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Smart Meters Reveal Lack Of Business Intelligence

Because of bad policies or just plain laziness, businesses spend a shocking amount of money powering their computers and lights in the middle of the night. Sounds like a quick way to shift the bottom line (and stop burning so much coal).

Does someone go around and shut down all the computers, turn off all the lights, and unplug the monitors at your office or business at night? No? Did you ever wonder how much electricity those appliances waste when no one’s around? A new report suggests it could be nearly half of all the electricity a company uses.

British Gas, a U.K. utility, looked at data from more than 6,000 smart meters installed in businesses and found that 46% of electricity use occurred between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., when offices and shops tend to be closed.

That’s the result of computers not being shut down, vending machines left plugged in overnight and on weekends, display lights left on in retail stores 24 hours a day, and countless other unnecessary energy drains.

Apparently, some businesses could cut their electricity bills almost in half by simply taking measures to waste less. According to the report, just switching off parking lot lights on the weekends could save as much as $1,900 per year.

Cutting down on waste would help curb carbon emissions, too. Electricity for the commercial sector accounts for about 8.7% of America’s total energy use—and the bulk of that electricity is still generated by coal. By turning off lights and otherwise reducing electricity waste, businesses might be able to reduce America’s total energy use by a few percentage points.

Fortunately, there are lots of new products that help people manage energy use. There’s the SeriousEnergy Manager for large buildings, devices like the Energy Aware PowerTab for homes, and many more.

It’s also worth noting that this study was only possible because all these businesses have smart meters, those devices that record how customers are using energy in near-real time. Knowing is half the battle.