Alectra Inc., the largest municipally-owned energy company in Canada based on customers served, plans to reduce its corporate operations greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 38 percent by 2025 (compared to a 2016 baseline) and announced in May that it will be a net-zero emissions company by 2050. This will make Alectra one of the first energy distribution companies in Ontario to commit to a target and a timeline for reducing GHG emissions.
It is a proud achievement to commit to these targets, but how did we get here?
Our journey began in 2017 with the creation of Alectra – a new electricity distribution and integrated energy solutions company formed by the consolidation of four utilities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario. Within this new corporate entity, we wanted to be leaders in the industry and create impactful change.
Through surveys of internal and external stakeholders, we found that 95 percent of respondents indicated it was important for Alectra to be a sustainable company. A Corporate Sustainability Committee was formed, which consisted of senior leaders from different divisions and department levels in the supply chain. We conducted a materiality assessment to determine our top sustainability issues, which identified 11 issues to be material, including Climate Change.
The Committee also established the corporate Sustainability Commitment statement, which encapsulates Alectra as a sustainable company through their commitment to empowering its members and stakeholders, protecting the environment, and embracing innovation.
In 2019, Alectra set a modest target of 20 percent below the 2016 baseline by 2026. This was a minimum requirement set by the Green Economy Hubs in Ontario, of which Alectra was a member. Establishing a target helped initiate discussions regarding the GHG issue and created visibility.
At the end of 2019, Alectra reported a reduction of 19 percent (since adjusted to 17 percent due to updates to the emissions factor of electricity in Ontario). Due to this success, the natural inquiry was – what is next?
The confidence gained from attaining the smaller target, combined with the support of our Executive and Board members, allowed us to work on determining the new and bigger target. The open-source Science Based Target (SBT) methodology was used to determine that a 38 percent reduction by 2025 was the appropriate target for our corporate operations emissions. However, this was a significant increase from the original target of 20 percent and would require much greater corporate involvement to achieve.
A broader, complete suite of initiatives are currently being developed by a new cross-functional team dedicated to GHG reductions. This team includes fleet, facilities, grid operations and services, environmental services, finance and communications.
The ultimate GHG reduction goal is, of course, Net Zero. While Alectra’s net-zero action plan is not yet mapped out, it will follow the actions established to reach our 2025 target of 38 per cent.
Collaboration across all levels and among all stakeholders has been one of the most important elements of GHG reduction target setting and the associated emission reduction action plans. The quote “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” rings true every day on the journey towards Net Zero.
By: Caroline Karvonen, Manager, Sustainability, Alectra Utilities