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Economy

Nina Skorupska: we need energy ‘prosumers’ to effect real change

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In one of her first in-depth interviews as chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Nina Skorupska speaks with Alex Blackburne about taking over a leading clean energy trade body at a time of political instability, societal demand and environmental urgency.

Nina Skorupska sometimes conducts experiments with taxi drivers as she travels across London. After finding out what she does, their response is often something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re doing that funny green stuff.” Her task, or mind game – however you choose to look at it – is to get them supporting renewable energy by the end of the journey.

While some remain unconvinced as she settles the fare, she recalls one driver who had actually fitted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to the roof of his house. He is already enjoying lower energy bills and his system is well on the way to paying for itself.

The only problem, Skorupska says, is that he was reluctant to talk to anyone but his friends about his positive experience in case they were doing better out of their panels than he was.

Despite the cabbie’s slightly tongue-in-cheek self-interest, it’s exactly this consumer-driven tour de force that Skorupska – in her new role as chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) – wants to mobilise.

It’s about getting people to believe that they are really influential in how we can meet the UK’s 15% renewable energy target, and at the same time, doing great things for society and saving them money, removing all this volatility around their prices that they are subjected to from the big six”, she says at the REA’s office in Victoria, London.

She uses the phrase “prosumer” – a consumer who takes control of their energy, especially through energy efficiency and on-site energy production – to describe the outlook required. And she’s noticeably excited by the prospect of such a transition.

Skorupska’s attitude to renewables is a healthy mix of pragmatism and optimism. The former comes from her more than two decades working in the conventional energy industry; the latter from her career-long desire of wanting to make things work better.

She quickly realised, after studying astronomy and astrophysics at university, that she preferred science to mathematics, and so she embarked on a PhD in coal combustion. This led her to a job at the International Energy Agency and later, National Power (which became Innogy in 2000 and Npower two years later).

Her time at Npower saw Skorupska occupy more than half a dozen roles, including fuel specialist, strategy and business planner, engineering manager, production manager and power station manager. After working in the Netherlands for a while, she decided she wanted to get back to working with the kind of people who inspired her. The engineers, the scientists, the environmentalists. The people, she says, she loves working alongside to deliver energy solutions.

A constant and notable thread running through her career – regardless of the resource (fossil-based or clean) – is a desire to make things work more efficiently and effectively. So when the REA role became available in the spring, a handful of her former colleagues each independently pointed her towards the vacancy.

Skorupska’s personal motivation of wanting to make a difference “seemed to coincide with what the board of the REA wants to do now”. She added, “That means anticipating that the renewable energy industry has to be treated credibly by businesses as an industry that is here to stay, that is not going to just disappear overnight because it’s a whim or a fad. It’s serious. The REA’s role is to help its members run profitable businesses, but also to help deliver the UK’s agenda on climate change as well.”

But she has big boots to fill, though. Gaynor Hartnell – a veteran of renewable energy trade associations having spent nearly two decades in renewables trade association, including the REA, the British Wind Energy Association (now RenewableUK) and the Landfill Gas Association – announced she would be stepping down earlier this year. Skorupska’s appointment was confirmed in June.

If you could melt down Gaynor’s policy head and current knowledge and transfer it into mine, and add it to my business sense, it’d be quite a powerful combination”, Skorupska says.

That’s why I’ve not let Gaynor go. She still works for us for a couple of days. And in fact, this is how important we think community energy is: we’ve asked Gaynor to be our project manager for pulling together the community thinking. With my kind of pragmatism, her contacts and policy knowledge, and the rest of the staff, that’s a powerful team.”

Set up in 2001, the REA is the largest renewable energy trade association in the UK, with approximately 1,000 members across renewable heat, power, transport and organics recycling, covering such technologies as biomass, solar energy, anaerobic digestion and marine renewables.

Skorupska adds that she hopes to build on the work Hartnell did in her three years as chief executive (“I don’t want to be the kind of person who comes in here and throws out the old rulebook”) but that she obviously has a clear vision on how the REA – as a not-for-profit business – can deliver its members’ agendas. Listening to their ideas, aspirations and concerns is central. But again, her pragmatic approach shines through.

I’m not going to be able to please everyone. Our members are members because they believe in renewable energy. They believe they can make a living for themselves and their staff, they’re excited about the technology or they have a vision. Somehow, we’ve got to be able to say things in a voice that appeals for all of those different types. I think we can do that.

Once in a while, I’m going to cause somebody to disagree. I can’t apologise for that. It’s about making sure we’re dealing with the important issues at the right time, because you only have maybe once or twice in a business cycle where you can have an intervention. We’re in an interesting time now.”

Interesting, certainly, but urgent as well. On the day of our interview, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest review of the physical science of climate change. While it doesn’t say anything particularly new, its key conclusion is that scientists are now 95-100% confident that increases in global average temperatures are caused by human activity: namely, the burning of fossil fuels for heating, electricity and transport.

In business, nobody would ignore a study which concludes that the certainty of the risk is 95%”, Skorupska says.

We always talk about renewables saving the planet by 2050, yet some people won’t be alive by then, so why should they care except maybe for their grandchildren? How do we make it relevant now? That’s where I think taking control, working to deliver a business agenda and removing the risks and the volatility [of fossil fuel costs], could be something that appeals more to people.”

A more immediate and solvable challenge than climate change (which if solved would, in turn, help the UK’s climate efforts) is to do with the government. Skorupska said its current lack of joined up thinking on renewables and all things green was not helpful (her predecessor, Hartnell, previously said the current administration was “particularly difficult to work with”).

One just has to look at the recent row over the so-called green levies review to see that there is even infighting and politicking within individual departments – nevermind within the coalition more broadly.

George Osborne once described the green movement as the “environmental Taliban”. Skorupska laughs off the chancellor’s slur and goes back to her earlier phrase: “prosumer”. It’s this attitude – consumers striving for better, fairer, less volatile, more sustainable energy deals – that will, more than almost anything, help boost the future rollout of renewable and clean technologies.

Nina Skorupska is a chemist with over 25 years in the energy industry. She joined National Power in 1993 as a fuel specialist and moved through the ranks to become the first female power station manager of RWE Npower’s Didcot B. Since then she has led a UK energy trading team, been director of technology services, spent time in Germany as RWE Group’s director of performance improvement, and then the Netherlands where she was chief technology officer at Essent NV, a wholly-owned company of RWE Group and the Netherlands’ largest energy company. There she was responsible for its entire generation fleet, innovation, research and development and renewable energy developments.

Further reading:

‘Renewables will win. It’s just a question of when’

The green levies review: when is investor reassurance not reassuring?

UK will miss 2020 renewables target but we ‘shouldn’t let up the pressure’

Keep on track! Taking renewables to 2020 and beyond…

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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