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. Tomorrow: biofuels become a cost-effective alternative. Here is the first:BUSINESS LIFE: Money motivates the shift to greenBy Fiona HarveySwarf, the shavings that sheer off when metal is cut, must be removed from manufactured parts during the finishing process in metalworking factories. The swarf is often blown away from the component with a compressed air gun. Do all factories using this method know that compressed air is nearly as expensive as natural gas?Companies frequently lack the most basic information when it comes to the energy efficiency - or otherwise - of their processes, says Callum Stuart, international business manager at McKinnon and Clarke, an efficiency specialist. He even comes ac-ross companies using compressed air to sweep factory floors, for drying components or cleaning grease from them."But to compress air is a very energy intensive process and very expensive. You could clean these components much more cheaply in other ways, or leave them to dry naturally, but companies just don't think of the compressed air as a big cost," he explains. He has cut the consumption of compressed air by a third in many factories.This is one example of the many grossly energy inefficient processes conducted by large numbers of companies. Refrigeration equipment is frequently set at too low a temperature or leaks. Pipes are unlagged and walls uninsulated. Instead of opening windows, people turn up the air conditioning. Many factories and other buildings lack basic heating controls, so energy is wasted in warming or cooling buildings. Lights and computers remain switched on in empty offices. People make unnecessary journeys that waste petrol.Taking a few elementary steps towards greater efficiency can save businesses millions of pounds in a short time. Most energy efficiency measures have a relatively quick payback, and many cost nothing to implement. BT Group saved £119m between 1991 and 2004, and by more efficient use of its transport, saved £421m in the same period. DuPont, the US chemicals group, has saved as much as $2bn (£1.1bn) since 1990, according to the Climate Group, an environmental not-for-profit organisation.Less energy intensive companies can make smaller savings, but they are also valuable. Boots saved £1.35m a year on its £18m energy bill after a "makeover" funded by the UK government's Carbon Trust.The decline in energy efficiency in industry happened slowly. In the days of relatively cheap oil and electricity, organisations lost sight of energy costs. Globalisation spurred them to chase revenue growth at the ex-pense of almost everything else, so managers forgot the virtues of thrift that previous generations learned in the 1970s and before.One turning point was the loss of maintenance staff in successive waves of downsizing. Good maintenance keeps equipment running at its highest efficiency and maintenance staff tend to be in a position to spot measures they could take to reduce energy usage.Energy efficiency is also unlikely to attract the most ambitious leaders within a company because it mostly involves "housekeeping" tasks that rarely make corporate heroes.But oil at more than $60 a barrel, and likely to stay there, has concentrated minds in many industries, says Colin Russell, business development manager for Tour Andover Controls, which deals with energy efficiency: "Most organisations accept energy conservation in theory and this is encouraging them to turn it into practice."Another factor is concern for the environment. As consumption of fossil fuel in-creases, so does the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. One of the so-called "greenhouse gases", carbon dioxide, traps infra-red radiation on earth, speeding up climate change.For this reason, governments around the world have instituted curbs on production of greenhouse gases.Businesses have been the first targets for emissions reduction strategies in in-dustrialised countries and have had to adjust their energy use accordingly. For example, in the European Union, companies in certain energy-intensive industries have been granted tradeable permits limiting the amount of carbon dioxide they can produce.Even in countries such as the US, which has resisted carbon quotas, companies are realising that their responsibility for carbon dioxide and climate change is increasing. "We are living in-creasingly in a carbonconstrained world," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.These environmental concerns have led to occasionally quaint measures. In Japan, this summer saw a government-led push to change business dress from formal dark suits and ties to open-necked, short-sleeved shirts. The idea was that if people dressed in cooler clothes, air conditioning systems could be turned down. This winter, a parallel push will take place and workers will be encouraged to dress warmly so that companies need not heat their facilities so much.Other methods of changing corporate behaviour may be less obvious. Turning out lights is one everyone can guess, but lighting typically acc-ounts for only 1 to 2 per cent of a company's energy use. Mr Russell says he has saved companies up to 75 per cent on lighting at night by ensuring that cleaners light up each section as they go. Retailers should examine their lighting intensity and ensure escalators are turned off at night, when no one is using them.Air conditioning systems are often set to cope with a building's maximum occupancy, even if it is not wholly occupied. Adjusting the fan speed can reduce its energy use: a 10 per cent slowdown in fan speed can cut energy consumption by 27 per cent, says Mr Russell.Electricity metering, and submetering, can help companies to calculate costs better and to work out where efficiencies can most profitably be made. Purchasing managers can compare the energy efficiency of different pieces of equipment before they buy them and calculate the long-term savings.Larger companies can look at generating some of their energy from wind turbines and solar panels, or generating heat or cooling from boreholes. These need an initial outlay but repay the capital over a few years.Businesses can begin by making a list of the ways in which they can cut their energy consumption, ranging from the simple to the long term, says Mr Russell. And they should calculate the savings they make as they tick off each measure undertaken, as an encouragement to carry on.Drawing all employees into the process is also a good idea, as it encourages everyone to take responsibility for keeping costs down. Emphasising the environmental benefits can motivate staff, especially if they are recognised within the organisation for their "greenness" when they make suggestions that result in savings.Most organisations can benefit financially from greater attention to energy efficiency. Whatever the environmental effects, the real driver will be the oil price, maintains Mr Stuart: "Companies will only do this because there's money in it."