Yes, Net Zero is good for your business because sustainable use of energy can start saving your business money. You do not need to be a tree hugger, being a commercially savvy business is sufficient.
The easiest way to think about your business' energy consumption is in kWh per hour. In fact you can think about pretty much every daily activity in kWh per hour, including walking, driving, using your phone and drinking tea or coffee. We are just not used to thinking this way.
Using energy is great, that is how we get things done and get around. The problem only arises when our energy use contributes to excessive carbon release which pollutes our atmosphere, alters weather patterns and causes unnecessary harm to the world around us.
At present, the world is consuming a lot of energy, and most of that energy comes from unsustainable sources. Hence the Net Zero objectives that governments and businesses around the world are adopting.
Lets first deal with the energy you consume using electricity in your business (and home). Energy companies tell you exactly how much electricity you are using and where that energy is coming from. There are three to four ways that your business can become more sustainable.
1. Switching Business Energy Suppliers
First, you can find a sustainable energy supplier to your businesses. They don't have to be 100% green (though that would be great), but they have to be almost there. That is one of the easiest steps you can take. You can check out our super easy price checking and switching tool.
Remember when you are looking at business energy switching you need to know Unit Rates and Standing Charges. Energy companies charge you unit rates for the energy that you use. Unit rates are measured in pence per kWh. Please check out our guide on unit rates.
Energy companies will also charge you Standing Charges. You don't own your meter. You are technically paying the energy company to maintain and look after your meter. Hence they are charging you a certain amount of money per day called a Standing Charge. This charge is in pence per day (sometimes pounds) and is not related to how much electricity you are using.
Ideally you want to keep both costs down. However, if you are using a lot of energy, the Unit Rates are the most important variable. If you are using moderate to low energy, the Standing Charges are more important. Please check out our guides on how to read and understand your energy bills.
If you need help with understanding a particular bill from your energy supplier, check out our guides to different energy companies.
Businesses use different energy meters (from Standard to Smart Meters to Half Hourly to Economy 7). Energy meters tell you about your energy consumption. Always check to make sure that your energy company is charging you correctly for the amount of energy that you are actually using. Check out our energy meters guide to learn more.
2. Carbon Offsetting
The next step is to complement your energy supply efficiency with figuring out what your businesses' carbon foot print may be. This has become a very hot topic and the big question for many businesses is whether this exercise is commercially sensible.
The short answer is that for many businesses, customers are increasingly demanding to know what the carbon footprint is. In our 2020 survey we found that nearly 70% of businesses deeply care about being green.
While it is fair to say that many of the ‘carbon footprint' initiatives originated in the PR and Marketing departments, today carbon foot-printing is becoming a core value proposition for consumer and industrial goods (as well as services).
In many industries such as coffee shops and dry cleaning, ‘being green' is not only the right ‘marketing move' but it may enable your business to sell premium ‘green' and ‘cleaner' services. We have even published a guide on energy efficiency and coffee roasting.
Carbon Trust has an excellent carbon footprint calculator. You can figure out what your footprint is in a few minutes.
Once you know your Carbon Footprint, you can start thinking about Carbon Offsetting. Historically, Carbon Offsetting has been a very controversial subject.
Carbon Offsetting is when you buy ‘carbon credits'. Renewable businesses (such as solar, wind energy providers, carbon capture businesses) get these credit from governments. The idea is simple. Businesses pay renewable energy providers to generate more capacity and in return, this ‘carbon offsets' the dirty energy that businesses may be using.
Until very recently, many carbon offsetting projects were poorly regulated. Money often ended up in complex financial engineering projects. Today, the carbon offsetting market is much more regulated and with some due diligence, buying carbon credits can and will make a difference.
To make your Carbon Offsetting life easier for businesses, we partnered with Southern Energy (one of America's largest renewable energy producers, listed on the New York Stock Exchange). They own a large portfolio of renewable energy production assets in the European Union and the United States.
Check out our very easy and simple to use carbon offsetting tool. You can Carbon Offset your businesses energy use with a few clicks. The money will go to renewable projects and assets that directly impact the United Kingdom and European Union's Net Zero goals.
3. Cars & Transportation Energy Efficiency
We often think about car pollution and what Diesel/Gasoline consumption do to our environment. At the same time, we are often concerned with the ‘price at the pump'. When oil prices go down, we are elated at the much lower cost of driving a car. When oil prices go up we feel the pain in our personal and business pocket books.
In the Net Zero world we may want to think about how much energy our cars and transport usage consumes. Electrical cars are increasingly popular and have been a tremendous success for commercial vehicles and taxi companies.
A Cambridge physics professor, David JC MacKay, figured out that we are roughly using 40 kWh/day when driving cars. That roughly works out to 14,600 kWh/year. That is roughly equal to the amount of energy that a typical small/micro business will use per year.
If you are a small business with two or three cars, you are actually consuming twice or three times more energy per year than what it says on your electricity bill! That is quite a large number.
Hence, many businesses are getting electrical cars because electrical vehicles are actually great for business when you are thinking about the bottom line. Businesses that run electrical vehicle have an additional bonus. You can build your own electricity generation capacity on site (if you have the space). You can't build an oil well and refinery to supply your gas.
We have two tools for your to get your head around Electrical Vehicles (EVs). One is our commercial electrical vehicle guide and second is our handy interactive map that shows all the electrical charging points throughout the UK.
4. Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is an old topic. We are using more and more energy dependent tools. Individually they may be minor energy users, but in total they make a difference.
Some ideas are gimmicky – unplugging your phone every night is really not going to make a material difference to your energy consumption. Modern phone charges use about 0.01 kWh / day. That is 3.65 kWh per year. As you can see, switching off your phone will not make the world more sustainable.
In fact, if you properly insulate your business or home and combine this with electrical-based transport your business will capture nearly two thirds of the efficiency gains.
We put together a handy cheat sheet for your business to help figure out where the biggest energy efficiency gains are.
5. Energy Self-Generation, Storage & Ground Source heating
Energy self-generation and storage are some of the more exciting recent developments in sustainable energy. Both technologies have been around for some time. Traditionally self-generation and storage have been associated with back-up powers or developing world where centralised energy delivery infrastructure is poorly developed.
The world has changed. Self-generation is now much more affordable and practical for our homes and businesses. In an ideal world, your business and home may be completely independent of the central grid. In fact, the nature of energy companies may transform to supply and maintain your independent generation capacity. In addition to powering and heating your own business and home, self-generation and storage can unlock new revenue opportunities for your business.
In addition to becoming an energy supplier to utility companies, you may also offer charging stations in your businesses' parking lot and store energy for usage when solar and/or wind and/or hydrogen energy is less available or more expensive to use.
Many businesses may not have sufficient land or premises to take advantage of ground source heating and/or solar panels or wind turbines, but those who can will benefit greatly.
Ground source heating is a way to heat your business or home using geothermal energy that is found beneath the ground. If done right, and financed efficiently with government grants and support, ground source heating may fundamentally change how homes and businesses heat themselves.
We have a number of guide to help you with Self-Generation and Heating ideas. Please check out our Guide to Commercial Heat Pumps. Here is our Guide to Commercial Wind Turbines. If you love solar energy, then we have a guide for you as well.
In summary, Net Zero is both great for the world and good for business. The emerging commercial opportunities are vast, both for improving the bottom line and enhancing your businesses' revenues.
The National Grid has put together a fantastic video about how the UK can achieve Net Zero. Check it out.