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Success Stories

We are already on our journey to Net Zero and have been leading the way as we transform how we run our business.

Here are some examples of work already happening across our organisation.

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Under construction during 2021, the North Shropshire Reinforcement was an £18 million project, boosting network capacity and resilience throughout North Shropshire.

Biodiversity was considered throughout all stages of the project, which aimed to avoid landscape and ecosystem impacts by design. The desire to avoid sensitive landscapes and habitats was a deciding factor in the use of trident wood poles, which enabled the overhead line to take a more angular route where required. Potential impacts on local birdlife were also considered in the project planning phase. Survey results indicated that bird activity across the preferred line route was relatively low, minimising the risk of disruption to local bird habitats. In partnership with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and supported by dialogue with a wide range of local and national stakeholders, such as landowners and regulators, the project delivered an additional suite of environmental enhancement schemes. These included several hedgerow and pond restorations, creation of a wildflower meadow, canal works at a local nature reserve, and wetland restoration. Outputs to date

  • 5 pods restored
  • 2.5km of hedgerow planting
  • 500 native trees planted
  • 2.26 hectares of wetland
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In October 2021 we were contacted by Butterfly Conservation Scotland with a request for help to preserve the Northern Brown Argus Butterfly, one of the rarest species of butterflies in the country.

Preserving the biodiversity of our environment is one of the key commitments, and all our projects must include an environmental plan outlining steps to minimise impacts to natural flora and fauna.

The decline of this species is largely because one single known plant is the larvae’s preferred food source – the Common Rockrose. Due to inappropriate grazing and loss of suitable habitat for the plant, the occurrence of the Northern Brown Argus Butterfly declined by 36% between 2005 and 2014, making it a priority for conservation efforts.

Since we were approached by Butterfly Conservation Scotland, the charity has reacted positively to our vegetation management activity which involves cyclical clearance of scrub in the Borders. This is likely to have aided the survival of the Common Rockrose plant, and by extension the butterfly.

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In an industry-first, pioneering initiative, we have teamed with waste plastic roads specialists to offset plastic waste at one of its substations.

Our business operates within circular economy principles, which aim to keep materials in use for as long as possible. This initiative utilised waste plastic material as a key component in road construction. Beginning in December 2019, work started on the roads at the Wishaw substation, the biggest site operational site in our SP Transmission business, to extend and reconfigure the area.

For this type of infrastructure, bitumen, a sticky, black liquid used to make asphalt is traditionally used. Some of the benefits of using waste plastic instead are:

  • Reduction of material burned or sent to landfill
  • A more durable road, reducing the need for repairs and driving down carbon emissions.
  • For every 100 square metres of road laid using waste plastic, the equivalent of over 435,000 single-use carrier bags or over 71,000 throwaway bottles are recycled.
  • In total, 2 tonnes of plastic waste from the substation were offset by waste plastic in the new roads - more than the weight of an average mid-size car.

Our vision is to be a sustainable networks business, in part by achieving neutral or positive environmental and social impacts. A key driver within our Sustainability Strategy is a commitment to ‘sustainable resource use’ with a goal to divert 95% of waste from landfill by 2023. This project supports the journey towards this.

We are the first utility company to offset our plastic waste by using it for infrastructure construction. Plans are being developed to roll out similar projects across other SP Transmission sites, making this a blueprint for environmental change across the energy sector.

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As a business we use approximately 800,000 litres of red diesel per year running temporary generators. As we continue to look at new innovative ways to reduce our carbon emissions, we are looking to transition from using diesel to power our generators which provide temporary power in the event of a power cut. One solution is to use Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an alternative.

 

HVO is a fuel which is made from any waste food products or plants that contain oils and fats. Because HVO is chemically very similar to red diesel, HVO can be directly substituted for red diesel in our generator fleet, with minimum modification. Additionally, the two fuels can be mixed together and used in the event of anonymously high fuel demand, such as power outages following a major storm.

HVO has a much lower carbon footprint than diesel – up to 90% lower. Swapping diesel for HVO when powering the generators will save the CO2 equivalent of more than 650 flights from London to Australia.

The reason HVO has such low emissions is because plants draw in carbon dioxide as they grow, storing this as plant matter. This plant matter is then manufactured into HVO. When this is combusted, carbon dioxide releases the carbon back into the atmosphere, meaning the entire process is effectively carbon neutral - except for energy used in the manufacturing process and any transportation emissions. In comparison, burning diesel releases carbon that was previously stored underground into the atmosphere, increasing the concentration of atmospheric carbon. Additionally, HVO contains fewer impurities than diesel, so burns cleaner and produces less particulate matter in the exhaust.

While HVO represents a better option than diesel, we recognise that this is not a completely sustainable solution. There are still emissions produced and significant amounts of land are required to grow the raw materials. Our long-term goal is therefore to implement fully electric and hydrogen generators. We have undertaken initial trials with electric units and will continue to collaborate with our supply chain to drive innovation in this area.

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Recognising the importance of ongoing leadership and ambition, we have set validated Science-Based Targets, committing to reduce our carbon footprint, at a trajectory required for a 1.5°C future in line the goals of the Paris Agreement.

 

In order to ensure we can reduce our emissions at the scale we need, we have developed a plan to reduce all our sources of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. This includes direct emission (Scope 1), emissions associated with our energy use (Scope 2) and all other indirect emissions (Scope 3)

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Controlling our direct emissions and energy use Direct emissions include all emissions which occur from sources that are controlled or owned by us. The majority of our direct emissions come from fuel used in vehicles and generators, and leakage of technical gases from our equipment. In order to reduce the carbon footprint of our direct emissions we are:

  • Transitioning to 100% electric vehicles
  • Implementing alternatives to diesel such as Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO)
  • Reducing the leakage of technical gases like SF6, by fixing leaks and using environmentally friendly alternatives where possible

As a network operator we don’t just transport energy, we also consume energy to keep our systems and buildings operational. We are improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and depots, which will make our buildings more efficient and generate renewable power through solar panel installation. We are also ensuring the majority of the electricity we use is green electricity certified through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

Reducing network losses (Scope 2)

Network losses include the total amount of energy lost as electricity flows through our cables and substations. Losses are physically unavoidable – and there will always be a proportion of energy lost when it is transported from power sources to homes and business. Furthermore, energy production has an associated carbon footprint – so it is important that we minimise network losses as much as possible, by ensuring our network is running as efficiently as possible.

As the size and complexity of our network increases, our losses are also expected to increase. However, the carbon footprint associated with energy is expected to go down as the UK continues to transition towards low carbon energy production. While we have little control over the decarbonisation of energy markets, we will ensure that we connect renewable energy sources to the grid as soon as possible – and we will continue developing the smart grid of the future, which will allow the decarbonisation of heat and transport.

Controlling our indirect emissions (Scope 3)

Indirect emissions are all emissions excluding energy use which occur as a result of our activities – but are outwith our direct control. This includes emissions associated with the manufacture of materials and equipment which we use to build our network. Building and maintaining our grid requires lots of resources and energy – and is supported by a global supply chain. It is important that we work with our supply chain to eliminate waste, find better, innovative, and more efficient ways to construct, and use more environmentally friendly, recycled building materials.

We are also taking actions to change the way we travel, encouraging our employees to use environmentally friendly forms of transport by:

  • Supporting cycle to work schemes
  • Supporting our employees with loans for public transport season passes
  • Introducing grants and salary sacrifice for electric vehicles and charging points.

All this is helping to reduce the indirect impact we have on the environment and driving the change needed to reach Net Zero.

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Insight into our the work at the Hawkshaw Native Woodland project and how our investment has supported rewilding, greenhouse gas removal and wildlife protection activities on site.

At SP Energy Networks, we are absolutely committed to our carbon impact in line with what the latest climate science shows is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to 1.5°C. We have set validated Science Based Targets and continue to work towards reducing our direct and indirect emissions. However, we recognise that we must also start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - to ensure for emissions which we currently cannot feasibly reduce. 

The vision at Hawkshaw - a woodland in the Scottish Borders, managed by Borders Forest Trust - is to restore rough grazing land into native woodland, creating an important refuge for wildlife and an area of amenity for local people. The growth of native trees will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As the focus is on rewilding rather than commercial foresting, carbon will remain 'locked in' as the woodland matures. 

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Through our work to consider the impact on the local environments we operate in and to reduce or negate that wherever possible, we have worked with Forest Carbon Limited to deliver a pilot project at Hawkshaw - which will provide vital habitats for local wildlife and remove approximately 800 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the next 100 years.

Our Sustainability Specialist, Steven Vallance, said: "We recognise the huge role operational businesses like ours have to play in building a sustainable future for our communities, which is why we're driving specific goals and commitments in this area across our own business and supply chain. We have a sustainability strategy that underpins all of our business commitments, and with plans to invest £146m across our network in the coming years to reduce the environmental impact, we will continue to support local communities with projects and initiatives like rewilding, which will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and create habitats for local wildlife. 

"It's exciting and rewarding to be able to work with industry experts like Forest Carbon Limited and charities like the Borders Forest Trust, in order to support and advocate for rewilding and nature-based solutions. Partnerships like this are necessary to deliver our ambitious commitments to build a truly sustainable network, and it's great to see some of those benefits coming to fruition at Hawkshaw."

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Check out the video below from Steven’s recent visit to Hawkshaw with our Chief Operating Officer, Guy Jefferson, George Hepburne Scott from Forest Carbon Limited, and landowner, Neil Moffat:

 

 

Read more on our sustainability commitments in our dedicated strategy: 

SP Energy Networks Sustainable Business Strategy

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Recognising that major projects often have surplus electrical assets and material on sites, historically destined for disposal, an SP Transmission Project Manager created a re-use system to ensure materials are no longer wasted. This has been trialled across three sites with good uptake of materials ranging from plastic ducting to circuit breakers. The trial recorded materials exchanged but not weight so quantification of savings is not possible at this early stage.

Recognising that major projects often have surplus electrical assets and material on sites, historically destined for disposal, an SP Transmission Project Manager created a re-use system to ensure materials are no longer wasted. This has been trialled across three sites with good uptake of materials ranging from plastic ducting to circuit breakers. The trial recorded materials exchanged but not weight so quantification of savings is not possible at this early stage.

The next steps will be to look at digitalisation options to roll out the project across project sites and quantify savings.

Asset Reuse Recovery Collaboration

Partner Logos

This multi partnership project we are leading aims to develop novel solutions to an industry wide problem of sustainably procuring and managing high value assets. Through Ofgem Strategic Innovation Funding we carried out a discovery phase project in early 2022, actively engaging with a range of organisations representative of the whole energy system, conducting more than 30 interviews, gathering input from key stakeholders on current views and practice on the Circular Economy related to electrical assets. We also carried out a knowledge sweep of wider circular practices and innovations, establishing areas of best practice, commonality, and opportunities. Through the discovery phase we identified several examples of circular economy initiatives, however these were often developed and implemented in an isolated manner, covering either one area of the organisation or one specific aspect of the energy system, limiting the benefits that can be realised through collaboration across the whole energy system.

By considering whole life use, our approach will ultimately reduce duplication and reduce the environmental impact of the energy industry through the life extension of assets, utilising practices such as refurbishing, repairing, retrofitting, remanufacturing, repurposing, and resource exchange. This will reduce virgin material use, carbon and cost for the energy sector, reduce costs to consumers, and positively impact on wider targets around the Net Zero transition.

Next Steps
It is our ambition to develop this project over future years, securing funding, to achieve a circular economic framework - applicable across all aspects of the energy system, improving collaboration and driving strategic business change, moving away from traditional, mainly linear, ways of working. The ultimate ambition of the project will be to deliver a state-of-the-art asset re-use and recovery centre alongside the development of a resource exchange mechanism delivering a truly circular energy industry.

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Concrete has a high impact on our greenhouse gas emissions and our civil engineering team has investigated ways to reduce this environmental impact associated with foundation works.

In May 2021 a collaboration with Hyperion looked into the feasibility of introducing 3D printing into the process. The aim was to reduce time, cost and environmental impact, maintaining the same concrete characteristics with less material.

Initial testing provided a 65% reduction of the embodied carbon and a 75% reduction in the volume of material. However, in the initial phase printed concrete was considered cost prohibitive. Recent developments, linking up with a UK based manufacturer, have proved more positive with a potential cost saving of 20%.

Next steps:
With some minor tweaks and more analysis on transportation, the 3D printed foundation is close to being a viable solution.

 

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