BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 20 Nov'14

Yes, both at the same time

Want to save energy, slash your power bills and reduce your carbon footprint? Of course you do — it’s a no-brainer. The technology and services exist to do all three things in one shot — so why aren’t more people using them? And given the impact on the bottom line, why, for that matter, aren’t more companies?

There are some barriers but they’re nowhere near as bulky as they used to be. PQ talks to Mark Sait, CEO of savemoneycutcarbon.com, about the challenges facing consumers and organisations that have the will to do things right — and how they’re overcome.

The next big thing

If anyone can spot a fast-growing trend, it’s Mark. He’s helped to establish and build companies in some of the biggest areas of consumer technology — from broadband and mobile to Web 2.0 — and has watched them snowball into highly profitable international brands. One example is iBAHN Europe, which Mark launched after clocking an opportunity to provide broadband access for travellers. The company grew — and quickly: it was soon turning over $100 million and operating in over 50 countries. ‘Just like iBAHN where we spotted broadband access as the next big thing for travellers’, says Mark, ‘we started to research what might be the next big challenge and how we could set about building a business to service this need.’

It turned out that the next big challenge was around water and energy consumption, and how to reduce both in buildings that are in constant use. ‘We launched savemoneycutcarbon.com in 2010 with a focus on hotels; as they operate 24/7, they use huge levels of energy and water’, explains Mark. ‘We expanded our business to any building that operates around the clock, from hotels to hospitals and even some home environments.’

It may come as no surprise that Mark’s latest venture is growing fast, too. Homes, warehouses, hotels and organisations — from sectors including healthcare, retail and education — are all benefiting from lower bills, reduced energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint. ‘The scope is unlimited’, explains Mark. ‘Any building which consumes energy or water should benefit from our services, with rapid return on investment and continued savings from efficiencies year after year.’

Taking control

Homeowners can scour savemoneycutcarbon.com for energy-saving products that have already helped the company’s bigger customers, from the NHS and MoD to Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and Macdonald Hotels, save millions of pounds in water and energy bills. ‘You can’t search in the Google box for what you don’t know exists’, explains Mark. ‘Many of our products and the savings they can generate are still relatively unknown in the market, so we’re targeting very strong, rapid growth across the board.’

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Mark remembers starting out with a focus on the hospitality industry. ‘We quickly saw that every business, organisation and household would need to find ways to cut their costs and be more sustainable’, he told PQ. ‘That’s proved to be the right vision as we work with a wide range of companies, organisations and consumers who all want to help protect the planet while taking back control of rocketing utility bills.’

Ever-rising energy bills are just one of the areas driving demand for savemoneycutcarbon.com. ‘The era of cheap carbon is definitely over’, says Mark, ‘and the cost of energy generation will continue to rise.’ But on top of that, Mark has also identified a ‘genuine and growing acceptance’ that we need to be more environmentally aware; ‘sustainability is now centre-stage for companies’, explains Mark. ‘Their customers increasingly want to see this at the heart of all corporate social responsibility strategies.’

On top of the growing consumer demand for sustainable business, Mark highlights that internal eco-advocates in CSR departments and new external pressures, such as mandatory emissions reporting, are also helping companies to shift towards more environmentally friendly practices. ‘The need to control costs and the clear commercial benefits of going green are very strong forces for eco change’, adds Mark. ‘We know that lighting costs soak up around 40% of a commercial building’s costs and that by reducing energy use by 25%, a company can see a bottom-line benefit equivalent to a 5% sales increase. Being green makes excellent business sense.’

How it works

Mark’s company helps its customers with everything from efficiency measurements to the supply and installation of water- and energy-saving products. ‘Ultimately for any of our customers, big or small, it’s about making sure they see a reduction in their bills equal to or greater than we calculated’, he says. ‘A savings calculator is linked to all the products on the savemoneycutcarbon.com website, and calculates potential savings immediately. For businesses and larger organisations, a full energy and water survey is recommended, conducted by our Field Services team.’

shutterstock_10811560The data collected by the team is plugged in to a financial modelling tool which flags where savings can be made and indicates return on investment. ‘This is then overlaid with other key details that have an impact on real savings and paybacks’, explains Mark, ‘such as usage assumptions and local utility prices together with reductions in maintenance costs. Post-installation smart monitoring provides ongoing proof points of savings, and helps to fine-tune the sustainability programmes.’

The potential savings are huge. An LED lighting retrofit can generate energy savings of up to 85%, and offers a rapid return on investment with ongoing savings on energy and maintenance costs. One customer, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, saved over £250,000 in energy costs, as well as the associated reduction in carbon emissions, through a switch to LED installations. Intelligent controls for heating ventilation and air conditioning have reduced energy costs by up to 45% for another customer and one hotel group, The Hotel Collection, managed to save £100,000 inside eight months from a £65,000 investment in eco showers, eco taps and tap aerators. The additional benefits from reduced water heating bills, plus the associated reduction of the group’s carbon footprint, were a large added bonus.

Savings at home

As well as the eye-watering savings to be made through large-scale efficiency measures, energy-efficient installations can slash homeowners’ bills, too. According to Mark, switching traditional lighting for LED lamps could cut £650 off a typical three-bedroom home’s annual electricity bills, and reduce its carbon footprint by 50-70%. Eco showers, eco taps and tap aerators cut water consumption by over 50%, and every household — even those that aren’t on a water meter — would gain through reduced water heating and pumping costs. The planet would also benefit from the reduction in carbon emissions that would come as a result.

‘For consumers, the initial cost of LED lighting can cause hesitation’, explains Mark, ‘but when we explain that the LED lamps will usually pay for themselves within 18 months, then continue to deliver energy savings of up to 85% for a decade and more, the decision is made much more simple!’

For business, resistance to LED lighting can come from a bad experience of experimental installations of cheap, low-quality products. ‘Not every LED is the same and quality products will always outperform “cheap as chips” varieties’, says Mark. ‘We don’t go near the budget end, having seen the frankly awful light quality and average lifespan. One of our chosen partners is Soraa lighting; you get a beautiful natural light from the high-quality, cutting-edge products from this Nobel Prize-winning team. They’re cost-effective and extremely energy-efficient bulbs.’

A confusing environment

According to Mark, every business and organisation — across every sector — is growing more aware of the need to save energy and manage water consumption. ‘Historically, energy and water costs have been a very small portion of operating costs’, says Mark, ‘but this is changing rapidly as the cheap energy era comes to an end — a fact that the government’s been publicising over the past two to three years.’

But it’s also true that national energy efficiency policies have confused both businesses and consumers, leading to lower take-up of sustainability strategies. For Mark, the UK really needs a coherent, joined-up national energy efficiency plan that promotes — and financially supports — the whole range of energy- and water-saving solutions. ‘Everything from LED lighting to eco showers and taps, tap aerators, intelligent pumps and smart lighting and heating controls should be promoted, as well as effective insulation and efficient heating’, he says.

Mark acknowledges that ‘a great many consumers’ are already doing what they can within a confusing environment, but that we need crystal clear guidance and strong support from government to go further. ‘The Green Deal has been extremely disappointing’, he says. ‘It’s complex and very limited, with quite substantial investment and longer payback times. A new, comprehensive, more supportive deal is sorely needed right now.’

According to Mark, people need more than a ‘gentle nudge’ and a kind word of encouragement. ‘We’ve seen a massive education programme this year encouraging people to switch suppliers to get a better deal’, he says, ‘but little real progress on ensuring that people have detailed information about energy efficiency in the home. The little things make a big difference.’ Mark’s solution would be to put solar panels on every building and install products that reduce the water and energy we use: that, he says, would be ‘a true win-win’.

Consumer power

While the government could be doing more, Mark has confidence in the power of collective action. ‘I think we’re already seeing the “whip of the market” as consumers vote for sustainability with their purses and wallets’, he says. ‘This is concentrating the minds of many brands, and in the future I’d like to see a collaborative relationship developing between company and customer.’ With the rise of social media and other networks, the conditions for greater collaboration and communication between companies and their customers are already in place.

A recent five-continent report from Marketing to Mattering found that 72% of us believe business is failing to live up to our expectations. ‘Studies clearly indicate the issues facing chief executives around the globe’, says Mark. ‘Two-thirds of them admitted that their companies were not doing enough to address sustainability challenges. There’s an urgent need for business leaders to find better ways to develop sustainability strategies that reflect more accurately the hopes, expectations and needs of their customers.’

For more information on the products that could help cut your energy and water use — and give your bank balance a boost — visit savemoneycutcarbon.com. You’ll also be able to calculate the kinds of saving possible in your home.