Saint-Gobain demand side journey

Saint-Gobain UK, which includes some of the best-known companies in the construction sector, manufactures high performance energy-saving products and solutions. Linda Burgess, UK Energy Purchasing Manager, explains how the company has embraced Demand Side Response (DSR) to save energy, reduce costs and secure new revenues.

Tell us about Saint-Gobain UK’s energy strategy…

Decarbonisation and sustainability are really important to all of us at Saint-Gobain. We were official sponsors of COP21 and our CEO was an active member of that committee. Globally, we have goals of 25% carbon reduction and 15% energy reduction by 2025 on a 2010 baseline and all our industrial sites will be certified to the ISO 50001 standard by 2019. We have set ourselves some ambitious goals to reflect how important we think energy and sustainability are to our business, and we're achieving some of them already.

How have you built staff engagement on energy?

In the UK, Saint-Gobain spends over ££60m pounds on energy annually so it’s something the business takes really seriously. We have operated an Energy Steering Group with senior management and finance representatives since 2006, and about five years ago we added a sub-group with engineering and operational experts to focus on energy management.

How did you reduce energy bills through Triad management?

The Steering Group identified Triads as an opportunity back in 2014. One of our Engineering Managers really took hold of the concept and got all our main brands interested. His approach was simple but effective - he put a fan heater on the table and said, "If you run this for half an hour normally it would cost you 15p, if you run it in a Triad period, it'll cost you £55" - everyone took notice! We started working with the different sites to come up with plans to help reduce demand during the Triad season and even ran a competition with the help of SmartestEnergy to reward the site that saved the most. In 2015/16, we reduced demand by 11% and achieved significant savings on our electricity bill, and we’re continuing to improve on this.

Why did you start looking at DSR?

The success with Triad management really demonstrated, to both senior and operational employees, that it is possible to change how and when we use energy. The cost saving from Triads was great, but even more appealing was the idea of an actual revenue stream from reducing our demand. We take our corporate responsibility as a large energy user very seriously so the opportunity to support National Grid and help balance the grid was a key driver.

How did you build the business case for DSR?

Once the interest was there, the next step was to centralise the DSR strategy rather than having individual sites looking at this on their own. This top-down approach helped us overcome some of the challenges and common questions - "How long am I going to be turned off for? How many times am I going to be called? What will happen if I don't comply and I don't switch off when they want me too?" etc.

From there, it was about identifying flexibility on a site-by-site basis. Our team and the experts from SmartestEnergy went out to the sites, looked at how they were set up and what the processes were, and were able to identify a level we could commit to. We were quite cautious– it was important to be realistic and not over-commit any of the plants.

Once we knew how much flexibility we had available, SmartestEnergy then helped us work out the financials around that, starting with the Capacity Market. It was a pretty compelling case, so the internal sign-offs were quick!

How are you reducing demand at your sites?

Production is king in our sector and we have to meet customer requirements no matter the cost of electricity, so our DSR activities had to focus on the auxiliary services. But even with this conservative approach we’ve been able to identify 11.5MW of flexibility across six sites. The activity really varies based on what each site is producing.

Why have you worked with SmartestEnergy on DSR?

We enjoy the long-term partnership that we've already have with SmartestEnergy. They fit with our sustainability ambitions with their Carbon Trust certified renewable electricity and we find them to be an innovative company that really value us as a customer. 

It’s great that they are able to support us with DSR. When they came along and said they wanted to help us look at our flexibility, it was ideal for us. They already know our portfolio, have all our data and just generally know how we work, so it was really easy to work with them on DSR.

What’s next for Saint-Gobain’s DSR journey?

We’re participating in this winter’s Capacity Market and at we’ll work on a review with SmartestEnergy at the end of that. We’ll be keen to see what we can do with the other sites that didn’t participate this time around.

The wider opportunities around asset optimisation are also really interesting, particularly as the markets are changing so quickly. We will definitely be working with SmartestEnergy to see what other opportunities are available so we can continue leading the way as an active  energy user.