14 July 2020 Energy Management, Funding and Finance, Net Zero

What does a net-zero carbon strategy look like?

Net zero strategy diagram

As a leading energy services provider and strategic partner for carbon reduction, our aim is to help our clients make sense of net zero and demonstrate how we can facilitate this journey. As a result, we’ve developed a Net-Zero Framework that clearly and transparently explains our strategy development process.

‘Net-zero carbon’. It is a phrase that has grown wildly popular in recent times – not just in terms of its seemingly ubiquitous entry into everyday vernacular, but importantly, as a result of a global movement that promises real and enduring action on climate change.

Which may indeed beg the question: what does net zero actually mean? It is something that is frequently asked and much debated. Fortunately, there are plentiful excellent online resources which explore this topic very well, from a universal perspective, to a more corporate-sector-specific outlook.

From our standpoint, as an energy services provider working closely with UK business for more than 25 years to reduce carbon emissions – and lately through our own net-zero strategy service – we are naturally most interested in how we can help our clients make sense of net zero, the positive impact such a commitment can have on their individual company and the wider environment, and more pointedly, how we can help facilitate this journey.

A separate question that we are often asked, therefore, is rather: ‘what does a net-zero strategy look like?’

This is not a simple question with a straight forward answer, as understandably such a complex undertaking may mean very diverse things for different organisations, depending upon their individual capacity for energy and carbon reduction, or the specific industries that they operate in (as our Senior Energy Management Consultant, Andy Bolitho, explains in his article on net zero sustainability). Whilst there are many different paths to net zero, as a carbon reduction expert our aim is make the process of this journey as clear and transparent as possible.


Download the Net Zero Business Guide (PDF)

Our net zero framework

For that reason, we have developed a Net Zero Framework. Our framework is designed to support businesses throughout the planning, implementation and review of long-term energy and carbon reduction programmes, making it easier and more cost effective to realise your net-zero goals.

Segmented into four targeted workstreams, our approach identifies the drivers and critical levers that exist within an organisation that influence energy and carbon performance, as well as the opportunities to align the strategy delivery across your business and its other interested parties.

Supporting your organisation at all levels of strategy development and delivery – and mitigating some of the more critical risks inherent to a large-scale energy transformation programme – the flexibility of our framework enables you the enter a net-zero partnership with us at any stage of the strategy, from the initial planning stage, or at the time of project delivery thanks to our funding solutions and engineering expertise.

Data & Market Analysis

In addition to being a leading generator of UK energy data, our technical expertise in energy and carbon data management is the foundation upon which our Net Zero Strategy services are built. Our experienced Energy Markets and Smart Energy Bureau teams work with clients to uncover and analyse this data, which is essential to providing the starting point for an organisation’s carbon reduction journey.

By establishing the robust basis for a net-zero strategy, our experts can tease out the challenges that exist from rapidly changing market conditions and identify triggers points related to both policy and energy price risks. This helps to build agility into the carbon roadmap, identifying optimal low and zero-carbon transition periods as well as exploiting synergies within the portfolio to maximise the impact of individual projects within the strategy.

Find out more about our data and market analysis capabilities, and read the case study

People & Capability Mapping

Working collaboratively with an organisation, we identify roles, responsibilities, capacity and coverage relating to energy use and carbon output, to understand and highlight where energy and carbon risks lie. Our Energy Management consultants work in partnership with you to identify strengths within your existing strategy as well as potential gaps that may exist.

To complement this, our energy review and capability mapping process identifies where energy and carbon impacts fall within different operational areas of an organisation and specific KPIs to measure performance against. Coupled with our gold standard forecast tools, we can establish the long-term risks and provide a clear and transparent picture of what pathways to carbon reduction are possible, and what the impact of those pathways will be.

During this process of strategy development, we support organisations to ensure they have the knowledge to address each impact, building internal capacity to evaluate market capabilities and structure delivery programmes. This approach enables an organisation to develop an oversight process with clear milestones and metrics to benchmark net-zero progress against. As a strategic partner, we are often asked to help create or participate on the Board overseeing the energy and carbon reduction programme, providing continued support and expertise over the duration.

Find out more about our Energy Management service, and read the case study.

Project Identification & Carbon Roadmap

By harmonising our extensive knowledge of low- and zero-carbon technologies with our detailed energy audit processes, we work collaboratively with you to identify projects that can support deep energy and carbon reductions and support the delivery of a net-zero strategy. We adopt a collaborative process in project identification to build understanding and support across the organisation for project delivery and to develop a robust Carbon Roadmap.

We are particularly conscious that there are many commercial constraints that can hamper the transition to net zero, such as the length of leases, asset life, development of energy networks, IT compatibility and programmes for business growth. To recognise these constraints and build them into a Carbon Roadmap, we work across an organisation to harmonise other business priorities into the Net Zero Strategy, ensuring energy and carbon reduction projects are sequenced to be complementary to events which would otherwise constrain activity. This approach helps to transition the portfolio towards zero-carbon operations in a cost-efficient way, avoiding stranded assets and integrating energy systems for smarter operation.

Read our case study for Travelodge, which nominated for Energy Efficiency Project of the Year at the Business Green Awards 2019.

Project Funding & Delivery

Once the Carbon Roadmap and governance process is established to support the strategy, we can then design, fund, build and provide management and operation of your carbon reduction projects (and the associated assets) as part of your overall net-zero journey. This comprehensive approach – built upon our 25-year track record of energy asset funding, ownership, management and delivery – aims to remove both the technical and financial constraints met by our customers in delivering their low-carbon outcomes.

Our Carbon Reduction (CaRe) Asset Funding service makes available innovative, long-term, low-cost funding, allowing you to deploy your scaled rollout of energy assets at no upfront cost. Counting on the skills and experience of our energy services and engineering teams, we deliver and manage the project build from start to finish, and operate your carbon reduction assets on an ongoing basis to extract maximum value in terms of cost and carbon savings.

We then work closely with you to review your carbon reduction projects and refresh your strategy accordingly to ensure continuous improvement on the road to net zero emissions.

Find out more about how we deliver renewable energy projects.

Why work with SMS as a strategic net-zero partner?

  • As an embedded partner in net zero, we aim to build capacity and capability for projects with an organisation.
  • We are technology agnostic and have no affiliation to any technology providers.
  • Work in Research and Development programmes to develop products specific to an organisation’s needs and ambitions
  • Experience in large-scale energy and carbon reduction programmes enables us to deliver turn-key projects from cradle to grave, whilst building knowledge and insight.
  • We can provide finance, significantly reducing the risk of any project.

Net-zero FAQs

What does it mean to be net-zero? 
Net-zero refers to the balance that is achieved between emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

What is the net-zero target?
The UK Government has set a net-zero carbon target to bring the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire UK economy to net zero by 2050. However, many individual businesses and large organisation have also set their own operational net zero targets, some as soon as 2025.

Why is net-zero important?
Whilst there are numerous approaches to achieve net zero, the goal is the same: to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050 (as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement) in order to avoid catastrophic level of climate change and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Which countries have a net-zero carbon goal?
The UK was one of the first countries to set a net-zero carbon goal by law. There are over twenty countries that have made similar net zero carbon targets to the UK, including Austria, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Iceland, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland.


To talk to us about our net zero strategy and asset funding services, contact us on 02920 893 882 or leave your details and we’ll get back to you.