7 March 2024 Energy Infrastructure, Energy Management, Renewable Energy

Why assessing Maximum Import Capacity is a crucial step in decarbonising your business

A male and female engineer assess the electrical load of a building

In the pursuit of sustainability and carbon reduction amid climate change, businesses across the world today are increasingly adopting measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

For large energy-consuming organisations in the UK, electrifying and decarbonising their heating systems or integrating new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations into their sites to encourage low-carbon transport, are often central components of these carbon reduction strategies.

However, amidst this noble pursuit, there exists a critical yet frequently overlooked aspect: the assessment of Maximum Import Capacity.

For such large businesses, understanding and assessing Maximum Import Capacity across their sites is paramount before embarking on any electrification journey. Failure to do so can lead to significant obstacles that may outweigh the anticipated benefits of reducing carbon emissions.

What is Maximum Import Capacity?

Maximum Import Capacity (MIC) refers to the maximum amount of electricity that a site can import from the grid at any given time. It is a critical factor in determining the capacity available for additional electrical loads, such as those associated with electrified heating systems or electric vehicle charging stations. Ignoring or underestimating MIC can have far-reaching consequences for businesses, both operationally and financially.

What are the risks of exceeding Maximum Import Capacity?

One of the primary concerns associated with exceeding Maximum Import Capacity is the risk of grid overload.

Introducing new high-demand electrical equipment, such as heat pumps or EV chargers at your business locations without ensuring sufficient capacity can strain the grid infrastructure, leading to disruptions in power supply and potential equipment failures. Such incidents not only result in downtime and productivity losses for your business, but also incur additional costs for repairs and maintenance.

Moreover, exceeding MIC can trigger costly upgrades to the electrical infrastructure. Increasing the capacity to accommodate higher loads often requires significant investments in transformers, cables, and other grid infrastructure components to your site(s). These upgrades not only entail substantial upfront expenses but also involve complex planning and regulatory approvals, further delaying the implementation of carbon reduction initiatives.

Furthermore, the financial implications of exceeding MIC extend beyond infrastructure upgrades. Many electricity suppliers impose penalties or surcharges for exceeding contracted capacities, adding to the operational costs of businesses. These penalties can quickly accumulate, further eroding any anticipated savings from transitioning to low-carbon technologies.

In addition to the immediate financial burdens – and importantly in context of your sustainability objectives – exceeding Maximum Import Capacity can hinder the scalability of your planned carbon reduction initiatives.

Businesses aiming to expand their electrification efforts across multiple sites may find themselves constrained by the limitations imposed by existing MIC levels at different locations. Without adequate planning and assessment, the scalability of decarbonisation strategies becomes compromised, undermining the long-term sustainability goals of the organisation.

Mitigating the risks of Maximum Import Capacity when delivering your carbon reduction project

Mitigating the risks associated with Maximum Import Capacity requires a comprehensive assessment of each site’s electrical infrastructure and consumption patterns.

By accurately determining the existing MIC levels and forecasting future demand growth, businesses can make informed decisions regarding the introduction of low-carbon technologies. Indeed, the substantial investment required to upgrade capacity – if it is an absolute necessity to your project – can often serve to undermine the economic viability of your decarbonisation initiative.

Conducting thorough assessments in the planning stage of your project allows for the identification of potential bottlenecks and the development of targeted strategies to optimise energy usage while staying within MIC limits. It will also allow you take make a full business case for your capacity upgrade if it is deemed unavoidable, enabling you to clearly outline a cost-benefit analysis.

Working with a strategic carbon reduction partner

Managing the complexities of Maximum Import Capacity is burdensome on both time and resource for businesses. On one hand, it involves negotiating the notoriously cumbersome world of electrical infrastructure, on the other, it requires a deep set of expertise to understand how your business’ relationship to energy demand can affect long-term sustainability goals.

For instance, proactive engagement with electricity suppliers and grid operators is essential for leveraging insights into capacity constraints, while exploring alternative solutions to capacity upgrades – where required –  such as demand response programmes or investment in on-site renewables is equally fundamental.

That’s why businesses embarking on their multi-site carbon reduction projects choose to work with SMS, which has 30 years of heritage working in this space when it comes to helping large organisations assess their electrical demand requirements and providing the strategic advice and engineering expertise to deliver optimised decarbonisation projects.

We know from experience – having worked with various high-energy spend businesses on such initiatives – that the decision to electrify and decarbonise heating systems or introduce electric vehicle charging stations should be preceded by a rigorous evaluation of Maximum Import Capacity across the estate.

While the benefits of transitioning to low-carbon technologies are undeniable, overlooking the challenges imposed by MIC can undermine the feasibility and effectiveness of such programmes. By prioritising MIC assessment and management – and working with a strategic carbon reduction partner – large energy-consuming businesses can unlock the full potential of their carbon reduction efforts while avoiding costly pitfalls, ultimately ensuring the resilience of their operations in an increasingly electrified future.

Helping you navigate your net zero journey

We’re experts in providing strategic, data-driven energy advice that rationalises energy consumption and sets your organisation on the most suitable and sustainable path to net zero carbon emissions.