To build and maintain energy networks that perform safely and reliably, we need to use finite – or non-renewable – resources, such as steel for pylons and aluminium for overhead lines.
As populations and economies grow, we’re seeing rising demand for these resources. This not only makes it harder for us to source them, it also leads to price rises and volatility, and increases the environmental impact of extracting them. So, it’s essential that we make the most of the materials we own and buy.
We support the principles of the circular economy, which aims to maximise the value of materials by designing assets that can be recycled, refurbished and reused at the end of their operational life.
We’re integrating these principles into our processes to find more cost-effective and environmentally responsible ways of buying raw materials.
We’re thinking differently and working towards the following target:
What we're doing
We’re working with our supply chain, industry peers and wider stakeholders to achieve our goal. We’re also part of the Major Infrastructure Resource Optimisation Group, where we can share best practice with other organisations and find new opportunities to reuse materials inside and outside our business.
Case Study: Responsibly re-wiring our networks
Our procurement team and cable supplier have been working together to revolutionise the way we recycle aluminium overhead lines that reach the end of their operational life.
Our business transmits electricity across England and Wales via nearly 15,000km of aluminium overhead line conductor. Traditionally, when a conductor reached the end of its operational life, it would be taken down and passed to a UK-based metal merchant for recycling. We’d then receive a portion of its market value.
Our procurement teams are always on the lookout for ways to save money and reduce our environmental impact. With these goals in mind, they piloted a new initiative in 2013, collaborating with our manufacturer Midal Cables.
Redundant conductors were transported to Midal’s facilities in Bahrain and reprocessed into new conductors that we can use again.
The project is a clear demonstration of the circular economy in action. We’re challenging traditional waste management and end of life material processes. In doing so, we’re changing the way we work for the better, both economically and environmentally.
Where historically we recycled the materials and only received a fraction of their value in return, we’re now reprocessing the aluminium we own more effectively, turning these recovered materials into new conductors with a lifespan of 40 years.
We’re not only reducing the amount of raw materials we need to buy - and in turn reducing cost - we’re also protecting ourselves from volatile metal markets.