ESB on leading the low carbon transition

Members News - Environment - Feb 25, 2020

ESB has been actively engaged with the sustainability agenda for many years. In 2008 they launched a 5 year sustainability programme (2008- 2012) which involved performing deep dive audits of the company’s energy footprint. This enabled ESB to identify a range of emissions mitigation options and quantify associated cost savings. ESB was one of the market leaders in appointing a Sustainability Director in 2008, an early indication of senior management support. These two initiatives were fundamental in placing sustainability firmly on the company’s strategic agenda. Recognising the evolving policy environment ESB has aligned its business strategy with a vision of a future in which companies will increasingly find themselves operating in an emissions-constrained environment, ultimately leading to an economic model underpinned by decarbonised activity. ESB has identified the objectives of halving their carbon emissions intensity by 2030, generating 40% of electricity from renewable energy by 2030, and being net carbon neutral by 2050. As such ESB view sustainability and decarbonisation as the core of their business strategy.

As part of its strategy, ESB set itself a corporate Purpose of ‘leading the low carbon transition’. This ambition to show climate leadership means that delivering emissions reductions within electricity generation is not sufficient. Reductions must be achieved across the entire estate including all buildings and transport and encompass all business activities and business units. Participation in the EU emissions trading scheme and on-going efforts to expand the company’s renewable energy generation portfolio are driving ESB’s Scope 1 decarbonisation activities. In order to address Scope 2 targets ESB is prioritising improving the energy efficiency of its buildings.

The company is also targeting the carbon footprint of its vehicle fleet. ESB is currently installing remote energy monitoring in the top 20 energy consumers among its occupied buildings as part of its energy management system. In the medium and long term, it plans to retrofit its stock of some 200 occupied buildings. Energy efficiency programmes to date have delivered a 32% reduction in building electricity consumption and a 57% reduction in carbon emissions related to electricity consumed. The company is currently in the process of securing ISO 50001 accreditation for its energy management system. Vehicles ESB commissioned a new, advanced fleet management system in 2018. An extensive fleet utilisation exercise was carried out which provided data to support the prioritisation of vehicles for replacement with electric models. This has permitted ESB to identify 100 small diesel service vehicles with shorter daily mileage and light loads for replacement with an optimised fleet of 75 electric vehicles. The fleet management system can assess fleet performance, manage fleet utilisation, prioritise scheduling of vehicles for EV replacement, and examine the impact of efforts to promote eco-driving practices. The lifecycle cost analysis fully supported this initiative which is also making a significant contribution to decarbonising the 30 million kilometres travelled annually.

With a strategic commitment to decarbonisation and leading the low carbon transition, ESB’s decision to convert the diesel forklift fleet to fully electric alternatives considered a more extensive lifecycle cost analysis, including environmental and health co-benefits, which built a compelling business case for management to deliver emissions free goods handling in stores and depots, removing a key emissions source from indoor warehouse spaces. ESB recognise that it has become increasingly important that companies subject their carbon and sustainability profiles to the same rigorous auditing process applied to financial data. ESB’s corporate finance team identify investors as becoming increasingly interested in understanding a company’s performance against both financial and nonfinancial metrics. With this in mind ESB are working towards aligning the publication of their financial and sustainability reports. Reflecting ESB’s holistic approach to sustainability and decarbonisation, the company’s corporate finance team recently issued a Green Bond to further drive ESB’s low carbon transition strategy.

Looking beyond the parameters of its own operation, ESB is seeking to enhance the sustainability of its supply chain. The company developed a “sustainability check list” as part of the original sustainability programme. Efforts are on-going to update this and to identify the range of “best practices” that could be used to drive carbon reductions within the supply chain. Possible options being explored include the requirement for carbon audits for key suppliers and engagement with them to support their efforts to reduce emissions.

ESB have signed up to the Low Carbon Pledge. Find out more about Pledge and to learn how all the companies that have signed up are progressing.

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