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Steps to reduce your firm’s power bill by half

By Wainaina Wambu | August 11th 2021
By Wainaina Wambu | August 11th 2021
OFGEN chief executive Jibril Omar [File]

Electricity is one of the largest expenditures for most small firms. This is not only limited to those in energy-intensive ventures such as manufacturing.

Fresh power tariffs show that small commercial consumers are charged Sh15.60 per unit. A unit means a kiloWatt hour (kWh).

These charges are for the firms whose consumption doesn’t exceed 15,000 units per postpaid billing period or pre-paid units purchase period.

This means a budding enterprise can spend an average of Sh200,000 monthly on power costs.

However, Sh15.60 per kWh is just for energy consumption and there are other added charges that escalate the entire unit costs. These include things like fuel cost and Value Added Tax (VAT).

High power costs have seen most firms adopt innovative energy-saving ways to bring down their electricity bill.

This also includes a shift to renewable energy as more firms also realise the need to go green and do their part in offsetting the carbon footprint.

Enterprise spoke to OFGEN chief executive Jibril Omar on ways a firm can save on power costs. His firm offers broad smart energy solutions to commercial and industrial clients with a speciality in solar power. 

How your firm can get started

A firm can start small by ensuring that its office is energy efficient. For example, use of energy-saving bulbs, recycling, re-use and doing business with green vendors. The firm can eventually adopt more impactful methods such as using alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind and geothermal.

How does one choose the right renewable energy for their business?

For a firm to choose the right renewable energy it needs to consider the surrounding environment, the community, government regulation as well as its business needs. The firm needs to ask itself about the long-term benefits of adopting renewable energy since it has a significant return on investment while still reducing emissions. Currently, solar power is one of the most popular forms of renewable power as it is comparatively cheaper and easy to install.

The key things that a firm should consider are the existing laws on renewable energy, the surrounding community, business demand as well as initial investment capital.

Are there any incentives that come with going green?  

The main incentive for firms going green is access to reliable, efficient, and affordable power. Other incentives include:

·Improved corporate image - green companies and brands tend to be more appealing to clients.

·Financial savings- practices such as energy conservation, use of energy-efficient equipment and solar power help keep costs down than traditional energy use.

·Government subsidy benefits – in the case of Kenya, we see that the government has put in place tax exemptions on solar panels, inverters, and batteries hence leading to cheaper implementation costs.

The green energy switch has mostly been driven by big companies. Are small firms taking it up?

Yes, small firms are switching to green energy to reap the benefits that come with it. For example, we as OFGEN have installed solar for companies as small as 48.6 kilowatts peak (kWp) system.

What are the benefits of switching to renewable energy?

The benefits of renewable energy include access to reliable, efficient power and reduced operational costs while still reducing the firm’s carbon footprint leading to environmental conservation.

What have been the hindrances to a renewable energy switch by firms? 

The key hindrance for firms going green would be the high cost of the initial investment. Going green is usually costly at the initial stages, for example installation and implementation. Another hindrance is also the lack of full support from government entities in terms of policies and legislation on renewable energy.

Power saving tips

1. Use energy-efficient light bulbs

Interior lighting is one of the biggest expenses for small businesses today. If you are still using 60-watt bulbs, that is 3,000 watts of electricity being used per hour. If you replaced every 60-watt bulb with a LED bulb, you would get approximately the same amount of power and only use 475 watts of energy.

2. Dealing with desktop computers

Though a standard at many small businesses, these cost a great deal in terms of energy. The typical desktop computer can use about 250 watts with a monitor adding another 20 to 40 watts per hour. If this desktop computer is left on all day and is using 290 watts per hour, that desktop model is using around 2,540 kWh a year or costing your company just about Sh39,624 a year if you are paying Sh15.60 per kWh. The alternative can be a laptop computer, which on average uses between 15 and 60 watts, meaning it can lead to significant savings for your business.

3. Monitor the break room mini-fridge

Most break rooms have a few necessities in them for employees who need to store their food and belongings during the day. However, that small appliance may be costing more than you expect. Many times, full-size refrigerators that are made with ENERGY STAR regulations use less than these cabinet-sized additions and are well worth the extra expense.

4. Monitor the office copy machine

Being one of the most common appliances found in small businesses today, these machines use a great deal of energy even when they are in sleep or standby mode. The average copier uses 2,400 watts while printing, 310 watts while in standby mode and 200 watts while in sleep mode.

5. Purchase energy-efficient office equipment

But before you buy, check to see if they are an energy star rated appliance that has been evaluated and deemed energy-efficient, which can save you money and help you manage your small business energy costs, especially in the long run. Also, power down computers and other office equipment at the end of the day.

6. Get an energy audit

This can help determine your baseline energy use and offer a clear outline for ways to save energy at work. Some electric utility companies offer free audits.

7. Reduce peak demand

The phrase “peak demand” refers to the hours in a day when energy usage is at its highest. Peak demand times are typically normal office hours (9am to 5pm). You can reduce your demand during this time by staggering work hours/start times, running heavy equipment and factory equipment during the evening and early morning hours, and conserving energy throughout the day.

8. Turn off lights when not in use

It might seem like a no-brainer, but in a typical office, lights stay on in areas like break rooms, bathrooms, or conference rooms, even when those spaces aren’t being used. Sensor lights can help to keep the lights on when needed, but off when they’re not.

Take advantage of natural sunlight. If you are fortunate enough to have an office space where there’s abundant natural light, use it! The fewer kilowatt-hours of energy you use, the less you have to pay.

Prevent “Phantom energy”. Phantom energy is the energy that is still being used by equipment that remains plugged in but not in use. A great office energy-saving tip is to have your computer peripherals (printers, monitors, etc) connected to power strips (aka “surge protectors”) so that the flip of a single switch can shut down several devices at a time.

9. Get employees engaged in energy-efficient practices

Inspiring employees to be energy-efficient in their day-to-day work lives may take tips and tricks on how to raise morale while lowering small business energy costs.

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