UK government is right to impose net zero transition plans on businesses


EXCLUSIVE: Chris O’Shea, CEO of Centrica, told edie that investors pushed the company to publish a net zero transition plan – but other companies might not feel the pressure, making the New essential UK government mandatory disclosure requirements.

Centrica released its net zero transition plan today (November 4) and will update it at least once every three years

Speaking in the UK pavilion at COP26 on the day the company released its climate transition plan to underpin its commitment to a net zero goal by 2045, O’Shea said: “At Centrica, we like to try to steer some of this stuff forward. , but I am very happy that we are mandating these [plans].

“The reality is, some companies will want to do it voluntarily and some won’t, so you have to have the investors, the owners, the government setting up exactly what we want.”

The plan includes key commitments to increase the share of annual investments in low-carbon solutions from 5% in 2021 to 50% by 2025, with a focus on solar energy and battery storage. It comes just days after Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that large UK companies in high-emission sectors will be mandated to publish net zero transition plans by 2023, with a new verification standard being developed, designed to ensure that these plans are credible and not green.

O’Shea explained that, for Centrica, investors have been quicker to push for a transition plan than the UK government.

In his view, this is only fair, given the role the company has to play in providing the infrastructure and skills necessary for the UK’s energy transition and in engaging the general public throughout. this process.

At this last point, the firm has ten million British customers. Commitments to customers in the plan include delivery of up to 20,000 heat pumps and 100,000 electric vehicle charging points per year by 2025, but O’Shea acknowledged that these commitments, as well as that updated government subsidy programs may not make facilities affordable for low-income people. short term homes.

Upstream and internally

Upstream, on the generation side, the plan includes a commitment to provide 800 MW of additional solar generation and battery storage capacity by 2025.

O’Shea noted that although Centrica has certified all of its electricity as “zero carbon” for two years now, much of this has been done using Certificates of Origin for Renewable Power Generation (REGO). and similar approaches. In the future, additionality will be important to achieve national goals and ensure a credible business strategy.

“Our customers are rightly looking for more additionality; they want to see, touch and smell the places where their electricity is coming from, ”said O’Shea. “This is something that we, as a company, will continue to grow. “

In terms of internal employees and the daunting challenge of upgrading skills, retraining and creating new entry-level jobs, O’Shea is optimistic.

“Our colleagues want to work for a company that has the right goal,” he said, referring to those in office positions. Describing what to expect for people in professional field positions across the UK, he added: ‘From a very practical point of view, if you want to install heat pumps you can bring in installers. of multipurpose boilers. We need more people to do that, period, but the same people who are currently installing boilers can certainly install heat pumps. If you want to install solar and wind power, you need to have enough engineers – civil and environmental. There is a great opportunity for us here in the UK to create more high paying jobs.

Across the UK, individual businesses, professional organizations and MPs have called on the government to properly detail how it intends to meet its pledge of two million green jobs by 2030. The recent Net strategy -Zero, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have highlighted, contains no definition of jobs that will be classified as green; no comprehensive measures to improve skills; and a global commitment of 440,000 roles – barely a quarter of its 2030 target.

Centrica’s plans will be reviewed every three years and O’Shea has said he hopes to be able to move forward with some commitments in the years to come.

The initial pre-term plans, he said, can “give momentum internally and to industry.” This dynamic can be continued by leaving “flexibility” to more ambitious objectives.

Overall picture

Earlier this week, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) released a major assessment of how the auto, oil and gas, and electric utility giants plan to support workers, communities, customers and others throughout the low carbon transition.

180 companies were assessed and only nine achieved an overall rating of 50% or more. Worryingly, less than a quarter have public commitments on retraining or honing current roles. Planning was even weaker in the areas of supply chain engagement and policy advocacy.

WBA urges other companies to follow in the footsteps of SSE and BP – the only two assessed companies that have already taken the fundamental steps of developing comprehensive just transition plans and making key points available to the public. The full SSE Just Transition Strategy was released last November.

Stay up to date with the latest news from COP26 with the edie live blog.

Sarah george

Net-Zero November: Join the conversation during edie’s mega month of content and events

As the critical COP26 negotiations officially begin, award-winning edie content launched Net-Zero November – a return to a full month of digital content and live events, all dedicated to accelerating the race to a more resilient economy and carbon free. .

Presented in association with EDF, edie’s flagship partner, Net-Zero November will offer edie readers a range of exclusive net-zero-themed interviews, downloadable guides, reader blogs, virtual events and podcasts throughout the month.

Click here for a full overview of the agenda and information on how you can get involved.

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