John Guthrie, Energy Efficiency Manager, ABB writes: Saving energy often means thinking differently – after all, doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.
Which was why we were interested to read about the initiative to get NHS staff to change their behaviour to save energy. The initiative involves encouraging doctors, nurses and other staff to turn off unused equipment, switch off lights when not needed and close doors to stop expensive heat escaping.
This sort of thing can really help and the first NHS trust to launch the programme has posted impressive results. Overall, it is estimated the NHS could save some £35 million a year through putting this programme into effect across all its hospitals.
Yet, the random factor in the equation is the term ‘behaviour’. It all depends on people - will they continue to get the message and alter the way they do things to save energy? I hope so for the NHS’ sake, yet all too often, people start off with the best of intentions but soon fall back to their old ways. It’s entirely understandable if busy staff, particularly medical people, have their minds on things of more immediate importance.
What if we could save energy almost without effort, without relying on people to change their ways, without having to put extra resources and time into helping make energy saving a habit? I’m talking about automatic energy saving, with technical solutions working behind the scenes to cut energy use. There is great scope for cutting the energy use of all the pumps and compressors that work out of sight, providing the HVAC services that hospitals depend 24/7 to keep staff and patients comfortable and maintain a healthy atmosphere.
In turn, these services depend on motors. Despite the focus on lights, it remains a fact that 65 percent of the energy used in commerce and industry is used by electric motors. A variable-speed drive can dramatically cut this energy use, with the NHS’ own figures showing it could save nearly a million pounds a year by wide spread use of the technology.
To really save energy, we perhaps need to think ‘inside the box’ – an electronic box that keeps on saving energy, leaving people to do what they do best.