BT feels the winds of change

19 October 2007

The telecoms giant is in talks with investors and renewable energy partners about raising £250 million to build 120 wind turbines on sites across Britain.

 

The group has already applied for planning permission for three sites in Cornwall, Orkney and Shetland and is weighing up other suitable sites on its own or adjacent land.

 

As eco-friendliness becomes universally accepted as a worthy cause, companies are jostling to prove their green credentials and tap into the lucrative market for associated products.

BT insisted that, as well as displaying responsibility to the environment such a move also made good business sense. Potential clients, particularly government departments, frequently consider a company’s green credentials as part of a contract bidding process, it said. The group grills its own potential suppliers on their eco-friendliness too, it said.

 

Although funding and third-party partners are not yet in place, BT said that it felt compelled to unveil its plans rather than worry local communities by appearing furtive.

 

BT is one of Britain’s biggest consumers of electricity with an annual requirement of about 0.7 per cent of the UK’s entire consumption.

 

The group estimates that its wind farms could generate a total of 250 megawatts of electricity – 25 per cent of its existing requirements – by 2016. It claims that this would prevent the release of 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year compared with coal-fired power generation.

 

The wind farm project forms part of wider efforts by the group to reduce by 80 per cent its carbon emissions by 2016 compared with 1996.

 

The group’s claims are expected to be closely scrutinised by the green lobby. The Advertising Standards Authority recently warned companies about too easily associating their products with “buzz” phrases such as “carbon offsetting” and “carbon neutral” without providing evidence to back up their claims.

 

The warning followed a flurry of complaints about unsubstantiated environmental boasts by some of the world’s best-known companies, including Toyota, Volkswagen and Scottish & Southern Energy, BT already boasts of having Britain’s biggest “green” electricity contract. It recently renewed a three-year deal with npower and British Gas, under which they provide BT with electricity from renewable sources such as wind and hydroelectric projects. The company claims to have already reduced emissions by 60 per cent through the deal, as well as through other measures such as using diesel vehicles and energy-efficient buildings.

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