Further insights from Verco-led Building Energy Efficiency Survey

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the Building Energy Efficiency Survey (BEES) 2014-15 in November 2016 which sets out to improve and update the evidence of how energy is used, and to provide an assessment of the abatement opportunities for all non-domestic premises across England and Wales.

Verco were commissioned in 2013 by DECC (now part of BEIS) to lead the project, working in partnership with GfK.

The key output for BEES is an overarching report, which explores energy use, abatement potential, barriers & facilitators to achieving that potential by sector and energy end use. It also looks at differences in premises occupied by public or private sector organisations, those occupied by SME or large organisations, and in premises that are rented or owned. Ten sector reports additionally provide more detail in relation to particular sectors and their specific energy use and abatement potential.

What new light has the study cast on our understanding of energy use in the non-domestic sector?

The results indicate that while small premises are the vast majority in number, larger buildings (>1,000m2) are just 8% by number but contain over two thirds of the total non-domestic floor area. Overall, large organisations occupy slightly more of the total floor area than SMEs and are responsible for over half of the total energy consumption; owner-occupiers occupy 68% of total floor area (the remainder are rented). The picture can be quite different at individual sector or sub-sector level: for example, SMEs dominate the community, arts & leisure, industrial and hospitality sectors.

In terms of energy end use, across the overall stock the energy used for building services dominates, however the (48%) of electricity use for activity related energy loads such as IT and office equipment proved a striking finding, bearing in mind industrial process energy was out of scope. Often viewed as business critical loads by building occupiers and/or considered outside the control of building managers, it is clear that in order to achieve low energy buildings, these end uses will also have to be tackled.

The abatement analysis indicated that a substantial 45% of total fuel consumption and 34% of electricity use could be eliminated through currently available energy efficiency and behavioural measures. Given that this excludes deep retrofit, and that over half of this potential has a simple payback of three years or less, a substantial market is still out there for energy efficiency in England & Wales.

So what is stopping us? Analysis indicated that economic barriers (limited capital, hidden costs, risks, and insufficiently attractive payback) remain the most common and critical stumbling blocks. Other significant issues include limited energy management expertise and behavioural and organisational factors. Respondents indicated that access to funding, key stakeholder engagement and upskilling energy management staff could help to unlock the abatement potential that remains untapped.

The study is the first to paint a picture this detailed over such a wide scope. The evidence from BEES is already being used by policy teams within BEIS and is now the underlying source for energy use statistics in Energy Consumption in the UK. The results provide an invaluable evidence base for policy makers and researchers alike.

The full results can be found here