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February 2020

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Science-based pathway for net-zero emissions established for telecoms sector

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and the GSMA have forged a new partnership to develop a sector-specific decarbonisation pathway that will outline how all companies in the mobile sector can set science-based targets.

The initiative forms part of the GSMA’s climate action roadmap for the industry, which has already seen operators disclose impacts via CDP

The initiative forms part of the GSMA’s climate action roadmap for the industry, which has already seen operators disclose impacts via CDP

The science-based pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the sector has been approved by the Science-Based Target initiative (SBTi). It outlines emissions reduction trajectories that would be required for mobile, fixed and data centre operators that would align companies to the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement.

The pathway has been developed by GSMA, which has more than 750 mobile operates as full members, in partnership with GeSI and the ITU.

“Today’s landmark agreement underlines how the ICT sector is taking urgent and unprecedented action in response to the climate emergency,” GSMA’s director general Mats Granryd said.

 “The mobile industry is one of the first major sectors in the world to voluntarily set an SBT for emissions reductions. Our sector will form the backbone to the future global economy and has a unique role to play in reaching a net-zero economy. A decarbonised world will be a digital world, so we must show leadership and take responsibility for driving positive climate action.” 

Already, 29 operators accounting for 30% of global mobile connections have committed to science-based targets, including, BT, Orange, T Mobile, Telefonica, Vodafone and Verizon. The association groups believe that many others will now be able to set targets.

A joint report produced by the GSMA and the Carbon Trust found that mobile technology use enabled a global reduction in emissions of more than 2,100 million tonnes in 2018 – savings that were almost 10 times greater than the global carbon footprint of the mobile industry alone.

The GSMA is also launching a Climate Toolkit for operators offering guidance. Through the new pathway initiative, companies that wish to set science-based targets must do so for combined Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with additional guidance on offer for Scope 3.

The initiative forms part of the GSMA’s climate action roadmap for the industry, which has already seen operators disclose impacts via CDP. BT Group and Vodafone Group are among a coalition of 50+ mobile operators that have since agreed to do so.

In 2018, 6,937 companies reported through CDP. Data reported through this platform is used by more than 525 investors globally – a group which, collectively, manages $96trn in assets.

Matt Mace


Drax to end coal generation in 2021

Drax has announced plans to end commercial coal generation at its coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire in 2021 – ahead of the UK’s 2025 deadline – in a move expected to cost up to £35m and lead to job reductions off at least 200.

Drax announced its ambitions to become carbon negative by 2030 at the UN's COP25 summit in December last year

Drax announced its ambitions to become carbon negative by 2030 at the UN’s COP25 summit in December last year

Following a review of operations and discussions with National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government, Drax has decided to move its commercial closure of coal generation to March 2021. The two coal units at the station will remain available to meet Capacity Market obligations until September 2022.

Drax will now commence a consultation process with employees and trade unions, but estimates that a one-off closure cost in the region of £25-35m will be required. The energy company also expects a reduction in jobs of between 200 and 230 from April 2021.

Drax Group’s chief executive Will Gardiner said: “Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark in our continued efforts to transform the business and become a world-leading carbon negative company by 2030. Drax’s move away from coal began some years ago and I’m proud to say we’re going to finish the job well ahead of the Government’s 2025 deadline.

“By using sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.”


Drax announced its ambitions to become carbon negative by 2030 at the UN’s COP25 summit in December last year. The move will see the firm use bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that it produces – creating a negative carbon footprint.

The firm is currently running a BECCS pilot at its power station, capturing a tonne of carbon dioxide every day. The CCS array, which is being used in partnership with C-Capture, first began capturing carbon in February. Drax claims that it is the first of its kind anywhere around the globe and could eventually enable its Yorkshire site to become the world’s first “negative emissions” power station.

The news follows an announcement in the summer that Drax had cut its absolute carbon emissions for the first half of 2019 by 52%, compared to the same period last year.

Commenting on the coal phase-out, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) head of analysis Dr Jonathan Marshall said: “The accelerated closure of the UK’s coal power fleet shows how rapidly the renewable revolution has changed our power system. Undercut by ever-cheaper clean power, coal units have been struggling for years and closing early is a sign of the times.

“All the evidence now points to a clean energy system also being the best for energy security and for lower bills. A low carbon grid will underpin the UK’s transition to a climate-neutral nation, powering our cars and keeping us warm at home. Getting the UK back on track to meet these goals is the next step for the Government, which will surely be beginning to plan a similar retreat from high carbon natural gas.”

Matt Mace


NIC calls for ‘decisive action’ to deliver flexible electricity system

The government’s infrastructure advisor has told ministers that ensuring there are “no barriers” to future interconnector projects should be prioritised as the UK exits the EU.

The report also calls for legislation to support the deployment of electricity storage by providing a statutory definition of the technology

The report also calls for legislation to support the deployment of electricity storage by providing a statutory definition of the technology

In its Annual Monitoring Report (AMR), published today (Wednesday), the National Infrastructure Commission, notes that an additional 1GW of interconnection capacity came on stream during 2019.

In addition, it points to Ofgem’s regulatory approval for the construction of a further 12.9GW of interconnection capacity during the year.

It says that this additional interconnector capacity combined with other moves, such as the reinstatement of the UK’s Capacity Market, meant there had been progress on developing a flexible electricity system during 2019.

“These ongoing successes show there is potential for the UK to develop a flexible, highly renewable energy system.”

And the NIC says more “concerted and decisive” action must be taken to deliver a flexible electricity system, including work by the government to maintain access to future interconnector projects in its negotiations with the EU.

The report, which tracks the government’s progress on meeting the NIC’s own recommended infrastructure improvements, warns that the UK’s interconnector capacity could be at risk if access is not agreed in the upcoming negotiations on the future relationship with the EU.

The report also calls for legislation to support the deployment of electricity storage by providing a statutory definition of the technology.

While the report says it is “not too late” to address the infrastructure issues faced by the UK, the government must get delivery “back on track”.

The first step must be the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy, which the government has announced will happen alongside next month’s Budget.

The report says: “It is not enough to merely signal intention. Government must follow through on its commitments by taking difficult decisions, making clear plans, and providing necessary funding.”

Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “The UK desperately needs a strategy that looks well beyond this Parliament, setting out infrastructure policy and funding up to 2050. It must contain goals, plans to achieve them, funding to deliver those, and deadlines for delivery.”

The publication of the AMR follows yesterday’s announcement that James Heath has been appointed as new chief executive of the 40-strong NIC.

Heath, who is currently director of digital infrastructure at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was previously director of policy at the BBC.

He led the DCMS through the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review and Telecoms Supply Chain Review, and had overall responsibility for broadband, mobile and telecoms security policy, including the 5G rollout.

Heath replaces Phil Graham, who left the NIC last month to become executive director for good growth at the Greater London Authority.

David Blackman,

This article first appeared on Utility Week.

Utility Week is our subscription-only sister service, offering utility leaders and their teams access to unrivalled news, insight and impact analysis on key areas including regulation, strategy and technology. To find out more about membership options please contact .

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