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Talking Net Zero

Author: Talking Net Zero

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In each episode of Talking Net Zero, Sara Sloman invites friends to discuss topics close to their heart around energy, infrastructure and collaboration.
13 Episodes
Whipping up a conversation Alec Peachey runs Transport + Energy, designed to unite the two sectors that historically had no link. “There used to be a siloed mentality with transport and energy, which was understandable as they didn’t need to have a link,” he tells host Sara Sloman. “Now, they have to work together. While it’s about issues such as electricity grid capacity and EVs, there’s also other forms of energy that have new or stronger links with transport.” Sara chats with Alec about his “wonderful way of whipping up a conversation,” why local authorities are key in the chain and the importance of local councillors in driving change. Designed specifically to unite professionals across the sectors, Transport + Energy provides business-critical information and services to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport and energy.  About Transport + Energy The website – – features the latest news stories, features and projects from the sectors, diving into the myriad of challenges facing them with a focus on key topics including: electric vehicles energy roads infrastructure manufacturers hydrogen & biofuels The website brings together these two critical sectors and looks at how the various groups in the sectors need to work in unison.  Whether a vehicle manufacturer, fleet operator, energy network or energy solutions provider, EV charging point installer, local authority transport officer, sustainability or energy manager, if you are focused on the decarbonisation of transport and energy, this is the brand for you. To receive regular updates subscribe here:
Sara talks to Poppy Welch—Head Of Marketing at GRIDSERVEPoppy Welch of Gridserve is Sara Sloman's guest this week. Having just moved from Go Ultra Low - the government and industry initiative to provide 'everything you need to know' about EVs - she's now got a new challenge with the pioneering business.
How can we use energy more efficiently? That’s one of the big questions that David Gibbin is charged with delivering answers to.  As Energy Flexibly Manager at Severn Trent, the water and sewage treatment company, he is delivering on the firm’s ‘triple carbon pledge’. This will see the Midlands-based company achieve net-zero emissions, 100% energy from renewable sources, and a 100% electric vehicle fleet by 2030, well ahead of the Government's 2050 target.  It has also become one of the first UK companies to ask shareholders to endorse its plans. The transport challenge is a big one for Severn Trent, explains David, as although its fleet isn’t large, it’s very varied. “This is not just a challenge for the transport department, but the whole company,” he tells Sara Sloman. And, these are no empty promises. Already, says David, Severn Trent has exceeded its target of using 50% of all its electricity from renewables by 2020. While converting the car and small van fleet to electric is straightforward, it’s also seen the company move from an outright ownership model for vehicles, to leasing, and David explains why. Trickier are larger vehicles – which go up to 44-tonne tankers and refrigerated vehicles. “There’s less choice at present, and we’re not involved in trunking – going on motorways – as our trucks travel in rural areas.” As a result, he explains why Severn Trent is now talking with vehicle manufacturers about the types of zero-emission trucks it wants to buy, but are not currently available. “The greenest mile, is the mile you don’t travel,” he adds, asking “do we actually need to do all the miles?” The result is some surprising and easy solutions (that don’t involve home working) to reduce engineers’ van use. Meanwhile, a programme to install 352 charging points ahead of its self-imposed deadline is now well underway, he adds into this insight in the role of utilities on the road to net-zero.
Why COP26 is fascinating and Britain is leading the way Duncan Burt is the Director for COP26 at National Grid, leading the gas and electricity distributor's engagement with the worldwide summit in Glasgow this November. Electricity is one of the most exciting places to work right now, he says. “There are people right across the sector creating things for the very first time, it’s real innovation, not copying something else.” He answers the oft-asked question - will there be enough power, and enough time to sort it all out? We discover that he doesn’t has much time for armchair engineers, and what the general public really know about the grid, net-zero or COP26. He talks about why National Green has launched its Green Light Signal, that tells you when the electricity in your home is coming from clean and green energy sources. Sara chats with Duncan about the ‘Greta Thunberg’ effect and Extinction Rebellion, and how the UK is fastest de-carbonising economy in the G20. After discussing the big switch that’s China’s made, he answers the big questions: What do we need to do get de-carbonisation momentum and what the biggest single carbon reduction measure you can take?  He also explains what the changes to our lifestyle will mean, why they won’t make us miserable and why it’s not all about flygskam.
At the cutting edge of energy transition Having spent more than a decade at Exeter-based Regen – an independent not-for-profit body that works with all sectors to revolutionise the way we generate, supply and use energy – Associate Director Rachel Hayes has just started a secondment to the government’s Cabinet Office for COP26. She explains what her new role, as a Senior Strategy Advisor for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow in November, entails. Setting out why COP26 is important, as a significant test of the Paris agreement – which was the first truly global climate change agreement – Rachel talks with Sara Sloman about the big opportunities to engage the public and businesses on climate change.  They talk about the “real challenge of making things relatable to the public” when talking about climate change” and the major changes people need to make in their lifestyles. The conversation also covers the amazing success of ReWiRE, now renamed Women in Renewables, the place for professionals to join together, network and share ideas.  Rachel discusses the importance of strong mentoring, and the radical new approach to it, by Women in Renewables. She sheds light on how powerful this often-neglected aspect of career development really is.
How sustainable travel ‘gives you your life back’ In a special edition, swaps notes with Sara Sloman, who hosts sister-ITT Hub podcast Talking Net Zero.  This week Sara Sloman swaps notes with Leon Daniels OBE, who hosts the sister ITT Hub podcast Lunch with Leon. The former MD Surface Transport at Transport for London engages in a wide-ranging, and lively chat in which he talks about the fear of not being able to use your car in Bristol and the topic of forcing people to change their travel behaviour. Are we too hung up on on-street charging and is the on-street charging issue overblown, they debate, before they chatting about micro-mobility and why people on eScooters are happy. “You never see a jogger smiling,” observes Leon, while Sara explains the importance of how travel makes you feel. “Does it put a smile on your face?” She explains the enjoyment of a journey, how underrated bus travel is for the ‘pleasure of the journey’ and why sustainable travel ‘gives you your life back’. Is the solution for certain occasional travel car clubs? Sara and Leon swap tales about their car club experiences which include an egg, rubber gloves and an underground car park…. We also discover Sara’s ‘all-time gripe’ about ‘all-things-green and sustainable’, and find out about the contribution of a bottle of wine!
EV charging is the big topic of the moment as the government pushes for more infrastructure ahead of its 2030 EV deadline. Sarah Sloman chats with Tom Callow of the electric vehicle charging network BP Pulse. Founded in 2008, as Chargemaster – initially converting petrol cars to electric – it’s grown massively, and in 2018 was bought by BP. Tom talks about ‘mobility hubs’ – generally known as forecourts, these days – and the new ‘black gold’: It’s no longer oil, but coffee. He explains how the mobility hub network will change and grow, what the best locations are and why rural areas will not be overlooked. Already, BP Pulse is in mid-Wales, for example. There will be ‘multiple formats’ in terms of charging, he says, new hubs that are not filling stations and he predicts a ‘huge roll-out’ of BP Pulse’s plans’ over next five years - ahead of 2030 EV deadline. “We’re going across the country – not just targeting cities – and it’s not just about putting in new, but also upgrading older ‘legacy’ infrastructure,” he tells Sara. As their chat closes, he explains what the newly-announced partnership with JumpTech’s platform will deliver, and the wider charging options.
Caroline Seton is co-founder of HumanForest, London’s first free sustainable-mobility solution. Her start-up aims to bring the forest to the city “ but a different kind of forest where humans are the trees.” Aiming to disrupt the eBike space, by make them accessible to people, HumanForest’s e-bikes are beautiful, functional, electric, dockless, and free for the first 10 minutes of each user’s daily journey. Chatting with Sara Sloman, she talks about how to combat the looming spectre of a post-Covid car-based recovery. With 1,500 eBikes ready to go onto London’s streets this summer, once the economy re-opens, it follows a pilot last year in the boroughs of Islington and Camden. HumanForest is, ‘designed to get our great city moving again’ adds Caroline.  By opting to make their daily journey on a HumanForest e-bike, Londoners signal their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and improving the city’s air quality. Working together they become, in essence, a Human Forest, she adds. And, Caroline explains why telephone boxes (yes, really) are a key part of the vision….
Getting to net-zero isn’t all about zero-emission vehicles, but wider energy use too. With home heating being the biggest CO2 emitter after transport, this is a key area to target. Sara Sloman chats with Bill Bullen, founder and CEO of Utilita Energy which is the first, and so far only, pay-as-you-go smart energy supplier.He explains how Utilita helps households who were being badly served and overcharged. Its mission is simple: to offer consumers better service and a fairer deal.The use of smart metering to help customers reduce their energy bills is a powerful tool and thanks to having better control, Utilita customers use around 20% less energy than the average bill paying household. It’s all part of Utilita’s action to tackle fuel poverty and climate change by reducing energy use, he explains.
Next-level collaboration as we go into space!  Melissa Thorpe is the Interim Head of Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay airport.  She chats with Sara Sloman about the project which involves Cornwall County Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership, Goonhilly Earth Station and Virgin Orbit. Due to go into operation next year, Melissa explains what horizontal satellite launch – the purpose of the programme – is and provides an overview of the Spaceport’s sustainability action plan. Given that county council declared its ‘Climate Emergency’ in January 2019, this was the first major project to go through after then. That process, says Melissa, “was quite an experience for us” and “completely changed our priorities.” As a result, the project wants to be the most-sustainable launch location in the world. And, it’s become the only spaceport in the World to publish its carbon impact assessment. Listen now to find out about this innovative and exciting project. You can also find out more at these links: Carbon Impact Assessment and project video: Virgin Orbit launch: Virgin Orbit Aces Second Launch Demo and Deploys NASA Payloads | Virgin Orbit   Twitter (project): @spacecornwall Twitter (Melissa Thorpe) @MelGoodSpace
Who joins up all the dots? This week Sara Sloman chats with Gill Nowell who is one of the key players in unleashing the power of data across multiple organisations and stakeholders, as part of the quest to achieve net zero.Her infectious enthusiasm encompasses her role as DSO Lead at ElectraLink and a Board Member of EVA England. And, she’s also behind the EVclicks website and blog of free-to-use real-life electric vehicle images.As someone in the unusual position of working on ‘both sides of the fence’ in funding, she explains the latest developments in smart charging – which are much further advanced than you might think.Gill also chats about how clever use of data is helping planning ahead for future network reinforcement and working on a system of advance notice of chargepoint installations.She explains how data can empower decision-making, using examples from public transport experiences this year that revealed important new factors not previously known.She’s also passionate about having a wider, more inclusive and diverse voice across the industry and sets out how this will be achieved.
This week Sara Sloman talks about cake and infrastructure with Edward Sargent, Director of Business Development at Pivot Power, who oozes enthusiasm about delivering clean transport. Pivoted out of a battery company, the firm aims to accelerate clean transport by providing 2GW of energy storage in the UK.  It aims to run 40 sites, with private cable networks from the battery storage locations to places where electric vehicles - initially cars, but also bigger vehicles – are charged. He explains how Pivot Power’s current project in Oxford, working with the council and other partners, is building an energy super-hub.  It uses a 50MW battery station in southern Oxford at National Grid’s primary sub-station, then running an 8.5km private cable to a bus-based park-and-ride site on edge of Oxford. With initial capacity for 20 charging stations, but with ability to grow, it’s also looking at charging buses and other vehicles in the area. The conversation moves on to how we predict the future for infrastructure, the growth in EVs, their ownership models and what it means. Set against this are the challenges of the time it can take to put in infrastructure, considering land use around towns and cities and how this fits with transport aspirations. They also chat about how green transport attitudes will be normalised and what needs to be done to change people’s habits.  For example, a study in Manchester discovered that 2m car journeys a year are for less than 1km. The switch of delivery vans from diesel to electric – and how the take up of electric will change driving styles of light commercials - is discussed. And, why vehicles are already being updated in real-time, rather than with model changes. They discuss the electrification of ships when in port – using shore supplies to avoid the need to run diesel generators – which turns out to be not as simple as just ‘plugging-in’ a ship to shore. They conclude with mulling over planning issues, decentralised generation, and Edward ends with a strong message to regulators about the speed of change that’s required.
In the first of our latest podcast series – Talking Net Zero - Sarah Sloman chats with Linda Grave, CEO of EV Driver, who has spent more than a decade working in the electric vehicle sector.She talks about her childhood and relationship with energy – through domestic heating: “We had an open fire so if we wanted heat, we had to chop wood, so one kilowatt meant a lot to me. You’d use more than a kilowatt chopping the wood.”To make money her parents were into recycling – or upcycling – before it became fashionable, when pine furniture had come back into vogue, by improving items and selling them on.After leaving school she started work in the banking sector before becoming an entrepreneur, running a fitness business.From there she moved into plumbing and heating, then solar PV. When customers starting asking about electric vehicle charging, she thought ‘I’d better find out about this’, and EV Driver grew from there.She talks about building EV charging networks, how we can grow the use of EVs and the networks to support them, alongside the difficulty businesses face finding out about grants for EV infrastructure and how we could make it all much better.
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