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Decarbonising UK Industry

Sarah Keeley


In 2021, the UK government set out its industrial decarbonisation strategy as part of its plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. Building on the previously announced 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the strategy set out the vision for building a greener, more competitive future for the manufacturing and construction sectors – two of the most difficult industries to decarbonise.  

Organisations across the UK are increasingly making commitments to reduce their carbon emissions and integrate low-carbon technologies into their operations. However, new research suggests that many of these businesses are struggling to deliver on their commitments. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the challenges industrial companies are facing in decarbonising their operations, how energy storage can help to fast-track electrification efforts and some forward-thinking companies who are leading the charge on Net Zero, despite the challenges. 

Energy crisis 

The United Kingdom is currently facing the worst energy crisis since the 1970s, a crisis that MAKE UK have warned threatens to put 6 in 10 British manufacturers out of business. An increase in global demand, together with supply shortages not helped by the Russia-Ukraine war, means that wholesale energy prices have surged. With many commercial energy bills poised to rise more than fourfold this autumn, energy-intensive businesses are being forced to urgently review their energy strategies to reduce their costs and stay afloat. 

With renewables now cheaper than fossil fuels in most cases, more businesses are exploring the opportunities offered by renewable energy to keep overheads down in the face of continued hikes and uncertainty in the energy industry. Although some of these low-carbon technologies have high initial installation costs, the operational costs are generally low, and the potential long-term savings make for a good return on investment. 

So, if renewables are now so much cheaper, why aren’t more energy-intensive businesses making the switch to renewables to save on their energy bills? 

Grid capacity 

In a recent blog post, we discussed how a lack of available grid capacity is slowing the progress of many green energy projects across the UK. Increasingly, British businesses developing low-carbon projects and seeking to connect to the electricity grid are being quoted hefty sums and connection timescales of up to ten years and beyond for their projects. With decarbonisation targets looming and energy bills rising, British businesses can no longer afford to wait. 

How energy storage can help 

Energy storage offers many benefits for industrial companies struggling with energy management, allowing them to operate more sustainably and more efficiently. 

There are a number of key areas in which companies can expect to see benefits, including the following. 

Grid upgrade avoidance 

Energy storage allows businesses to use energy more flexibly, deferring the need for distribution network reinforcement and fast-tracking the decarbonisation projects of energy-intensive industries. 

Critical backup power 

With blackouts expected in the UK, and the UK Government encouraging some businesses to cut their consumption over the winter period, reliable backup power will be key for the survival of many companies in the manufacturing and construction sectors. In the event of a grid power outage or energy rationing, energy storage allows companies to remain operational and avoid lost revenue and production. 

Diesel generator displacement 

Many UK businesses still rely on diesel power generation to meet their site electricity demands, despite the cost, air quality, noise and environmental impacts of the fuel. Energy storage is a potential solution to guarantee safety and reliability standards while reducing or entirely substituting the need for diesel gensets.  

Demand charge reduction 

Energy storage allows energy-intensive businesses to reduce their demand charges by charging the storage system during off-peak hours and discharging during peak hours. This process is known as peak shaving. 

Companies leading the charge 

Although many businesses are having to slow their decarbonisation efforts, some have managed to fast-track their plans and are already reaping the benefits. 


Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has covered the rooftop of one of the office buildings at its Macclesfield site with solar panels as part of the company’s plan to become carbon-negative across its entire value chain by 2030. The site includes 658 PV panels on one rooftop, which generates 230kW of electricity at peak. All of the electricity generated will be used on-site, which will reduce the facility’s annual carbon emissions by 82 tonnes. 

AstraZeneca's Macclesfield site

Shotwick Solar Park 

At 72.2MWp, Shotwick Solar Park is the largest solar park in the UK and the largest private wire connection in the UK. Located in Deeside, Flintshire, the solar park supports the UPM paper manufacturing plant which operates 24/7 and manufactures 100% recycled paper. The solar park provides approximately 60% of the factory’s energy needs which saves UPM £800k per year. 

Shotwick Solar Park, Flintshire


GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), another pharmaceutical giant, is developing a 20MW solar project to help power its manufacturing facility in Irvine, Scotland. Two new wind turbines (8MW) will also be installed to help bring the company towards its target of deriving 100% of its global electricity usage from renewables by 2025. The facility generates 40% of the company’s UK manufacturing CO2 emissions. As such, the project is expected to bring a 10,000-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions per year. 

GlaxoSmithKline Irvine site with new wind turbines and solar farm - illustration.

Decarbonising UK industry will be one of the biggest challenges the UK will face if it is to achieve Net Zero by 2050. To put the challenge in perspective, the sector will have to cut its emissions by at least 90% by 2050, which is equivalent to taking all cars off the road today. Businesses will need to work with each other and their communities to share expertise and to invest in new sustainable solutions to transform the sector for the good of all. 

Cheesecake Energy is working with a number of UK businesses to help optimise their energy use and achieve their decarbonisation goals. Get in touch with us today to discuss your project. 

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