There are a number of reasons why businesses should embrace renewable energy sources – and making the switch is easier than you might think.
A growing number of businesses are making the move over to a renewable energy supply. More than a hundred of the world’s most influential companies have now made a commitment to shift to 100pc renewable power.
Businesses across all sectors including Google, IKEA, British Land and M&S have pledged to make the switch as part of the RE100 initiative, which is a global commitment uniting companies to turn to non-fossil fuel energy sources. Clearly this is a sure sign to UK businesses that switching to alternative fuel sources has never been simpler.
Energy suppliers such as E.ON now have a range of options available for businesses that want to use electricity generated from the likes of solar and wind. Products include E.ON’s Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin-backed supply (REGO) and Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin wind-backed supply.
Under a REGO-backed supply, E.ON ensures that it acquires certificates to evidence that enough renewable energy has been generated to match the client’s estimated consumption – an approach similar to planting trees to offset carbon emissions.
Laura Randall, sales optimisation manager at E.ON, explains that while access to 100pc renewable energy is still in the pipeline for most of the UK, it’s certainly closer than it has ever been.
Fuel for thought
“Currently, unless you have renewable on-site generation, such as solar or a wind turbine, and you can guarantee that this generation meets all of your demand, you can’t run off an entirely based renewable energy,” she explains. “REGO-backed supply offers a way to guarantee that the grid energy you use is offset by renewably sourced power.”
Mrs Randall explains that combined heat and power plants (CHP) offer significant efficiency gains for many businesses for all their energy needs, and E.ON have delivered these for clients across the UK and Europe, although she points out that these still burn fuel. Even so, they remain something many large energy users would do well to consider, because they can offer significant reductions in costs and CO2.
Businesses can sign up for renewable-fuelled heating, although this may require an investment in a new boiler system that can use biofuels as well as particular sourcing for those fuels. In October 2015, for example, consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) entered into an agreement to secure a fuel mix made up of 100pc renewable sources for all the mainland UK offices that it operates.
As well as buying renewable-sourced grid energy or significantly increasing energy efficiency through on-site generation, the company also put in place a number of other energy-saving initiatives across its offices, such as installing tri-generators. These run on a biofuel – recycled cooking oil – and supply the majority of heat and power in its London offices.
So why should businesses make the switch sooner rather than later?
For a start, renewable power can go a long way to enhancing a firm’s reputation and can help them comply with the Government’s carbon emission reporting and reduction schemes. This is particularly important for FTSE 100 firms, which must include a greenhouse gas inventory as part of their annual report.
Failure to do so would not only result in compliance and regulatory penalties but it could cause untold reputational damage with clients, employees and investors.
“Consumer demand for lower-carbon products and services is growing and publicity around this subject has allowed the public to become more ‘carbon aware’,” notes Ms Randall. “Switching to non-fossil fuels can help demonstrate that businesses are aware of this consumer demand and are managing their climate risks, as well as improving their figures for mandatory carbon reporting.”
On a more practical level, she adds: “Switching to a new fuel source can help future-proof your business from market volatility and third party costs, reduce dependency on the electricity grid and secure your supply.”
Perhaps the biggest perceived hurdle for companies when considering a renewable energy supply is the expectation of a higher cost, but that is soon to be a concern of the past. A spokesperson for PwC explains: “Given the rapid cost reductions in renewable technology, it’s highly unlikely that this will be the case for much longer.”
And, of course, the sooner more companies get involved in the renewable energy market by opting for alternative fuels sources, the more competitive the market will become.
As RE100 member and AXA’s chief corporate responsibility officer Alice Steenland says: “If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from coal divestment it’s that there’s strength in numbers. This energy transition is unstoppable and our collective future is clean, green and bright.”
Of course, it is important for businesses to carefully evaluate the most beneficial option for them before diving in, which is why E.ON has experts at hand to offer tailored end-to-end green energy solutions to meet a business’ individual needs.