Western Power Distribution has become the latest distribution network operator to commit to decarbonisation as part of its next business plan, although WPD expects to achieve net zero by 2028.
Late last year, UK Power Networks revealed its next business plan for the period 2023-2028, which it subsequently submitted to Ofgem for approval. Now, Western Power Distribution is joining it with an even more ambitious plan.
While UK Power Networks noted it wouldn’t achieve all of its net zero goals by the end of its business plan period, Western Power Distribution is confident that it will. It has set the target of becoming a net zero business by 2028 – 22 years ahead of the UK and Welsh Government’s target.
In addition to becoming a net zero business by itself, Western Power Distribution wants to enable stakeholders to also achieve net zero. WPD’s Business Plan for 2023 – 2028 outlines how it will create a smart, flexible energy grid and facilitate the mass connection of low carbon technologies like electric vehicle charging points, heat pumps and more localised renewable generation.
The company also plans to actively support the creation and expansion of community energy schemes, helping local communities to connect green, renewable energy generation to help them decarbonise and lower their bills.
Among its 42 core business plan commitments, WPD has pledged to speed up the adoption of EVs, heat pumps and other low carbon technologies, by supporting initiatives such as the creation of robust and challenging Local Area Energy Plans, as well as appointing eight dedicated WPD Community Energy Engineers and Local Authority Engagement Engineers.
As well as delivering a sustainable grid for its customers, WPD also plans to lead by example, making large scale investments and commitments to ensure that the business is creating its own sustainable future. Its own commitment to sustainability includes reducing the amount of waste it sends to landfill to zero by 2028, adopting EVs across its transport fleet to reduce emissions, significantly reducing harmful gas and oil leaks from its equipment and ensuring that new major projects and selected primary substation sites enhance the local environment by delivering a net gain in biodiversity.
When it comes to becoming a net zero business by 2028, WPD plans to tackle its own business carbon footprint. In the current price control period, RIIO-ED1, WPD has consistently outperformed its 5% reduction target for building energy use, achieving an annual reduction each year. This is thanks to a wide range of measures, including greater employee awareness of energy savings, the installation of motion sensors for lighting, upgraded air conditioning systems and higher energy efficiency ratings in new and refurbished depots. All of the energy purchased by WPD is produced entirely from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.
Looking ahead to RIIO-ED2, WPD has set a number of new, ambitious initiatives in its business plan including:
- Replacing at least 89% of the existing operational vehicle fleet with EVs by 2028;
- Cutting carbon emissions from the operational fleet by 50%;
- Reducing business travel by encouraging more remote working and virtual meetings.
Its target to cut carbon emissions has been officially verified by the United Nations Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) and aligns to the international target to limit global warming to 1.5°C or lower.
Mark Shaw, WPD RIIO-ED2 Delivery Manager, commented, “WPD’s commitment to sustainability is just one of the ways in which our Business Plan reflects the ambitious and changing priorities of the communities we serve. We are leading an energy revolution for our customers.
“Thanks to our efforts to date, a smart energy future is already well underway for our customers. We’ve already developed new flexibility services to unlock capacity from the existing network, reducing the need for installing larger cables, and we are utilising innovation and digitalisation across our businesses to enhance our efficiency at every opportunity. By delivering the ambitious commitments we’ve co-created with stakeholders, WPD will ensure that everyone living and working in our regions will benefit from a sustainable, net zero future.”
Sustainability is one of four key priority areas highlighted in WPD’s business plan, alongside connectability, affordability and vulnerability. Like UK Power Networks, the ultimate decision on whether to approve the new business plan will be down to Ofgem.