Analysis by Centrica argues energy intensive industry and manufacturing could secure major cost and carbon savings through wider use of solar and battery technologies

The UK’s energy-intensive industrial and manufacturing sectors could save at least £540m on their energy bills by adopting clean technologies such as solar arrays and battery storage systems, according to a new report by British Gas owner Centrica.

Published today, the report analyses a range of major manufacturing and production activities – including steel mining, chemicals, car manufacturing, machinery, and food and drink production – which together account for around a quarter of the UK’s entire electricity demand.

The UK’s Clean Growth Strategy sets out an ambition for UK industry to improve its energy productivity by 20 per cent by 2030, and today’s research findings suggest significant cost and carbon savings could be achieved by adopting distributed energy technology such as new heating and lighting, solar, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and battery storage systems.

It also highlights how new energy monitoring technologies could help identify inefficient machinery and processes and further boost industrial carbon and cost savings.

Overall, the analysis estimates that if just half of businesses in the UK’s industrial sectors installed energy technology improvements, it could boost UK productivity and growth by as much as £13.9bn gross value added.

Jorge Pikunic, managing director at Centrica Business Solutions, said taking advantage of the latest clean energy technologies could “inspire a new revolution” in the industrial sector in order to help secure a business advantage for the UK outside the European Union.

“In 2017, the industrial sector used 92 million megawatt hours of energy,” he said. “As well as being a staggering statistic, I believe this is also a clear signal of the opportunity for industrial organisations to play their part in the changing energy landscape, while also unlocking the potential of energy to ensure the UK’s position in the global marketplace.”

The report follows the official opening on Friday of Centrica’s new CHP factory in Salford, Manchester, bringing with it 20 new jobs. The plant will operate alongside the utility giant’s existing facility, which has produced 3,000 units for use in the UK and globally since 1984, the company said.

Elsewhere today, Centrica also revealed it has started installing the first battery and solar technology at 100 homes in Cornwall as part of its flagship £19m local energy market project.

The Cornwall Local Energy Market trial seeks to test a virtual marketplace for participants to trade energy and flexibility services to the grid and wholesale energy market, using renewables and storage technologies provided by German smart energy tech developer Sonnen.

Households in the trial are being fitted with a combination of solar PV and SonnenBatterie technology, enabling any power generated during the day but not used to then either charge the home battery or be fed back into the grid, securing financial, energy, and carbon savings.

The batteries are being controlled remotely to maximise their productivity, explained Centrica. When there is low power demand and excess generation from local wind and solar, wholesale power prices are low as it is becomes cost effective to store energy in the battery. Likewise, if power demand is greater than that being generated, prices increase, making it more attractive to trade any stored energy with the grid and wholesale market.

Donna Cooper, Centrica’s residential energy project manager for the Cornwall trial, highlighted the high interest from people and businesses across the county in taking part.

“The Local Energy Market is a milestone project not just for Centrica but for the industry as a whole, and this is a significant sign of progress,” she said. “We expect this to reduce householders’ electricity bills, whilst also supporting greater uptake of renewables on the local grid.”