National Grid - Responsible Business Award

Responsible Business Award 2014 - Big Tick, Winner

National Grid is investing in a sustainable energy infrastructure, reducing carbon emissions and securing in its future workforce by inspiring young people to take up engineering.

Social impacts

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 58% in 2012/13 (against a 1990 baseline), with a target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.
  • Sourced, designed and reused resources to get maximum value while reducing environmental impact, with a UK target to reuse or recycle all recovered assets by 2020.
  • Reduced the visual impact of overhead cables by developing a new T-pylon, which will be part of the biggest network expansion in 50 years.

Business impacts

  • Modernising the grid will increase capacity and improve connections to renewable energy sources, while ensuring customers receive an affordable and reliable energy supply.
  • Inspiring schoolchildren to take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects will help address and correct a future skills shortage.
  • Using innovation to design new ways to connect people with their energy, improves public acceptability and allows National Grid to deliver their capital programme more efficiently, meaning greater returns to consumers and shareholders.

We’re proud of our role serving the communities where we operate. We invest time and energy working with young people today, making sure they understand the amazing world of engineering and energy, and are inspired to come into this fantastic sector in the future. We’re responsible for inspiring the next generation of talent to make sure they are in place to keep the lights on and the gas flowing for our society, long into the future.

- Steve Holliday,
CEO, National Grid
National Grid provides the UK and north-eastern USA with an energy infrastructure, putting it at the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing society – the creation of sustainable energy for the future.

In 2013 the company refreshed its vision to: “Connecting you to your energy today, trusted to help you meet your energy needs tomorrow.” It has also launched a new responsible buisness strategy, called Making Connections.

A growth in the UK’s power consumption, along with the de-commissioning of fossil fuel generation, means the grid needs modernising. This means many miles of new overhead lines and pylons, which are unpopular with many communities. To address this, the company ran an international competition to design a more visually acceptable pylon. The winning T-pylon design, which is 30% lower, takes up less space, and is less visually intrusive than the existing lattice towers, was successfully tested in Nottinghamshire. It is now part of the company’s infrastructure plans and will save money as a viable alternative to underground cabling in sensitive areas.

As well as requiring more pylons, extra network capacity will increase National Grid’s carbon footprint. To balance this, it plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 80% by 2050, investing billions in connecting low-carbon energy sources and supporting technologies to reduce the impact of energy generation. These include:

  • using waste hot cooling water from an adjacent E.ON power station to heat a liquefied natural gas terminal, saving 300,000 tonnes of carbon a year

  • investing in carbon capture and storage technology, to turn high carbon fuels into low carbon electricity

  • sponsoring research into alternatives to sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), a potent greenhouse gas currently used by the industry as an electrical insulator.

National Grid also has a target of recycling all recovered assets by 2020. A purpose-built meter recycling centre refurbishes more than a quarter of all old meters and recycles 3,000 tonnes of waste.

Investing in a future skilled workforce is another important aspect of company’s sustainability agenda. Its educational programmes aim to inspire young people to take up STEM subjects, through employee ambassadors visiting schools, work experience and site visits. It is piloting Careers Lab, which is a new way of delivering careers advice in schools.

Volunteering, citizenship and charity partnerships play a major role in engaging current employees. Half of all UK employees were involved in selecting Macmillan Cancer Support  as National Grid’s new charity partner, with a target to raise £500,000 over the next two years.

“We’re proud of our role serving the communities where we operate. We are responsible for delivering clean energy to support our world long into the future. We are constantly looking for new ways to build and maintain our networks, applying innovative design and being both creative and flexible in our approach to connecting people to the energy they need. And by embedding sustainability into our decision-making, we aim to preserve natural resources, respect the interests of our communities and create value.

“We invest time and energy working with young people today, making sure they understand the amazing world of engineering and energy, and are inspired to come into this fantastic sector in the future. We’re responsible for inspiring the next generation of talent to make sure they are in place to keep the lights on and the gas flowing for our society, long into the future.”

Steve Holliday, CEO, National Grid