News – September 2020
HAS COVID-19 BEEN POSITIVE FOR SUSTAINABILITY?
Rupert Harrow, Footprint Zero
Posted: 28 September 2020
What’s exciting is that despite COVID, some of the world’s best-known brands say they remain committed to the plans for net-zero they put in place earlier in the year. These are time-bound net-zero targets – often well in advance of 2050. Far from reducing the ambition, COVID has created a groundswell of interest from both the public, investors and shareholders that is exerting pressure on businesses to maintain the pace of change.
If a pandemic can cause such chaos then the reality of climate change and global warming and its detrimental impact is far more wide reaching.
As a consequence, there is now a real appetite for businesses to engage, to plan and to implement meaningful renewable energy strategies.
In the past, people have looked at energy projects like they would any other investment, insisting that it meets a standardised internal rate of return (IRR), which often has led to inertia when the numbers have fallen the wrong side of that hurdle.
Consumer demand and shareholder expectation mean there is now even greater appetite within the global investment community for clean energy projects, which has a great deal of potential to get energy projects moving.
At this moment, some technologies such as hydrogen remain too costly to be financed at scale. But, heat pumps, the electrification of transport fleets and rooftop solar PV can deliver very strong and predictable investor returns and a route to decarbonisation.
What’s interesting is that a lot of the technologies that will get us to net zero are technically viable today, but the challenge has always been the commercial viability when pitted against other business investments. There are encouraging signs that sustainability is no longer a nice to have, but a must-have investment.
LOOK UP AND SEE THE OPPORTUNITY ABOVE YOU
Tim Purbrick, Footprint Zero
Posted: 16 September 2020
As climate change makes for a hotter world, we need more cooling and we need it for longer; and we need it now. This means more power consumption to deliver a cool Britannia. Government estimates are that electricity consumption will double by 2050, and yet 2050 is the Government’s target for a Net Zero carbon emission Britain. At the same time City fund managers are rightly requiring – and employees and consumers are definitely demanding – exacting Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) standards from the companies that they own, work for and buy from.
So, while chief executives, their boards and their employees mull over these seemingly irreconcilable and competing priorities, they should look up, because they would spot two things when they do so.
First is the sun. That great big ball of fire in the sky brings light and warmth 93 million miles across the solar system to our planet and this enables life here on Earth. The sun also emits photons. When photons hit a photovoltaic (PV) cell layered between semi-conductors, such as silicone, each with differing electrical conductivities, it creates an electrical field through the photoelectric effect. In fact, it creates Direct Current – the kind of electricity you stick to – which is then converted through an inverter into Alternating Current – the kind of electricity that we use in our factories, facilities, offices and homes.
The second thing that you will spot when you look up, is your roof. A lot of roof. In fact, there are 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial roofs in Britain. In the case of just one of a well-known national retailer’s 13 regional distribution centres, this is a 37,000m sq roof. In the case of a significant business park with major distribution centres used by quoted companies, this is 209 acres of roofs over 33 buildings. And, on those roofs is…nothing. Zip. Nada. Not a jiffy. These roofs are just sitting there absorbing the sun and making your buildings hotter. OK, they’re keeping the rain out too.
So, what should your roof be doing for your business? Your roof should be contributing to your power demand. That 37,000m sq roof with 16,000 solar panels could generate 4 Mega Watts (MW) of solar energy, sufficient to power over 1,200 homes and save more than 1,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Those 209 acres of roof could generate 100M; that’s 30,000 homes powered and 43,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions saved. If just 50% of the 250,000ha of south facing roofs were utilised for solar PV, they would supply 50% of the UK’s electricity needs! And, that is not counting East-West facing roofs and even gentle gradient North facing roofs.
But, there’s more. Your roof should be providing you with the security of an on-site electricity supply. Your roof should be contributing an income to your bottom line – that’s from a share in the gross revenue from the Power Purchase Agreement for the electricity that is sold to you. Your roof should be generating for you both cheaper electricity and cheaper electricity that is inflated at a fixed rate that is less than the Energy Price Index, so that you can more accurately conduct your financial planning. Your roof should be improving your building’s Energy Performance Certificate. Your roof should be increasing the indicative capital value of your buildings. Your roof should be providing your business with green energy, saving CO2 emissions, contributing to your ESG targets and supporting the Government’s Net Zero 50 for Britain.
But all this comes at a cost? A 4MW solar roof could cost more than £3m. Times that by your 13 regional distribution centres and that’s around £40m; or your 209 acres of roof and that’s around £70m. So, yes, it does come at a cost. But, how about a solar system providing all the benefits described above, while at the same time being free of any capital expenditure, free from any operational expenditure and requiring no management time by your business? That is the fully funded solar roof. This option requires a 25½ year lease of your roof. But, at the end of that lease your business will own the solar array, which will be performing at 80% of its installed capacity. Some businesses will have the capital to invest in solar themselves, but many would rather invest their capital in their businesses and not in electricity generation.
Planning permission is generally a requirement – and a given – and a grid connection offer from the Distribution Network Operator is required so that any excess energy generated can be pumped into your local grid.
Every business must become a green electricity island and, even when you are not consuming all the power from your solar roof, you will become a green energy hub for your local community; isn’t that a marketing opportunity as well?
Sun. Roof. Let’s do this together. Let’s do it today.
LOBSTER PINK, OR GREEN LEAF
Rupert Harrow, Founder Director of Footprint Zero
Posted: 11 September 2020
I’m one of those guys who goes pink in the sun. You’ve probably seen me, seemingly oblivious to the tone of lobster I’m rapidly becoming, regardless of the amount of sun lotions slapped on to prevent such an occurrence.
It’s this misunderstanding of the sun’s power and impact on us (read me) that has frequently prompted me to ask, “when will I ever learn?”
I am not alone, as this is a common refrain when discussing solar solutions with our clients and partners who are not as well versed in the PV world as the tech and design teams at Footprint Zero.
The reasons for installing a solar array (utility bill savings, possible new revenue stream from on selling excess power, reducing carbon footprint, improving ESG scores, and so on) all have metrics which can be measured. But some are easier to grasp than others.
Cost savings are a pure P&L discussion, as is the revenue generated, and even the improved capital value of the building on which the panels are installed. But what about the CO2 saved or the Carbon Footprint, this is where it gets more complicated.
A recent quote we submitted for a small warehouse roof was for a 0.25 MW system, which we calculated would save 55+ tonnes of CO2 being emitted each year. But is that a lot, a little, average, meaningful, or incidental? It is sometimes hard to understand. It is in fact significant, as it represents 2,578 trees being planted. Now, that is something I can visualise and understand, as are the equivalent metrics below:
So, imagine what the 123 MW of roof solar that Footprint Zero is currently working on, means in terms of trees and CO2 saved. It’s the equivalent to planting a massive 1,268,376 trees – or 10% of the UK Government tree planting target!
So until there is a lobster scale I can follow to reduce the painful impact of sun on my skin, I can at least understand the benefits and context of what we are striving to achieve at Footprint Zero when we convert the UK roofscape to solar arrays. Call us and be a part of this difference.