In a perfect world, the payback on renewable energy would be 2-3 years, and companies would be flocking to invest their money in it. That’s not the case. Paybacks are 7-20 years, and they require a large investment upfront (hard to invest only a little bit in these projects).
Most of the problem is that the true cost of energy is being subsidized and the external cost impact is not factored into the cost, so basically we’re getting cheap energy, and someone else is paying the price for it.
So how do you sell this idea to your corporation, to bypass projects with shorter ROI and payback periods? Here are some suggestions I’ve used…
1) Tax incentives – these are not available indefinitely, so while there is free money available, now is the time to take advantage. Provide them with some sense of urgency.
2) Potential risks of energy price increases. Energy prices can be a large expense to a company, so this investment puts the company in more control of those costs, and are less vulnerable to external factors (Middle East conflicts, carbon taxes, depletion of coal/oil resources, etc). Rates have been steadily rising over the years, and fossil fuels will not be going down anytime soon.
3) We need to appeal to the younger generation as talent becomes more scarce. This generation is more concerned about working for a company that is doing the right things. Putting some solar panels on the roof might be good press, and make a bold statement to potential candidates.
4) Our customers have already (or will be) asking about our energy management and environmental impacts, so that they know we aren’t putting them at risk of bad publicity, and have less risk around increased energy prices.
5) Setting a good example for the community. By investing in these projects, the company is making a statement that they are a leader in the community, and thinking progressively.
6) Tracking and displaying energy being produced from renewable energy is a good way to engage employees. This tells them that energy reduction is important, and will likely lead to increased conservation activities from the employees to help with those reductions. This can lead to additional cost savings.
7) One study (looking for the reference) showed that for every $1000 in renewable energy a building produces a year, it increases the value of the building by $20,0000. So a 50KW system would add $100,000 to the value of the building.
8 ) Most public companies publish a carbon footprint report, so renewable energy is a great way to make a big dent in your carbon emissions, without changing any behaviors or reducing any energy.
Unless your company leaders are out researching renewable energy projects, they are probably not aware of all of these other benefits, so get this information in front of them. I recommend going through your finance organization, as they may be the biggest hurdle, or your biggest supporters. Don’t wait for someone else to take the first step, take charge and suggest it yourself. Sometimes having an employee ask is all that it takes. You might be surprised at what they say…
What are some other benefits that we forgot?