Flex it or fix it? It depends on your appetite for energy risk

Ben Archer, Head of Risk Management, Gazprom Energy

Given the recent volatility of wholesale energy costs, it’s important that organisations choosing a new energy contract reconsider what type of deal is right for them. Figures from ICIS Energy found that gas prices ranged from over 80 pence per therm in 2013 to just over 30 pence per therm in 2016. As customers feel the impact of these price fluctuations it raises the question of whether to take a risk averse approach with a fixed rate contract, or alternatively consider a more closely managed flexible contract approach.

Choosing a fixed contract means keeping your energy costs static and predictable for the contract duration – typically one to five years – regardless of what happens to market prices. On the other hand, a flexible contract means buying gas based on your demand or when the price suits you. With a flexible contract you can forward buy (hedge), or simply let a published market index determine your price, which allows you to make the most of low current and future energy prices if they occur. In comparison, fixed contracts mean being able to budget for energy with certainty, knowing for sure how much you’re paying from one month to the next.

Both approached offer opportunities and benefits for the customer whether that be cost certainty or a savings opportunity. What’s important is to consider your business model and risk profile to make an informed judgement on which route to go down.

For instance, would it be able to pass the costs to customers to maintain profitability? The benefits of taking a risk should be considered too, such as the opportunity to save costs by strategically buying energy under flexible terms.

The finance or procurement manager can establish how the organisation would fare should the price of energy go up or down by the amount it has fluctuated previously. A business with strict budget controls when it comes to energy may not have a business model that could support such a price rise. A fish and chip shop owner, for example, may simply not be able to cope with energy prices higher than their current value, and opt for a fixed deal. Price certainty and peace of mind could be just what some businesses are satisfied with, even if energy prices drop. However, if an organisation is prepared and able to buy in line with changing market prices to get cheaper energy than it perhaps would with a fixed contract, it might find a flexible contract a worthwhile option. Although more risky, it could save money in the long-term.

Risk appetite isn’t the only factor involved in choosing an energy contract; the human resource available to manage energy buying should come into it too. Other than checking that energy bills are accurate and based on contracted rates, fixed contracts require minimal input or resource. However, managing flexible contracts is a strategic purchasing activity. With a flexible contract, energy buying needs to be planned around market rates and trading conditions that best suit the organisation. This can be carried out in-house, but only with an in-depth understanding of the market. An internal procurement department may have the necessary knowledge, in which case you might not require additional personnel. But to reap the full benefits of a flexible energy contract, organisations might choose to take on a dedicated energy manager, or consult with an independent energy specialist or the procurement desk within their energy supplier. These people specialise in tracking the market and buying energy accordingly.

Whether they select a fixed or a flexible energy contract, organisations can use the market to their advantage. But it is important to decide which approach to take by considering the business model, resources and financial position before deciding. It’s also key to establish whether budget certainty is more important, or if the ability to utilise a dip in prices is a priority for energy buying. Only then can a confident decision be made about which option is most suitable.

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Something for everyone at Trade Fair & Convention

HAE EHA Trade Fair & Convention 2017

Ricoh Arena, Coventry, October 11-12

Members are urged to make a beeline for the HAE EHA Trade Fair & Convention at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on October 11-12 – where topics will include the latest industry initiatives for training and retaining staff, empowering women in the workplace and a safer working environment, all backed up by an impressive line-up of keynote speakers.

Being ‘sent to Coventry’ will benefit delegates at the convention as they get insights from, among others, Derek Redmond, an Olympic and world champion athlete who will be discussing improving performance and retaining talent. Financial expert Lee Coles, Head of Workplace Education at Jelf, part of Mercer Marsh Benefits, will be sharing his extensive knowledge concerning the wellbeing of employees and retirement planning.

Other speakers over the two days are HAE EHA Chairman Andy Martin, who will give the welcome and introduction and Guy Van Der Knaap, Managing Director of MCS. Guy is to deliver a presentation on how to make the best use of mobile devices to improve productivity. There will also be opportunities to network and share information and best practice with other members.

In addition, there will be training workshops including HAE’s ILM Level 5 Graduation scheme and the exciting developments in virtual reality (VR) programmes in partnership with the University of the West of England. Just one of the innovative VR training tools that will be featured at the show will give delegates the opportunity to control and operate a VR mini digger.

Richard Whiting of Commercial Training at HAE, said: “The training and NVQ programmes we’re offering are a far-reaching ‘cradle to grave’ approach to a career in hire. Virtual reality is an inventive way for us to demonstrate the training available throughout the hire supply chain. In addition to a virtual digger we also plan to have an articulated boom.”

To ensure a steady stream of talented people throughout the industry, it is essential that progression in the hire industry is open to all who show the skills and commitment required to successfully deliver high quality work on time.

Education and training to help career development and improve productivity is a strong theme of the convention and empowerment of women in the sector will be under the spotlight. A key factor in the future success of the industry will be tackling ways in which training programmes and changing attitudes can help women benefit from the huge variety of jobs which are available in plant, equipment and hire.

Tackling safety issues is also on the agenda at the Trade Fair & Convention. SafeHire is sponsoring the networking and refreshments area in the Ricoh Arena where anyone can drop by, speak to the team about the benefits of the scheme and book assessment dates to achieve the certification.

The area will have case study information from HAE members who have achieved certification and there will be plenty of examples of the good, the bad and the ugly instances involving safety – or the lack of it.

To discuss the opportunities for business improvement and the importance of being recognised for supplying safe, quality equipment there will be speaker sessions from construction industry bodies and Government procurement, along with a speaker panel fronted by the SafeHire plus Build UK.

The HAE EHA Trade Fair & Convention is open to all members but people wishing to attend need to register in advance as numbers are limited for catering, workshops and guest speaker sessions.  For more details and sponsorship opportunities go to http://hireconvention.org.uk

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New toggle latches from FDB Panel Fittings

These new DIRAK toggle latches from FDB Panel Fittings offer the novel feature of a slider lock mechanism to prevent accidental opening or nuisance opening caused by excessive vibration. They are typically of value on specialist vehicles for compartment closure or on transit cases where the padlockable variant would also be particularly useful.

These spring wire loop catches with hook plates are in tough AISI 304 stainless steel with slider locks in either stainless or Red ABS for greater visibility.

FDB Panel Fittings and sister company FDB Electrical share their online shopping website at www.fdbonline.co.uk. Further information on FDB products and services may be found at: www.fdb.co.uk. Find the latest information and news on the FDB blog – www.fdbnews.co.uk, or follow them on twitter: www.twitter.com/fdbpanelfitting – also see www.youtube.com/fdbpanelfittings.

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New Security Fasteners from Challenge Europe Ltd

Challenge Europe are delighted to have in their portfolio the Hafren range of security fasteners – a range of anti-vandal, anti-tamper screws and nuts proven in applications from architectural and street furniture, to marine and industrial equipment.

2 hole headed (otherwise known as pignose or snake eye) A2 stainless screws, bolts and self-tappers provide a versatile and clean look to installations while deterring vandals and keeping installations safe. Likewise, shear-nuts in zinc plated steel, galvanised, A2 and A4 stainless.

The Hafren range from Challenge Europe also covers 6-lobe driven threaded fasteners in A2 stainless steel with centre pin, in self-tapping, machine screw, self-drilling, barrel nut and floor anchor formats. Both countersunk and dome headed types are available.

Further information on Challenge Europe products can be found on their website – www.challenge-europe.co.uk.

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HGV contract parking arrives at key northern site

HGV CONTRACT PARKING ARRIVES AT KEY NORTHERN SITE

From this summer, Onward Holdings Ltd, will be supplying much-needed, quality HGV contract parking spaces within 2.5 miles of junction 31 of the M62 in Yorkshire – one of the UK’s most sought-after distribution and manufacturing locations. This represents a golden opportunity for fleet operators requiring a northern base for their vehicles.

This major new service offered by Onward Holdings, an established supplier of warehousing in the north of England, will significantly boost the options for haulage companies needing a cost-effective base. The location is ideally placed for fleet operators to take advantage of the recent multi-million pound investment promised by Associated British Ports in the Port of Hull – sure to increase business in the area, particularly in the logistics sector.

The large capacity of the site is expected to appeal to HGV fleet operators and owner-drivers who need a regular facility to store their vehicles securely overnight or for a variable amount of time. The site has space for a sizable number of HGVs with further capacity expected in the future. Vehicle safety is paramount at the site which is equipped with electronic gates, CCTV cameras and a full remote monitoring system.

Haulage operators will be delighted to learn that various contract options are available to them, ranging from monthly to discounted annual contracts. This flexibility will be a great boon for those companies that are bound by seasonal variances in their workload and may not to wish to commit themselves to long-term contracts.

Onward Holdings’ managing director, Neil Storey, said: “Many businesses are looking to have their fleets close to key routes in order to cut transportation time and costs.  We aim to rescue them from the current shortage of responsible, highly-secure HGV parking in the area. We are offering flexible, competitively priced terms which should help companies tap more easily into the improving economic situation in the north.”

Set in one of the most important warehouse and distribution locations, the site offers parking close to many national and international online businesses as well as being within a short distance of the M62 with links to other major motorway networks. It could even become the permanent operating base for fleet operators with long term vision.

Onward Holdings says it has already had enquiries from businesses in North Yorkshire and the south east of England who are looking to develop or expand in the north of England. Increasing demand from third party logistics providers has seen its warehouses being snapped up quickly and it is likely that the parking will follow suit.

Family-run Onward Holdings specialises in operating highly competitively-priced industrial warehousing,  in the north of England as well as retail parks and now secure, HGV parking.

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Extended service offering available from ASSA ABLOY Security Doors

ASSA ABLOY Security Doors, a UK division of ASSA ABLOY, the global leader in door opening solutions, has extended its fire door inspection, maintenance and repair offering.

 ASSA ABLOY Security Doors offers a complete doorset solution, for architects, contractors, end users and facilities managers. The organisation can also manage the whole process, from specification and scheduling, to the design, manufacture and installation of its high-performance steel and timber doorsets.  In addition, ASSA ABLOY Security Doors can then provide on-going service, maintenance and fire door inspection of these doorsets.

As a result of its acquisition of Prima Doors, ASSA ABLOY Security Doors now has a team of service and repair technicians across the UK to oversee regular doorset maintenance in a range of key markets, including commercial, high security and public buildings.

The company also employs four BRE-certified fire door inspectors who can undertake regular safety checks, which is an essential part of any fire risk assessment to ensure doorsets remain compliant. A comprehensive inspection report will then be generated, offering advice and recommendations on the necessary improvements that need to be made, which can then be progressed by ASSA ABLOY Security Doors.

Brian Sofley, Managing Director at ASSA ABLOY Security Doors, explains: “We live in a fast-paced and busy world, and anything that can be done to streamline processes and efficiencies – saving both time and money – should be encouraged. ASSA ABLOY Security Doors has recognised this need, resulting in a full service offering that customers can depend on.

“In short, we can manage every element throughout a product’s lifecycle. From the initial doorset specification to on-going service, maintenance and fire safety inspections, we can ensure products remain fit for purpose and are fully compliant at all times.

“Dealing with just one organisation not only streamlines the specification and ongoing maintenance process, but customers can also be assured they will experience consistently high levels of quality and reliability from their doorsets, safe in the knowledge that we have the product expertise to optimise and maintain performance.

“Supported by ASSA ABLOY Group’s extensive hardware offering, we are here to help those seeking a full service doorset supplier.”

For more information on ASSA ABLOY Security Doors, please visit www.assaabloy.co.uk/fdinspection.

 

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How we saved Hertfordshire taxpayers £1m by reducing energy and carbon costs dramatically

James Heslam, Hertfordshire County Council Energy Manager

“Like many councils, Hertfordshire County Council was under pressure to make savings to protect front line services and to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2010 a Carbon Reduction Tax (CRC) was introduced, adding to the cost the council was paying for its energy usage.

Four years ago we set ourselves a goal to reduce our carbon and energy usage by 15% before 2018. But to our delight, we exceeded this target by three per cent – two years early. During this period, we have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide we are using by over 5,000 tonnes resulting in a saving of £1million for Hertfordshire taxpayers.

Following this successful carbon reduction, the county council is now set to hit an even more ambitious target by bringing the total carbon reduction to 24% by April 2018.

So how did we do it?

Armed with a tight budget, we embarked on a programme of carbon reduction across our corporate estate. The council has around 150 properties and I was aware through use of our AMR (Automatic Meter Readings) that the heating and cooling systems in the larger sites in particular were not operating efficiently.

After discussions with our facilities management contractor and sustainability consultant, we were able to make significant savings by improving the operation of our heating and cooling systems and our building management systems controlling them.

Soon I realised that we needed to extend this approach across to the rest of our estate; our libraries, fire stations, day centres and youth buildings. This was a challenge: every building was different with varying heating systems and controls. But we knew that small tweaks – even in the more basic buildings – could reduce energy consumption significantly.

For example, we found that typically boilers would be operating permanently when often it would be sufficient for them to only be doing so during working hours and for a small optimised time before hand. We introduced outside air temperature hold-offs which enabled boilers to switch off when the outside air temperature went above 15 degrees. We optimised the demands on boilers while they were in operation by linking this to the outside air temperatures and internal temperature set points we wanted them to achieve.

We realised that high consuming chillers were kicking in rather than making use of the cool air outside, using up a lot of electricity. So we began to automatically switch them on only when the temperature went above 17 degrees. By doing this, we ensured that chillers and boilers never came on at the same time – saving energy.

We introduced energy management policies such as office temperature ranges of 20-25 degrees and removed supplementary heating from our buildings which would interfere with the heating and cooling systems whilst adding to the energy bill.

We got the basics right in the first year and then we started rolling it out to the other parts of the estate in the second year, which took quite a long time. It was a juggling act as we were also trying to carry out LED upgrades throughout our properties. The work required a common sense approach coupled with technical expertise for some of the more complex items at larger sites.

We also introduced a few separate individual technical projects running alongside these activities, such as introducing hydro-zip taps across our main sites and a pre-cooling project in our Stevenage office, in which IT server rooms are cooled using air from outside rather than air conditioning units.

This is only the beginning

Now we’ve got our energy demand right down through the heating and cooling systems work, we also need to make sure through use of our AMR data and working with our technical teams that we maintain the high standards we have set. We also need to look at other opportunities to reduce our energy consumption, there are lots of things out there we can invest in, such as heating and cooling plant upgrades, insulation or renewables, but we need to look at those options and decide which are the most realistic to deliver.

Our LED programme remains a work in progress – we’ve still got more buildings that we need to look at but we’re at the point now where we need to be looking into the next steps in terms of capital investment opportunities.

The biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge of this work has been striking the balance between maintaining comfort levels in buildings, and keeping stakeholders on board while eliminating waste. We’ve managed to deal with any problems we’ve had along the way and deliver the project, while meeting stakeholders’ expectations.

Delivering a project of this magnitude requires three key assets. Attention to detail, perseverance and a diplomatic approach! I was also very lucky to have support from management on the project to allow me to pursue certain ideas and implement policies.

I’ve certainly learnt a lot about dealing with people and handling difficult situations, in addition to the many technical aspects of energy management.”

Five top tips:

  • Check the basic timing and temperature control of the building heating systems
  • Look at the more detailed aspects of the heating and cooling plant and make sure it is working properly
  • Regularly monitor the building through use of AMRs to make sure that what you put in place has not been changed
  • Look at the lighting in the building to make sure that it is LED
  • Consider any investment-based projects you might need to look at, focusing on the best return on investment
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BIFM Ireland Summit Returns to Belfast

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Ireland FM Summit will return to Belfast on 17th November 2017, when facilities management professionals gather at the newly refurbished National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

Now in its 21st year The BIFM Ireland FM Summit has become one of the highlights in the calendars of FM professionals and those working on the periphery of the FM industry from across Ireland and beyond.

Featuring both local and international speakers and exhibitors the summit will bring together facilities management professionals and industry experts to give unique insights into the new and best practices of facilities management, ensuring the efficient and profitable running of businesses. This year’s theme, ‘The Internet of Things’, will examine facilities management as it embraces new digital communications technologies.

The Internet of Things examines how devices can be used beyond the traditional computing norms to provide intelligence everywhere around us. Automation can allow us to adjust thermostats, open doors, monitor health, and simplify tasks such as to do lists at the touch of a button or even the flick of a wrist. Removing simple chores from our everyday life enables us to maintain better focus at work or gives us more time relax with family and friends.

Keith Halliday, BIFM Ireland Region committee member said, “We are delighted to be bringing our FM Summit back to Belfast for 2017 to such an iconic venue. The Internet of Things will most certainly be the driving force of change and possibilities for the FM and services industry in the coming years.  FM as an industry continues to grow rapidly throughout the UK and Ireland and the profession has come a long way locally thanks to BIFM and our Ireland region, which has in excess of 400 members.”

Aramark returns as the chief sponsor this year, with Compass, H&J Martin and Sodexo on board as supporting sponsors. Ray Taylor, Operations Director, Aramark said: “We have supported the BIFM Ireland Summit for many years now and it always presents an ideal platform to discuss with fellow professionals the way forward and delve into the topics that are challenging and changing the sector. We have no doubt that this year’s summit will be as informative and engaging as always with a great line-up of inspiring speakers.”

As well as looking to the future, this year’s summit also looks to sport for its next inspiration. Held at the iconic National Stadium, the event will be hosted by renowned sports journalist and presenter Denise Watson. A special question and answer session will also be held at the event with football legend and all-time lead goal scorer for Northern Ireland, David Healy MBE.

For further information or booking visit https://www.regonline.com/irelandconference2017

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Who is the ‘responsible person’?

 

Fire safety technology – such as smoke control systems – is designed to save lives and protect property in a fire. The Regulatory Reform (2005) Fire Order, often known as the RRO, governs the legal responsibility to ensure these systems are suitably maintained in order to do their job properly if and when called upon.

The RRO lays the obligation for ensuring this maintenance takes place at the feet of someone it describes as the ‘responsible person’ – someone who will end up heavily fined or even in jail if the legislation isn’t given its due regard.

But who is this ‘responsible person’? The chances are it isn’t your fire alarm provider or your health and safety contractor. If you’re a building owner or facilities manager, it could well be you…

In the RRO, “responsible person” is defined as:

  1. a) in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his/her control
  2. b) in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a):

the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him/her of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or

the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking

To further confuse matters, there are other ways of defining the responsible person as laid out in, for example, the government’s own fire safety guidance:

  • an employer
  • the owner
  • the landlord
  • an occupier
  • anyone else with control of the premises, for example a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor. The Fire Safety Order also applies if you have paying guests, for example if you run a bed and breakfast, guesthouse or let a self-catering property.

So if you fit the descriptions above, you may actually be the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one responsible person, you have to work together to meet your responsibilities, but generally it’s important that the correct person is identified and his or her responsibilities laid out clearly.

In many cases, this translates to a building’s facilities manager. The duty of care to generate and operate fire risk assessments is all part of the modern FM’s remit and we find in many cases they appreciate the subtle difference between fire alarms, sprinkler systems and smoke control systems.

Government guidance goes on to state that as the responsible person you must:

  • carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly
  • tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified
  • put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
  • plan for an emergency
  • provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training

You can see how vital all these duties are, which is why we’d always recommend subcontracting to a trusted, suitably-accredited supplier who will understand the technology and legislation, aiding you with that burden of responsibility as the ‘responsible person’. Unfortunately, we’ve seen plenty of instances of smoke control systems being compromised by maintenance undertaken or commissioned without proper technical or legislative understanding.

 

About Brakel Airvent

Brakel Airvent is the UK’s leading provider of whole-life service to smoke control systems.

The company – based in Cardiff, south Wales – specialises in planned preventative maintenance, emergency repairs and cost-effective refurbishment packages that are staged to minimise financial impact and disruption to building users. It has a national network of service engineers and in-house CFD and fire engineering expertise to ensure its solutions are up to the important task of saving lives and protecting property, in line with legislation such as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

www.airvent.co.uk

About smoke control

A legislative requirement, smoke control systems are activated when a fire breaks out in a large building. They remove hot, hazardous smoke or compartmentalise it to allow for clearer escape routes and easier fire fighter access.

Many systems have multiple purposes including natural cooling ventilation or fume management.

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22% of Employees Admit to Changing Fluorescent Tubes at Work

Findings even though concurrent survey suggests that more than half of employees surveyed don’t know how to change one

A recent survey of 1,000 people by online fluorescent tube retailers Lamp Shop Online has revealed that nearly a quarter of office workers have changed a fluorescent tube at work, even though they don’t know how to do so safely.

Faulty or dead fluorescent tubes in the workplace can cause health issues such as headaches, migraines and eye strain, which can cost businesses millions of pounds each year.

Poor lighting can also put employees at risk of trips and falls, as well as reducing staff productivity. Many business owners are unaware that it is their responsibility to maintain the lighting in the workplace, so the burden often falls on employees.

The survey also showed that 58% of employees don’t actually know how to change a fluorescent tube, which presents a serious safety issue.

Faulty or dead fluorescent tubes in the workplace can cause health issues such as headaches, migraines and eye strain, which can cost businesses millions of pounds each year.

Poor lighting can also put employees at risk of trips and falls, as well as  reducing staff productivity.

Falls and trips due to inadequate lighting could lead to employers being sued, as failure to take responsibility for implementing the correct lighting at work may be illegal in some circumstances.

Rob Holroyd from Lamp Shop Online comments: “The results of the survey are worrying as employers are not taking responsibility for the lighting in their building, which is a key maintenance issue. The Health and Safety Executive states that employers are responsible for maintaining lighting in the workplace, so employers could actually be breaking the law by not stepping up and looking after their lighting.

“Employers need to regularly assess and maintain the lighting in their premises to ensure employees don’t have to take matters into their own hands and put themselves at risk.”

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