How to… harness renewable energy

19 October 2012
How to… harness renewable energy

Renewable energy is one consideration for restaurants thinking about sustainability.

Conventional electricity is responsible for 30% of Britain's carbon emissions and restaurants are some of the most energy-intensive buildings globally. On average, they consume almost three times the amount of energy of a standard commercial building.

So, renewable energy options are an important consideration for restaurants thinking about their sustainability, and will help the UK achieve its renewable energy generation target of 15% by 2020.

Erecting a wind turbine is not an option for most restaurants. However, there are alternatives. A number of Sustainable Restaurant Association members, including Bordeaux Quay in Bristol, and Colman's of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, have installed solar panels.

But there's a much more straightforward route, guaranteeing a year-round power supply - switching to a renewable tariff. Companies such as Good Energy supply customers through the national grid, matching all the electricity used over a year with electricity sourced purely from renewables.

At the Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, owner Calum Richardson had a number of reasons for switching to renewable energy, chief among which were dissatisfaction with the service he received from the big conventional companies, along with wanting to do the right thing.

As well as finding the customer experience much improved with his new supplier (the switch being far simpler than he'd imagined, too) Richardson has found that he and his staff have changed their mindset about their energy consumption.

"We have been trying to reduce the overall carbon use in the restaurant and so, what with the poor service we were getting previously, it was a no-brainer. Since switching nine months ago, customer service has been brilliant and everyone in the restaurant now has a much better understanding of our energy use," he explains.

Bills at the Bay are now very slightly higher, but in time Richardson believes the newly gained energy awareness will help reduce use and, therefore, costs.

He says: "We now only put the griddle on a few minutes before we need it. It's helped educate staff and customers. People think the most sustainable thing we can do as a fish and chip restaurant is serve responsibly sourced fish. We do that, but reducing our carbon footprint is also hugely important."

Hundreds of miles away in central London, the Cookery School also made the switch to renewable energy and shares Richardson's enthusiasm for the culture shift the switch has engineered.

Rosalind Rathouse, director of the Cookery School, says: "The chefs are used to arriving and switching everything on, now they turn the ovens and the blast chiller on and off only when necessary. They have really taken on board the importance of energy saving.

"We now work to what we call half energy. The kitchens are used throughout the day, every day; however, if no class or event is running, lights and fans are used minimally. And on a smaller scale, we are now adopting other energy-efficiency practices such as cooking with lids on."


1 Review your current energy use and your carbon emissions

2 Consider whether your site is suited to microgeneration technology like solar power

3 Speak to one of the renewable energy companies about their tariffs - companies such as Good Energy ( or Green Energy (

4 Use the introduction of renewable energy as the catalyst for staff behaviour change

5 Tell your customers what you've done and encourage them to think about it, too

The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit association helping restaurants become more sustainable. For more information and advice,

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