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sustainability

Adopting energy efficient practices can help a business operate more sustainably and efficiently while reducing costs. The Sustainable Restaurant Association identifies some areas where changes are possible

Renewable energy tariffs

The easiest action, with no upfront costs and immediate savings, is to switch your energy tariff to a renewable one. Most suppliers now offer this but, if not, it is also simple to switch to a new supplier. Do make sure your tariff guarantees that 100% of your energy will come from renewable sources, and it’s not the case that the supplier is partially providing energy from non-renewable sources and ‘offsetting’ the associated emissions.

Despite supply chain and inflationary pressures on wind and solar, these sources of energy remain the cheapest way to generate electricity in the UK and therefore your tariff should be cheaper than – or at least the same as – fossil fuel-based tariffs. If you also use gas and are not able to install air-source heat pumps and induction hobs, you can also switch to renewable sources of gas. This is harder to come by, generally more expensive, and most providers will only be able to cover around 10% of your usage from renewable sources such as anaerobically digested food or farm waste.

Smart meters

Energy reduction is a natural next – or simultaneous – step, and the simplest way to do this is installing a smart meter. Most energy providers will supply you a basic version for free and, with a bit of research and applying knowledge of your operation, you should be able to pinpoint which of your appliances are likely using the most energy. You can then target reduction efforts around these appliances and track how this affects your overall usage and explore ways to use these less will be most impactful. Check the temperatures your fridges and freezers are set to; if you can safely increase the temperature by even just 0.5°C without affecting the quality of food stored, then this will make a difference.

sustainability

Appliance-level monitoring

A slightly more expensive option, but easily accessible, would be to install appliance-level monitoring. This would tell you exactly which appliances are using most energy and allow you to make more targeted reductions. You can buy individual plug-in power meters and check the usage consistently, or explore more advanced business energy monitors that allow you to track and cap energy usage from apps or single monitors.

With any of these solutions installed and capable of sending half-hourly readings, you can sign up to the Demand Flexibility Service over winter and help the UK better handle peak electricity demand. This means, collectively, we’re able to rely less on back-up fossil fuel power generators by channelling demand to times of the day when renewables are generating a greater proportion of our electricity.

You can participate in Demand Flexibility Services at the restaurant level without knowing or controlling specific appliance usage and doing so unlocks cheaper tariffs at certain times of the day. They also facilitate the export of energy, for example if you have excess on-site generation or storage to sell.

EV chargers

If your site has parking space and you own the land it sits on, electric vehicle (EV) chargers could be a great way to attract customers, contribute to wider industry change and even profit. Most, if not all, EV charging companies will oversee and cover the cost of installation, upkeep and customer service, but otherwise vary. Some buy land and bring in service providers like restaurants while some pay rent for the land on which they install chargers. Others share the profits from customer payments.

In most cases, this can become an additional revenue stream and potentially fund other renewable energy solutions. Be sure to check how the supplier sources their energy and that it is 100% renewable – this is typically not the case with big oil companies. If your operation involves a fleet of vehicles or company cars, it might be worth exploring electric options to get ahead of the 2035 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles.

sustainability

Solar PV

Solar energy is electrical or thermal energy harvested from sunlight. Panels can be placed anywhere that has an abundance of light, like rooftops and walls. Space constraints, up-front costs and lengthy installations processes make this one of the less accessible options, but those able to overcome these barriers stand to save considerably on their energy bills over the 25-year lifespan of the panels.

Other benefits include low maintenance costs, adding value to the property, the ability to sell surplus back, broadly reducing your dependence on fossil fuels and, if integrated with battery storage, a greater level of independence from the grid. Those investing in green energy installations may also benefit from relief of business rates.

If upfront costs are insurmountable, some companies – under a power purchase agreement – will install the panels at no cost and sell the energy back to you at a low rate. At the end of the contract, you can extend, purchase the panels or have them removed.


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Lighting

Switching to LED lights can result in significant energy savings over time as they are up to 80% more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, plus they have a longer lifespan, reducing costs further. For back-of house areas, toilets and those rooms not frequently used, consider motion-activated lighting which turns off when no movement is detected, reducing energy usage. 

Equipment

Equipment such as your frying range, extraction fans and refrigeration are likely to be your biggest consumers of energy as they are always running, so think about investing in energy efficient models. High efficiency frying ranges, for example, can reduce gas bills by up to 50%. Check the efficiency ratings with the manufacturer as these can vary between 70 and 94%.

 When it comes to refrigeration, A+++ rated models are the most efficient, but you also want to look for a Climate Class 4 or 5, which indicates the temperature range it will work optimally in. 

If you are replacing kitchen equipment consider induction cooking – that relies on (renewable) electricity rather than gas as they can be up to three times more efficient. It is a great way to reduce emissions and spend on bills long-term. 

Make sure to research the amount of electricity needed for the equipment you plan to use, and install a substation that can supply enough electricity to match this spend on bills long-term. 

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