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With COP26 delivered, here’s how we’re helping businesses to decarbonise, create value and improve their energy resilience

Following the world leaders meeting at the recent United Nation’s COP26 event, we share our plan to continue supporting businesses throughout their net zero journey.

At Centrica Business Solutions, nearly 90% of our carbon emissions come from our customers. So, the single biggest thing we can do to tackle climate change is to help them use energy more sustainably. That’s why we’ve refocused our efforts towards providing services that’ll help our business customers decarbonise, create value, and improve their energy resilience.

With the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) delivered in Glasgow, we want to highlight the steps we’re taking to help our customers reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Although we don’t have full control over the energy choices other businesses make, we aim to continually provide choices and inspire them to take up services that’ll help reduce their carbon footprint.

By the end of 2020, we’d made a solid start towards reducing the carbon intensity of our customers’ energy use by 18%. Since 2015, we’ve invested more than £1 billion to develop a range of low carbon services and we’ve saved 4.4 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCOC2e) – 4.9% of our average customers’ annual footprint.

Switching to low-carbon fuels

Many businesses consume a lot of energy, so can easily make a big difference in the fight against climate change. Even with COVID-19 tightening finances, sustainability continues to be a top priority, with companies continuing to see energy as a way to control costs over the long-term.

We often find that despite best intentions, some businesses don’t know how to develop a more sustainable energy strategy. At Centrica Business Solutions, we partner with organisations to deliver integrated energy services that help companies realise their carbon and cost saving ambitions, all the while, increasing their resilience.

We know there are no shortcuts to achieving net zero, and that we need to offer businesses a mix of technologies to build on their progress. Some of these technologies are already available today, and others aren’t yet fully developed. So, in the meantime, we’ll continue to analyse, finance, install, operate and optimise new and existing services to ensure we can balance our customers’ commercial success with environmental responsibility. Today, we have assets and interests in over 30 countries, with the majority focused in the UK, Europe and North America.

With around 7,500 engineers, and world-class training academies, we’re well-positioned to lead the roll out of new technologies for businesses. In doing so, we need to fully understood our customers’ needs and use this knowledge to limit potential disruption and cost, as well as enhance their experience. To achieve this, we need to encourage the uptake of low-carbon products.

As a developing technology for commercial energy use, hydrogen has the potential to complete the shift to a sustainable energy system. A recent analysis from Bloomberg NEF concluded that the large-scale, global deployment of renewable hydrogen across the energy, transport and industrial sectors could reduce annual emissions by up to 34% by 2050. Because hydrogen works as an energy carrier, it can complement electrification by allowing the energy system to be less flow-based. This provides the flexibility that’s required for power system balancing, and reduces the need for peaking capacity.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are vital for reaching net zero, and we’re glad that many of our business customers are starting to realise their environmental and financial benefits. Accessing the right mix of charging infrastructure, supporting drivers with on-the-road tools and assisting with the technology setup are key to an optimal EV system. Our range of technologies delivers an end-to-end service to help organisations make the transition faster, simpler and more cost effective.

Providing energy management and efficiency services

Greater visibility over energy use means more can be done to reduce it. We can help large customers decarbonise and reduce their costs by focusing on a range of energy management and efficiency services.

For example, our Net Zero Energy Consultancy helps customers create an energy strategy that’s tailored to their needs. It enables them to balance short and longer-term plans to achieve their decarbonisation goals.

Panoramic Power is our industry-leading energy management software that brings together energy insights from across a company’s entire estate to pinpoint areas of inefficiency. The software can reduce emissions by up to 10% by using sensors to accurately monitor energy usage across equipment and devices.

It then sends real-time data to our PowerRadar analytics platform, which analyses usage and provides the intelligence to make energy saving recommendations. There are currently more than 90,000 assets connected to PowerRadar worldwide.

Energy efficiency services can eliminate the 30% of energy that’s wasted in commercial buildings. We provide a turnkey service that lowers costs while saving carbon through building automation, mechanical systems and commercial lighting.

For example, LED lighting is a great example of a cost-effective energy efficiency measure that can help customers reduce their energy consumption by up to 55%. This is because LED lighting is up to 90% more efficient than traditional lighting.

Optimising energy use

As we move away from centralised generation towards decentralised sustainable power, the grid can no longer rely on a small number of large power stations to keep the lights on. At the same time, commercial and industrial energy consumers are subject to increasing electricity costs and greater risk of power scarcity. 

Energy optimisation allows businesses to take their energy from a business cost to a business advantage. With our digitised energy management services, companies can unlock previously unavailable opportunities to monetise their energy estate.

For example, our Demand Side Management uses the Internet of Things (IoT) and industry-leading machine learning technology to help businesses identify, plan, and act on demand curtailment opportunities. In turn, our customers can reduce costs by avoiding peak prices and limiting non-commodity supply charges. They can incorporate generation assets and energy-consuming operations into a single system to balance their demand.

Our Demand Side Response (DSR) helps businesses generate revenue by supporting the grid and balancing supply and demand with flexible energy. Powered by our in-house cloud-based aggregation service, it acts as an alternative to a large physical power station. Our customers benefit from accessing the full range of DSR in ancillary and wholesale markets, and leveraging automation and aggregation to access more energy markets.

With global energy grids in transition toward more sustainable, distributed energy systems, large energy utilities face a range of challenges. For one, businesses have come to expect simple Energy-as-a-Service offerings from their providers.

Our FlexPond™ Optimisation Platform uses the Internet of Things (IoT) and demand side energy flexibility to enable businesses to create their own virtual power plant. They benefit from being able to create additional value for end-customers by ensuring accurate, continuous, and reliable delivery of the requested energy with our technology and algorithms.

Supplying clean energy

At the heart of a net zero future is the ability to provide customers with clean energy. Reducing the carbon content of the energy we supply is key to helping our customers achieve their net zero target. We’re a major supplier of electricity and gas to businesses and we’re aiming to grow our market share over the next five years while growing a cleaner supply.

We currently provide zero carbon electricity to all of our business customers in the UK as standard. Last year, this saved organisations 1.4MTCO2e - the equivalent to taking almost one million cars off the road. The electricity market, and our ability to access clean energy, is evolving rapidly, and we aim to maintain a strong position in this space moving forward.

By providing businesses with green tariffs, we helped save over 700,000TCO2e in 2020. We’re the largest of three energy suppliers that have received Carbon Trust certification, which enables our customers to report zero carbon emissions for the electricity they use. We’ve also grown our sales of renewable gas and expect this to continue into the future.

Grid-scale assets grow the amount of low carbon energy available to our customers, which is why we’re developing plans to invest up to £100 million in large solar assets across the UK, Europe and North America by 2025. We’re seeking opportunities to increase our share of the UK market from zero to over 10% within five years, and to offer customers a guaranteed green energy supply via Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

Getting customers more involved  

The changes that businesses will need to make to achieve net zero by 2050 will have an impact beyond wallets. The way they consume energy will change and this will require some adjustment.

Change is rarely easy, and the disruption associated with energy improvements like insulation and switching over to electric vehicles (EVs) can be challenging to navigate in the short-term. Likewise, encouraging behaviour change can be difficult and we’ve seen lower than expected demand for free smart meters despite the technology providing greater control over energy bills.

We’ll need to anticipate the challenges that companies will face and learn from experience to help them become active and willing participants in the journey. Part of this involves fully understanding the needs of our customers and the role that emerging technologies will play in keeping disruption to a minimum.

In offering our customers the right products, at the right time, we can limit disruption and help ease the transition towards a more sustainable future. Underpinning all of this, is the recognition that most businesses don’t know what the energy transition means, so we need to be more open about why it’s needed and what they’ll eventually need to do. Through our campaigns like Why wait to pursue net zero?, we can engage businesses and highlight the energy technology that’s needed to achieve net zero.

We conduct research with our customers to understand their current situations and their views, and to gain insights into how we can best serve their needs. We then engage the wider public to highlight the energy technology that’s needed to create net zero businesses.

Our full carbon reduction plan can be read on our website, here. For insights into how to become a sustainable business, download our new report, Why wait to pursue net zero?