Myles McCarthy, md of the Carbon Trust Implementation Service (CTIS), told FoodManufacture.co.uk that managerial resistance within firms had prevented some sustainability teams from implementing efficiency plans.
“Sometimes the sustainability team within food manufacturing teams have very strong business cases but come across some resistance from the manufacturing side and management,” said McCarthy. “That resistance is due to concerns around upsetting the current processes, affecting flavour and taste, regulation or health and safety. Any plan has to be driven from the top and has to be proven.”
Although firms recognise the opportunity to improve energy efficiency, three specific barriers restrict progress, according to a survey of 500 firms by the Carbon Trust. Those are: insufficient time or resources; difficulties in calculating likely savings and placing a lower priority on energy efficiency than other business considerations.
76% of firms were more concerned than they were six months ago by rising energy costs and are very concerned about its impact on their business.
More than half are expecting energy price rises of at least 11% over the next three years.
Over one third of firms surveyed don’t have a plan in place to manage energy price rises but acknowledge that they should make one.
UK manufacturers across all sectors waste more than 20% of their energy expenditure, claimed McCarthy. In the food and drink sector, much of this was accounted for by heating and chilling prepared meals – particularly the process of blast freezing, he said.
Refrigeration units and the motors used to move materials around food processing facilities can be outdated and inefficient, he added.
The CTIS aims to help firms cut their energy costs and install greener, more efficient technology. It will gather proposals for improving energy efficiency and provide them free to manufacturers. That will allow firms to appreciate the potential benefits of energy savings without the need for preliminary investment, McCarthy said.
“Although there are some very attractive short payback [energy-saving] projects – ones we call no-brainers – don’t always go ahead and get implemented.”
The CTIS accredits suppliers through a benchmarking process that focuses on cases studies, said McCarthy.
The suppliers then suggest energy efficiency proposals to manufacturers and if adopted, the CTIS receives a commission. At present 50 suppliers of lighting, heating ventilation and air-conditioning are being accredited and the CTIS hopes to rapidly increase numbers and categories.
Three firms have already joined the scheme and the CTIS is in talks with a further 30 others.
Improved cooperation between food and drink manufacturers could also yield energy savings, he added.
For example, the Trust found the dairy sector used much of its energy in cleaning with hot water and steam. “But due to work we’ve done previously with soft drinks companies, we were able to put a technology new to dairy on trial, that uses a cold icy slush to clean, which is obviously more energy efficient,” said McCarthy.
Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: “In these tough times for business, using energy more wisely and creating your own clean green power can help cut bills and improve the bottom line, which is why this new advice service from the Carbon Trust is so welcome.”