Model house with coins stacked up in front

Business energy management plan

Improving how your business uses energy and keeping your electricity costs under control can be complicated. We’ve put together a step by step guide to help you develop your Energy Management Plan and become an energy guru!

1. Appoint an energy ‘champion’ and engage staff

It can make sense to assign someone to lead your efforts to manage electricity costs and identify ways to use energy more efficiently. However, it's good practice for other employees to become familiar with electricity tariffs and general energy management.

Larger businesses may choose to engage an external energy expert to help review tariffs, conduct an energy audit, implement energy saving opportunities, provide on-going progress reporting, and recommend ways to involve your staff in energy management.

Staff can play a big part in reducing your business’s electricity usage. Because of their familiarity with your business, they often have the best ideas on how to save electricity – which means it’s not just nice to have the support of your employees, it’s essential

Enthusiastic employees, who look out for electricity waste and proactively save electricity, can help deliver savings to your bottom line. Everyday actions, such as switching off equipment at the end of the working day, can have a big impact on your electricity use – and won’t cost you anything!

2. Understand your current electricity costs and usage

It’s important to gather key information about your business’s electricity usage and costs. This information will become the baseline against which you can compare your future energy usage and costs.

If you're a small business with a single premises, this will be a quick process. If you're a large business with multiple sites, this will take longer to compile. Information to collect should include:

  • Each premises address / name
  • Electricity account details, including electricity retailer, account name, account number and National Metering Identifier (NMI)
  • Current electricity tariff(s) at each site
  • Electricity usage in each billing period (refer to your electricity bills or ask your Retailer) – in both electricity consumption (kWh) and if available, electricity demand (kilowatts kW or kVA). You can also request up your previous meter data. It’s good to go back at least 2 years so you can see how your electricity consumption and costs vary over time. If those 2 years weren’t typical of your usual energy usage, it’s good to practice to document why
  • Secondary information - you may also want to keep a record of the main appliances and equipment at each site, factors that influence energy usage, ideas that have been identified to save energy and things that have been implemented.

3. Review your tariff options

Once you've identified all your sites and have a good idea of the energy usage and costs, the next step is to check your electricity tariff. Even before you make any changes to your business, there could be instant savings from changing your tariff to one that better suits how your business uses electricity.

The easiest way to do this is to contact your electricity retailer and ask them to compare your tariff options. If there's a better tariff for you, your retailer will advise what it is, what you could save (assuming your usage stays about the same) and how to move to that tariff option.

It’s important that you understand the structure and pricing of the tariffs as some tariffs have charges based on when you use electricity. So if you change your electricity usage patterns after you move to a new tariff, it’s possible you could be worse off on the new tariff.

A good question to ask your electricity retailer is whether there's a tariff option that could be good for you if you were to change how and when you use electricity. For example, if you were able to change using electricity from peak time to off-peak times and move to a tariff that has peak and off-peak rates.

There are also tariffs called 'load control' tariffs that give significant discounts on energy costs in return for you allowing your electricity supply to be interrupted temporarily (these tariffs are best suited to non-essential appliances – those that don’t require 24/7 power supply). These load control tariffs have been mostly used in domestic premises in the past but are being taken up more by businesses (depending on your retailer, these can be available for customers classified as a Small or Large customer (see below for more information on customer classification).

Whatever tariff you choose, the most important thing is to understand the tariff structures and rates and apply them effectively to your business.

Electricity tariffs generally have fixed daily charges, a metering charge and then one or more charges based on your electricity consumption*. All tariffs have a consumption charge – measured in kilowatt hours kWh.

Some tariffs known as demand tariffs, also have a charge based on your electricity *demand – measured either in kilowatts (kW) or kilovolt amps (kVA). This demand charge can be based on your single highest half hour of demand each billing period – this is known as ‘anytime’ demand. There are other variations of these tariffs, for example tariffs that feature consumption or demand charges that vary based on time of day or month of the year. Very large customers may also have capacity and/or connection charges.

A further issue to be aware of is that eligibility for some tariffs is based on your classification as an electricity consumer. Classification is generally based on how much electricity you consume per year. Small Customers are defined as those using less than 100,000 kWh/year – also known 100 MWh/year. Large Customers are those using between 100MWh/year and 4,000MWh/year. Your electricity retailer can advise you of your classification and your electricity bill may also display this information.

* Confused about consumption vs demand? A good analogy to understand consumption and demand is driving your car. The total distance you travelled (km) would be the consumption (kWh); the highest speed (km/h) at which you travelled is the demand (kW or kVA). For most demand tariffs, demand is measured in 30 minute intervals and a simple way to convert kWh consumed in a 30 minute interval to demand is to multiple the kWh by 2. For example, if you business consumed 25kWh of electricity from the grid in-between 11:00am and 11:30am, your demand for the that period would be recorded as 50kW.

Put it in your calendar

Reviewing your electricity tariffs is something you should do annually, as tariff rates and structures can change regularly. Tariffs often change at the start of each financial year – but check with your retailer for details.

Do you need to change your meter?

Changing tariffs may require your electricity meter to be upgraded to a smart meter which is remotely read (meaning that consumption data is sent via the mobile phone network, rather than a meter reader visiting your premises). Your retailer will advise you of what is needed and any costs.

Depending on the condition of your meter box and switchboard, you may need to arrange work to ensure compliance with electricity standards before having a new meter installed (your electrical contractor can advise you).

Older style meters may only provide high level information on your usage, like the total amount of energy used over the whole billing period (monthly or quarterly).

Modern smart meters record electricity consumption every 30 minutes which gives a far more detailed view of your electricity consumption, allowing more accurate tariff comparisons. If you don’t currently have a remotely read smart meter, it may be difficult to accurately review some your tariff options.

Your electricity retailer can advise you of your current meter type and how to upgrade to a remotely read smart meter. For some tariffs this is mandatory.

4. Identify energy cost saving opportunities

How do you do this?

Following are some options for you to consider. Whichever way you go, don’t forget to engage your staff in the process – they'll not only have ideas but are crucial in ensuring that energy saving measures are implemented and sustained.

Some businesses may choose to only focus on ensuring they're on the best tariff option to save on energy costs. If this is done every 12 months (start of the financial year is a good time), it can be a good cost saving strategy.

Or, you could complete your own energy assessment in-house. We’ve compiled some energy saving tips covering office equipment, lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning, compressed air, food service equipment, pumps and hot water to help you with energy saving ideas. Reviewing these tips with your staff can help stimulate ideas that could apply in your own business. You could also have a competition for staff to come up with energy saving suggestions.

To really take charge of your energy costs, we recommend you do an assessment of energy management opportunities in your business. One way to do this is to engage an external energy auditor to complete an energy audit and recommend cost saving opportunities. Read more about how to choose an external energy auditor .

Eligible businesses could utilise a free walk-through style audit from the Queensland Government funded ecoBiz program, which is delivered through the Queensland Chamber of Commerce. The ecoBiz program also has a wide range of resources that can help business develop and implement their own Energy Management Plan.

If you're a large customer on a demand tariff, improving your site’s power factor may also help to lower your energy bills – you’ll need a specialist to assist with this.

It’s also a good idea to review what other businesses have done. You can check out more through ecoBiz. For agricultural customers, the Queensland Farmers Federation Energy Savers program has a number of case studies.

Group your ideas

Once you've compiled your energy saving ideas, you can then group them by which area of your business they impact and whether they're behavioural changes, low cost changes or longer term / higher cost savings. Summarising and grouping them can help you to implement the measures needed. A good way to summarise them is to:

  • Describe the energy saving measures
  • Forecast the electricity consumption (kWh) and/or demand (kW or kVA) savings
  • Estimate the cost of completion (behavioural measures usually have no cost)
  • Estimate the savings from the measures and payback times
  • Prioritise execution
  • Nominate who is going to be responsible for the application of the idea.

You may not be able to quantify everything initially. Suppliers who you ask to quote for work may also be able to provide an estimate of energy savings.

Check the best tariff for your energy saving ideas

Energy saving ideas that are tailored to how you are charged for electricity are likely to get the best result, so reviewing and understand your tariff is important. For example, if your tariff costs are mostly based on demand charges, you'll probably benefit most from working to manage your site’s demand first.

The following table outlines how the various energy saving measures will benefit you based on which tariff you are on:

Type of ideaExample of energy saving measuresMost applicable tariff
Reducing energy consumption

These measures focus on reducing the total kWh (kilowatt hours) you consume. Examples include:

  • Turing appliances off or down when not in use
  • Changing to more energy efficient appliances
  • Behavioural or other changes to work practices that have an energy saving benefit
  • Ensuring appliances are maintained correctly
  • Installing an energy management system to better manage electricity usage, including automating appliances or equipment use
  • Building improvements (i.e. greater use of daylight, installing insulation etc).
Mostly consumption (kWh) based tariffs and some demand (kW or kVA) based tariffs
Reducing electricity demand

These measures focus on reducing your demand (kilowatts / kilovolts amps) or moving demand to off-peak times. Examples include:

  • Changing when equipment operates
  • Staggering the use of various equipment
  • Changing equipment to reduce their electricity demand, like installing variable speed drives
  • Improving your site’s power factor.
Mostly demand (kW or kVA) based tariffs and some consumption (kWh) based tariffs
On-site energy generationThese measures reduce your electricity costs by generating your own electricity. The most common type is solar power but can also include things solar water heating or gas or diesel generation.Mostly consumption (kWh) based tariffs and some demand (kW or kVA) based tariffs
Energy monitoring

This involves ensuring you have adequate visibility of your premises energy usage. The most common options are:

  • Changing your electricity meter to a remotely read smart meter (speak to your electricity retailer)
  • Installing extra on-site energy monitoring equipment, to provide ‘real time’ feedback, including alerts, on your electricity usage.
All tariffs

5. Implementing your energy management plan

Your list of energy saving measures should become the basis for your business’s Energy Management Plan. Including targets for energy or cost savings helps to focus your efforts and track how you're going.

Set realistic targets for your business – a good rule of thumb is most businesses should be able to achieve a 10% reduction with a fairly moderate amount of effort.

You should be able to implement some of your measures straight away – remembering that the best chance of success is to ensure company management are supportive and all staff are properly engaged. Staff can be kept aware of energy saving initiatives through things like team meetings, internal emails and workplace social media apps.

Other energy saving ideas that involve a cost to progress and/or changes to your business operations may need to be discussed further and approved internally before they are applied.

Funding assistance

There may be financial incentives to help with the cost of implementing your energy saving ideas – ranging from grant funding to low interest – so it’s worth exploring those opportunities. We have financial incentive programs available to eligible customers in selected areas to reduce electricity usage at peak demand times. There's also a list of other funding options on the ecoBiz website.

6. Tracking your progress and sustaining your efforts

It’s very important to track your energy usage and costs after implementing your Energy Management Plan. This will help you to understand if your efforts to reduce your energy usage and costs have been successful.

You can track your progress by comparing your consumption and costs when you get each new electricity bill, against the same billing period in previous years. Bear in mind that other changes in the business might cause your energy consumption to go up or down and these should be considered when comparing.

Some businesses find it difficult to maintain momentum. A good idea is to set-up a regular ‘check-in’. This could be every 3 months. A suggested agenda for this type of meeting is:

  • Update on energy costs:
    • Recent energy consumption and costs?
    • How does this compare to same time last year?
    • What has impacted our energy consumption?
  • Progress against energy saving targets
  • Progress on implementing energy saving measures from your Energy Management Plan:
    • What’s working well?
    • What could be working better?
    • What’s coming up?
  • Discuss any new energy saving ideas.

Where to go for further help

You can email us for general information or advice on demand tariffs or energy management. Here's some other options:

  • Our website - view our energy saving tips and energy savings case studies
  • The ecoBiz program - it has a wide range of resources that can help your business create and implement your own Energy Management Plan
  • For agricultural customers - the Queensland Farmers Federation Energy Savers program has a wide range of resources, case studies and fact sheets to help farmers improve on-farm energy use and reduce costs
  • EnergyCut program - for more practical information, tips and tools on energy management, the EnergyCut program is a formal step-by-step energy saving program for businesses, supported with funding from the Australian Government
  • Your electricity retailer - for advice on retail electricity tariffs options
  • The Energy Efficiency Council of Australia - it has information and case studies on energy efficient projects completed in commercial and industrial buildings.