Buildings Behaving Badly: Who Topped the Christmas List?

About one in 10 commercial and office buildings around Australia were ‘lit up like Christmas trees’ running their energy-intensive building systems despite being unoccupied on Christmas Day, says new data from ERM Power, Australia’s second largest commercial and industrial (C&I) energy retailer.i

ERM Power analysed the actual energy consumption data of thousands of business and government sites around Australia that it would normally expect to be shut, to determine how good or bad their energy performance was on the quietest business day of the year.

Megan Houghton, ERM Power’s Executive General Manager Energy Solutions says the findings may surprise many executives, particularly given most organisations today are reassessing the way they use energy in a bid to combat rising wholesale electricity prices.

“After excluding sites without a Monday to Friday operating pattern and those that might reasonably run on Christmas Day, like hospitals, hotels and treatment plants, our data showed around 10 per cent were powered as though they were operating as business as usual,” she says.

“Applying these findings to the National Electricity Market, we estimate Australian businesses potentially wasted close to two million kilowatt hours of power on Christmas Day.ii

“That’s equivalent to the energy consumed by more than 120,000 Australian homes for a dayiii – enough to power all the homes in Wollongong in New South Wales, Geelong in Victoria or the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.iv

Ms Houghton says ERM Power’s data shows the biggest wastage was in commercial and office buildings in Queensland, closely followed by NSW. Buildings in these two states wasted more than three times more power than those in Victoria.v

Ms Houghton believes many businesses were caught out by the timing of Christmas Day in 2017.

“Christmas Day fell on a Monday, a normal working day for most buildings. Put simply, no one told the buildings it was a holiday, so they powered up early on Christmas morning ready for the arrival of their workforces.

“It came as no surprise to us that Queensland buildings topped our Christmas list. The searing temperatures on Christmas Day would have sent heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems into overload, whether the buildings were occupied or not,” she explains.

While most organisations have a process or systems in place to ensure their buildings power down when they’re empty on weekends, Ms Houghton says some forget about the public holidays because they’re less frequent and don’t fall in regular patterns.

“It doesn’t matter how technologically advanced your building management system is, it can’t judge what is a public holiday if it’s not programmed to do so.”

With about ten public holidays a year, this can prove to be a costly oversight and with Good Friday and Easter Monday public holidays just around the corner, Ms Houghton urges businesses to act now to ensure they don’t waste their energy dollar this way again.

Ms Houghton says this simple public holiday exercise helps demonstrate why data is king for businesses serious about reducing their energy costs and carbon footprint. Every kilowatt of power not consumed represents lower energy costs and a saving in carbon emissions.

“Data analytics play an increasingly important role in energy management. Not only can analysing your business’s energy consumption help identify areas of waste and opportunities for efficiency, it can help design the best value energy management solution based on your business’ needs and ROI and then monitor the outcome,” she says.

ERM Power provides integrated and end-to-end energy management services supported by leading-edge digital tools – an approach Ms Houghton says is disrupting the traditional energy solutions market.

“Starting with data analytics and energy audits, we provide advisory services that deliver integrated energy management plans for a wide range of customers. These plans combine technology and commercial solutions and are supported by digital tools, enabling customers to implement the best-value options with ease. We continue to partner with customers to both monitor and optimise their energy performance,” Ms Houghton says.

Media contact:
Tracey Palmer
Communications Manager
07 3021 3266
0438 310 539
[email protected]

About ERM Power

ERM Power is an Australian energy company operating electricity sales, generation and energy solutions businesses. The Company has grown to become the second largest electricity provider to commercial businesses and industrials in Australia by loadvi, and is the only energy retailer licensed to sell electricity in all Australian states as well as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. A growing range of energy solutions products and services are being delivered, including lighting and energy efficiency software and data analytics, to the Company’s existing and new customer base. ERM Power also sells electricity in several markets in the United States. The Company operates 662 megawatts of low emission, gas-fired peaking power stations in Western Australia and Queensland.


i Based on ERM Power’s C&I customers with a Monday to Friday operating pattern that showed elevated consumption on Christmas Day compared to a normal non-working weekend.

ii Figure calculated by taking the excess energy consumed over and above what the ERM Power C&I customers would normally use on a weekend day and multiplying this by five 5 on the basis that ERM Power retails to around 1 in 5 C&I NMIs in the country.

iii Figure calculated using the average of state energy use of homes in the AEMC 2016 Residential Electricity Price Trends 14 December 2016.

iv Based on population figures and average household size (persons per dwelling) from the ABS Census of Population and Housing 2016.

v Based on excess energy consumed over and above what the ERM Power C&I customers would normally use on a weekend day.

vi Based on ERM Power analysis of latest published information.