New research from business to business energy supplier, Opus Energy, has suggested that a growing level of interest among small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in generating renewable energy from their own businesses. One third (32%) of the businesses surveyed expected to introduce solar panels, wind turbines or anaerobic digestion for example, and 38% expected to be generating their own renewable energy within five years.

Despite recent cuts in energy tariffs, and perhaps faced with finding new ways to generate income (42% highlight the revenue opportunity behind any decision), a large number of SME business leaders questioned in the Opus Energy survey expected to be generating renewable energy within the next five years, with younger business owners (aged 18-34) more likely to make the investment sooner.

Opus Energy recently launched its power purchase agreement which enables customers to generate additional income from renewable energy, whilst powering their businesses and reducing their carbon footprint. The survey highlighted that most SMEs (59%) felt they would definitely be interested in generating their own power if the government provided subsidies.

The research also found that 42% of SMEs said they would switch to generating some or all of their own power from renewables if it could be proven that they would make money out of it. This has encouraged Opus Energy to call on the energy sector to make it easier for businesses to find the information they need to get started.

Craig Birch, a farmer from Lincolnshire who also runs a green waste composting business, is a good example of a small business owner investing in generating renewable energy. An Opus Energy customer, he installed a wind turbine on his land in May 2011 and is already reaping the financial benefits of renewable power generation and believes he is contributing to sustainability at the same time.

The wind turbine generates between £40,000 and £50,000 per year in income for Birch’s farm, and the equivalent amount of power needed to run half his village. In addition, his import supply contract with Opus Energy has created an approximate £1,000 per year cost saving for Birch on standing charges and connection capacity charges. This is approximately 25% of the overall contract value for the exported power.

He commented, “We produce all our own electricity for our farm and composting facility from the wind turbine. It is the icing on the cake in our target of helping towards reversing climate change. Councils and businesses are all more willing to do business with us knowing the commitment we have shown towards environmental issues.”

Charlie Crossley Cooke, managing director, Opus Energy, added, “There’s real dynamism in the SME sector from people who are genuine entrepreneurs and we expect to see more examples of SMEs powering other businesses as well as their own. Opus Energy encourages businesses to take full advantage of the subsidies available and start generating their own renewable energy. It’s an investment in their business’ future: a way to reducing overheads and to make savings on their energy costs.

“With so much talk around the consumer energy sector, we need to be championing the cause for business. Small to medium size business has been coined by the government as the backbone to economic recovery in the UK, but so far we are not seeing the support required to help business owners get to grips with energy costs and innovative solutions such as renewables. We need more carrot than stick when it comes to the government’s intervention in renewable energy generation.”