Number of UK SMEs generating own green energy set to rise by a third

The number of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK investing in generating renewable energy is set to increase by a third over the next five years, according to new research by Opus Energy.

In a survey, business-to-business energy supplier Opus found 38 per cent of SMEs expect to be generating their own renewable energy within five years – up by a third on the six per cent already generate green power on site.

The survey of 500 companies revealed eight per cent of SMEs plan to invest in renewable energy generation within the next 12 months, while a further 10 per cent said they would do it within the next two years. And 12 per cent said they would do it within the next two to five years. One third (32 per cent) said they expected to invest in solar panels, wind turbines or anaerobic digestion.

The survey was conducted in November following Government cuts to larger-scale solar electricity Feed-in Tariff (FiT) subsidies and just after the Government announced plans to slash the FiT for small-scale solar electricity generation by half. However, the survey does not reflect SME opinion following proposals to cut the subsidy further for solar and to lower the FiT for other technologies such as small wind in 2012, announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change last week.

Additional income key motivator

Despite cuts in subsidies, the opportunity to generate additional income appears to be a key motivator for the growing number of SMEs looking to generate green energy, with 42 per cent citing the opportunity to create new revenue streams behind any decision to invest.

Significantly, though, a clear majority (59 per cent) of SMEs surveyed by Opus said they felt they would be interested in generating their own power if the Government provided subsidies.

Commenting on the findings, Charlie Crossley Cooke, managing director, Opus Energy, said: “There’s real dynamism in the SME sector from people who are genuine entrepreneurs and we expect to see more examples of SMEs powering other businesses as well as their own.

“Small to medium size business has been coined by the Government as the backbone to economic recovery in the UK, but so far we are not seeing the support required to help business owners get to grips with energy costs and innovative solutions such as renewables. We need more carrot than stick when it comes to the Government’s intervention in renewable energy generation.”

Beech Tree Farm reaping rewards

One Opus Energy customer already reaping the financial rewards of on-site green energy generation is Lincolnshire-based Beech Tree Farm. Owner Craig Birch installed a wind turbine on his land in May 2011. The turbine generates between £40,000 and £50,000 per year in income for the farm and the equivalent amount of power needed to run half his village. In addition, through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Opus Energy, Birch is saving around £1,000 per year on standing charges and connection capacity charges.

Opus Energy recently launched PPAs. These enable customers to generate additional income from renewable energy, whilst powering their businesses and reducing their carbon footprint.

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