Businesses have more choice than ever before around how they acquire, manage and consume energy. From energy supply to technologies such as solar generation, battery storage, standby generation and electric vehicles have transformed the energy landscape and created new opportunities for organizations to become greener, smarter and more flexible.
The most advanced companies are combining multiple energy technologies to help maximize efficiency opportunities. Each energy technology has different benefits and characteristics, so implementing the right combination can unlock added value, including monetization opportunities through Demand Response or the acceleration of decarbonization plans.
There are many ways in which different energy technologies can be combined:
Many organizations recognize the advantages of integrating multiple energy technologies, with 68% of businesses recognizing the need to be more flexible in how energy is generated and used, according to our research. In addition, organizations with the most advanced energy strategies are 2.7 times better equipped to deal with marketplace risks. However, there is often a gap between ambition and reality, and many businesses are unsure where or how to invest.
The best place to start is understanding your energy supply and demand today. If you don’t have a thorough understanding of your energy infrastructure today, you cannot expect to be able to effectively manage and improve it. Conducting a thorough review of your energy footprint can give you visibility of how your business currently uses energy, how much it costs, where inefficiencies exist, and where improvements can be made. This can help you to determine the right mix of energy technologies and provides a baseline against which to measure change and future cost savings.
While investing in multiple energy technologies can maximize efficiency opportunities and optimize flexibility, it's likely that even the most sustainable businesses will need to buy-in, rather than self-generate, a proportion of their renewable power demand. What’s more, the technologies you’ve invested in previously may not be the right choice in five, ten or twenty years’ time – particularly as new opportunities emerge and become commercially-viable, such as hydrogen.
Since today’s energy market is complex and unpredictable, and the pace of change shows no sign of slowing, determining the right energy mix is not a one-off task. It must be continually reviewed and refined to ensure it continues to deliver the best results. Building an effective Energy Pathway can help organizations make the right investment choices today; be ready for new opportunities and developments that will emerge tomorrow; and eliminate complexity and risk from your energy strategy.
Since these technologies have such different characteristics, it is important to ensure they seamlessly work together. If one technology is effectively meeting your energy requirements at a given time, a second technology does not need to be in active operation too – it would be an unnecessary duplication. Equally, when one technology is unable to meet your complete energy needs, having a second technology that can fill this gap can help to ensure you meet your financial and environmental goals.
To achieve this level of cohesion, a single, holistic view is required to help manage and balance the different technologies. The ideal is to integrate multiple technologies into a single energy management platform that enables energy generating and consuming assets to be monitored and optimized in real-time – ensuring the technologies fully complement one another and derive maximum value.
With the actionable data and analytics generated through PowerRadar, organizations can unlock greater value from multiple, integrated energy technologies. For example, when combining solar and storage in California, organizations can benefit from federal tax incentives for energy storage if they can show that at least 75% of their battery charge was from solar PV generation. To demonstrate this and be eligible to claim these incentives, a single system is needed that can monitor the site’s load, solar generation, battery status and controls to optimize the battery.
Another example can be seen when combining electric vehicle charging with onsite generation. With a single system overseeing the energy supply capabilities of onsite generation assets and the wider grid, alongside the energy demands of the site itself, organizations can be strategic about when and how to use their onsite generation assets – to charge electric vehicles, for instance. They can begin generating their own power when their demand exceeds what the grid can offer or when grid energy prices are high; and avoid generating their own energy when it’s not required or cost effective.
With actionable data and analytics through PowerRadarTM, organizations can unlock greater value from their various energy technologies. Nonetheless, our research has shown that just 59% of sustainable businesses are systematically reviewing energy efficiency at all sites; while 45% are transforming energy data into specific, actionable improvements. With the right data to hand, businesses can monitor the effectiveness of all energy-generating or energy-consuming equipment at once, saving time and money and enabling them to build a more robust energy strategy.
Our energy insights solution is a prime example of how this can be achieved. Using Panoramic PowerTM self-powering, wireless sensors, organizations can track energy consumption and gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire energy infrastructure, in real time with device-level detail. This can be used to help balance supply and demand; pinpoint potential equipment failures before they happen; and lower energy costs, by reducing inefficiencies and waste.
Integrating multiple energy technologies can be technically complex, particularly when trying to balance existing infrastructure with the latest innovations – so much so, that 66% of businesses are concerned by the growing complexity of energy management; while 70% of businesses say they need commercial and technical expertise to help them realize the growth opportunities energy can unlock.
It can also be complex from a stakeholder engagement perspective. One of the key reasons why many organizations invest in multiple energy technologies is to support their decarbonization goals. However, to turn these targets into action, it’s important to have the strategic buy-in and input of different individuals, teams and functions across the business, since answers, plans and budgets will often sit across multiple business areas. Collaboration and engagement are critical – energy cannot be siloed into one area of the business.
To help manage the complexity of implementing multiple energy technologies, it makes sense to utilize the expertise of external partners. By working with energy partners, more organizations can realize the full potential of energy solutions.
Since just 45% of organizations have a dedicated role or department for energy, sustainability or environmental issues, working with a trusted partner can complement and enhance internal capabilities, by filling skills gaps and providing fresh perspectives. They can also help to ensure your energy strategy is economically and environmentally balanced – the hallmarks of a sustainable business.
In truth, there is no right or wrong way to combine energy technologies – the best performing companies take a range of different approaches. Nonetheless, by continually determining the right mix of energy, by using data to ensure different technologies complement one another, and by working with a trusted partner, organizations can more effectively balance supply and demand and in turn increase the value of energy as part of the company’s strategic operations.
The way energy is generated and consumed energy is permanently shifting. Large, centralized coal plants will soon be a thing of the past, while a future filled with distributed energy assets beckons. It will be those organizations that ensure their energy investments fully complement one another that will and derive maximum value.
What does it take to become a more sustainable, future-focused organization? Learn more about the changing role of energy, and the actions businesses should take to prepare for a more commercially and environmentally sustainable future.
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