SSEN Transmission managing director Rob McDonald writes for Utility Week about the company’s ambitious decarbonisation plan. SSEN recently became the world’s first electricity networks company to receive accreditation for its science-based target in line with a 1.5°C global warming pathway.

Delivering net-zero emissions and preventing the worst effects of climate change is at the heart of our business. Whilst the most material impact we have is through connecting and transporting clean renewable electricity to homes and businesses across the north of Scotland and beyond, we also recognise we have a responsibility to take direct action to reduce our own impact on climate change.

We have therefore set ourselves extremely ambitious plans to reduce our own emissions in line with what is required to meet net-zero emissions and we are absolutely delighted that our carbon reduction commitments have been recognised by the globally renowned and respected Science Based Target initiative. This means that we are the world’s first electricity networks company to receive external accreditation for a science-based target in line with a 1.5°C global warming pathway.

Tackling climate change is at the heart of our RIIO-T2 Business Plan: A Network for Net Zero and our leading commitments to tackle our own impact are strongly supported by our customers and stakeholders. Independent validation of our targets sends a strong signal that we are fully committed to delivering on our ambitions.

We became an early advocate for science-based targets in 2018 and have engaged the Science Based Target initiative in developing these targets. World first approval is quite an achievement, and one which we are extremely proud of. Our commitment to a 1.5°C pathway is the most ambitious (and challenging) of science-based target validations.

Aligning with the 2016 Paris Agreement, the validation of our ambitious carbon reduction objectives will ensure that our business follows a credible and scientifically verified carbon reduction pathway as we support the journey to net zero emissions. Our commitments include:

  • To reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 46 per cent by FY 2029/2030 from a 2018 base year. We intend to do this by making our substations more energy efficient, replacing our operational vehicle fleet with EVs and tackling SF6 emissions. This builds on SSEN Transmission’s commitment to reduce emissions by one third by 2026 as part of its RIIO-T2 Business Plan, A Network for Net Zero.
  • To reduce Scope 3 Transmission Losses GHG emissions 50 per cent per gCO2e from losses/kWh by FY2029/2030 from a 2018 base year, by implementing a Transmission losses strategy and connecting more renewable electricity to our network in the north of Scotland.
  • To work closely with our supply chain so that two thirds (67 per cent) of our suppliers by spend will have a science-based target by FY2024/2025 and so reducing our indirect emissions.

In the space of a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way society and the economy operates. Attention has rightly focused on coronavirus, but climate change – which itself poses fundamental risks to human, social and economic wellbeing – hasn’t gone away and remains the critical challenge of our generation.  The transition to net zero presents an opportunity for a green and resilient economic recovery and we are determined to play a leading role.

The urgency of the climate imperative is clearer than ever – the 2020s represents the most important decade of action if the world is to avoid global warming increases in excess of 1.5 degrees. These 2030 targets provide our net zero pathway and will pave the way for transformation across our industry.

We now call on other companies to follow our lead and set science based climate change targets and we encourage Ofgem and government to ensure our net-zero ambitions are realised as we approach the next transmission price control period, which begins next April.

The sector’s role in supporting decarbonisation is at the heart of our Build Back Better campaign, leading up to the Build Back Better Forum October 20-21