With energy prices spiralling, there’s one question we’re asked more than any other: which is cheaper right now, gas or electric?

There’s a simple answer to this. And then there’s the rather more nuanced response.

Here’s the simple answer: gas tends to be cheaper than electricity. That still applies right now, despite the volatility in the gas supply market. That’s because around half of the UK’s electricity comes from gas, so gas supply problems affect the cost of both electricity and gas.

But the basic cost of a unit of energy isn’t the only thing your Lancashire SME will base its buying choices on. Electricity tends to be more efficient (although that very much depends on the age and efficiency of individual pieces of equipment). Generally speaking, while each unit of electrical energy costs more than its gas counterpart, less of your money will be wasted.

There’s the issue of what the energy will be used for. In a hugely energy intensive commercial kitchen, for example, restaurateurs have traditionally favoured gas for hobs and ovens for the even cook and immediate response (a gas range is ready to cook immediately with no warm-up time), although there are plenty of commercial kitchens doing more with electricity as technology improves.

Then there’s the matter of sustainability. Although half of the UK’s electricity is gas fuelled, most of the rest (43% at last count) now comes from renewables. With more wind farms planned, that percentage will only increase – something that’s important for any business trading on its sustainability credentials. Choose gas, and it’s 100% fossil fuel.

Controlling your own destiny

Perhaps the biggest factor in the gas vs electricity debate, however, is security of supply. The i reported recently that energy bills for small and medium businesses have increased by 250% in the past year. Unlike domestic customers, there’s been no help from government to offset these costs. There is currently no such thing as a ‘good value’ tariff. And even if there were, many suppliers aren’t entertaining the idea of switches right now.

Few (if any) businesses will be able to withstand such price increases without feeling the impact. But generating your own electricity can mitigate price rises and reduce your dependency on fossil fuels. And at a time when government ministers have been batting away the notion of energy rationing should things get worse, generating your own electricity can help protect you should things suddenly switch from rationing being “not the route that we want to go down,” as transport secretary Grant Shapps said recently, to being the route we’re forced to go down.

Finding a way forward with MaCaW

All the above will be of limited value to those businesses using gas powered equipment right now. They will need to make a significant investment in power generation equipment, whether that’s in the form of solar photovoltaics, ground source heat pumps, local wind turbines or similar. And they’ll need to switch equipment so that it can run on electricity, not gas. But the sooner you develop the long-term planning to put such measures in place, the sooner you’ll start to realise the benefits.

MaCaW can help. We work with Lancashire SMEs to understand their existing carbon footprint, the quick wins that can help you save energy and money now, and the longer-term opportunities that can protect the business for the future. We’ll also give you the expert help to understand which renewable energy approach would be most practical and beneficial to you. We can even point you in the direction of suppliers who can help supply and install your new energy efficient equipment.

To make a start, talk to us about your free carbon audit.

MaCaW is a UCLan project, an industry and academic collaboration funded by the ERDF and supported by Boost, Lancashire’s business growth hub.

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