What is an Energy Audit?

29 June 2023 - // Beyond
Josh Franklin-Mann
Freelance writer and former Communication Officer at REVOLVE.

Energy audits can open up multiple benefits for SMEs and could hold the key to achieving Net Zero.

Energy audits are pivotal to increasing awareness of energy efficiency as well as suggesting concrete actions to improve it. The role of energy audits is recognized in the Energy Efficiency Directive, with the European Union requiring all large businesses to conduct an energy audit every four years. Small businesses, however, are not required to do so. Research shows that this voluntary nature of energy audits is seen as a barrier to increasing energy efficiency by both businesses and by national organizations. 

Energy audits are key for businesses to understand where they can save energy and reduce costs, particularly during periods with high energy costs. 

But it is also important to understand that energy audits can provide numerous non-energy benefits, such as improved air quality and an overall improved working environment with implications for better health and well-being. 

Analyzing the multiple benefits of energy efficiency in energy audits could be an effective approach to engaging non-energy-intensive SMEs, which are often unaware and uninterested in audits. 

In a survey conducted by LEAP4SME companies ranked improving their perceived image right below the direct economic and environmental benefits of increased energy efficiency. Therefore, being able to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability is no longer just an option for businesses, but a necessity for a viable business strategy.

As SMEs face challenges such as energy price volatility and uncertainties that hinder their growth, improving energy efficiency becomes essential. Energy audits serve as a key tool in achieving this goal. By identifying areas for improvement and providing valuable insights, energy audits help SMEs reduce energy consumption, mitigate risks associated with energy costs, and enhance their overall resilience for the future.

SME Perceptions of Non-Energy Benefits

Energy costs 94%
Greenhouse gas emissions 79%
Company’s image 78%
Renewable energy sources 71%
O&M costs 70%
Air quality 69%
Process overall efficiency 63%
Innovative solutions 62%
Technological competitiveness 59%
Raw materials consumption 48%
Water quality 36%
Product quality 34%

What is an energy audit?

An energy audit is a systematic procedure aimed at gaining comprehensive knowledge about the current energy consumption profile of a building, group of buildings, industrial or commercial operation, or public service. Its primary objectives are to identify and quantify cost-effective energy-saving opportunities and provide a detailed report of the findings.

By conducting an energy audit, organizations can achieve several benefits. Firstly, it ensures a reduction in energy use, resulting in lower energy bills. Additionally, it helps decrease the carbon footprint and enhances overall energy efficiency by continually discovering innovative methods to conserve energy.

The role of energy audits is recognized in the Energy Efficiency Directive, with the European Union requiring all large businesses to conduct an energy audit every four years. Small businesses, however, are not required to do so

Energy audits offer significant advantages, including financial benefits that contribute to reduced operating costs and increased profits for organizations, considering the implementation costs of energy efficiency measures. Furthermore, they effectively promote the “greening” of businesses, enhancing their market competitiveness.

Moreover, energy audits provide operational benefits by assisting in the management of industrial sites or buildings, improving the comfort, safety, productivity of occupants, and optimizing general operations.

Lastly, energy audits have notable environmental benefits, such as the reduction of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. On a broader scale, they contribute to national energy demand reduction and the conservation of natural resources.

How is an energy audit done?

Energy audits are conducted following a systematic process, with the European standard EN 16247-1 (2012) serving as the reference framework for efficient energy audits. The primary objective is to identify energy flows and opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. The audit process typically consists of the following steps:

Step 1: Preliminary Contact

The initial step involves establishing communication with the organization or site to be audited. This stage includes discussing the objectives, scope, and expectations of the energy audit.

Step 2: Start-up Meeting

A start-up meeting is held to gather essential information about the organization’s operations, energy systems, and energy consumption patterns. The audit team and key stakeholders collaborate to ensure a clear understanding of the audit process.

Step 3: Data Collection

In this phase, relevant data is collected, including energy bills, equipment specifications, operating schedules, and other necessary information. Energy meters and monitoring equipment may be installed to track energy usage accurately.

Step 4: Field Work

During the field work stage, on-site inspections and assessments are conducted. This involves examining equipment, systems, and building envelopes to identify energy efficiency opportunities, potential areas of energy waste, and operational inefficiencies. Measurements and observations are made to assess energy performance.

Step 5: Analysis

The collected data and findings from the field work are analyzed to determine energy consumption patterns, areas of improvement, and potential energy-saving measures. Energy modeling and calculations may be performed to evaluate the effectiveness and economic viability of different energy efficiency options.

Step 6: Reporting

A comprehensive report is prepared, presenting the energy audit results, identified energy-saving opportunities, and recommendations for energy efficiency measures. The report may include financial analyses, payback periods, and prioritization of measures based on their economic feasibility and potential energy savings.

Step 7: Final Meeting

The final step involves a meeting with the organization’s representatives to discuss the audit findings, recommendations, and implementation plans. This allows for further clarification, addressing any questions or concerns raised by the organization.

By following this structured process, energy audits enable organizations to gain insights into their energy usage, identify cost-effective energy-saving measures, and make informed decisions to enhance energy efficiency.

To learn more about energy audits, consult LEAP4SME’s practical energy audits guide.

Josh Franklin-Mann
Freelance writer and former Communication Officer at REVOLVE.

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