Driving Change: Tackling air quality head-on
Jamie Quinn, Corporate Responsibility Director UK & Ireland looks at the issue of air quality and how ENGIE’s activities have a key role to play in providing the solution:
Poor air quality is an issue that affects the whole of the UK. There are 47 towns and cities in the UK with air pollution levels that are at the limit of or exceed World Health Organisation guidelines.
Such polluted air is linked to heart disease, can cause and worsen asthma, and increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and decreased lung function development in children. A recent study by Oxford and Bath Universities also estimated health damage from cars and vans costs £6 billion per annum to NHS and society. Diesel vehicles were found to have the worst impacts on health with emissions are around 20 times more than EVs and at least five times more than petrol vehicles.
Tackling air quality, therefore, needs to be a priority for all of us. As individuals we can all make small behavioural changes which collectively will make a difference - however, Governments and businesses also need to play a major role in solutions to reduce harmful emissions. ENGIE, as a provider of energy, facilities management and regeneration to individuals, businesses and communities is fully committed to playing its part in this process.
For its part, the UK government recognises the issue and has already introduced measures to improve air quality through its Clean Growth Plan and Clean Air Strategy, which was announced this year to set out how international commitments will be met.
One such measure is the announcement that sales of petrol or diesel cars and vans would end by 2040 – and that almost every car and van on the roads will have zero emissions by 2050. The UK government was the first country in the world to make such an announcement, giving a real boost to the use of electric vehicles in the future.
There are also a number of Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) planned in our larger urban areas. For example Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced recently that the city’s ULEZ will be expanded in 2021 to cover an area 18 times larger than the Central London.
The role of businesses
At ENGIE, as in many other organisations, there is strong awareness that a new balance needs to be struck between individual interests and the interests of wider society. In the past we were part of the problem, now we have chosen to be part of the solution.
Generation of energy and activities within homes & businesses and transportation are all major causes of reduced air quality . ENGIE is taking action both internally and with our customers to tackle this.
Generation of energy
ENGIE has recently completed a 15 billion euro divestment plan to move the Group away from fossil fuel towards a low carbon future. We are currently developing 6 GW of additional renewable capacity globally. Henceforth, 91% of our activities are low carbon and we are investing in biogas and hydrogen technology with the ultimate objective of achieving 100% decarbonisation.
In the UK, 100% of our grid scale generation is now low carbon or renewable and we continue to increase our capacity for generation of ‘green’ electricity. In 2017, for instance, we announced our investment in the 950 MW Moray East off-shore wind-farm in Scotland.
Reducing emissions from homes and businesses
Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up 40% of our energy consumption and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions (Climate Change Committee/CCC). ENGIE works with individuals, business and wider communities to make their homes and buildings more energy efficient and therefore lowering emission outputs. We collectively save over 150,000 tonnes CO2 per annum for our business customers Some of our other UK activities include:
- 100% of the electricity we provide to homes from renewable sources at no extra cost.
- Supporting decentralised energy networks in cities such as London, Birmingham, Coventry and Southampton.
- Helping customers increase their own power generation through technologies such as photovoltaics and battery storage
- Working with over 400 communities to help them become more energy efficient and incorporate renewable energy technologies.
Transport now accounts for 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The main sources are petrol and diesel vehicles. The CCC, which advises the Government on meeting its long-term climate targets said transport emissions must fall by 44% by 2030 to keep the UK on track to meet its goals. This would mean that close to 60% of new cars and vans will need to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030.
ENGIE has developed a green mobility programme for customers, a systems-based approach that combines its skills and expertise in alternative fuels, transport infrastructures, smart transit systems, and upstream design and planning.
Our work in this area includes assisting customers by supporting the adoption of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for both domestic and commercial markets. Last year ENGIE completed the acquisition of EV-Box, one of the world’s leading electric vehicle charging services providers with over 40,000 charging stations across 20 countries.
In the UK earlier this month we launched a new end-to-end solution for EV drivers offering 100% renewable energy, a charger and over 500 free driving miles.
For our own employees, we have implemented a Green Car Scheme for employees enabling our employees to lease low emission cars as part of their company benefits.
Clean Air Day - leading by example on Air Quality
In support of our own and wider moves to reduce air pollution we reaffirmed our commitment to air quality improvement through our partnership of Clean Air Day on 21st June 2018. Clean Air Day sought to educate the public about air pollution, while encouraging individuals and companies to step up and make small but important changes to their daily routines, which will be instrumental in reducing emissions.
In the build up to Clean Air Day, ENGIE utilised its relationships with local authorities, schools, hospitals and the wider community to run events and encourage everyone to make pledges. These included agreeing to car share once a week, cycle or walk to work and ensuring heating and cooking appliances are well maintained.
ENGIE is also working with Global Action Plan, the environmental charity behind Clean Air Day, to tackle air pollution head on by asking van fleets across the country to clean up their vehicles. The Clean Van Commitment (CVC) is calling on the UK’s top 100 van fleet operators to become tailpipe emission-free in cities by switching their vehicles to greener alternatives, such as electric.
This follows action taken by ENGIE during Clean Air Day 2017 when we pledged to ensure 20% of our UK vehicle fleet would be electric by 2020, with a long-term target of zero diesel across our 3,000 vehicle fleet by 2025.
It is only by continuing to raise awareness of the importance of solving the air quality issue and from collective action by all stakeholders in society that we can make change happen. Only together can we achieve the positive outcomes required to clean the air around our homes, our schools and our places of work - which will ultimately benefit us all.
ENGIE was a partner of Clean Air Day 2018 – for more information visit the Clean Air Day Website