Power down

Power outages: ignore them at your peril

Power outages are a significant risk that businesses cannot afford to ignore. A recent study by the British Chambers of Commerce found that one third of UK businesses have dealt with the power going out at some point in the last year. This is especially concerning given that demand for energy is expected to increase in the coming years.

Electricity outages aren't cheap for any business, but in general the larger your organisation the greater the cost. An outage in 2013 for example cost Google £100,000 per minute.

Regardless of size, your business may benefit from a degree of energy independence. This means being less dependent on the national grid so you have greater resilience if the power does go out. In addition, energy independent companies can avoid fluctuations in energy costs while also generating revenue for supporting the national grid itself.

Protecting your business from electricity outages involves a series of steps that start with a backup source of power.

Here are four ways you can start developing your energy independence.

1)            Battery storage

On a small scale, businesses can purchase an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for each computer to ensure vital information isn't lost if the power suddenly shuts off. But you can go further and keep your entire business powered up with the right equipment.

Battery storage provides a backup power supply for your business in case the power ever goes out. It sits between a power source (such as the grid) and your business' operations. In addition to saving your business if the power goes out, it brings some other benefits too. For example, stored energy can be traded on the energy market for extra revenue, making it ideal to complement other energy solutions such as solar photovoltaic panels.

2)          Combined heat and power unit

combined heat and power unit (CHP) generates electricity onsite and can reduce overall energy costs by 20%. As an added bonus, it reduces your dependency on the grid. The heat it generates can be used for additional purposes, like hot water, saving even more money.

3)          Heat pumps

Heat pumps can extract heat from the air, water, or your own cooling equipment. The heat is stored and can be distributed as central heating or hot water. An air source heat pump can work even in low temperatures, is reliable and cheap to operate. Ground source heat pumps work in a similar way, extracting heat from the ground rather than the air.

4)          Biomass

biomass plant uses organic material to generate heat and boil water. The steam turns turbines that are connected to generators, and these generators can power your business. In short, waste products can generate your own renewable energy.

Sustainable alliances

However sustainable alliances may be the most sensible way forward, with businesses that produce excess heat through their operations teaming up with companies that could actually benefit from this excess heat. Combining supply and demand, as we have done for Deutsch Gasrusswerke, is a great example of how partnering can recycle surplus energy.

Another innovative way of achieving this is via our new energy solution, EctogridTM.  This connects buildings with their neighbours to use, reuse and balance the residual thermal energy flows between them, offering significant efficiencies and carbon savings.

As power outages increase, draining money from businesses, energy independence in the UK is more important than ever. And given the recent high-profile outages, combined with the expected increased demand in the near future around the electrification of both heat and transport – perhaps this is an issue that deserves much more attention?  

Written by John Walsh

John Walsh has more than 20 years’ experience across the energy industry and currently leads a team of Strategic Account Managers in E.ON’s Business and Community Solutions division, building long term relationships with large industrial and corporate customers to help them improve their energy efficiency and stay competitive. John’s qualifications include Postgraduate Diplomas in Marketing from the University of Salford and in Management Principles from the JHA Academy.