Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, ScottishPower
In the year of COP26, there is talk of revolution in the air – a green industrial revolution that will invest in the people, skills and infrastructure we need to accelerate the shift to a Net Zero economy.
At ScottishPower, we’re doing our level best to turn those aspirations into reality – making sure that talk is backed up with action. During 2020, we invested nearly £1.5bn in the UK, working hard to develop our onshore and offshore windfarms and our electricity networks to support the shift to cleaner transport, heating and industrial processes.
The recent appointment of Alok Sharma as full-time president of the UN COP26 Climate Conference following the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan and the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget have reinforced the importance of ensuring that the benefits of the Net Zero transition are felt by local communities right across the UK.
As we tackle the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that the economic and environmental advantages of delivering a green recovery are aligned as never before. Every community – urban and rural, rich and poor – should feel the benefit.
What’s more, there’s a stronger sense of urgency than ever that the decisions we take now as a country will be critical to success in meeting our ambitious 2030 targets. That’s the year the UK has set to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 68% compared to 1990 levels, to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, and to transform our power generation mix by installing 40GW of offshore wind.
These are big, bold targets. And they’re all eminently achievable, if we mobilise industry, communities, and government at all levels for a decade of delivery.
One of the reasons I’m so confident about our ability to meet the Net Zero challenge is because of the changes we’ve made at ScottishPower.
In the five years since the Paris Climate Agreement, we’ve transformed our business model. Today, all the power we generate – enough to supply the energy needs of nearly 2 million homes – comes from our forty onshore and offshore windfarms. Every new customer we sign up is supplied with 100% Green electricity as a matter of course.
We may be the first of the UK’s integrated energy companies to make this green shift, but I sincerely hope that we won’t be the last.
Net Zero is now the prism through which we take our business decisions, and that’s a profound change. It’s a key reason for us becoming a Principal Partner of COP26, the largest summit ever hosted on UK soil taking place in our home city of Glasgow this coming November.
Over the next five years we’re building on our green commitments, with a £10 billion investment plan to double our renewable generation capacity and to deliver the networks that will facilitate electric vehicles and decarbonised heating. Our plans will support something in the order of 10,000 jobs, helping to develop skilled apprentices, a sustainable supply chain, and spreading the economic benefits far and wide.
With the right Net Zero route map – along the lines that the Climate Change Committee recently set out – and with the right supporting frameworks, we can make the decarbonisation of our power, transport and heating sectors a reality.
As an industry, we’ve already shown how we can invest behind clear targets, driving down the price of wind power to the point where it’s now the cheapest form of electricity in the UK, bar none. That was unimaginable twenty years ago – but thanks to the mechanisms put in place by successive governments, the UK is now recognised as a world leader in delivering green electricity.
We should be taking the lessons from this experience and applying them to the nascent technologies we know will be important for delivering Net Zero – such as developing low carbon hydrogen at scale to help clean up transport and heavy industry, and making heat pumps a mainstream and cost-efficient alternative to conventional gas boilers for heating our homes.
At the same time, we need to ensure that the green transition is fair, and its advantages shared equally.
For the first time since the invention of the internal combustion engine, the worlds of mass transportation and electricity are converging. We need to be getting ready for the mass take-up of electric vehicles (EVs), by ensuring there’s a network of public use chargepoints in place – not just on wealthy high streets on leafy suburban avenues, but in remote, rural and socially disadvantaged areas as well, which the market is less likely to reach.
Underpinning all of these themes – more wind power on the system, an electric pathway for home heating, speeding up the shift to EVs – is the role of our energy networks.
Last summer ScottishPower published Unlocking Net Zero, our own 10-point plan for a green recovery. We set out the reasons why the cables and wires connecting green energy sources like offshore windfarms to actual consumers will be crucial to delivering the massive increase in electrification the Climate Change Committee predicts we’re going to need over the next few years.
If anything, now is the time to accelerate our investment in this critical infrastructure. To make that happen, government, industry and Ofgem, the regulator, need to be aligned on the necessary measures to stimulate and incentivise investment.
That’s why we need to think hard about how to reinvigorate Ofgem’s purpose on Net Zero. I’ve seen how the experience of becoming 100% Green at ScottishPower has been transformative in terms of how we view ourselves, how we view the world, and how we view our mission.
To do more than simply talk about a revolution, however, and actually engineer a green recovery, we need the same sort of paradigm shift across industry and the economy as a whole. Equipped with a clear strategic steer and a mandate to deliver Net Zero, Ofgem should be an enabler and champion of that process.
As Chris Stark, the Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee, said recently, it’s time to buckle up for an accelerated drive to Net Zero that will create massive new employment and economic opportunities across the UK. At ScottishPower, we’re ready to play a leading role in delivering the green industrial revolution – and we’re looking to all companies and regulators to do the same.