Monthly Archives: July 2013

5 Quick Wins in Energy Management

4. Energy Management PhotoLast week, a group of energy specialists – with combined experience of over 300 years – came together at our Energy Management Seminar. With such a wealth of knowledge in one room, there was some very interesting discussion of approaches to energy management. This knowledge shouldn’t be limited to those who attended the Seminar, so I’d like to share some key ideas and approaches that I learnt during day. The aim, as usual, is to inspire you to take well-managed, considered risks and adapt or cherry-pick successful approaches.

  1. Don’t forget water, the ‘untapped resource’. For some organisations, water management may be a hidden opportunity for savings. There were some good examples in the seminar of using water audits and good monitoring systems to identify problems (like leaks) and respond quickly – as well as changing behaviours when unusual patterns appear. We’ll soon be uploading a new case study from Aneurin Bevan Health Board on this topic; it has seen some great successes from effective water management. Keep an eye on our Twitter account for more information on this.
  2. The real benefits of energy monitoring. Facts and figures are often reported to senior managers, but you can also use them to create league tables for departments; competition is often a great way to change behaviour. Some delegates discussed their own use of league tables and quite a few went away planning to start their own league tables – the benefits of shared learning.
  3. Embed energy management in your organisation. Our delegates discussed regular reporting to senior leadership level and actively engaging with staff prior to new projects. One idea I found particularly interesting was embedding energy management in staff appraisals. This lets the Chief Executives challenge Directors, and Directors the Departmental Managers. Controversial perhaps, but could be adapted to suit other organisations.
  4. You don’t necessarily need to start energy management projects from scratch. Retro-fitting is possible and the delegates shared some good examples of running projects in existing buildings. Welsh Water’s presentation focused on managing what’s already there rather than splashing out on expensive new technology.
  5. Do the maths. Not all energy management projects will be suitable for your organisation, particularly when finances are tight. But don’t be scared to invest some money to save in the long run. Instead, the day’s discussion taught me that it takes some consideration to work out which projects are most suited to your own needs. For instance, Geoff Walsh from Cardiff and the Vale University Health Board gave an interesting presentation on retro-fitting LED lights – but which may apply better to buildings with 24/7 lighting than short hour offices.

These are only a few of the great ideas presenters and delegates introduced during the seminar. We will shortly upload the ideas people shared during the day, as well as some of the common difficulties. Take a look at these outputs and see if there are any projects you’d like to know more about, or anyone you can help.


The magical world of Podcasts


We’ve created a fair few podcasts since I started working for the Good Practice Exchange. It’s been a great way of capturing people’s views and evidencing what kind of impact our activities are having, and to also hear from people how we can best take our work forward.

For anyone looking to do cheap podcasting, phones and tablets are able to record good quality files these days (we’ve been using our personal iPads and Asus tablets), you can edit them using free software like Audacity (which is open source), and you can host them online using social media such as Soundcloud (where you can host up to 2 hours worth of audio for free) or Audioboo (where you can host an unlimited amount of audio files that are under 3 minutes long).

I’ve been doing this a while now, but since I’ve begun working here I’ve realised that the podcasts I’ve been recording aren’t as good as they could be. My colleague Chris’ podcast with Helen Reynolds first made me question the way I was doing things. Whilst I was recording clinical interviews capturing exactly what I needed to know, Chris’ effort was uplifting and captured both his and Helen’s personality. This was reinforced by an interview he conducted with Dr Sharon Evans from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, where the personal touch again works wonders.

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Around this time I began attending the Geek Speak events in Cardiff. At the first event I went to Gareth Morlais led a session on digital storytelling. After his session (which was great), I relayed my thinking both to him and others around my podcasts.

Gareth’s digital stories are full of emotion, and I realised that that is what made them great – they are very human accounts of people’s experiences. Whilst I was getting the information I needed out of my interviews, they didn’t have the warmth I was looking for. I was getting people’s views to fit into my own story, as opposed to listening to people tell their own. I realised that I had been conducting interviews in a very old fashion way. In a world of web 2.0 where we share and interact with others, I was working in a one-sided model.

Now I’m very keen to collaborate with people so that both own the podcast and we both get what we want out of it. After all, it’s hard to sound excited about something you’ve had little input into.

My first couple of months here have been great. I’m learning new things from my colleagues all the time, and I can’t wait more of what I’ve learnt into practice.

– Dyfrig

Making the Most of Your Assets

3. Asset Management ImageDid you know that since 2006, business energy costs have risen by 243%? No, nor did we. The public sector in Wales is well aware of the need to cut costs and improve services. But what do you do when you’re faced with costs that seem out of your control? You could look to manage your assets better by trying new ideas or approaches. The Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Exchange aim is to help you find these new ideas and approaches through offering free seminars, resources and guidance on asset management.

 What do we mean by asset management?

It covers a wide range of topics, including energy, IT, fleet, buildings and plant and machinery – all things you need to make your organisation function. Whilst you can’t cut any of these from your budget, you can try to manage them better. The aim is to make financial savings without having negative effects on service delivery.

Some good work has been done across the UK on asset management. Over £800m has been saved since 2004 in central government estate, according to the Northern Ireland Audit Office. In Wales, the National Asset Working Group helps organisations work together to make financial savings. But costs still rise and now that sustainable development is becoming a core principle for the Welsh public sector, why not look at some new ideas?

That’s what the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Exchange is doing this year. We’re planning on running some free seminars and gathering good practice on energy, fleet, IT and buildings management. We’ll share with you some key ideas and themes coming out of our work on this blog and our website. In the meantime, you may find the knowledge that we gathered previously helpful.

Why is finding these new ideas important? The public sector in Wales is facing tight financial constraints and well-managed, considered risks and new ideas could help. Sharing and learning from each other’s experiences can help organisations tackle asset management in a new way. Instead of struggling with your energy management, you could adapt the successful approaches taken by someone else – that’s our philosophy.

What else is out there?

The National Asset Working Group’s new hub could be a good place to start. The Energy Saving Trust has a blog with some interesting ideas and the Guardian has a collection of sustainability case studies from businesses. Some general internet research will turn up a range of ideas you may find useful.

Asset management is not just for your estates and facilities department. It’s an enabler of services   for your whole organisation. You could spend some time developing your strategy and see what new changes you could make to save money. If you’re not very familiar with asset management, you could do some research to see how important it is and what can be achieved.

Keep an eye on our website for new ideas and resources to help you think afresh about your asset management. There will be a collection of energy management resources available at the end of July. You can also see details of our Energy Management Seminar on our website. On the day, you can follow #WAO_EM on Twitter for some new ideas and approaches.

We’d like to hear from you if you’re doing some interesting work in this area or if you find any of our ideas particularly helpful – leave us a comment below.