Keith O’Connor is chief executive of renewable bioenergy and carbon reduction specialist Fleetsolve. He says the company’s 24,500 sq ft Wirral-based HQ will be completely “off-grid” by September 2023.
Those hoping to accomplish something similar must invest, says O’Connor. ‘In our own building in Bromborough we immediately fitted electricity meters to every circuit, electric doors, everything really and then measured and logged all consumption,” he says. “We ended up changing everything to LED and later invested in PV [photovoltaics]. This only happened once we knew everything we needed to know. We will soon be putting a battery into the building, which will see us be off-grid by September meaning it will have taken us one year to become an off-grid business.
“What you can’t do is rush into it without understanding the needs – particularly post-Covid as so many things have changed such as how many people will be working in buildings each week.”
O’Connor, recognised as a “Change Maker” in Insider’s 2023 North West Green Power List this spring, believes businesses are behind the curve when it comes to self-generation.
“The days of cheap energy are coming to an end,” he says. “We had energy crises in the 1970s and 1990s and here we are again. It’s cyclical.
“Not many businesses are totally off-grid. It’s the larger companies who took the decision to do this five to seven years ago that are now reaping the benefits. Some businesses are in a bit of a struggle as their aspirations can be clouded by too much information. There’s a level of confusion.”
When it comes to the bigger picture, O’Connor says there’s a ten-year gap between aspiration and reality. “While new-builds can be purpose-built with self-generation in mind, gas infrastructure is still embedded in the ground and powering our main stock of buildings,” he says. “Gas isn’t going to be turned off overnight.”
O’Connor says all major programmes carried out by Fleetsolve over the past five year have been collaborations. “We’re all in this together,” he adds. “What’s important for businesses is to reduce the energy in use to the minimum amount possible, recycle heat where possible, and then decide which is the best technology to move things forward.”