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Should companies try and save on energy costs by banning phone charging?

J D Wetherspoons made headlines last month when it was announced that the national pub chain would stop customers from charging their phones behind the bar at some of its pubs. The company said that the phones caused a nuisance for busy bartenders and that it did not want to be held legally responsible if phones were damaged. But could the pub chain also have been motivated by a desire to cut its energy bills? They certainly wouldn’t be the first. Budget airline Ryanair reportedly made staff “furious” when it banned on-the-job phone charging in 2005. In 2011, officers and civilian staff in Sussex Police force were told to stop charging personal phones, iPods and other electronic items at work as they attempted to find £50 million worth of savings by 2015.

Company morale

Those in charge of the purse strings might view these cost savings as legitimate cutbacks, but these types of actions could also frustrate some customers and reduce employee morale. So, is it justifiable? To help answer this question we have tried to work out some of the costs involved. We have made a few basic assumptions that will apply to many regular companies, but you may have to adjust these if you are trying to work out the cost savings for your company.

How much does phone charging cost?

Fully charging a modern-day smartphone with a 5W charger takes around 3 hours. If we multiply 0.005kW (5W) by 3 hours we get 0.015kWh to fully charge a smartphone. If we multiply this by a rough retail price of 13.3 pence per kWh, we find that fully charging a single smartphone would cost around 0.2 pence. If you fully charge one phone every day for a year, that’s around 73 pence. Larger devices, like iPads, may be slightly more expensive, but should not cost more than around £2.50 across the whole year.

How much would my business save by banning phone charging?

You can work out how much your business would save by estimating the number of smartphones that are fully charged at your business in a working day, multiply by the cost of fully charging a smartphone (0.2 pence in the example above). Finally, you should multiply this by the number of working days each year. To illustrate the potential savings, we have sketched out a couple of examples drawn from the information (and assumptions made) above. If J D Wetherspoons’ 942 pubs all stopped an average of five customers from charging their phones each day, they would save a total of £3,348.30 each year if they bought energy at standard retail prices. A drop in the pint pot for a company that turned over £1.66bn in 2017. If all the FTE 198,684 police workers in England and Wales charged their phones at work once for 260 working days each year that would be a total cost of £20,663.24 if they bought energy at standard retail prices. Charging up mobile phones is relatively inexpensive. In the above illustrations, the behemothic companies stand to gain even less from banning phone charging if we adjust our assumptions to slide in line with reality. It is unlikely, for example, that every police worker would charge their phone up fully every day. And it is very unlikely that a pub chain with nearly 1,000 sites would pay retail prices for its electricity. Although you might choose to ban customers from charging their phones because of concerns about legal responsibility and you may choose to ban employees on work ethic grounds, banning them because of the cost implications seems unjustifiable.


Published by Utility Helpline on