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January 2021

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Local Networks

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has installed 81 low-voltage monitors in another step for Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (Project LEO). The monitors can alert the DNO in real time to changes in demand, allowing it to target investment in grid upgrades and therefore helping to delay or avoid network reinforcement. With demand on electricity networks expected to triple by 2050 according to the Committee on Climate Change as a result of consumers increasingly turning to electrified transport and heating, it is becoming more important to ensure grids can manage this growth. For example, Oxford alone is expected to have over 71,000 electric vehicles, 58,000 heat pumps and 63MW of solar PV capacity by 2050.

Current 26th Jan 2021 read more »

Last year was a surprisingly good 12 months for the UK’s traditionally embattled solar industry. According to new industry figures released late last week, despite the, erm, disruption of the past 12 months the UK added 545MW of new solar capacity in 2020, up 27 per cent compared to 2019. This was an impressive achievement given the various lockdowns and economic headwinds, but it was made all the more noteworthy by the fact 2020 was the first full calendar year when the industry had to operate without any form of subsidy support.

Business Green 26th Jan 2021 read more »


Highland Renewables

A new “global centre for excellence” in renewable energy technologies is to be opened in the Highlands. The facility, named The Power House, will focus on applied research and development in the fields of floating offshore wind and green hydrogen and offer educational opportunities for students, workers and school children. It will also provide re-training for people who have worked in other energy industry sectors, such as oil and gas and nuclear.

Energy Voice 27th Jan 2021 read more »

A HIGHLAND partnership has announced plans to establish a global centre of excellence on a North Highland College campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), to cement Scotland’s place as a world leader in renewable energy technologies. Opportunity Cromarty Firth said the Power House at Alness Point Business Park in Easter Ross, will bring together the leading specialist groups in the country and beyond.

The National 26th Jan 2021 read more »


EY targets carbon negativity for 2021

After achieving an ambition to become carbon neutral in 2020 by upping investments in carbon offsetting, EY has committed to remove and offset more carbon than it emits globally this year.

Major emissions sources for EY include office energy use, business travel and the supply chain

Major emissions sources for EY include office energy use, business travel and the supply chain

The firm, regarded as one of the ‘Big Four’ professional services giants, announced last January that it would invest in offsets equivalent to its global Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions while also increasing investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

After meeting this target, it has now confirmed plans to finance more nature-based and tech-based solutions, which will see carbon removal, sequestration and mitigation totalling more than the business’ emissions footprint for 2021.

Rather than relying on offsetting in the longer-term, however, EY has developed a string of new climate commitments through to 2025, that will prioritise emissions reductions.

The headline commitment is delivering a 40% reduction in absolute emissions by 2025. EY claims that this target is science-based in line with 1.5C and will seek certification from the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Key focus areas include reducing business travel, reducing energy consumption in offices and switching to 100% renewable electricity globally. On this latter point, EY has joined The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative and is planning to meet the target using a mix of electricity supply tariffs and virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs).

As the target also covers Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, EY has also pledged to ensure that at least 75% of its suppliers, by spend, have set science-based emissions targets by 2025. There is an additional commitment to tackle emissions from clients by “investing in services and solutions that help EY clients profitably decarbonize their businesses and provide solutions to other sustainability challenges and opportunities”.

“EY has set this ambition because it is increasingly clear that, collectively, we need to do even more to help avert a climate change disaster,” the firm’s global vice chair for sustainability, Steve Varley, said.

“[Our] people are proud that we met our ambition to become carbon neutral in 2020. Inspired by them and others undertaking major steps, we challenged ourselves to go further, faster.”

Science-based targets surge

The commitment from EY comes in the same week that the SBTi published data around corporate action in 2020, spanning investments, new commitments and progress on existing commitments.

The data revealed that the rate of commitments to science-based targets was twice as high in 2020 as it was between 2015 and 2019. Despite the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, an average of 31 businesses per month joined the SBTi in 2020. Big-name sign-ups include Amazon, Facebook and Ford brought the total number of commitments past the 1,000 mark.

When 1.5c-aligned, science-based targets are a way for businesses to prove they are complying with regional or national net-zero targets – and the SBTi believes that the adoption of such targets by nations including South Korea, Japan, China and Canada in 2020 will have contributed to the trend. Indeed, proliferation is highest in the UK and EU, which both have 2050 net-zero targets.

Sarah George


Europe – Renewables

The results are in: last year, for the first time, renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels across the EU, spurred on by new solar and wind power projects. Over the 12 months, renewable sources generated 38% of Europe’s electricity, while 37% came from fossil fuels. Investment in wind and solar power was the chief driver of decarbonization, with wind generation increasing by 9% and solar by 15%, making up a total of 51 additional terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable electricity.

Forbes 25th Jan 2021 read more »


Companies with science-based targets planning $25.9bn climate mitigation investments

Major companies to have aligned their emissions reductions targets with climate science are collectively planning to invest more than $25.9bn in climate mitigation through to 2030, according to new analysis covering firms including Tesco and Mastercard.

In 2020, the number of companies committed to the SBTi surpassed the 1,000 mark

In 2020, the number of companies committed to the SBTi surpassed the 1,000 mark

The analysis, conducted by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), accounts for the planned investments collectively disclosed by 338 companies across all major sectors.

It also details the annual emissions figures from each of the companies. Collectively, the 338 firms have reduced their combined emissions by 25% since 2015, the analysis reveals. The average firm in this cohort has reduced annual emissions at a linear rate of 6.4% every year since 2015 when a rate of 4.2% is needed to describe targets as 1.5C-aligned.

Support for science-based targets is growing rapidly, with businesses seeing benefits ranging from compliance with national net-zero requirements, to reduced long-term risk and improved reputation among consumers and investors. The rate of adoption was twice as high in 2020 as it was between 2015 and 2019. Despite the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, an average of 31 businesses per month joined the SBTi in 2020. Big-name sign-ups include Amazon, Facebook and Ford brought the total number of commitments past the 1,000 mark.

But the SBTi is warning that more must be done to mitigate emissions from the private sector. Between 2015 and 2020, global emissions from energy and industrial processes increased by 3.4%.

And while the proportion of high-emitting corporates setting science-based targets has passed what the organisation describes as the “critical mass” of the 20% mark in markets like Europe, uptake has been slower in North America (16%) and Asia (12%). When looking at sectors rather than geographies, uptake has accelerated in cement and concrete but stagnated in construction and automotive. Indeed, the World Benchmarking Alliance’s (WBA) analysis of climate action in the auto sector found that just five world’s 30 biggest brands have science-based targets.

“With COP26 on the horizon, now is the time for the private sector to step up to the plate and follow the science,” WWF’s global lead for science-based targets Alexander Farsan said. If a company is genuine about protecting the climate, then it should be setting science-based targets.”

Aside from WWF, the SBTi is made up of experts from CDP, the UN Global Compact and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Hear from CDP edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum 

From 2-4 February 2021, edie’s award-winning Sustainability Leaders Forum event is returning in a brand new virtual format. 

This event will allow you to be connected with peers via face-to-face via video chats; be inspired by high-level keynote talks from industry leaders; be involved in a series of interactive panel discussions and live audience polls; and be co-creative in our interactive workshops, whilst also meeting leading technical experts in our dedicated virtual exhibition zone. Rooms, expo booths, private chats, bespoke stages and backstage passes – it’s all possible. 

CDP’s head of supply chain Sonya Bhonsle will be appearing on Day One (2 February), as part of a breakout session on supply chain innovation alongside experts from Heineken, Internet Fusion Group and West Berkshire Counsil. She will then be chairing a workshop on resilient supply chains later that afternoon. 

For a full agenda and to register now, visit: 

Sarah George


Legal & General plots course to net-zero real estate across £21bn UK portfolio

Legal & General’s Real Assets arm has outlined plans to reach net-zero across its UK real estate portfolio by 2050, including new investments in onsite renewable energy and carbon offsetting.

Pictured: Salford's Slate Yard development, backed by Legal & General

Pictured: Salford’s Slate Yard development, backed by Legal & General

The business manages more than 76 million square feet of buildings across the UK, collectively valued at more than £21.3bn. This estate contains a mixture of owned and tenanted buildings with uses ranging from build-to-rent housing to major infrastructure projects.  

Legal & General Real Assets has reduced operational carbon emissions across the portfolio by 20% over the past 10 years, through investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon energy. It said in a statement that a “step-up in pace and ambition” is needed to align its approach with the new national climate goals.

The business’ new strategy for delivering net-zero maps out key focus areas through to 2030 and hints at what will likely be needed after this point. Its approach notably covers emissions across all scopes, including Scope 3 (indirect) sources.

The new strategy outlines how net-zero has already been embedded into some new build and refurbishment briefs, and states that this will be a requirement for all briefs by 2022. The same requirement will be added to all major transactions.

Legal & General has already begun engaging landlords to help them phase out fossil fuel-based electricity, the roadmap states. Fossil fuels can be removed from all landlord areas by 2030 and all other areas by 2050, the roadmap states, as low-carbon heating and cooling technologies scale-up.

Other key pieces of work for the business this year will be modelling climate risk in line with the Taskforce on Climate-Related Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations, to inform a new resilience strategy, and firming up a short-term carbon offsetting approach.

And, next year, the firm will conduct in-depth feasibility analyses for adding more onsite renewable generation and procuring renewably generated power from offsite arrays.

Legal & General Real Assets believes that taking the actions detailed will reduce the operational carbon and energy intensity of landlord-controlled areas by 60% by 2030.

“As long-term investors and real asset owners, we have a responsibility to protect our clients’ capital through integrating ESG considerations into the investment process,” the firm’s head of ESG Shuen Chan said.

“By future-proofing our assets, we can ensure they are resilient and able to adapt to both climate-related transition and physical risks. Through the integration of sustainable practices into everything we do, we believe we can deliver enhanced returns for our investors in the form of higher occupancy rates and the ability to generate better rental income.”

To Chan’s latter point, a 2018 survey found that two-fifths of renters consider the environmental impact of a property when debating a contract. The proportion is higher the more expensive rent is.

Orchard Street

The announcement from Legal & General Real Assets comes shortly after property investment manager Orchard Street outlined plans to reach net-zero across its £4bn portfolio ahead of the UK government’s 2050 deadline.

Both firms see stricter brief requirements and climate risk analysis as major factors in their plans.

Those interested in hearing more about the progress to date, as well as future challenges and opportunities, of the net-zero transition in the UK’s built environment sector, are encouraged to watch edie’s recent video panel discussion on the topic. The video features Bennetts Associates’ director Peter Fisher and FORE Partnership’s managing director Basil Demeroutis. As an architecture practice and a property fund respectively, the organisations represent different viewpoints from within the built environment – a sector responsible for more than one-third of the world’s energy demand and emissions. And both are classed as leaders in the sector’s transition to net-zero. Watch the video here. 

Sarah George


Balancing Mechanism

National Grid ESO is looking to unlock stacking within the Balancing Mechanism (BM) as part of the development of the Dynamic Containment service. Following the soft launch of the service in October last year, companies such as Arenko and Flexitricity have begun providing frequency response to help manage demand and supply on Britain’s grid. As part of the continued development of Dynamic Containment, National Grid ESO is to unlock the ability for participants to stack their revenue streams, with batteries able to tender for bids in both the BM and Dynamic Containment during the same periods. It has set a target go-live date of 10am on Wednesday 27 January.

Current 22nd Jan 2021 read more »


Ireland – Offshore wind & Hydrogen

Island communities off the west coast are to join forces with a view to generating offshore wind energy tied into hydrogen fuel production through a new network of local energy co-ops. Five island communities, on Valentia, Achill, Arranmore, Aran and Rathlin, have come together to co-ordinate efforts on deploying floating wind turbines combined with green hydrogen production. They have recruited an expert team to help bring the project to fruition. The west coast is especially suited to developing these technologies which generate hydrogen using devices known as electrolysers and have been successfully deployed on land.

Irish Times 20th Jan 2021 read more »



SEPA: 4,000 files stolen in cyber attack on Scotland’s environmental regulator published

Data stolen from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in a “sophisticated” cyber attack has been illegally published online.

Scotsman 22nd Jan 2021 read more »


Oxford approves UK’s first local air quality targets

Oxford City Council has approved local air pollution targets through to 2025 that are stricter than the national legal target.

Actions covering emissions from transport, heating, industry and services have been developed to support the delivery of the new target

Actions covering emissions from transport, heating, industry and services have been developed to support the delivery of the new target

In what it claims is a UK first, members of the Council’s cabinet voted this week to approve an Air Quality Action Plan spanning 2021-2025. The Plan is headlined by a commitment to ensure that levels of NO2 are no higher than 30 micrograms per cubic metre of air (30 µg/m3) by the end of 2025.

Currently, the UK Government’s target is to limit NO2 levels to 40 µg/m3. These limits could be altered via the Environment Bill. Oxford City Council said in a statement that it wanted to go further, as some research has concluded that this is not a safe limit. NO2 has repeatedly been linked to reduced lung function and inflammation of the airways.

Oxford City Council’s Plan details 30 priority actions to be undertaken by the local authority and its partners across the city-region. They are grouped into four key focus areas: developing partnerships and education; supporting low-emission and zero-emission vehicles; reducing emissions from heating, industry and services and supporting sustainable transport systems. This last category covers measures to reduce the need to travel and to promote walking, cycling and public transport.

As in most urban areas, transport is Oxford’s main source of NO2 emissions. A third-party analysis found that 68% of the city’s total annual NOx emissions are attributable to transport, with diesel cars and buses being major contributors.

Oxford City Council is, therefore, implementing a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in tandem with its work to help businesses, households and public transport bodies to either shift mode of transport or invest in low and zero-emission vehicles

The ZEZ’s first phase – a “Red Zone” in Oxford City Centre – will charge drivers of non-Euro-six-compliant vehicles £10 each time they enter between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week. Residents living within its boundaries will benefit from a 90% discount. A broader “Green Zone” will then be developed.

Trials of the Red Zone were due to start last year, but were delayed due to Covid-19. Oxford City Council now plans to begin the pilot this August.

“We all have a right to breathe clean air,” Oxford City Council’s cabinet member for green transport and zero-carbon Oxford Cllr Tom Hayes said.

“However, harmful levels of air pollution are harming people’s health and cutting lives short, with poorer and more disadvantaged people disproportionately affected. Air pollution is, at its heart, a social justice issue.”

Up in the air

In related news, campaign organisation Clean Air in London has this week released data proving that levels of NO2 in many parts of the capital are exceeding legal limits.

During the first national lockdown, levels of NO2 fell by some 40% across London. The new figures prove that this trend is not being repeated as the third lockdown continues.

The highest levels of the pollutant were recorded in Brixton Road, where readings have averaged 58 µg/m3 since the start of the year. Nine other streets and areas were found to be exceeding the 40 µg/m3 limit regularly, including Putney High Street and the entrance to the Dartford Tunnel.

“It is staggering that so many streets in London look set to breach the World Health Organisation guideline and the annual legal limit for nitrogen dioxide again in 2021 despite another lockdown,” Clean Air in London’s founder and director Simon Birkett said.

Sarah George

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