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Is renewable energy right for your business?

Energy is one of the biggest expenditures for businesses in the UK. In one month a medium sized businesses spends over £6,000 on energy, large businesses spend over £15,000 and industrial businesses spend over £52,000.1

Coupled with the recent volatility with gas prices – it’s costing at least five times more than it did a year ago!2 Removing or reducing unnecessary cost will always be a key business priority. And with the suggested milestone of achieving net zero emissions from energy globally by 2050, it might be worth investigating if renewable energy could reduce your bills and help power your business.3

Energy options for your business

Is your building right for solar panels?

Many commercial properties can benefit from rooftop solar panels, either on flat or pitched roofs. However, the general condition of the roof in question and its aspect would determine whether it was viable or not.

Key things you need to know:

  1. Flat roofs need more space per megawatt as you need to have sufficient distance between panels to avoid shading.

  2. The optimum angle on a south facing roof is 15º - 35º for maximum yield depending on the pitch of the roof.

  3. You can position panels east to west, but they provide less energy when compared to south facing panels.

  4. You could face some legal challenges such as ‘Right to Light’, listed building constraints and planning objections. So make sure you can negate these issues before you invest financially.

  5. Don’t forget to consider insurance implications in terms of an increased fire hazard, snow loading and risks to employees or others accessing the roof for maintenance etc.

Could you heat your office with heat pumps, biogas or biomass systems?

There are two types of heat pumps - air and ground. Essentially, an air source heat pump is a backwards fridge. It takes the energy stored in air outside and transfers it through a coil system, which contains fluid. This creates a warm liquid that can be used to heat radiators and underfloor heating systems. Ground source heat pumps do the same job but use the energy stored in the ground instead. A loop system of fluid-filled piping is put in the ground up to two metres below the surface. But, if there is not enough space around your building, you could install a vertical loop. This goes into the ground to a depth of up to 100m depending on where the thermal heat pocket is. This can also be extracted from under lakes and ponds, normally via a double-looped system.

While you’d be sourcing heat from the air or ground, you do still need electricity to run the pumps. But it’s worth knowing that for each kWh of electricity used to run the heat pump, three to four kWh of heat could be provided to your building.4

Biogas, produced by the process of anaerobic digestion, can be used in a combined heat and power (CHP) to supply your energy demands. Any surplus electricity can be sold bac to the local power grid. Plus, due to the nutrients present, you can apply AD effluent directly on agricultural land in place of raw manure or synthetic fertiliser.

Biomass systems provide heat and can provide hot water by burning a variety of wood, in the form of wood pellets, shavings, chips or dust. They are typically connected onto a low temperature hot water (LPHW) system and can be connected to warm air heaters, radiant panels, radiators and underfloor heater systems.

Powering your business with wind, is it an option?

Wind turbines aren’t just for large scale power generation. If you have space, it’s possible to have turbines installed to help provide power to your business. But, even if you do have the land, it’s not quite that simple and straight forward. You’ll also need to consider;

the speed and consistency of the wind at your desired location

  • the cost of installing a turbine, or multiple turbines to generate the amount of energy required
  • access to the site for installation and maintenance
  • how the turbine will connect to the grid
  • if you’ll need to apply for planning permission.

What about changing your commercial vehicles to electric vehicles?

The UK Government has announced that the ban on new petrol and diesel cars has been brought forward to 2030, while also publicising a new £20m fund to promote electric vehicle (EV) innovations through a research and development competition.5

Whilst transitioning your vehicles to electric vehicles may support a reduction in risks, such as unintentional fuel leaks, and improve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials, it also introduces new risks for consideration, such as:

  • Infrastructure changes – Amendments to facilities to accommodate charging points and vehicles.
  • Fire compartmentation and separations – Having larger numbers of vehicles on site in close proximity means greater risks of fire.
  • Organisational resilience – What would happen if there was an unforeseen interruption to your power supply?
  • Repairs and maintenance – EV repairs and maintenance may take longer due to the processes involved around making the battery safe.
  • Accident management – Vehicles that have been involved in incidents will need to be sent to specialised organisations for repair.
  • Accidents – slips, trips and falls from charging cables, so you must consider how you will manage this risk.
  • Journey planning – Robust journey planning to account for factors such as delays and diversions that may affect battery consumption.
  • Vehicle performance – The way EVs deliver their power is quite different from petrol or diesel vehicles. Any transition to EVs will require additional training and monitoring.
  • Cyber security – As modern vehicles offer increased connectivity to networks, we may see a heightened cyber risk.

You will need to carefully consider the new risks presented and decide what control measures you can and should implement.

Why else should you consider changing?

There is an increasingly large focus on how we exist in the world without doing harm to our environment. There are many incentives for businesses to go green and have an environmental, social and governance (ESG) plan in place. Formalising your business’s ESG strategy will ensure you have a clear framework for managing your commitment to social, environmental and other public policy initiatives. Transparent and consistent disclosure can also help you to make better-informed business and investment decisions.

Whilst installing energy generating solutions can initially be expensive, they could eventually start to pay for themselves in cost savings. Add to that the PR benefit of being an environmentally conscious company and incorporating your renewable energy purchases into your marketing plans to help your company appeal to a wider audience.

During the Conference of the Parties (COP26) 2021, we saw a renewed commitment to global and UK governance that is likely to have some impact to businesses across the UK and the energy systems that underpin our economies.

Speak to our experienced professionals about how to manage the risk involved in adopting a more renewable energy business model and sourcing the right protection to implement these changes.

 

Sources:

1. businessenergy.com/electricity
2. ft.com, October 2021
3. International Energy Association, Net Zero by 2050, May 2021
4. gshp.org.uk/How_Ground_Source_Heat_Pumps_Work
5. gov.uk Government powers up electric vehicle revolution with £20 million chargepoints boost

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