Energy use in museums
For many organisations wanting to become more sustainable, knowing where to start can be the first challenge. For most organisations, one of their biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions is through their energy consumption, such as gas and electricity use. The more energy your building consumes, the more greenhouse gases you’re generating. This is influenced by a number of factors, including your energy supplier, the tariff you’re on, and the energy efficiency of your building.
To help understand your energy use, there are many useful tools available online and one such tool is the Energy Cost Calculator UK | GoCompare. This tool compares the use of different appliances in estimated costs by energy usage and the time they’re running for.
Museums can face many challenges when it comes to energy use. However, there will always be something you can do to improve the energy performance of your building which can help to lower both your bills and your emissions.
Conducting energy audits
One way to understand energy consumption is through energy audits (sometimes called energy assessments). These are assessments, usually carried out by an external, specialist company that assess the energy requirements and efficiency of your organisation. It will consider the structure of your buildings, how it operates, what appliances you have, how and when they run and provide a detailed report explaining your current energy performance and where improvement and efficiencies could be made. These can be done either in person and on site, or over the phone.
The benefits of an audit can be wide ranging and may include:
- Identify cost saving opportunities in energy efficiency
- Improve on carbon emissions
- Get compliant (or ready for future legislation)
- Gain a deeper understanding of your business operations and behaviours
- Accurate data and analysis to help support commercial decisions
- Enhance your own sustainability reputation
- Highlight potential for energy efficiency grants
- Lower exposure to energy price hikes
- Drive down energy costs
Energy audits will not be suitable for all museums as the potential savings for one may not outweigh the cost of the assessment, or where energy saving actions are relatively simple. It’s possible to carry out your own energy audit by setting some time and resource aside to do some basic research and explore your building and operations from this viewpoint. For example, look for any draughts from your windows or leaks coming in through your walls.
If you think a DIY energy audit is for you, you can find advice and checklists online, such as:
More information on energy efficiency improvements for your building can be found on our climate advice page: Museums Galleries Scotland | Climate Action.
However, for larger organisations or those with more complicated energy requirements, an audit may highlight significant long-term savings and emissions reduction. As an increasing amount of energy management legislation is being passed in the UK conducting an energy audit can be a good first step in ensuring your organisation is operating as efficiently as possible. Energy audits are a legal requirement for companies in the UK with over 250 employees through the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).
It’s important to remember that just because you commit to an audit, you are not required to undertake any of the recommendations or suggestions if you don’t want to.
Although an energy audit can be tailored and is unique to your own building and organisation, general areas of focus include:
- Assessing your current energy usage. This includes getting an inventory of all energy consuming activities during a working day, including areas where it is being lost or wasted.
- Planning improvement and costs. Here alternative options are drawn up for improving your organisations energy performance with the costs, benefits and pay-back time all quantified.
- Implementing your findings. This last stage is the implementation of some, or all the steps outlined in the audit. These can be done at your own pace whenever is most suitable for the business.
Further information on energy audits can be found by at:
- Guide to Business Energy Audits – Love Energy Savings
- Business Energy Audit | Commercial Energy Audits | UKPower
- Advice for businesses on energy assessments – Energy Saving Trust
- Business Energy Audit: Benchmark Your Business | BEUK
- Business Energy Scotland – Support for Scottish Businesses
- Project feasibility and technical advice | The Carbon Trust
Outside of these you can find a wide range of private companies that provide commercial energy audits. Your existing energy provider may also provide energy audits.