The climate crisis is here. Last summer, we all experienced record-breaking heatwaves, spontaneous wildfires, and a persistent drought. The UK experienced the hottest year on record in 2022. According to predictions, these scenarios will only intensify in the coming years, and worsen considerably if we do not take drastic measures to curb climate change. This is part of the reason why the UK government has declared a climate emergency, and the UK aims to achieve net-zero 2050 .
The incentive for reducing energy use and ensuring a cheap, consistent energy supply is more paramount than ever. However, some initial measures may be more cost-effective in terms of energy and carbon reductions than installing your own renewable generation. Before considering Solar PV you should consider:
Review your Energy Efficiency & Commercial Energy Performance Certificates (CEPC)
Improving your building’s energy efficiency e.g. preventing heat loss through improved insulation and reducing energy use like converting to LED lighting, is usually the cheapest and most effective option to reduce your energy bills. Your current energy efficiency level, and potential energy saving measures can be found on your Commercial Energy Performance Certificate (CEPC).
Finding your CEPC: A CEPC should already be fixed to your commercial building by law. Alternatively, go to https://www.gov.uk/find-energy-certificate. Click “Start now”,then click “A non-domestic property”, and enter your postcode. Find your property to view your CEPC/ CEPC Recommendation Report (CEPC-RR)
Understanding your CEPC/ CEPC-RR: Your CEPC shows your current energy efficiency standard. Your CEPC-RR shows recommendations for improving your energy efficiency. You should definitely consider changes that “pay for themselves within 3 years”, and also changes that “pay for themselves within 3 to 7 years”, as solar PV’s ROI currently lies roughly between 8-12 years (at the current energy bill relief scheme price, due to expire in April 2023).  
Large electricity users: If you are a large electricity user, or conduct the most electricity-intensive activities during the day, it is potentially worth requesting solar PV quotes in parallel with other changes. This will give you an early picture of your solar PV’s ROI.
Renewable technologies are usually the second-most cost-effective measure after energy efficiency, of which the most practical for your business is solar PV. You may also wish to install other related services like battery storage, EV chargers, smart systems and heat pumps at the same time to minimise overhead costs. Details of these can be accessed here under the “Other Green Technologies Complementing Solar PV” subheading.
We understand that the whole energy and carbon concept may be new, confusing and slightly overwhelming. Below are a few key terms and concepts we hope will help you make sense of this area:
Feed-in Tariff (FiT): A government scheme, closed since 2019, that pays businesses and homes for the excess electricity generated by small-scale, renewable technologies they export to the grid. The payment rate per unit of electricity exported is usually, though not always, higher than the Smart Export Guarantee rate (SEG) from energy suppliers that has now replaced it.
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG): A government-initiated scheme where energy suppliers with >150,000 customers must provide an export tariff to businesses and homes who have installed small-scale, renewable or low carbon technologies, like solar PV. As long as your installation has been conducted by a MCS-certified installer, and your installed system’s capacity is 5MW or lower, your energy supplier will have to pay you for the excess electricity you generate and export to the grid, however, the rate they pay varies significantly between different suppliers.
Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS): A government-backed scheme that ensures all installers of low carbon technologies achieve a minimum standard of competence. For more details, please see “Next Steps in Your Solar Journey” and “Help from the Solar Industry and Government”.
Net Zero: A concept where an entity seeks to reduce its existing emissions as far as possible, then removing an equivalent amount of the residual emissions through a variety of means, as detailed in “Carbon Offsetting”.
Scope 1 emissions: Carbon emissions produced directly from your business activities. For example, tailpipe emissions from your (non-electric) vehicle fleet, and direct energy emissions if you use a generator for your energy needs.
Scope 2 emissions: Carbon emissions produced indirectly from your energy use. If you do not use gas at all (not even for heating), and are either on a green electricity tariff , or have a green energy supplier, this will be zero. Otherwise, it is the amount of carbon emitted when generating energy (both electricity and heating) to cover your needs.
Scope 3 emissions: Carbon emissions produced indirectly from your supply chain. This includes upstream emissions, like the imbedded carbon from the steel you use in your business, or the emissions associated with the production of the food/ consumer good/ packaging you sell, and downstream emissions, the emissions produced by the customer when using your product, like vehicle emissions if you manufacture/ repair cars, or energy-associated emissions if you sell electrical appliances.
Carbon Offsetting: A concept where you pay to purchase carbon credits from activities that take-in/ lock-in carbon from the air to compensate for your carbon (scopes 1-3) emissions. Think of it like your account balance – your carbon emissions are debits, and to balance your book (obtain net zero), you need credits to counterbalance this. The carbon credits can come from a range of activities like afforestation (planting trees), peatland restoration, and direct air capture (using technology to capture carbon from the air then securely store it permanently), all of which have differing economic costs.
Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi): A scheme to assist and certify businesses’ decarbonisation targets and plans to ensure that they are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement or 1.5°C Global warming target. This involves assessing both the scale and speed of carbon emission reductions each business is required to undertake.
Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG): A framework used to assess a business’ sustainability and ethical standards. Environmental covers things like carbon emissions, pollution, biodiversity loss and resource inputs, Social covers things like how you treat your workers and suppliers, and Governance covers things like transparency, accountability and paying your fair share of taxes.
Sustainability: A concept stating we should develop in a way “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” . This includes three major principles, namely economic, social, and environmental.