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Environment Agency targets net-zero by 2030

England’s Environment Agency (EA) has committed to reaching net-zero carbon in its operations and supply chain by 2030 – two decades ahead of the UK Government’s national target.

Howard Boyd (left) gave a keynote speech on the state of climate risk reporting. Image: Sarah George

Howard Boyd (left) gave a keynote speech on the state of climate risk reporting. Image: Sarah George

The body’s chair, Emma Howard Boyd, announced the new ambition at an Aldersgate Group policy briefing on climate risk in London this morning (10 October), calling it a “significant change to business-as-usual”.

She explained that the delivery of the target would require the EA to reduce its absolute carbon footprint by 45% by 2030, against a 2017 baseline, before offsetting the residual 55% of its emissions.

“We’ve always been clear that adaptation is no panacea; we urgently need to reduce emissions and we all need to play a part,” Howard Boyd said. “We will adopt tough, internationally recognised frameworks and targets.”

Elaborating on why a date of 2030 was chosen, Howard Boyd said the EA believes it important to focus on “building resilience” rather than waiting for a “prescription” once the net-zero transition is already well underway.

She additionally revealed that the EA will explore the feasibility of committing to “absolute zero” by 2050. Doing so would require the organisation to address embodied carbon and in-use emissions without the purchase of carbon offsets.

The EA is expected to produce 44,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2019, after hitting its 2020 emissions reductions two years early.

Key contributors to these emissions, Howard Boyd explained, are the EA’s suppliers and contractors, as well as the physical infrastructure it installs for purposes such as flood prevention. To that end, the body will set up new contract arrangements which “ensure partners are innovating low-carbon solutions for construction”.

“This [new target] does not mean that we will stop building flood defences, currently responsible for around 80,000 tonnes of carbon every year; pumping water out of peoples’ homes if they flood and distributing it around the country to alleviate drought, 17,000 tonnes; or travelling, 12,000 tonnes,” Howard Boyd said.

“But we will certainly have to find radical new approaches to fulfilling our duties in creating better, more resilient places, while responding to the climate emergency.

“Success will require a wholesale cultural shift from our employees, partners and suppliers. It will require sustained focus, on the whole, on ensuring that all our future decisions are on track. It will require coordination and innovation, because some of the technologies we need do not yet exist.”

When asked by the Aldersgate Group’s director Nick Molho what kind of support would be most crucial to delivering the EA’s commitment, Howard Boyd cited partnerships and engagement with suppliers.

“We need to work in partnership and understand how people can work together to solve this challenge,” she said.

Sarah George

News

Shell commits £10m to offset emissions from customer fuel purchases in UK

Shell will spend £10m over the next year to offset the emissions from customers’ fuel purchases at more than 1,000 service stations in the UK, following a successful trial in the Netherlands.

To assist with UK forestry restoration, Shell is also launching a partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland

To assist with UK forestry restoration, Shell is also launching a partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland

Starting next Thursday (17 October), customers purchasing fuel Shell-branded service stations will be able to offset the emissions associated with the purchase at no extra cost.

Drivers will automatically partake in an offsetting programme if they scan a Shell Go+ app or car after purchasing fuel. Approximately 20% of the fuel sold by Shell in the UK goes to customers registered with a Go+ card. Customers can freely sign up to the initiative.

“Switching to an electric vehicle is the best way for drivers to reduce their CO2 footprints and they can now charge on a growing number of our UK forecourts with 100% renewable electricity,” Shell’s UK county chair Sinead Lynch said.

“But today the majority of people still use petrol and diesel. We can help them address the impact of their emissions by offsetting their fuel purchases, starting now.”

The offsetting option will be available at more than 1,000 Shell-branded service stations in the UK, and Shell has committed £10m to be spent over the next 12 months to purchase carbon credits from certified projects that protect and regenerate forests.

The reward programme is available to join free of charge. Customers will have access to a credit statement to find out how much has been offset. The launch follows the rollout of the initiative in the Netherlands, which was launched in April 2019. Currently, 20% of Shell customers in the Netherlands are now offsetting their travel emissions through the scheme.

Shell will also rollout an offsetting option for business fleets.

In the UK, Shell is now offering 100% renewable energy tariffs. One year after Shell acquired First Utility in 2018, the rebranded Shell Energy Retail has switched more than 700,000 homes in Britain to 100% renewable electricity.

The company has invested heavily in solar firms and electric car infrastructure companies in recent times as more green technologies come to the market, and has also moved to install rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging points and hydrogen cell refuelling facilities at some of its petrol station forecourts.

Global investments

Shell is prioritising carbon credits that benefit restoration projects in the UK. The Overkirkhope Project in the Scottish borders and the Longwood Project in Cumbria, both verified by the UK Woodland Carbon Code, will benefit from the offset project.

But, as the UK market for carbon credits is small, Shell will also purchase carbon credits from projects in Peru, Indonesia and the US.

To assist with UK forestry restoration, Shell is also launching a partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland, the Scottish government agency that manages and protects 640,000 hectares of Scotland’s forests and land.

Over the next five years, Shell will invest approximately £5m to plant and regenerate around one million trees.

The announcement has been described as “tokenistic” by green campaigners Friends of the Earth.

“Doubling tree cover needs to form a key part of the UK’s climate strategy, but it’s essential that it’s coupled with a huge reduction in emissions in the first place,” Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said. “Tokenistic offsetting schemes like this are meaningless if the company doesn’t reduce the huge volumes of fossil fuel burning that it’s responsible for.”

Globally, Shell has committed $300m over the next three years on conservation and carbon offset projects in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint by up to 3%.

Despite the $300m commitment, Shell is facing legal actions over “slow” progress in reducing its emissions, improving its human rights protections and eliminating oil spills, with green campaign group Friends of the Earth’s (FoTE) Netherlands arm claiming its current business model is “wrecking the climate”.

The energy firm’s overarching goal is halving the carbon footprint of its energy projects by 2050. Since setting this target, Shell pledged to set shorter-term targets every three to five years, starting in 2020. Effective as of 1 January 2019, the first of these short-term commitments is to deliver a 2-3% reduction of the company’s overall carbon footprint against a 2016 baseline.

While the green investments from Shell, and other oil and gas firms, are welcome, they represent little in terms of the overall expenditure of the industry. Global oil and gas firms have collectively invested just 1.3% of their combined capital expenditure (CAPEX) into low-carbon technologies and projects since the start of 2018.

In related news, airline British Airways has announced that it will offset emissions from all domestic UK flights.

The company will achieve this mostly through offsetting and investing in solar and reforestation projects, but also by spending £330m on cleaner fuel and replacing older aircraft with more efficient planes. BA operates up to 75 UK domestic flights a day.

Matt Mace

News

How closed-loop supply chains are spurring Apple’s decarbonisation efforts

EXCLUSIVE: Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson believes that companies should look at the synergies between the circular economy and decarbonisation in order to create resilient supply chains.

Jackson believes that closed-loop, low-carbon supply chains will be a huge advantage for Apple

Jackson believes that closed-loop, low-carbon supply chains will be a huge advantage for Apple

Having already powered 100% of its global facilities across 43 countries with renewable energy, Apple has been targeting uptake of clean energy in the supply chain since 2015.

The tech giant has also realised that benefits that championing recyclability and circularity can bring to decarbonising its supply chain and the products it manufactures and has pledged to develop new products that only use renewable resources or recycled materials to “one day stop mining the earth altogether”.

The latter ambition was announced in 2017 and the company’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson has revealed that the company has already found synergies and benefits in coupling closed-loop principles with low-carbon ambitions.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in our supply chain and have been amongst the first to take responsibility for our suppliers and their actions in relation to clean energy,” Jackson told edie exclusively. “We also think the circular economy is really important and have a responsibility as a manufacturer to be as careful with the materials we use as possible.

“If you’re a manufacturer, you should absolutely look at low-carbon and closed-loop in synergy and I think that is going to be a huge advantage for Apple, because I’m not sure if many other companies are doing that right now.”

Apple is widely regarded as an industry leader in terms of supply chain sustainability, having topped the 2018 Green Supply Chain Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI). The company has launched huge programmes aimed at mobilising suppliers to procure clean energy.

The company is on track to exceed its 2020 ambition of delivering 4GW of renewable energy into its supply chain, with 44 key suppliers having joined its Supplier Clean Energy Programme since the initiative launched in 2015. The programme lowered Apple’s carbon footprint by nearly 3.6 million metric tons compared to last year.

The programme has contributed to an overall reduction of Apple’s entire carbon footprint (including scope 3) of 35% since it peaked in 2015. Operational emissions have also been slashed by 64% since 2011.

Jackson noted that Apple suppliers haven’t been challenged by the cost of moving to clean energy, but rather that some may lack the “knowhow and confidence” to navigate new energy contracts or seek out onsite solutions.

Apple has largely facilitated financial support for clean energy drives in the supply chain. The China Clean Energy Fund, for example, is a first-of-its-kind investment fund in China to connect suppliers with renewable energy sources is running for four years and Apple will jointly invest around $300m.

Of the renewable energy projects Apple has helped create, the company has direct ownership for more than 600MW, making it among the largest non-energy company investors in renewables.

Resource efficiency

A recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) found that the uptake of renewables will only account for 55% of the emissions reductions required to create a net-zero economy, with the circular economy listed as a key tool to tackling the remaining emissions.

Apple’s resource efficiency ambitions are more recent, but are already assisting with the wider decarbonisation agenda, echoing the findings of the EMF report.

The firm is working towards an ongoing goal of using 100% closed-loop materials in its products. Apple diverted more than 48,000 metric tonnes of electronic waste from landfill during 2018 – including the recycled tin it uses to make logic boards and the recycled aluminium used in its MacBook Air and Mac Mini models. To upscale these efforts, the company launched a dedicated research and development lab for material recovery in Texas.

In the last year, emissions from aluminium used in Apple products has fallen by 45%. This has been achieved by sourcing aluminium from hydro-powered smelters and increasing the recycled content used in the products. In fact, the 100% recycled aluminium for the enclosure of the new MacBook Air cut the product’s carbon footprint in half.

In 2018, Apple announced a new partnership with industrial firms Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminium to accelerate commercialisation of new technology that eliminates all greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process of aluminium.

Jackson noted that the public announcement of the recycled content target had “sparked innovation” internally, but that it had also spurred suppliers and other manufacturers in the market to rethink design processes, which in turn would improve the market for recycled content.

“The reason we announced the 100% recycled content goal is because we clearly can’t do this alone,” Jackson added. “We needed our suppliers to know this is something we’re striving towards.

“Others in the sector are now picking up on this because we need to make a market for these materials, and we can’t do that alone either.”

Access to recycled content will help Apple achieve its ambition to “one day stop mining the earth altogether”. In the meantime, the tech giant has launched numerous programmes aimed at restoring and protecting the natural habitats located at mines that it sources from.

Apple revealed that it sourced 1,000 ounces of gold from miners working to restore natural habitats this year, up from just 25 ounces last year. ‘Salmon Gold’ was first launched by Apple in 2017, in response to concerns that mining operations in Alaska were degrading creeks and streams to the point that Pacific salmon had been listed under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Apple will use some of this gold to manufacture electronic components but has partnered with jewellery giant Tiffany & Co. to ensure that all Salmon Gold is put to good use, and to help the project grow further.

The public announcement of the resource efficiency target was somewhat unusual for Apple, which doesn’t tend to disclose targeted ambitions publicly.

Jackson explained that the target had to be disclosed as a sign of intent to suppliers. Considering the low-carbon benefits that the circular economy is bringing Apple, Jackson was asked as to whether a public carbon target, specifically a net-zero commitment, could be revealed.

“The reasons companies make big announcements of goals in the long-term future is to convince people they’re doing the right thing,” Jackson said. “But we like to convince people by showing them and so, in general, it is very unusual or us to publicly announce a goal.

“We’re 100% renewable, we have some plans in the works that we’re not ready to talk about today. But they’ll probably take our ambitions much further.”

Matt Mace

News

KLM partners with Microsoft to create sustainable aviation ‘blueprint’

Dutch airline KLM and tech giant Microsoft have partnered to develop a ‘blueprint’ outlining how the aviation sector can decarbonise in line with the Paris Agreement.

The blueprint is due for publication in 2020. Image: KLM

The blueprint is due for publication in 2020. Image: KLM

Late last week, the two firms signed a letter of intent at a meeting in Washington, detailing plans to co-operate on sustainable air travel initiatives. 

The agreement includes plans to increase KLM’s purchasing of alternative fuels for aircraft, including bio-based Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Microsoft specifically will purchase an amount of SAF equivalent to all flights taken by its employees between the US and the Netherlands through KLM’s Corporate BioFuel scheme.

According to KLM, SAF could result in an 80% reduction of life-cycle carbon emissions is used at scale. The airline is notably aiming to open its own SAF plant.

Also detailed in the letter of intent are plans to develop a blueprint on how the global aviation sector, which is responsible for 2-3% of global carbon emissions annually, can decarbonise in line with the Paris Agreement.

Such a document, the letter states, will “engage other corporations to stimulate the demand for sustainable air travel solutions and achieve ambitions to address their carbon footprint within their own supply chains”.

KLM’s executive vice president for customer experience, Boet Kriken, said the airline’s partnership with Microsoft has been forged within a “real window of opportunity to accelerate the development of sustainable air travel”.

Kriken said: “KLM believes that medium- and long-term production of sustainable aviation fuel is extremely important for the airline industry to achieve its carbon dioxide reduction goals. Together with partners like Microsoft, we can make this a reality so much sooner.”

Spotlight on aviation

The announcement from KLM comes amid a flurry of media attention around climate change and aviation, with Prince Harry being accused of hypocrisy for launching a climate action campaign after being spotted taking private jets, and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) publishing its recommendations on aligning aviation with the UK’s 2050 net-zero goal.

International aviation had previously been excluded from national carbon accounting under the UK’s original Climate Change Act of 2008, but this exclusion is set to be altered under the Government’s new, stricter, targets.

According to the CCC, Ministers must develop sector-specific strategies with time-bound, numerical targets for decarbonising aviation if the UK is to meet its 2050 goal. It recommends that such strategies cap growth – both in terms of airport expansions and the number of flights offered.

This latter recommendation was welcomed by supporters of the so-called ‘Flyskam’ or ‘flight-shaming’ movement, which argues that, in the absence of passenger planes which are fully electrified or run on 100% biofuels, the best solution is not to fly at all. The movement has achieved global awareness through the support of activist Greta Thunberg and is also beginning to shape investor demands.

Airlines and airports have taken a varied approach to this movement. KLM itself launched a communications campaign, ‘Fly Responsibly’, which urges passengers to consider whether they could take the train or use video conferencing instead of flying. Others, including EasyJet and British Airways, are placing the focus instead on electric aircraft and biofuels.

edie readers keen to  learn more about sustainability in aviation are encourages to listen to the latest episode of the Sustainable Business Covered Podcast. The episode features exclusive interviews with British Airways’ CEO Alex Cruz; the team behind algae-plane project Aerium; and ClimateCare’s head of corporate partnerships, Rob Stevens.

Sarah George

News

Views wanted from edie readers on Streamlined Energy and Carbon reporting

edie wants to hear from energy and sustainability professionals about how they are getting to grips with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR).

The new legislation came into force in April 2019 and affects almost 12,000 businesses across the country. edie now wants to hear from professionals about the framework, how it is impacting their businesses, and what has been done internally to drive forward compliance on the issue.

This quick two-minute survey will inform edie’s future content on SECR, which in turn will help assist energy and sustainability professionals with their SECR-related issues.

Webinar

The survey follows a popular masterclass on the issue, delivered in association with commercial energy consultants Inspired Energy, which answered many of the pressing questions regarding SECR to the audience.

Inspired Energy is the only Third-Party Intermediary (TPI) that has to comply with SECR. The organisation does not have to report until the beginning of 2021, but is starting its SECR journey early. During the webinar, Inspired Energy representatives spoke about the issues that they face, covering transport data, landlord properties, changing portfolios and global issues.

edie Explains

The webinar itself followed an early edie Explains guide on SECR which was delivered ahead of the implementation of the legislation in April.

This guide, also supported by Inspired Energy, gives a overview of the vital elements that companies need to know regarding the legislation – and how to ensure compliance is achieved.

News

London’s City Hall to launch ‘green and fair’ energy company

Under plans made by Mayor Sadiq Khan, The Greater London Authority will launch a new energy company aimed at making low-carbon energy accessible and affordable to Londoners.

The creation of London Power was confirmed by City Hall (pictured) on Wednesday (18 September). Image: User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0 

The creation of London Power was confirmed by City Hall (pictured) on Wednesday (18 September). Image: User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0 

Called London Power and due to launch in December, the energy firm’s work will be delivered as part of a partnership with utility challenger brand Octopus Energy.

Its offering will consist of a 12-month fixed tariff for electricity and gas, with all electricity supplied generated from 100% renewable sources.

This tariff, Khan claims, will “always be within the cheapest 10% of comparable tariffs available in the market”, with users automatically rolled-over onto Octopus Energy’s cheapest comparable tariff when their contract ends.

Profits made by City Hall through the offering, which will be made exclusively available to domestic energy users in Greater London, will be ring-fenced for reinvestment in community products.

Khan claims that the creation of London Power will assist not only with delivering the city’s own climate targets and the UK’s 2050 net-zero goal, but with reducing the annual £3.5bn spend on gas and electricity made by London households – particularly for those experiencing fuel poverty. Around one million homes in the capital are currently classed as fuel-poor, representing 12% of the city region’s population.

“My Energy for Londoners programme has concentrated on tackling fuel poverty, expanding solar energy and retrofitting homes – now, I want London Power to give Londoners a better, fairer deal on fuel prices, as well as the knowledge they won’t be switched over to a rip-off tariff when their contract ends,” Khan said.

Putting energy in the picture

The launch of London Power comes at a time when more than six in ten households are paying around £320 more for their energy annually than customers on the cheapest fixed-term tariffs, according to regulator Ofgem.

Ofgem has additionally observed that rates of energy switching have proven low among Londoners, compounded by low uptake of smart meters.

City Hall claims that London Power’s creation will help to solve these issues – but some have argued that its remit is not wide enough, including Green Party politician Caroline Russell. Russell had been pushing for London Power to supply businesses, schools, hospitals and other public bodies, and for its to be fully owned by the Mayor, with no involvement of private firms such as Octopus.

“The Mayor seems cautious that there will be any profits to be reinvested, but a company owned and run by the Mayor would be able to support investment in green technologies and create green jobs,” Russel said.

“While this package looks good, it remains to be seen if it can support investment of this kind.”

These concerns are expected to be put before Deputy London Mayor Shirley Rodrigues, who holds City Hall’s remit for environment and energy, this week.  

Sarah George

News

‘Simple’ energy efficiency measures could deliver £45m benefit for UK businesses

New data from EDF Energy has revealed that measures such as installing energy efficient lighting and better heating management could create more than £45m in energy cost savings across 4,150 analysed sites.

EDF Energy analysed the energy consumption at different sites, including schools, hospitals, hotels, offices and police stations

EDF Energy analysed the energy consumption at different sites, including schools, hospitals, hotels, offices and police stations

EDF Energy claimed that the average UK organisation could achieve annual energy savings totalling more than £46,000 by grasping the low-hanging fruit of energy management. Measures include installing energy efficient lighting like LEDs and turning the heating off more promptly when users leave a building.

EDF Energy’s director of energy solutions Vincent de Rul said: “Energy efficiency has been a UK-wide focus for a number of years, but our analysis of these sites shows that the majority of organisations can still make meaningful carbon reductions that result in significant savings – through very simple changes.

“Our data covers a relatively small proportion of the UK’s businesses and public sector organisations – imagine what the impact would be if all UK such organisations made even the simplest of changes, whether that be efficient lighting or occupancy sensors? As the UK has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, we want to demonstrate that all businesses can achieve positive results one change at a time.”

Carbon savings

EDF Energy analysed the energy consumption at different sites, including schools, hospitals, hotels, offices and police stations. The results showed that 62% could generate cost savings through lighting improvements, while 61% could improve the heating schedule.

There are also carbon savings to be had. Across all sites, an emissions reduction of more than 147,671 tonnes of CO2 could be achieved annually – the same amount that could be offset by more than 3.6 million square metres of woodland, EDF noted.

On average, organisations could make annual savings of £10,800 per site by installing efficient lighting, reducing their carbon emissions by 24 tonnes per site, per year.

EDF Energy’s analysis comes after a survey of 502 UK businesses found that almost half are aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030, with 8% claiming they had already reached this milestone.

Overall, 46% of respondents said their organisation had plans – either public or internally published – to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Just 5% said this milestone was feasible for their firm within the next year. Energy efficiency plays a huge role in enabling companies to reduce emissions.

As for heat, the installation of district heat networks could reduce the capital cost of the UK’s heat networks by up to 40%, according to research from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Matt Mace

News

Half of UK businesses ‘targeting carbon neutrality by 2030’

A survey of 502 UK businesses has found that almost half are aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030, with 8% claiming they had already reached this milestone.

Image: EcoAct 

Image: EcoAct 

Conducted by YouGov this summer, the survey was used to track the climate attitudes of business representatives from major sectors including education, accounting, retail, wholesaling, transport, technology services, restaurant services, construction, real estate, personal care and natural resources such as mining, forestry and oil.

Of the respondents, 93% agreed that climate change is both real and being driven, either in full or in part, by human activity.

This agreement was evident in the respondents’ answers to the question: “Is your business planning to be net-carbon-neutral?”

Overall, 46% of respondents said their organisation had plans – either public or internally published – to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Just 5% said this milestone was feasible for their firm within the next year, with most targeting a timespan between two and five years.

A further 8% claimed their business has already achieved carbon-neutrality – a feat which, at present, would require most kinds of organisation to purchase carbon offsets.

UK-based businesses which have already publicly claimed carbon neutrality include the likes of Aldi UK, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Neal’s Yard.

A FTSE 100 flop

In related news, and in stark contrast to YouGov’s findings, EcoAct has released its annual sustainability leaderboard table for FTSE100 firms.

The leaderboard states that 85 of the companies listed “do not have a sufficient emissions reduction strategy in place to limit global warming to safe levels”. EcoAct’s judgment on whether a strategy is “sufficient” is based on whether it aligns with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory, which the IPCC has equated to the global achievement of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While praising the fact that 81 of the 100 firms have set long-term emissions reduction strategies, the leaderboard also highlighted the fact that less than one-fifth (18%) of the corporates listed are either already carbon-neutral or publicly committed to reaching carbon neutrality by mid-century. Companies named as leaders in this respect include M&S, Tesco and BT, the latter of which is targeting net-zero carbon by 2045.  

“What has become crystal clear over the last year is that the climate emergency is no longer a distant concept,” EcoAct’s managing director Stuart Lemmon said.

“In our 9th year of examining climate performance of the UK’s largest companies, while we have seen progress, change is simply not happening fast enough. It is now imperative that companies urgently step up to their responsibilities to drastically reduce carbon output.”


The net-zero transition at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum

edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum returns in 2020, as some of the biggest companies, individuals and organisations championing sustainability gather at the Business Design Centre on 4 & 5 February to discuss the emergency response in transitioning to a net-zero economy.

The flagship, multi-award-winning event features keynotes speakers including Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Rebecca Marmot, Unilever CSO; Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO; Gilbert Ghostine, Firmenich CEO plus directors and senior managers from Interface, Vattenfall, John Lewis, Taylor Wimpey, Aviva, Pret A Manger, Pernod Ricard, LEGO Group, M&S, Diageo, Tesco, WSP, BASF, Mondelēz and more. For details and to register, visit: https://event.edie.net/forum/


Sarah George

News

RWE to become carbon-neutral by 2040

German utilities giant RWE has unveiled a new strategy to transform itself into a carbon-neutral company by 2040 by funnelling billions into renewables projects, decommissioning existing coal-fired plants and backing carbon capture and storage technology.

The company will also commit €1.5bn annually in net capital expenditure on onshore and offshore wind technology and solar photovoltaic and storage solutions

The company will also commit €1.5bn annually in net capital expenditure on onshore and offshore wind technology and solar photovoltaic and storage solutions

RWE has already slashed its carbon emissions by more than 30% over a six-year period since 2012 – a decline of more than 60 million metric tonnes of carbon. The new carbon-neutral goal would see an additional 70% reduction on existing levels achieved by 2030, leaving a 10-year window to remove the remainder.

“This presents RWE with a huge task,” the company’s chief executive Rolf Martin Schmitz said. “But we have a very clear idea of how to achieve our goal: We will phase out fossil energy sources both consistently and responsibly. We will make huge investments in wind and solar power as well as in high-capacity storage technologies.

“The new RWE is and will remain one of the major players in the electricity generation business.”

RWE has announced that it will decommission its last coal-fired power station in the UK, before taking coal-fired plants in Germany offline, following the recommendations of the Commission for Structural Change. With the Dutch Government also targeting a coal phase-out by 2030, RWE will convert its plants in Eemshaven and Amer to biomass. Alongside biomass, RWE will target green gas and storage technology for its large-scale plants.

The company will also commit €1.5bn annually in net capital expenditure on onshore and offshore wind technology and solar photovoltaic and storage solutions. Total investment could increase to between €2bn and €3bn per annum based on project partnerships.

Global player

In March 2018, RWE and E.ON agreed on a deal that would see RWE will receive E.ON’s renewables business, plus Innogy’s renewables and gas storage businesses. The renewable portfolios of these two companies will be used to turn RWE Renewables into a “global player made in Germany” with an installed capacity of more than 9GW of renewables.

Added to this are further assets with a combined capacity of 2.6GW under construction.

RWE has also estimated than just 20% of EBITDA (adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) will come from its conventional business. In comparison, around 60% will be earned from the renewables business, with energy trading accounting for 10%. The remaining 10% will come from financial investments, including Amprion, Kelag and E.ON. 

Following the UK’s world-leading commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, edie has launched a brand-new series of insight reports which investigate how particular industries can achieve rapid decarbonisation, starting with the utilities sector.

The inaugural 18-page report breaks down exactly how sustainability and energy professionals working for energy and water suppliers can drive the low-carbon transition – from agreeing and setting targets to scaling up on-site solutions. Read the report here.

Matt Mace

News

World Green Buildings Week: Ten of Europe’s most eye-catching sustainable buildings

To mark World Green Buildings Week, edie is showcasing ten European buildings with best-practice sustainability credentials.

World Green Buildings Week is a time for reflection on progress to date, as well as planning for future action

World Green Buildings Week is a time for reflection on progress to date, as well as planning for future action

Recent research from global design and architecture firm Gensler laid bare, once more, the climate impacts of the built environment sector, concluding that existing buildings and new construction projects accounted for 40% of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 50% of energy use globally in 2018.

Transforming buildings is therefore crucial to meeting global climate goals – but with the population set to surpass 10 billion for the first time by 2050, and with an ever-greater proportion of humanity set to choose city living over the next three decades, this will be no mean feat.

In order to foster this transformation, the World Green Building Council hosts World Green Buildings Week each September. Through this event, which this year aligns with the UN’s Climate Summit in New York, the body calls on all firms in the sector to set ambitious targets that eliminate carbon emissions for building portfolios by 2030. This year, the body is honing in on embedded, as well as operational, emissions, and has been encouraging members to adopt an activist stance on climate issues.

While the challenge ahead is clear, it’s important not to ignore progress made and to turn to examples of best practice when shaping our own projects and strategies. With this in mind, this round-up spotlights ten buildings which are considered to be among the most sustainable in Europe – without compromising on functionality or aesthetics.

Bloomberg’s London HQ

Bloomberg has described its London office, 3 Queen Victoria Street, as its “greatest achievement in sustainability yet”.

The building, which received 98.5% in BREEAM’s assessment to be certified as ‘Outstanding’, uses 73% less water and 35% less energy than comparable facilities, generating 35% less carbon emissions in the process. These savings are driven partly by the structure of the building itself – it’s centred around a spiral staircase, made using sustainably sourced wood, and features a ceiling which employs biomimicry – and partly due to its natural ventilation system and onsite water treatment facility for rainwater.

To convey these benefits to visitors, the building is fitted with a green “living wall” of plants and features several decorative elements which use biomimicry principles.

Image: Bloomberg

Cambridge’s ‘Eco-Mosque’

Designed by the architecture firm behind the London eye, the UK’s first ‘eco-mosque’ is designed to be a “calm oasis” for worshippers, in line with placing nature and connection at the heart of modern faith.

The Cambridge Mosque can host up to 1,000 worshippers at ant one time and is made using sustainably sourced wood and low-carbon materials. It is powered entirely using locally generated renewable electricity and is fitted with features such as large skylights and passive heating and cooling systems to minimise energy consumption.

Among its most eye-catching features is the adjacent community garden, where more than 20 cypress trees have been planted with the aim to create a “permeable green edge” to the site. Other built-in features include parking for 300 bicycles and a rainwater harvesting system. Water harvested in this way is used for flushing and irrigation.

The building cost £23m to construct and this sum was largely raised through charitable donations.

Image: Marks Barfield

Belgium’s largest solar roof

Onsite solar is becoming increasingly prevalent among British buildings, with recent research from Centrica Business Solutions finding that 80% of UK businesses with onsite arrays are planning to expand them in the next five years.

The benefits of onsite solar can be seen in action at ArcelorMittal’s flagship complex in Ghent, where the last of 27,000 solar panels were recently installed on the roof. The array will generate 10,000 MWh of power annually and will complement the complex’s existing ten wind turbines and two additionally turbines, currently in the planning stage.

The plant has succeeded in reducing its emissions by 25% to date, against a 1990 baseline – a feat which ArcelorMittal claims is in line with the Paris Agreement. But with the firm striving to become carbon-neutral by mid-century, further transformation is expected at the facility.

Image: Eneco

The Crystal, London

Siemens opened the Crystal in 2012 as a global hub for debate on sustainable living and development.  The 18,000 sqm site on Victoria Dock in East London is covered by the area’s Green Enterprise District policy and is, therefore, required to lead by example in terms of sustainability.

Siemens claims the BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum facility is the most sustainable events venue in the world. Its built-in features include triple-glazed windows, onsite solar generation, a 199-pipe ground-source heat pump system, a digital building management system and a rooftop rainwater harvesting array. Once water is collected on the roof, it is sent underground to a 30m3 storage tank for use in toilets.

The purpose of The Crystal is to prove that the technologies it showcases are desirable for modern, future-proof buildings – a message conveyed not only through its design but through its contents. It is home to a permanent exhibition about sustainable urban development and is often used by members of the green economy to host events.

Image: TheCrystal.org

One Angel Square, Manchester

The Co-operative Group’s headquarters is another BREEAM Outstanding building and has been compared, in terms of aesthetic, to a ship or a sliced egg. In sustainability terms, it generates more renewable energy than it consumes and produces net-zero operational carbon emissions.

One Angel Square has been to accommodate 4,000 employees at any one time, largely in open-plan space lit using LED lighting and windows that maximise passive solar gain.  Its electricity demands are met entirely through onsite energy generation and its heat needs through a CHP system that runs on rapeseed oil grown on The Co-operatives own farmland.

Rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, waste heat recycling and adiabatic cooling systems are among its other green features.

Image: CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27839486

‘The Tube’, Tilburg, Netherlands

‘The Tube’s’ official name is NewLogic III, but it’s not hard to tell how it earned its nickname. It’s owned an operated by logistics company Rhenus, which uses it as its head office and main distribution centre.

Aside from its eye-catching design, the building boasts triple-glazed windows, extra insulation, a ground-source heat system and automatically controlled LED lighting. EV charging points and a building management system which regularly monitors energy use, water consumption and CO2 concentrations are also built-in.

Given that the roof of The Tube is fitted with 11,600 solar panels, the building generates more electricity than it consumes and sends the surplus back to the grid. Rhenus claims that this makes the building “energy-positive”.

‘The Edge’, Amsterdam

Deloitte’s 15-storey Amsterdam headquarters has been hailed as the most sustainable office block in the world; the 40,000sqm building is certified as BREEAM Outstanding, having scored 98 points out of a possible 100.

Designed by PLP Architecture, ‘The Edge’ resembles a giant glasshouse, minimising the energy consumption required for lighting. The south façade is notably covered in a solar film which generates the electricity needed to power the office’s ethernet-connected LED lighting. This ethernet system uses lights as sensors as well as bulbs, transmitting data to control the energy management grid.

As for heating, an aquifer thermal energy storage system has been installed under the building and is used when the passive ventilation system needs a boost. The soil under the site also plays host to rainwater harvesting technology.

Image: Richard Tilleman

SEAT’s Martorell plant, Barcelona

A car manufacturing plant is probably not the kind of building you’d expect to be particularly eye-catching or sustainable.

But SEAT’s 2.8 million sqm production facility near Barcelona is not just the workplace of more than 7,000 people – it also acts as a testbed for green technologies, such as 30,000 sqm of self-cleaning and pollution-trapping pavements. The photocatalytic paving slabs, which are made by applying titanium dioxide to cement, convert pollutant nitrous oxides (NOx) into water-soluble nitrates when they are exposed to light, oxygen and NOx at the same time. 

The facility is also home to the global automotive industry’s largest rooftop solar array – the 53,000 solar panels on the rooftops of the workshops and the temporary vehicle holding areas generate 15 million kWh of clean power each year – and a combined heat and power (CHP) unit, which generates 90% of the heat and 50% of the electricity consumed at the plant annually.

Image: SEAT

Skanska offices, Budapest and Prague

Skanska is a name which has often passed the lips of sustainability professionals in recent months, with the firm’s UK arm having set a pledge in May to become carbon-neutral by 2045.

Clearly, other parts of the multinational’s operations are clear to lead by example. Skanska’s flagship office complex, called Northern Light and located in Budapest, is certified by WELL and is LEED Gold Standard. Phases one and two of its construction were completed using 10% recycled materials and these parts of the complex feature built-in technologies such as water-efficient fixtures and fittings and an emissions monitoring system. Phase three, due to be completed in 2020, will see the addition of a 2,400 sqm fully garden, “extensive” bicycle storage facilities and a network of EV charging points.

Skanska’s ‘Visionary’ office block in Prague is just as impressive in terms of sustainability. It is notably the first building in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region to have been certified by WELL, and includes features such as balcony gardens and forests, as well as passive lighting and cooling systems.

Image: Skanska (Prague)

Ikea’s new Greenwich store

Opened in February, Ikea’s Greenwich store is touted as an embodiment of the retailer’s ambition to become ‘People and Planet Positive‘ by 2030.

The 32,000sqm store, certified as BREEAM ‘Outstanding’, plays host to community gardens, ground-source heating systems, rainwater harvesting facilities and energy-efficient lighting, as well as a 2,600-panel rooftop solar array, which meets 50-80% of the store’s energy demands at any one time.

Acknowledging that a large part of the Scope 3 (indirect) emissions of any of its stores will arise from consumer travel, Ikea deliberately chose to make the store’s car part smaller than usual, and to fit it with 20 EV chargers. Customers without EVs are encouraged, though instore and online communications, to take public transport and have their purchases delivered by couriers on e-bikes.

Image: Ikea

Sarah George

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