The necessity of net-zero

To mark Energy Day at COP26, edie's headline sponsor of Net-Zero November, EDF, outlines how businesses can get to grips with net-zero strategies.

The necessity of net-zero

To mark the start of Net-Zero November and Energy Day at COP26, EDF’s Head of Large Business Raghav Singh answers a few of edie’s questions about corporate approaches to net-zero.

As headline sponsors of Net-Zero November, why is net-zero so important to EDF?

 The need to achieve net-zero is now widely recognised as a necessity. As COP26 unfolds, governments around the world are committing to a low carbon future. At the same time, more and more organisations are setting targets for achieving Net Zero and we are committed to helping them reach that goal – in a practical, economic and sustainable way. 

As the UK’s biggest producer of zero-carbon electricity, we’re perfectly placed to help Britain achieve net-zero. Our vision of a Net Zero economy is a more energy-efficient one powered by wind, nuclear and solar. Our mission is to reach Net Zero by 2050, whilst partnering with policymakers, communities, start-ups and customers to invest in, innovate and help deliver the infrastructure, technology and solutions that are going to help the UK meet its target by 2050 or earlier.

As one of the largest energy suppliers to British businesses and the public sector, we believe that by partnering with our customers, we can make an important contribution to achieving net-zero.

With the Net-Zero Strategy announced and COP26 taking place, what are the key areas that businesses should prioritise to get their journey started or moving quicker?

The recent strategy announcement highlights how vital electricity is to the Net Zero goal, with the ambition to power the UK entirely with clean energy by 2035. Energy powers every business activity, so for any organisation, it’s an ideal place to start their journey to net-zero.

For those just starting out, a crucial first step is to understand how energy is being used across their business. This can often identify quick wins and enable businesses to benchmark success. Organisations often prioritise a switch to zero carbon backed electricity as a starting point and increasingly our customers are choosing options that enable them to purchase electricity from a specific generation source. With transport being the biggest overall source of emissions in the UK, a move towards electric vehicles and charging infrastructure is another key step. And organisations with land or roof space should consider generating electricity on their own sites, through solar PV for example.

By taking control of their energy, businesses can unlock bottom-line value and significantly reduce their environmental impact. Harnessing quick wins and having a smart approach to sourcing and managing energy will accelerate their journey to net-zero.

In a year with so much focus on the climate conversation, how is this playing out in the marketplace and amongst your customers?

Customers are increasingly telling us that environmental sustainability is important to their company’s success. It’s influencing more and more business decisions. But many businesses are also still feeling the impacts of the pandemic, supply chain issues and the recent energy price crisis. So while climate action rightly remains high on the agenda, organisations need to find a way of balancing their sustainability goals with their financial situation.

As a result, businesses are looking at how they can improve their sustainability credentials without needing to invest significant capital, which calls for more innovative options from us as an energy partner. As previously mentioned, we’ve enabled customers to match their consumption with zero carbon generation from a specific location, technology type or even a single asset. This provides the authenticity and traceability that organisations are increasingly demanding from their energy supply.

On-site generation, through solar PV, is also increasingly of interest, as it can provide a direct source of zero-carbon electricity that is shielded from market price volatility, without the need for capital investment.

And for those organisations able to commit for the longer term, we are seeing them opt for Corporate Power Purchase Agreements, which allow them to support new renewable generation, reduce their carbon emissions and protect themselves from market volatility.

How can sustainability professionals frame net-zero to their Board in a way that outlines how sustainability can help businesses in terms of financial and reputational prosperity?

I believe it’s important to keep it simple from the outset and align energy-based recommendations to the strategic and financial targets of the wider organisation – through short, medium and long-term goals.

Environmental sustainability is having an increasingly significant impact on company perception, as stakeholders place more importance on the topic. Consumers are environmentally aware and more likely to choose a brand committed to sustainability. And many of the world’s largest investors have committed to investing only in companies committed to achieving Net Zero by 2050.

I’d suggest speaking to your energy supplier to see what they can do to help you build your business case; it’s what we at EDF are doing with our key partners on a daily basis. We believe a sustainable energy plan is now vital to all organisations.

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 do – having a firm understanding of your energy consumption, and the options for managing it, can provide an additional level of resilience for businesses. The rollout of smart meters currently being overseen by the government highlights the importance of energy data. By understanding how much, when and where energy is being used, we can reduce waste and emissions, whilst helping to balance an increasingly diverse energy system. Having this level of data available also helps to ensure more accurate bills and an increased understanding of where costs can be minimised. Whilst energy data is the foundation – providing better visibility and promoting resilience – it can also support in building the case for new energy innovations and investment.

Developments in on-site generation and energy storage also have an important role to play – they are essential for us reaching Net Zero, but they also offer business resilience. For example, by installing solar PV generation, your business will rely less on energy imported from the grid, becoming more self-sufficient. You’ll also reduce your exposure to an often-volatile energy market, offering some budget certainty.

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?

The energy landscape is constantly evolving, with new challenges and solutions arising all the time. I’m looking forward to hearing what other businesses and market participants are doing to accelerate their journeys; we know that collaboration is essential for the UK to reach net-zero, so it’s key that we make the most of such opportunities to share knowledge and ideas.

Net Zero and sustainability are currently high on the agenda, but initiatives such as Net Zero November are important to ensure it remains this way. It’s critical that we understand the challenges all businesses are facing now and in the future. By understanding these challenges, we can design the solutions for them to meet their net-zero ambitions.

Net-Zero November: Join the conversation during edie’s mega month of content and events

As critical negotiations at COP26 formally start, the award-winning edie content has launched Net-Zero November – a return to an entire month’s worth of digital content and live events, all dedicated to accelerating the race to a more resilient, zero-carbon economy.

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 throughout the month. 

Click here for a full run-down of the agenda and information on how you can get involved. 

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