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Net zero: where there is challenge there is opportunity

Credit: EDF

Simone Rossi, CEO

Simone Rossi, CEO | EDF

4 min read Partner content

Following COP28, EDF's Simone Rossi writes on the opportunities that lie ahead by continuing the journey to net zero.

This month EDF celebrated 25 years since first investing in Britain and beginning a long-term partnership with this country, to support customers and play a pivotal part in its energy security and decarbonisation. 

In those years we’ve invested over £25 billion, and by 2035 we’ll go even further, investing £50 billion to develop 15GW of zero-carbon electricity. We’re proud to be the UK’s largest producer of zero-carbon electricity, meeting around one-fifth of the country’s demand using nuclear and renewable power. We supply millions of residential and business customers – including the NHS and Britain’s railways. And we are leading the UK’s nuclear renaissance with the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, and supporting plans for a replica at Sizewell C. 

Our purpose is to help Britain achieve net zero. This purpose is characteristic of the alliance between Britain and France on energy, which can be summarised as ‘more electricity and less CO2’.

That co-operation was renewed this year at the UK-France Summit and more recently at COP28, when the two countries were amongst the signatories of pledges to triple nuclear capacity by 2050 and renewable capacity by 2030.

Delivering net zero is difficult – but we must succeed

However, the battle against climate change is far from won. And as we head into a General Election year, I’ll be asking all political parties to bring forward policies that enable investment in low carbon technologies.

The energy landscape has changed in the last few years – the energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis have underlined the need for sources of energy that are proven, sovereign and low carbon. They also have to be reliable or abundant, and today only renewables and nuclear fit the bill.

The existing nuclear fleet has performed well over nearly five decades. At the time EDF acquired the fleet in 2009, the last two of the AGRs were due to close this year. Without EDF’s investment and stewardship, there would only be one generating nuclear power station today, not five, and nuclear would be around 3% of the UK’s power generation.

We need to look to the future, which is why EDF has embarked on the immense challenge of building new nuclear. Last week at Hinkley Point C – the UK’s first nuclear power station to be built in a generation – we lifted the dome onto the first reactor. It was a huge moment for the project and for Britain, which has placed new nuclear at the heart of its energy strategy.

Being the first project makes Hinkley Point C especially challenging as Britain relearns what it takes to build nuclear power. But the country is already seeing the benefits.

Today 22,000 people across the UK are working on the project, with more than 10,000 workers at site, and 1,131 apprentices trained so far. The project has rebuilt supply chains and skill capabilities, and will pave the way for a replica at Sizewell C – and all the other nuclear projects large and small that will follow.

Alongside nuclear, a huge increase in renewables is needed. We’re glad that the Government listened to the industry on the strike price needed for the next Contracts for Difference allocation round – although other important parameters are still to be defined.

The incoming Government will also have to urgently address areas such as planning and permitting, which in the UK are especially onerous.

Net zero needs public backing

One crucial part of the net zero jigsaw is the role of customers, who are becoming users, producers and storers of power, and will help to drive the shift to greater flexibility across the whole energy system. Yet there is a way to go on public awareness on what will be needed to achieve net zero, which could be a barrier to net zero, as too could the absence of enduring solutions to the cost-of-living crisis.

This winter EDF has brought forward measures to support customers, including a commitment to wipe the debt of some of its most vulnerable customers and a total support fund of over £40m. Moving forward, we see an important role for a social tariff to support the most vulnerable, and the creation of a central database of vulnerable households using government data to help suppliers target support and automatically flag those who need special treatment. 

Where there is challenge, there is opportunity

There is plenty to do and no time to lose. The UK is not alone in this respect – the urgent need to act resounded loud and clear at COP28.

What lies ahead should not be seen as a challenge, but rather an opportunity for Britain to reinvigorate the economy, boost industrial strength and jobs and to take a leading global role in the fight against climate change.

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Read the most recent article written by Simone Rossi, CEO - Being a responsible, long-term partner to Britain

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