Working from Home and Energy Consumption

Working from Home and Energy Consumption

This year has further cemented the significance solar PV holds for the future of energy generation, both within the UK, and across the globe. From augmenting the necessity for a green recovery as the nation begins to re-emerge following the considerable trials of the past nine months, to yet more indisputable proof of the toll climate change is taking on communities around the world, 2020 has offered further, vital insight into the obligation we all hold toward forging a more sustainable future.

This year has brought with it an unrivalled list of changes to our lives, and every one of us has felt the impact. Working from home has become the new normal for many of us, and with around eight months under our belts already, many of us are simply growing used to the home office environment, and everything that goes with it.

There are, however, a number of consequences that go far beyond the usual list of interruptions and difficulties posed to those working from home. In addition to interruptions from the postman, ‘business lunches’ with our families, and the intangible divide between the working day and our once coveted evenings at home, the impact on our energy usage is already clear to see – and the consequences are being felt by the consumer, and the energy suppliers.

Still, out of a great deal of hardship and anxiety, we can discern some benefit to the environment as significant pollutants, such as all but necessary road- and air-travel, draw to a halt. Once again, the novel coronavirus has led us to a fork in the road, and the opportunity to continue pursuing options that better serve a greener and more sustainable future.

The costs of sustainability cannot, of course, fall onto the shoulders of the general public. The negative financial consequences of working from home must be mitigated, or the notion of continuing on with work from home initiatives will not be maintainable – whether the virus still imposes restrictions on communal working environments, or not.

The Impact on the Environment

 In the UK, just under 33 million people are in employment. Of that number, April saw 46.6% doing some work from home – which amounts to more than 15 million people no longer commuting to the office each day.

At this point, no significant statistics on the environmental impact of new remote working trends in 2020 have been collated. While the most meaningful data is likely to stem from March of this year, when factory emissions slumped globally and a temporary drop in carbon emissions was recorded, it is fair to surmise that the UK has experienced an unprecedented drop in pollutants as the commute grinds to a halt for so many.

In fact, according to the CCC, households are responsible for 40% of the UK’s emissions – and, in 2014, almost 35% of those household emissions came from our vehicle usage. At this point in time, the ratio of electric vehicles to non-carbon neutral vehicles remains relatively low – although there has been a marked rise in recent years. With the UK moving to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, opportunities to limit our reliance on unsustainable forms of transportation by forgoing the daily commute wherever possible, and continuing to work from, will prove to be a significant step in the right direction.

The Impact on the Individual

Of course, though there is a certain benefit to be gained in environmental terms from reduced emissions and closed offices, this means that the greatest financial burden falls to the individual. While once we were able to switch of lights, reduce electricity use and let our homes lie relatively dormant during the working day, the onus of powering an office – while, admittedly, this is an office for one or two people – is now on those of us working from home.

As a result, energy bills are expected to rise significantly over the winter. New data from the Energy Helpline anticipates a national surcharge of almost £2 billion, as increased usage becomes a necessity for millions of people. What this translates to is a wintertime energy bill almost 20% higher than that of the previous year – around £707.

The Impact on the Energy Sector

Similarly, a rise in consumer debt has raised fears over an impending energy cost increase. While this will increase the likelihood of those who have been furloughed and made redundant being unable to pay their energy bills, it seems to be the only way of ensuring that the energy sector is able to continue functioning during the pandemic.

The energy sector has long been party to extremely volatile prices – all of which trickle down directly onto the consumer at home. Now more than ever before, we are able to see and reflect on the toll it takes on individuals who have no other option than to remain at home, and turn their professional lives into a burden on their personal finances, and carbon footprint.

There is, however, scope for compromise. There are technologies available that not only free the individual from the energy supplier, but offer a foundation for a more flexible working patterns in the future. We do not know when Covid-19 will cease to control our lives, but we do know that our homes – and the country as a whole – needs to be protected against further hardship in the future. Designing a ‘new normal’ around a framework that promotes versatility – one that does not punish the individual for uncontrollable circumstances – is paramount to progress both during and after the pandemic.

The Technology Ready to Support the ‘New Normal’

Just recently, The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy released a pivotal report on the state of renewable energy technologies, and their feasibility for bringing the UK into carbon neutrality. The results proved highly enlightening, and positioned solar energy far ahead of other technologies in terms of both cost, and efficacy.

The results speak for themselves both in terms of the national move toward sustainability, and for commercial and domestic solar installation. As solar power has grown in significance, the technology driving it has improved drastically over recent years; battery storage for excess energy derived from the sun during peak hours has become far more efficient thanks to breakthroughs in lithium ion technology – an area of innovation that has also made storage options much more cost-effective, in addition to improved reliability.

Where once solar may have been largely unattainable to the individual, significant developments have given rise to such a degree of efficiency and affordability that it is now one of the most viable options for anyone looking to reduce their energy costs, and carbon footprint. Domestic and commercial solar companies are better equipped than ever before to aid in a mass transition to solar, and to ensure that the coming years represent a time of significant change within UK homes and businesses.

And, for those powering one or more home offices, the consequences of switching to solar will prove the most invaluable.

Powering the Home Office with Solar

The most discernible benefit to powering your home – particularly as remote working becomes more widespread – will be reflected within energy bills. Not only will the UK homeowner be able to save up to 50% on energy bills, but they will also be liberated from any fluctuating costs from the energy supplier – a phenomenon which is being exacerbated by the novel coronavirus, and is expected to continue long into 2021.

During peak hours, energy can be generated via the sun and used to directly power your home and office. Any excess can then be stored within a lithium ion battery, and used during hours when the sun is no longer shining.

What’s more, it will enable the UK homeowner to contribute to a positive state of change that is already beginning to pick up considerable speed – even in spite of the ongoing pandemic. The UK’s target to achieve net zero for greenhouse emissions by 2030 represents our strongest lifeline, as it will mitigate the impact climate change will have on our health, environment, and social and professional lives in the coming years.

Why Now is the Right Time to Invest

Unfortunately, the UK construction industry took a significant hit during the first lockdown in March of this year, as confusion over the restrictions imposed on site workers prevented plenty of work from proceeding as planned. This time around, however, since the new restrictions were introduced on November 5th, the path forward for construction workers has been much clearer. Work should proceed wherever possible, provided workers are able to do so under safe conditions.

What’s more, for domestic and commercial solar companies, the worst of the interruptions to the supply chain for solar PV have now passed, which ensures that the entire industry is able to get back on its feet and continue on with the progress we were making prior to the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus.

We have yet to learn about the true extent of Covid-19’s impact on our lives, and the UK will continue to face significant hardship over the next few years as the domino effect continues to occur. Working from home ensures security for many of us, but we cannot underestimate the toll it takes on the average homeowner, and must ensure that the future is prepared to facilitate any possible disruptions or disturbances to our working lives, without the onus falling on the general public.


Atlantic Renewables

Atlantic Renewables are a solar PV design and installation company, providing affordable solutions in Manchester, Cheshire and throughout the North West.