The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, but the unpredictable changes we’ve seen as a result have shown a glimmer of light for those battling the climate crisis.
This April, the amount of CO2 emitted globally each day fell by 17% compared to the daily average of 2019. This brings us more or less in line with 2006 levels – a stark reminder of just how much greenhouse gas emissions have increased over the past 14 years.
Yet, Valpy Fitzgerald, Director of Green Markets at renewable energy provider Opus Energy explains that the reality is that unless we work together the gains made over the past few months are likely to be temporary. Scientists have warned that levels will rise again as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted and we return to ‘business as usual’.
But we’re not without hope. Renewable energy – one of the cornerstones of a sustainable planet – is expected to grow this year, coinciding with the gradual collapse in demand for fossil fuels. It’ll soon play the leading role in the global energy mix – a trend we were anticipating in the UK even before the outbreak of the virus. Last year, electricity from British windfarms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants surpassed fossil fuels for the first time since the UK’s first power plant fired up in 1882.
However, as demand for renewable energy surges, so does the pressure on national supply. With 11 million EVsexpected to be on UK roads by 2030, electricity demand is predicted to peak over the next decade. That is why we need greater collaboration between businesses and renewable energy suppliers, as this will enable us to plug the demand gap and support larger renewable energy generation projects across the UK.
So, what can you as a small to medium business owner do to play your part and support the growth of renewable energy?
Generating your own renewable energy
One of the ways businesses can support the energy network to become less carbon intensive is by working with energy suppliers to set up their own generation, with the potential to become self-sufficient.
For many SMEs, investing in this way makes good commercial sense, particularly for those who own their own land and/or premises. For example, if you own land, you may have the physical space for a generator, such as a wind turbine. For those who can modify their facilities, solar panels are a highly accessible way of generating your own renewable electricity onsite.
Both these technologies help to ensure that your business runs on clean electricity. Not only is this great for the environment, helping you to reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also make a huge impact on your bottom line by reducing your energy bills. What’s more, wind turbines and solar panels can provide businesses with a passive revenue stream, as any excess electricity can be sold back to an energy company using what is known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or an Export Tariff.
Generating your own electricity can also do wonders for your reputation. Many businesses are now being asked to prove their green credentials throughout the supply chain, with many companies, both big and small, now listing the use of renewable energy and other sustainable practices as a prerequisite for doing business. Suppliers with a poor environmental performance risk being struck off, losing out on business to those who are more sustainable.
A collective effort against climate change
From businesses that run large-scale generation projects, to community schemes and small or medium businesses, this is an option that’s viable for many organisations here in the UK.Last year Opus Energy partnered with over 2,300 small business renewable energy generators to buy their excess electricity and supply it to our business customers. These are all businesses that are helping to shrink the country’s carbon footprint, while generating revenue to ensure they can induce positive impact for years to come.
It’s important that more businesses follow suit and pave the way towards a greener world. Awareness around the importance of sustainability is growing across every sector, but burgeoning demand for renewability will require businesses to think laterally and long term if we’re to avoid a potential bottleneck. Together, we all have our part to play in the fight against the climate emergency.