Energy use in museums
For many business and organisations wanting to become more environmentally friendly, whether it’s because of a desire to act on climate change or to lower bills or both, knowing where to start can be the first challenge. For most organisations, one of their biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions is through their energy consumption such as their gas and electricity use.
The more energy your building consumes, the more greenhouse gases you’re generating. This is true to different extents for different buildings and can be influenced by a number of factors, including your energy supplier, the tariff you’re on and the energy efficiency of your building.
Museums can face many challenges when it comes to energy use. Firstly, there are times when their work may demand intensive energy use such as collections care, they may be limited in their energy suppliers by governing organisations or may be unable to make thermal improvements to their listed or traditional building. However, there will always be something you can do to improve the energy performance of your building which can help to lower both your bills and your emissions.
Conducting energy audits
Knowing what these actions are or where your efforts would be best targeted can be difficult. An option which is available to organisations is through energy audits (sometimes called energy assessments). These are assessments, usually carried out by an external, specialist company that assess the energy requirements and efficiency of your organisation. It will consider the structure of your buildings, how it operates, what appliances you have, how and when they run and provide a detailed report explaining your current energy performance and where improvement and efficiencies could be made. These can be done either in person and on site or over the phone.
The benefits of an audit can be wide ranging and may include:
- Identify cost saving opportunities in energy efficiency
- Improve on carbon emissions
- Get compliant (or ready for future legislation)
- Gain a deeper understanding of your business operations and behaviours
- Accurate data and analysis to help support commercial decisions
- Enhance your own sustainability reputation
- Highlight potential for energy efficiency grants
- Lower exposure to energy price hikes
- Drive down energy costs
Energy audits will not be suitable or appropriate for all museums as the potential savings for one may not outweigh the cost of the assessment or where energy saving actions are relatively simple. It is possible to carry out your own energy audit by setting some time and resource aside to do some basic research and explore your building and operations from this viewpoint. For example, look for any draughts from your windows or leaks coming in through your walls. If you think a DIY energy audit is for you, you can find advice and checklists online, such as:
More information on energy efficiency improvements for your building can be found on our climate advice page: Museums Galleries Scotland | Climate Action.
However, for larger organisations or those with more complicated energy requirements, an audit may highlight significant long-term savings and emissions reduction. As an increasing amount of energy management legislation is being passed in the UK conducting an energy audit can be a good first step in ensuring your organisation is operating as efficiently as possible. Energy audits are a legal requirement for companies in the UK with over 250 employees through the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and while the vast majority of museums won’t qualify as such, they can still be beneficial. Additionally, if you’re organisation is committing to becoming more sustainable and reducing its emissions, however this may look for you, getting a detailed report with a list of actions to take in sequence can act as a wonderful to do list. It is important to remember that just because you commit to an audit, you are not required to undertake any of the recommendations or suggestions if you don’t want to.
Although an energy audit can be tailored and is unique to your own building and organisation, general areas of focus include:
- Assessing your current energy usage:
- This includes getting an inventory of all energy consuming activities during a working day, including areas where it is being lost or wasted.
- Planning improvement and costs:
- Here alternative options are drawn up for improving your organisations energy performance with the costs, benefits and pay-back time all quantified.
- Implementing your findings:
- This last stage is the implementation of some, or all the steps outlined in the audit. These can be done at your own pace whenever is most suitable for the business.
Further information on energy audits can be found by a quick online search or at the following links:
If you decide that an energy audit conducted by an external provider is the best option for your organisation and one you’d like to explore further, you can find several different routes for one (including self-audit toolkits). These include:
Outside of these you can find a wide range of private companies that provide commercial energy audits. One may be more suitable for your organisation than another so it’s important to do your own research beforehand. Your existing energy provider may provide such energy audits themselves and can be a good starting place, otherwise looking online will bring up plenty of options and help to get you started on operating a more sustainable museum.