Cutting carbon and cost

Our suppliers have good reason to reduce carbon when they design new energy assets, thanks to a scheme that gives them an incentive to think innovatively. We’re also contributing to a low-carbon future in the UK, as Senior Sustainability Advisor Cirhan Truswell explains.

Infrastructure projects are responsible for half the UK’s carbon emissions. Building new assets like substations is a big part of our job at National Grid – we need to find ways to make our construction work less carbon intensive, which goes hand-in-hand with reducing costs for the business.

One idea that’s really worked is the start of a 5% carbon weighting on our new construction projects. We’re saying to our suppliers that if you can design a lower-carbon solution you stand a better chance of winning our business. 

Sharing the lessons 

We’ve also put in place a new tool that helps to measure carbon emissions from construction right through to the end of an asset’s life. 

We’ve shared this Carbon Interface Tool (CIT) with 27 organisations from our own supply chain. It means that other National Grid projects will be able to cut carbon emissions in the same way, helping us to work together for a low-carbon future. 

Making the business case 

The results speak for themselves. In the past year, this approach has helped us achieve a predicted 20% reduction in the carbon emissions from our UK construction business – that’s double our target for 2015/16. 

One great example of this approach is the new electricity substation at Wimbledon. By smarter thinking on design and materials, we’ve achieved carbon savings of 20% across the asset’s life – that’s about 39,000 tonnes of CO2. We’ll also save £3 million in costs compared with the original design, which is good news for our customers. 

Now we’re using what we learned at Wimbledon for future projects. 

Thinking smarter 

Changing how we work with suppliers is one part of the story. But we also wanted to understand how major projects are delivered. How much energy do we use? What materials should we buy? And what does that mean over the lifetime of the operation? 

This is where the CIT has made a tangible difference, because we have all the information at our fingertips to make better decisions. There’s also a financial benefit. By having clear data on carbon emissions, we can use energy and resources more efficiently. We’ve been able to prove the business case that lower carbon can equal lower cost.

Published: June 2017