Renewable Energy Deployment Growing – but businesses’ focus should be on efficiency first

Recent news from the UK renewable energy sector suggests that the deployment and use of low carbon energy sources continue to rise, despite a backdrop of declining subsidies designed to support the industry and work towards the country’s wider national carbon reduction targets.

Whilst total electricity consumption rose in almost every European country, the upward trend in renewables deployment was greatest in both Germany and the UK.  Government statistics provisionally suggested that renewable electricity generation in the UK increased by 18.8% in 2017 compared to 2016, to a record 98.9TWh, and renewables’ normalised overall share of electricity generation achieved a record 28.1%, with wind power (both onshore and offshore) providing the vast bulk of this energy.

Industry analysis also suggests that the UK is steadily moving towards a time when new renewables projects will increasingly be able to stand on their own feet, without the need for Government funding to support their financial viability. This progression has been aided by advances in battery storage technology and the falling cost of wind and solar projects; it is suggested that both onshore wind and solar projects will be viable in the UK without any form of subsidy by 2025.

However, it is clear that the sector isn’t quite there yet.  The greatest strides made over recent years to reduce the cost of deployment suggest that the industry cannot reach it’s potential without ongoing support from the Government.  This does not merely mean support in the form of financial subsidy, but also the deployment of projects enabled through the planning process supported by local communities and businesses.

On the wider stage, support for low carbon energy was also recently boosted by news from Google achieving its target of using 100% renewable energy, through the purchasing of more power from renewable sources during 2017, with contracts in place to purchase approximately 3GW of renewable output.  This is encouraging news and shows a level of intent and leadership that will hopefully encourage other businesses to follow suit, but for firms that are keen to reduce their environmental impacts, it is only part of the solution.

Having worked with businesses across a range of sectors, ETS has always encouraged clients to follow the hierarchy of energy management and make sure that they optimise their existing assets and processes as a first step to reducing their total energy consumption alongside sourcing low carbon electricity supplies.  The process of minimising total energy demand enables clients to deploy their own renewable energy systems, such as Solar PV arrays on their built assets.  Whilst this is not a new approach to energy efficiency, sound energy management practices can often be overlooked in favour of shiny new renewables projects which companies can also publicise to demonstrate their corporate intent around environmental performance.

However, as a business made up of Chartered Energy Manager and Chartered Engineers, our advice to our clients has always been to make their existing assets and processes as efficient as possible first before going down the route of renewable energy systems – as this process generally produces the greatest financial savings for the lowest capital outlay.

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary of doing just this for our clients, our business looks forward to another 20 years of helping our clients to increase their operational efficiency, reduce their costs and improve their profitability.

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