According to new data by the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2021 has been another record year for renewable development around the world – with 290GW of new capacity added over the last 12 months, mostly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels.
This growth can be attributed in part to the huge attention surrounding this year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow, where countries got together and – for the first time – all acknowledged that fossil fuels are harming the planet. One of the main messages of the conference was the need for action. This has continued to be the focus for us in 2021 – working hard to get new capacity built across the technology mix. As we move forwards, it’s vital we listen to the voices of those directly affected by climate change around the world and hold our leaders to account on their rheotric – for example, pushing the UK government to come good on its commitments around onshore wind and introduce planning reform in England.
Alongside the progress seen politically and within the industry, we wanted to reflect on some of our proudest moments from the past year – from growing our project portfolio to scoring within the top 5% of global B Corps for our work in protecting the environment.
One of our biggest highlights of the year has been the commissioning of our very first battery storage project – Wicken. The 5MW site, located close to Milton Keynes, is now delivering 1.49 hours, or 7.45MWh, of electricity to the national and local electricity grid – and is a signpost of the huge role storage projects like this have to play in the UK’s decarbonisation journey.
Supporting the growth of renewable technologies such as wind and solar by managing their natural variability, we are excited to explore the potential for new storage projects next year including our 20MW site at Feeder Road in Bristol.
We joined forces with Olympus Power to help fund ‘direct wire’ projects in the UK, enabling businesses to install solar panels on their property and use the renewable power they generate.
The first projects have been built this year and we were lucky enough to visit one of the host businesses in Birmingham and watch first-hand the impressive work that goes into constructing a rooftop solar array. As we move into 2022, we will be continuing to support Olympus with its commitment to build over 100MW of projects and to connect more businesses across the country with clean energy.
The last 12 months have seen us reach major milestones at our United Downs investment – the UK’s first deep geothermal electricity power plant. In July, we celebrated the fact that it had produced geothermal steam for the first time.
As the design and procurement work continues, third party testing at the site in Cornwall also found there to be high levels of lithium in its geothermal waters. As a vital component of electric vehicle batteries, this was a huge step forward in the production of locally sourced, low carbon lithium and holds vast potential for the UK’s green transport system.
2021 has been a big year for renewable heat – with the UK government recently announcing its ambition to install 600,000 ground source heat pumps in replace of gas boilers by 2028.
Following the successful repayment of our 2018 bond, we have recently refreshed our investment in heat pump specialists, Rendesco, so that the company can continue reducing natural gas usage in retirement villages and additionally install ground source heat pumps in new build domestic properties.
We were extremely proud to join the UK B Corp community at the start of 2021, which recognises the organisations that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and corporate accountability to balance profit and purpose.
This year we also placed in B Corp’s ‘Best for the World – Environment’ list – meaning that we scored within the top 5% of all B Corps in this category. It was fantastic to be recognised as part of this growing, global community - testament to our decades long commitment to addressing the climate crisis through the decarbonisation of the energy system. As we move forwards into 2022, we look forward to continuing our B Corp journey – encouraging others to get involved, as well exploring how we can further reduce our own impact too.
We are on a mission to power the transition to a sustainable energy future. In fact, our wind, solar, hydro and other clean energy projects have saved almost one million tonnes of carbon dioxide in total.
Further supporting this mission, we have signed up to ‘Net Zero 2030’ as part of B Corp’s Climate Collective. We already have a number of significant measures in place to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities, which at 2.6 tonnes of carbon emissions for direct (scopes one and two) emissions in 2020, is low. In addition, our Community Benefit Programme saves a further 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
We are now working to calculate our indirect emissions (scope 3) coming from the construction and operation of our renewable energy projects. In 2022, we will be reviewing our overall figures again to ensure we are taking the reduction and offset measures required to be net zero.
This year we received a record number of entries to our Community Benefit Programme. With support from the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), we awarded over £29,000 in grants to local communities living close to our clean energy projects so that they can make energy efficiency and sustainability improvements to important shared buildings such as churches and community centres.
Since we started the initiative in 2016, we have now awarded 41 grants to 33 buildings – totalling close to £120,000.
With this year’s IPCC report revealing the stark realities of climate change, we remain determined and relentlessly optimistic as we prepare for another year. For Thrive, 2022 is – once again – all about action, working with the wider industry to accelerate the UK’s transition to clean energy. We will keep you posted on the progress we make in the next 12 months.