How Luton is going green by going smart

As strategic energy manager for Luton Council, my priority is to deliver energy savings here and now – whilst seeking to future proof our public sector and school buildings.

My key consideration is the whole of life cost effectiveness of any initiative that I approve of.

With public sector finances under increasing strain, it’s all too easy to make the mistake of going with the cheapest solution, rather than the most cost effective. Whole life costs must be the driver when selecting energy saving technologies.

One of the few cast iron certainties of the energy market is that irrespective of year-to-year price fluctuations, the direction of travel is always up. It is easy to look back to the “good” times when energy prices were low and somehow think that we will return to those levels again – we won’t.

In 2016, average electricity prices fell by an average of 0.5%. this was followed by increases of 1.3% and then 10.8% in the following years.

From 2011 to 2021, the average electricity price per kWh rose by over 120%. This was during a period of comparative price stability.

This is part of the reason why my philosophy is to save every last bit of energy we possibly can.

During the expected lifetime of a project, the cost of each kWh of electricity is likely to increase from the current average of circa 35p per kWh to over 77p. That’s dependent on electricity prices increasing by no more than they did in the last ten years. Sadly, that now looks like wishful thinking.

Looking at the whole of life net return is part of our approach. Why install multiple control systems when, with some foresight, a single IoT system can be deployed to control and measure multiple energy consuming components? Lighting, heating, small appliances – they can all be integrated into a single intelligent system, responding to the immediate environment and adaptable to future scenarios

Over the past three years Luton Council have installed smart controls in more than 40 buildings. The additional energy saving directly attributable to the smart controls is circa 75%, and this has made our investment decision, once questioned, now seem inspired!

The financial implications, if we had not opted for a smart controls strategy, are quite frankly scary.

Whilst it is human nature to hope for the best, it would be irresponsible to assume it. As the world experiences frightening levels of climate change, it goes without saying that the need to cut our carbon emissions sits at the top of our agenda – but it is always a balancing act between what we need to do to play our part in carbon reduction and how we afford the efficiency projects to do just that.

Smart controls give us a chance to satisfy both the carbon reduction and financial aspects, and as we look forward to extending the capabilities of IoT, we can at least assure ourselves that we are playing some small part in improving the lives of our local people.

The financial and climate case for smart controls is, as far as I am concerned – proven.

Sue Davies

Sue Davies

Strategic Energy Manager, Property and Infrastructure, Luton Council

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