FOOTPRINT+ conference highlights the crucial role of electricity procurement in decarbonising the UK energy system 

– By Shea Karssing

July 25, 2023

FOOTPRINT+, the leading conference focused on achieving Net Zero in the UK real estate sector, recently took place overlooking the Rampion wind farm and the sea. It provided a platform for stakeholders and experts from various sectors to come together, learn, and build relationships necessary for implementing sustainable solutions. 

Matthew Margetts chairs discussion on energy procurement 

Matthew Margetts, Director at Smarter Technologies, chaired the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC’s) discussion on energy procurement and its significance in the decarbonisation process, titled “The Role of Electricity Procurement in Decarbonising the UK Energy System”.  

The session was orchestrated by the UK Green Buildings Council, who presented the findings from their working group who had been tasked with looking for solutions to achieve the national net zero target. Speakers included Tom Wigg, Senior Advisor at UKGBC, Rebekah Needham, Associate Director at CBRE, and Greg Borel, Managing Partner at Ampersand.  

The decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply sector relies heavily on the rapid deployment of new renewable generating capacity, storage solutions, and demand-side flexibility, making buildings pivotal in driving this transition. During the session, attendees received an exclusive preview of the forthcoming guidance from the UKGBC. The guidance explores the principles for quality electricity procurement, tools to compare available energy products, and an approach to assessing the effectiveness of a building’s electricity strategy in contributing to the establishment of a net zero carbon grid.  

Industry leaders and professionals were able to delve into the challenges and opportunities surrounding electricity procurement in the context of decarbonisation. Discussions revolved around identifying best practices, evaluating available energy products, and fostering strategies and practical measures that enable buildings to actively contribute to a sustainable, net zero carbon grid. For example, Google aims to operate 24-7 on carbon-free energy by 2030. What practical steps can other companies emulate to achieve the same level of success without feeling resource-constrained? 

New concepts that emerged during the session: 

  1. Additionality: The integration of new supplies of energy as there is only a finite pool of renewables 
  1. Time-matched contracts: Real-time half-hourly monitoring and matching of green energy consumption, enabling a more granular approach to sustainable energy management. The intent is to make sure that green energy is being used during an entity’s most intensive hours of operation. 
Discussion at Footprint +

The need for benchmarking frameworks  

A panel discussion sponsored by Hydrock, titled ‘Countdown to Zero’ looked at how organisations can tackle the main obstacles to achieving decarbonisation, including how to decarbonise the supply chain, auditing challenges, and difficulty obtaining data. Kelly Crews, Head of Decarbonisation at Willmott Dixon, shared some of the key challenges and obstacles faced in relation to meeting net zero delivery goals, including getting and analysing the right kind of data. 

Margetts posed a thought-provoking question: “Do we need to create an index for companies to follow in order to understand their positioning alongside their peers and benchmark against it?” Attendees readily expressed a need for benchmarking frameworks based on scale and type of operation. Delegates mentioned Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) index as a potential reference point for carbon emissions at an asset level and expressed the intention to further develop the idea. 

Themes that emerged during other panel discussions: 

  • Strategies to reduce both embodied carbon, which refers to the total carbon used in construction, and operational carbon, generated during the building’s lifetime. 
  • The effectiveness of offsets in the decarbonisation process; specifically, the suitability and efficacy of offsetting mechanisms and highlighted the need for critical evaluation and continuous improvement in this area. 
  • The resurgence of wood polymers and bonded materials as a sustainable, greener construction material that’s strong and lighter than steel with the same tensile strength. However, attendees recognised the importance of monitoring and risk assessment measures to address concerns around fire risks and deliberate arson incidents. Smart monitoring was identified as a solution to enable real-time communication around vibration, structural integrity, fire, smoke, damp, and other risk factors.  
  • Biodiversity emerged as a crucial consideration in the construction sector. Attendees acknowledged the requirement, effective from November, for all new constructions to demonstrate a minimum net gain of 10+ in biodiversity within the local area. How can this be achieved? The event stimulated discussions on rethinking our relationship with the environment and incorporating biodiversity-focused approaches and impact planning into construction practices. 

Emphasising the constant need for data 

From Smarter Technologies’ perspective, Matthew Margetts emphasised the constant need for real-time data in driving sustainable building practices and understanding true carbon. He shared insights from conversations with academics who are studying the impact of people in buildings on daily operations, such as the dynamic variables introduced by increased occupancy.  

Matthew Margetts at Footprint +

A leading conference for achieving net zero in the real estate sector 

FOOTPRINT+ continues to serve as a premier event, offering a forum for knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and innovation within the UK property market. The conference brings together a diverse range of stakeholders, including developers, local authorities, housing associations, investors, and asset managers, all united in their commitment to radically reduce carbon emissions within their portfolios. Smarter Technologies looks forward to attending to 2024 event.  


FOOTPRINT+ is a leading conference in the UK that focuses on achieving Net Zero in the real estate sector. The conference brings together a diverse range of stakeholders, including developers, local authorities, housing associations, investors, and asset managers, all united in their commitment to radically reduce carbon emissions within their portfolios. 

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