A steady stream of green ideas

Guus Weiss, head of UK retail at GDF Suez Energy UK, surveying the scene from the company's offices in Leeds city centre.
Guus Weiss, head of UK retail at GDF Suez Energy UK, surveying the scene from the company's offices in Leeds city centre.
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LOOKING after the environment ranks very highly on the priority list of many businesses.

And one energy company has taken it to new lengths – by devising a system to help with flood prevention.

GDF SUEZ Energy (UK) is working alongside water authorities to ensure any risk of flooding is kept to a minimum.

In North Wales, the company has a pump storage generation plant. It works by allowing water to flow between two lakes, which generates electricity at peak times.

During off-peak times, the water is pumped back up to the top lake. But the intricate system has been set up to take full account of the weather. In times of heavy rain and flood, when the area’s river system is filling up, the system changes.

If water was still released at peak time the lower lake – and then areas of the river system further downstream – could be inundated.

So the new system ensures no water is released until the flooding risk has eased. Then water is discharged over several days, within constraints set by Natural Resources Wales.

It means GDF SUEZ Energy UK can store and release water slowly, playing its part in flood prevention further downstream.

It is one of a number of initiatives that the company has introduced as it looks to protect the environment. The firm is one of the sponsors at this year’s prestigious The Yorkshire Post Environment Awards.

Entries are being sought from businesses, individuals, schools and groups for the awards which feature nine categories, including the Innovation Category sponsored by GDF SUEZ Energy UK.

The deadline for entries is July 10, and then a panel of judges will draw up a shortlist with the winners announced at a glittering awards evening at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, on July 30, when Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will be the keynote speaker.

GDF SUEZ Energy UK says its environmental responsibility is crucial – both in the UK and overseas.

Head of marketing Tony Galloni said: “As a global leader in the energy market it is very important that we have a corporate strategy for the environment.

“We have an environmental and social responsibility. As well as publishing financial targets we have set out a series of non-financial objectives.

“They are perhaps more holistic in their nature than you might expect for a global energy group. We are involved worldwide in a whole raft of initiatives.”

The company has adopted the ACESIA system which is for rating corporate social responsibility performance of suppliers. It has a number of social indicators such as waste management, transport and other issues of best practice.

And in 2014 the group had a e2.5bn green bond issue. The cash from it funds energy efficiency projects and it was significantly oversubscribed.

Mr Galloni added: “We use it to find projects which have to meet a strict criteria for renewable energy or energy efficiency. We are drawing up a whole range of projects including solar power, geothermal and hydro power.

“Just as important is reducing energy consumption and a big focus is now on environmental efficiency. We do a lot of work to help customers streamline their energy consumption while not compromising on our customer service. We have an energy services division in Sheffield which includes installing new systems and maintenance along with efficiency solutions.”

In the UK, GDF SUEZ is involved in a number of ventures, including one at its power station in Rugeley, Staffordshire, where it has put £15,000 into initiatives around woodland for education. It has worked with 30 schools in looking at establishing new woodland and expanding wooded areas in school grounds.

Another example can be found at West Coast Energy, a wind power developer that is part of the GDF SUEZ business. Its office at Cheshire is timber clad and has a green roof which is planted. It has storage for rain water to provide cooling and has a high level of insulation.