The forgotten solution to energy security and expensive bills
The security of our energy supply is big news at the moment. We’re in the middle of an energy cost crisis that’s going nowhere fast, with energy bills for businesses set to double (or worse) this year. Meanwhile, Russia is using Europe’s dependence on its gas to fund the war in Ukraine, holding us all hostage in a tragedy of our own making.
Together, as businesses and as a wider society, we need to wean ourselves off dirty Russian fossil fuels and insulate ourselves from the volatile global energy market by boosting our energy independence – our ability to supply the energy we need ourselves, cleanly and affordably, without relying on others to do it for us.
It’s a multiple-win scenario. We have an opportunity to accelerate our transition to clean, planet-friendly renewable energy; bring down energy bills; create tens of thousands of homegrown jobs in the process; and literally pull the plug on Russia’s war machine.
The UK government recently published an Energy Security Strategy to do exactly this. But with an open goal in front of them, they largely missed the most logical solution.
The elephant in the room
Before we explain why, let’s take a quick look at the Strategy’s headline announcements:
- Go big on nuclear: Kick-starting a new era of nuclear power, producing enough to provide around a quarter of UK demand by 2050.
- Go big on offshore wind: Building 25% more offshore wind capacity by 2030 than previously planned, enough to power every home in the UK
- Go big on hydrogen: Building double the amount of low carbon hydrogen fuel capacity by 2030 than previously planned
- Give a lifeline to fossil fuels: Launch a taskforce to support new developments in North Sea oil and gas.
The fossil fuel bit aside (that’s the last thing we need in the fight against climate change), most of the announcements are okay in and of themselves. We certainly need a lot more homegrown renewable and low carbon power; no argument there.
The problem is, we’re in a real crisis right now. And none of the above will make a blind bit of difference.
As almost every expert under the sun has pointed out, it will be years until any of these new investments come to fruition. You can’t build a nuclear power plant in a day, and we can’t just sit around twiddling our thumbs while we wait.
So what can we do to make a difference in the here and now? Two words: energy efficiency.
By far the best thing we can do in the near-term to improve energy security, reduce reliance on Russia, cut energy bills and help the planet, is to use less energy in the first place. We can do it today, and we can experience the benefits immediately. It’s quicker, cheaper and greener than any other solution.
So what’s the problem?
If energy efficiency is such a good idea, then why did the government only devote three pages to it in the Energy Security Strategy? Good question.
Here are three big reasons:
By definition, saved energy doesn’t exist. It can’t be seen, and politicians hate that. There is no red ribbon to cut, no valuable photo opportunity, no big construction site to stand in front of in a hardhat.
To a lesser degree, the same is true for businesses. It’s hard to value what we can’t see. Unless you like to spend a long time trawling through your energy data, an operation that’s wasting energy can be difficult to identify, and even harder to prioritise over other more ‘visible’ jobs.
The truth is, energy efficiency is hassle. There’s a common assumption that, given the right information and access to cash, businesses and homeowners will implement energy efficiency measures because it makes sense to do so. But unfortunately that’s just not true.
Research has proven that even when given the right information on an opportunity to save energy without spending a penny, small businesses will only go through with it 20% of the time*. It’s a similar story for homeowners. There are several reports of local councils who can’t even give away free cash to help residents improve the energy efficiency of their home, because people 'can’t be bothered'.
Even when we know it makes sense, saving energy requires an investment of time and effort that puts people off. For most businesses (especially small businesses), time is in short supply – there are a thousand other pressing matters that energy efficiency has to compete with. Politicians and policymakers are still struggling to solve this problem.
It goes against the grain
Lastly, energy efficiency is not what our energy market was designed to do. We operate in a broken system where saving energy is a threat to energy suppliers’ profits. They would much rather the government ask them to increase the amount of energy they generate, because more energy = more profits.
OAK to the rescue
What a mess! We know energy efficiency is by far the best solution to our problems, but there are big barriers standing in the way. So where does OAK come in?
Let’s break down these three barriers one-by-one:
OAK makes the invisible visible
By collecting all of your energy data into one platform and using AI to analyse and identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption, OAK fixes the problem of not being able to ‘see’ energy waste.
OAK allows you to explore the efficiency of your operation visually through interactive charts, heat maps and comparisons, all in one place.
OAK untangles the mess
OAK goes one further than just providing you with information about where you are wasting energy.
OAK’s analysis will tell you the exact solution for each opportunity identified, help you build a business case by quantifying what you stand to save (in both money and carbon), and help you to decide what to do in what order – taking the ‘time and effort’ out of the equation.
As the platform develops, more and more services will be added over time – providing OAK members with everything they need to see energy efficiency projects through from start to finish.
OAK is turning the energy system on its head
OAK pulls you out of your reliance on energy suppliers to reduce your energy usage. Instead of depending on your bills, or a smart meter that takes your data out of your hands, OAK puts all of your data in one place and transforms it into bite-size pieces for you to explore in real-time.
That means that OAK can tell you more about your energy consumption than an energy supplier ever could. And, unlike your energy supplier, OAK uses this information with one aim and one aim only – to help you reduce your energy use and cut your carbon footprint in the process.
At the most fundamental level, energy security isn’t about nuclear power plants, wind turbines or next-generation hydrogen technology. It’s about doing the simple things right. It’s about acting like nature does – finding the most efficient way to do a task with as close to zero waste as possible.
That’s what OAK is there for.