Distributed Energy and Whole System Thinking – the key to Decarbonisation

Posted on 11 Feb 2020 by Jonny Williamson

With time running out to solve the problem of climate change, industrial businesses are under increasing pressure to become more sustainable and decarbonise their processes.

Through its Clean Growth Strategy, part of its Industrial Strategy, the Government has set out an ambitious blueprint for Britain’s low-carbon economy.

The strategy sets out Westminster’s proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the economy through the 2020s and details how the whole country can benefit from low carbon opportunities, while meeting national and international commitments to tackle climate change.

Sustainable Resource Management Sustainability - Stock

One of the strategy’s pillars is ways to improve the efficiency of business and industry, which represent around 25% of total UK emissions. It’s estimated that two-thirds of these industrial emissions come from energy-intensive ‘foundation’ sectors such as steel, glass, ceramics and chemicals.

The document sets out a variety of proposals and funding opportunities, all with the aim of supporting businesses to improve their energy productivity by at least 20% by 2030.

Due to the inherent nature of many manufacturing operations, achieving such a lofty target may prove to be a challenge and will require industry to find solutions beyond those that they’ve already found and adopted.


Decarbonisation has become increasingly important. Alongside the rising cost of carbon and its regulation, there is a genuine desire and demand from board members, employees, stakeholders and customers for action.

For most manufacturers, carbon predominantly comes from two sources (outside of their raw materials):

Their power – the UK energy industry has made significant progress to decarbonise the national grid, particularly over the past five years; however, there is still a long way to go. Distributed energy systems (several technologies producing power close to where it’s needed) are being increasingly seenas a viable and compelling option.

Their heating and cooling, and transportation – one of the key industrial shifts over the coming half-decade is likely to be businesses moving away from and replacing their legacy diesel generators, pumps and motors to embrace modern electrical-powered systems, vehicles and infrastructure.

Making these changes is far from simple, but expert advice and support is out there to guide manufacturers through the journey. To learn more, The Manufacturer sat down with Richard Cave-Bigley, Sector Director at SSE Enterprise.

Renewable energy

The UK has become a leader in renewable energy generation, with progress being accelerated through the combination of entrepreneurial innovation, government initiatives like the Clean Growth Strategy, and the more recent push to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

SSE has been at the forefront of renewable energy for some time and is currently the UK’s leading producer, having built some of the country’s largest off-shore wind farms.

BP has partnered with Tesla to install a storage battery at one of its subsidiaries’ wind farms in South Dakota, US - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The company has a particular focus on distributed energy systems, offering both the physical infrastructure, such as demand side response, solar and wind power, combined heat and power [CHP], heat pumps and battery storage, alongside digital management tools to integrate, manage and optimise those assets in real-time to drive and automate efficient energy-use.

“Solar power technology now provides businesses with a real opportunity to cut carbon and reduce their energy costs. There are a range of options and approaches to take advantage of solar, depending on your situation, and the opportunities this technology creates are growing.

“We help our customers by developing the right solution and infrastructure for them to take advantage of this clean source of competitive power.”

“One of the other core elements of our business in recent years has been highly efficient energy centres that reduce the carbon footprint of heating through CHP,” explains Richard. “For our customers, these centres represent a proven means to simultaneously reduce carbon, generate significant cost-savings and benefit from greater business resilience.”

Smarter solutions

SSE has recently developed and launched a cloud-based, IoT-enabled energy and asset management platform that offers businesses an even greater granularity of analysis and opportunities to decarbonise.

CROP -Distributed energy controls technology management - STOCK

Remote Optimal is our new powerful energy optimisation platform, enabling less energy to power ever more improvements in your business operations,” Richard continues.

“The platform provides richer detail in terms of identifying exactly where a customer is using their energy, scenario-building and forecasting where potential issues may arise and providing proactive corrective action by our team of experts working remotely in the Energy Management Centre [EMC].”

Managing your business’ energy use and carbon footprint has become increasingly complex, and the recent regulatory changes and monetary cost attached to carbon now present steeper penalties for inaccuracy.

“This is one of the reasons why SSE is seen as such a valued partner. We are able to bring our expertise in distributed solutions and infrastructure to bear in order to support businesses to report on and reduce their overall carbon footprint,” Richard concludes.

Who is SSE?

SSE Group is a FTSE 100 company with sustainability at the heart of its operations. It has adopted four fundamental business goals for 2030, which are aligned to the UN’s own Sustainable Development Goals to combat climate change and help build a low-carbon world.

The role of SSE Enterprise within SSE Group is to deliver value for customers in areas that complement the Group’s core energy portfolio; for example, EV infrastructure, solar, energy monitoring and district heating.

Need further information?

To read more about how SSE Distributed Energy can help with your sustainability and decarbonisation goals, click here

For further information, contact Richard and his team on: [email protected] 

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*All images courtesy of Depositphotos