The forthcoming Carbon Reduction Commitment is set to be a major commercial opportunity for m&e contractors. Make sure your business doesn't miss out

From next year the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC, see box) should introduce a legal requirement on thousands of medium-to-large manufacturing and other commercial organisations to reduce carbon emissions. In many situations, m&e contractors can help these companies achieve the necessary carbon savings.

Significantly, the CRC is a driver for improving the energy performance of existing building stock, whether building work is planned or not. In any case, an energy review of existing premises is likely to identify a wide range of m&e opportunities, in addition to other carbon reduction measures such as better insulation and reducing solar gain.

Here are five mainly m&e routes to reducing carbon in organisations covered by the CRC.


  • Optimisation of lighting configurations and circuits – reflectors, dimmer circuits
  • Energy-efficient lamps and luminaires – LEDs, high-frequency fittings
  • Timers/photoelectric cells – to control interior/exterior lighting.

Heating and ventilation

  • Programmable thermostats – to turn off systems when the building is unoccupied
  • Heat pumps (including air-to-air).

Controls and meters

  • ‘Smart’ metering
  • Local metering – so management can see how energy is being used and where
  • New control panels – better control of boilers, pumps, fans and control valves.

Sensors and timers

  • Light sensors – to switch off lights when there is enough daylight available
  • Motion detectors or timers.

Renewable energy

  • Micro-renewable energy – roof-mounted solar units (water heating or solar cells).

Although installing micro-renewables in existing buildings can have relatively long paybacks, some large organisations may still want to make a visible statement that they are actively reducing carbon emissions.

Some contractors may be able to identify and optimise energy savings for their clients. Ideally, a client’s energy action plan should:

  • Involve m&e and other contractors at an early stage, to maximise long-term savings
  • Set out what needs to be done, in what order, with responsibilities and timescales
  • Show how much the actions will cost and what they will save and by when
  • Refer to tangible benefits beyond savings and payback times (‘green credentials’).

Some commentators have overlooked the large number of industrial premises that must meet CRC requirements (notably engineering companies not covered by other carbon reduction regimes). For these companies in particular, further energy savings can be achieved through measures such as variable speed motors and power factor correction.

Clients will prefer to use m&e contractors who can make things work together, as part of a ‘whole building’ approach to achieving carbon reductions. CRC clients will also benefit from ongoing maintenance and replacement programmes to help maintain and, ideally, boost their energy performance.

In summary, the CRC is likely to present m&e contractors with new opportunities for design, installation and service relationships.

Developments such as the CRC also underline that sustainability know-how adds up to significantly more than installing micro-renewables. M&E contractors who can frame what they do in the context of energy savings and sustainability have a considerable edge.

Originally published in EMC September 2009 as "Making a commitment"

CRC on the horizon

Carbon reduction refers to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas to provide energy, notably electricity.

The CRC process is likely to start in April 2010 and gather pace in 2011 after baseline energy measurements to assess carbon use have been gathered.

The government is set to require an estimated 5000 commercial organisations – including manufacturing and engineering services, councils, major retail chains, banks and government offices – to trade in carbon emission credits.

We wait to see how the government will introduce the CRC but we can reasonably anticipate that these 5000 larger energy users (outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme) will have to report their energy use and purchase ‘carbon credits’.

The current plan is for organisations fully participating in the CRC to submit reports for a league table of performance.

A league table should also provide a big incentive to top management to reduce emissions. A further 20 000 bodies are likely to have to record their energy use, which should further encourage reductions.