Will BT’s Wind Farm Come To Grief?

BT has an impressive record in reducing its carbon footprint – and helping others do the same. But complex carbon accounting might stall its wind farm plans

BT is one of Britain’s largest companies – and has an enviable record on sustainabilility. But it is currently at loggerheads with Government regulations that could see it axing plans for a £250 million windfarm – the UK’s largest renewable energy project run outside an energy company.


BT consumes an impressive 0.7 percent of the country’s energy. Despite this, it has reduced its carbon footprint by 58 percent from the figure in 1996, and plans to keep on cutting until by 2020 it will only be using 20 percent of the carbon it used then.

Some of this comes from conventional energy reduction, but a company the size of BT has had to take a lot of brave steps to get there, and much of that is down to Dr Chris Tuppen, head of sustainable development and corporate accountability at BT.

“As work styles become more flexible and our estate shrinks, people don’t have dedicated offices any more,” he told eWEEK Europe UK earlier this year. “In BT’s headquarters, less than one percent have their own dedicated office. The ability to work from home reduces the need for travel. It allows you to dematerialise a lot of your office estate, and can delivery very significant carbon savings and cost savings.”

BT’s 11,600 home-workers save the company €104 million a year in accommodation, and flexible working which makes it easier for women to return to work after having a family saves it another €7.4 million, said Tuppen. Teleconferencing saves it €38 million a year. Other ways to reduce the energy costs of travel include electric vehicles, smart logistics to make sure goods are where they are wanted, and remote diagnostics that mean engineers don’t have to travel.

“Carbon output is a branch of accounting,” he said. “First you have to know your carbon footprint, and what you can influence.” To get a better measure of any company’s efforts, Tuppen pioneered Climate Stabilisation Intensity (CSI), a measure that combines carbon output with the company’s financial performance (EBITDA) so companies of different size can be compared even during times of merger and acquisition.

The company reached its CSI target by increasing the efficiency of its networks and its buildings, and using ICT to reduce emissions. It also buys low carbon electricity where possible

The company set out plans to build its own renewable generation capability, including a 500kW photo-Voltaic array in California, and an ambitious 250MW wind turbine array in the UK – but the turbine project has come into question.

“Our turbines are under threat from this government,” said Tuppen in January. Any company generating green electricity gets a renewables obligation certificate (ROC), which it can then sell to an electricity company that has an obligation to generate renewable energy. Selling ROCs makes the business case for BT to do the project, but earlier this year, the government ruled that if it does this, has found that if it does, it cannot count the electricity towards its renewable energy target. It has to count it as non-renewable, and under the forthcoming Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) “cap-and-trade” rules, that could cost the company money.