The financial benefits are numerous: lower energy bills, the possibility of selling electricity back to the grid, energy price stability and, where available, subsidies derived from the governmental support regime. The latter is subject to changes of government policy and, as the UK has seen over the past few years, the benefit derived from subsidies has been cut back dramatically. However, as technology costs reduce, the need for direct subsidy diminishes. Indeed, market commentators have suggested that the decline in cost for solar PV is 90% when compared with 2009, a staggering achievement.
The key is maximising value and efficiency from existing assets by the installation of renewable technology or, on refurbishment or redevelopment, incorporating it into the project build. Value is unlocked from utilising available space or the installation of new technology in, under or on buildings or their surrounds.
Costa Coffee’s roastery on Old Paradise Street, London, is a good example of a new build incorporating sustainable features, including solar PV and thermal panels, air source heat pumps and rainwater harvesting. This has resulted in a 68% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 60.5% reduction in water consumption.
As subsidies are reduced for solar PV and wind, we are seeing a growth in private wire arrangements. These typically involve small-scale energy schemes generating energy on the site they are ultimately supplying, thereby reducing waste energy and introducing greater competition in the market. Through a power purchase agreement, a solar developer and a building owner (and its occupiers) can share value in avoiding grid charges and costs that are applied to electricity taken from the grid.
The manufacturing and industrial sectors are realising the benefits of unlocking value from on-site generation. A good example is the recent 3.42MW rooftop solar installation at the Rolls-Royce factory in Bristol. Power-heavy users such as these have been early adopters but they are not alone – the onset of digitisation and big data makes data centres a perfect match for on-site generation.