How can I make my company greener?
In all likelihood, over the last couple of years, you’ve probably looked at your business and thought “How can I reduce our impact on the environment?”
It’s an inescapable but encouraging thought knowing that we’re all a bit more conscious about our effect on the world around us.
So, what can you actually do?
You could switch energy providers to one that promises to supply energy from green sources – Octopus, OVO, Tonik for example – and trust that they will make good on their word.
However, renewable energy providers are far more likely to charge more per kWh compared to mainstream suppliers. On top of that, they remain at the behest of price caps just like any other energy firm – regardless of the source.
The alternative is to take autonomy over your own energy by installing the necessary equipment on-site that can feed energy directly to your premises.
Currently, the most popular low or zero-emission generation methods are Solar Panels/Photovoltaic systems (PV), Wind Turbines, and Combined Heat and Power engines (CHP).
Here we look at the arguments to be made for installing on-site energy generation equipment, but also the challenges presented by adopting these alternatives to remaining connected to the grid.
Reasons to adopt
Return on Investment
With each option, businesses will see an eventual return on investment by virtue of the cheaper cost of energy. Per kWh, adopting on-site energy generation can cut up to two-thirds of your energy bill (dependent on the method).
This saving is felt over decades, with CHPs having the best typical lifespan of up to 15 years+, wind turbines 20, and PV systems up to 30 years(stc)
Where these methods start to really come into their own is through selling excess energy back to the grid. Any electrical energy generated surplus to your business’s requirements can be directed towards the National Grid for which you receive money in return!
It’s hard to put a tangible figure on the returns a business will receive as the variables do fluctuate. But one thing is for certain, on-site energy generation will reduce your overheads significantly – and should even return a profit.
Stability and Independence
Your business is likely to need a steady and consistent flow of energy all year round and reliance on the grid presents a potential risk. This risk is particularly prevalent in rural areas where access to electricity is routinely affected by poor infrastructure and weather events.
On-site energy generation reduces the risk associated with being plugged into the National Grid. Having control of your own supply will mean any outages on the grid (be that because of system failure or scheduled maintenance) can have no impact on your business if you can run in an “island mode” and therefore you won’t experience disruptive and costly downtime. CHP systems are the best for this application.
Reasons to be cautious
Every low or zero-emission solution will come with a cost attached to it – it was never going to be easy to potentially unplug from the Grid!
However, there is support available out there should you wish to install something on your premises.
At the time of writing, wind turbines have no Government-backed subsidies or grants in the UK. There are, however, regional, and local grants available – dependent on where your premises are located.
For Solar PV, there is a variety of economic support available for businesses – from grants to tax breaks, and even subsidising installation.
And should your business consider installing a CHP engine on-site, there is an array of financial support available. Depending on the size of the project, Helec can look to provide a zero-cost capital funding option with an affordable repayment scheme. Generally, the financial savings from running a CHP pay the monthly charges!
Further to that, you can enter an official Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a finance institution for a CAPEX-free option – this has the added benefit of keeping energy rates fixed for a known period to facilitate production costs.
Although the initial outlay may seem steep, the access to financial support in setting up low and zero-emission energy supply – coupled with favourable and potentially fruitful ROI – should make the switch a worthwhile investment.
Intermittency and Energy Storage Needs
Pure renewable energy generation is solely reliant on the environment, which means energy production is potentially intermittent.
Energy-intensive businesses that require a constant and uninterrupted power supply will face challenges during cloudy or night-time periods when solar output decreases or ceases altogether, and similar issues during days with little-to-no wind for those with turbines.
To address these issues, additional investments in energy storage solutions, like batteries, might be necessary to ensure a consistent power supply during non-sunny periods, further adding to the overall project cost.
This, however, is not an issue when establishing a CHP on-site. Wherever there is a gas source, you will be able to reap the benefits of the heat & power. The source needn’t be connected to the grid, either, as the CHPs supplied by Helec can be powered by LPG and Bio-LPG – along with biogas directly from an Anaerobic Digestion plant should that be an available source.
Power and thermal energy from a CHP will always be available with zero interference from clouds, night-time, and still air.
Embracing on-site power generation in your energy-intensive business will offer numerous benefits, from cost savings and environmental responsibility to enhanced energy stability. However, potential drawbacks such as high upfront costs, intermittency issues, and space limitations must also be considered.
Ultimately, the decision should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the specific needs, financial capacity, and long-term goals of your business. By weighing the pros and cons, enterprises can make informed choices that align with their sustainability objectives and pave the way towards a greener and more energy-efficient future. By partnering with Helec, you will receive a fit for purpose solution that matches your overall goal and lowers your Op-ex costs.
Click here to start your journey to energy autonomy and reduce your business’s carbon footprint.