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Energy Doctor prescribes smart meters for Manchester small businesses

Small Manchester businesses can get their energy health in check with the help of a smart meter. This was the message from Dr. Paul Swift, an energy consultant from the Carbon Trust, when he visited two Manchester businesses this week.

Visiting charity store Goodstock (on Oxford Road) and HQ recording studios (in Strangeways) he identified that each could save hundreds of pounds a year and improve cash flow by getting their gas and electricity use under control.

Many small businesses struggle to keep track of how much they spend on energy, and which equipment or activities are causing unnecessary waste.

Smart meters will be offered to every home and microbusiness (those with fewer than 10 employees) by 2020. They provide accurate readings directly to suppliers, bringing an end to estimated bills, and show customers what they are spending in pounds and pence, in near real time. 

Dr. Paul has created an energy health checklist to help microbusinesses get on the road to energy health. (See below)

Dr. Paul Swift has helped businesses around the world save energy. He said: “When you have the right information and you pay attention to it, it’s simple to find ways to take control of your energy use. Many microbusinesses feel they can’t make energy efficiencies, because they think they have to invest lots of money into new equipment to make a dent. 

“But with the help of a smart meter, it’s easy to identify what is using the most energy, at what times, and take action – big or small - to cut down. Every penny saved on energy is a penny saved on the bottom line.” 

Claire Maugham, Director of Policy and Communications at Smart Energy GB, said: “As the Energy Doctor has shown, knowledge is power when it comes to saving energy. Smart meters will be offered to every home and microbusiness in Britain by 2020. They will give microbusinesses, firstly, confidence that they are only paying for what they use – and won’t get any unexpected bills at the end of the year. And secondly, the visibility they need to make changes to the way they use energy.”

Case study: Goodstock charity store

At Goodstock, manager Rhiannon Nowicki was keen to keep overheads down and feed as much profit as possible back to youth volunteering charity vInspired. Energy bills at the store are three times higher in winter than in the summer, with glass frontage and poor insulation making it difficult to retain heat. 

Dr. Paul made cost effective suggestions, such as installing an air curtain above the front door, which would help save money on heating. He also demonstrated how a smart meter could help identify the equipment that was using the most energy. With his help, Rhiannon discovered that the store’s clothes steamer, which is turned on regularly throughout the day, is one of their biggest energy drains.

Rhiannon said: “As a charity, every penny of income is really important to me and my volunteers, so that we can help contribute to the important youth programmes that vInspired delivers. I felt like our energy costs were something I couldn’t control – especially in such a big, rented building. With a smart meter I’d be able to see, right in front of me, where we’re wasting energy. So I’d feel much more confident about making the small, low-cost changes we need to increase the amount of income we can put back into our charity.”

Case study: HQ recording studio

Michael Vindice, owner of HQ recording studio, was conscious of the energy costs of his equipment. But with his meter difficult to access, locked in a separate business unit, he had relied on estimated bills for two years. A recent manual meter reading showed he was more than £400 in credit. He also had some old appliances, like fridges and de-humidifiers, which need to be on all day and night. 

Dr. Paul suggested that a small investment in some newer models would soon be returned in lower bills. The basement studio also relies on electric lights, day and night, so Dr. Paul suggested a switch to LED bulbs to save lighting costs.

Michael said: “It’s convenient to have a direct debit for the same amount leaving your account every month, but not when it’s costing you hundreds of pounds. For a small business like mine, small amounts can make a huge difference to cash flow every month. It’s not easy to access my meter, so if I had a smart meter I would never have to do manual meter readings, which would be ideal. And the fact that that I could still see exactly what my costs were every month would be the best of both worlds.”



The Energy Doctor’s energy health checklist for microbusinesses

1. How much are you spending? - Speak to your supplier about getting a smart meter 

2. What’s using the most energy? - Identify the energy hogs – a smart meter and plug-in watt meters will help 

3. Have you got your timings right? - Switch high wattage items on later, or turn them off earlier. Use plug in timers so you don’t forget

4. Do you need new equipment? - Decide how long you’re prepared to wait for new kit to pay for itself. Check the Carbon Trust’s Green Business Directory of accredited suppliers and look into specialist energy efficiency financing

5. Are your staff on board? - Focus on the changes that save the most. And don’t preach 

6. Can you stop heat (and money) from escaping? - Check for drafts. Insulate lofts and walls and add foam strips and brush fixings to doors and windows

See the Energy Doctor's top tips for small businesses here.

Dr Paul Swift