Alternatives to fossil fuels in commercial buildings

Published: 25-May-2022

There’s a rise in demand for renewable, or ‘green’ energy, alongside a surge in electricity use. Many renewable energy sources make great alternatives to fossil fuels, all with their own pros and cons

Renewable energy sources come from replenishable natural sources, such as wind, water, and sunlight. For many years, renewable energy has been a less popular choice compared to fossil fuels. It’s often a more expensive decision, but choosing alternatives to fossil fuels now will benefit you in the future. With the global warming crisis, making commercial businesses greener is essential.

Big technological advancements have been made in recent years, but the use of renewable energy is still beaten by fossil fuels. In the UK, we have a target to reach net-zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, moving away from coal, oil, and gas. The 2021 progress report by the Climate Change Committee explains how progress is currently too slow to reach this target. Although lockdown measures reduced UK emissions in 2020 by 13%, much more needs to be done to replace fossil fuels.

A study by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy showed that the share of electricity generated by renewable energy was only 35.9% of the total production. In 2021, due to particularly slow windspeed, there was a fall in renewable energy production by 17% from 2020.

Popular alternatives to fossil fuels

There’s a rise in demand for renewable, or ‘green’ energy, alongside a surge in electricity use. Many renewable energy sources make great alternatives to fossil fuels, all with their own pros and cons. No matter which one you choose, the set-up costs can be high compared to using fossil fuels, but they come with great long-term benefits.

In order of popularity, according to the Allied Market Research, the renewable energy market ranks as follows:

1. Hydroelectric power 2. Wind power 3. Bio energy 4. Solar power 5. Geothermal power

Hydropower is growing significantly. In 2020, the hydroelectric power segment was the largest revenue generator, growing at a predicted Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.5%. It’s produced from kinetic energy created by using turbines or dams in natural running water supplies.

Developing wind or solar farms are both popular choices, but they take lots of preparation and space. As both of these power sources rely on a certain level of sunlight and wind, they are not completely predictable. That means they can need back-up energy sources (from fossil fuels).

Biodiesel is produced from renewable sources, such as used vegetable oils and animal fats. Using waste by-products, biodiesels creates a good sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

Geothermal power is created from pressure underneath the Earth’s surface. Hot water is pumped from deep underground then turned into steam. Steam spins a turbine attached to a generator and electricity is created. Commonly found at volcanic locations, many countries tap into this renewable energy source. The UK announced plans for four deep geothermal plants in 2021, which will take until 2026 to be completed.

The World Economic Forum predicts all fossil fuel power plants will be replaced by 2050 with wind turbines and renewable energy. They also estimate the number of electric cars will go from 12 million in 2020, to a whopping 836 million in 2050.

Better renewable energy use in commercial buildings

We’ve looked into how climate change is transforming commercial properties, outlining government climate change policies. Changing your fuel to renewable energy is by far the decision that will have the biggest impact in reducing carbon emissions. More people are looking for alternative sources of energy other than fossil fuels and ways to introduce these to their business.

The easiest way to do this is check if your energy supplier uses renewable energy. You can find out the source of any supplier’s electricity, as they must disclose this information. If your current supplier doesn’t offer alternatives to fossil fuels, switch to a green energy supplier who puts the same amount of electricity you use back onto the National Grid.

In commercial buildings, swapping to renewable energy resources is likely to start with heating. Low-carbon sources of heat will replace traditional gas boilers, such as heat pumps. This technology is soon to be incentivised with a cash pay-out, under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme for residents and small business owners. They will swap the current gas supply pipes to an alternative fuel type, injecting either biomethane or hydrogen. Switching to heat pumps can reduce emissions, but they are also less capable of heating larger buildings.

Another route to becoming carbon neutral in your business is generating your own electricity. If your premises allow, this can be done by installing renewable energy systems such as solar panels and wind turbines.

At Artic, we work with commercial property managers to reduce carbon footprints. We help by suggesting more energy efficient initiatives and equipment. This helps you to transition to better renewable energy sources, suitable to your organisation, and therefore reducing fossil fuel use. Looking at your site’s current energy consumption, Artic can identify ways to improve your energy efficiency and reduce costs. To find out more about how you can be reducing your carbon footprint, get in touch.

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