“The costs of renewable energy sources are going down so quickly that what we once thought would be an expensive way of decarbonising the economy is actually now simply a case of good business sense..”
So said Matthieu Hue, CEO EDF Energy Renewables, at EDF Energy’s January 2018 Talk Power event at The Shard in London. His words were supported by business leaders who are already making, or considering making, serious commitments to renewable energy, including Dr Anna Menezes-Dowson, Group Head of Energy at Tesco, who stressed the retailer’s commitment to zero carbon – using 100% renewables – by 2030, building on 54% renewables in 2018.
Our host for the evening, Beatrice Bigois, Managing Director of Customers for EDF Energy, asserted that fossil fuels are in steady decline, with the reliance on coal for generating electricity dropping from 37% of the mix in 2013 to just 10% today. She added that this move away from fossil fuels is essential for the UK Government to meeting its commitments to reducing carbon emissions.
The consensus of our guest speakers was that distributed generation and finding smarter ways to incorporate it, is not only essential for businesses to meet compliance legislation, but also to provide better services for their customers, and ultimately improve their bottom line. They offered three key actions to help businesses take advantage of the distributed generation boom, sooner rather than later:
Dr Anna Menezes-Dowson, Head of Energy at Tesco.
1. Update your energy strategy - make renewables a key part of it
Every major business needs an energy strategy – one that’s realistic, but also forward-thinking. We learned that many businesses still don’t know where to start with distributed energy generation, including producing their own, localised energy from solar panels and other renewable technologies. An effective energy strategy is key to unlocking the business and environmental benefits of distributed generation over the next few years.
Dr Anna Menezes-Dowson of Tesco described how her company’s energy strategy began with a commitment to be one the 330 leading UK businesses to take the science-based approach to rewriting their climate change targets. Ambitious targets required an ambitious strategy to match, that mapped out a path to meet and exceed the Paris Agreement standards.
The group’s focus on cash-neutral solutions for achieving its goals has required clever thinking to balance financial investments in its choice of renewables. This includes using the savings generated from third-party onsite generation to fund additional investment in offsite renewable generation. This marks a bold shift towards increasingly credible sources of renewable electricity – a key step on the company’s journey to 100% renewables by 2030.
We learned from Anna, and more widely from fellow business leaders, that collaboration internally across corporate departments and externally with energy suppliers and expert partners is a crucial working practice to develop an energy strategy that the whole business can get behind and deliver.
Matthieu Hue, CEO, EDF Energy Renewables
2. Revisit your energy mix – bring more renewables into your supply
As prices come down, and technology improves, it’s becoming ever more cost effective to incorporate higher levels of renewable energy into the mix. EDF Energy’s Matthieu Hue suggested that growing evidence and understanding of climate change is greatly accelerating the move towards renewables both in the UK and around the world, which will bring increasing changes to the carbon economy.
With the UK’s commitment to an 80% reduction in carbon by 2050, renewables will play a key role. Matthieu forecast that renewables will grow massively and reach 40% or more of the national electricity mix by 2035. He also outlined concrete examples of the reduction in costs for renewables, including an offshore wind farm that dropped from £120/MWh to £60/MWh in just two years. These cuts are taking place across all renewables, world-wide, creating opportunities for businesses to drop their energy costs and, importantly, contribute to the efforts to lower national carbon emissions across the UK. Find out more at edf-er.com.
Myles McCarthy, Director of Implementation at the Carbon Trust.
3. Innovate to advance – collaborate with experts to take your next step
From teaming up with Formula One aerofoil specialists to increase the efficiency of Tesco’s instore refrigeration, to introducing gravity-based foundation technology to achieve the largest offshore wind turbines in the UK, we learned that businesses are collaborating with expert partners to find new ways to develop and use renewable energy and new technologies in exciting ways.
Myles McCarthy, Director of Implementation at the Carbon Trust, noted that harnessing innovation and new technology is one of the primary means for UK companies to lead on climate change. “Businesses hold the greatest power and responsibility to make an impact on our carbon targets,” he said. “Big changes can happen – look at the seismic shift in awareness of plastics in just six months. Consumers need to be motivated by attractive low-carbon products. That means businesses must lead the way through innovation, by redesigning products and their value chains for the benefit of customers, and the environment.”
Talk Power at The Shard provided an excellent opportunity for industry leaders to share ideas and observations on the future of energy in the UK and around the world. The venue was chosen because of the impeccable sustainability credentials incorporated into its core design, enabling it to consume 30% less energy than a conventional skyscraper of the same size. It’s a strong illustration of how, with foresight and planning, business can make savings and face the future of energy with confidence.
Now, as never before, the business benefits for investing in distributed generation, including renewables, are at a new height with the cost of entry at an all-time low, and set to reduce further, amid growing public and corporate appetite for environmental change. Now is the time for UK business to lead the way in shaping our zero-carbon future.
Let’s keep talking
If you have any questions or would like to speak to us about any of the topics covered, please email LetsTalkPower@edfenergy.com
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