EDF Energy has claimed that the average UK business could save more than £46,000 per year on its energy costs by improving on its energy management practices. While energy efficiency improvements have been a central feature of UK energy policymaking and awareness-raising, most organisations have yet to implement some low-hanging fruit measures. The energy supplier recently completed surveys of 4,150 sites, across multiple sectors and including schools, hospitals, hotels, offices, and public buildings. EDF Energy’s recommendations to businesses include installing more efficient lighting and behaviour change options like improved heating controls.
Significant improvements in energy efficiency in businesses will contribute to the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. However, in another recent survey conducted by EDF Energy, nearly half of 502 businesses are aiming for carbon neutrality themselves before 2030. The shorter timeframe in which to reach net-zero for businesses reinforces the importance of improving energy efficiency, starting with implementing the low-cost options that have been shown to be under-invested in.
Because net-zero targets permit the use of carbon offsetting, there is a danger that investing in negative emissions might take priority over emissions reductions to reach net-zero. This causes structural issues (like low energy efficiency) and the exploitation of fossil fuels to persist. By investing in emissions reductions, businesses can realise important spill-over benefits related to their own use of improved technology. By investing in negative emissions, businesses outsource their climate commitments. The latter arrangement is unsustainable yet can still satisfy a net-zero target. This problem has led to calls from policy researchers at Carbon Brief to recommend that net-zero targets separately account for the contributions of negative emissions and emissions reductions in reaching net-zero emissions.
Exposing the problems with net-zero targets might encourage those who set them to clarify how they will be reached. This current lack of clarity affects the UK government, and as shown by EDF’s research, UK businesses. A starting point for businesses to invest in their own emissions reductions is to demonstrate the low-cost and high reward of improving their energy efficiency.