November 9, 2023

Decarbonisation Costs: Beware the Myths, Seize the Opportunities!

A recent survey by Aviva found that 42% of businesses have paused investment in decarbonisation, while 56% believe that carbon reduction is currently unaffordable. Survival, it appears, comes before sustainability.

And we would understand that – after all, we’re a business too – if it weren’t for the fact that many of the perceived cost and complexity issues around decarbonisation are myth, once you investigate them with any rigour. 

Here are some facts around the cost of incorporating decarbonised technologies into businesses and their buildings – and the potential return on investment that is often being ignored.


Solar panels – payback and output on the up

Take photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, for instance. Just a few short years ago, pre-Covid, the payback on a PV installation was of the order of 15 years; now, it’s 3 – 5 years.

This is, in part, down to ever-rising electricity prices, but it’s important to recognise that PV panels themselves have become, in the last few years, far more energy-efficient and productive.

This enables businesses to drastically reduce expensive dependence on the grid, and accelerate payback still further.

As just one example, the PV array we recently installed on a commercial building on Cambridge Science Park offsets 107 kW of electrical load - the equivalent of unplugging 1,070 PCs, or 2,140 laptops, or714 fridges from the mains network – and it can make money from selling electricity back to that network.

This project certainly shows that decarbonisation is not only affordable, but more cost-effective in the long run!


Lighting – an illuminating return on investment

Likewise, lighting is an area that now combines decarbonisation with serious savings and rapid payback.

LED lighting, for example, with passive infrared (PIR) sensor controls to automatically switch lights off when no movement is detected, is a quick, easy and efficient way to reduce energy costs, with payback being around just 3 years.

Once again, the benefits make their presence felt long before payback is achieved. Going back to our Cambridge Science Park project, the installation of LED lighting resulted in around 80% less electricity use compared to fluorescent lamps, and 75% less compared to incandescent.


Immediate savings, long-term economy

Indeed, this is a key point that many businesses seem to miss. They argue that the upfront costs of decarbonisation are high, but they often fail to factor in that decarbonisation projects often start to make an immediate reductive impact on costs the moment they’re completed.

And this is true even of projects that are lengthier and more complex than PV panel and lighting installation. A decarbonised heating and ventilation upgrade comprising multiple new air handling units (AHUs), for example, sounds like a hefty investment with a slow return.

But in fact the AHUs can operate up to to five times more efficiently than their predecessor systems from the minute they’re switched on – so the upfront costs are immediately being offset.

Add this, the reduced overall payback period, and the ongoing energy use savings together, and decarbonisation is actually a cheaper alternative - and one that is right for your business, your people, and your reputation, and brings a feel-good factor to the team!


You might not have to fund it all yourself

It’s also worth mentioning that funding is available for businesses to adopt more energy-efficient and decarbonised technologies, potentially reducing upfront costs and therefore bringing payback forward.

Government schemes offer loans, grants or subsidised energy-saving measures to support businesses with reducing their impact on the environment. Local councils may also offer energy efficiency funding or sustainable business growth grants, and some energy companies also offer schemes and grants.

Some decarbonisation initiatives in your business may also be eligible for business innovation funding, and if you have a large, south-facing roof, there are some also companies looking to hire these spaces and fill them with PV cells– a solution that combines sustainability with additional income.


Don’t delay – seize the opportunities

So, whilst decarbonisation is often seen by businesses as a cost, the reality is that it is in fact an investment – and an investment with the capability not only to pay for itself (and more) in the long run, but to rapidly offset its upfront costs, too.

In short, when you sum it all up, the figures make total business sense – so why would you stop spending on sustainability?

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you decarbonise your building, and transition cost-effectively to lower energy consumption and a net zero planet.

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