Solar partnership aims to help firms slash energy bills
Energy firm ESB and engineers Kingspan have launched a new partnership which looks to address the high energy costs for Northern Ireland businesses.
The two firms said its joint venture, Funded Solar, will work with businesses to lower their utility costs.
Under the deal, firms will have solar panels placed on the roof of their property by Kingspan ESB, and then have the electricity generated sold back to them.
According to Kingspan ESB, companies could save on average 10% per year on their energy bills.
The bills would be fixed to inflation, as measured by the retail price index (RPI), so firms would protected from steep rises in costs.
Businesses who signed up to Funded Solar would do so on a 25-year lease, with Kingspan ESB responsible for the installation and upkeep of the panels.
New Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said utility costs were a major factor for Northern Ireland businesses - with energy costs believed to be the second highest in Europe.
"Energy costs are a significant factor in day-to-day operations for many local companies who are competing in a global marketplace.
"For many businesses, the costs of purchasing and installing renewables require substantial investment.
"The Funded Solar initiative offers significant benefits to business by reducing and fixing a portion of their energy costs."
Gilbert McCarthy, managing director of Kingspan Insulated Panels, said the initiative would help in trying to achieve the region's green targets.
"We are confident this partnership with ESB will now play a significant role in Northern Ireland achieving its target of 40% renewable generation by 2020," Mr McCarthy said.
He added Kingspan ESB was aiming to make it more affordable for firms to embrace more environmentally friendly energy.
"By removing the financial barrier to the adoption of rooftop solar PV, our fully funded solution strengthens the case for businesses to benefit from green, lower-cost power and improve their long-term competitiveness," he said.
Paddy Hayes, executive director ESB, said: "Funded Solar represents a significant step forward for the development of the Northern Ireland renewable energy industry.
"This collaboration will continue to innovate and deliver sustainable and competitive energy solutions for all our customers."
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said those in the manufacturing industry needed to focus on ensuring lower energy costs.
"Given the price of electricity, manufacturers need to do all they can over clarity of price. The Kingspan option allows them to have clarity of the price in the long term," he said.
However, it's believed that the deal will not be beneficial for all and will depend on each set of a company's individual circumstances.
"It is important to get advice from your landlord or surveyor to make sure they are clear about the financial benefits and the potential pitfalls and see if it suits them for the business," Mr Kelly added.