Democratising green: supporting consumers on their journey to net zero

Klair Neenan

SINCE Covid-19 hit Northern Ireland, how we use electricity has changed dramatically. Overall we are using less of it, while individual households are naturally using more than ever. It is an essential part of our society but often, the only time we think about energy and how we use it is when for some reason it isn't working, and when we pay our bills.

However, this is changing. The rising awareness of the impact of climate change, locally and globally, has made energy a hot topic – one we will hear much more about in the months ahead. Next year the UK will host the world's largest climate conference, COP26, an event that will see hundreds of world leaders and businesses come together in Glasgow to find the best solution to the climate challenge as the world moves towards a net zero future. This combined with the impacts of Covid19 means our individual and communal behaviours will change and change fast.

Northern Ireland has successfully achieved its renewable energy targets in recent years, and the ongoing discussions around energy have been dominated by the role of renewable energy and the infrastructure around it. There is a strong desire to ensure energy policy has long-lasting benefits for the economy and environment, but we must also ensure consumers continue to feel benefits of a robust and ever greening energy chain.

Ahead of COP26, the UK has set a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and everyone across the entire energy chain will have a role to play in achieving this ambitious goal. Without question, homes and business across Northern Ireland will need support as they look to decarbonise without compromising their own needs and requirements; and that's where we come in

We believe Northern Ireland's energy strategy must address the need to decarbonise energy across all sectors of the economy while providing value for money for consumers and ensuring ongoing security of supply.

One of the core pillars of SSE's energy supply strategy is to ‘Democratise Green'. This means creating greater accessibility to green products while breaking down traditional barriers to access for customers.

The energy sector must work with energy users and help them understand the variety of sustainable and efficient energy solutions that exist. SSE Airtricity believes every home and business should have easy access to clean energy products and services to meet their energy needs. And with customer behaviours already adapting to a more sustainable approach, we view ourselves in the energy industry as facilitators, supporting a collective journey to net zero.

As more homes and businesses embrace smart technology, we also see ways to help customers cut costs and carbon. Smart thermostats, bulbs, kettles, plugs and even security cameras are commonplace and can all be controlled through your phone. It is vital that the industry keeps up with these advancements and helps facilitate an easy adaption for customers, so we can all make the most of the energy we use.

The energy sector is ambitious about what we can deliver for our customers and our country. We need public policy that is similarly ambitious.

We're ready to be part of a successful shift to a net zero carbon society, and with the right supports and policies in place, we know Northern Ireland can play its part in tackling climate change while embracing digital technologies and building a cleaner, more resilient economy; and a sustainable future for all.

:: Klair Neenan is managing director of SSE Airtricity

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