The report, Business and the Renewables Revolution, reveals that switching to renewable power is the quickest and most cost-effective way for most organisations to cut their carbon footprint, it adds less than 1% to power bills, and it responds to increasing demand from customers, investors, and politicians.
However, while 74% of the UK’s 100 biggest companies have set carbon-cutting targets, only 38% of the FTSE 100 purchased renewable electricity in 2015, according to carbon management consultancy Carbon Clear.
Robert Groves, CEO of SmartestEnergy, said: “Smart companies should rethink their energy supply and understand the benefits that switching to renewables can bring to their business, to the economy, and to tackling the global threat of climate change.”
Confusion over buying renewable electricity has held business back, according to a report from the Aldersgate Group, which represents companies with a collective turnover of over £300 billion. It called for clear labelling of the carbon content of electricity and calculated that the measure could see low-carbon power provide nearly half of all industrial and commercial demand by 2020, up from 14.4% to 48.3%.
In response to this business demand, SmartestEnergy has developed a suite of 100% renewable products with the UK’s first energy labels clearly stating the source and carbon content of electricity.
Richard Tarboton, Energy Optimisation, Executive Director, at EY, was part of the team which produced the Aldersgate report. In the foreword to Business and the Renewables Revolution he writes: “Companies want to do the right thing but need clear solutions. Energy labelling, coupled with a greater awareness of the low cost and business benefits of renewable power, are set to take it mainstream. And the greater the demand from business the more we will see investment flow from fossil fuel generators to low-carbon renewables.”
Business benefits of switching to renewable electricity
Business and the Renewables Revolution sets out significant business benefits which give companies scope to more than recoup the minimal extra cost of buying renewable electricity.
Cuts carbon footprint quickly and cost-effectively. Thanks to a change in guidelines, companies can now count the renewable electricity they purchase against their carbon targets and make major reductions in the emissions they report.
Builds investor confidence and supports company valuations. Buying renewable demonstrates that an organisation is aligned with the drive towards a low-carbon economy. A £352 billion coalition of investors, including Aviva, one of the UK’s largest insurers, is specifically calling on businesses to commit to 100% renewable electricity.
Helps win customers. A survey of 1,000 UK consumers found that almost four out of five people (77%) were more likely to buy from a consumer brand with a positive approach to sustainability and two thirds would recommend a brand because it either invested in its own renewable energy projects or bought most of its energy from renewable sources.
Supports employee engagement on money saving energy efficiency programmes. Many organisations can save up to 10% on energy costs by investing 1-2% of energy spend on an effective employee engagement campaign, according to the Carbon Trust. Buying renewable electricity demonstrates corporate commitment and can form the centrepiece of an internal campaign.
Business can make a big impact by switching to renewable power
Business uses more than 56% of all power generated in the UK so it has a major role to play in meeting national climate change commitments. The government aims to generate 30% of electricity from renewables by 2020, up from 23.5% today , but PwC has warned that to meet binding carbon targets the UK may need to source up to half its electricity from renewables by 2020.
In the UK, SmartestEnergy customers purchasing renewable energy already account for 2.8% of all industrial and commercial electricity demand. The 4.2 terawatt hours of clean power they purchased in 2015 avoided 2.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking nearly one and a half million cars off the road.
Climate change is the biggest threat to the global economy, according to the latest Global Risks report, a survey of nearly 750 experts conducted by the World Economic Forum. Private sector electricity consumption is responsible for 15% of the world’s carbon emissions, and in the wake of the Paris Climate Summit business is under pressure as never before to support the drive to a low-carbon economy.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on global business leaders to double investment in wind and solar energy to $600 billion a year by 2020, telling them to act decisively to hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy.
More than 400 investors with $24 trillion in assets have pledged to work with companies they invest in to minimise climate risks and to seek out opportunities to invest in renewable energy.
Apple, Nike and BMW are among dozens of global brands from a wide range of sectors who have pledged to power all their activities from renewables, in a global trend which is gathering momentum.
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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