SSE outlines £7bn green recovery package, sets science-based climate targets

A full sustainability report is due next month

The firm’s latest sustainability summary report, published today (17 July), confirms SSE’s intention to spend the equivalent of almost £4m a day on low-carbon activities through to the end of 2025, including major new renewable generation facilities, energy storage and upskilling.

Projects already confirmed include the Viking windfarm, a 103-turbine onshore facility that is under development on the Shetland Islands. SSE is investing £580m in the project and plans for it to come online in 2024.

SSE also recently announced that it will move ahead with its involvement in the Seagreen offshore wind farm in the Scottish North Sea. The £3bn project is being spearheaded by Total, which has a 51% stake, and will be Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm once completed in 2022. SSE estimates that Viking and Seagreen will jointly generate enough electricity to power one million homes.

“It’s easy to talk about a green recovery, but we’re putting our money where our mouth is with £7bn of low-carbon infrastructure projects that can deliver a win-win for climate and economy,” SSE’s chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said. His comments come at a time when SSE is forecasting £250m of costs relating to the Covid-19 crisis.

More broadly, SSE had previously signalled its intention to help the UK develop 75GW of offshore wind projects and five carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen clusters by 2040. The firm notably uses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the basis of its sustainability approach. 

Change to climate targets

Another headline from SSE’s sustainability summary report is confirmation that the firm has increased its climate targets in light of the UK’s decision to legislate for net-zero by 2050.

A target of reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generated by 60% by 2030, against a 2018 baseline, has been set. The previous target was a 50% reduction within the same timeframe.

In order to support this ambition, SSE will reduce its absolute Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by 40% by 2030 and halve emissions generated by its products at the use stage by 2034.

All of SSE’s new emissions goals have been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initative (SBTi) as aligned with the Paris Agreement’s ‘well below 2C’ pathway. 

As the SBTi requires action on supplier emissions to verify targets which are more ambitious than 2C, SSE has additionally pledged to help suppliers representing half of its annual spend to set their own science-based targets by 2024.

The number of businesses committing to set, and actually setting, science-based targets which are more ambitious than 2C, has skyrocketed since the IPCC published its landmark report on global warming. The report laid bare, for the first time, the difference between the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C and 2C trajectories in terms of human health, nature and economic impacts. Responding to its findings, the SBTi developed a swathe of new measures to support corporates in developing 1.5C targets.

Supplier engagement on emissions has also been increasing in turn. More than 110 corporations requested sustainability data from their suppliers in 2018, up from just 14 corporations in 2008 according to CDP. But further transparency and ambitious reductions are now needed, given that the average company’s supply chain emissions are five-and-half times greater than those produced by their direct operations.

Sarah George

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