UK’s new ambitious target to cut national emissions by 78% by 2035, by Robert Groves CEO

With COP26 on the horizon, the UK Government has set ambitious net-zero targets for 2035. Chief Executive Officer, Robert Groves, shares his thoughts on the opportunities that UK businesses have to be part of the net-zero transition and the important role that renewables and flexibility will play to support efforts to reach the Government’s new target.

Following the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to legislate a new target to cut national emissions by 78% by 2035. This is a significant increase from the UK’s original goal of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in an estimated 10.7% drop in carbon pollution in 2020, with gross greenhouse gas emissions almost 50% lower than in 1990. The UK Government is required by the Climate Change Act of 2008 to set five-year pollution reduction goals, also known as carbon budgets. This sixth Carbon Budget restricts the amount of greenhouse gases released over a five-year cycle from 2033 to 2037, putting the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Carbon Budget will ensure that the UK is on track to meet its commitment to climate change, while also adhering to the Paris Agreement's temperature targets to cap the rise in global temperatures at 1.5 °C.

Many Industrial and Commercial (I&C) businesses we work with are leading the way to net-zero with ambitious sustainability goals of their own, but there is a balance that needs to be struck between supporting and pushing UK businesses to take action. As a next generation energy company, SmartestEnergy are working with our customers and consultant partners to help businesses get a head-start on their net-zero journey. This includes property management company, JLL, who have committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across all JLL-occupied buildings by 2030.

Our certified 100% renewable electricity products are independently validated by the Carbon Trust, providing businesses with the confidence they need to report zero carbon emissions for their purchased electricity, We’ve been working with the Carbon Trust since 2017, and their trusted accreditation process for our renewable products provides our I&C customers with the confidence they need to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) Scope 2 emissions. With a rigorous and forward-looking auditing process, customers are assured of our ability to meet our renewable commitments for future years with enough UK-recognised origin certificates to cover our large renewable I&C Supply volumes.

Digitalisation and technology innovation will also play a vital role in achieving this 2035 net-zero target. We are collaborating with our shareholder, Marubeni in a cutting-edge Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) project that leverages advanced electric vehicle (EV) charging and optimisation capabilities. Partners including, Grid Edge, Virta and Origami have joined together with us on this project and are actively supporting the UK’s initiative to increase EV adoption and assist businesses in considering how best to electrify their fleets to meet net-zero carbon targets, optimise EV batteries and maximise returns.

With a clear emphasis on the energy transition and the need to move to clean energy, the COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma has notably spoken about ‘seizing the massive opportunities of cheaper renewables and storage’ and called for innovation to accelerate this transition.

And others are saying this also. Banks and investors are now starting to review whether they want to continue to lend to or own companies that own coal fired power stations. Oil majors are curtailing further investment in new oil and gas exploration and are now starting to consider the risk that they might be required to write down the value of their oil and gas investments as people realise that in the future we will consume far lower amounts of these hydro carbon commodities. And more and more companies and individuals are building sources of renewable power or wanting to consume renewable power.

With these changing views and ahead of this landmark conference, we’re looking forward to supporting the UK’s first ‘Net Zero Week’ taking place this July (17 – 23), which will be a great opportunity to build awareness and understanding about the COP26 goals and communicate the tangible ways that generators and businesses across the UK can support the energy transition.

Between Net-Zero Week in July and COP26 we’ll continue to follow and support the UK’s efforts. We’ll continue discussions on key topics raised to accelerate action towards reaching net-zero carbon.