We all know climate change is a growing issue across the board. This is especially true for the public sector, which accounted for 2% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 – and is subsequently under pressure to set the right example when it comes to tackling such emissions, despite budgets being tight. What’s more, with the nation’s growing population comes a growing energy demand: one that is putting increasing pressure on our ageing gas and electricity grids, as well as throwing long-term energy security into question. Add to that various carbon reduction targets governing the UK and further afield, and it’s easy to see why more and more public sector organisations are looking to reassess their energy setup. Doing so represents a way not only to avoid Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme penalties, but also to cut costs and reduce reliance on the grid.
But with so many energy-saving, energy-generating and energy storage solutions now available – and new, innovative market disruptors emerging all the time – how can public sector energy managers ensure they’re making the right choice?
Know your goal
Firstly, it pays to have an idea of what you’re hoping to achieve. This will be different for every organisation, and will depend on a number of factors – such as whether it’s a new-build or retrofit project, how much scope there is to modernise the current setup, or how much or little dependence you want to have on the grid. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to lowering an organisation’s carbon footprint, ultimately it always comes down to introducing more sustainable, self-sufficient methods of gathering, storing and using heat and power to your energy mix. The good news is, this can be done in such a flexible way as to work within virtually any budget and timing constraints – whether integrating just one renewable technology into an existing system, or designing a completely off-grid building from scratch.
Essentially, it’s all about integrating different energy-generating and energy-efficient technologies to find the right balance. In the energy service industry, we call this process advanced energy engineering.
Call in the experts
Of course, this is easier said than done – and simply knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. It’s also vital not to let specification of renewable technologies become a box-ticking exercise to meet short-term objectives. Rather, the focus should be on assessing a building’s individual needs to find a tailored solution that really delivers from a long-term environmental, financial and logistical perspective.
This is where enlisting the help of an advanced energy engineering service provider, which can guide your organisation through the whole process, becomes critical. Depending on your requirements, this could be at the initial design phase of a project, post-planning or even after the building is complete (in the case of retrofit applications). At Norvento, we’re seeing increasing demand for our holistic approach to energy engineering – including initial analysis of a site’s natural resources, project design, support with securing permission and funding, equipment recommendation and sourcing, construction and aftercare.
Below are three example scenarios of different level approaches organisations could take:
Level one – frst steps towards minimising carbon emissions
This could be a straightforward on-site generation project, designed to reduce the energy costs of a premises that is connected to the grid. In this scenario, the simple combination of a couple of technologies that work together to generate renewable energy could significantly reduce dependency on traditional supply, without eliminating it altogether.
An example of a project like this was one that Norvento UK carried out at Shoreham Port, a small commercial port where we introduced two of our nED100 wind turbines to complement the site’s existing 200kW rooftop solar PV array. As a result, 25% of the port’s power demand now comes from renewable sources – cutting electricity costs substantially and increasing energy independence. Through actively managing the site’s energy demand in line with its renewable energy generation patterns, the ultimate goal is to get to a point where 50% of all power is renewable.
Level two – strong commitment to carbon reduction
The next level up would involve a more sophisticated approach, the goal of which is to keep grid dependency to an absolute minimum. This may suit, for instance, a large public sector office block, with plenty of land to host a range of renewable energy generation and storage systems. Depending on the building’s setup and requirements, a combination of several different energy-saving, energy-generating and energy-storing methods could do the job. These could include efficient lighting, insulation and HVAC for energy saving; solar PV and CHP (combined heat and power) for generation and lithium-ion batteries for storage.
A multi-faceted approach like this will not only minimise a building’s actual energy consumption, but can also reduce grid reliance by as much as 90%. In this scenario, the storage could also work as a back-up system to meet 100% of the site’s short-term energy requirements in the event of a grid fault.
Level three – total energy independence: a smart micro-grid
With the right mixture of the most efficient and advanced technologies the energy engineering market has to offer, it is possible for a building to become totally ‘zero energy’ – emitting no carbon and costing nothing to run. This approach might be more suited to buildings that were planning to use or are currently relying on other costly, volatile off-grid energy sources (e.g. diesel generators).
Norvento’s own headquarters in Lugo, Spain, is a working example of this. The 4000m2 building, which has been awarded the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ design certificate, is entirely off-grid. It was built using natural, sustainable materials – sourced locally wherever possible – and its windows and skylights are positioned to maximise natural lighting. It relies on a bespoke combination of wind turbines, solar PV panels, electrical storage and CHP to meet its entire peak electricity demand (90 kWe), while heat pumps, heat recovery systems and thermal storage fulfil its whole peak heating and cooling demand (150 kWth). What’s more, all of its water for sanitary purposes comes from rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling. All these technologies feed into a purpose-built, bi-directional ‘micro-grid’, which works in tandem with Norvento’s advanced OG+ control system – balancing on-site energy generation and storage with real-time consumption and future forecasts. The average return on investment period for a smart micro-grid of this scale is typically under 10 years.
As our future energy security becomes a growing concern, public sector organisations are – quite rightly – among those taking the lead in the shift away from traditional, grid-sourced energy, in favour of on-site, renewable generation. This transition is strengthened by international legislation, such as the Zero Carbon Buildings EU Directive 2010/31/UE, which stipulates that all new builds must be nearly zero-energy by 2020. Public sector decision-makers have the ability to effect long-term change – future-proofing their organisation's energy supply, reducing overheads and avoiding carbon emissions penalties in the process.