In 2011, Kingspan Group Plc set an ambitious target of becoming a net-zero energy company by 2020, with an interim target of 50% renewable energy by 2016. Having surpassed this target, Mark Harris, Building Technology Director, Kingspan blogs on the company’s achievement and its plans to 2020 – including a complete transition to 100% renewable electricity.
At Kingspan, our vision is to be a global leader in sustainable business and establish a leading position in providing sustainable, renewable and affordable solutions for the construction sector. For well over a decade we have been aware of the implications of climate change and the importance of reducing emissions. We recognized the substantial business opportunity it presents, but also the significant threat to our operations.
In Europe, the regulatory requirement for all new buildings to be nearly net-zero energy by 2020, as outlined by the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in 2010, was a clear signal that we needed to take action to fully understand the energy footprint across our estate and address the carbon emissions from our facilities.
By 2011, this evolved into an ambitious commitment to make our estate net zero energy by 2020 with a challenging interim target of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2016. Net Zero Energy (NZE), as defined for our purposes, is that our sites, over a year, are energy neutral on an aggregated basis across the Kingspan estate.
This energy neutrality will be achieved by a combination of on-site renewable energy generation (including export to the supply grids), off-site renewable energy generation (related directly to Kingspan) and the purchase of renewable energy to balance out the use of energy from non-renewable sources.
We are delighted to announce we have exceeded our 2016 target, entering 2017 having achieved 57% renewable energy across the Kingspan Group estate in 2016.
We have increased our renewable energy usage more than eight-fold since setting our targets in 2011. The five-year journey to date has been a great learning experience for us.
We began by forming a global NZE team who are responsible for delivering our ambitious 2020 goal. We also set up a process to capture energy use and carbon emissions on a monthly basis at every site across the Group. From the data we were able to identify areas for improvements which led to the development of our three step strategy ‘Save More – Generate More – Buy More’.
We believe that it is crucial to minimize energy use as the first step of the process and we have experienced significant energy savings from our efforts. Thanks to energy efficiency measures such as energy performance contracts, monitoring, building fabric upgrades, and plant equipment in place across multiple sites, we have reduced our overall lighting and heating cost intensity by over 30% and achieved almost a four-fold decrease in our carbon intensity. A key milestone for us was when our Group Headquarters in Kingscourt, Ireland achieved Net Zero Energy in 2012 through an extensive retrofit of the existing building envelope, rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and light emitting diode (LED) lighting system.
On-site renewable energy generation – both electricity and heat – is also a key priority. We have invested substantially in on-site generation across multiple sites globally – out on-site generation currently amounts to 7.6% of our total energy use, and more projects are now under construction. The purchase of renewable electricity is a necessary part of delivering on our 2020 ambition. Our commitment to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by the same year is how we came to join RE100 in 2014.
We aim to procure fully certified renewable energy as far as possible. Through our NZE journey so far, and RE100 knowledge-sharing activities, we have gained a better understanding of the global renewable energy market.
Last year, this enabled us to procure all the electricity used at our manufacturing sites in North America from certified renewable sources. In fact, in 2016, the Group used 164.2 GWh of renewable electricity (accounting for 94% of our total procured electricity), which is almost a six- fold increase from 2011.
Our positive progress in moving towards our 2020 goal has helped to protect us from the anticipated rise in energy costs over the next decade. It has enabled us to demonstrate the business case for investment in energy efficiency and renewable electricity generation to stakeholders across the building sector. It also helps to demonstrate the value proposition for our own products & solutions and highlights the benefits of upgrading existing facilities.
As we move towards 2020 the Group will continue to expand meaning that our strategy must be flexible enough to accommodate for this across different geographies. We have a range of large scale renewable energy projects coming on stream at multiple sites over the next three years including PV, biomass, solar thermal & wind generation. We are conscious that the renewable energy landscape is evolving rapidly and we look forward to the development of innovative & legitimate options that will help us to achieve our goal.
To hear more about Kingspan’s 100% renewable electricity goal, read our interview with Gene M. Murtagh, CEO, Kingspan.