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How does a Fossil Fuel Company transition to Net Zero?

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How does a Fossil Fuel Company transition to Net Zero?



 

On the face of it, it sounds like a tall order for a gas producing company, with one revenue stream, to become green and sustainable – and to have a clear strategy in place for doing so. But that’s exactly what Manx Gas are fully committed to, as part of the Isle of Man’s move towards its stated goal of becoming net-zero by 2050.

At a specially convened meeting of the IOM Chamber of Commerce Sustainability Group – once again sponsored by Conister Bank – delegates heard what steps Islands Energy Group (IEG), the parent company of Manx Gas, are working towards in order to achieve these ambitious environmental targets.

Speaking publicly on the subject for the first time, their presentation featured Jo Cox, the CEO of IEG, Alex Herschel, the MD of Manx Gas’s sister company Guernsey Gas and Manx Gas Marketing Manager Sarah Jarvis.

Outlining the Group’s intentions regarding the transition towards net zero, Alex said IEG were not here to provide answers, but “to walk the walk and not talk the talk. The hardest part is how are we going to deliver it,” said Alex, a chartered environmentalist with more than 25 years of experience advising organisations in the energy and public sector.

“We can’t hide away from the Paris Agreement and it will come around very quickly,” she said. Like every business, however, Manx Gas was wrestling with the problem of net-zero. “But our product is a fossil fuel, albeit a low carbon fossil fuel. How do we transition to net zero?” she questioned, adding that it wasn’t simply a case of becoming carbon neutral (offsetting) but actually reducing the company’s own carbon footprint.

IEG are currently working on a comprehensive strategy, which fully commits them to achieving net-zero; delivering products and services based around more efficient energy management; offering cleaner, greener energy solutions; and focussing on nature-based solutions and community initiatives.

Working proactively as an energy provider to overcome some “big rocks” along the way, the company outlined a road map and a plan for action, due to be published later this summer.

 A Clear Corporate Energy Management Strategy

 Announcing a major rebranded portfolio of services that will allow people to manage their home energy use via a brand-new digital platform, Jo Cox said: “By August, what you will actually see is a clear road map in place of what we are going to be doing as a company.  

 “In September, we will launch a very clear corporate energy management strategy, featuring a whole range of new products and services, really critical for diversifying away from gas,” said Jo. “I think you will be quite surprised by what we are capable of doing.”

 The aim right now, she said, was to give consumers access to affordable energy, enabling them to manage their energy use more efficiently. Jo said people weren’t managing their energy very well currently, often because they had very old boilers. “As an Island, we are helping to reduce demand. This isn’t just about gas, but how do we help reduce energy demand. It is a big commitment.”

 Accepting that, whilst gas would be needed to power boilers for many years to come, the company would have to diversify to stay in business. Change wouldn’t happen overnight, however. “Gas isn’t going away, it is a product. The reality is that we have 25,000 boilers across the Island and they aren’t just going to be ripped out in the next 10 years,” said Jo.

 “Before we get to the big rocks, we are investing in infrastructure to make homes more efficient.” The intention was to give people affordable choice. “Consumers want to get their energy from one source, like they can in the UK. That should be what we are aiming to do here,” she recognised, adding that the plan was for everyone – staff and customers – to be able to better manage their energy use. This would include upgrading boilers to handle alternative energy sources, not just natural gas.

 Translating words into action

 Whilst accepting that many people didn’t have £12000 in their bank account to pay for upgrades, Jo said: “We are going to make it really easy for our consumers via a new digital platform, to allow them to spread costs.

On the longer-term net-zero mission, the speakers said that translating words into action was key, they warned against falling into greenwashing.  Consequently, their “glide path and action plans to reduce business emissions and its impact” were committed to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement, and adopting working practices that would hold the company to account. This included working alongside organisations like Science Based Target Initiatives and ISO. “You’ll be able to see what we are doing – not just talking,” said Alex.

Excepting that there was a huge amount of work to be done, the Group had already established a gas production net-zero working group. They were also working with external consultants, helping them reduce their carbon footprint. One of the biggest challenges of all, they revealed, was working with their supply chain to achieve sustainable procurement.  

By 2030, the Group would have a much better idea of where they would be in relation to working with other energy sources, like hydrogen. But certainly, boilers would need to be compatible with all future fuels, not just gas. “We will transition away from natural gas to other energy sources, so that our boilers will be able to take it,” said Jo.

 A busy year ahead

 At an Island level, Manx Gas were looking at all sustainable energy sources, including wind, as well as liaising regularly with Government and organisations like the MUA. “It’s important to all get around a table and have a conversation – that’s how to take things forward,” said Alex.

 With a major consultation document being planned during 2023, Jo recognised that the company’s transition would take time. “We have got a very busy year ahead of us,” she said.

 Closing the meeting, IOM Business Sustainability Chair, Ralph Peake, said the presentation had conveyed “a really positive message.”

 Later, Conister Bank’s Marketing Manager Kerry Waddington said: “Once again, we were delighted to sponsor this extremely worthwhile meeting. It was interesting to learn about what Manx Gas and the wider IEG Group have in mind regarding their plans for energy provision in the years to come. As a major backer of green initiatives on the Island, Conister looks forward to working closely with IEG, as we all make the transition towards more sustainable energy policies and the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero by 2050.”

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