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Renewable energy for business

By Nicole Wilson

If you've been thinking about ways to make your business greener, then your energy supply is a great place to start.

person cycling past wind turbines

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from resources that are constantly replenished, like sunlight, wind, water and - less glamorously - waste.  

It's also known as 'green' or 'clean' energy, because generating renewable energy doesn't rely on burning fossil fuels. Generating energy from fossil fuels uses finite resources like coal and releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which contribute to warming our planet. 

At Bulb, we think it's really important that our members know where their energy comes from. We supply 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon-neutral gas to businesses as standard. Find out about our fuel mix or read more about how renewable energy is generated over in our guide to green energy

Why is renewable energy important for my business?

It can save you money

People used to say that you could have green energy or cheap energy, but not both. That's no longer true: the cost of renewable energy has fallen over the past few years, and continues to drop as new technologies and generators are introduced to the market.

It's better for the planet

By signing up for a renewable supplier, businesses can help to protect the planet. That's because switching to renewable energy is the single most important thing a small business can do to reduce its carbon impact.

Every year, the average business with Bulb lowers their carbon impact by 5.4 tonnes of CO2 a year. That's the hard work of around 2,702 trees. Find out how we calculate our carbon impact.

It makes you one of the good guys

Business owners aren't the only ones with an appetite for change. Customers expect companies to make ethical decisions on their behalf. Going green can attract new customers, business partners and talent to your team.

When you join Bulb, we'll help you shout about it with a (bright pink) green energy certificate and stickers for your windows, till points, and anywhere else your customers will see them.

Will I pay extra for renewable energy?

The short answer should be no – but the truth is it depends on who's supplying your green energy.

The cost of renewable energy has fallen dramatically in recent years. This shouldn't be a surprise, once a wind or solar farm is up-and-running, the operating costs are much lower than a traditional power plant. Increased competition and advances in technology are pushing prices down even more.

Despite this, many energy suppliers still charge a premium for renewable energy, so many businesses choose to stick with energy generated from fossil fuels.

Bulb believes energy should be both affordable and green, so we'll never charge you more for choosing renewables. We supply thousands of UK businesses with 100% carbon neutral gas and 100% renewable electricity from a mixture of generation types including wind, solar and hydro.

How do I get renewable energy for my business?

Depending on the size of your business, there are a couple of options for going green:

Pink lightning bolt

Switch to a green energy supplier

This is the easiest way to get renewable energy for your business, and it's available to companies of all sizes.

A green energy tariff means that your supplier puts the same amount of electricity you use back onto the National Grid from renewable sources. So a higher demand from businesses like yours will mean a greener fuel mix on the grid as a whole.

When you look into a green energy tariff, it's worth investigating the fuel mix of your supplier. Energy companies need to publish details about the source of their electricity by law, and some green tariffs are greener than others.

There are fewer renewable options out there for gas, so you can switch to a carbon-neutral tariff like Bulb's, or you could consider offsetting the gas your business uses to balance out your overall impact.

Find out how to switch your business energy supplier.

Generate your own electricity

If your business property is suitable, you can generate your own electricity.

The most popular option is to install solar panels, but some businesses have also installed hydro and wind generators. These projects will usually need planning permission before you begin.

By generating their own renewable energy, businesses can save money on their energy bills and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Some businesses are generating additional income by selling their excess electricity back to the grid, either through export tariffs like Bulb's (for smaller generators) or through Power Purchase Agreements.

Many sites which generate their own renewable energy still draw from the National Grid at times when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow. In the future, we expect more affordable and efficient batteries to store excess electricity so generators can continue to use their own power even when the weather isn't on their side.

There is a significant upfront cost involved in setting up your own electricity generation – anywhere from a few thousand to several million pounds, depending on the scale of your project. This investment usually pays off in a few years, so it's a better idea for businesses who know they're staying put for a long time.

What if my business doesn't control our energy supply?

If you're environmentally conscious but you're not responsible for your business' energy supply, there are some other measures you can take. A stellar option for becoming greener and saving your business money is to reduce the amount of energy you use.

We've written some low-cost tips to help you make your business more energy efficient.

You could also consider offsetting your energy. Carbon offsetting is a way to balance the carbon emissions you can't avoid by investing in verified carbon-reduction projects. These projects include protecting rainforests or supporting clean energy in other parts of the world.

At Bulb, we buy offsets through our partners ClimateCare and EcoAct. Read more about why we buy carbon offsets in our guide. 

Don’t forget, you can choose to offset your personal emissions, as well as your business ones. Use our Carbon Calculator to work out your annual carbon footprint and set up a monthly payment to offset it. You'll be carbon neutral before you know it.