It’s time for the next big step towards net-zero

A definitive line has been drawn in the sand this year; we have, as a nation, committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, E.ON UK's chief executive Michael Lewis explains.

It’s time for the next big step towards net-zero

The window for tackling the climate crisis is closing quickly, meaning incremental measures are no longer enough. A lot of important work has been done to tackle this global emergency: renewable power generation, especially in the UK, has already been a huge success. But there is more to do.

While all contributions to reducing emissions are valuable, a transformational response is essential – in our homes, our businesses, our communities and on our streets.

No doubt systematic changes will be required to make major progress on transforming the energy landscape. However, we also see that there is a knowledge gap among consumers as our recent survey found that more than one in five Britons (21%) simply do not believe they could do any more to be more sustainable.

That’s why we believe that large-scale action will be central to us achieving the required breakthrough. Our decision to switch all 3.3 million residential customers to electricity backed by 100% renewable sources was one such significant action. We are proud that for millions of people we have been able to facilitate an important first step on a road to a more sustainable and personalised energy system.

We must go beyond decarbonising power generation and concentrate our efforts on electrifying heat and transport, as well as improving energy efficiency. It is absolutely critical that, in addition to better sourcing of energy, we focus efforts on the better use of energy.

Closer to home, fears about how our behaviour is impacting the planet are also manifesting itself as the growing public concern about the quality of the air we breathe

Beyond power generation

Despite the progress that has been made, the electrification of the energy sector still has a long way to go. Gas continues to be the dominant fuel in the UK, whilst petrol and diesel remain a preferred choice for much of the transportation industry.

On top of that, more than 16 million homes fall below Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C, which results in energy waste, unnecessarily increasing emissions and demand for energy. The significance of energy efficiency for buildings and the policies that surround them cannot be underplayed if we are to limit the amount of energy we consume. That implies we need to do more to show people that a range of low carbon solutions for better energy management already exist, ready to make an immediate difference.

The opportunity for business

The time has also come for businesses to take measures to eliminate waste and unnecessary emissions. Whether through small changes such as installing energy efficient LED lighting throughout company buildings, or through larger undertakings such as implementing a Building Management System (BMS), there is a host of options available to businesses to help reduce their carbon footprint.

The increasing adoption of energy efficiency and smart building technologies such as solar and batteries, heat pumps, electric vehicle infrastructure, smart thermostats and home energy management systems by communities, businesses and individuals will continue to lift the UK closer towards a sustainable energy future.

As businesses consider the implementation of such technologies, they must remember that this allows them to be more efficient in more ways than one. Solar photovoltaic, an important resource for businesses with large building footprints, enables businesses to generate their own renewable energy and simultaneously reduce costs and carbon impact.

Similarly, heat pumps, which draw heat from the ground and air, allow businesses to not only lower carbon emissions but make significant financial savings. As businesses learn to consistently manage their energy use, they will be able to see the benefits on their bottom line and this will subsequently enable them to reinvest the savings made elsewhere in their operations.

Leading by example

Energy suppliers should embrace the opportunity to take up the mantle of guiding and supporting businesses to deliver green and fiscal benefits. Energy suppliers are primed to be at the forefront of promoting the systems and platforms that provide businesses with energy intelligence to reduce their consumption and costs with ease. They have the capacity to offer auditing services which help businesses to understand how their energy efficiency can be improved and what measures will deliver the best return on investment.

In addition, suppliers should be highlighting the ways in which businesses can profit from their energy use whilst maintaining their sustainable focus – from selling excess energy back to the grid to installing electric vehicle (EV) chargers on their premises for customers and employees. Providing our customers with greater control over the energy they need, accelerating electrification and improving energy efficiency are, for us, all no-brainers. Combined, they have the potential to deliver huge financial, environmental and health benefits.

Delivering net zero

To create the energy system of the future, we must use the momentum created by renewable generation to move forward and decarbonise heat and transport. Only then can we get closer towards reaching the net-zero carbon target and protecting our planet for future generations.

Put simply, if we act now and act decisively the climate crisis can be turned into a transformative opportunity.

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