Five key takeaways from edie’s net-zero energy masterclass

Collected below are the five top tips from the session – and key lessons which should be considered on the journey towards net-zero.


1) The energy sector is leading the way

Launching the webinar, Michael Watts from Smartest provided an overview of exactly how the company was assisting firms in the transition towards net-zero – and gave a brief history of the energy sector’s own contribution to the issue.

As he highlighted, the energy sector is leading the way, with coal reducing from 38% of the energy mix a decade ago to just under 3% today. At the same time, wind and solar has risen from 2.6% to 21% and biomass from 2.5% to 7.3%.

With renewable energy infrastructure set to increase further, and alongside new off-shore projects in the pipeline, this will make it easier for companies to transition to net-zero ahead of the 2050 target.

2) How to source 100% renewable electricity

Watts then took the audience through the specifics of how to source 100% renewable energy, specifically detailing the journey to Carbon Trust certification, which ensures that every MWh comes from renewable sources backed by UK-recognised origin certificates.

These energy sources include three separate approaches: 100% certificate-backed renewable electricity from a blend of generation sources;  choosing a preferred source of renewable electricity and creating a partnership with a generation site; and 100% certificate-backed renewable electricity generated solely by wind, sun or water.#

3) JLL’s net zero carbon commitment

Speaking about JLL’s journey, David Mead, associate at the property firm, provided an overview of his company’s transition towards net-zero. Mead highlighted how in September 2019, JLL became the first property consultancy to commit to the World Green Building Council’s net-zero carbon buildings commitment.

This target included achieving net-zero carbon in UK workplaces by 2030; using JLL’s influence to ensure wider adoption of net-zero; and becoming an enabled to drive the pace of change across the industry. The firm also assisted with the UK Green Building Council on developing a framework definition for net-zero carbon buildings in the UK.

The firm was originally supplied with certified 100% renewable electricity between 2016 and 2019 by Smartest, before purchasing “natural renewables” in 2018 and then “specific renewables at the end of 2018-2019 to give the company full transparency on energy source.

4) On-site or PPAs?

Speaking about the various renewable routes, Mead explained that on-site generation was an option, but “for many it will never meet the total demands of the business”.

For these larger firms, he suggested setting up a deal with a renewable generator to create a Power Purchase Agreements (PPA)

However, he highlighted that in order to be viable PPAs currently need to have: scale; a 10 year+ commitment with ‘A’ grade customer; and a lead time. But for investors or occupiers these all present challenges to balance with investment cycles or lease duration.

Mead did say though that “this landscape is starting to change as businesses react to climate change and make public net zero carbon commitments”.

5) It’s not just about renewable energy…

Mead was also keen to highlight that on the journey to net-zero, it was important to realise that it wasn’t all about sourcing renewable energy.

He said “efficiency is key” and the “first and most significant action is to reduce the amount of energy needed” to sustain healthy buildings. And he also reminded that there was “not enough renewables to go around” based on the current trajectory.

Additionally, he said that developing an overarching net-zero carbon strategy was critical – linking all parts of the building lifecycle and ensuring that better buildings are built, bought, and refurbished. He also highlighted the need to capitalise on data analytics for “better visibility on energy performance, enhancing efficiency of building systems” – and also to seek cost-effective alternatives to gas boilers.

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