23 January 2020 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Energy being wasted every year by a few thousand office buildings across five UK cities could power more than 100,000 homes and is costing businesses £60 million in unnecessary energy bills, according to a think tank report.
The study from the think tank Green Alliance, written for its Tech Task Force, says the scale is the largest in the capital.
The energy squandered by the City of London's offices is equivalent to the amount to power at least 65,000 homes - roughly equal to the housing stock of the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
This is costing the City's businesses £35 million a year. It also has a climate impact, generating the same level of carbon emissions as 46,000 cars every year.
The problem of gratuitous energy use is widespread across other UK cities. Energy currently wasted by fewer than 3,300 office buildings in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham could power more than 42,000 homes, and is costing businesses across the four cities an avoidable £25 million a year.
There have been limited efforts to address this. Most of the UK's commercial buildings are energy inefficient and overall; energy consumption per square metre has flatlined since 2002.
The report says better use of digital technology is one obvious solution to save both money and carbon production.
Examples of how to reduce energy use include smart sensors and algorithms to track and modulate energy use in different parts of a building. Evidence shows that these technologies can vastly improve the energy performance of commercial buildings.
There are substantial opportunities for immediate and easy gains. Artificial intelligence energy optimisation systems already on the market could cut energy use by as much as 14 per cent in commercial buildings with payback in just a few months.
In the City of London, for example, businesses could save £13 million on their collective energy bill within a year.
Used alongside better business incentives, these technologies would lead to greater energy efficiency, as already seen in Australia. Over the past 13 years the National Australian Built Environment Rating System has brought down energy use across Australia's office buildings by nearly 40 per cent. It requires annual disclosure of the energy performance of buildings and encourages the use of digital technologies, leading to year-on-year improvements.