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How much could companies save with on-site electricity generation?

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With energy bills rising across the UK, many firms may be considering generating their own electricity using on-site renewables for the very first time. But, how much could companies really save by installing on-site electricity generation? Cornwall Insight has the answers. 

Research from Cornwall Insight, included in their report – A corporates guide to decarbonising power – has demonstrated how on-site energy generation could help cut corporation energy bills and their carbon footprint. 

By moving the generation of energy to their site, or through engaging in a private wire arrangement – where the energy is generated in a separate nearby location but connected to the corporate site by dedicated infrastructure – companies can take back control of their energy and avoid importing energy at peak times when energy is most expensive. They will also be able to decarbonise their operations by utilising a greater amount of electricity from renewable sources.

The major benefit to using on-site generation or private wire to produce low-carbon energy is the opportunity for protection from high and volatile wholesale prices and avoidance of the network charges for importing energy from the public network. It can also help larger companies meet their legal climate obligations.

An npower business solutions survey of large companies from manufacturing, transport, and public sector found that 77% of respondents had already invested in solar and 38% of respondents had installed combined heat and power (CHP). Alongside solar and CHP, wind and battery storage are the other leading assets for on-site low-carbon generation and storage. Different on-site generation methods wield different returns and which asset a company uses will be both site dependent and affected by whether the most value is in avoiding importing electricity at peak times or whether demand is flexible.

Figure 1: Power densities (W/m2) for the most common low-carbon on-site generation and storage assets. *For battery storage the value is an energy density (Wh/m2) as storage assets have a more significant relationship between space and energy rather than power.

Dr Matthew Chadwick, Lead Research Analyst at Cornwall Insight, noted, “Incredibly volatile energy prices mean businesses will be increasingly open to new ways to secure their energy supply and lower prices. A business moving to generate their own energy is not for the faint hearted, and businesses will have to review the practicality of this plan, including whether they have adequate space, and the necessary upfront funds, which could be significant. However, if it is feasible, on-site energy generation or private wire agreements will let businesses take back control of their energy, safeguarding them from fluctuating wholesale prices and helping them to avoid expensive network costs.

“Not only will on-site generation or private wire arrangements save corporations money, but the move to renewable sources of energy will also help many with their climate legal obligations. As well as the legal requirements, committing to and delivering on net zero targets provides a valuable reputational benefit, with the issue of climate change currently highly relevant among consumers and citizens. Meaning the renewable energy generation could make businesses more attractive to customers and investors.”

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