Electricity North West: helping nature thrive

Learn how Electricity North West is embedding nature stewardship and positive climate action across its strategy and network.

 

A member of Business in the Community since 2012, Electricity North West is the electricity network operator providing power to five million people living in 2.4 million homes.

Reaching from rural Cumbria to urban Manchester, the business is investing £1.8 billion in the region from 2023 to 2028 to ensure the safe and reliable distribution of electricity. As part of efforts to improve the management of its services, spanning over 13,000km of overhead electricity lines and 44,000km of underground cables, Electricity North West is embedding nature stewardship and positive climate action.

Electricity North West have developed a clear purpose and principles, committing to supporting the transformation of the communities it serves. The business has shared its strategy to help the region take positive decarbonisation action ‘Our plan to lead the North West to net zero, 2023-2028’. The plan is based upon two years’ engagement with 18,000 customers and other stakeholders  

Caring for the North West’s natural assets

Electricity North West is helping its region meet its net-zero ambitions, reducing carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable. It also recognises the wider societal benefits of a sustainable approach and managing infrastructure sympathetically with the wider environment. Electricity North West has worked to educate, inform, and encourage its colleagues to take a greener approach too. The business has listened to colleagues’ experiences and shared advice that can support gentler impacts on land, plants, and wildlife.

A participant in the Responsible Business Tracker®, Electricity North West invests time and resources to plan and strategise its approach to protecting a healthy environment. A Biodiversity Steering Group, bringing together expertise from across the business, meets monthly to assess risks and identify opportunities to make a positive environmental impact.

In 2019 Electricity North West launched a ‘Transforming our Spaces’ initiative, selecting nine substation sites to trail a biodiversity ‘makeover’. The programme considered the composition of the local ecology and the appearance of the landscape to local residents.

The nine sites saw colleagues planting wildflowers, digging flower beds, installing bird feeders, planting herbs and building bug hotels. These initial sites, and ones added in recent years, are finding a place in the hearts of local people.

Ryan Wilson, who oversees the projects, said: “Substations aren’t always aesthetically pleasing but they are a key part of the electricity network and they tend to be in quite built-up areas where people need electricity. Our own teams came up with the initiative to give the surrounding land makeovers and the project has been extremely well received. I know people are extremely keen to get involved both on our side and from the local communities we operate in.”

Sowing seeds for future success

Electricity North West’s efforts to bring natural diversity to the areas around its substations has quickly borne fruit. The business reports an 85% success rate in increasing biodiversity at its first nine sites, introducing low-maintenance, self-pollinating, attractive spaces, benefiting over 9,000 customers1. The business estimates that these activities delivered a social benefit of around £300k in the first year2.

In future, the business hopes that data from the project will provide far-reaching insights into the interactions between nature and infrastructure. With a ten-year action plan in place, 30 sites are forecast to receive a biodiversity makeover by 2023. The programme aims to reach 100 sites by 2028.

We know that nature is extremely important to our communities and ultimately, we know that the choices we make and the actions we take impact that. We operate a huge network that is there to serve people in the region.
With a little time and effort, we can use our resources to make small changes that make a big difference.

Peter Emery, Chief Executive of Electricity North West

Reflecting the business’ commitment to the region, Chief Executive Officer Peter Emery joined BITC’s North West Leadership Board in 2021. Appointed Chief Executive of Electricity North West in 2016, Peter brought decades of international energy-sector experience to the North West. He is also a member of the Greater Manchester Green City Region Partnership and the Greater Manchester Strategic Infrastructure Board. Both are helping the city region secure carbon neutrality by 2038.

Peter Emery said “We know that nature is extremely important to our communities and ultimately, we know that the choices we make and the actions we take impact that. We operate a huge network that is there to serve people in the region. With a little time and effort, we can use our resources to make small changes that make a big difference. The Transforming our Spaces project is a great example of that. Wildflower meadows are also easier to maintain so it’s a win-win. We are also planning to invest more in the future along with a commitment to plant 10,000 trees a year to replace the ones we manage when cutting them back from power lines to prevent power cuts.”

Electricity North West intends to achieve a minimum net biodiversity gain of 10% on each of its sites from 2025. As well as helping the business meet regulatory requirements, this activity is only the start of its ambitions. It is laying the groundwork for replicating the approach at scale to benefit the people, communities, and nature of North West England.

innovate to sustain and repaIr our planet

References

  1. Electricity North West (2021) Transforming our Communities: Our Responsibility Framework Annual Report 2020/21
  2. ibid.