Around the world, countries, communities, companies and individuals are committing to climate change targets by reducing energy consumption and finding more climate-friendly ways to produce energy. One of the ways entities are working towards these targets is to create zero energy buildings, also known as net-zero energy (ZNE) buildings.
What is net-zero energy?
A net-zero building is a building with zero net energy consumption (calculated on an annual basis). This means that the total amount of energy used by the building is equal to the amount of renewable energy created onsite or offsite. One can apply ‘net zero’ status to buildings, businesses, communities, countries, etc.
Thus, a zero-energy business isn’t a company that doesn’t use any energy at all; neither is it a company that only uses renewable energy. At times, it may consume non-renewable energy and produce greenhouse gases. At other times, however, the business reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas production elsewhere by the same amount, resulting in net-zero energy. A net-zero building or business is typically connected to the grid and can sell excess power, as well as buy additional power during times of high demand.
In summary, net-zero energy is when energy conservation + energy efficiency + renewable generation is = or < an entity’s energy usage and emissions – it’s producing more energy than it’s using. This concept can be extended to entire communities, and even entire countries.
Zero energy benefits the bottom line
It is a misguided belief that committing to climate change plans adds unnecessary and burdensome costs. In fact, making the changes towards becoming a zero energy business by reducing carbon emissions, reducing energy use and shifting to renewables generally boosts a business’ bottom line. It’s an investment with tangible return.
Net zero commitment in the UK
On 27 June 2019, the UK became the world’s first major economy to legislate the achievement of net zero emissions by 2050.
The UK Government recently launched the Net Zero Review. This review will assess how the nation can maximise its economic growth opportunities from its transformation to a green economy, including:
- Analysing how all stakeholders can contribute toward different elements of the transition to net zero
- Identifying mechanisms to create an equitable balance of contributions
- Maximising opportunities for economic growth in the transition to a green economy
- Evaluating the trade-offs between cost, competitiveness, effects on consumers and impacts on taxpayers
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke said: “I have championed the environment throughout my life and political career so it’s humbling to launch this unprecedented review into how we end the UK’s contribution to climate change. Until recently people said that Net Zero was impossible, but this work is a giant step towards making it happen, enabling us to set out a roadmap for an economy that is cleaner, more efficient, and works for everyone, while preserving our planet.”
Existing government efforts to tackle climate change include:
- Increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity
- Installing energy efficiency measures in homes
- Investing in renewable and low-carbon heating
- Investing to support uptake of electric vehicles
- Making a financial pledge to support businesses with high energy use
Steps towards becoming a zero energy business
- Installing solar panels for renewable energy
- Retrofitting existing buildings
- Building new zero energy facilities
So, is net-zero energy even possible?
There’s no simple answer to the question of whether or not it’s possible to become a zero-energy business. The truth is that achieving a net-zero building or business with today’s technologies is not easy. Although there are businesses out there proving that it is possible (with the right building in the right setting and with the right team), it’s harder for some businesses than for others. In some cases, the investment in money and resources to get to net zero may be better spent on other energy-saving options.
On some level, it’s more useful for communities to work toward net-zero energy status as a whole, rather than focusing on separate entities. In this way, optimisations can be implemented holistically and efficiently – where one entity lacks a capability, another can make up for this.
Working towards zero net energy goals
Net-zero energy is an ambitious goal for any building or business. Working with an expert energy consultant can help you identify efficiencies, implement an effective energy management strategy, and work towards your carbon reduction and zero net energy goals – while saving you time and money in the process.