Investment in the sustainable on-site power generation market within UK businesses has the potential to replace imported natural gas by 2035, says npower Business Solutions (nBS).

Detailed within the new report The Future of Energy: The critical role of business in a zero-carbon world, renewable generation could be boosted within the business space and could contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of the energy system by 2035. It could also help reduce business energy bills.

A report from nBS earlier this year suggested 77% of businesses put energy costs as their biggest concern followed by 72% who identified the ongoing recovery from Covid-19.

The results of the report showcased that businesses’ generated power could see on-site wind capacity grow to between 6GW and 29GW. Installed rooftop solar PV could also increase to 6.5GW.

PowerMarket recently released the results of a study that indicated that if the UK used just 5% of available UK commercial rooftop space for solar, it could lead to an estimated £12.6 billion per year in energy cost savings. Detailed within the findings of the Solar Feasibility Study, the results showed that the 5% of the unused rooftop solar space amounts to around 2,500 hectares of south-facing roof space.

Alongside this, statistics identified by the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) found that unused roofs on warehouses total 18,500 acres of land, meaning the UK is missing out on 15GW of solar energy.

Should on-site solar PV be scaled in the UK, it is clear it could be a significant development in the solar sector. In doing so, it would reduce the need to develop large-scale ground-mounted solar projects – something that has brought about controversy from the government.

Wind has also been a success in recent months with the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) having shown recently that wind, hydro and solar had generated 13TWh since the beginning of October, saving 27TWh of gas that would otherwise have been required.

As well as this, business-generated power could see biogas power generation reach up to 16TWhe and hydrogen and biomethane injection reach 33TWh and 7.5TWh, respectively.

“Earlier this year, our Business Energy Tracker revealed that 77% of businesses put energy as their top business risk. It also showed that, to protect themselves from this risk, many businesses are installing sustainable on-site generation to both reduce emissions and increase resiliency,” said Anthony Ainsworth, chief operating officer at npower Business Solutions.

“We wanted to explore this further – what if there was a future where businesses are not only more self-sufficient, but where the power they generate could help reduce energy costs and the UK’s reliance on imported natural gas? For us, this report is really exciting – to see the potential for businesses to become central to a changing, decarbonised and decentralised energy system that is powered by renewables.”

The nBS report also revealed that, depending on the scenario, the overall levelised cost of electricity could range between £49/MWh and £261/MWh – lower than current wholesale prices – and emissions savings of up 6.7MtCO2/year could be achieved, resulting in a huge contribution to achieving the UK’s net zero goal.