As the cost of fossil fuel-based energy continues to rise and the world becomes more environmentally conscious, forms of renewable energy are becoming increasingly more attractive for businesses. Not only can clean and renewable energy solutions help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, hit sustainability targets and comply with stricter government regulations, they can also provide priceless business opportunities for companies to both make and save money, as well as transform their corporate image.
But what exactly is renewable energy, how reliable is it, and what opportunities can a switch to renewable energy open up for your business? In this ultimate guide to renewable energy for businesses, we will answer all these questions and more as we take a deep dive into the world of clean and alternative power sources.
What is renewable energy?
Unlike conventional fossil fuels – which at the current rate of consumption are predicted to run out by 2060 – forms of renewable energy are typically created through natural and sustainable processes. This includes harnessing the power of sunlight, wind and water – inexhaustible power sources that mean we can count on them as reliable sources of energy for the foreseeable future.
Aside from the fact that renewable energy is sustainable, it also produces little to no carbon emissions, unlike fossil fuels. Burning oil, coal and natural gas to create the energy that heats our homes and businesses and provides us with the electricity we need to operate produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide or ‘greenhouse gases’, which is damaging our planet. Renewable ‘green’ sources of energy, on the other hand, can provide the same services while minimising our impact on the environment.
With the planet’s supply of fossil fuels rapidly depleting, renewable energy for businesses is certainly the future. The use of these green energy sources will enable us to continue to power both our homes and businesses without exacerbating the current climate change crisis.
Popular forms of renewable business energy include:
- Wind power
This renewable energy source harnesses the power of the wind using turbines to generate electricity for business. It is most suitable if your business has acres of open space to build turbines, however small businesses can also make use of miniature building-mounted wind turbines.
- Solar power
As the name suggests, solar power uses natural sunlight to generate electricity. Sunlight is captured and absorbed using photovoltaic cells that are housed in roof or wall-mounted solar PV panels. This in turn generates direct current (DC) energy, which can then be converted into usable alternating current (AC) energy thanks to built-in inverter technology. The more panels you install, the more electricity you can produce.
- Solar thermal power
Instead of absorbing sunlight through solar panels, solar thermal power uses the sun’s rays to heat water stored in a thermal water tank. These tanks are easily installed and provide a cost-effective and fossil fuel-free method of providing hot water and heating.
- Hydroelectric power
This energy source uses the power of moving water to generate electricity for your business. Using either an immersed turbine or a water wheel, significant amounts of electricity can be generated and stored. Obviously, however, this can only be utilised on sites near natural water features, such as rivers, streams or the sea.
- Geothermal/ground source power
Using the low-level heat that is naturally produced deep underground, heat pumps can be used to harness geothermal energy that can power your business’ heating and cooling systems. Equipment can be easily installed on the side of your business’ premises.
Are renewable energy sources reliable?
As a business owner, your primary concern when deciding whether or not to switch your business to a renewable energy plan, and make all the necessary infrastructure investments that come with this, is likely to be over whether your chosen renewable energy sources are reliable. After all, not only can investment in green energy be expensive to install, if it’s going to let you down by not supplying the sufficient amount of electricity or heat your business needs to function, it could be more trouble than it’s worth.
While the answer to this question will of course eventually come down to your specific choice of renewable energy and its suitability for your location, premises and energy needs, as a rule, industry experts agree that renewable technology is now advanced and resilient enough to reliably provide sufficient energy to many businesses. Indeed, even if you’re not willing to invest in green technology yourself, you can still pay for renewable energy through many major energy providers. These plans are known as ‘green tariffs’ and provide renewable energy through the grid just as efficiently and reliably as energy provided through regular plans.
On a national scale, governments across the world are more confident than ever before that the resiliency and reliability of renewable energy is not an issue. Indeed, a recent study carried out by the Department of Energy, for example, concluded that national grid operations could, if needed in the near future, perform reliably using solely renewable energy generation.
On the back of this, Britain’s renewable energy industry has thrived in recent years, and this fresh confidence in the perceived reliability of green energy has seen alternative energy business opportunities appear to many UK companies. From the improved corporate image that comes with investing in green energy and the potential to sell excess energy back to the grid to a reduced carbon footprint and enticing government incentives, this is a trend that is set to continue.
If you are seriously considering a switch to renewable energy for your business but still have concerns, there is specialist help available to you. Here at Utility Bidder, for example, we can provide reliable and helpful expert advice on green business energy solutions. We will not only let you know what savings your business could make by switching energy providers, we will also talk you through why certain renewable energy sources and tariffs may be most suitable for your business and then make tailored recommendations to suit you.
Renewable energy for business
There are two main ways for your business to take advantage of renewable energy. Firstly, you can switch to an energy provider that offers ‘green tariffs’. These are energy deals that guarantee that the energy your business is supplied with comes either exclusively or partially (depending on your contract) from renewable sources. This solution, which many major suppliers as well as specialty eco-energy providers offer, allows your business to go green without having to invest in your own renewable energy technology.
The second option is to generate your own sustainable energy. Naturally, this typically requires fairly significant investment in infrastructure and specialist equipment and can depend on external variables such as the location and size of your business’ premises. Although initial investment is needed, this method of becoming more environmentally friendly can pay for itself over time. It also provides new business opportunities in the form of huge savings on energy bills and the opportunity to sell excess energy your business has provided back to the grid for a profit.
Renewable energy business opportunities
Whether you make a complete switch from conventional energy solutions to renewable power, or you want your business to simply be able to produce a portion of its energy through sustainable means, the benefits of going green are numerous. The longer you leave it, the longer you and your business could be missing out on countless opportunities, including:
- Reducing your business’ carbon footprint
Aside from the obvious benefits to the environment that come with cutting down on the amount of carbon emissions your business creates using conventional energy solutions, adopting renewable energy solutions early will put your business ahead of the pack and make meeting government deadlines for corporate carbon emissions reductions much easier.
- Improving your corporate image
Making use of renewable energy solutions and being able to boast about hitting environmental responsibility targets can do wonders for business. After all, being seen as a pioneer in green energy adoption in your industry before the use of renewable energy becomes mainstream can make a real splash with your clients, stakeholders and potential future employees. Press coverage of your switch and/or renewable investments could also boost your public image, with your new green credentials improving visibility and driving up business.
- Financially preparing for the future
As fossil fuels supplies diminish, the cost of conventional energy solutions is likely to continue to increase. Making the switch now, getting ahead of the curve and seizing the opportunity to adapt to new technology early on can save your business a lot of money in the long term. Whether that involves investing in your own renewable energy infrastructure or simply choosing from the increasingly wide range renewable tariffs and providers, both have their advantages.
- Taking advantage of government clean energy schemes and reduced levies
In order to encourage UK businesses to reduce their carbon output and become more sustainable, the government has introduced a number of schemes and levies. From securing a reduced Climate Change Levy (CCL) rate and meeting Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) targets to securing grants, benefiting from employment schemes and more, switching to renewable energy solutions can save your business money and help you take advantage of plenty of opportunities in the form of sustainable energy schemes, grants and incentives.
Renewable energy for schools
Increasing energy bills can be a big concern for schools. Although government grants and incentives are available, many state schools, academies and special educational needs units are based in large buildings that require a lot of electricity and heating to function, and as the price of conventional energy continues to rise, this help might not be enough.
Renewable energy can be a great long term solution for schools looking to lower their energy bills through alternative energy business opportunities. Depending on a number of variables – including initial investment, location and size – schools can invest in green technology and incorporate the infrastructure needed to supply their own clean energy within school premises/grounds. This option potentially provides the school with a business opportunity in the form of selling excess energy generated back to the grid.
Alternatively, schools can simply switch to an energy provider that offers green tariffs. Although there are fewer direct commercial business opportunities available through this method, it is much less expensive as no new infrastructure will need to be installed and the school can still benefit from a reduced carbon footprint, lower energy costs in the long term and an improved environmentally friendly public image.
Renewable energy for commercial buildings
If you own the commercial building(s) that your business operates from and are seriously considering switching to renewable energy solutions, investing in the infrastructure to do this properly may be the way to go. However, it’s important to remember that factors such as location, budget, local authority regulations and your business’ energy needs and requirements will all play a role in deciding what form of renewable energy is most suited for your commercial building(s).
Currently in the UK, solar energy is considered the best initial renewable energy source for businesses to invest in. This is because the equipment needed to start generating electricity is relatively small, meaning less space is needed when compared with other forms of renewable energy (i.e. no wind turbines are required). Solar panels can be installed on the roof and outside walls of your commercial building and the larger the space you can cover, the more electricity you will be able to generate. If you are able to invest heavily in solar panels, this could mean your business can supply all the electricity it needs to operate and may even have a surplus which it can sell back to the grid. Alternatively, smaller collections of panels may just be able to supplement your energy needs or act as a back-up supply.
Of course, each business and commercial building is different, therefore it’s important to weigh up all of your options carefully. Really taking the time to think about all of the potential business opportunities and benefits a certain renewable energy solution could bring is essential before choosing the best system for your company.
Utility Bidder can help you find the best renewable energy solutions and tariffs for your business – we make it simple to compare the best renewable energy deals and are happy to offer our expert advice when it comes to going green.
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