Opportunity: A growing appetite for sustainability among customers
Martin & Servera is a leading Nordic partner for customers in the restaurant and catering industry. As such, it can’t ignore that restaurant guests are increasingly demanding that what is served must be produced ethically and with respect for the environment and climate.
In an effort to lead the restaurant and catering industry in a sustainable transformation, Martin & Servera set an ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030. This includes both what is known as scope 1 (own emissions) and scope 2 (indirect emissions from electricity, heating, and cooling). But how could the company drive forward the industry in a sustainable way?
Approach: Solar-as-a-service shines bright
Even though the company was already buying green electricity, and therefore had no emissions from its electricity use, Martin & Servera was still looking for ways it could make a bigger impact. It recognized that solar could be a key foundation of its sustainability strategy due to the cost- and time-efficiency of its rollout.
The company had previously installed rooftop solar at its warehouses, and was continuing to explore both wind and solar options. When its CEO, Liv Forhaug, learned about the Alight’s solar-as-a-service model, she saw a good fit. In this structure, Alight would build, own, and operate a solar farm, from which Martin & Servera would sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy the clean energy at a low, fixed cost.
Liv Forhaug, CEO at Martin & Servera Group, told Chefs tidningen: We take the climate crisis seriously. We acknowledge our responsibility and do what we can to contribute. We’ve installed solar cells on our warehouse roofs before. But even if we fill the roofs with solar cells, it doesn’t correspond to a large proportion of our electricity needs. By helping to build a large solar farm, we can make a real difference.
A PPA was a great fit for Martin & Servera because it provided a long-term solution, yet it still delegated the responsibility of building, owning, and operating the actual power generation to an experienced third party. The company brought in an external expert who helped it to manage the procurement, as the team was new to the process. Ultimately, Alight had the most competitive and suitable offer, not to mention 10+ years of experience, and in December 2020 Martin & Servera signed the 15-year agreement for a solar farm.
Alight had been investigating the possibility of building a solar farm in Skurup, and had already received the necessary permits. By signing the PPA with Alight, Martin & Servera’s commitment to buy its clean energy would cement the solar farm’s reality in place. Martin & Servera was especially keen to build a solar farm in southern Sweden, since the majority of all electricity in Sweden is produced in the north.
Martin & Servera’s decision to sign a PPA with Alight was less based on the financial benefits of securing a low, fixed energy price, but more so based on its sustainability goals and low perceived risk.
“I think we have a responsibility to do what we can to contribute to a more sustainable world and especially to reducing climate impact. When we made the decision, we did not know that the initiative would be profitable, but there was no clear increase in costs either. Then I think the decision is easy. Everything else being equal, it goes without saying that you want to do what is more sustainable,” Liv Forhaug told Chefs tidningen.
Result: Sweden’s largest solar farm proves profitable
The solar farm made possible by Martin & Servera became operational in January 2022 and produces roughly 19 GWh of electricity per year, equivalent to half of the Martin & Servera Group’s electricity needs. At the time of commissioning, the solar farm was the largest in Sweden. “But that’s a title we hope to lose pretty soon,” said Liv Forhaug. “Solar energy is an area that is growing rapidly.”
While sustainability was the primary driver for Martin & Servera in contracting the solar farm, it turned out to be a profitable financial decision given the steep energy prices increases in Europe.
“Now we have secure electricity supply with a stable price tag for a long time and we’re making an effort for the climate at the same time. As energy prices have developed since then, it has also proven to be very profitable,” Liv Forhaug told Chefs tidningen.
Even after commissioning, the solar farm continues to push the envelope on sustainable development. In the spring of 2022, Alight, together with Husqvarna and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences’ (SLU), began a joint pilot project for fossil-free electrified mowing of vegetation in the Skurup solar farm, funded by Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency. The project investigates both how electrified autonomous vegetation management should be designed to avoid shading and damage to the solar panels, and how to achieve high energy production and maintain ecosystem functions, such as biodiversity. The final report of the project is due in August 2023.