Planning ahead for renewable energy

Renewable energy, Baxi Commercial Division
Energy-efficient heating and hot water for commercial buildings is provided by this condensing combination-boiler system with two three modulating heat engines combining to deliver a total heat output of 100 or 150 kW according to model.

Jeff House considers what action businesses can take now to reduce carbon emissions and realise better benefits from renewable energy at a later stage.

A key requirement of the long-term EU and UK energy and climate-change policies is that businesses reduce their carbon footprint. The UK policy goals are quite specific, requiring a reduction of 34% in carbon emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.

Businesses have responded, with DECC figures published in 2011 showing that since 1990 businesses have reduced their carbon emissions by some 29%.

This commendable achievement, involving a good degree of forward planning over two decades, bodes well for ultimate success in the attainment of future carbon-reduction targets. But there is a catch. Energy and climate-change policies not only affect the level of carbon emissions, they impact on energy prices and bills. DECC forecasts an increase in electricity prices for medium-sized business consumers of over 40% by 2020 when compared with 2010 levels. In an attempt to minimise this effect, the Government has introduced a range of policies designed to limit the overall increase in energy prices to 26%.

Two policies in particular will be of interest to businesses. FiT (Feed-in Tariff) payments can be claimed for a maximum of 25 years by energy users generating their own electricity using a qualifying renewable electricity system

The RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) provides tariff payments for energy users utilising renewable-energy technologies to generate renewable, measurable heat. Businesses, then, will wish to put in place as quickly as possible the carbon-reduction measures necessary to limit the effect of energy and climate-change policies on their energy bills, if possible with decisions taken on one day delivering results on the next. This is unlikely to be as simple as it sounds, as a most crucial decision — the type of renewable energy source that the business is to use — is likely to be the most difficult.

Not all of the renewable energy options listed as qualifying technologies for FiT or RHI purposes will be available to every business. Even if listed technologies are in theory available, a business might find that geographical location or business functionality may inhibit some choices. Last, but certainly not least, there are still some outstanding issues that the Government has yet to clarify. Taken together, these factors may oblige businesses to put a decision on hold. But as the remorseless increase in fuel costs continues, the forward planning skills that business have been honing for more than 20 years regarding reducing carbon emissions will come into their own.

Knowing where energy is used in a building is a good starting point for reducing energy consumption. In commercial buildings generally, space heating and hot water account for 47%.

Good housekeeping measures, such as switching off power when equipment is idle and deploying control and modulating technologies, will be taken, if this has not already been done. A structured energy audit, taking the form of an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), DEC (Display Energy Certificate) or BREEAM assessment, will identify actions that could be taken to improve building energy performance.

Potential actions are likely to cover both energy-using equipment and energy-related matters, concerning, amongst others, ventilation, glazing, lighting and, most important of all, space heating and hot water. One survey suggests that space heating and hot water account for nearly half of building energy consumption. A rolling programme could subsequently be introduced to implement recommended changes, but a question will arise in the case of heating services for buildings, namely what action can be taken to address building energy consumption in the short-term without compromising a subsequent longer-term decision concerning the choice of a renewable-energy source.

It is widely accepted that separate systems for space heating and hot-water production can deliver the most efficient building-services solution, with dedicated appliances closely matched to the variable load of each service. In commercial buildings without this separation or where separation is served by a boiler and direct-fired water heater, greatly increased energy efficiency can be achieved with boilers and direct-fired water heaters that exploit condensing technology. A key requirement for such a retrofit will be to ensure that products specified are capable of integration with LZC (low- to zero-carbon) technologies.

Flexible, adaptable products of this nature are readily available and enable subsequent integration with a renewable-energy source such as heat pumps or solar-thermal energy to pre-heat the mains cold feed prior to entry into the water heater. Integration can take place at any time, enabling businesses to avoid making a hasty decision regarding the choice of a renewable-energy source.

Businesses can, therefore, plan ahead and be in a position to adapt and comply with the long-term demands and aspirations of energy and climate-change policies. This flexibility, made possible by leading players in the building-services industry through innovative product and system design, eliminates the danger of hasty, ill-informed or ill-advised decisions being made.

Jeff House is applications manager with Baxi Commercial Division.

Related links:
Related articles:

modbs tv logo

First keynote speakers announced by Europump

The first two keynote speakers have been announced for an annual event being hosted by the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA).

‘Landmark’ prosecution of online seller welcomed by REFCOM

The air conditioning and refrigeration industry’s largest safety register REFCOM has welcomed the successful prosecution of online sales company Appliances Direct (AD) for breaching F-Gas Regulations.