A LOT of companies talk about having ambitions to tackle climate change, though they have varying degrees of actual commitment. ScottishPower is different: it can justifiably claim that it actually walks the walk.
The company has established itself as a pioneer in – and an evangelist for – 100 per cent green energy generation. It made a total shift away from carbon two years ago, selling off its remaining coal and gas generating facilities.
In doing so, it became the first major UK energy supplier to focus entirely on renewable sources such as onshore and offshore wind.
This much-applauded move is a source of pride both for the company and for its leadership team, including Andrew Ward, its CEO UK Retail. “Removing our carbon-intensive energy facilities was a big, big decision,” he says.
“It was something we did with very positive intent to show the marketplace we wanted to support the world in reducing its carbon output. We didn’t do it lightly. We have recognised as a company that it’s where we need to go. If you sign up for one of our fixed price tariffs now in the UK, you are getting 100 per cent pure green energy. We’re offering a totally sustainable solution.”
It’s also a widespread one: ScottishPower now has a customer base of more than five million and ambitious targets for future growth. As well as committing to fully green energy, it is also working to promote the enabling technologies that encourage its use and take-up.
One of these technologies is smart meters. Until his appointment as CEO last year, Andrew – who first joined the company in 1992 and has decades of experience in customer service – was the director of the rollout programme for these.
“We’ve invested heavily in smart meters, putting in our own capital as we believe it’s the right thing to do,” he explains. “Meters are an enabler to allow customers to add other technologies onto their house such as electric vehicles (EVs).
“They make the whole process easier, as they do for the installation of solar panels. Plus they mean people can understand their own consumption. The meters also help our integration with the national grid and mean customers can access cheaper tariffs.”
The devices are free for ScottishPower customers to install and use but Andrew recognises that they do not yet provide a universal solution, with only about 35 per cent user take-up.
“There are still certain premises where we can’t install them. It may be that the signal where they are doesn’t reach them – perhaps they’re in a basement or a high-rise block of flats, or they’re just too remote. Or it might be down to the type of metering or electrical configuration they currently have.”
However, a new generation of smart meters is currently in development and ScottishPower is helping with the testing process to allow these to be brought to market as quickly as possible.
“For the first time, meters allow customers to see the power they are using – and their spending – in real time. That’s a fantastic step forward. Until now, you weren’t really told anything until you received a bill from the electricity company.
“Having a smart meter makes electric vehicle and solar panel installations much easier. Bringing all this equipment together in your home also presents you with the opportunity to generate additional electricity you may want to transfer into your electric vehicle or sell back to the grid.”
It is a simple fact, he adds, that we cannot continue to consume energy at both a domestic and business level in the way we do today. “One possible solution – and I would argue it is the most viable one – is to completely change our view about how we use energy in the home.”
Andrew says ScottishPower wants to help the UK move forward in embracing this shift. “We have the right people to do that. We are building the windfarms we need, and our networks company is investing to ensure the country has sufficient capacity.
“Through our retail team, we believe we can offer the technical solutions that will help our customers consume energy efficiently in their homes by taking advantage of the most appropriate and flexible tariffs. We can help them obtain the best value for money going forward.”
The company is anticipating significant growth in electric vehicles – according to the House of Commons Library, there could be more than 10 million of these on UK roads by 2030 – and an associated demand for home charging points for these.
“Right now, we can provide our customers with this infrastructure along with tariffs offering a cheaper overnight price that can support EVs. Plus we have partnerships with some key car organisations to help them make the decision on using one of these vehicles.
“A lot of the mainstream manufacturers are now producing at least one or two electric vehicles in their ranges. That offers the consumer a lot of choice from small cars up to family SUVs. Many of them will now easily go 200 miles on a single charge.”
Another area of growth, Andrew says, will be workplace chargers. “Despite the changes in working practices we have seen in the current pandemic, when it is over there will still be a space for people to go to the office and a need to work together.
“So workplace charging will also be a key enabler for electric vehicles. People will want to top their cars up. That means we will have three distinct types of charging with domestic, public and workplace and we offer solutions in all these areas.”
One environmental concern sometimes raised in relation to pure EVs is that while the vehicles do not use polluting diesel or petrol, the generation source for the electricity they use may still be wholly or partly-based on fossil fuels – gas-fired power stations, for instance.
This is not the case with ScottishPower because its sourced mix of 100 per cent renewables means it is producing green energy at every stage.
“There are very few energy companies of any size in the UK that can offer that capability. If you want to be socially responsible in this day and age and care about the environment and where we are, then you want to be associated with a company that itself invests in the future of that environment.
“From a retail point of view, we are trying to take that one stage further. We are working to help you integrate your home – to take that green energy and to use it even more efficiently.”
Andrew points out that this change does not just apply to domestic supply: businesses too are now focused on using sustainable power and they also have access to ScottishPower’s 100 per cent green energy tariffs.
“More and more companies are interested in this. Their staff are engaged with it and it’s something they want to do too. They feel they have a social responsibility as a business so they’re coming to us.
“The key thing for companies today is sustainability. They are looking very closely at this, both for themselves and their employees. They want to show they are operating in a sustainable way. It’s an area where we can do a lot to help them.”
This article appeared in the recent Scottish Power “Countdown to Net Zero” publication which you can view online HERE