Businesses Turn to Self-Generation, Renewables and Storage for Reliability

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More businesses are turning to self-generation, renewables and storage to diversify, ensure reliability, and meet corporate sustainability goals. And those that aren’t procuring renewable energy say they’d more likely to, if they could combine it with energy storage.

That’s the word from a new report from Deloitte, “Resources 2017 Study – Energy Management: Sustainability & Progress,” a survey of more than 700 businesses nationally that included small, mid-cap and large companies.

In 2016, 56 percent of businesses surveyed said they self-generate and 16 percent said the generation is from renewables, said Marlene Motyka, Deloitte’s US and Global Renewable Energy Leader.

In 2017, 57 percent of businesses said they self-generate and of those companies, 21 percent of the power was from renewable sources, she said.

Meanwhile, of the 39 percent of businesses that are not now aiming to procure more renewable energy, 58 percent said combining renewable energy sources with battery storage could motivate them to acquire renewables, Motyka said.

These businesses are interested in battery storage because they are seeking resilience, she said. When the wind isn’t blowig or sun isn’t shining, the batteries can be discharged to keep the power flowing. 

Those that responded to the survey were in energy management roles at their companies, a group becoming more and more sophisticated about issues like battery storage, she said.

“When they have goals to reduce their electricity by 25 percent, they are on top of the trend; they see what’s coming down the line, and are possibly being approached with solar-plus-battery solutions,” she said.

In addition, 45 percent of residential consumers said they would be more interested in installing solar panels if they could use them with a home battery storage unit, said the study.

Businesses that are turning to self-generation are looking beyond single sources of generation such as combined heat and power, Motyka said.

Of those who are self-generating, 44 percent said their major motivation is diversifying their energy supply. Forty-three percent said they’re  seeking resilience. And 40 percent said they’re self-generating to save money. Twenty-two percent said they’re trying to meet sustainability goals.

35 percent considering a microgrid

Businesses that saw increases in electric outages are moving toward self-generation; 26 percent said they plan to develop self-generation capabilities. Another 35 percent said they have considered implementing or participating in a microgrid.

Many of the companies, however, are seeking resilience even though they’ve experienced fewer outages recently,  Motyka said.

“Fewer companies this year reported an increase in outages. Only 24 percent noted increases in outages. There have been less this year, maybe because utilities have made progress in reliability and resilience,” she said.

As they seek reliability and sustainability, more companies are becoming involved in renewable energy, often announcing they want to acquire 100 percent of their energy from renewables, she said.  Of the 48 percent who say they are working to procure more renewables, 53 percent are acquiring it through power purchase agreements from a source on or off site.

Forty-three percent are signing virtual power purchases, buying it from renewable sources that aren’t physically connected to the businesses. Thirty percent have on-site renewable energy. and 24 percent are purchasing through green power programs in which the utility or energy provider guarantees the electricity is from renewable energy, she said.

Sixty-one percent of businesses said that their customers are demanding they acquire at least some of their energy from renewable energy, she said.

“What our survey shows, both on the consumer and business side, is that climate change and green energy have moved beyond politics. We have qualified and quantified the demand for renewables. It’s past the tipping point. When you look at the declining cost, renewables have become an economic solution that can solve environmental as well as affordability concerns,” she said.

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In addition to businesses, consumers are investing in solar and wind, and states and cities are making long-term commitments to move toward 100 percent renewable energy.

“I don’t think the momentum will stop,” said Motyka. “The train has left the station.”

Track news about businesses and self-generation on our LinkedIn group, Microgrid Knowledge.

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