Building a pathway to ‘Net Zero’

Jim Rushen

By Jim Rushen
Head of Environment

In June, Theresa May officially set a 2050 deadline for the UK to end it’s contribution to global emissions levels as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) Net-Zero report.

A net zero emissions target will be a challenging target to meet, but it is the right thing for the UK government to consider and we welcome the report and the debate.

We are on the same page for much of the report and it’s positive to see how many of the CCC’s recommendations align with our own climate change ambitions – Centrica’s recently published Responsible Business Ambitions recognise the need to achieve net zero by 2050 and we have committed to develop our plans to do just that with our own emissions.

Another key point from the CCC is that it estimates that demand on the UK’s electricity network could double by 2050 – partly due to the transition toward electric vehicles and heating. As such, exploring how other energy sources can alleviate some of this strain – particularly for heavy goods transport and industrial heating needs – will be important.

Distributed Energy

However, where the CCC’s report focuses on reinforcing the UK’s existing centralised energy network, our vision is one where much of the energy the country needs is created on-site by those who use it. This would create a more distributed energy network that is more resilient and more tailored to the individual needs of users.

We are actively exploring how decentralised flexible assets can work together in an efficient local energy system that meets the needs of generators, customers and networks alike – reducing strain on the grid at peak times and maximising the productivity of low carbon generation assets. We have committed to delivering 7GW of these distributed, flexible and low carbon technologies by 2030.

Projects such as the Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM) trial offer a glimpse into the future of a truly decentralised energy landscape with thousands, if not millions of homes and businesses playing their part in localised energy markets.

As well as our work on the LEM, Centrica Business Solutions is helping a large number of organisations, including manufacturers, retailers, hospitals and universities, to install a range of on-site energy efficiency, generation and storage technologies. We’ve conducted research that suggests core sectors like healthcare, industry and hospitality could make significant emissions reductions through the use of these technologies. According to our data, if just 50% of the organisations in these sectors adopted them, they could reduce the UK’s emissions by 137 MtCO2e, more carbon than was produced by the entire transport industry in 2017.

Solutions like combined heat and power units and battery storage systems that improve efficiency and enable more reliable use of renewables are also helping our customers reduce emissions – while delivering real business benefits. The forward-thinking organisations making use of these technologies are able to create additional revenue by selling surplus energy produced on-site back to the National Grid - and can more effectively demonstrate green credentials to increasingly environmentally-conscious customers.

The UK’s flexible energy future

What’s needed now is more collaboration and for the government and energy sector to do their part to educate businesses about the efficient, clean technologies available to them.

The CCC is right to propose these targets and we fully support the ambition behind them. The UK has long been a global leader in driving the green agenda and it is vital we continue in that role.

We need to empower businesses to take the future into their own hands and start to invest in the technologies that will allow them to be more efficient, cleaner and more resilient.