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Mar
27

Bridging corona to a sustainable future

The coronavirus is the biggest shock in a generation.Peter Hennessy has said that we will look back and divide history into 'BC' and 'AC' – Before and After Corona.We are currently living in 'DC' - During Corona.Utilities are flat out on business continuity and resilience. But can we build a bridge through the pandemic to a more sustainable place o...
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Mar
18

Coronavirus is a shock - and it can be a spur

With the coronavirus, everything is up in the air.It is forcing us to rethink the relationship between business, the state and society.This blog is based on a letter that I wrote to the Financial Times in response to an article by Jonathan Ford on 'stakeholderism'.The letter was printed on 16 th March. Jonathan Ford rightly points out that 'Stakeho...
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Feb
26

Getting to grips with climate and environmental risk in utilities

In recent years we have seen the rapid rise of climate risk as a major focus for companies across the economy, with sustainability and wider environmental risks such as those around biodiversity increasingly treated as growing and even existential concerns for investors – from outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's warning that companies m...
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Feb
21

PIAG Phase 2: Unlocking the public interest benefits of smart meter energy data

' Data is key to making informed policy choices, but current provisions for access to smart meter data for a public interest purpose leave policy makers at risk of "flying blind" into the energy transition .' The Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) , a landmark joint project convened by Sustainability First and the Centre ...
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Feb
20

Utilities can play a key role in unlocking local value. But to maximise impact, the focus needs to shift beyond regional growth to regional wellbeing

Putting on a hard hat and standing next to a digger can be a difficult photo opportunity to resist.As the Infrastructure revolution gathers pace, we can expect more pictures from across the country as new MPs do just this.There are many good reasons to do so. With significant regional inequality, 'levelling up' is the fair thing to do – between reg...
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Feb
07

Ofgem: pointing the way ahead on de-carbonisation

2020 is already a defining year for the climate crisis.The COP26 Climate Conference in November will ensure all eyes are focused on the need for action.Turning talk into a meaningful international agreement on net-zero is not plain sailing. With the Government's 2050 net zero commitment, it is also a significant opportunity to show leadership at ho...
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Jan
02

Everything has changed - yet nothing has changed

We've had a decisive election result – but what has changed in the utility space?  Some companies may feel that they have 'dodged a bullet' and that they are now 'off the hook' in terms of delivering on fairness and the environment.  That they are now free to return to 'business as usual'.  We strongly disagree and consider that our ...
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Dec
02

Purposeful business – a major contribution from the British Academy. But what does it mean for climate change?

​ Over the last year, debate on the future of capitalism and 'inclusive capitalism' has taken off. A focus on corporate purpose has been at the heart. What this actually means and how to embed purpose in a meaningful way – so this doesn't just lead to CSR 'purpose-wash' – occupies many column inches. Last week the British Academy released its groun...
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Nov
15

The consumer lived experience in energy and water

Guest Blog from Richard Hall, Chief Energy Economist, Citizens Advice To go alongside our recent Fair for the Future Project working note on 'Changes in the consumer lived experience in regard to fairness and the environment' , Rich has shared his perspective from Citizens Advice. We live in uncertain times.Some basic assumptions about how society ...
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Oct
22

How will Ofgem shape the future of electricity distribution in ED2?

​ Change comes fast but utility regulation risks slow motion. Since the RIIO2 process kicked off some two years back, government has legislated for a 2050 net zero green-house gas reduction target – and XR certainly knows how to focus minds. What's more, the wider politics of our utilities continues to pose a major challenge for economic regulation...
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Oct
02

Time for a radical rethink

While there is near universal support for the move to net zero emissions, the elephant in the room remains the question of how this should be paid for.  The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) asked HM Treasury to undertake a review of how the transition will be funded and where the costs will fall, noting that a key policy challenge is to ensur...
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Sep
30

Making best use of ‘capital’, competition and collaboration: are energy and water companies turning talk into action?

​ There has been a lot of talk over the summer, including in the pages of the Financial Times, on corporate purpose and how a focus on this may help 'reinvent capitalism'.  There has also been a clear pushback that discussion of purpose needs to lead to changes on the ground if they are to move beyond 'virtue signalling'. Sustainability First'...
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Sep
26

‘Fairness’ in UK energy and water sectors: roles, responsibilities, and changing expectations

This summer, Sustainability First convened the third workshop in our Fair for the Future project, aimed at establishing a 'Sustainable Licence to Operate' for the energy and water sectors as set out in our proposed strawman .  The third pillar of the strawman focuses on the roles and responsibilities of key sectoral stakeholders in terms of de...
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Sep
16

What should a UK citizens' assembly on climate change and net zero look like?

The decision in June by six parliamentary select committees to establish a citizens' assembly on combatting climate change and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is a hugely welcome one. Parliament's commitment to explore deliberative, democratic options for decision-making around decarbonisation is very much in keeping with Pillar 3 of Sustainab...
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Jul
16

Smart meter energy data: delivering on a public interest purpose

Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group The rollout of smart meters across the UK represents a major £11bn national investment paid for by customers – but there is a risk that the wider societal benefit of more granular customer-side energy data may not be delivered . Market actors with customer consent have access to granular smart ...
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May
23

Making best use of ‘capital’: collaboration and competition in energy and water sectors

What different types of capital does the company have to deliver its public purpose and create systems value? On 26 March, Sustainability First hosted the second workshop of our Fair for the Future project into delivering a ' Sustainable Licence to Operate ' for the energy and water sectors . The workshop tested the second 'Pillar' of our Sustainab...
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Apr
24

What does a 'fair' energy system look like?

It's widely understood that we are in the midst of an energy transition driven by the need to de-carbonise and the broader trends of digitalisation and decentralisation / democratisation. Sustainability First has been engaged in these debates from a consumer stand-point for a long time including running a major multi-party project from 2011-2014 wh...
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Mar
12

Ofgem RIIO2 Sector Specific Methodology Consultation: How Ofgem could raise its game on low carbon in RIIO2

The RIIO2 price control process is set to shape customer and consumer service levels and investment plans by the GB energy networks for years to come. Over the past year Sustainability First has taken a strong interest in how Ofgem would frame its approach in the RIIO2 process towards low-carbon facilitation by the energy networks. Not least, an im...
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Mar
11

Utility Regulation in a Disrupted World: Guest Blog from Cathryn Ross

​ On 7th March, Sustainability First and Frontier Economics held a joint event on 'Future thinking on utility regulation and fairness.' We had some great speakers including Cathryn Ross, Director of Regulatory Affairs at BT Group, Alistair Philips-Davies, CEO of SSE, and Adam Scorer, CEO of National Energy Action. Cathryn shared a personal perspect...
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Feb
12

The nationalisation challenge: Understanding the possible drivers behind support for public ownership of utilities

With both Labour and Conservative parties set on a more interventionist course in relation to the utilities, and polling continuing to demonstrate steady and significant support for public ownership, energy and water companies are well aware that 'the nationalisation challenge' is one they need to meet head on.However, in order to do so, and in ord...
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