Ahead of RenewableNI’s Smart Energy Conference, Carmel Brennan, Onshore Ecology Manager, SSE Renewables writes about what SSE Renewables is doing to address the climate and biodiversity crises.
SSE Renewables is a leading developer and operator of renewable energy, headquartered in the UK and Ireland, with a growing presence internationally. Our strategy is to lead the transition to a net zero future through the world-class development, construction and operation of renewable power assets and we’re building more offshore wind energy than any other company in the world.
We’re also part of SSE plc, the UK-listed integrated energy group which is investing £18bn to 2027, or £10m a day on average, to deliver a Net Zero Acceleration Programme Plus to address climate change head on. This includes plans by SSE Renewables to increase our installed renewable energy capacity to 9GW by 2027. We also plan to almost quadruple our capacity to over 15GW by 2031, increasing output fivefold to over 50TWh annually – enough to be able to power around 20 million homes each year. SSE Renewables has a team of around 1,500 renewable energy professionals based across the UK, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Japan and the USA, all committed to delivering the green energy the world needs now and in the future.
Here in Northern Ireland, we’re the largest developer and operator of wind farms, including Slieve Kirk, NI’s largest wind farm. Since 2008, our investments have contributed more than half a billion pounds to the economy of Northern Ireland. We support communities near our wind farms to deliver impactful projects which support residents, now and into the future. Local communities across Northern Ireland have benefitted from over £4.3 million of direct investment from SSE Renewables. The range of projects supported by our community funding include student scholarships, insulating community buildings, green travel projects, installing solar panels, and many more.
Varied and healthy natural habitats are critical for all life on Earth. SSE Renewables operates in some of the UK and Ireland’s most remote areas which are home to a wide variety of valuable ecosystems and habitats. We work to actively manage our environmental footprint and take careful consideration of biodiversity in our activities to ensure we maximise positive and minimise negative impacts.
On many of our projects, we develop Habitat Management Plans (HMPs), or we fund conservation activity conducted by other groups, with the goal of managing and monitoring identified target species and habitats to ensure a positive environmental impact. In 2021/22, SSE Renewables took its commitment to protecting and enhancing the natural world further by committing to achieving no ‘net loss’ in biodiversity by 2023 and ‘net gain’ in biodiversity for all onshore Large Capital Projects consented from 2025 onwards.
To this end, we developed and published two new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) toolkits to quantify the impact of our projects on the local biodiversity value and help us determine the best way to create an overall positive impact. These toolkits enable us to credibly measure and demonstrate progress against our target to generate BNG on newly consented large capital projects from 2025 onwards and provide a starting point for measuring BNG over our entire portfolio. This is a significant step forward in the fight to protect the planet, and we are committed to making a real difference.
As part of our leadership role in the energy sector, SSE Renewables has also published a user guide to support other organisations in implementing measures on their own projects. The toolkits demonstrate SSE Renewables’ approach to achieving BNG targets with input from environmental experts, consultants, regulators, policymakers, suppliers, and peers and will enable the development of a consistent methodology for quantifying BNG across the energy sector.
In addition to our work on BNG, SSE Renewables is also contributing to science and research to support informed decision-making and better environmental outcomes. We recognise that approaches for generating BNG must be evidence-based to be effective and credible, and we are actively partnering with a number of external research initiatives to explore ways to better share the extensive amount of data gathered during the development, construction and operation of our assets.
At SSE Renewables, our unwavering commitment is to integrate biodiversity conservation into all our renewable projects while leading the net-zero transition. The substantial investments we are making today signifies our starting point, not our limit, as we recognise the long road ahead and the work that remains. With persistence and collaboration, we are confident we can play a positive role in the pursuit of a sustainable and net-zero future for all. To find out more about our Net Zero Acceleration Programme and our Biodiversity Net Gain strategy, please visit our website.