Paul Spence, director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs

Our approach to the environment

“Climate change and environmental protection remain among the most pressing global challenges – today and for the future. We will lead the way in cutting emissions from electricity generation and achieve an increasingly positive environmental impact across our activities today and through our planning for the future”

- Paul Spence, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs


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Better Energy Ambitions Report

Our report covers progress on our Better Energy Ambitions which are our plan for a sustainable business.

We aim to lead the decarbonisation of the UK electricity sector whilst achieving an increasingly positive environmental impact across our operations

Our Environment Ambition 'To power society without costing the Earth’ captures our plans to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation and to have an increasingly positive environmental impact along the way.

Carbon intensity of our electricity generation

Our goal: To lead the UK in reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation

As the largest producer of low-carbon electricity in the UK, EDF Energy is uniquely positioned to play a key ongoing role in tackling climate change. We already produce around one third of the UK's low-carbon energy and continue to invest to safely meet the UK's energy demands while bringing emissions down.

Our target

  • To reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions from our electricity production to less than 100g carbon dioxide per kWh by 2030.

Our performance in 2015

  • Our CO2e emissions for 2015 totalled 16.88 million tonnes, compared to 19.97 million tonnes in 2014, largely because of an outage at Cottam coal power station.
  • Our nuclear power stations generated more than 60.6TWh of electricity, the highest level for 10 years, and 50% higher than in 2008 when we acquired the stations.
  • Our combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) at West Burton increased its output and emissions by 25% during 2015 to meet our customers’ demand for energy. It is a new and highly efficient power station, so opportunities to improve its efficiency further are more limited than at our older stations.
  • We generated 9% more electricity from renewables than in 2014 thanks to the excellent availability of our assets. The three new wind farms we are building through our joint venture with EDF Energies Nouvelles – Park Spring in Yorkshire, Burnhead and Rhodders in Scotland – were commissioned this year. This will add around 50MW capacity to our existing 31 wind farms' 599MW.

Our programmes

We invested £600 million in our nuclear plants in 2015, helping to improve our generation performance alongside the adoption of international best practice through continuous improvement.

We secured life extensions for four of our advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) nuclear power stations: Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 in Lancashire, Hartlepool in Teesside and Torness in East Lothian. Since acquisition, EDF Energy has extended the lives of the AGR stations by an average of 8.3 years; this equates to more than 409TWh of additional generation (409TWh) which is estimated to avoid around 95 million tonnes of CO2.

We successfully completed large planned outages, many interim outages, and opportunity maintenance at weekends at our coal plants, Cottam and West Burton A. This meant some units generated less electricity in 2015, which resulted in reduced emissions. But while we have invested to make our coal stations cleaner, they still produce nearly three times as much CO2 per kWh as our new combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) at West Burton.

We are also continuing to monitor and reduce carbon arising from our commercial buildings and transport.

The year ahead

Emissions are predicted to fall from summer 2016 as the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) limits generation from our coal stations.

When the IED introduces new emissions limits, our coal plants will experience greater operational and financial challenges.

The CCGT team plans to continue working on producing less conventional waste during 2016, to  improve the sustainability of the power station further.  This includes composting, land reclamation and soil conditioning as potential ways to dispose of silt sustainably.

We have also been looking at construction projects which should add another 67MW to our onshore wind fleet.

Environmental impact from our operations

Our goal: To achieve an increasingly positive environmental impact from our operations across land, air and water

Our targets

  • Land: Protect and enhance biodiversity – 100% of operational sites to hold the Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark by 2018; no net loss of biodiversity by 2030
  • Air: Reduce total greenhouse gas emissions across our buildings, transport and supply chain.
  • Water: Ensure sustainable water use across our operations; we are working to establish and report our water footprint by 2015.

Our performance in 2015

  • The land surrounding all of eight of our nuclear power stations was certified to the Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark.
  • In 2015, the amount of electricity we generated increased compared to 2014 and as a result so did our use of water for cooling.
  • 99% of our total water footprint in 2015 was seawater, used at our coastal nuclear power stations before being returned to the sea.
  • Freshwater from the nearby River Trent is used at our inland coal and gas stations.  Approximately 67% of the water abstracted from the River Trent was returned to the river in 2015, and the vast majority of the water not returned is lost into the atmosphere by evaporation from the cooling towers.
  • In 2015, our fresh mains water use decreased to 68,800m3 compared to 72,500m3 in 2014. Our fresh mains water use has declined overall since 2010, because we have made efforts to reduce leaks and closed some of our data centres, which used water to cool the servers.
  • In recognition of our work to reduce our environmental impact, we were awarded Business in the Community: Environmental Leadership Award reaccreditation in 2015.

Our programmes

  • We aim to achieve the Biodiversity Benchmark at the sites where we have the greatest potential to protect and enhance wildlife. This includes a variety of Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and other important protected habitats. [1]
  • There are no plans to extend the Biodiversity Benchmark to our coal and CCGT power stations, because market conditions are limiting our options for further development of the benchmark.
  • We have taken positive steps to manage the use of water within our business. With water resources coming under increasing pressure from population growth and environmental change, we are setting a water target.
  • We have strict controls in place to make sure water returns to the River Trent at a temperature and quality that meets the Environment Agency’s licence conditions. We also monitor for any potential pollutants in the discharged water, to meet the Environment Agency’s conditions.

 The year ahead

In 2016 we will update the biodiversity plans for the rest of our estate (excluding our thermal power stations), and review our longer term plans for the benchmark across all of our operations. 

We will explore opportunities to track water use in individual station processes and identify potential efficiency improvements. We will investigate how our water use affects our local environment, taking into account climate and flood risks. We will publish our key findings in our 2016 report.



[1] The Biodiversity Benchmark is currently held by Heysham A & B (which share a single nature reserve), Hinkley Point B, Dungeness B, Sizewell B, Hartlepool, Torness, and Hunterston power stations. The current commitment had planned for Cottam, West Burton A, West Burton B and our renewables business as a whole to hold the Biodiversity Benchmark. Potentially we have eleven operational businesses that can apply to obtain certification. Therefore our calculation methodology has changed.

Carbon dioxide intensity of electricity generation

Emissions from electricity generation in grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (gCO2 / kWh)

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Awards and achievements

We have a long track record in sustainability and responsible business which has been recognised and endorsed by many different organisations.