“Have you seen how many electricity billsare in today?” shouts the accounts manager.

There is a tsunami of paper invoices on his desk, each perfectly designed to attract maximum attention. The theory of evolution isn’t lost on electricity bills.

One of the most important jobs that a property factor performs for his customers is to keep the lights on - literally. Our customers have hundreds of electricity supplies, some small, some enormous.

When, in 2018 Newton were considering their environmental strategy for the future, something quickly became obvious very quickly. Being one of the country’s largest property factors in terms of our customer base, we were helping our clients pay invoices to energy suppliers totalling millions of pounds per annum.

Converting this monetary volume into an accurate measure of CO2 emissions isn’t easy and we don’t claim to be experts but a simple calculator told us that collectively, by obtaining electricity from “brown” sources, our customers were generating several thousand tonnes of CO2 per year just to keep their close lights on.

Taking this thought to its logical conclusion, we started scouring the market for competitive Green Energy suppliers, specifically from suppliers who can certificate 100% renewable energy guarantees of origin.

The Herald: Derek MacDonald is joint managing director of Newton PropertyDerek MacDonald is joint managing director of Newton Property

Suppliers who can meet this test typically buy energy from the wholesale market which is generated from wind, solar, hydro schemes or renewable gas production.

Interestingly, when you pick at the surface of the “green” energy claims`, not all is as it seems. ScottishPower for example, both a supplier and a generator of electricity has been rightly lauded recently, for taking the bold step of selling on their carbon generating plants to Drax Power. According to its website, ScottishPower now generates 100% of its electricity from wind power, 100% renewable. All good then?

Look closer at the data however, and you’ll see that ScottishPower customers receive a mix of green and brown energy from the supplier as the company has to buy in electricity from other generators in the wholesale market in order to meet its nationwide customer demands. So technically speaking, “brown energy” isn’t its fault; it simply cannot generate and store enough green energy to meet demand.

What wind power generators really need is massive investment in energy storage facilities, to store excess capacity and to release it when demand peaks, not just when the wind blows. South Australia’s battery storage schemes though modest in size look like being a success. Imagine then if Scotland’s renewables generators could to take a lead in this and show the world how to do it? Imagine no more: the good news is ScottishPower has just announced a 50 megawatt battery storage project at Whitelee on Eaglesham Moor.

The Herald:

What we would really like to see is a concerted effort from other private property management firms, housing associations and local authorities to steer customers towards communal electricity supplies from truly “green” suppliers.

This is a large market to be picked up by suppliers who will find it relatively straightforward to negotiate on price with these organisations and collective demand could equal more truly green energy supply.

Interestingly, and very peculiarly, early on in our research we established that one “100% Green Supplier”, which has really taken the market by storm refused to accept volume transfers of multiple supplies from us.

Could this infer that currently due to lack of latent green energy storage, green suppliers cannot be too successful - otherwise they cannot deliver on their guarantee? A somewhat ironic paradox which might be about to be solved with lots of big batteries.

Derek MacDonald is joint managing director of Newton Property.

This article appeared in The Herald on the 14th March as part of The Heralds weekely Climate for Change editorial.

The Herald:

The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk