The road to Paris and beyond

The countdown is well and truly underway for December’s UN Climate Change conference (COP21) in Paris. The signs are good for a global agreement on tougher action, so it’s a good time for an energy company like SSE to take stock of its own role in all this.

Obviously an energy company has a big role to play in terms of helping the UK move towards a less carbon-intensive energy system. Removing carbon from electricity generation in an affordable way is essential to mitigate the worst affects of climate change. SSE has been progressively removing carbon from its generation mix – as most clearly evidenced by our long-term support for renewable generation.

Since 2007 SSE has invested nearly £4bn in renewable generation and is currently the leading operator of renewable assets in the UK. Such assets currently provide around 30% of SSE’s generation output; and will help us meet our commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of our overall electricity generation by 50% (compared to 2006) by 2020.

Furthermore SSE is moving away from a generation mix that was once weighted towards coal and gas towards one that is now weighted towards gas and renewables. Last year (2014/15) SSE produced more renewable electricity than any other company in the UK and Ireland (8,466MWh) from the most diverse range of sources.

Earlier in the year we announced the closure (in March 2016) of our Ferrybridge coal plant. This has reliably supplied electricity to the UK for well in excess of four decades. However the decision reflects the reality of a national transition to cleaner forms of generation. In addition we have just announced plans to re-open our gas-fired power station at Keadby.

We’re already beginning to reap the rewards of this shift in emphasis of our generation mix, with SSE’s carbon emissions down by 34% in 2014/15. SSE’s proactive approach has led to recognition from CDP who awarded the company an ‘A’ rating for the first time in its measure of the performance of companies around the world in such areas.

But we recognise that a lot more needs to be done. And that’s why SSE has committed to four bold climate change initiatives as it joins the CDP and We Mean Business ‘Commit to Action’ campaign in the run up to Paris.

These include: setting a science–based emissions reduction target; putting an internal price on the cost of carbon to use as part of our £1.5bn-a-year investment decision making; a public commitment to responsible engagement on climate policy making; and a commitment to transparent reporting of climate change related information.

I’ll be part of the panel discussion at a CDP event on November 5th where we hope to at least match our A star rating. I’ll be using the opportunity to highlight the importance of carbon pricing, pressing for a more robust global mechanism for creating a price for carbon – something which Paris could help develop.

Importantly at home, arguing that Europe can, and should do more to deliver a meaningful carbon price. This is a point we’ll be raising with national Governments and the European institutions after Paris to ensure that the 2 degree target can be kept in sight.

The road to, and beyond Paris is a long-term one for SSE and one that we are genuinely committed to. It’s incumbent on all of us to play a full part in helping to bring about meaningful change.

About the author

Martin Pibworth Wholesale Director

Martin joined SSE in 1998 as an energy trader and undertook a series of commercial roles in the Company, becoming Managing Director, Energy Portfolio Management, and a member of SSE's then Management Board, in 2012. In 2014, he was appointed Managing Director, Wholesale, and a member of SSE's Group Executive Committee, taking on responsibility for SSE's electricity generation portfolio and associated capital investment programme. During this time, Martin has overseen the development of SSE's diverse and flexible generation portfolio including its growing renewable fleet. In 2017, he was appointed to the Board as Wholesale Director, where he also has responsibility for the supply of energy and related services to industrial and commercial customers and SSE's businesses in Ireland. Martin brings significant knowledge of energy markets and experience of commercial, technical and operational matters to the Board, and his innovative approach to strategy, in seeking opportunities to create future value, is also important to his role. Prior to 1998 Martin worked for Eastern Power and Energy Trading, and Total Gas Marketing.

Read more articles by Martin Pibworth