Through a combination of technical advances and changing legislation, warehouse lighting has become more complicated. Be that as it may, legislation will ensure warehouse operators will not be allowed to behave ostrich-like. By 2019, for example, emerging regulations will include the requirement that all new buildings must be zero carbon. Further legislation, such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, will require many organisations to trade carbon and appear in a published league table with their peers. Moreover, more clients are requiring their suppliers to show improvements in their green credentials.

Given the blinding array of equipment choices, all with their pros and cons, plus legislative changes, it is hardly surprising that the time involved in identifying and implementing energy-saving solutions is often a stumbling block for warehouse operators to move forward. Dialight, the LED manufacturer, believes time may be a major factor but it sees the biggest barrier as capital expenditure and the reluctance to put an investment in energy saving on the balance sheet. Chalmor’s sales director, Charlie Clay, also sees the time factor as a barrier but mainly in the retro-fit market. Perhaps the real problem is the lack of a warehouse operator kingpin specially tasked with responsibility for all warehouse energy issues.

Even if existing businesses may not be under the same legal restraints as the new businesses post 2019, any warehouse operator would be foolish to ignore the competitive advantages that can be gained from maximising energy usage efficiency. The sums involved in lost opportunities for warehouse energy cuts are huge.  A programme of site energy surveys commissioned by UKWA and the Carbon Trust throughout the UK, for example, confirmed that quick returns on  no and low cost actions can often provide cost savings of 10% to 20%, with a further 10% to 50% a year saving achievable with simple payback periods ranging from one to six years. This could save the warehouse sector over £200 million a year. There are other non lighting issues that could save far more energy costs than that but that is another story.

The good news is that there is plenty of help on hand to steer warehouse operators through the maze of the pros and cons of all the various lighting technologies like LEDs, high pressure sodium lighting, fluorescents and metal halide. Suppliers and installers like Chalmor, Dialight, Lutterworth Ecolighting and Luxonic offer health and safety visits, risk assessments, on-site project management and continuous commissioning and even help with the funding.

There is also an array of government incentives to invest in energy-saving lighting. These range from many regional funds that offer grants to local businesses, though rarely more than £5,000, to zero interest, unsecured loans from the Carbon Trust of up to £200,000. These loans are available to small or medium-sized enterprises in England and Scotland and all enterprises in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme is also designed to encourage businesses to invest in energy-saving equipment. This provides 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in energy-saving equipment against taxable profits during the investment period. There are also leasing packages available from installation companies, with all the benefits of reduced tax liability and the prospect of offsetting payments over a 3-5 year period against monthly energy savings, effectively paying for itself.

Warehouse operators should also bear in mind that lighting is not just confined to energy costs. Poorly chosen lighting systems, positioning, etc, can exact a heavy price in accidental damage, injuries, fines and maintenance costs.

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