Here comes the Sun

EIC explores the benefits and future of on-site solar generation for businesses, how COVID-19 has highlighted and bolstered the strengths of solar power and how EIC can help businesses engage with the technology.

The wild blue yonder

Lockdown, while effective, has been a source of ongoing financial and emotional strain for many in the UK and businesses are no exception. However, there have been a number of benefits to this economic slowing that perhaps are going overlooked.

Chiefly, air pollution, in proportion with industrial energy demand, has dropped significantly. Combined with the severe oversupply of Oil and faltering resilience of fossil fuels generally, this has given solar generation the opportunity to enjoy a moment in the sun. 

However, solar is not a recent arrival to the energy scene, existing theoretically since at least 1839 thanks to French scientist Edmund Bacquerel. Bacquerel’s work was groundbreaking because it was the first time that solid material with no moving parts had been used to convert sunlight directly into electrical energy.

A guiding light

Since 1839, we’ve come a long way and furthest perhaps in the last five years, during which time the costs of solar have halved while storage options have improved consistently with the introduction of graphene and vanadium technology.

The conditions of lockdown have demonstrated that renewable energy sources are likely to be the most resilient to the supply chain disruptions that a major crisis can create. 

In fact, EU solar generation jumped by 28% year-on-year, between March 28th and April 26th of this year compared to 2019, breaking generation records while doing so. 

Energy security is a basic necessity for the survival of any business and, as such, will be a subject of great scrutiny throughout lockdown and in its aftermath. Novel technologies like on-site generation will become more attractive, not only for their resilience but for the savings that their flexibility offers. 

The use of on-site photovoltaics can also improve a company’s carbon profile while providing a measure of protection against supply failure. 

EIC manages around 12TWH each year and with over 40 years industry experience, we are able to create bespoke energy solutions for your needs. We can help you engage with on-site generation, saving you as much as 20% on your energy usage or 40% when combined with on-site battery storage. Better still, in times of plenty, you’ll be able to sell excess energy back to the grid and further offset energy costs. 

Our solutions page contains full details of our on-site generation and storage offerings, as well as further information on the compliance service we provide that can be bolstered by such technology.

 

A road map for change: UK climate goals post COVID-19

EIC outlines the call to action the UK government has received from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to ensure that the road map for economic recovery post COVID-19 aligns with existing environmental targets.

Forging a path

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced proposed easing on several lockdown measures and made it clear that an exit strategy from COVID-19 was being developed to prevent further infection and revive the UK economy.

While the lion’s share of Johnson’s speech was devoted to these adjustments, he reiterated that maintaining social distancing would be critical in ensuring their success.

The next steps, beyond decreased restrictions on travel and exercise, will be in allowing non-key workers to return to work if their role was site-restricted but to remain working at home if possible. Thus the first sparks of economic resurrection appeared.

COVID-19 has ushered in one of the greatest economic cooling periods in modern history, in combination with geo-political tensions it has brought the oil industry to its knees and exposed many of the frailties in existing energy infrastructure.

In his speech, Johnson expressed the gravity of COVID-19, describing it as follows:

 

“The most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime…. [of a] kind we’ve seen never before in peace or war.”

 

However fears are now circulating that we will see a retreat away from renewable energy sources as both governments and investors move to revitalise that sector, perhaps at the cost of UK climate targets.

 

An opportunity in disguise

The CCC, among others, have stated that there is no reason that the economic recovery plan cannot be inclusive of UK climate goals. 

 

“Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air and improved health. The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”

Lord Deben, CCC Chairman

 

Historically, Lord Deben is correct, perhaps the most dramatic green energy success story in recent history is that of the United States. Immediately after the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. prioritised funding for clean energy which generated 900,000 jobs in a five-year period.

According to a recent insight from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in excess of 17m jobs could be generated globally by 2030 through similar investment now-effectively doubling that work force.

Additionally, IRENA have calculated that this model could yield a global GDP gain of approximately $98tn by 2050, returning in the range of $3 to $8 on every dollar spent.

 

“Things have changed markedly since the last global economic downturn a decade ago – renewables are now cheaper than the alternatives” 

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

 

The global picture shows many benefits to leveraging COVID-19 for the purposes of green transition however these gains are logistical as well as financial. As Fatih Birol, head of the IEA, implied, renewables have also proven far more resilient during this crisis:

 

“Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use…”

Fatih Birol, head of the IEA

 

Upon this rock

The responsibility now falls to the UK government to create and enact policies that reflect its commitment to carbon neutral and to an economy for the future instead of simply offering life support to fossil fuels.

Despite not presenting a comprehensive strategy, the prime minister did comment on the UK’s green trajectory while responding to questions after the announcement. Johnson declared the UK’s resolve in meeting net zero by 2050, pandemic or not, saying “…we know we can do it”.

 

 

Although COP26, this year’s proposed Glasgow climate talks, are unlikely to go ahead, the UK is still considered a global leader in the fight against climate change, however actions taken now will dictate the fortitude of both our economy and reputation in years to come:

 

“The UK now finds itself in a unique position to ramp-up climate action at home and supercharge the international response to climate change abroad…” 

Baroness Brown of Cambridge,CCC Adaptation Committee chair 

 

Thankfully, while the costs of climate inaction are all too apparent, the benefits of a green transition are more and more becoming a matter of consensus, as Richard George of Greenpeace UK states:

“…200 top economists told us that transitioning to a low-carbon economy was the most effective form of economic stimulus… Now the UK government’s climate advisors have reinforced that message… the debate is over.”

The question then becomes how individuals and businesses can contribute to, and take advantage of, this new green trajectory?

No doubt new legislation will be introduced to further incentivise greener business practices, and the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) has made suggestions along those lines in a strategic document. 

One such suggestion is that the second wave of financial support to UK businesses be conditional on their commitment to climate-friendly policy and practices. 

Leveraging the pandemic in order to pressure businesses into adopting sustainable practices may seem extreme however it is in order to prevent a much greater catastrophe and as such might be viewed as both timely and reasonable.

That being said, legislation and compliance will likely become the government’s major tools in achieving carbon neutral within the industrial and commercial sectors. As such, the value of compliance becomes even more pronounced, particularly given the need to reduce costs during and after a period of low income.

Carbon management then, becomes a vital priority as businesses and management professionals try to anticipate and navigate this possible transition. Not unlike the lockdown itself, social responsibility and personal accountability are at the heart of Carbon management and EIC will develop a bespoke plan for your business that reflects that. 

Combined with in-house compliance and IoT empowered facility management services, EIC can integrate many of the elements of your carbon strategy into a single cohesive framework for the benefit of your shareholders, team members and clients.

 

The green gold rush: CCA extension proposed

EIC explains the government’s proposed extension to the climate change agreements initiative (CCA), the benefits of compliance and how EIC can ensure you qualify.

CCA: How and why

The climate change agreements initiative was established to incentivise the continued and effective implementation of energy efficiency strategies among the most energy intensive industrial sectors.

CCA encourages businesses to streamline their energy usage by offering a 93% reduction on electricity, and a 78% reduction on other fuels accrued as a result of the climate change levy (CCL).

Since its inception in 2013, approximately 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions have been prevented each year, with businesses using up to 2.3 TWh less energy or enough to power 140,000 homes.

The need for such legislation becomes painfully obvious when framed in the context of energy wastage, in the City of London alone businesses are losing £35m each year this way according to a Green Alliance think tank report.

Originally, the initiative was due to conclude in March 2023 however Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced in the spring budget that there would be consultation on a possible two-year extension to the initiative.

The show goes on

While 9,000 facilities across the UK are already benefiting from the CCA, this extension is estimated to be worth as much as £300m annually in CCL discounts, for the businesses already taking part in the scheme as well as new beneficiaries that would now be able to apply.

It works by encouraging businesses to make improvements to site energy efficiency over an eight-year period. In return, businesses would receive a discount worth as much as £300m annually on CCL bills.

Given the financial uncertainty that COVID-19 continues to inspire, and cooling attitudes towards sustainable development and practices, the news of an extension is welcome on all fronts.

“Extending the Climate Change Agreement scheme will give businesses greater clarity and security at a time when they need it most. This extension will save businesses money while cutting emissions…”

-Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng

The consultation will cover proposals for the addition of a new Target Period, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022, an extension of certification for reduced rates of CCL for participants 31 March 2025 and finally, to re-open the scheme, allowing eligible facilities not currently participating to apply to join.

Businesses that had previously missed the opportunity to join the scheme now stand a chance of taking advantage of these savings whilst contributing to a greener economy.

However, it should be noted that the criteria of eligibility for the scheme is not under review, rather the extra time will allow businesses to implement strategies that make them eligible in time for the levy discount to bear fruit.

The new gold rush

The extension proposed, should it be approved, presents a significant opportunity to both current beneficiaries and new comers to the scheme, provided they have the reporting mechanisms in place, to adhere to the scheme.

However, businesses that wish to take advantage of this opportunity in future will need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the scheme as soon as possible, in order to reap the most benefit.

EIC’s expert team of carbon consultants and data analysts are dedicated to offering your business a comprehensive CCA service from initial assessments through data analysis to actionable strategy.

Clarity of vision: Intelligent buildings

EIC explores the potential benefits to productivity that can be generated by effective and responsive environmental control, as well as the boon to cost saving and compliance processes it can provide.

Setting the scene

The percentage of the labour market now working from home (WFH), due to the lockdown imposed to fight the spread of COVID-19, is unprecedented with Finder estimating that 60% of the UK’s 33.7 million labourers are now working remotely.

Most commercial enterprises are being forced to reevaluate the way their staff perform their roles and the limitations imposed by location and direct proximity to colleagues and management. 

While WFH has demonstrated some obvious benefits, time saved by cutting out commutes for example, there are still many roles that require working from site.

Additionally, many employers will choose to return to a state of normality for logistical reasons like communication and conferencing that suffer novel limitations when used remotely. 

One of the upsides of COVID-19 will be an increased awareness and respect for the effect of working environment on productivity as well as on employee health.

Making informed decisions

Air quality, temperature and humidity are fluctuating qualities of an internal environment while lighting is more static.  However, they can each be directed according to need, tracked for data analysis and there is evidence that all of them affect productivity in the workplace.

“System design and the deployment of correctly implemented controls are the single biggest components to ensuring environmental conditions are correctly maintained.”

-Mark Longley, Head of Operations Solutions, t-mac

silhouette of trees near calm body of water at night panoramic photography

Air quality

The widespread attraction of commercial air conditioning is that it can provide a stable and consistent utility cost to weigh against air quality control, meaning that windows can be ‘sealed’ to prevent costly and unpredictable heat loss. 

Unfortunately, a lack of CO2 monitoring can lead to saturation in the internal environment which, in turn, can impair the cognitive functions of your team and lead to a drop in productivity. 

A 2015 report from Harvard University, titled “Economic, Environmental, and Health Implications of Enhanced Ventilation in Office Buildings”, demonstrated that:

The public health benefits of enhanced ventilation far exceed the per occupant economic costs… Even with conservative estimates, the increased productivity of an employee is over 150 times greater than the resulting energy costs.”

Ironically too much CO2 can often trick the brain into thinking that temperatures are uncomfortably high-meaning that air conditioning can actually be counterproductive to its original purpose if it is unable to respond dynamically to your needs.

“I don’t think our field has done a good job of reaching out to the real estate developers, managers, and owners of businesses that can make this change… I don’t think it’s acknowledged that changing these factors can make a difference.”

-Piers MacNaughton, Harvard

Temperature control

A discussion on air quality control necessitates one on temperature regulation since the two are often confused with one another. System-wide temperature control has been a standard in modern work and living space for decades, however its adaptability leaves something to be desired. 

The current fluctuations in British weather are an expected side effect of climate change however the thermal regulation of most offices isn’t equipped to respond to wide swings in temperature or humidity ranges-both of which affect our perception of temperature.

Additionally, recent reports have demonstrated human productivity is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature:

“The results show that performance increases with temperature up to 21-22 o C, and decreases with temperature above 23-24 o C. The highest productivity is at temperature of around 22 o C. For example, at the temperature of 30 o C the performance is only 91.1% of the maximum”

A collaboration between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Helsinki University of technology, the report also stated:

“There is an obvious need to develop tools so that economic outcomes of health and productivity can be integrated into cost-benefit calculations with initial, energy and maintenance costs.”

Lighting

Finally, the internal lighting systems a business utilises can have a dramatic affect on productivity since they have a direct relationship with their staff’s circadian rhythms, the aspect of our biology that tells us when it is time to be engaged and time to rest.

Psychological studies have also shown that people’s mood and productivity can be affected by the ‘temperature’ of light as well i.e. whether light feels warm or cold to look at.

“There is growing evidence for a link between lighting conditions, shift-work and biological health conditions: an area likely to receive more attention from researchers in future.”

Lighting, Well-being and Performance at Work, by Professor Jo Silvester and Dr Efrosyni Konstantinou

Closing thoughts

All that being said, the key question is how to obtain the data and control necessary to make these systems work for you rather than just being extra columns on the expense report. 

Considering these elements as potential assets rather than liabilities might seem counter-intuitive but when the application of something has the power to affect productivity this dramatically, it is only a liability while it is not under our control.

As Jones Lang LaSalle’s 3-30-300 rule posits, for every dollar or pound spent on utilities like lighting and heat, you are likely to spend a hundred on people so why not make those costs go further by making what you spend on utilities count towards your people too.?

The recent SECR deadline also served as a sobering reminder of the importance of effective utilities management and regular reappraisal of existing practices. 

Intelligent building management will continue to grow more and more sophisticated, allowing greater adaptability to the needs of clients, staff and business owners, and EIC can help you to leverage this technology to increase both your staff’s productivity and your bottom line. To find out more click here.

COVID-19: Advice for Energy Professionals

EIC provides counsel to our corporate clients looking for information around to which formulate strategy for mitigating the fall out of COVID-19 within the energy field.

A battle of morale

Since it first began its initial spread, COVID-19 has subjected the planet to a level of disruption unrivalled since World War Two. However, the advantage to be claimed here lies in how much the pandemic has exposed our systemic fragility and the areas in direst need of adjustment and future development.

First of all, assurance should be prioritised both to customers and to shareholders, the UK is privileged in its possession one of the most robust energy supply services in the world and as such concerns for supply are minimal.

The National Grid have reported that in 2019, the majority of the UK’s annual electricity consumption broke down as 21% commercial, 30% domestic and 26% industrial. Obviously these will be subject to change over the coming weeks, as self-isolation and working from home become the norm, however the current estimation is that there is an “extremely small” chance of the grid becoming overwhelmed.

Using Italy as an example, electricity and gas use are actually expected to decrease rather than increase.

The economic uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, means that staff as well as shareholders are worried, about job security, financial stability and their own health as well as that of loved ones.

Staff engagement during this crisis will be essential to maintain morale as well as to ensure that team members are receiving whatever added support they may need under the circumstances to continue to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Remote communication and conferencing have, thankfully, become increasingly commonplace in recent years and can now be leveraged to maintain employee relations. Consider which technologies, be they apps or direct software might best serve you and your team’s needs.

How EIC can help

Beyond staff logistics, there are also considerations to be made about site-bound resources, equipment may need to be powered down or put into stand by for quick reactivation when lock-down ends, lighting and lock timers may need to be adjusted etc.

Additionally, if you are already employing automatic utility data capture, perhaps the system you are using needs to be adjusted or paused to prevent inconsistent results being track and integrated in future analyses. Are staff periodically visiting site and will they have specific utility needs that must be accounted for?

EIC are specialists in providing thorough, accurate and applicable building management services that can be controlled entirely from a single, remote platform. The functions included in our bespoke packages range from lighting and ventilation control to critical systems like fire, security and CCTC.

The integration of these separate elements allows you to formulate a building-wide strategy that reflects all its needs without getting bogged down in a torrent of data. Further information about the solutions we offer can be found on our services page.

 

SECR: Why use EIC?

A brief look into SECR, why it matters, the deadlines and reasoning behind the legislation and how EIC can combine it with ESOS in an economic package suited to your organization’s needs.

The Nuts and Bolts

The UK’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Policy (SECR), is a piece of governmental legislation that came into effect April 1st of last year. It seeks to consistently highlight the carbon footprint of companies, whilst encouraging long term strategies that are congruent to UK carbon emissions goals.

To that end, the SECR requires companies to provide a detailed report which includes items such as their carbon emissions and energy efficiency / carbon reduction behaviours implemented to redress their overall carbon footprint.

Established as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) was ending, last year’s regulations will affect approximately 11,900 companies in the UK, considerably increasing the range of influence that the CRC originally enjoyed.

The scheme affects businesses described as “large organisations” within the Companies House terminology. Therefore businesses which have at least a turnover of £36 million, balance sheet of at least £18 million, or 250 or more employees, will be within this category.

SECR works in cooperation with the pre-existing legislation the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

 

time-lapse photography of sparkler at night time

 

Year 1 – Act Now

Since the SECR came into effect on April 1st 2019, it means that we now sit on the eve of the first regulatory deadline, with the first trench of qualifying businesses financial year ending in March 2020.

For businesses which also qualify for ESOS, the SECR scheme is a useful tool to provide the necessary data sets required for compliance, making the journey smoother.

As such, we felt that the timing was right to remind our readers of the combined ESOS and SECR package that we offer. The fusing of the two services is designed to remove unnecessary stress and inconvenience with the promise of a dedicated Carbon Consultant.

Finally, EIC also offers a 10% discount to any clients that sign up for a 4-year joint service package, our website contains further details on all of our services and we invite you to find out more should they appeal to you.

Please visit our blog here for the latest news regarding SECR.