Saint-Gobain ‘powers down’ to save £165,000 on energy bills

An awareness campaign on energy charges at one of the UK & Ireland’s largest manufacturing firms has reaped significant savings and also helped it play a part in ensuring the nation’s electricity network is able to meet demand. Michael Dickinson, Engineering Manager Glass Industry UK & Ireland for Saint-Gobain, explains more.

Until last winter, the workings of the Triad system - used to help smooth out demand on the electricity network - was probably something of a mystery to many of our site managers and energy champions.

The system encourages large energy users to reduce consumption at peak periods in winter by levying a charge based on their electricity use over the three half-hours of highest demand on the grid each winter. As these Triad periods are not known in advance, efforts by major energy users to try and avoid them has the effect of reducing demand across the system.

Triad charges can be a sizeable proportion of our energy bills at Saint-Gobain, a fact highlighted by some number-crunching I did recently for an energy presentation to our managing directors.

Ahead of last winter we looked to try and help site managers and energy champions better understand the Triad system and how we could minimise our costs by reducing demand around peak periods.

Following a suggestion by Mark Cox, Account Manager at our energy supplier SmartestEnergy, we staged a joint webinar for staff from our 20 or so sites around the country ahead of last winter.

The response was fantastic with a number of sites really taking the issue on board and developing detailed plans of action for when a Triad period looked likely. Although the timing of the Triad periods isn’t known in advance, we subscribe to SmartestEnergy’s Triad alerting service which assesses a range of factors including historic trends and temperature to determine when they are likely.

By switching some machinery off or otherwise reducing demand for a short period of time from around 4pm to 6pm – the peak time for Triads – some of our sites have been able to achieve dramatic savings. Our overall demand across the three Triad periods showed an 11% fall and led to a total saving of £165,000.

At one site alone - Holwell Works at Melton Mowbray where energy champions Allan Hird and Tom Zbaraski developed a really well thought out strategy – the saving achieved was the equivalent of more than a whole month’s energy costs there. The site’s success saw it recently presented with the first Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland Energy Management Award with SmartestEnergy also making a donation to charity to mark the achievement.

We’re now looking to build on progress by staging another joint webinar with SmartestEnergy ahead of the start of this coming winter.

As well as reducing our costs and helping maintain our competitiveness, it also ties in well with the wider aims of our company to minimise our environmental impact and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities we operate in.

Reducing our peak demand plays a part in helping balance the grid, ensuring the UK’s energy supplies are maintained and reducing the need for more generation capacity to be built. A real win-win!

> Find out more about SmartestEnergy’s Triad alerting service here