Resource Efficiency Helps Keep Companies Competitive
Reducing waste and making the most efficient use of resources are not just environmentally responsible but also commercially essential in today’s highly competitive market place. Taking stock of resource usage, operating costs and supply chain elements and making improvements that will deliver cost savings makes good business sense but can be time consuming and expensive.
Invest Northern Ireland’s Sustainable Development Team offers advice and support to help companies ensure they are getting the most out of their energy, water and raw materials, and are running the most efficient operations possible.
The support covers the full spectrum of sustainable development issues from auditing resource usage through to facilitating linkages between companies to stimulate opportunities for sharing resources and developing supply chain benefits.
Resource efficiency audits are offered to those companies with the greatest potential to make timely and cost effective resource savings.
Typically these are small or medium sized businesses that spend more than £60,000 a year on energy, water, waste and raw materials. The audit aims to identify opportunities for resource efficiency cost savings that can be achieved in a reasonable timescale and at reasonable cost. It includes creating an action plan for achieving these.
Invest NI can also arrange on-site energy surveys for companies with energy spends of more than £30,000 a year. These aim to identify quick and effective ways to reduce energy usage, typically yielding a 20% cut in a business’s energy costs. The surveys are conducted by independent accredited consultants who work with businesses to identify energy-saving opportunities and help with implementing the changes needed to achieve the projected savings. For companies with an energy spend of less than £30,000, Invest NI’s Technical Advisors will provide advice or one-to-one support as appropriate. There is also comprehensive and practical support available on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk.
Having identified resource use issues, businesses can access support for implementing energy and resource improvements. Invest NI can provide up to five days of consultancy to help businesses implement appropriate projects across a range of areas from refrigeration, through lighting, heating, waste and water management, to new technologies and renewable energy sources.
One company that has benefitted from this consultancy support is Tandragee Compost, a manufacturer of mushroom compost. The company used Invest NI’s Sustainable Development Implementation Framework to investigate the use of spent mushroom compost as an energy source for generating electricity. The consultant concluded that the approach was viable and that the electricity generated could supply all of the requirements of the company’s existing production facility as well as the proposed increase in production. Tandragee Compost subsequently applied for research and development support from Invest NI to define the most suitable plant for this application.
As with Tandragee Compost’s project, making changes to achieve energy efficiencies can initially involve some capital outlay. To help with this energy efficiency loans of between £3,000 and £100,000 are available for appropriate projects. The interest free loans can be repaid over a period of up to four years. The size of the loan offered and its repayment period will be based on the projected CO2 savings and on-site fossil fuel savings.
Cost savings can also come through sharing and exchanging resources and Invest NI can help companies do this through an approach known as industrial symbiosis. This may involve the commercial exchange of materials, energy, water or by-products or the shared use of assets, logistics and expertise. It works by identifying profitable links between companies so that previously unused or discarded resources from one company are recovered, reprocessed or reused by others.
Specific Resource Efficiency events being organised by Invest NI’s Sustainable Development Team during 2011–2012 include two regional water efficiency events targeted at the food and construction sectors. For details of these events and for more information about Invest NI’s support for sustainable development please visit www.investni.com or call 0800 181 4422.