What the low carbon transition means for local businesses

This Summer has seen a marked shift in discussions around climate change targets.

Talk of Net Zero has moved from school strikers and Greta Thunberg to the UK being the first major economy to enshrine the ambition in law. In Suffolk, the county council has set a target of net zero emissions by 2030.

While debate continues about what net zero looks like, and how rapidly it needs to be achieved, there is no longer any questions that it is going to happen. The CBI and British Chambers of Commerce were among a host of business organisations to welcome the government’s target, while calling for greater long term clarity in policy.

What will Net Zero mean for my business?

In our day to day contact with businesses, we aim to provide the best up to date advice to inform their decisions. All of our advisors are completely independent; our only focus is to help businesses cut their energy costs, and transition towards zero carbon. That last aim might sound wildly ambitious to a small business dependent on energy for manufacturing, travel, heat, etc. but the world is already changing. The UK has recently gone 2 weeks without burning any coal for the first time since the industrial revolution, and the carbon associated with electricity generation has dropped by 45% in just the past 4 years.

Net Zero means replacing or avoiding fossil fuel use across our economy – and for any emissions that remain ensuring that an equivalent amount is removed from the atmosphere. In the UK, the Climate Change Committee bases the plan on continued growth in renewables, wide roll-out of heat pumps, electric or hydrogen-powered transport, and radically increasing industrial efficiency. Most of these changes are technological shifts that are available now, and will already bring additional financial benefits.

Most businesses won’t get to zero carbon overnight; but they can take significant strides in that direction already. BEE Anglia has supported 800 businesses, from small B&Bs up to multi-site manufacturers, with the average business identifying savings of £6,000 per year, that can be achieved entirely from proven technologies that have a short payback. With sustainability increasingly a factor in purchasing decisions, it makes sense to ensure you’re not going to be left behind.

What are the first steps that a Business should take to ‘go green’?

Generally the first step should be to understand what your impacts are. It’s a cliché that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, but it’s rule number one for greening your business. A simple carbon calculator like the one at http://www.greensuffolk.org/footprint or a more detailed site audit from one of our advisors will help to understand where your greatest potential is. Those will vary from business to business, but often opportunities will be quite similar within the same sector, so it is a good idea to look for any advice from reliable sector bodies.

As a general guide some common areas to consider are:

  • Lighting. If you haven’t installed LED lights, this will have an immediate impact, and is likely to have a very short payback. Many lighting companies will provide an analysis of the savings before you commit.
  • Solar panels. The government Feed-in Tariffs have ended, but we still see a lot of businesses going this route. Especially if your daytime electricity usage is high the savings can stack up really quickly, and you’re insured against future energy price rises. And grants are available from BEE Anglia.
  • Insulation. It’s not the most exciting answer, but if you’re paying to heat a room, you don’t want that heat to be going straight out the walls. Payback might be a bit longer than for lighting, but if you have poorly insulated spaces it will have a big impact on your footprint and often make for a more comfortable working environment.
  • Electric Vehicles. Something we’ve only really started to see over the last couple of years, with the availability of models capable of going 180 miles between charges, but a rapidly growing sector of interest – Suffolk businesses can also benefit from support for the charging structure through www.pluginsuffolk.org.
  • Consider what you buy. This will vary hugely by sector, but more eco-friendly alternatives are becoming available all the time, so it’s worth shopping around or speaking to your suppliers to see if they can offer greener options.

What others have done

“Without the grant funding from BEE Anglia I wouldn’t have been able to purchase as many new vehicles all at once, knowing that the vehicles are much more energy efficient the fuel savings are immediate – it’s a win win situation! All the BEE Anglia team are so helpful through the whole process I would thoroughly recommend.” Mark J. Streeter, Managing Director, Courtesy Taxis, Norwich.

170 businesses have accessed grants totalling over £1m already, on everything from lights to cocoa grinders and Electric Vehicles to new windows. One of the recent recipients were commercial printers Denny Bros, in Bury St Edmunds. When they approached us they’d already managed to cut their footprint in half, but were looking to take the next step towards their own goal of carbon neutrality. With our support they were able to get a £20,000 grant towards new solar panels, cutting a further 10% off their footprint, and cutting their energy bill by over £10,000 a year.

You can see what other businesses have done on website – www.beeanglia.org/case-studies/.

How can Bee Anglia help make local businesses more eco-friendly?

Business Energy Efficiency Anglia (www.beeanglia.org) has already helped more than 800 businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk to get to grips with their energy use. All of our advisors are fully independent, and provide recommendations that are specific to your business.

BEE Anglia has grants available for a range of technologies. With interventions of 20-40% of costs, going up to £20,000, we can help remove the final barriers to making the right changes in your business. We can also help you to gain a Carbon Charter (www.carboncharter.org) accreditation; independent verification of sustainable management approaches that can help you to win new customers and contracts.

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