Climate change mitigation & air emissions
Elia is taking actions to enable the decarbonisation of the power sector, control and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, in order to achieve a successful energy transition
Controlling and reducing carbon emissions
Elia has been conducting a carbon assessment since 2010 to identify direct and indirect emissions resulting from its activities in Belgium. We are also taking steps to control and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, in 2020, we launched our Act Now program, identifying actions aimed at fighting climate change. We are committed to the fast decarbonisation of society to ensure the successful implementation of the Green Deal. We are therefore aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2040.
Responsibilities for goal setting, implementation, monitoring and follow-up are identical to the overall responsibilities regarding the environmental management system.
Our Carbon footprint
The carbon emissions caused by companies are generally divided into three categories, or ‘scopes’. These are outlined below.
Scope 1This includes all direct emissions linked to all the activities of an organization. Elia Group’s emissions which fall under this scope include those linked to sulphur hexafluoride (SF6, an insulation gas) leakage and those related to the leasing of vehicle fleet and utility vehicle fleet, refrigerant gas losses and our gas consumption. Emissions related to SF6 leakage constitute the largest share of our scope 1 emissions.
Scope 2This includes all indirect emissions resulting from the generation of purchased or acquired energy consumed by an organization. In our case, these emissions are linked to the energy consumed by our sites and high-voltage substations, and by the losses on our grid infrastructure (including our overhead lines, underground cables and substations).
Scope 3This includes all the other indirect emissions generated by an organization. It therefore includes the emissions linked to purchased goods and services, capital goods, commuting, fuel and energy related activities not included in scope 1 & 2, waste, business travel and other smaller ones.
Amongst all of our activities, grid losses represent the biggest share of Elia’s carbon emissions. Grid losses are calculated as the difference between the amount of electricity entering our grid and the amount of electricity taken off by consumers. Grid losses are directly related to the amount of electricity transmitted over long distances. Losses are already a key component in our upstream decision making process on the development of the grid. Opportunities to further reduce grid losses are limited. The Elia Group will however keep exploring all options to reduce as far as technically possible the losses caused by new assets in the future grid development.
The use of SF6 gas is very specific to the power sector, and Elia is able to directly influence its use through maintenance and asset policies. This is why we give particular attention to emissions related to SF6.
As a Group, we want to become carbon-neutral by 2040 and are hence committing to the following key objectives:
- enabling the decarbonisation of the power sector;
- establishing carbon-neutral system operation by 2040;
- ensuring that our own activities are carbon-neutral by 2030;
We want to focus on improving the carbon balance of our activities, rather than on reducing particular emission scopes, since emissions from one scope can be related to several different activities.
Our greatest focus will be on enabling the decarbonisation of the power sector because it reduces both society’s and our own CO2 emissions. However, taking up our societal responsibility also requires us to work directly on the reduction and control of our own emissions.
Enabling the decarbonisation of the power sector
With regard to climate change, as a company which encompasses two transmission system operators (TSOs), we make a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the power sector through the following activities.
Reinforcement and extension of the grid to support the integration of renewable energy sources
The electrical grid must be capable of supporting the integration of renewable energy sources. In order to ensure this, we are investing large sums in the development of our onshore and offshore high-voltage grids. Firstly, we always seek to improve the efficiency of the existing infrastructure so that its operation is maximised; we do this by replacing old power lines/substations in order to expand the network's capacity. Where justified, new connections and interconnections are built, both to ensure that our grids can accommodate renewable energy sources and to ensure the stability of the network through connections with networks in other countries. For more information, see the following webpage: Our projects in your area.
Moreover, we are constructing interconnectors to encourage the establishment of an integrated European energy market. We are also identifying necessary sources of flexibility to cope with the variability of renewable energy and are preparing the market and system to operate in a 100% renewable energy context.
Optimised market design
Market structures are essential for enabling a better integration of renewable energies into the system. We are therefore committed to seeking out the best market designs, so that the integration of renewable energies into the system is not hampered; instead, these new market designs will facilitate decarbonisation. There is a need for a paradigm shift from a world where production follows consumption to a world where consumption follows production. To this end, we must operate closer to real time, to optimally integrate both renewable production and demand flexibility into the system.
Electricity as an energy carrier is the most cost-efficient solution for most sectors. Therefore, as TSOs, we need to support electrification to increase flexibility on the demand side, to allow the integration of a broader share of renewables into the grid and support the energy transition. This is achieved by enabling better coordination between the energy and other sectors such as the mobility or building sector, or by adopting new technologies. For more information on the mobility sector in particular, see our paper on E-mobility or read about the actions we carried out as part of the IO.E. project.
Collaboration with other stakeholders
Elia Group is positioned at the very center of the energy system, so we are thus well placed to identify the best tools for decarbonising the system. Moreover, we work hand in hand with other key players and take our responsibility as TSOs promoting a green power sector very seriously. That is why we have begun formally collaborating several other TSOs (Terna (Italy), RTE (France), Tennet (Netherlands and Germany), Amprion (Germany), Red Electrica (Spain), Swissgrid (Switzerland) and APG (Austria)) to identify and apply the best tools for decarbonising the energy system. To know more, consult our press release.
Achieving carbon neutrality in our system operation by 2040
As a second objective, we want our operations to be carbon-neutral by 2040. To this end, it is important that we act on the grid losses that represent the vast majority of Elia Group’s CO2 footprint. These are unavoidable and depend on voltage and length among other factors. They take the form of current heat losses along transmission lines, transformers and other system elements as well as leak and corona losses.
Due to the integration of renewable energy sources into our grid (which is our first dimension objective), the CO2 emissions generated by grid losses will significantly decrease in future. As TSO’s we take losses very seriously and they are and will remain a key component in our decision making process when acquiring new assets or building new lines. As a group, we are exploring various options to purchase these losses using only renewable energy sources.
Finally, we are exploring options to reduce emissions associated with balancing and dispatching activities.
Achieving carbon neutrality in our system operation by 2030
Alongside our first two objectives, we are committed to the decarbonisation of our own activities.
The vast majority of scope 1 carbon emissions related to Elia Group activities occur due to the use of the sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). This is used as an insulation and switching gas for gas-insulated high-voltage switchgear. It has great electrical properties, is non-toxic and is also a very stable gas in the chemical sense. However, the global warming potential per unit of SF6 is 23,000 times higher than CO2’s potential. Thus, SF6 is used in a close circuit in switchgears, as a result of which emissions into environment are almost fully eliminated. The pressure vessels are constantly monitored for potential leakage points. Despite all of these protective measures, some leakage still occurs due to the seal technology and the necessary handling of the gas.
Therefore, we have developed an investment and maintenance policy to minimise the risk of SF6 leakages. Manufacturers must guarantee a very stringent maximum percentage of SF6 loss throughout the lifetime of the facilities they build. Our maintenance policy aims to minimise the use of compartments filled with SF6 during our operations. The use of SF6 (as a replacement and as a top-up in the event of a leak) is closely monitored using a system that tracks each cylinder of SF6. The leakage rate for SF6 across all of Elia Group’s facilities was less than 0.25% in 2020. In order to avoid the use of SF6 in futureas much as possible, as an increasing volume is almost inevitable looking at the need to the develop the grid for the integration of renewables research on SF6-free high-voltage equipment (such as switching gears and circuit breakers) is being supported through the inclusion of test cases gin new framework agreements with manufacturers, which should be installed in the coming years. Indeed, using SF6-free solutions for 50% of any new SF6 needs will allow us to avoid 30% of all leakage incurred by 2030 and 60% by 2040.
Mobility at Elia Group
Air emissions (such as gaseous pollutants of sulfur oxide SOx and nitrogen oxide NOx) are not produced as a direct consequence of our activities. However, some air emissions are still produced through the commuting of our employees, for example. To mitigate these emissions and, given our Act Now programme, a new transport and commuting programme has been set up called “Orange is the new green”. This aims to transform our employees’ conception of transport and encourage behaviour change. The programme will focus on:
Avoiding/reducing transport needsThis includes promoting working from home or the use of transit offices at other Elia sites, holding videoconferences instead of travelling between our offices in Brussels and Berlin, developing IT tools which are suitable for working from home, and so on.
Promoting soft mobilityInvolves promoting other means of transport as alternatives to single commuters using a car (such as bicycles, public transport, carpooling, incentives travel by train as opposed to flying) and providing staff with showers and changing rooms at work, alongside suitable car parks, bicycles for rent and shared cars. Under “Orange is the new green”, by 2025, 75% of commutes by staff will be low carbon (i.e. using public transport, bicycles, electric vehicles or some form of shared mobility) or will altogether be avoided.
Changing of the car fleet for leasingBy 2030, the company’s fleet of cars available for leasing by staff will be completely low-carbon.
Offsetting the remaining CO2 emissions produced by our fleet of vehiclesThe emissions of our current fleet of vehicles emit approximately 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. These will be offset through contributions to projects aimed at promoting the development of renewable energy.
The emissions related to our buildings can be divided between emissions related to our non-core activities (i.e. our administrative offices) and those related to our core activites (i.e. the emissions from buildings in our substations). As part of our Act Now program, Elia is investigating energy efficiency gains which can be achieved in our substations.
Innovative technologies & environmental-friendly materialsTo reduce the energy consumption of our administrative buildings, Elia Group regularly conducts energy audits in order to identify potential areas for optimisation, in line with BATNEEC principles (Best Available Technology Not Entailling Excessive Costs), and has undertaken a number of sustainability projects. Our administrative offices have green energy contracts for their gas and electricity consumption.
The first of these sustainability projects involved adaptations to the dispatching building along Avenue de Vilvorde, which has an area of approximately 4,000 m². This is an excellent example of a sustainable building, since its running is carried out via a number of innovative energy technologies (for example, its gas consumption has been virtually reduced to zero, its electricity consumption has been reduced by 40%, its CO2 emissions have been reduced by 45%, it now has a green roof and a rainwater recovery system, etc.) and its structure and interiors have been replaced with environmentally-friendly materials (including a cork floor insulation, polyethylene piping, fibreglass and hemp partitions, FSC-certified wood, natural paint, etc.).
BREEAM certificationTwo new sites which were awarded a 'Very Good' certification by BREEAM were built: Elia Monnoyer in the Brussels-Capital Region and Elia Crealys in the Walloon Region. This rating is awarded to buildings which are healthy to live or work in, have low levels of grey energy (energy which is related to the life cycle of a material, which reaches from its production through to its recycling), do not consume much water and where land is developed in a way which respects biodiversity. Furthermore, in 2017, the Crealys site also received PMP certification, the passive building certificate.
All renovations and refurbishments at our sites are carried out with a view to reducing their energy consumption (minimising the need for lighting, installing detectors, optimising heating systems, etc.). The Monnoyer site is fitted with 4,500 m² of photovoltaic panels that supply the building with energy.
A new automatic system for remotely operating the heating systems of 25 of our 600 high-voltage substations via mobile phone was introduced to reduce heating consumption. This system means that substations will be warm enough when staff arrive, but keep the level of heating down when nobody is in the building.
Moreover, we always seek to improve the efficiency of our network in accordance with European directive 2012/27/EU, which is related to energy efficiency. To this end, various initiatives were undertaken to achieve optimal levels of energy efficiency, including increases in the voltage of the high-voltage network, the use of high efficiency transformers, reducing the consumption of substations, less travel thanks to remote registration and maintenance works, etc. . Additional possible steps are being explored and can be found in the investment plans.
In 2017, Elia joined the CDP, an international, not-for-profit organisation that provides a global system for companies, investors and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information. In relation to a company’s contribution to climate change, the awarded score is made up of two factors:
- the level of detail and the comprehensiveness of a company’s responses;
- its awareness of climate issues, management methods and its progress on acting on climate change.
For Belgium, Elia’s Supplier Engagement Rating for 2020 was the following:
|2020||Climate change in 2020||Submitted||B|
|2019||Climate change in 2019||Submitted||B-|
|2018||Climate change in 2018||Submitted||B-|
|2017||Climate change in 2017||Submitted||C|
|2016||Climate change in 2016||Not Submitted||F|
|2015||Climate change in 2015||Declined to participate||Not Available|
|2014||Climate change in 2014||No response||Not Available|