Tesco, Morrisons, M&S and Co-op urge government to ‘green the energy grid’

Tesco, Morrisons, M&S and the three biggest food co-operatives in the UK – the Co-op Group, Central Co-op and Midcounties Co-operative – have joined forces to call on the government to “green the energy grid” by investing in renewable energy.

The leaders of six major supermarkets and 300 community energy businesses, represented by Community Energy England, have signed a letter urging prime minister Rishi Sunak to prioritise incentives to encourage investment in wind and solar energy.

The letter says government must work with businesses to unlock additional renewable energy generation capacity, including directly funding wind or solar energy farms.

They are also pressing for an overhaul of the planning regime to fast-track new schemes and create fairer pricing for green energy for households and industry.

Just 18.5% of planned renewable generation is considered to be ‘highly likely’ to develop as planned, according to independent research by Cornwall Insight, commissioned by The Co-op.

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The findings also reveal that grid decarbonisation isn’t going fast enough, with less than 60% of the UK’s energy expected to come from a renewable source by 2030. At present, around 40% of the UK’s energy comes from renewable sources.

The government has committed to decarbonising electricity generation by 2035 to meet its net zero goal. However, the Climate Change Committee states that renewables will need to make up over 70% of generation to meet this target.

Co-op boss Shirine Khoury-Haq described the energy market as being at “crisis point”, adding that “urgent government action” is needed to “deliver energy security, drive economic growth and move us closer to net zero”.

“The UK is still too reliant on fossil fuels and we need to create more UK renewable energy to green the energy grid,” she said.

“Grid decarbonisation isn’t going fast enough and the government needs to incentivise investment in it and push through planning reforms to allow rapid progress for onshore and offshore developments.”

The Co-op, which already directly sources energy from a solar farm, has invested in a multi-million pound programme to increase the proportion of directly funded renewable energy it uses.

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy said this is “a critical time to take action on climate change”, pointing out the need to “incentivise more investment in renewable energy” if the UK is to “transition to a low carbon economy”.

“The food industry depends on the health of the natural environment and we must work collectively to drive the transformational changes needed to meet the UK’s climate commitments,” he added.

Tesco uses 100% renewable electricity across its own operations, as well as green certificates, power purchase agreements and on-site generation.

Morrisons CEO David Potts said that the supermarket chain had been using solar panels on its own roofs over the last couple of years, forming part of its commitment to reach net zero by 2035, but also noted that it remained “reliant on grid decarbonisation to move at greater pace”.

M&S boss Stuart Machin said it would be a “missed opportunity” if the UKdid not lead the way in renewable generation.

“The climate crisis demands urgent action and we want to see the government responding with the same urgency to remove the barriers across planning, investment and pricing.”

M&S stores use 100% renewable electricity, while the retailer has UK’s largest single roof-mounted solar panel array at its East Midlands distribution centre in the East Midlands. It is also working with food suppliers to make the switch to renewable energy as it looks become a net zero business by 2040.



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