Case Study

EMS’s energy independence through renewable technologies

The challenge

EMS is a family-run sheet metal fabricator based on an industrial estate outside Bury St Edmunds, UK, founded in 1979. The business is growing and had concerns about the availability of electricity from the grid, as it uses high power laser cutting tools and other equipment, and typical day-time mid-week usage was approaching its grid allowance. To be constrained by power supply would be disastrous for a growing business. To address this challenge, EMS needed alternatives to ensure the ongoing operation of the business. Carbon Smart is well-known in Suffolk through the transformative work we did with the County Council to support SMEs, so when we approached EMS to develop the business case for self-generation technologies, they seized the opportunity.

The process

Carbon Smart’s team undertook extensive data collection for EMS and their nearest neighbour, JKH Drainage, in order to accurately assess the energy need. Taking utility bills and half-hourly meter data, we built daily, weekly and annual energy consumption profiles for the whole network of several buildings.

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Based on these profiles, we identified that the primary need on the network was electricity. With several proximate neighbours with heat demand, we produced a business case for a biomass CHP engine, supplying a heat network. Accounting for energy savings, heat sales, Renewable Heat Incentive and local grants, we presented the commercial case for investment to the business, and facilitated visits to operational CHP heat networks. However, with a low heat demand relative to electricity, the site would not be able to consume all the thermal output from the CHP, so this option was shelved.

An alternative option for the business is solar PV, since the bulk of electricity demand is day time, mid-week. We assessed the building structure to establish what size system the business could host, and then used our in-house tools to assess generation capacity, annual energy generation, net benefit over the term, return on investment and payback. These key metrics were presented to EMS as the case for investment – the ease of installation, together with market-ready solutions and some financing products, makes solar PV a very attractive option.

The outcome

EMS is eager to realise the benefits of investing in a solar PV array. Carbon Smart’s independent support and advice meant that the business has the optimal energy technology to meet their needs. Since we offered a platform for discussing energy needs with their neighbours, the project has also opened opportunities not otherwise available to the business alone.

Based on our appraisal, the business is now proceeding with sourcing quotes from local suppliers and installation at the site – we are looking forward to seeing EMS realise energy independence and save over 50tCO2e per year.

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“We’ve been working with Carbon Smart through the Suffolk County Council Green Clusters programme – and they have opened my eyes to what is possible for a small business. We had initially dismissed solar, but Carbon Smart developed a strong business case, accounting for grants, subsidies, and other financial support, which has given us the confidence to invest. We’re now moving forward with a 135kWp solar array, which will cover 50% of our electricity demand and give us room to grow the business without worrying about the limits of our grid power supply.”

Julian LongManaging Director, EMS