In February 2022, ESB announced a transformative drive to achieve net zero by 2040 and to put in place the infrastructure and services to enable customers to do likewise. Here, we provide an insight into our ‘Driven to Make a Difference: Net Zero by 2040’ Strategy and what it means for the environment, economy and customers.
What are the key objectives of ESB’s Net Zero Strategy?
- Decarbonised Electricity: Develop and connect more renewables to the electricity network by delivering a five-fold increase in renewable electricity, increasing ESB’s renewable generation portfolio from almost 1GW to 5GW and reducing the carbon intensity of our generation by two thirds by 2030. ESB Networks and NIE Networks, with EirGrid and SONI and all renewable energy developers, are already working to deliver a doubling of the renewable generation connected to the electricity transmission and distribution networks – from 6.2GW today, to more than 15GW as both Ireland and Northern Ireland target 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030.
- Resilient Infrastructure: Resilient electricity networks are absolutely central to climate action. ESB will continue to invest in maintaining electricity resilience, an important and challenging factor in the energy transition, and in system services, which will be required to help the system operators cope with high volumes of renewables. A fundamental part of the capability to get to net zero is finding a way of storing clean electricity when there is a surplus so that it can be used when the wind isn’t blowing. ESB is committed to playing a significant role in making this a reality, both through batteries and the other intra-day storage and, over the longer-term, clean energy storage technologies such as hydrogen.
- Empowered Customers: Empower, enable and support customers and communities to achieve net zero. This reflects our commitment to working alongside customers and communities to provide them with the infrastructure, products and services they need to live more sustainably using clean electricity. Specifically, we plan to double the number of ESB ecars public EV charge points by 2030 to 3,000 – helping to drive carbon out of transport. We will also deliver 35,000 deep home retrofits through Electric Ireland Superhomes, our new partnership with Tipperary Energy Agency, that will support our customers to drive carbon out of heating. ESB Networks and NIE Networks will put in place solutions for our networks customers to enable the widespread electrification of heat and transport and make it easy for customers and communities to participate in local markets for flexibility.
Why Net Zero?
Since 2017, there have been major shifts in climate and energy policy. Economies representing almost 90% of the World’s GDP have set net zero targets (by contrast, in 2017, the EU direction of travel was an 80% reduction by 2050).
Total decarbonisation of societies will require a combination of deeper electrification and greater levels of renewable energy, as well as the deployment of new energy technologies at massive scale (e.g. large-scale storage including hydrogen, carbon capture and biogas). While this will create new opportunities, it will require ESB to constrain the future role of any unabated thermal generation and will also require large investments in balancing or storage in order to maintain the reliability of supply.
This is driving deeper reliance on electricity and an associated need to ensure that zero-carbon electricity is reliable and affordable.
How do you define Net Zero?
Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources (i.e. pollution or pollutants originating from human activity) and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’.
The new Strategy explicitly maps to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Why did ESB do this?
Our purpose is to create a brighter future for the customers and communities we serve. We believe that the best way to do this is through collaboration. The SDGs provide a shared global agenda that will lead to better outcomes for people and the planet. While there are 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, ESB’s strategy is focused on three of them where we can make a tangible and meaningful difference, namely:
- SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
- SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
How will the success of this Strategy be measured?
A set of Strategic Performance Indicators and Success Metrics have been developed to ensure transparency and accountability in the delivery of the Strategy. These include a range of financial and non-financial metrics that track our progress in achieving strategic outcomes and foundational capabilities. To maximise transparency, target and out-turn values for the Strategic Performance Indicators will be published in our Annual Report and other relevant publications – where considerations of governance and commercial confidentiality allow.
Some examples include:
Increase renewable generation from 976MW to 5000MW
Reduce the carbon intensity of our generation fleet from 414 gCO2/KWh to 140 gCO2/KWh
Increase wind connections by ESB Networks and NIE Networks from 6.5GW today to 15GW
Facilitate 2 million EVs and heat pumps across the island of Ireland
Deliver 35,000 home retrofits
You talk about empowering customers to live more sustainably, how will you achieve this, and specifically how will you encourage customers to invest in the products and solutions?
To bring customers along on the energy transition, the products and services we are offering need to be intuitive, insight-led and contribute to a better customer experience – offering better comfort, cost and convenience. Understanding our customers’ needs and bringing the voice of the customer into in every part of the innovation and product design process will be critical, this is something we are committed to doing.
Does ESB have the capability to deliver this Strategy?
We envisage significant recruitment will be required to support the delivery of the Strategy. Our focus is on developing capability, enhancing people’s experience and well-being, all of which are key to business performance.
We are creating an environment that encourages creativity, energy, and commitment of our people through a safe, people-centric and inclusive experience. We are developing a strong, adaptive leadership capability and cultivating a high-performing, innovative, sustainable and customer-focused culture. This will support continuous capability development and learning at all levels of the organisation in order to make this transformative drive to net zero a reality for all.
Check out Our Strategy (esb.ie) for more information.