Soaring fuel prices and increasing energy demands mean that becoming more energy efficient is more a matter of necessity rather than choice. However, this growing need brings with it a host of opportunities for electricians and contractors. Schneider Electric’s May Lee offers her views

The needs of modern society are becoming increasingly complex as the global demand for energy continues to escalate – to the point where hunger for energy is predicted to continue to rise by at least 50% by 2030, as developing countries like China and India seek to fuel their rapid economic growth.

Throw into the mix the statistic that the world’s population has increased from two to seven billion in the last 85 years (and is predicted to grow still further), and it’s clear to see the pressure the world’s resources are under.

This further highlights the necessity to embrace more sustainable practices now in order to safeguard our future. It is perhaps unsurprising then in today’s climate of increased environmental awareness that UK businesses and consumers alike are becoming all the more energy conscious.

Energy security and consumer concerns continue to increase, as price hikes of up to 16% on electricity and 19% on gas were announced by the six major energy providers in recent months. Plus, according to USwitch, the average bill size across all suppliers has now jumped 14.2% from £1,132 pre-price hikes, to £1,293.

The role of contractors

So where do electrical contractors fit into this? Now is the time for contractors to obtain the know-how to expand their businesses for the future. With government initiatives like the Feed-in-Tariffs driving high consumer interest in low carbon, renewable technologies such as solar PV, the forthcoming Green Deal will continue to stimulate awareness and provide plenty of opportunities for those who are willing to expand their skills and diversify.

With the want by many to curb growing fuel bills and the legislative drive to reduce carbon consumption, focus on low carbon, energy saving solutions and electrical technologies will undoubtedly increase.

EVs, lighting and metering

One core focus is energy efficient lighting (below right). It is estimated that LEDs use just one fiftieth of the energy of a standard incandescent bulb and last ten times longer than their CFL counterparts. A typical LED lamp can last in excess of 50,000 hours (around 15 years) without needing to be replaced. More recent LED solutions now provide significant improvements on light output, colour temperature and beam angles, equalling the likes of halogen GU10 lamps, whilst meeting the demands of the latest building regulations. Whilst the ability to control LED lighting still has some challenges ahead, it will still without doubt, be the favoured choice.

Additionally, figures show a rapid introduction of electric vehicles (EV) is needed, with at least 6.4 million by 2030 if the UK is to achieve its targets and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. To date, the government has invested £400m with generous grants to encourage new EV car buyers, and various programmes including supporting the development of an EV charging infrastructure network throughout the UK. Car manufacturers are set to broaden their EV ranges and car prices are expected to come down to further encourage ownership. Going forward, recharging needs will become a crucial consideration for EV owners (left), with businesses, employers and local government needing to consider how they can support this shift towards EV.

Contractors may have already found requests for domestic EV chargers filtering through and even though the smart grid is a vision for the future it will become a reality. Knowledge to future-proof with the selection of smart grid ready products where possible, such as Schneider Electrics 3kW 16A dedicated EV residential charger, can become the added value differentiator you bring to your customers.

Another important step to delivering the UK’s energy strategy and development towards a smart grid is the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC’s) £11.3bn programme to install 53 million gas and electricity smart meters in 30 million homes between 2014 and 2019. Monitoring and consumption awareness is the first step consumers are able take, with home automation and control solutions allowing consumers to manage and implement better energy efficiencies.

Getting up to speed

To maximise the opportunities this presents, contractors need to take full advantage of the increasing amount of seminars and training courses on energy efficient solutions. Schneider Electric, for example, offer the Energy University, a free online educational community providing the latest information and professional training on energy efficiency concepts and best practice across various applications.

In this modern age of continual legislative changes and emerging green technologies, keeping up to date is no easy task. However, help is at hand with plenty of training opportunities and learning resources from leading manufactures which contractors can take advantage of. By doing this, they can make sure they are ahead of the competition, as well as being ideally placed to meet the changing demands of their customers.