EDF on net-zero, green spending and energy innovations
To kickstart edie's Net Zero November, headline sponsors EDF discuss why the net-zero transition is so important to them, and how businesses can use low-carbon solutions to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
Brought to you in association with edie’s headline partner EDF, Net-Zero November will offer edie readers an array of net-zero-themed exclusive interviews, downloadable guides, reader blogs, virtual events and podcasts.
As part of the month of content (more details below), edie is also encouraging sustainability professionals to submit new or newly created carbon commitments aligned to net-zero on the Mission Possible Pledge Wall.
While our inaugural Net-Zero November last year spotlighted the climate movement, this year’s programme takes an even deeper dive into achieving net-zero, covering the practicalities of reducing emissions; the need for business leadership and the role of resource management and social sustainability in the transition.
Here, EDF’s director of I&C sales and marketing, Matthew Nunn, outlines how the company has dealt with the challenges of lockdown through a continued focus on the net-zero movement.
Have you felt that your team has been able to cope well through the pandemic?
“I only started this role in September having previously worked outside of the UK. Being new to the business, it’s certainly been a challenge meeting the team and getting to know people via video conference, but everybody is really engaged which has made it easier.
“As a team, we are coping well. It’s clearly a testing time for everybody but we are continuing to adapt and work together to ensure we are in a good place. The change of the clocks and turn in the weather doesn’t help so we are encouraging everyone to get outside over lunchtime, to go for a walk or a run and enjoy some fresh air, and we are seeing this deliver real benefits.”
As headline sponsors of Net-Zero November, why is net-zero so important to EDF?
“Net Zero is something that we at EDF are extremely passionate about. In fact, we recently defined our company purpose as ‘Helping Britain achieve Net Zero’.
“As Britain’s biggest generator of zero-carbon electricity, we are leading the transition to a cleaner, low-emission, electric future. In addition to our role in decarbonising generation, we feel a critical responsibility to help our customers on their own Net Zero journeys.
“As one of the UK’s largest suppliers to business and public sector, we believe that by partnering with our customers, we can make a significant contribution to achieving Net-Zero. This can, of course, mean providing them with a zero-carbon electricity supply, but we also offer our customers various solutions including access to corporate PPAs, on-site generation, battery storage and optimisation and electric vehicle charging solutions.
“I was recently reflecting on how exciting and critical electricity has become in the Net Zero debate. It wasn’t always the case, but over time it’s becoming more widely recognised the essential role that electricity will play in reaching net-zero, including through the electrification of heat and transport. In fact, electricity is now so important to our futures that we are even seeing some of the legacy oil companies try to get in on the game and start switching their business models away from oil to electricity.”
How do EDF’s own commitments reflect on the need for a green recovery?
“In order to be credible when helping our customers achieve their Net Zero ambitions, we need to ensure we are performing well against our own ambitions. We ultimately want to have a Net Zero environmental impact. One of the ways we are demonstrating leadership in reducing our own emissions is our commitment to change our fleet of vehicles to be 100% electric by 2030. We’re also investing in EV charging infrastructure at our sites, to ensure people can plug in their own cars when they arrive at work.
“We’re dedicated to creating a culture of positive environmental action amongst our people. This involves changes to our ways of working – at the start of the year, we launched our ‘Skip a Trip’ initiative, encouraging everybody to skip travel where possible for digital alternatives. Given the current circumstances, it turns out that we are now all skipping every trip! However, I am confident that the adoption of technology we have seen during the pandemic – in particular video conferencing will result in a sustained reduction in travel, and the associated negative environmental impact, post Covid-19.
“We’ve also made changes to our sites, to ensure they operate more sustainable and substantially reduce waste. Last year we launched our ‘no excuse for single-use’ staff engagement programme, which has already taken more than one million disposable cups out of circulation.
“So, it’s going well but there’s lots more for us to do. The energy sector can make a massive contribution to support the economic recovery from Covid-19 in a way which helps Britain achieve Net-Zero. With this in mind, we recently launched our plan for a green recovery. With the right policies in place, we plan to enable investment in low carbon technologies in the UK worth over £50bn by 2035. This amounts to 12GW of wind, nuclear and solar power, meeting one-fifth of UK demand.”
A lot of businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, so it’s not surprising that for some, sustainability and energy have slipped down the agenda. If we consider building back better, how do you see decarbonisation and long-term net-zero strategies helping businesses?
“It’s clearly been a very difficult time for many businesses and as an energy company, we have seen how in numerous cases our customers consumption has changed dramatically, indicating a significant impact on their operations. We understand that it can therefore be hard to focus on the kind of investments you might want to make to deliver your Net Zero ambitions but this really is a golden opportunity to ensure we do build back better from the pandemic and it’s the investments we make now that will really benefit us over the longer term.
“As such, we are working as closely as we possibly can with our customers to help them achieve their zero-carbon objectives, no matter what their situation. There are some things businesses can do without spending any money at all, such as switching to our zero carbon tariff, helping to reduce carbon emissions at no extra cost. Or regarding electric vehicles, for example, you may not be willing or able to convert your entire fleet, but you could start with a couple, learn from the experience and understand how you can create value from it and then scale up in the future.”
Do you think businesses may be reluctant to spend on energy innovations, given the economic circumstances?
“I think a really important point to remember is that, with the right investment a business can often see quick returns. Firstly, because it can result in lower costs, but also in many cases it can be possible to generate additional revenue streams. One example of this could be investing in battery storage. EDF partners with customers who have invested in battery storage to optimise those assets through our Powershift platform, creating substantial additional revenue for the customer.
“It’s a challenging time for business, but there are still a lot of opportunities out there, and by discussing your options with your energy supplier, you can choose the right one for your business. At EDF, our teams of experts work with businesses of all shapes and sizes, to help them define the next steps they can take on the journey towards net-zero.”
How can sustainability professionals frame net-zero emissions to the board in a way that outlines how sustainability can help businesses in terms of financial and reputational prosperity?
“I suggest speaking to your energy supplier to see what they can do to help you with that. We have seen an increasing number of customers coming to us with a desire to invest but asking for our help in minimising risk on these projects.
“There are several things we can do to help to de-risk an investment. For example, if a business wanted to invest in onsite generation or in battery storage, we have in-house expertise that could help de-risk the investment such as guaranteeing a minimum power price for the output from renewable generation or utilising our trading experience and optimisation capabilities to guarantee customers a certain level of earnings from their storage assets. These are just a couple of simple examples, but there are several ways EDF can help its customers to de-risk investment and build a more powerful business case for sustainability-led initiatives.”
We are also seeing businesses using energy innovations and their understanding of energy data as a form of resilience. Do you see energy management becoming increasingly important as a form of resiliency for businesses?
“I certainly think having a solid understanding of your energy consumption and options for managing it can provide an additional level of resilience for business. The very first step has to be ensuring that the business understands their consumption and their current usage patterns – you have to know where you are starting from and understand the factors that can impact this.
“A lot of customers we work with are looking to increase resilience by reducing exposure to price risks. For some customers this is about their choice of tariff. For example, our Peace of Mind offering guarantees all costs are fully fixed, protecting customers from any unexpected surcharges if the market moves. We also have various arrangements with renewable generators and our own renewable assets, where we can set up corporate PPAs and offer our customers fixed prices over the long term to remove some of their price exposure.”
A lot of what we have discussed will be central to the discussion throughout Net Zero November. What are you and EDF hoping to learn from the month of content?
“It’s critical that we understand the challenges our customers are facing. At EDF, we see our role as supporting our customers by designing the solutions and options for them to meet their Net Zero ambitions – and the first step in being able to deliver on this is to understand their challenges.
“We are in such an evolving market and a rapidly moving time so you can really learn a lot from others by understanding their opinions, approach and what they are doing to tackle their own Net Zero challenge.
“I’m looking forward to learning and discussing key points with participants. None of us can achieve Net Zero alone, so it’s really important that we collaborate and share ideas to ensure we reach this critical target.”