Lean, clean and green. Iceni is now carbon neutral

21 Apr 21

Iceni is now a carbon neutral company. But we’re not the only ones making progress…


Back in the mists of time when I started working in the sustainability sector, electricity was dirty. The UK’s power generation relied heavily on coal and gas, and for every kilowatt hour of electricity (a 100 Watt lightbulb lit for 10 hours), we produced 500 grams of carbon dioxide.

Fast forward 21 years and on Easter Monday, when everyone was regretting the third Creme Egg and thinking about a walk, our electricity generation system reached a historic low of just 39 grams per kilowatt hour. That’s a 92% cut in the carbon intensity of our electricity generation. This is due to the fact that we’ve weaned ourselves off coal, and that on Easter Monday it was both sunny and windy, meaning the grid was fuelled by huge amounts of renewable power. Our electricity isn’t always that clean because it’s not always sunny and windy, but it shows how far we’ve come in a relatively short space of time.

And it’s the intermittency of renewables that’s increasingly the problem. Like a crazed superhero who’s overdone it on the gamma rays, we sometimes have more power than we can handle. This is where energy storage comes in. Although we can use batteries to store our excess power, the production of lithium-ion batteries relies on rare earth metals which are, well, rare. Other energy vectors are emerging. In Scotland, with ready access to clean electricity and oil and gas expertise, power companies are using excess renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen, which can be used in existing natural gas infrastructure to heat homes and businesses, and to power vehicles. Demonstrating innovation in this way will put Scotland firmly at the green top table when they host COP26 later this year. Other, smaller, UK businesses are developing new batteries that don’t rely on rare earth metals and are more environmentally benign than lithium-ion technology.

As the bear of the economy emerges from its covid-induced hibernation, scratches its bum and goes off in search of food, it could do a lot worse than supporting the cleantech startups, who are developing increasingly innovative means of generating, storing and transmitting clean energy. We will need the private and public sector to work closely together if the recently announced national target of a 78% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 is to be achieved.

The national journey to decarbonisation mirrors Iceni’s recent achievement in becoming certified as a carbon neutral company. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time; improving the energy efficiency of our building systems, reducing the carbon intensity of the energy we consume and offsetting residual emissions by supporting renewable energy projects in China and India. Like the national position, there’s work to do in reducing our emissions further by changing our habits to ensure the choices we make result in sustainable outcomes, but we have good reason to celebrate our progress, both as a country and as a company.