New green energy technologies are becoming more and more commonplace, but how green is green energy and what could it mean for your business?
As any entrepreneur will know, paying for energy is a significant overhead when running a business. So, finding the most efficient energy out there can be an important part of maintaining profitability. But in the modern day, many organisations feel a responsibility to do more than simply protect the bottom line – they also believe in the need to run an environmentally conscious business. And with good reason.
Businesses consume more than half (56%) of the UK’s total energy, contributing considerably to the country’s carbon emissions. Whether you’re in heavy industry or simply run a few laptops from a small office, it is always important to consider the impact you are having on the environment. One of the most common ways to tackle this issue head-on is to opt for a green energy tariff for your business.
But what exactly is green energy, and can it really help your business move forward on the journey to becoming more energy efficient?
What is green energy?
Green energy is that which is drawn from natural sources such as wind, sunlight, rain, plants, algae, tides and geothermal heat. Unlike fossil fuels – which take millions of years to develop and therefore diminish with continued use – these energy sources are renewable and naturally replenished.
The renewable energy sources also have a much smaller impact on the environment, as fossil fuels produce pollutants like greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Green energy aims to utilise energy sources that are readily available all over the world, through the installation of features like wind turbines and solar panels. Over time, it is hoped that greener energy sources will replace fossil fuels.
What types of green energy are there?
Two of the most common and well-known forms of green energy are solar power and wind power. Both of these rely on constant natural resources for heating, light and power. In fact, a study back in 2009 found that a network of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines operating at just 20% of their rated capacity could supply 40 times the current worldwide consumption of energy.
Other common green energy sources include hydropower, or hydroelectric power. This is generated by the Earth’s water cycle and can produce significant amounts of energy. China is currently the biggest generator of hydroelectric power, with two of the ten largest hydroelectric power stations in the world.
Geothermal energy is another important green energy source. The thermal energy beneath the Earth’s surface has been used for centuries for hot springs, but recently we’ve begun to understand ways to use it for generating electricity too.
Natural waste materials like wood waste and sawdust can also be used as a greener source of energy. These materials, known as biomass, can be burned without producing nearly as much greenhouse gases as fossil fuels, or else they can be transformed into fuels known as biofuels.
What does green energy mean for businesses and households?
As sustainability is such a growing area of concern in today’s society, you’ll find that most energy suppliers now offer green energy tariffs. These are tariffs designed to meet the demands for more efficient energy supply, and there are two main kind of green energy services to be aware of.
The first of these are green energy tariffs. Opting for this means that some or all of the electricity you pay for is matched by purchases of renewable energy made by your supplier on your behalf. Your supplier should let you know what sources are included in this, and exactly how much of your supply is renewable.
Some companies buy a mix of renewable and non-renewable energy but ensure that the former is at least as much as the latter. Other suppliers now advertise themselves as a 100% renewable supplier.
The second green service are green funds. This involves paying a premium that contributes to funding new renewable energy developments. So your existing energy supply continues as normal, but your involvement in the funds could help to address the balance of renewable and non-renewable energy sources in the future.
How green is green?
There’s no doubt that a green energy tariff is the more sustainable option for businesses trying to do their best for the environment. However, the subject isn’t completely free from debate.
For one thing, there is a lot of discussion about whether buying electricity from a green tariff means that your electricity is 100% renewable. All the renewable energy generated is connected to the grid, which is also true of non-renewable generation. We all draw electricity from this same pool.
The carbon content of mains electricity is calculated on this basis, so it is difficult for one user to claim they are using completely carbon-free electricity based on their supplier. Green tariffs are a useful way to reduce your business’s environmental impact. However, they should still be considered an addition to – rather than a substitute for – energy efficiency in the current market.
You should still do what you can to reduce your energy use and get into greener habits.
Why should small businesses consider a greener switch?
As we mentioned earlier, businesses are responsible for more than half of the UK’s energy consumption. So it’s important that every business looks for ways to reduce the energy it uses and considers more renewable sources. Green tariffs are one of the most accessible ways to do this.
Save on energy costs
The detrimental impact of fossil fuels has become more and more apparent over the past few decades, highlighting them as a limited, as well as damaging, source of energy. This has planted the need for more renewable sources of energy firmly in the spotlight of public consciousness.
But as well as being good for the planet, opting for a greener energy tariff can also be good for your business. Taking steps towards energy efficiency inevitably leads to lower gas and electricity costs, through factors like a healthier EPC. This helps to save your business money which you can then put into more proactive areas, be it marketing or staffing. Factors such as a better EPC can also increase the market value of your workplace, so you may see a better return should you choose to move elsewhere.
Improve your image
Making your business more sustainable can improve your overall image with consumers and the wider public. Consumers are now paying more attention than ever to a company’s impact on the environment, both positively and negatively. Research by Energy Star reveals that the most eco-friendly businesses and those associated with being more “environmentally responsible” achieve more positive responses from consumers than businesses which don’t do as much to stay green.
In fact, larger companies are now starting to recognise the efforts of other businesses. For example, Newsweek now releases annual rankings of the most eco-friendly companies. Switching to a greener tariff could be the vital first step in doing your bit as a business to help the environment, while also benefitting your brand overall.
If you’re looking to switch your energy supplier, The Energy Check can help. We compare tariffs from thousands of suppliers to find your business the very best deal. Start your search today by clicking here or give us a call on 0191 691 18 02.