A Clean Energy Council guide for small to medium enterprises on demand-side solutions for improving electricity use highlights the benefits of energy efficiency and embedded generation such as solar power.

Chief executive of the CEC Kane Thornton says that with Australia’s electricity supply being in a state of transition, there are both risks and opportunities for the SME sector.

Demand-side strategies include onsite generation and storage, load shifting and integrated energy management systems to reduce energy bills.

The guide steps through the process of assessing the load profile of various types of businesses, including retail, hospitality, commercial offices and manufacturing. The relationship between load profile and time-of-use tariffs and the consequential benefits of reducing use at peak times then forms part of the business case for any of the potential demand-side management strategies.

In the commercial office context, as the majority of energy is used during the day, the guide says solar photovoltaics are a “good match” for the energy use profile. HVAC is identified as a key element of power use, due to the need to maintain levels of comfort for staff who may have different thermal comfort expectations.

Another major energy user is office technology, which also increases the need for cooling due to the heat generated by IT and other electrical equipment.

Energy efficiency measures suggested to reduce demand include improving the efficiency of lighting and HVAC, and also improvements to the building shell such as installing insulation or external shading.

Businesses in the retail sector also generally have the greatest energy load during the day, and are also a good match for solar PV. Lighting and HVAC are generally the largest energy cost, so improving the efficiency of both will generate financial benefits.

The guide also explains the different components of an SME energy bill, including the different types of pricing such as descending block tariffs, time-of-use tariffs and capacity charges.

It concludes with an outline of how to assess the business case for any DSM initiative and examples of SME business cases. There is also an examination of the barriers that may exist for an SME in terms of specific solutions, and an analysis of how the likely future trends in utilities pricing and decreases in the cost of battery storage for solar are likely to alter the business case for DSM solutions.