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Origin Sports: Champions of Energy Efficiency

A Newcastle-based social enterprise supporting young people from some of the most deprived communities in the North East has cut its power bills in half after reaching out for advice and support.

Not-for-profit Origin Sports has helped educate and motivate hundreds of people aged between four and 24 in Newcastle and Gateshead by offering affordable, inclusive classes in sports as diverse as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts and weightlifting.

And when owners Lesley Harrison and Ian Malone decided in December 2015 to buy their own premises after years of hiring space in a local sports hall, a railway arch tucked between the city’s Central Station and the famous Tyne Bridge seemed like the ideal solution.

But the pair soon noticed that keeping the Westgate Road property properly heated was costing much more than they had anticipated.

Lesley said: “When we first moved in we were only using it for two to three hours a day and so expected our energy costs to be very low.

“But as our building is an old, renovated railway arch with very high ceilings it’s often drafty and keeping the place warm required a lot more heating than we initially thought. We started off heating the property with convection heaters but were shocked at how costly these were to run.”

She added: “Our bills for the first few months were very high so I reached out to the ScottishPower small business team for their advice. Because we knew that our heating bills would be less expensive in the summer months, ScottishPower helpfully agreed to level out our direct debits over the year which made our monthly costs a lot more manageable, helping us to really get our business off the ground.

“They also asked us about the nature of our building and the biggest use of energy in our business and recommended we switch from convection heaters to something more efficient in terms of both cost and energy. Although a significant investment in the first instance, we made the decision to switch to infrared heaters - we knew that the extra expense upfront would ultimately pay off when it came to our energy bills.

“We were also lucky enough to generously receive a donation of wall insulation from a local company. This made a huge difference in stopping the heat escape through the cold stone walls and high ceilings. Nonetheless, due to the nature of our building, heating is still the biggest use of energy for us.”

The savings which the business has made have been remarkable, with power bills reduced by 50 per cent.

The Origin Sports story is not unique. A recent YouGov survey commissioned by ScottishPower found that 60 per cent of small businesses in the UK were not prioritising energy efficiency, with only one in ten businesses claiming they have reduced their energy consumption in the past year. This means businesses are missing out on the opportunity to invest money that is being needlessly spent on energy.

As part of an initiative to encourage businesses to become more energy efficient, ScottishPower is working with the Carbon Trust to offer businesses advice on reducing energy consumption to help businesses become more efficient and save money.

Lesley is now confident Origin Sports can go from strength to strength with their work supporting the local community.

She said: “Looking to the future, we would love to move into a more modern, efficient space but for now, we’re confident we’re addressing the elements we have control over to reduce our energy consumption”.

Lesley also acknowledged that even the smallest changes in behaviours can have an impact on energy use such as setting the heating to only come on when it’s needed and switching off lights in the sports hall and office areas when they’re not occupied.

“We’re committed to giving as many young people in the area as possible a chance to get involved in sport which is why paid-for classes are extremely affordable and we also offer free scholarships, but to continue to do this, we need to pay close attention to the bottom line. Being energy efficient is a simple way to do this and I believe it’s so important for businesses to understand that even the smallest changes can really make a difference”.