Distributed energy: Where there is risk, there is also opportunity

The combination of smart technology with power generation and management offers manufacturers an unparalleled opportunity to take control of their energy use and reduce risk.

Manufacturers have always had a voracious appetite for energy, whether producing chemicals, food and beverage, metals or pharmaceuticals. Businesses often have entire teams dedicated to managing their energy consumption, efficiency and future needs.

These teams play a vital role, and even more so in today’s rapidly evolving trading environment, characterised by uncertainty, disruption and strong competition.

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Today’s manufacturers face three primary concerns when it comes to satisfying and managing their power needs:

  1. The growing pressure incumbent on industry to manage costs more effectively and generate savings, alongside the uncertainty of energy costs,
  2. The urgent need for industry to reduce its carbon emissions,
  3. The resilience of current energy systems in order to enable business continuity.

Many may only see the risks inherent in these concerns; however, they also represent opportunities – both internally (driving down costs to generate business savings value) and externally (creating genuine value for customers and therefore a positive impact on them).

To learn how UK manufacturing businesses can make the most of these opportunities, The Manufacturer sat down with Richard Cave-Bigley, Sector Director at SSE Enterprise.

A global economy

At the heart of these opportunities is the fact that we are an increasingly global trading economy, one where energy is a major cost component exerting pressure on competitiveness.

Adding to that pressure is the drive for energy to be cleaner and used more efficiently, while systems and networks have become ever more complex and multifaceted.

“Today’s combination of energy technology and software enables businesses to adopt a smarter approach to energy generation and management, in tandem with leveraging ‘distributed energy systems’ to mitigate increased risk,” explains Richard.

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.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos


“We are already seeing significant uptake in electric vehicle [EV] infrastructure among particular segments of industry and the public sector, for example.

“The UK in particular has seen significant change through technology in the power industry – you need only look at the extraordinary growth of solar and wind technologies, as proof.”

Distributed energy

Distributed energy systems utilise several technologies to produce energy and manage its use close to where it’s needed, where there’s an opportunity to reduce cost and carbon and boost resilience.

“While the grid itself is developing and changing, businesses can also take greater control by supplementing their infrastructure on site. And technology is increasing the options available to them,” says Richard.

“That can apply to their power and electricity needs, but also to heating and cooling and to transportation – for example by charging a fleet of electric vehicles and using solar power.”

SSE Enterprise has many different elements to offer within a distributed energy system. Infrastructure such as solar and CHP can help customers to generate cost and carbon savings and to mitigate the volatility of energy costs.

SSE also helps customers reach their decarbonisation goals through technologies such as the electrification of their fleet, while giving greater resilience and peace of mind by managing private network infrastructure.

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Software platforms connected to current energy assets can help customers manage and optimise their energy usage allowing for improved efficiencies and longer asset life. SSE has recently launched its ‘Virtual Power Plant’ platform which knits together all types of distributed energy resources to offer capacity and flexibility to different markets.

Using SSE’s advanced technology and market expertise, businesses can find a solution which delivers the best available financial return. They can decide how and when they want to make assets available to the system, with the first priority, of course, being their own needs.

A unique proposition  

Manufacturing businesses can turn energy to their advantage thanks to the breadth of SSE’s capabilities and solutions, from EV infrastructure and solar panels, to CHP and smart software platforms.

An additional unique aspect to SSE is its strong focus on partnerships, preferring to help shape, design and deliver a solution tailored to a customer’s individual requirements rather than relying on off-the-shelf products.

Slough Trading Estate perfectly demonstrates the benefits of such a partnership. The site is one of Europe’s largest privately-owned trading estate, home to many of the world’s most successful businesses.

SSE manages a large private network here that provides its more than 600 Slough Trading Estate customers with responsiveness and resilience.

“We have a 20MW biomass CHP that provides heat and steam to customers on site. It’s a site that SSE has been managing for about 10 years and has continuously invested in to bring smarter and highly responsive solutions to multiple customers,” 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?

For an example of the type of distributed energy service SSE Enterprise provides, click here

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