Energy efficiency: A consultant’s view

Roz Burgess, FCSI consultant and director of Intelligent Catering, tells Catering Insight about the challenges of specifying energy efficient equipment in projects today.

How much of a role does energy efficiency have to play in the projects you are involved in today? To what extent is it a priority for the end-client?

Energy efficiency plays a vital role in all projects and is an important consideration for both clients and consultants – you simply wouldn’t look at doing an un-energy efficient project. But it’s a balancing act. It can’t be energy efficiency at all costs as the project needs to deliver a return on capital investment too.

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For organisations and clients it is their responsibility to reduce carbon emissions from their business. This is something every business is subject to and if targets aren’t met it will cost them in the long run, both in terms of imposed penalties and as the cost of energy continues to rise year on year.

When launching a new product in the market, many manufacturers lead with the line that it is “X% more energy efficient than the previous model or an equivalent competing model”. When spec-ing equipment, how do you verify that a product delivers the energy efficiency benefits/savings that the manufacturer claims it does?

It’s exceptionally difficult to verify claims from manufacturers launching new energy efficient equipment in the market. There’s very little transparency over how these claims are verified and you can’t be sure whether what is stated on paper will be true in reality.

The only way to really tell is to test equipment in a true environment over time, which is what I do a lot of when spec-ing for different projects. So many factors affect the overall energy efficiency – lifecycle, cleaning routine or capacity – so testing is the only way to prove the manufacturer’s claims. By monitoring overall energy consumption of the same kit in real working kitchens at two or three sites over a few months, you can accurately assess how energy efficient the kit truly is.

Many kitchen houses claim that the capital purchase price and functionality of catering equipment are still more important than its energy efficiency benefits as far as many end-users are concerned. Are manufacturers guilty of over-hyping the energy efficiency issue?

Manufacturers aren’t guilty of over-hyping the issue of energy efficiency. But again, there’s always got to be a balanced approach as it can’t be efficiency at all cost. The purchase price has to equate to the value and other functions of the equipment – manufacturers aren’t able to demand high prices for energy saving alone as all equipment has to be efficient.

Which brands or equipment categories do you think are really making headway when it comes to energy efficiency? Are there any recent innovations that really stand out?

Induction, fryers and combination ovens are the big hitters when it comes to energy efficiency innovation. There are lots of manufacturers out there that genuinely cutting energy consumption with the new models they’re developing. These manufacturers are comparing new state-of-the-art kit against their own previous models to see how much energy can be saved. It’s exciting as it’s comparing like for like, which gives a quantifiable base to work with.

What sort of energy efficiency trends or development do you expect to influence your work this year?

A large part of my work is reviewing energy efficiency, carbon and gas emissions so that we know exactly what delivers in real life as well as on paper. We monitor it in real time and against service levels in the kitchen to see how it fares in a real working environment. I’m being asked to do this more and more by clients and this is set to be an even bigger trend this year.

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