Gatwick’s RE100 commitment drives innovationWe Mean Business
As part of the We Mean Business coalition’s (WMB) take action campaign, and to celebrate 500 companies making over a thousand ambitious commitments we are taking an indepth look at how the commitments were decided and hearing from some of the forward-looking business leaders involved.
Rachel Thompson, Sustainability Manager at Gatwick Airport, spoke to WMB about why the company has committed to using 100% renewable electricity and joined RE100 – a global, collaborative business initiative led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP.
“Sustainability has been central to Gatwick’s transformation ever since the airport became independent from BAA in 2009. Our Decade of Change strategy is driving this, alongside an airport-wide recognition that the economic benefits the airport generates must be balanced with a sustainable airport operation.
Our strategy is underpinned by a set of rigorous environmental targets set over ten years, including for 25% of Gatwick’s energy to be from renewable sources by 2020. Purchasing renewable electricity helps us to achieve this, and the airport switched to REGO certified 100% renewable electricity supply in 2013.
One reason for doing this was to help the airport achieve carbon neutrality, which we hope to do later this year. Electricity comprises 80% of the airport’s operational carbon footprint and the remaining emissions will be offset through investments in renewable energy programmes.
Earlier this year, we also became one of three new companies to join the RE100 alliance. The alliance seeks to harness the influence of some of the world’s biggest companies and use their combined commitment to renewable electricity to help generate a huge increase in the demand for it.”
“RE100 is a good example of collective action where the sum of what the participating companies are doing is tangible. The alliance is currently creating, or has committed to, enough renewable electricity demand for around 107 TWh annually, which is close to Holland’s yearly demand. This signals strongly that renewables markets are significantly increasing as the companies involved continue to grow and more join the alliance.
Similarly, we want Gatwick to be a sustainability leader in the UK and a key reason for joining the alliance – and purchasing 100% renewable electricity – is to play our part accelerating the UK’s move toward a low carbon economy. By doing so we know we are contributing towards decarbonising the UK electricity grid, as well as our own operations.
For us it is important that reputable firms exploit their public profiles to generate positive momentum and send out a clear, powerful message that renewable energy is not just the responsible thing to do, but also makes good economic sense.
And that has been part of the challenge. From the outset we needed to make the business case internally that purchasing 100% renewable electricity is a cost-effective component of our wider carbon strategy. Focussing heavily on energy efficiency to save money has been key in this respect and, looking ahead, it’s important that the UK renewables market continues to expand and diversify so it can deliver more cost efficient savings for both industry and consumers.”
Energy efficiency commitments
“Examples of our energy efficiency commitments include installing new LED lighting on the runways which reduced energy use on the airfield by around 50%, and 14 high efficiency boiler houses serving our South Terminal. Overall we will continue to invest in energy efficiency as part of our £200m per annum capital investment and asset replacement programme.
We will also continue to invest in energy efficiency projects, including looking at further solar array capacity for the airport and how we might expand our new biomass boiler that converts non-recyclable waste into energy to heat airport buildings.
Since our Decade of Change targets were put in place on 2010, the airport has grown dramatically from 31m to over 42m passengers per year. Despite this increase the airport’s environmental footprint is actually the same or better today than in the early 1990s – thanks largely to ongoing environmental innovations helping us hit our targets and the expertise and discipline of the teams that have seen our plans through.
We cannot stand still however. Using 100% renewable electricity and joining the RE100 alliance are important milestones, but we recognise that we have to continually innovate if we are to succeed in our aim of becoming the UK’s most sustainable airport and one of the greenest in the world.”