Making a Difference with Renewable Energy

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

A generous handful of graphics companies are off the grid when it comes to energy. They generally rely on solar power and biomass burners for their electricity and as such are in the vanguard. However they are not alone. A report jointly authored by the World Wildlife Fund and the Corporate Eco Fund takes a closer look at corporate renewable energy procurement. The work is based on an in depth survey of 37 Corporate Eco Forum members and signatories to the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, representing various industries.

This is big corporate stuff and a far remove from the lives of the average graphics professional. However the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles together have combined revenues of over $1 trillion, so their intentions and efforts certainly do impact the little people. The motivation to procure renewable energy is mostly about money and leveraging such things as renewable energy credits from governments and local power purchase agreements. But still it can make a difference.

Governments make it easier for big corporates to incorporate renewables in their energy mix in order to bring them closer to GHG emissions reductions targets. Renewable energy targets get tighter with the passing of the years, however they are helping at least to improve environmental impacts, if not by very much. Probably a much bigger driver than financial incentives and altruism, is the desire to reduce costs and demonstrate climate change leadership.

It’s tempting to be a bit cynical about this sort of work. It seems to be too easy, too much a box ticking exercise, and in many cases for the contributors to Eco Forum survey, it is. However the companies have reported useful information, data that may be helpful for the average printing company considering a shift to renewables, with or without financial inducements. According to the report, wind power is the top source of renewable energy and the one with the shortest payback period. Those of you living in sunnier climes may question this, however companies investing in wind power are getting a return on their investment in under six years. That said, the price of solar photovoltaic panels has collapsed of late, making them extremely attractive as a power source, whatever the megacorps’ experience.

Graphics companies around the world, even in gloomy, grey places like Sweden and the UK should be looking into renewables. The investment into solar is easier and relatively inexpensive, and the return pretty swift. It may not be as fast as the return on a wind power investment, but it is likey to be cheaper and less risky in the first place. What are you waiting for?

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Epson, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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