Fernando Tirado
Country Managing Director Mexico
Centrica Business Solutions
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Energy Partner Helps Get Most Out of Electricity Use

By Cas Biekmann | Mon, 10/25/2021 - 09:55

Q: Why should companies look toward Centrica Business Solutions (CBS) to ensure their energy management is efficient and cost-effective?

A: CBS is part of the UK-based Centrica, which has over 200 years of history. CBS was founded a couple of years ago and has worked to adopt emerging trends, such as centralization of operations and decarbonization. Independence from large utilities through behind-the-meter solutions has been another major trend. CBS has been doing business in Mexico for three years and has signed 30 contracts so far. This is quite a good start and we have performed well so far but the pandemic has hampered the progress of some new projects.

CBS is a great energy partner for its clients because our core business is not to install solutions, sell products or provide services just to make a sale. Our core business is to get to know the customer, their facilities and objectives and then to provide a custom solution that meets their needs. Some customers are looking to become more productive and greener, while others would like to save costs. Frequently, they wish to do both. CBS does not just sell one product. We have a wide range of solutions, all of which are oriented toward energy efficiency and decarbonization. The solutions are goal-oriented and help our customers meet objectives for the short, medium and long term, depending on the project.

 

Q: How can a company like Chili’s restaurant benefit from your technology?

A: In Mexico and elsewhere in the world, restaurants are often owned by a big franchise company. Here, the company in question is Corporación Mexicana de Restaurantes (CMR) where we installed a technology called Panoramic Power, which features wireless sensors that provide the end user with valuable energy insights. It is a remarkably cheap technology but works very well in providing insight through live information that can be accessed to achieve higher energy efficiency. Chili’s is benchmarking all its restaurants under the CMR banner. They are overcoming the issue of “out of sight, out of mind.” If you do not see what is happening, you cannot understand the problem. Energy insights ensure you know how energy is consumed, such as how opening the freezer or using an industrial dishwasher during peak consumption hours affects electricity costs. We showed them that by turning this dishwasher on 15 minutes later they can save a great deal of money. By keeping the air-conditioning on moderate until 45 minutes before the first customers enter, much less electricity is consumed while reaching the desired temperature on time.

These improvements are simple but have a great impact. For large industrial energy users, these insights can have an even greater impact, such as enabling preventative maintenance and highlighting previously invisible equipment problems. This can save a lot of money.

 

Q: How can CBS tie its solutions into the growing number of on-site energy installations?

A; How we tailor a solution that tracks the energy supply and the efficiency of its use goes back to the core of CBS’ added value. However, before we ever suggest the use of, for example, a solar on-site energy installation, we would install our Panoramic Power solution. We can then measure up to three months of a company’s energy use and identify its actual needs. The solution could then include solar panels, battery storage for peak-shaving purposes, cogeneration or EV-charging. Our solution is also an administration tool for the EV-fleets that companies like Grupo Bimbo and Coca-Cola possess. Knowing when and where to charge this fleet is essential to optimize energy use. For on-site solar installations, optimal engineering is crucial. End-users leave a lot of money on the table by making mistakes in how a system is installed, even though mounting panels is not rocket science.

 

Q: How can the company’s solution ensure a faster ROI on solar projects?

A: In Mexico, people often have the misconception that technologies such as solar or storage are expensive. The truth is that any suboptimal solution will be expensive, whereas every optimal solution will be cheap. Solar has proven to be among the very cheapest and most reliable energy solutions in the world, backed up by energy auction results. Not too long ago, solar was quite expensive but this has changed drastically in the last decade, to the point that it has become cheap if it is installed correctly.

To make sure that this is the case, we first need to be certain that solar is really what the company needs. At times, companies want to have an installation because everyone else is installing one but they would benefit more from other solutions. Not every area of the country receives the same amount of sunlight, for instance. Therefore, we need to assess the size of the project to determine if it is adequate. If a project has been planned correctly, the energy savings can be massive. We even prove customers wrong in what they thought they needed: in some cases, we only sell them our cheapest solution and not the entire solar installation that they thought they needed.

 

Q: How is the company further addressing its own internal sustainability?

A: We have strongly reduced our CO2 emissions in recent years. Now, our plan is to reduce 35 percent of our total emissions within the next five years. I believe that this question of internal sustainability is an important one. Companies often brag how their work enhances the world’s sustainability but changes need to occur within these companies first to be truly sustainable. If you do not create a sustainability-minded environment and culture from the root of the company, working to ensure it becomes entrenched within operations and among employees, then you cannot have a great impact on the outside world. Fortunately, we are seeing a growing number of companies doing what we are trying to do here. This is also evolving rapidly in Mexico. Ten years ago, it was rare to see sustainability as a driver for Mexican companies. I would say that seven or eight out of 10 companies are now adopting strategies to become more sustainable. Large multinationals are pushing companies further down the right path but even small family-owned companies are realizing that energy efficiency and decarbonization are a real necessity.

 

Q: What is CBS’ main objective for the years ahead?

A: We have done well in our first three years in Mexico, having started with three solutions in our portfolio. We have increased our internal capabilities and the range of possible solutions in our offer to the market. For the next three to five years, our goal is to consolidate our position as the best possible energy partner a company could have. We want to have a client relationship for the long term and accompany them in their future energy efforts.

Centrica Business Solutions sets out to transform the way businesses acquire, manage and consume their energy through globally leading technological advancements.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst