Making the Switch – Renewables for business

Soaring energy prices are just around the corner and so there has never been a more pressing moment to address Step 2 of The NetZeroToolkit and tackle energy consumption.

To get a bit more insight into energy efficiency, switching to renewables and even generating your own energy, we gathered questions and put them to Chris Trigg – Managing Director of Ongen.

Thanks for agreeing to chat with us today Chris! I think we should start by finding out a little bit more about what Ongen does:

Ongen is a software company that helps organisations to reduce their energy consumption, associated costs and most importantly of all to reduce their carbon intensity of energy.

Ongen Expert looks at different technologies that could be deployed within a business. We work out what the options are, potential constraints and correlate the energy demands with the generation profiles of different technologies. Ultimately telling you which technology, or combination of technologies, will give the best return on investment.

Onefficiency is a tool that starts with the energy performance certificate of a property, the software then uses algorithms to work out how you get your performance rating from a less acceptable value to something that is.

Onsupply helps businesses to attract the best renewable energy deals. We reach and ask suppliers to bid for the contract. Suppliers can’t see who is bidding against them, all they can see is the best price offered. The energy consumer knows that they’ve been out to the market and those contracts have been competitively tendered for in a blind auction.

There are about to be price hikes when it comes to energy what are the underlying causes of this?

Fundamentally, although still heavily reliant on gas in this country, we do not have the infrastructure to store it. This means that we are vulnerable to wholesale markets.

Currently the gas demand in the far east has been high as they recovered from the pandemic before us. Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) tankers have been going to the far east because the demand has been there. However, recently, quite a few are coming to Europe because now we are recovering and they’re going to to get the best return in Europe.

Eventually that will bring down the price – you’ll see that the gas prices vary each day. If a whole shipment of LNGs come into Europe that brings the price down.

This day-by-day and the variability in wholesale is going to continue for a while. As the effects of the global pandemic wear off and the global economy picks up energy will be required – that means gas prices are going to spike.

What are the really simple, quick things that an organisation can do today to tackle their energy consumption?

The KWh that you don’t use is your best starting point – energy efficiency is always the place to start.

It’s the kind of things you might do domestically. For example, switching lightbulbs and draft exclusion. Draft exclusion is a great way and can make a material difference and then insulation.

If you don’t own the property then there are a few things that you can do but you might also need to talk to your landlord. Your landlord will have a responsibility to ensure that any building that they let has a certain level of efficiency. It has to have an energy performance rating of F or above.

What’s happening in Scotland and in England is what’s known as minimum energy efficiency standards. Any properties that are being let or re-let, have to hit a certain energy performance level.

There’s an argument to say to a landlord that ultimately it has to be done and it will improve the rental value of their property. I’m not suggesting they should increase the rent of course! But, it is legislation at the end of the day. By 2030 the target is that every property that is let has to be a B or better. There will be a long way to go for many, many properties.

How do you go about choosing a renewable energy deal and be reassured that it is actually renewable – there are lots of caveats and catches?

Yes, there are a lot of smoke and mirrors – different shades of green. True green energy is energy that can attribute to a true renewable generating asset. Big companies can invest in or own their own renewable assets – wind, solar whatever – and what they’re doing is called ‘sleeving’. They’ll sleeve generation into their supply contract and it is attributable to a specific generating asset. In most cases that’s not practical for a small business – so you’ll need to look at businesses where their generation comes from genuine renewable assets. Ecotricity is a good example, Good Energy and Green Energy – those are three that I can think of off the top of my head where we know that their generation is coming from wind, solar or potentially waste incineration – which although not always green is certainly renewable. So there are different kinds of renewable generation.

You then get companies who provide (Renewable Energy Generation Origin) REGO backed supply – these are certificates that tell the consumer that a megawatt hour has been produced using renewable resources. The problem is that you can trade them, companies can buy REGO certificates to back off their generation from different sources. It could be from oil, gas, coal, you name it but they’ve got a certificate to say it’s renewable. A lot of commentators feel the whole thing is very opaque, it confusing. You think you’re buying green energy but actually it didn’t originate from a green energy source.

You need to have a look at the fuel mix. Every supplier has to disclose what their fuel mix is, where does their energy come from?

We have done a lot of research in this area and we have a list of genuine green energy suppliers and those that are providing REGO-backed green energy.

Where should SMEs start if they want to install technology to generate their own electricity?

If you have access to half-hourly consumption data and you’ve got a recent energy tariff, energy contract or recent bill, that’s where you can start. We’ve developed a tool that allows you to upload your consumption data, identify your site on a map and it does it all for you. The Energy Saving Trust also provide advice and have some online tools as well.

Ours focus very much on the business case, that’s because we want to see deployment but we also recognise that most people want to see how it stacks up financially.

There has to be a sound business case because ultimately someone is going to be paying for this. Either through internal funds or it might be a bank or leasing arrangement.

It needs to stack up financially as well as delivering the carbon and energy cost savings.

Most would look at PV as an option, because it’s quite easy. But maybe rather than looking at plastering your whole roof with PV you might want to size it depending on your energy load. That’s one of the take-homes that I could give you.

You could combine that with a heat pump. The cost of heat pumps is coming down, there is a renewable heat incentive for domestic property which is still just about there and that’s a seven-year incentive, subsidy mechanism. I think it’s going to be replaced by a clean heat grant in due course and I believe you could get around £3-4,000 towards the cost of it. There are incentives out there.

Thanks so much for your time today – and such helpful information

There are a wealth of resources – including those from Ongen and The Energy Saving Trust –guidance and prompts to be found in The NetZeroToolkit . Step 2 – Run My Business on 100% Renewable Energy allows you to access these and plan for your renewable future!