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Embracing energy audits

Francine Charles

Embracing energy audits

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Whether the motivation lies in cost-saving or saving `the environment, the world `is moving surely towards alternative energy sources.
For homeowners in Barbados, `the use of solar water-heaters `has been a part of the landscape `for years. Now, there is a move towards solar electricity. This `is because here in the Caribbean, `it is almost too obvious that `we have one of the most powerful energy producers at our disposal most of the year – the sun.
But while homeowners are quickly realizing the benefits `to going solar, for companies `the issues are a little bigger than just placing a few solar panels `on their plant or office. At the `same time, the move towards `solar and other alternative `energy sources offers companies `a very enticing reward – a move upwards in their bottom-line.
For businesses generally, cooling their facilities or products, and `so on, is their biggest cost item; followed by powering electronics and lighting requirements. Trying to get those costs down can be quite difficult; but companies around `the world, including Barbados, `are embracing energy audits in `an effort to turn things around.
An energy audit, simply speaking, is an inspection, survey and analysis of energy flows in a building, process or system, with the aim of reducing the amount `of energy the system uses without negatively affecting its output.
Like the average consumer `or small businessman, large businesses are feeling the effects of the downturn in the `world’s economy and `the high cost of energy consumption. The attempt to identify `areas of cost-cutting and redistribution of income is now a high priority for the householder and big business alike.
In the last decade, across `the United States and Europe, industrial energy audits have exploded. Countries like Japan, `the Netherlands and Britain report aggressive moves by government `to encourage energy audits.
For example, in Britain, `one report says that 50 000 `of the country’s 90 000 companies accepted energy audits with expenses entirely covered by government. Moves like these helped to lower corporate production costs and resulted `in good publicity for companies `(as “going green”).
Hence more and more of the corporate sector now voluntarily invest in audits over the years. `One online article indicated `that America’s Dupont Co. has `35 experts overseeing energy `audits in the long term for their company’s global subsidiaries.
“Here in Barbados, local companies are also buying in to energy audits as a real need; the move is slow, but it is happening,” said Mark Hill, Chief Innovative Officer of Innogen, a provider of alternative energy solutions.
“Companies are realising that with the use of energy audits and a move to alternative energy sources, they can experience a consistent `30 per cent reduction in their commercial costs. And undoubtedly, this can lead to a noticeable increase in their bottom line.”
While the purchase of a small energy monitor can help homeowners to track their energy use and manage their lifestyles `to include greater energy savings, industrial energy audits require `a different skillset.
Audits can range from `a quick walk-through of a facility `to identify major problem areas to `a comprehensive analysis of energy use which helps the company to determine the various alternative energy efficiency measures `required by that specific plant.
 Generally, the main aspects `of an audit process are:

 The analysis of building `and utility data, including `study of the installed equipment `and analysis of energy bills;

 The survey of the real operating conditions;

 The understanding of the building behaviour and of the interactions with weather, occupancy and operating schedules;

 The selection and the evaluation of energy `conservation measures;

 The estimation of energy saving potential; and

 The identification of customer concerns and needs.