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Future-proof your energy infrastructure to reduce costs in an uncertain market

Energy prices are operating in a vulnerable market. Discover how you can future-proof your energy infrastructure to achieve sustainable costs.

Investing in your energy infrastructure is key to creating better operational efficiency and reducing costs.

While energy investment may be low on the list of business priorities, it shouldn’t be. Forward-thinking businesses are already changing how they source and use energy. Local generation options are easier to access than ever, and devices powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) are proving to be invaluable in helping us to understand and manage energy more effectively.

The current energy landscape 

Disruption and uncertainty are never far from the headlines, and the energy industry is one of many sectors experiencing an unprecedented level of transformation. There are multiple unsettling factors at play: new policies, political uncertainty from Brexit, the economy, shifting consumer habits and expectations, and most disruptive of all, new technologies.

Many large organisations are now also bound by regulation and industry standards, and those that fail to comply could incur financial penalties and damaged Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) credentials. Fundamentally, there is increasing appetite for more efficiency across the industry, and an urgent desire to combat the rising costs of energy.

Why infrastructure needs to improve

In the midst of all this uncertainty, what is clear is that the UK’s energy supply infrastructure is in critical need of investment: some reports claim that by 2030, it will have needed hundreds of billions of pounds’ worth of investment. Soaring demand leading to increased power generation also means that existing electricity and gas networks will need to be more resilient to withstand severe weather conditions caused by climate change.

Businesses should also take note of a 2017 report by Unilever, which found that more than a third of consumers are now actively choosing to buy from brands with robust eco credentials. This presents a substantial financial opportunity for companies to satisfy increasingly environmentally-conscious customers who wish to buy from companies that are taking sustainability seriously.

Using technology to drive down costs

Budget is clearly a crucial consideration for companies before undertaking a new investment. Costs for future-proofing an energy infrastructure include:

  • Direct upfront costs of purchasing new technology
  • The cost of installation
  • Ongoing maintenance

The good news is that continuous technical innovation, as well as global legalisation, has significantly reduced the costs of implementing low carbon technologies. Nowadays, using green energy sources such as solar panels and rechargeable battery storage is proven to bring long-term financial benefits; it also maximises the potential for new sources of economic growth.

Prioritising resilience 

While investing in new technology is important for future-proofing purposes, businesses may be able to complement their existing energy sources with newer technologies to achieve better resilience.

An organisation that is already using Combined Heat and Power, may be able to implement complimentary battery storage and solar options. Moving away from a wholly centralised electricity supply model affords businesses greater protection against future price fluctuations of energy, as well as downtime and power outages. Seven out of 10 organisations agree that the cost of being energy resilient is less than the cost of a power failure.

Investing in smart meters is a simple way for businesses to monitor and improve efficiency. Smart meters also enable business leaders to gain real-time insights into operational performance across an entire site: they can understand what is happening at building, floor and device level – from a motor in an elevator to a fan in an air-conditioning unit.

Transition technologies

While many carbon-neutral technologies can be implemented relatively quickly, the cost and timeline of achieving a fully future-proofed energy infrastructure can appear daunting at first glance. A successful transition will also vary greatly according to an organisation’s regulatory landscape, geography and existing generation set-up.

To be future-ready and to bridge the transition from traditional to sustainable, companies should start to implement green energy sources such as solar panels and derive insights by adopting an insights lead data capture strategy.

It pays to take a flexible approach to funding

Having flexibility around future investments is vital for a business to future-proof its energy infrastructure. Investing in multiple energy sources can allay concerns from board members about large capital expenditure. With various finance and implementation support available, businesses also have access to help with funding for energy efficiency initiatives. The Carbon Trust Green Business Fund will provide direct financial support to small and medium-sized businesses in England, Wales and Scotland.

In addition, businesses who are interested in buying new energy-efficient equipment may be eligible for tax relief, thanks to a government initiative that aims to encourage investment in energy-saving machinery. Embracing a flexible approach to funding energy projects also means that organisations can swiftly respond to ongoing market changes and prioritise infrastructure upgrades.

Next steps

An expanding menu of energy solutions creates complexity. To stay ahead of the competition, as well as to save money, organisations need to streamline and standardise their systems, as well as stay up-to-date with new technologies.

Wondering where to start? There are four vital steps you should take to demonstrate strategic value from energy investments:
 
1. Increase visibility

  • Measuring current energy use to reveal potential for immediate gains
  • Build a case for future investment

2. Balance energy sources

  • Augment your existing energy supply sources
  • Implement energy efficiency improvements
  • Then consider on-site generation solutions

3. Reduce risk of power failures

  • Carry out regular risk assessments
  • Identify your electricity intensive equipment and monitor it

4. Link energy and business plans

  • Develop a formal energy strategy that links energy goals with business outcomes

Conclusion

The need for energy infrastructure improvement should be seen as an opportunity. Businesses which invest in improving their current set-up are helping to change the entire system for the better. They show consumers exactly what is possible, leaving them with a positive impression of the company as a pioneer in the worldwide movement towards sustainability. Claim your competitive advantage and act now to help your business reap the rewards of a forward-looking energy strategy.