Virgin Media reduced its carbon emissions year-on-year by more than 6% in 2015, and the company said it owes much of this reduction to various energy efficiency projects and a trial run of on-site generation.
Speaking to Clean Energy News after the broadband and entertainment provider released its sustainability report last week, Virgin Media’s head of sustainability and reporting Katie Buchanan said that energy efficiency technologies had helped keep the company’s energy consumption relatively flat despite growth in the business.
Central to this was ‘Project OREO’ – standing for Overall Room Energy Optimisation – which involved replacing fans with more efficient alternatives, implementation of fresh air and free cooling processes and the introduction of a room layer control system, which optimises modules’ cooling controls and allows for mixed-mode cooling to take place.
Buchanan also revealed that the firm was looking to experiment with the combination of cooling, power systems and voltage optimisation, as well as new energy management practices involving temperature management controls that take into account the level of occupancy in each building.
Virgin Media is one of just under 6,000 businesses to have fallen under the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, which it complied with at the end of last year. Buchanan said the firm welcomed the regulation and worked with energy bureau Inenco to meet its requirements, but hinted that it wasn’t without its challenges.
“The main challenge for us, like any large business, will be to take the recommended solutions and examine the feasibility on a site-by-site basis. Some of the suggested solutions from the audit cannot be applied at face value due to the bespoke nature and set up of each site.
“For example, raising the set point temperatures in our technical rooms which are dependent on the bespoke operational controls and differ at each location. The next step for us is to take the recommendations from the audit and review the solutions alongside our existing energy efficiency projects with each being considered on their own merit,” she said.
Virgin Media was also one of a number of leading businesses to have installed rooftop solar in the last year, partnering with installation firm SunGift to fit a 36.2kW system to the roof of its offices in Bristol.
Completed in April, the system is contributing as much as 20% to the office’s daily consumption and the panels are expected to save the firm as much as £60,000 over the system’s lifespan.
Buchanan said the firm wasn’t ruling out further experiments with solar and other renewables, despite cuts to the feed-in tariff.
“Solar technology is evolving all the time and we are constantly reviewing the changes and new technology available. The payback periods are still fairly long, in this case just under 20 years, and the impact of government decisions on feed-in tariffs certainly has an impact. This project is considered the benchmark for any future rollout across the Virgin Media estate. Any future rollout will depend on the investment case and the practicality of each individual site – this technology is very dependent on site structure and orientation of the building.
“Our current focus is on solar as this provides a steady source of energy which is essential for our critical technical sites that provide the backbone to our broadband network. As technologies improve, in particular energy storage solutions, we will continue to keep an open mind to solutions that can help us to reduce loads and energy costs,” she said.