Net Zero in practice: the challenges of implementation
Previous blogs in this series focused on how to develop effective and credible Net Zero strategies. How is Net Zero implemented in practice, though? This blog builds on insights from our Road to Net Zero Survey, highlighting the challenges of implementation in practice.
The main barrier to Net Zero implementation is often generating a consensus on the way forward in a dynamic area with rapid, hard to predict changes in technology, policy and public opinion. Many boards are struggling to articulate meaningful carbon strategies and are confronted with some degree of“analysis paralysis”. They recognise the importance of having a credible roadmap to delivering Net Zero but also acknowledge that waiting for complete clarity is unrealistic and potentially damaging.
Even with uncertainty in the picture, there are always initial steps that can be taken to ignite a process of learning by doing and to demonstrate a strong statement of intent to key stakeholders. The key to planning is therefore to accept uncertainty:
Baselining: Start with what you have
Best practice is a reasonable measurement of the baseline now with a focus on measuring emission reductions rather than unabated emissions.
Innovation: Monitor and adapt
Corporates need to be agile to adopt appropriate technologies but also be prepared and aware of emerging technologies that might require you to adjust decarbonisation plans.
Additionality: Real emissions reductions
Proving that you create additional impact will evolve as more direct links are forged between corporate emissions reductions and their root cause, eg corporates pivot from buying green certificates to contracts directly with green generation projects where payment is for each kWh of green power produced by that project. (We’ve broken down this topic for you in our previous blog - check it out if you missed it!).
Investments: Phased approach
Phasing Net Zero investments allows you to take action today with mature technology while scaling emerging technology and cost optimising the big ticket investments in assets with a long payback.
Bringing everyone along: behaviour change
Changing behaviours of employees, suppliers and customers can be complex and nuanced. Finding creative ways to bring people along, though, is key to ensure actions have the scale to create impact, and buy-in to achieve success.
These are key opportunities that respondents to our Road to Net Zero survey shared success stories about, showing that significant progress can be made quickly.
Implementation in practice
The illustrative Pathway to Net Zero which we developed for the second blog in this series is a helpful framework for addressing the business challenge, step-by-step.
Net Zero Pathway example
Businesses committing to Net Zero will need to show some ‘quick wins’ in order to build and sustain momentum, but also need to demonstrate substantial progress. One early prioritisation challenge is thus to strike the right balance between deliverability and materiality.
The shift to lower carbon energy has been one of the main focuses for many businesses, such as RWE UK.
“Electricity demand is set to at least double - the focus now should be the timely implementation of policies and investment to meet growing demand from low-carbon generation. Decarbonisation should be rapid whilst ensuring security of supply and affordability. RWE will play a key role by expanding our wind-based renewables, and providing security of supply through flexible gas generation and new technologies, like hydrogen.” Tom Glover, Chief Commercial Officer, RWE UK Country Chair
Among the first key steps for any business committing to Net Zero is also likely to be continuing energy efficiency improvements, as shown in the results from our Net Zero survey:
It starts with efficiencies
Results:What are the most important expected contributors to meet Net Zero targets?
Many energy efficiency measures offer rapid payback so that businesses can become both leaner and greener. The ability of a business to identify and realise energy savings will be facilitated by widespread engagement of employees and other stakeholders. Similar to Corporate Social Responsibility, an effective Net Zero transition cannot be achieved if it is regarded as a goal ‘owned’ only by a small team at Group HQ.
Results: Is there collective ownership of the Net Zero agenda?
The current breadth of Net Zero engagement among a sample of business suggests that there is still some way to go in making Net Zero a commitment which is widely shared by all employees, like safety or diversity.
Are you ready to take the next step towards Net Zero?
Ampersand Partners’ Energy Transition and Sustainability practice helps energy companies navigate their fast changing market environment and non-energy clients deliver their Net Zero ambitions.
The Net Zero Enthusiasts (NZE) is a small group of seasoned independent energy sector professionals who between them have over 100 years of experience in the industry, advisory firms and providers of finance. Based on long-standing connections, complementary backgrounds and a common commitment to decarbonisation, the NZE have come together to support the UK’s low carbon transition.