Sustainability Report 2021: Spotlight on Safeguarding the Natural Environment

Our recently published Sustainability Report sets out how we deliver clean, renewable energy projects across Africa while meeting the highest environmental, social and governance standards. Central to our work is that for our environment, later is not an option. Our responsibility is to think big and act now to protect the climate and environment.

Our wind farms offer near zero-carbon energy and in 2021 avoided over 2.4 million tonnes of CO2e compared to the average power plants on the electricity grids we feed. However, to ensure we are fully accountable for our environmental impact, we measure, report and offset the emissions required to operate our plants, with the aim of becoming a net zero company. 

Last year, we became certified carbon neutral in accordance with the Carbon Neutral Protocol. You can read more about our neutrality certification here. These steps – to report, measure and offset – helped us in 2020 to reduce our emissions by 21% from our 2019 baseline. As our next steps this year we are identifying and selecting effective, long-term carbon offsetting projects that will positively impact communities and promote biodiversity, including afforestation and deploying off-grid renewable power systems.

Another environmental advantage of wind power is its relatively low water use, compared to both conventional thermal and even solar plants. Since 2016, we have accumulated a total water saving of over 9.2 million m3, or the equivalent of over 3,600 Olympic swimming pools (based on an average power plant’s water consumption across our markets).  

Even so, water scarcity is a significant issue in many of the areas where we operate, so we apply water savings techniques to ensure we limit our impact as much as possible. At our projects in South Africa, most of the water used at the operations and maintenance buildings comes from rainwater which is collected and treated on site, preventing us from having to draw water from the local municipality.

As well as reducing our carbon footprint, we also ensure that we mitigate the impact of our projects on biodiversity, particularly avifauna (birds and bats). We do this by following the highest environmental and social performance standards, particularly those set out by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which have a strong focus on ensuring projects do not cause habitat loss or have adverse effects, especially on priority species.

One example of how we uphold high biodiversity management standards is at our West Bakr Wind Farm, located in the Gulf of Suez. Over 1.5 million migratory birds fly through the region during the autumn and spring migratory seasons, presenting a biodiversity risk to migratory soaring birds from collision with wind turbines.  To mitigate against collision risk, we’ve developed an active turbine management program to shut down turbines during high risk periods, ensuring safe passage of migratory birds through the Gulf of Suez.

The most important element of this is our ‘shut down on demand’ programme, which combines the use of radar and bird observers on site to help threatened migratory birds navigate through the site. The system is precise enough to target individual or clusters of turbines, shutting them down in less than a minute. This improves both bird survivability and reduces energy losses. In collaboration with the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Egypt’s Ministry of Environment and the NGO BirdLife International’s Migratory Soaring Birds programme in Egypt, we have implemented a skills and job development programme,  establishing an ornithological training centre to provide skills and employment to people from the local community.