chapter 9

The environment and communities

In this section, we give you information on another of our stakeholders’ priorities; caring about our environment and communities. Find out about the actions we’re keen to take to reduce our impact on the world around us – and to make a positive difference to Britain’s citizens and society.

I want you to care for the environment and communities 

We have an important role to play in building a sustainable energy sector for Britain. The process of transmitting electricity for our customers and consumers has an impact on our environment and communities.  

Stakeholders want us to reduce our impact. We need to balance this with our customers’ need for energy security and affordable charges.  

Our current performance 

Our current performance and activities mirror the priorities that our stakeholders have told us are important to them. We’ve been making progress on: 

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions 
  • protecting and enhancing the natural environment 
  • supporting the communities we work in. 

Our future direction and costs 

In terms of our future direction, we want to make a positive contribution to our society. Our proposed direction and intentions for the RIIO T-2 period cover the priorities identified by our stakeholders. 

Our predicted spending for RIIO-T2 on the environment and communities is between £0.05bn and £0.15bn. This range is largely driven by the cost of visual impact schemes. 

Our stakeholders’ views on the environment and communities 

You’ve told us that you want us to: 

  • reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 
  • look after and improve the natural environment around our sites and equipment 
  • support the communities we work in. 

Some stakeholders also want us to improve the visual impact of our assets in protected landscapes. 

How we’re currently performing 

Our current performance and activities mirror the priorities that our stakeholders have told us are important to them.  

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions  

We’ve helped deliver a continual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from our electricity transmission network during the RIIO-T1 period. Carbon emissions fell by just over 15% between 2013/14 and 2017/18. 

A large proportion of these emissions come from transmission losses. These occur as a natural result of transmitting power over long distances, so it’s largely out of our control. 

The carbon emissions we can control largely come from energy use in our buildings, transport and leaks of insulating gases. We reduced our direct emissions by 12% between 2012/13 and 2017/18.  

Looking after and improving the natural environment 

Through our Natural Grid programme, we’re on track to recognise and enhance the value of our natural assets on at least 30 of our sites by the end of 2020/21. 

Reducing our visual impact 

We carefully consider the visual impact of all proposed new overhead line routes.  

And we’re working closely with stakeholders to understand their priorities for reducing the visual impact of our existing transmission equipment. 

Supporting communities 

During 2017/18, our UK electricity and gas businesses’ community initiatives contributed to a social value of £66m. 
We’ve also been working closely with our suppliers to encourage them to improve their social and environmental impact. 

Our proposed direction  

As we continue to build our business plan with stakeholders, here are some ideas that show how we could move forward and deliver what matters to you. 

Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 

Our largest source of carbon emissions is from transmission line losses. These are largely out of our control. Our intention for the RIIO-T2 period is to improve how we report the work we’re doing in this area.  

The biggest source of emissions, that is in our control, is insulating gases. We use the gas SF6 in some of our high-voltage equipment, which has a high global warming potential. For the RIIO-T2 period, we intend to continue exploring alternative insulating gases. 

Other approaches we could take during RIIO-T2 include: 
  • making our construction activities carbon neutral 

  • reducing the carbon intensity of our construction projects by using new technologies that eliminate waste. We could also use more low-carbon materials  

  • working with Ofgem and our stakeholders to design incentives for reducing carbon emissions. 

Reducing our impact on the local environment 

Our aim for the RIIO-T2 period is to continue working with third parties to introduce more sustainable ways to use and manage our resources.  

Other potential activities during RIIO-T2 include: 

  • expanding our Natural Grid scheme. This improves the natural environment at sites on non-operational land around our energy assets. We estimate we could roll the scheme out to around 25 sites – or an extra 75 hectares – for less than half a penny a year on consumers’ bills 
  • make sure we deliver an overall environmental gain on our construction projects 
  • reduce the amount of waste we create 
  • engage more widely with businesses about advancing the electrification of transport. This could help reduce local air pollution and global climate change. 
Reducing the visual impact of our existing assets 

Some of our stakeholders are concerned about the visual impact of our sites and equipment. This is particularly the case for transmission lines in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  

We’ve worked closely with stakeholders during RIIO-T1. Together, we’ve created our Visual Impact Provision (VIP) policy.  

Our stakeholder advisory group has told us that we should continue our existing policy and process for identifying visual impact projects during RIIO-T2. 

Supporting the communities we work in 

Our intention during RIIO-T2 is to continue to encourage our employees to volunteer in their local communities. 

We intend to build on our current initiatives to engage with schools, parents and children. We will promote engineering as a modern, dynamic and desirable career with a great future. 

We also plan to further support community initiatives and relationships across our business. We want to continue with our UK Community Grant Programme, which supports local charity projects and community groups. 

Promoting social responsibility through our supply chain 

We intend to encourage suppliers to follow our lead on environmental and social responsibility for RIIO-T2.  

We could create more diversity among suppliers by encouraging more small and medium sized enterprises to apply for our tenders. We could also encourage our suppliers to report on their carbon emissions, to pay the living wage and to combat modern slavery. 

What it could cost 

Our range of predicted spending for RIIO-T2 on the environment and communities is largely driven by the cost of visual impact schemes. Our lower range reflects us continuing only with the four existing RIIO-T1 period VIP schemes.

Whether we take forward new VIP projects in RIIO-T2 depends on whether stakeholders and consumers are willing to pay for them. We are currently prioritising new projects, but until we have fully engaged, we do not know how many projects there might be.

In the meantime, we've included the possibility of up to £500m of new VIP projects in the upper range to assess the potential impact for household bills.   

Chapter 9 cost

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