EXCLUSIVE: ‘Support from the top’ helping National Grid transform sustainably

National Grid is currently undergoing a colossal infrastructure transformation and for this to be sustainable, board level support and employee engagement is vital, says climate change manager Clare Naunton.

The energy market is going through substantial changes due to an increase in renewables and cleaner technologies and in order to respond to this, National Grid plans to spend £40bn from now up until 2020 to modernise its energy system.

Talking at the 2013 Energy Management Forum today, Naunton said: “That really puts the National Grid at the heart of one of the challenges facing our society today, in connecting new renewable energy sources and delivering an energy system that will allow economic prosperity in the future.”

Naunton pointed out that in order to expand, National Grid would have to buy more material such as aluminium, steel, copper and concrete, which are becoming increasingly scarce. She said it was therefore important that her company minimised its exposure to resource price volatility.

“We believe this is a great opportunity to really look at how we can transform our business and the way we operate to provide a sustainable legacy for the future,” she said.

National Grid has a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Naunton argued that employee engagement was just as important as large-scale projects such as converting unused land into wetlands and installing LED lighting in offices.

“When we looked at delivering [energy-efficiency or waste prevention] projects we can absolutely find the sweet spot between environmental sustainability and delivering real business value.

“However, if we want to transform the way we are doing business, we need to move beyond pockets of our organisation to engage each and every employee and for every employee to understand what an important role they play in helping us to achieve our sustainability goals,” she said.

In addition, Naunton pointed out that it would have been difficult to transform the Grid sustainably without “support from the top”.

“Our chief executive stood on stage and said you absolutely have my support with this, now get on and deliver. That message of commitment has been clear from him and right through the senior executive team, which legitimises all the activities we do,” she said.

One obstacle that National Grid found hard to overcome, was reporting on its indirect emissions through its supply chain.

Talking to edie, Naunton described Scope 3 emissions as a “challenge” compared to reporting on Scope 1 and 2 but said that she was hopeful her company could report more extensively on scope three in the future.

“For the first time this year we have actually had a small amount of our Scope 3 data going through the verification process as well.

“So I think this will be a journey and I hope that next year we will be able to get more and more of that Scope 3 data verified and form part of our emissions target,” she said.

Conor McGlone

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