf or lost when a key member of staff moves on. Privacy is maintained by using a secure website and only allowing each business to view their own data, while each advisor can only view data for the businesses they are working directly with. All participants can view the overall results for the Resource Efficiency Programme, to see the total savings that are being achieved.
The Toolkit also acts as a data analysis tool for ENWORKS, allowing the results of the Resource Efficiency Programme to be collated, tracked and evaluated in different ways, reporting live information on savings of electricity, gas, water, materials and money.
As of May 2007, the ENWORKS Toolkit had over 950 businesses online in the North West, with over 3,100 individual opportunities for improvement logged. Of these, 542 companies have achieved 998 opportunities, over 190 of which involved energy savings.
The Toolkit has recently undergone an expansion, funded by the North West Regional Development Agency, to allow access to more users, to collect and report a wider range of data and to collate information at regional and national levels. It is currently being used by the Regional Development Agencies in the South East, London and Yorkshire and Humber to co-ordinate their environmental advice to businesses and to quantify the results of this support.
For the businesses involved with the ENWORKS Resource Efficiency Programme, a significant benefit is the cost savings they have achieved, and the very quick payback on their investment. The Toolkit shows that the improvements that have been achieved so far are saving a total of over £12 million/year. A further £12 million of annual savings could be made from measures identified but not yet achieved. The total investment from businesses to achieve the current savings was only £5.5 million, giving an average payback period of 6 months. In addition, sales have increased by over £26 million as a result of the improvements. The ENWORKS Resource Efficiency Programme has cost about £2.1 million of public funds since 2003, meaning that for every £1 of public money spent about £6/year is already being saved within businesses, and there is the potential to double this. Thus, from the viewpoint of the both businesses and public investment, the programme is very cost-effective.
Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings
The environment has also benefited as financial savings have been made by reducing resource use. For energy, the 192 opportunities achieved to date have saved almost 23 GWh/year of electricity, over 42 GWh/year of gas and over 240,000 litres/year of petroleum products. These savings have reduced the amount of CO2 emitted each year by 18,500 tonnes, an average of almost 100 tonnes per measure. In comparison, the installation of cavity wall insulation in a home saves typically 1 tonne/year of CO2. The opportunities not yet achieved could save a further 64,600 tonnes/year of CO2 from being emitted. These figures show how significant the potential for CO2 savings are in the business sector. Other significant environmental benefits have also been achieved by participating businesses including reductions of about 360,000 m3/year in water consumption, and 2.3 million tonnes/year in raw materials.
The Resource Efficiency Programme has boosted employment in the North West, with over 180 jobs created and over 1,000 jobs safeguarded in businesses. It has also helped to improve the knowledge and skills of employees through training. ENWORKS and its delivery partners employ about 30 people on the scheme (although not all full-time).
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