Event report

Net Zero Leadership Programme: Operations and energy - How to cut costs and emissions

For the third session of the programme, members gained insights into how reducing energy consumption can save money as well as reducing emissions.

This webinar was led by Jane Mossman of BetterFutures+, with presentations from Anna Pettoello of EDF Energy UK and Andrew McKenzie of Schneider Electric giving further detail on current market trends and best practice for decarbonisation. 

Missed the webinar? You can find our short summary of the main points and access the recording below. 

The retrofit energy hierarchy: fabric first 

When reviewing their energy consumption, it is important for companies to understand how the physical layout of their premises affects their carbon footprint. This is called adopting a ‘fabric first’ approach. 

A fabric first approach means optimising the materials of a building for energy efficiency before considering buying new energy-efficient technology. The Passivhaus Standard is a recognised framework in this area. 

The first item to consider as part of a fabric first approach is a building’s physical structure affects energy usage and costs. Making use of west-facing windows, for example, will avoid reliance on electric lighting and likely prove cheaper in the long run than installing a new lighting system. 

The next thing to think about is the efficiency of building materials themselves. Aluminium window frames, for example, are notorious for leaking heat. Great quantities of energy are wasted through draughts, so a building’s airtightness also needs to be audited. 

Only once all these factors have been taken into account can leaders start thinking about adopting new renewable energy solutions. There is no point investing in technology like solar panels if office equipment is consistently wasting energy. The priority should always be to reduce waste. 

A step-by-step guide to auditing 

Measuring your baseline on emissions is a vital first step – without this, it is impossible to calculate how much energy you will save. 

Getting external assistance is often the best way forward, but you can undertake an audit yourself. 

The first key thing to identify when conducting your own energy audit is peak periods of usage. Note anything which seems unusual, like high energy bills on days when nobody is in the office. 

Many unconscious habits also lead to energy wastage, some common examples of these being lights left on outside during the day or computers left on at night. 

Office appliances also need to be serviced regularly to ensure their efficiency, as do lighting systems. Specific issues with the composition of the building (draughts, leaks and hot or cold spots) can be identified relatively easily using a thermal imaging camera. 

Finally, a building’s entire heating and cooling system needs to be analysed. Dust on radiators can reduce their efficiency by as much as 15%. 

Close monitoring of activity can end up saving an average of 30% of your energy footprint and thousands of pounds per year.  

The current UK energy landscape 

The outlook for energy prices does not look positive, with a combination of bullish drivers leading to unprecedented high prices over the past year. 

The volatility of oil and gas markets give greater incentive to decarbonise. As this happens, the old model of energy distribution – a linear flow from grid to consumer – will become increasingly complex and multidirectional. 

Building a corporate decarbonisation strategy 

Schneider Electric has set out a four-step process to achieve decarbonisation: 

1. Define success 

A company needs a clearly defined roadmap towards Net Zero, setting out a broad vision and strategy. This roadmap should include key dates by which important milestones should have been reached. 

2. Measure and set targets 

As well as measuring carbon footprint, it is useful to identify which trends might change and how this will affect company strategy. These might be things like legislation and technological developments. 

3. Deploy programme 

It is vital to ensure that the net-zero roadmap is being followed up with tangible actions. Companies should keep a record of their progress, even if this means acknowledging the odd failure. There is plenty of advice available from companies like BetterFutures+, EDF and Schneider Electric to help resolve any persistent issues. 

4. Sustain results 

Decarbonisation is an ongoing process. Companies need to measure, iterate and innovate as they follow the roadmap through to its conclusion. Actively seeking out new carbon-saving technologies like LED lighting, variable speed drives for pumps, and microgrids will greatly help to reduce emissions. 



Our Net Zero Leadership Programme is a series of events offering practical tools and resources to help SMEs and entrepreneurs plan their transition to net zero. Click here to learn more and register for upcoming sessions. 

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