Progressing your business’ sustainable agenda - comment

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact across the globe, affecting every part of our society and way of life.
We must be prepared to address our harmful emissions as soon as we can, says Trigg. Picture: contributed.We must be prepared to address our harmful emissions as soon as we can, says Trigg. Picture: contributed.
We must be prepared to address our harmful emissions as soon as we can, says Trigg. Picture: contributed.

People have altered their work and travelling habits on one hand, and on the other have entered periods of concern and grief. This new, temporary, way of life has significantly decreased pollution levels globally, owing to the drop in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and travel activity.

These changes have reportedly saved the lives of more than 75,000 people living in China and caused global oil prices to plummet. Many have referred to these environmental improvements as the small silver lining of the pandemic; maybe the environment is getting the breathing space from the large polluters that it needs.

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However, looking back to the 2008 recession, which is somewhat comparable to what we are experiencing today, global emissions reduced by 2 per cent but then rose by 6 per cent to make up for the lost industrial productivity. It is likely that something similar will happen after the pandemic when life returns to “normal”.

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Unfortunately, normal life as we know it is encompassed by the largest long-term crisis of our generation and those to come: the climate crisis. A report from the World Health Organisation predicted that an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 will be attributed to global warming.

What can we do about it? I co-founded OnGen to help businesses reduce their harmful emissions in a way that maximises economic return. Business-related carbon emissions make up roughly a fifth of the UK’s total emissions and, with a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 enshrined in legislation, reducing business-related emissions must be a focus.

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme for organisations with more than 250 employees is progress and has generated vital data needed to help businesses change their energy consumption habits.

Renewable energy generation located on the site the energy is used is a great way to cut strain on the electricity grid, ensure the sustainability of the source and save money on energy bills. However, it can be hard to know which one to choose; between solar, biomass, heat pumps and wind, the process of starting your business’ renewable journey may seem daunting.

Feasible technologies

Backed by ex-SSE CEO Ian Marchant, our innovative and accessible platform, the OnGen Expert, highlights the onsite renewable options that maximise your site’s cost and emissions savings, providing you with the best solution for not only the planet, but your business. With just a few inputs, you are welcomed with a suite of feasible technologies for each site in your portfolio, along with a 20-year cashflow forecast.

Acting as the first stage of the renewable process, our software can minimise the cost, time and expertise associated with traditional feasibility assessment methods; you do not need to be an energy whiz to benefit.

One of our projects helped the University of Edinburgh assess the feasibility of onsite renewables across its wide portfolio of sites. We identified more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon savings and £2.9 million in energy cost savings from deploying onsite renewables.

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Assisting Scottish entities is crucial, as Scotland’s climate targets of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045 are more ambitious than those of the wider UK. We currently work with both public and private sector entities in Scotland and across the UK, helping organisations like Engie and NHS Scotland achieve their and their clients’ renewables goals.

With everyone focused on the pandemic and renewable projects largely put to a halt, it can be hard to envisage how you can move your business’ sustainable agenda forward. However, we must be prepared to address our harmful emissions as soon as we can. Why not start the journey from your home office?

Chris Trigg, MD and co-founder, OnGen – one of the cohort companies pitching at EIE20 on 14 October at the McEwan Hall in Edinburgh

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