As a large energy company, the scale and breadth of SSE’s activities mean that we naturally interact with the environment in many ways, presenting challenges that need to be managed. Our most material environmental impact is the carbon emitted when generating electricity. To address this we are taking steps to significantly reduce our impact on climate change and our business model is focused around supporting the transition to low-carbon electricity systems in the UK and Ireland. We have an ambitious £12.5bn capital investment plan to accelerate progress towards net zero over the five years up to 2026, the majority of which will go to low-carbon infrastructure.
SSE's Net Zero Transition Plan
SSE announced its long-term goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 2040 (subject to security of supply requirements) and for remaining scope 3 emissions by 2050. These net zero ambitions are supported by our interim science-based targets aligned to a 1.5oC pathway. SSE’s Net Zero Transition Plan clearly sets out for our stakeholders the key actions we will take to drive progress towards these targets.
You can read SSE’s Net Zero Transition Plan here and scroll down to see more information on our interim commitments on carbon reduction.
We also understand that investors are increasingly looking for robust mechanisms through which they can ensure their investments are sustainable and take account of climate-related risks. As a result, SSE has deliberately pursued a strategy of issuing green bonds to finance its investment plans. See the Green Bonds page for more information.
Our science-based carbon targets
In April 2020, SSE set medium-term carbon targets, approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), aligned to a ‘well below two-degree’ pathway - which was the most stretching pathway for the power sector available from SBTi at the time. Since then, the SBTi has published a new pathway for the power sector, allowing electric utilities to set science-based targets in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C. This pathway requires the power sector to decarbonise at a much faster rate than others, due to the rapid technology cost reductions and the important role that the power sector will play in helping other sectors reduce emissions as they move from fossil fuels to electrification.
Using the SBTi's new power sector 1.5°C - aligned science-based target criteria, SSE submitted updated targets to the SBTi for approval in September 2021. The SBTi approved these more stretching targets in November 2021 and SSE's renewed science-based carbon targets for scopes 1 and 2 on the 1.5°C pathway are to:
- Reduce scope 1 GHG emissions intensity by 78.2% per gCO2 e/kWh between 2017/18 and 2030* (from 307 gCO2e/kWh to 67 gCO2e/kWh)
- Reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 72.5% between 2017/18 and 2030* (from 11.06 MtCO2e to 3.04 MtCO2e)
*The target boundary includes biogenic emissions and removals from bioenergy feedstocks
These targets are supplemented by SSE’s existing interim Scope 3 targets, also verified by the SBTi, which are to:
- Reduce absolute GHG emissions from use of sold products by 50% by 2034 from a 2017/18 base year (from 2.5 MtCO2e to 1.25 MtCO2e)
- Engage with 50% of suppliers by spend to set an SBT by 2024
These targets are aligned with government and stakeholder demands to achieve net zero emissions and are fundamental to SSE’s capital investment and allocation plans outlined in its Net Zero Acceleration Programme.
In October 2021, SSEN Distribution became the first UK Distribution Network Operator to set science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C pathway, verified by the SBTi. These targets play an important role in supporting the SSE Group’s net zero ambitions, alongside the 1.5°C-aligned, SBTi-approved carbon targets set by SSEN Transmission in August 2020. SSEN Transmission was the first electricity networks company in the world to receive external accreditation for a science-based target in line with a 1.5°C global warming pathway.
Detail of SSEN Distribution and SSEN Transmission’s targets can be found at ssen.co.uk/sustainability and ssen-transmission.co.uk/sustainability-and-environment respectively.
Assessing the potential impacts of climate change
We are committed to open and meaningful climate-related disclosures to allow stakeholders to fully assess our performance in managing climate-related issues. Information provided in SSE’s Annual Report and Sustainability Report, represent our disclosures in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, which include a quantification of the potential financial impacts of SSE’s key climate-related risks and opportunities.
We have also assessed the resilience of SSE’s business model to different climate-related scenarios in our Transition to net zero and Post Paris reports.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity
We operate in some of the UK and Ireland’s most remote areas which are home to a wide variety of valuable ecosystems and habitats. We have robust environmental governance and policies in place, and work constructively with a wide range of stakeholders to produce sustainable environmental outcomes.
Actively managing our environmental footprint and taking careful consideration of biodiversity in our activities helps ensure that we maximise positive and minimise negative impacts. In support of this, we are targeting overall ‘no net biodiversity loss’ on new infrastructure projects gaining consent in 2020 onwards for SSEN Transmission and 2023 for SSE Renewables, and achieving ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ on projects gaining consent in 2025 onwards for SSEN Transmission and SSE Renewables.
For more information on SSE’s work to protect biodiversity, please see our the latest biodiversity report.
Using resources efficiently
The consequence of human activity on the natural environment through consumption and the resulting habitat loss and species decline is as great a risk to people as climate change. In the transition to net zero, we are seeking to actively to manage our environmental footprint in a way that minimises adverse environmental impacts and, where possible, seeks to add environmental value too.