Companies Rush For Automatic Metering Before CRC

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Carbon consultancy warns companies of the risks of leaving CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme preparation to the last minute

Some of the UK’s 5,000 largest energy users – required to take part in the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme – may not find sufficient capacity available to meet automatic meter reading (AMR) requirements.

That’s according to energy procurement and carbon strategy consultancy, Power Efficiency, which has today warned that companies may not get the measures to improve their CRC league table performance in place before the close of the first year’s reporting on 31 March 2011.

Bobby Collinson, Power Efficiency managing director, told eWEEK Europe that the voluntary installation of AMR on fiscal meters accounts for 50 percent of the league table ranking in the first year, and then 20 percent and 10 percent in the following two years respectively.

For most companies covered by the scheme, the installation of AMR meters – on electricity and gas supplies that do not have a mandatory requirement for half-hourly metering – can therefore be seen as extremely beneficial to their ranking in the public CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme league tables.

If a company has a £2-million annual energy cost, for example – mostly from large half-hourly electrical supplies – but still has 10 non-half-hourly meters in operation, the consultancy said that installing AMR on those non-half-hourly meters would increase the allowances the company gets back for its entire usage. That could amount to the best part of £20,000 back through the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme which, even at the cost of £300-£400 to install each meter, could deliver a return on investment in less than six months.

“Organisations are being drawn to AMR because of the complexity of meeting the Carbon Trust scheme requirement to show long-term commitment to carbon reduction, which will make up the other 50 percent of the ranking,” he explained. “But if every one of these companies were to decide they wanted a meter on every wall tomorrow, I’m very much doubtful there would be capacity to meet demand.”

Collinson warned that demand could outstrip the supply of AMR meter installer capacity, and that the dependencies between finding enough installers to do the installations at times that a retailer with seven-day trading, for example, could facilitate before the deadline could adversely impact a company’s CRC ranking.

“AMR may seem easy, but it’s not a straightforward process for organisations with big estate portfolios, and we deal with over 10,000 commercial client sites in the UK,” Collinson added. “As with any electrical installation process, it tends to take longer than you think, albeit that the current technology is more robust. There will be a pinch point.”

John Field, Power Efficiency’s director of carbon management added: “It is rarely a smooth process – taking time to assess estates, rationalise requirements for metering, calculate the right investments, and all this is before you actually get to installation and receiving meaningful information from the 17,520 readings a year that each meter produces.”

Regardless of whether organisations meet next year’s reporting deadline for AMR, Collinson said it was also unclear how many organisations would actually translate their AMR efforts into tangible energy and cost reductions. “AMR produces vast amounts of data, which requires systems to process, analyse and report on before you can actually use it to reduce carbon,” said Collinson. “I don’t know if the AMR metric adds to that.”

Moreover, he added that the failure to establish international commitment to a carbon cap and trade scheme at the recent global climate summit in Copenhagen made the government’s CRC regulations more onerous for UK firms in the short term. “Is it fair for UK business to have to be measured on carbon when their European counterparts aren’t? No. And the last thing we want is big energy users, like data centre providers, taking their business elsewhere.”

“But if the US agrees a scheme, which it’s looking more and more likely will happen then, in the long term, CRC would be a good way to help put the UK ahead,” he added.

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