Energy resilience: how businesses are lighting the way

Stuart Pearson of Capital Law.

Energy consumption is one of the major drains on companies’ turnovers, and many organisations are looking at how renewable energy can reduce their spend, and increase their sustainability. With a focus on working towards ‘energy resilience’ being high on the agenda for many businesses, corporations could be leading the way in going green in the UK. Stuart Pearson, construction, energy, and projects lawyer at Capital Law, looks at how and why businesses are becoming more carbon-conscious.

What is energy resilience?
Energy resilience is about making sure businesses have reliable, regular supplies of energy in place – so that they can prepare and adapt to changing conditions, or recover quickly from any disruptions. It’s a type of sustainable independence, where businesses can work more greenly to use less – and supply their own – energy.

What are businesses doing to become energy resilient?
Many big organisations are becoming more and more conscious of their carbon footprint, and how that ties into sustainability and innovation. They’re taking all types of steps to ensure a greener, secure energy supply.

The Royal Mint generates enough power from an on-site wind turbine to power its visitor centre, The Royal Mint Experience.

The Royal Mint, for example – which uses huge amounts of energy a year, over 42Gwh of electricity in 2016 – has reasonably turned its hand to a more sustainable approach. Where it previously used solar panels to generate lots of its energy, it’s now installed a daffodil-themed wind turbine to generate more electricity – enough to supply its entire visitor centre, The Royal Mint Experience.

Smaller companies, too, are taking steps to work more efficiently. Packexe, a business that makes film products for emergency services and the medical and construction industries, which it exports around the world, has recently installed solar panels to its 15k sq ft roof – which will ultimately pay for themselves in the saving it’ll make on energy costs.

Why is it important for them to do so?
Working towards energy resilience is good for business – whatever the size of the organisation involved. Aside from the obvious benefits of cost-saving and security in the event of a power failure, there are wider positive implications, too.

People – employees, suppliers, clients – have come to expect that businesses will work as responsibly as they can, and that includes considering their environmental impact. Having a good policy that’s treated genuinely, with senior members of organisations involved, is good for both recruitment and retention. Consumers, too, are attracted to businesses that are environmentally conscious – so any business that can demonstrate that it’s actively reducing its carbon footprint will be a step ahead of its competitors. For organisations like professional services firms, who tender for work, it’s important to be able to show a commitment to sustainability – and putting an energy resilience strategy in place can help this.

What steps can businesses take to becoming more energy resilient?
Obviously, not all organisations have the space, money, or time to put up their own wind turbine. But, there are lots of smaller steps that can add up to make a real difference, both in terms of cost-saving, and wider sustainability.

At Capital, we’ve started with the small, everyday things – like making sure all of our office floors have food waste bins, ensuring that our coffee cups and grounds are fully compostable, re-upholstering or sourcing second-hand furniture, swapping our plastic milk and water bottles for recyclable glass, and joining up to the cycle to work scheme so that our colleagues can get to work in an eco-friendly way, that’s also good for their health and wellbeing. We’ve also got some bigger changes planned – like refitting all of our lights to energy efficient LED, and putting in a power supply clock that’ll shut down our machines automatically during certain hours. These are changes that businesses of all sizes can make systematically.

Energy resilience doesn’t have to be dramatic – it’s the smaller swaps that can make a real difference over time, and embedding it into your working practice can help boost sustainability overall. The bigger the company, the bigger the difference that those small changes – like swapping regular lightbulbs for energy efficient ones – will make. But, even companies who’re just starting up can boost their energy resilience and sustainability by taking these smaller steps, too.

Energy resilience, efficiency, and sustainability should be firmly on the agenda for businesses of all shapes and sizes. In Wales, the Future Generations Act focuses on acting today for a better tomorrow – and energy resilience is a huge part of that. The legal framework that’s in place means businesses and organisations are compelled to consider the future, and plan for sustainability for the next generations. Organisations like Cynnal Cymru, too, encourage and reward organisations that are actively upping their sustainability, and trying to work greener. With the benefits – both the financial saving, and the social and community impact – clear, it makes sense for businesses and commercial organisations to lead the charge for energy resilience.

Stuart Pearson is construction, energy, and projects lawyer at Cardiff and London based law firm Capital Law