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Jim Rushen

Group Head of Environment, Centrica

Energy suppliers will need to work closely with consumers to ensure that moves towards achieving net zero carbon emissions are achieved in a way that is fair, just and affordable for all.

Politicians, governments, scientists, environmental campaigners and energy companies took centre stage at COP26 in Glasgow amid negotiations to reduce global warming.

But sustainability expert figure Jim Rushen emphasises the importance of working with consumers, and supporting them, in the drive towards net zero emissions.

Achieving climate targets

Amid the complex COP26 negotiations, Rushen says there was still a long way to go to achieve our climate goals.

Agreements around coal, deforestation, methane and finance were important, but Rushen, who is Group Head of Environment with Centrica, adds: “A real positive was the presence of the private sector. Within business, we have really turned a corner; large corporations recognise the need to take action on climate change.”

Centrica has reduced its carbon emissions by over 80% in the last decade and aims to be net zero by 2045.

Measures to achieve this include electrifying the UK road fleet by 2025, offering incentives to encourage employees to follow suit, reducing emissions from its properties by another 50% by 2030 and growing a low carbon portfolio of up to 800MW of solar and battery assets in the next five years.

We need a green skills revolution in the workforce to create the engineer of the future.

Reducing emissions

Similarly, it has set a target date for its customers to be net zero by 2050 in terms of power, heat and transport.

That includes helping customers to use less energy with better home insulation and efficient hydrogen-ready boiler upgrades, smart heating controls or air source heat pumps as well as helping customers generate and store their own clean energy with solar or battery technologies.

“We also want to provide customers with cleaner energy and switch from fossil fuel heating systems into low carbon systems, and also get people out of petrol and diesel vehicles and into electric vehicles,” he says.

But he underlines the need to work with customers to transition to a low-carbon future in a way that is “just, fair, affordable and equitable for all.”

Upskilling engineers

With a focus that also incorporates colleagues, communities and the supply chain, he stresses the need for the customer voice to be heard and be part of the development phase of shaping a low carbon future. It is also upskilling engineers and recruiting 3,500 new British Gas apprentices by 2030, with the ambition that 50% of these new recruits are female.

“As we develop and start to deploy new technologies, we are going to need the workforce to evolve and be able to install and maintain those solutions for the customers,” says Rushen. “We need a green skills revolution in the workforce to create the engineer of the future.”

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