Sustainability 101: What Businesses Should Know About Sustainable Energy
Today, many people are striving to “go green” — that is, to create a more sustainable lifestyle. While sustainability efforts include small, individual changes, like choosing reusable rather than disposable products, they can also involve more substantial, large-scale changes, like switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
For businesses, sustainability is becoming more important than ever. With increased pressure from consumers, investors, and the current administration, businesses must look to adopt more sustainable and energy efficient operations.
Below, we expand on the basics in terms of sustainable energy, energy efficiency, why energy sustainability for businesses is becoming increasingly important, and how businesses can meet those sustainability goals.
What Is Sustainability?
In general, sustainability efforts aim to meet the needs of today without depleting resources for future generations.
In relation to energy, this comes down to two main components: finding and using sustainable energy sources and optimizing current systems to become more energy efficient.
Sustainable energy refers to forms of energy that can be used over and over again without getting depleted. For example, sources such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal are replenished naturally. Coal and oil, on the other hand, are nonrenewable energy resources, which are only available in limited supplies. Once they have been used up, they cannot be regenerated.
Energy efficiency measures aim to optimize your business’s current systems. Sustainable energy systems use less energy, which can help reduce emissions and your environmental footprint.
Energy, Sustainability and Your Business
For businesses, there is increasing pressure to pursue sustainability efforts and clean energy. This push comes from:
- The current administration, which plans to focus on clean energy and creating a more sustainable economy.
- Consumers, who increasingly desire to work with and purchase from companies that prioritize sustainability.
- Investors, who use environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to determine the potential financial performance of a company.
However, it’s not only these external influences that are driving sustainability efforts. There are also many internal benefits of sustainability for businesses. For example, by implementing upgrades such as lighting improvements, building automation, or energy management control systems, businesses may be able to reduce their overall energy consumption and spend.
For these reasons, many businesses are now pursuing sustainability goals, such as reducing emissions, improving ESG metrics, or decreasing fossil fuel use.
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Sustainability Solutions for Businesses
For businesses ready to take steps toward sustainability, there are many solutions available to help you move your environmental goals forward.
Renewable energy sources
A number of different renewable energy sources are available for businesses to take advantage of, including:
- Solar: Solar power takes energy from the sun and converts it into thermal or electrical energy. Solar technology can be located at the point of use (for example, solar panels on your business’s building) or as a solar power plant that distributes power to multiple locations. Solar energy offers many potential benefits to businesses, including reduced energy costs, energy resiliency and energy price stability.
- Wind: Wind energy is created using a turbine that harnesses the power of wind to create electricity. These turbines are typically clustered in “wind farms” commonly seen along hills or even in the ocean.
- Hydro: Hydroelectric power is produced with moving water. This power can be harnessed from natural systems, like the flow of a river, or storage facilities, where water is pumped or collected into storage reservoirs, then released through hydro turbines. For many years, hydropower was the largest source of renewable energy generation in the U.S.
- Geothermal: Geothermal energy is generated from heat within the earth. Geothermal power plants typically have a small physical footprint, using less land than other types of power plants. They also have a small environmental footprint, generating little to no greenhouse gasses.
Energy efficiency upgrades
To reach their sustainability goals, businesses may also consider a variety of energy efficiency upgrades. While these are typically unique to each business, based on its current systems and infrastructure, common upgrades include:
- Installing energy efficient devices: Replacing outdated equipment with energy efficient devices, such as long-lasting light bulbs or more efficient machinery components, can help you reduce your energy usage and environmental footprint.
- Implementing building automation controls: Installing building automation controls can regulate major systems in your building, such as HVAC, lighting, alarms and security. This can help minimize runtime and energy usage, and overall, improve operational efficiency.
- Optimizing your HVAC system: The performance of your heating and cooling system declines with time. Tuning up or updating your HVAC system can help ensure optimal settings are in place and ensure that you are maximizing efficiency.
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important initiative for most businesses. Whatever your goals, Constellation can work with your business to help you move toward a greener future. Through the Constellation Offsite Renewables (CORe) program, for example, we enable customers to integrate renewable energy purchases from existing renewable generation into their energy supply agreement with Constellation.
Case Study: Learn more about how Constellation is helping the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania harness renewable energy and reduce its carbon footprint.
In addition, our Efficiency Made Easy program allows businesses to make energy efficiency upgrades at no upfront cost. Learn more about Efficiency Made Easy.