"Our vision is to be a global leader in sustainable business": Gene M. Murtagh, CEO, Kingspan

3 April 2017

Kingspan Group Plc. is committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2020. The company surpassed its 50% renewable energy target for 2016 and has now joined the RE100 initiative of the world’s most influential businesses committed to renewable power. In this interview, Gene M. Murtagh, CEO, Kingspan, tells us why he is driving this change.

Why is Kingspan committed to becoming ‘100% renewable’?

"At Kingspan, our vision is to be a global leader in sustainable business and establish a leading position in providing sustainable, renewable and affordable best practice solutions for the construction sector.

"We recognize the significance of climate change to global society and the importance of addressing the built environment as part of efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions. We are committed to providing solutions for our customers and addressing our own facilities.

"As well as being a substantial business opportunity, we recognize that climate change also represents a significant threat to our operations and have put metrics in place to inform future adaptation strategies. We recognize that these same measures will also pay dividends for our customer base in terms of cost savings and energy security, thereby underpinning the current business strategy."

How did you decide on your 100% goal?

"For well over a decade we have been very aware of the impact of climate change and the importance of reducing emissions as fast as possible. The requirement for all new buildings to be nearly net-zero energy by 2020, as outlined by the EU in 2010, was a defining moment in our thought processes.

"At Kingspan we always seek to be a thought-leader in the sectors in which we operate so it became clear to us that we needed to take action to fully understand the energy footprint across our estate and to address carbon emissions from our own facilities.

"The result was an ambitious commitment to go make our estate net zero energy by 2020 – requiring 100% renewable electricity. We also decided to set a challenging interim target of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2016. To facilitate management of achieving the target we set up a process to capture energy use and carbon emissions on a monthly basis at every site across the Group."

What are your renewable electricity achievements so far?

"As of 2016, 57% of the Group’s energy usage was from renewable sources exceeding our interim target. As we work towards our 100% renewable electricity goal, we have made a number of investments in renewable power.

"For example in 2012 our Group Headquarters in Kingscourt Ireland achieved Net Zero Energy through extensive retrofit of the existing building by incorporating our high-performance building envelope, rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and light emitting diode (LED) lighting system. A year later we installed a 2.5 megawatts (MW) solar PV array at our Selby site, which won Commercial Solar Installation of the Year in the Solar Power Portal Awards. In 2016, we have a further 5 MW was deployed at Sherburn."

What opportunities and challenges have you encountered?

"Our positive progress in moving towards our goals has enabled us to demonstrate the business case for investment in energy efficiency and renewable electricity generation to stakeholders across the building sector. It helps demonstrate the value proposition for our products and solutions.

"As the Group continues to expand, the goal posts are constantly moving and our strategy must be flexible to accommodate this. We experience transition periods with newly acquired businesses as they learn about the measures we are taking."

What plans do you have for increasing your use of renewable electricity, and what do you expect the benefits to be?

"We have a range of large scale renewable energy projects planned to come on stream at a range of sites over the next couple of years including biomass, PV, solar thermal & wind generation.

"Our commitment to net zero energy and renewable electricity provides protection against the anticipated rise in energy prices over the next decade, as well as sending an important message to our customers and other stakeholders about the benefits of upgrading existing facilities."

Why do you think RE100 is a good initiative to join?

"We’re proud to be in the group of leading companies that have joined RE100 and to support the use of renewable electricity. The RE100 community is a valuable network for like-minded companies to benefit from peer to peer learning and sharing of best practices.

"By joining initiatives like RE100 we hope to share our knowledge to help accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. Together, we have the opportunity to make our built environments more energy efficient, adaptable, environmentally sensitive and productive. We can make our buildings really work for us; consuming and generating energy smartly to become real investments in our future."

What else is Kingspan doing to help drive a low carbon economy?

"We have a three-step strategy for becoming net-zero energy: ‘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 are already noticing the benefits. Thanks to energy efficiency measures across multiple sites we saved €1 million ($1 million) between 2013 and 2014.

"On-site renewable energy generation – both electricity and heat – is also a key priority. Meanwhile, the purchase of renewable electricity is a necessary part of delivering on our ambition. We aim to procure fully certified renewable energy as far as possible. We are, however, conscious that the renewable energy landscape is evolving rapidly and look forward to the development of innovative & legitimate ways of achieving our goals."

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