Rolls-Royce targets LED upgrades and on-site solar systems in global emissions crackdown

EXCLUSIVE: Engineering group Rolls-Royce is planning a full-scale roll-out of energy efficiency initiatives and low-carbon technologies across its international estate, including the installation of a giant rooftop solar system at one of its largest UK factories.

The FTSE-100 company, which employs more than 55,000 people across 45 countries, has ring-fenced around £11m to invest in energy and carbon reduction initiatives this year, with LED lighting and solar PV topping the list of priorities, according to Rolls-Royce’s director of energy Tim Sullivan. (Scroll down for full presentation)

Speaking to edie during the Effective Energy Management conference on Wednesday (20 April), Sullivan said: “We’ve managed to convince the senior leaders within the organisation that, as part of our cost transformation programme, energy has its place on that list of interventions that we can, and should, make.

“When I first joined Rolls-Royce [six years ago], energy was considered an ‘environmental’ element of the company’s management – less than £1m was being spent on energy and carbon reduction. Now, we’ve secured a capital budget of around £11m, and we’re assuming that that same budget will be available to us over the next few years.”

LED upgrades

The blue-chip engineer recently set itself an “ambitious” target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2025, from a 2014 baseline, along with an aim for energy use to fall by 30% by 2020. It has made a “promising start”, with emissions dropping by 8% against the baseline, and energy use down by 3%.

Contributing around 10% of Rolls-Royce’s 50% reduction in GHG emissions – and making up around half of Sullivan’s £11m annual budget – will be LEDs, with the group gearing up for an energy-efficient lighting retrofit programme across its entire global estate.  

“We’ve put in place a strategic partnership with an LED provider… we are in the process of upgrading all of our lighting systems globally, where it makes sense commercially – which, in my view, is when it has a return-on-investment of less than four years,” said Sullivan.

“The ultimate aim for 2020 is for Rolls-Royce to be 100% LED lit. But in reality, we might get to around 80% by 2020, as there are still certain buildings we have where LED isn’t the right solution and existing lighting systems may have to remain.”

Project Sunshine

Adding another 5% to Rolls-Royce’s 50% emissions reduction will be solar power. Under the aptly-named Project Sunshine, the jet engine manufacturer is adopting a power purchase agreement (PPA) approach, using external finance for solar installations that will be used to power some of its facilities.

The group recently completed the biggest solar PV installation in Singapore – a 4MWp system at the Rolls-Royce facilities in Seletar – and the next phase is to look at the solar power potential of facilities in Germany, Italy and France.

Meanwhile, construction of a giant rooftop solar system at the Rolls-Royce plant in Bristol will begin “within the next week”, with an aim for completion “by the end of the year”. But Sullivan added that the Bristol project’s development has suffered at the hands of the Government’s recent subsidy changes for such installations, leading to a significant reduction in the size of the scheme.

“There have been so many changes in the feed-in tariff over this past year – the size of the scheme has changed so much,” Sullivan said. “It started off as being about 4MW and it’s now down to about 2.8MW.

“We made the decision [to install solar PV in Bristol] about a year ago, and since that time the economics have changed so much. We’ve had to do away with a car park installation, so it’s now just a rooftop-only project.

“The positive story, from the developer’s point of view and for Rolls-Royce, is that we’ve actually still managed to make it work, even given the reductions to the feed-in tariff.”

In his session at Wednesday’s Effective Energy Management conference, Sullivan also discussed the energy-reduction potential of an upcoming reorganisation of its Derby headquarters, with solar PV being planned as “an embedded part of the process” as buildings are replaced. Building automation software geared towards energy efficiency and combined heat and power technologies are among the other solutions being explored by Rolls-Royce as it strives to achieve that bold emissions reduction target.

Rolls-Royce Energy Management Presentation 2016

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Luke Nicholls

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