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20.07.17

Simple changes for energy efficiency

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

Michelle Papayannakos, rail sustainability specialist at the RSSB, argues that improving the way energy is managed should be a high priority for the industry as a means to drive down costs, lower carbon emissions and embed innovation.

The UK faces tough energy challenges in the future. Open any newspaper and it’s full of articles about the serious dangers of air pollution in the country’s capital. But air pollution isn’t the only worry. 

In the face of climate change, the government has set strict targets to reduce overall UK carbon emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Reaching this requires a decarbonisation of the UK energy grid, switching from high carbon coal to lower carbon renewable energy production, as well as action by all users to decrease energy demand. This includes the rail industry. 

The rail sector plays an important role in helping the government to meet its target. Network Rail alone is the UK’s largest power customer, requiring 3.2 terawatt hours of energy per year to primarily supply traction power for electric trains. A significant opportunity also exists with ‘non-traction’ energy usage, which includes energy used in buildings and infrastructure associated with the rail industry, such as station buildings, depots and car parks. These areas are responsible for more than 10% of the overall energy used in the rail industry, and present a great opportunity for energy saving. 

To help the rail industry, RSSB has recently produced guidance specifically aimed at helping to identify retrofit energy efficiency measures and technologies, and to identify where those measures can be applied to existing facilities.

The guidance states that having an energy efficiency strategy is critical. Most businesses in the rail industry have considerable potential to save energy, reduce costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve resilience by implementing a structured and integrated approach to energy management. There are a number of energy standards that can help, such as ISO 50001, which can help organisations adhere to principles and practices that survive organisational changes, such as people leaving the company. 

A strategy involves reviewing data and sites to form a baseline and targets against which future progress can be measured, as well as obtaining buy-in to the senior management. Evidence shows that gaining management support is critical to the success of the strategy. 

The energy hierarchy provides a classification system for energy options, ‘leaner’, ‘keener’, ‘greener’, ‘cleaner’ and ‘meaner’ prioritised to assist progress towards a more sustainable energy use. From top to bottom, the hierarchy flows through the order in which organisations should work to improve energy efficiency. By following the classification in this way, they will reach the most economical method of saving energy. 

Renewable technologies can contribute to energy efficiencies and the financial guidance to support business cases are detailed in ISO 50001. The technologies available are wide ranging, from lighting (LEDs) to onsite energy generation (solar photovoltaics), to solutions for more effective heating and cooling (connecting to district heating networks). 

However, it’s not all about technology and management systems. A key and low-cost method of reducing energy waste and cost involves behaviour change. Behaviour change involves engaging with rail colleagues to get involved in becoming more energy efficient, such as learning to identify where energy can be saved by switching off equipment that is not in use. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to change people’s behaviour. Organisations may find what works on one site may not work on another. However, there are recommendations in the guidance to help overcome some of the barriers, including empowering local staff members and creating champions. 

Improving the way energy is managed should be a high priority for the industry as a means to drive down costs, lower carbon emissions and embed innovation. RSSB looks forward to helping the industry obtain these benefits through using and implementing the guidance document and sharing case studies of best practice.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The ‘Guidance on non-traction energy efficiency’ can be accessed via:

W: tinyurl.com/RSSB-Guidance

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