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When Charlotte asked me to write this piece, the brief was to give a general overview of the future, with a focus on 2011 but potentially giving some thought to 2012 and beyond. As I began to research key industry trends, the horrific Japanese earthquake and tsunami happened, leading to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Electricity supply was suddenly in the news and with it the challenges of supplying the most energy intensive civilization the world has ever known.

According to the World Bank World Development Indicators, electricity consumption in the UK has increased from 2,413 kilowatt hours per person, in 1960, to 6,123 kWh in 2007. Barring some minor dips coincident with economic recessions, the trend is remorselessly upwards. Remember too that the UK population increased from 52.4 million in 1960 (World Bank data again) to 61 million in 2007. So not only are there more of us, but we are using more electricity per head.

It’s easy to see why. In 1960 a home might have used electricity for lighting, a radio and perhaps a vacuum cleaner, but televisions, DVD players, computers and dishwashers had either not been invented or were too expensive to be widely used.

With the increase in demand has come the challenge of supply. The UK used to depend on coal fired power stations, which in the 1940’s provided 90% of our electricity. By 2004, coal provided 33% of electricity, with gas on 39%, nuclear on 20% and others making up the remaining 8%. And here is where the energy challenge lies, the coal fired power stations are being closed for environmental reasons, gas is a globally traded commodity and subject to

severe price spikes and, post Fukushima, the already controversial nuclear option is going to be politically intensely challenging. In Germany already, the political tide seems to have turned against nuclear power.

So where will the UK get its electricity from in the future, or will the lights go out? Jim Laidlaw, the CEO of Centrica, has already stated that without £100 billion of investment in the UK’s energy infrastructure, the UK will not meet its climate change targets and suffer volatile and extremely high energy prices. The CBI has added that the UK is at risk of blackouts as electricity demand exceeds supply.

EU regulators have not been ignorant of the energy consumed by cleaning machines. The current focus is on energy labelling vacuum cleaners and reducing wattages, but no doubt other machines will be dragged into the scope of energy reduction legislation in good time.

The same is true for cleaning clients, some of which are looking at the energy consumed by their contractors on site and are asking it to be taken into account in the price of the cleaning service.

In this context, what are cleaning businesses to do, as they increasingly become reliant on electricity consuming cleaning machines to do their day to day tasks?

Firstly, expanding your expertise into the field of energy management and reduction services will serve to place your business at the heart of the solution and not the problem. FM contractors specializing in energy management will be in great demand and any support service business that can offer this service should do well.

FEATURE 6 | TOMORROW’S CLEANING YEARBOOK 2011/2012 | The future of our cleaning industry

Secondly, promoting daytime cleaning will enable buildings to have full shut downs and cut overnight energy consumption. In 2007, introducing daytime cleaning saved the Denver office of the US Environmental Protection Agency some $250,000 in energy costs. Their building is now “put to bed” between 6am and 6pm, leaving only security lights on.

Finally, it is high time for some innovation in the cleaning sector. I would like to see machine manufacturers bundling their battery powered machines with micro generation facilities using solar power and wind power to recharge batteries. The machines would then have a drastically reduced carbon footprint in use. Yes, investment will be required in the infrastructure, but the long term benefits could be startling. At the 2010 Interclean, Vileda Professional showed a concept trolley that would generate its own electricity from an anaerobic digester in the spherical rear wheel, while at the same time cleaning the waste water. This is real innovation, with clear environmental benefits. The challenge is to make future trade shows showcases for these types of innovations from 50 manufacturers and not just one.

Andrew Large, Chief Executive of the CSSA

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