Are You Ready for Renewable Energy? Five Questions Every Company Should Be Asking.

It's official. Renewable energy technology has dropped to affordable and manageable levels in recent years. As a result, many operational roles in the commercial and industrial (C&I) industry are considering or implementing a renewable energy strategy. But with all the technology options, policy changes, and potential support challenges, it's not easy to wade through all the research and data available to come up with a comprehensive solution for a renewable energy program for your business. Below are some questions often asked when considering a renewable energy addition.

What percentage of our enterprise's energy needs should be renewable?

The answer to this question depends on your business goals. Renewable energy can prove to be an economic advantage, as well as a way to fulfill a brand promise if your company has committed to a renewable energy pledge or standard. If you are looking to reduce costs, then doing a financial assessment that takes into account current energy costs vs. the investment in renewable energy technology will answer this question. However, if part of your brand promise (or your clients' expectations) involves a more aggressive sustainability strategy, you may also need to take that into account.

Take Google as an example. As part of their internal sustainability strategy, Google committed to "100% renewable energy" usage. When Google began their program in 2010, the technology was not advanced enough for them to go to 100% renewable energy in all of their offices. Instead, for every fossil-fuel kilowatt they used globally, they bought a renewable kilowatt somewhere else in the world; however, they were still able to reach their net renewable goal in just seven years.

Which renewable energy technology is the best fit?

A renewable energy expert can guide you in the best solution for your business. Solar PV is one of the more common renewable energy technologies, but location - both from an environmental/landscape and regulatory perspective - can play a big role in the technology you select. Recently, more companies are considering multiple energy resources (distributed energy resources) such as a microgrid to provide sustainable power. Companies can take advantage of an energy mix to match consumption, e.g. solar and battery storage together to provide reliable coverage. The key, according to Google's Neha Palmer, to be technology agnostic, but not cost agnostic.

A solar tree can provide renewable energy to a business.

What does it take to develop and manage renewable energy assets?

Dedicated resources and funding are two big factors to consider. Renewable energy assets require resources to do siting, source materials, designing the system and construction management capabilities to oversee the installation of these technologies, which can often be a programmatic approach across multiple sites. On the financial side, many companies find it difficult to pay for these additional assets and often don't want the additional assets on their balance sheet. It is important to think about on-site energy as an investment over multiple years. As such, it's also important to find trusted partners who can understand your renewable energy solution, develop it for you and provide ongoing operations and maintenance to ensure you get a return on your investment. Turnkey asset development will enable your project to provide the actual, desired results over an extended period of time.

How will we keep abreast - or ahead of - of changing technology, trends, policy changes and best practices?

The renewable energy industry, and its related policies, is maturing at a rapid pace. Companies need to understand how they will keep track - and take advantage - of market and policy shifts. Most companies will not want to hire a policy expert specifically to monitor their renewables strategy, but finding a trusted partner that can help navigate the churning waters is imperative, especially as regulatory bodies catch up to technology.

How do we figure out these questions and administer all of this when it is not part of our core business?

With new technology evolving every day, it can be a real challenge to find someone who has a continuous and complete understanding of your solution: from the regulatory environment to the business goals of your organization; and from the design and construction of the solution and the ongoing operations, maintenance, and reporting required to make sure that you are meeting the financial and energy goals set in the first place.

Ultimately, companies can expect to manage a portfolio mix of different energy technologies or find a provider to manage it for them. Managing a portfolio includes understanding the energy market and how to leverage assets to be more competitive and save on existing operational costs, all while managing risk and providing capital expenditure to fund the investment. In this case, turnkey developers with energy expertise have an advantage over more "expected" players such as conventional developers or management consultants because they can manage the development and asset life from start to finish.

Diode Ventures develops renewable energy assets for commercial, industrial and technology companies. Contact us if you have questions about developing or managing your energy portfolio for your enterprise.

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