Why Businesses Need To Consider Energy From the Start in Their Sustainability Plans

Aug 22, 2022 10:30 AM ET
Sunrise over a green meadow.

Originally published on NRG Energy Insights

By Greg Kandankulam, Director of Sustainability Advisory, NRG Energy

In recent years, businesses have faced increased pressure from their customers, employees, investors, the public sector, and many other stakeholder groups on issues impacting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. As such, it’s no surprise companies are making commitments and executing strategies to improve the sustainability of their operations.

The Harvard Business Review last year reported that “virtually all of the world’s largest companies now issue a sustainability report and set goals,” and added that more than 2,000 companies have set decarbonization targets.

For companies seeking greater sustainability and lower carbon emissions, a key piece of the sustainability puzzle is minimizing the impact of your energy supply. We’re here to provide a few steps to elevate and expand the actions in your sustainability planning.

Step 1: Inventory your existing assets and energy use

The first step in sustainability planning is understanding your operations by measuring and cataloging key inputs and outputs. It is no different with energy.

Some sample questions to start:

  • What kind of HVAC systems do your facilities use?
  • Are they at the end of their useful life?
  • Are the heater and water heaters gas or electric?
  • Do your facilities have any on-site generation sources such as a backup diesel generator or rooftop solar?
  • Does your operation use a lot of energy at a particular time of day?
  • What is the price of electricity during that period compared to other periods?

Collecting this data will immediately enlighten your outlook and generate more opportunities for sustainable — and often less costly — energy use.

Step 2: Learn what the market is offering

A myriad of energy products, services, and solutions are available to make energy use more sustainable and help you make progress on ESG goals.

These offerings include virtual power purchase agreements for clean energy, participation in community solar projects, energy efficiency and operation improvements, renewable-focused retail solutions, and on-site operational resilience and renewable energy generation.

If you haven’t looked at your options recently, you could be paying a regulated utility or electricity retailer for carbon intensive, standard brown power from the grid. However, utilities in regulated markets and retailers in competitive markets likely offer a green or carbon free power option.

One example of a renewable-focused retail solution is Renewable Select, through which solar or wind energy is sourced from a specific facility and embedded seamlessly into your electricity supply.

In addition, there may be demand response programs in your region that can reward your business for reducing load at opportune periods. Demand response can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by helping grid operators meet peak demand without turning on the highest cost, often high-emitting, fossil-fueled peaking plants. It also serves companies by improving grid reliability.

Step 3: Find the right partner to streamline planning and implementation

Businesses developing an integrated sustainability plan will tell you: It’s hard work, especially at the beginning. Unless energy is your business, you may not have the in-house expertise of a wholesale energy market participant which can lead to frustration and missed opportunities.

For example, figuring out the energy use of specific pieces of equipment and operational inefficiencies can feel like running into a brick wall. You may not know how smart thermostats, programmable water heaters, and other appliances can work together to create a flexible demand approach that reduces energy use.

Your business also may not have the bandwidth to spend the time needed to determine if certain sustainability solutions are right for a specific facility, while also considering the matrix of state and local regulations, incentives, and permitting requirements.

The tip to solve this challenge is simple. Many businesses can benefit from working with a trusted partner to perform an energy audit, organize the data, and help you understand what the market offers and how those options progress your ESG strategy.

NRG can help you integrate energy into your sustainability planning in the early stages, present a clear picture of energy to meet your unique needs, and provide options for evolving technology and market offerings.

Together, we will help you develop a custom journey that’s right for your business to create a more sustainable future.

Learn more about NRG Energy here