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How to turn sustainable energy targets into action: a leadership guide

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By Centrica Business Solutions

Sustainability and profit are two sides of the same coin, which is why CEOs must build back greener from the global pandemic. But how can senior executives turn their decarbonisation ambitions into action to deliver on both their environmental and economic goals? 

Long-term carbon reduction plans will quickly falter without the backing of senior leaders. These individuals are in a unique position to drive sustainability by setting a clear direction, nurturing team collaboration and managing cultural change.

There’s a groundswell of commitment to decarbonisation from businesses and investors alike, with many of the world’s best known brands setting net-zero targets. However, delivering on these long-term targets is complex and challenging. 

Centrica Business Solutions is helping organisations to overcome these challenges. We have published a new guide to show business leaders  ‘How to Turn Ambitious Sustainability Targets into Effective Action.’

To accelerate the delivery of ambitious sustainability goals, CEOs and their executive teams  need a clear, dynamic action plan that de-risks commitments, shows tangible progress and reassures stakeholders.

The sustainability leaders’ guide explains how business leaders can create a carbon reduction plan that aligns fully with business strategy to deliver results, while demonstrating progress along the way.

This involves developing a sustainable energy pathway – broken down into  manageable, incremental steps.  Using this his methodology,  organisations can  translate both short and longer-term goals into feasible, detailed action plans that balance both economic and environmental priorities.

Download our guide to how senior executives can deliver on sustainable energy ambitions

UK Government white paper sets out plans for clean energy system

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The UK government has set out what it calls an ‘ambitious plan’ to clean up the country’s energy system, support up to 220,000 jobs, and keep bills affordable as the transition to net zero by 2050 continues.

The Energy White Paper sets out specific steps the government will take over the next decade to cut emissions from industry, transport, and buildings by 230 million metric tonnes – equivalent to taking 7.5 million petrol cars off the road permanently – while supporting hundreds of thousands of new green jobs.

The government says it will put affordability at the heart of the UK’s decisive shift away from fossil fuels by boosting competition in the energy retail market to tackle the ‘loyalty penalty’ – longstanding customers who pay more than new ones – and by providing at least £6.7 billion in support to the fuel poor and most vulnerable over the next 6 years.

Alongside the Energy White Paper, the government has also confirmed that it is to enter negotiations with EDF in relation to the Sizewell C project in Suffolk as it considers options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by the end of this Parliament. If the project proceeds, it could create thousands of new jobs during construction and operation.

This is the next step in considering the Sizewell C project, and negotiations will be subject to reaching a value for money deal and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed. The government says the successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to thorough scrutiny and needs to satisfy the its legal, regulatory and national security requirements.

Core parts of the Energy White Paper include:

  1. Supporting up to 220,000 jobs in the next 10 years. This includes long-term jobs in major infrastructure projects for power generation, carbon capture storage and hydrogen, as well as a major programme of retrofitting homes for improved energy efficiency and clean heat.
  2. Transforming the UK’s energy system from one that was historically based on fossil fuels to one that is fit for a net zero economy, changing how we heat our homes and travel, doubling our electricity use, and harnessing renewable energy supplies.
  3. Keeping bills affordable for consumers by making the energy retail market truly competitive. This will include offering people a simple method of switching to a cheaper energy tariff, and testing automatically switching consumers to fairer deals to tackle “loyalty penalties”.
  4. Generating emission-free electricity by 2050 with a trajectory that will see us have overwhelmingly decarbonised power in the 2030s. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler of our transition to a net zero economy with demand expected to double due to transport and low carbon heat.
  5. Establishing a UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) from 1 January 2021 to replace the current EU ETS at the end of the Transition Period. It increases ambition on reducing emissions, and provides continuation of emissions trading for UK businesses and certainty on how they operate.
  6. Continuing to explore a range of financing options for new nuclear with developers including the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model, which could help secure private investment and cost consumers less in the long run. Given the scale of the financing challenge, we will also consider the potential role of government finance during construction, provided there is clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers.
  7. Delivering ambitious electricity commitments through our world-beating commitment to deliver 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, including 1GW of floating wind, enough to power every home in the country – while attracting new offshore wind manufacturers to the UK.
  8. Investing £1 billion in state-of-the-art carbon capture storage in four industrial clusters by 2030 – sucking carbon out of industrial processes to stop emissions escaping to the air. Four low carbon clusters will be set up by 2030, and at least one fully net zero cluster by 2040, stimulating the market to attract new investors and manufacturers to reinvigorate our industrial heartlands.
  9. Kick-starting the hydrogen economy by working with industry to aim for 5GW of production by 2030, backed up by a new £240m net zero Hydrogen Fund for low carbon hydrogen production.
  10. Investing £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of charge points for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways as well as up to £1 billion to support the electrification of cars, including for the mass-production of the batteries needed for electric vehicles. The rollout has levelling up at its heart, and will support economic growth across the UK – including in our strong manufacturing bases in the Midlands and the North East – while supporting the 169,000 jobs in our world-leading automotive sector.
  11. Supporting the lowest paid with their bills through a £6.7 billion package of measures that could save families in old inefficient homes up to £400. This includes extending the Warm Home Discount Scheme to 2026 to cover an extra three quarters of a million households and giving eligible households £150 off their electricity bills each winter. The £2 billion Green Homes Grant announced by the Chancellor has been extended for a further year in the Ten Point Plan.
  12. Moving away from fossil fuel boilers, helping to make people’s homes warmer, whilst keeping bills low. By the mid-2030s we expect all newly installed heating systems to be low carbon or to be appliances that we are confident can be converted to a clean fuel supply.
  13. Supporting North Sea oil and gas transition for the people and communities most affected by the move away from oil and gas production, ensuring that the expertise of the oil and gas sector be drawn on in developing carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production to provide new green jobs.

Plans to create jobs through the Energy White Paper build on the £280 billion support package that has been provided as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs to safeguard jobs in every region and nation of the UK, with support now extended until March 2021.

Kick-starting the process of ensuring fairness and affordability for bill-payers will be a series of consultations in spring 2021 to create the framework to introduce opt-in switching, consider reforms to the current roll-over tariff arrangements, and a call for evidence to begin a strategic dialogue between government, consumers and industry on affordability and fairness.

The UK ETS will promote cost-effective decarbonisation, allowing businesses to cut carbon where it is cheapest to do so, promoting innovation and growth for UK businesses. It will be the world’s first net zero carbon cap and trade market, and a step towards achieving the UK’s target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The government says the scheme is more ambitious than the EU system it replaces – from day one the cap on emissions allowed within the system will be reduced by 5%, and the government says it will consult in due course on how to align with net zero. This, it says, gives industry the certainty it needs to invest in low carbon technologies.

Oxford Net Zero to tackle carbon emissions globally

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The Oxford Net Zero initiative has launched, drawing on the university’s world-leading expertise in climate science and policy, addressing the critical issue of how to reach global ‘net zero’ – limiting greenhouse gases – in time to halt global warming.

Leading academics from across the university’s disciplines, including Geography, Physics, Economics, Biology, Law and Earth Sciences, will come together to focus on the long-term questions necessary to achieve equitable, science-based solutions.

The team will be led by research director Professor Sam Fankhauser, who is joining Oxford from his current position as director of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and director Professor Myles Allen, physicist and head of the Climate Research Programme in Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.

Oxford Net Zero is a growing network and collaboration of leading researchers from across the university to provide advice and expertise in the global ‘race’ to net zero by national governments, global industry leaders and international organizations. 

Oxford Net Zero convenes and undertakes research to support policy interventions, and this month has been boosted by a £2.2M investment from the University’s new Strategic Research Fund (SRF). The SRF was formed in early 2020 to re-invest some of the University’s revenues from commercialisation activities into transformative research programmes.

“We’ve left it too late to meet our climate goals simply by phasing out all activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions: hence the ‘net’ in net zero,” said Professor Allen. “Aggressive emission reductions must be complemented by equally aggressive scale-up of safe and permanent greenhouse gas removal and disposal. Getting this balance right, and fair, calls for both innovative ideas and far-sighted policies.”

Professor Fankhauser added: “If we are serious about climate change, we have to start tackling the “difficult” emissions from industry, transport and other sources – and safely remove from the atmosphere whatever residual emissions remain.

“Informing this challenge is central to Oxford Net Zero, and I am proud to be part of this important initiative.”

“Since Oxford’s own students are the generation that will be footing the bill for delay in taking informed climate action, it is great to see the University putting its resources behind this initiative: there is no time to waste,” said Kaya Axelsson, former Vice-President of the Oxford Student Union and recently-appointed Net Zero Policy Engagement Fellow. 

To achieve net zero and avoid the worst impacts of global warming, carbon dioxide emissions must be drastically reduced, and any residual emissions removed from the atmosphere and stored. More than 120 countries are committing to net zero, representing more than 49% of global economic output, but official commitments with developed plans cover less than 10% of global emissions.   

Oxford Net Zero’s key aim is to address the issue of how we limit the cumulative net total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This means tackling emission sources and removing surplus carbon from the atmosphere – since more CO2 may be generated by the energy, industry and land-use change than can safely be emitted, if the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are to be met. 

Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Oxford added: “Oxford Net Zero brings together our research in how to effectively realise the carbon transition, involving many departments and different disciplinary perspectives. We anticipate that more researchers and external stakeholders will become engaged in the programme, strengthening the impact of the ideas and insights that our researchers can provide.”

Essential questions that Oxford Net Zero will address include:

  • How will carbon dioxide be distributed between the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and lithosphere? 
  • Where will it be stored, in what forms, how stable will these storage pools be, who will own them and be responsible for maintaining them over the short medium and long terms?
  • How does net zero policy extend to other greenhouse gases?
  • How will the social license to generate, emit, capture, transport, and store carbon dioxide evolve over the coming century? 

UK businesses pledge £3bn to back British hydrogen

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The UK could see more than £3 billion invested in the emerging hydrogen sector as more businesses step forward to pledge funding – but only if PM Boris Johnson backs the low-carbon fuel.

Earlier this year, cross-industry group Hydrogen Strategy Now said its members were ready to pump £1.5bn into the UK hydrogen economy. The group revealed that figure has now doubled to £3bn as more businesses line up plans for hydrogen projects across the UK.

Now bosses from leading businesses have come together to call on Mr Johnson to pave the way for a British hydrogen economy in his long-awaited energy strategy as they vowed to heavily invest in hydrogen technologies.

Members of Hydrogen Strategy Now, which combined employs around 100,000 people and has a value of £100bn in the UK, said their shovel-ready projects would create thousands of jobs across the country, helping to kick start a post-Covid green recovery.

The group has welcomed the recent appointment of Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and the South Downs, as the Government’s Net Zero Business Tsar, as a positive step in the right direction from Parliament.

But its members have warned that unless the sector receives load and clear backing from the Government, the UK risks being left behind the rest of the globe.

Attracting cross-party support, the Hydrogen Strategy Now collective wants to see a clear, strategic plan to help unlock significant private funding in hydrogen technologies and manufacturing across the country, driving growth and generating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

They believe a UK-wide hydrogen economy will:

●      Create and sustain hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, green jobs, in all parts of the country and in alignment with the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda

●      Drive progress to Net Zero and improve air quality in towns and cities

●      Secure private investment into the UK, and unlock export opportunities for our products and skills

●      Increase our energy security by making fuller use of the UK’s natural resources

A letter from the group to Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier this year stated: “As you look to design a post-COVID recovery, we encourage you to focus on creating high-skilled, green jobs, in sectors that will be critical to the future economy, such as low-carbon energy, transport and heavy industry.

“These measures would be wholly complimentary to the Government’s levelling-up agenda and long-term decarbonisation goals. For example, the Committee for Climate Change has made it clear that the UK will not meet its Net Zero targets without significant investment in the hydrogen economy.

“The global hydrogen economy is estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050, supporting 30 million jobs. Other nations, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and China have already set ambitious strategies for growing their hydrogen economies. Just last week, Germany joined this list with their own €9 billion hydrogen strategy. The European Commission is also creating an EU hydrogen strategy, which includes plans for multi-billion euro investment in hydrogen projects, and schemes to boost sales of hydrogen electric vehicles.

“It is now clear that hydrogen is going to play an essential role in the world’s future, low-carbon economy. The increasingly bold steps being taken by other nations underlines the need for the UK to bring forward urgent measures to establish a hydrogen strategy and unlock investment and innovation. We should not risk falling behind other nations in developing our hydrogen industry.”

You’ve done as much as you can with short payback, what else can you do?

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By David Kipling, OnSite Energy

Many companies have by now committed to energy reduction targets either through sustainability policy, net zero goals, CO2 emissions reduction targets or via CCA agreements. Further energy efficiencies are going to be needed, as the targets are getting tougher. For CCA, renewables don’t count, it is only efficiency that is eligible.

Where efficiencies can be found will depend on your company’s existing processes and sources of energy. 

The good news is there has never been so much innovation in energy technology.  Costs are falling and the range of applications and efficiencies are improving.   So if you appraised a technology three or more years ago, its probably worth revisiting that appraisal to take account of current pricing and improved efficiencies.  

At OEP, we take a data-led, technology agnostic approach.  We can often add-value by introducing technologies and solutions that hadn’t been considered, from artificial intelligence & internet of things sensing, to the latest heat recovery, absorption chillers, or wind technology.

If this sounds interesting then please get in touch with David Kipling at david@on-site.energy or call him on 07824 018991.  OEP specialises in supporting energy intensive industry.

Germany ‘goes aggressive’ on renewables

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The more rigid targets brought around by the latest revision to Germany’s renewable energy act (EEG) in June aims for the country to achieve 65%, instead of the originally targeted 50%, of its electricity consumption comes from renewable sources by 2030.

Such stricter targets would mean that, during 2021-2030, the country’s solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind would need over 2GW and 3GW of annual installations, respectively – a highly optimistic target in such an uncertain scenario.

Making the targets more stringent may be in line with the broader EU green deal agenda and sustainability objectives, but such a call – made a year before elections – may be fuelled by a political motivation rather than be an achievable goal, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, said: “For all of the nation’s renewable sectors to be GHG neutral by 2050, the electricity industry needs to evolve at a much faster pace than has been seen in recent years. Solar PV is now aimed to see a deployment of 18.8GW of capacity from 2021 to 2028, with planned capacity at increments of 1.9-2.8GW. However, with respect to the country’s capacity mix in 2019, Germany would need to add around 4.6GW annually to meet the target. In reality, the average solar PV annual installations are likely be around 1.4-1.5GW, according to GlobalData estimations.”

While annual solar PV installations in Germany have picked up in the last few years, onshore wind installations seemed to be on the back foot and so the faster pace required is even more questionable. 

Das added: “In order to achieve the new target, 16.7GW of onshore wind capacity is planned to be auctioned by 2025. Therefore, to meet the 2025 target, the country would need to conduct more than 4GW of annual onshore wind installations. This is a considerable stretch, as it would mean that the already slumped segment would need to install more than the 3.1GW average seen annually during 2015-19.

“Overall, GlobalData expects, with the current endeavors, generation from renewable energy (RE) is set to shape up to around 50-60% of the overall generation by the conclusion of the decade.”

Widespread ‘net zero’ scepticism among UK public

1024 682 Stuart O'Brien

The majority of the UK public are sceptical about achieving the net zero target, with 58% believing that it is unlikely that the target will be achieved even by 2050.

Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has published analysis of UK public attitudes to the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, entitled Going greener? Public attitudes to net zero.

The report explores attitudes to the credibility of, responsibility for, and policies to achieve net zero, with key finding including:-

  • National governments are seen to have the highest responsibility for achieving the target. 82% of the public assign them a high degree of responsibility. Strong majorities also think businesses (82%), local governments (78%), and members of the public (74%) have a high degree of responsibility.
  • Public awareness of how various activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is generally strong. Although the extent of these perceptions varies between activities, from 77% of the public seeing flying on aeroplanes as a significant contributor to climate to 56% for production of food on farms.
  • A majority of the public think that people will need to undertake a number of changes in their behaviour to help achieve net zero.This includes recycling more (63%), installing better home insulation (53%), reducing air travel (52%) and buying and driving an electric car (52%). Eating less meat was the lowest supported change of behaviour (34%). Only 10% of people thought most people would not have to make any changes.
  • Much of the public are already making changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A majority of the public (72%) already reuses and recycles more products, while a plurality is buying more locally produced goods (43%), has installed home insulation (43%), used more cycling or public transport (35%) and eaten less meat (35%).
  • The public has a significant expectation of price increases to achieve net zero. They expect prices will go up greatly or slightly on all types of products and services that we have polled if we take action to achieve net zero. Airplane tickets see the greatest expectation in higher prices, with 67% believing they will increase. The public is split on whether they actually would be willing to pay more for these products and services where higher prices would lead to lower emissions. People are most likely to be willing to pay more for products where they also have the lowest expectation of higher prices, such as electronic goods (46% willing to pay more), food (46%) and clothing (45%). In contrast, household electricity and home heating, both of which are most likely to be believed to face price increases as a result of net zero, are also products where a majority of people (52% and 51% respectively) say they would not be willing to pay more for them to lower emissions.
  • The public prefers a ‘carrot’ over ‘stick’ approach to achieving net zero. The public prefers policy approaches which use financial incentives to encourage environmentally friendly practices for individuals (49%) and businesses (45%) over laws and regulations that discourage or punish choices by individuals (34%) and businesses (38%).
  • There are high levels of support for a range of government policies for achieving net zero. This includes requiring firms that work for government to assess and report on their carbon footprint (66%), providing tax breaks for businesses which have cut emissions (59%), introducing a carbon tax (52%), taxing investment in fossil fuels (51%), establishing a new emissions trading scheme for businesses (50%) and installing smart meters in all homes and businesses (49%).
  • There is public support for government subsidies to help with decarbonisation. A majority of the public support government subsidies for installing better home insulation (69%), using an electric car (64%), switching away from natural gas heating in homes (62%) and using cycling or public transport as main methods of travel (53%). But the public opposes government subsidies for reducing air travel, with 35% supportive and 43% opposed, and eating less meat, with 27% supportive and 52% opposed.
  • There is strong support for subsidies for low-income households and small businesses. There is also broad public support for subsidies to help with at least some costs of decarbonisation changes, such as insulation, for low-income households (81%) and small businesses (80%). 27% of the public thinks that low-income households should receive help with all of the costs, and 29% think so about most of the costs, indicating that most of the public would support significant government action. In contrast, only 15% think that small businesses should receive help with all of the costs, indicating that the public wishes to aid them in a more limited manner.
  • The public believes that many businesses aren’t taking enough action to reduce emissions. The public is most critical of airlines, with 50% believing they are not taking enough action. More people are critical than not of: industrial manufacturers, gas companies, car makers, high street shops, electricity companies, container shipping firms, housebuilders, and supermarkets. The farming industry is the only industry that more people believe are doing enough than not enough, with 33% believing they are and 27% believing they are not.
  • There is a high level of support for specific actions by businesses to help achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions as long as they do not impact prices. A majority supports businesses investing profits into sustainable technologies and practices (68%), offsetting greenhouse gas emissions (63%), creating internal targets for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions (62%), publishing detailed breakdowns of emissions from business activities (62%) and making consideration of emissions a key factor in decision-making (62%). However, support for increasing charges to customers to cut emissions is low (29%).
  • Public familiarity with low-carbon heating technologies remains relatively low. Only 42% of the British public have heard of heat pumps, which is the system with the highest familiarity, in comparison to 46% who have not heard of them. People are even less familiar with hybrid boilers (27%), hydrogen boilers (21%) and heat networks (18%). As such, there is relatively low interest in replacing the existing heating method with a low-carbon heating system such as hybrid boilers (44%), heat pumps (44%), hydrogen boilers (35%) and heat networks (32%). A large number of the public did not provide a response, likely due to the low familiarity.
  • The public prioritises functionality, cost, and ease of use over a low carbon footprint for home heating systems. A majority of the public think that having a residential heating system with a low carbon footprint is important (67%). However, control functions such as being able to use it at any point (86%), heating up quickly (84%) and ownership (75%), are seen as more important as well as being lower cost than alternatives (78%) and being familiar (77%). While reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a motivating factor for installing a new home heating system for the majority of the public (68%), other factors including running costs (83%), having reliable information (82%), cost of replacement (80%), ease of procuring and installation (77%), and ownership (71%) are more popular reasons.
  • There is a high degree of familiarity among most of the public regarding home energy efficiency measures. Double glazing (88%), loft insulation (87%), wall insulation (85%), energy-efficient lighting (84%) draught-proofing windows (79%) and under floor insulation (77%) are all being widely recognised. Levels of installation of different energy efficiency measures closely follow knowledge of them, with double glazing (51%), loft insulation (46%), wall insulation (39%), energy-efficient lighting (34%) and draught-proofing windows (30%) already being installed by a notable proportion of the UK public.
  • The public sees a range of benefits and drawbacks from adopting these energy efficiency measures. These include making energy bills cheaper (69%), reducing greenhouse gas emissions (52%) and making the house more comfortable to live in (49%) being seen as the most important benefit, while high initial costs (62%), disruption during installation (36%) and future costs in maintaining the measures (31%) seen as the key drawbacks.

Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue and report author, said: “The changes that need to be made by individuals, businesses and government to help achieve net zero are demanding and disruptive. The public recognises that the government, businesses and individuals themselves have a lot to contribute to help Britain achieve its climate change goals, and are receptive to a variety of policies and behavioural changes to help make it happen. However, if it means increased prices on home electricity and heating, the public are opposed to action.

“Ambitious, sometimes radical, action will be needed across economic sectors. The public will need to accept, and adapt to, significant changes in the goods and services they consume. Many are still unaware of and unprepared for the changes required, especially in the way they heat their homes, to ensure we can reach net zero by 2050. Government and businesses must do more to inform and prepare the public for the changes that need to happen, or they risk the public turning against necessary decarbonisation.”

The full data tables for the polling can be found here.

The importance of supply chains for the sustainable business

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By Katie Burrows, Energy Services Solutions Manager at Haven Power

Global giants Google and WWF turned heads this June after announcing the details of their environmental data platform, a joint initiative which aims to tackle harmful emissions and waste across fashion industry supply chains. This will allow fashion brands to source raw materials and track their sustainability, providing them with greater transparency over the environmental impact of their supply chains.

The news comes as the fashion industry continues to grapple with a giant sustainability problem. Today, the industry accounts for about 2-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, much of which originates from the raw material stage.

The same issues with unsustainable supply chains can be felt across every industry. For decades, major corporations have outsourced their environmental impact to other companies, and in some cases, other countries. Supply chain emissions are up to 5.5 times greater than a company’s direct operations – but until recently, a lack of transparency and accurate data prevented us from seeing the full picture.

Now the tide is starting to change. In the UK, we are seeing pressure being applied across the supply chain by a growing number of companies, both big and small, as they align their business strategies with the nation’s 2050 net zero carbon emissions targets. This has led to a radical shakeup of the traditional tender process, with many companies now listing sustainability, including the use of renewable energy, as a prerequisite for doing business. Suppliers with a poor environmental performance now risk being struck off in favour of competitors with greener credentials.

Take Sainsburys, for example, who this year pledged to invest in a greener future for the whole business. As well as reducing its use of plastic packaging, this also includes ensuring that its suppliers are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. Consumers are now directly influenced by a company’s sustainability policies and are aware of how this impacts their commercial performance. According to research by Unilever, a third of consumers now choose to buy from brands who they believe are doing social or environmental good. The research also found that ‘sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of its turnover growth.’

Customers are also increasingly willing to do their own research, with data playing a greater role in consumer decision-making. Apps such as Almond provide consumers with more transparency into the brands they are engaging with, giving greater insight into the products they are buying and their carbon footprint. Many of these apps give brands a rating based on their corporate responsibility, including how carbon conscious they are.

We are in the midst of a revolution in how we work, with more and more businesses now putting sustainability at their core. Despite great progress in recent years, the urgency for increased transparency in supply chain sustainability has never been greater. As countries around the world continue to wrestle with the financial and social impact of Covid-19, supply chains are becoming increasingly fragile.

Widespread disruption to manufacturing and logistics has seen many companies rush to reroute or find alternative sources, running the risk of partnering with the wrong suppliers. On-site audits are being cancelled due to travel restrictions and quarantine rules, and so sustainability standards are now at a risk of being compromised to meet new demand.

Companies must be proactive in their due diligence and mitigation strategies to ensure that any progress made so far has not been in vain. At the same time, they must encourage/enact change across their operations and accelerate progress towards a zero carbon economy.

Image by winterseitler from Pixabay 

Brits want country to focus on renewables before space travel

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43% of British consumers care more about technology that can reduce carbon emissions and remove plastics from the oceans, than space travel or house robots.

The findings, from research conducted by Expleo, come as the UK government is under pressure to embrace a ‘green’ recovery post-COVID.

The report, which surveyed 2,000 UK adults, suggested that people prefer “powerful, but boring” tech that solves real-world problems over flashy gadgets or novelties such as home robotics, virtual reality or home entertainment.

In tandem with the desire to reduce ocean plastics and carbon emissions, 41% of people specified that they would like to see an advance in renewable energies over the next decade. Smart meters, – which by law, will be in every home come 2024 – were praised by over 80% of people for adding value to their lives, due to their long-term potential to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions through better energy management.

On the other hand, interest in ‘headline grabbing’ technology was low. Just 15% of people surveyed expressed an interest in space tourism, and even fewer (11%) said that they want to see robotics carrying out domestic chores in their homes in the next decade. Only 19% of respondents are optimistic about the prospect of self-driving vehicles, but slightly more (22%) said they’d be open to introducing more smart technologies, such as voice assistants, into their homes.

Stephen Magennis, UK Quality MD at Expleo said: “The results of our research suggest that consumers are keen to see technology being used to improve society as a whole and not just bring comfort in our life. This topic is not new, but I think that the coronavirus pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to the transformative role technology can play in solving real-world problems, whether that’s streamlining the transition to remote working or accelerating innovation in the medical sector. ​

“Today’s businesses should not ignore this or they could face serious backlash from their consumers. More than ever, they need to focus on green technology and innovation to positively influence the planet. It is particularly true for businesses in the energy and mobility sectors: reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption, or driving electric vehicles, are top of consumers’ minds.”

National Grid commits £10m to hydrogen energy project

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National Grid is partnering with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Fluxys Belgium to build a first of its kind offline hydrogen test facility in the UK, to understand how hydrogen gas could be used in the future to heat homes and deliver green energy to industry. 

The £10 million project will be delivered by DNV GL, with support provided by the HSE Science Division and academic partnerships with Durham University and the University of Edinburgh and involves building a hydrogen test facility at DNV GL’s site at Spadeadam, Cumbria. 

The facility will be built from a range of decommissioned assets, to create a representative network which will be used to trial hydrogen and will allow for accurate results to be analysed. Blends of hydrogen up to 100% will then be tested at transmission pressures, to assess how the assets perform. 

The plans have been submitted to Ofgem and if funding is awarded, the aim is to start construction in 2021 with testing beginning in 2022.

Currently 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s power needs are supplied by gas. But as the UK works towards becoming one of the world’s first net zero economies by 2050, the gas sector needs to demonstrate a viable pathway for decarbonisation. 

NGN, one of the UK’s Gas Distribution Networks, is contributing to the project and owns the H21 distribution rig currently under construction at the Spadeadam site. 

A collaboration between all the UK gas and transmission networks, and now in its second phase, the H21 programme is demonstrating how the existing gas distribution network can be repurposed to safely carry 100% hydrogen to heat homes and businesses.

The hydrogen test facility will remain separate from the main National Transmission System, allowing for testing to be undertaken in a controlled environment, with no risk to the safety and reliability of the existing gas transmission network.

Antony Green, Project Director for Hydrogen at National Grid, said: “If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen. Sectors such as heat are difficult to decarbonise, and the importance of the gas networks to the UK’s current energy supply means trial projects like this are crucial if we are to deliver low carbon energy, reliably and safely to all consumers.” 

Tim Harwood, H21 Project Director and Head of Programme Management at NGN, said: “This project will link with Phase 2 of the H21 NIC, by connecting the National Grid transmission assets to the distribution network being built alongside the ‘HyStreet’ of purpose-built hydrogen research houses.By adding transmission assets, we can then demonstrate a full beach-to-meter scenario, showing how the gas industry can collaborate together in a hydrogen future. “

Thierry Bottequin, Engineering Manager from Fluxys Belgium, said: “This is an important step in investigating the conversion possibilities of our infrastructure for the transmission of hydrogen-natural gas blends and hydrogen. We believe that the multiphase scope of the project perfectly complements our own research to document the reliability, safety and integrity of the existing gas infrastructure when used to transport hydrogen.”