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21st century energy: Business reflections on renewables in Europe

April 2017 – This report brings together business stories and interviews with companies with an interest in renewable energy. It focuses on EU policies on renewable energy and industry’s role in innovating to deliver it.

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Executive summary in Spanish |Executive summary in Polish |Executive summary in Slovak | Executive summary in French


In October 2014, the EU Council agreed a 2030 framework for climate and energy, which included a proposed renewables target of 27 per cent of energy consumption drawn from renewable energy sources by 2030, building on the EU’s previous target of 20 per cent by 2020.

As the EU implements its 2030 framework it does so in the context of a number of challenges, including the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, concerns about migration and populism, and a number of key national elections. As a result, climate and energy issues risk slipping down the EU’s agenda.

However, EU Member States remain committed to the 2030 framework and to the Energy Union initiative, which has been developed by the European Commission to update EU energy policy. Proposals for new EU legislation on renewable energy in particular have been subject to significant criticism from some Members across all stakeholder groups for the low level of ambition and the  lack of binding Member State commitments.

This report was commissioned to gather views from a number of business sectors on the effectiveness of EU renewables policy in encouraging business to generate  or use renewable energy, and how this could be improved for a new directive.

Of the 15 companies and business organisations sharing their views on these questions, many are known as pioneers for sustainability or ‘green’ business, and many are from sectors that would not obviously see direct benefits in transitioning to renewable energy. For most, the issue of energy production and supply is far from their core business and expertise, which makes the different approaches taken to tackling this area so interesting.

Some have taken direct action, moving into renewable energy generation, not only for their own consumption but also for the market, thereby diversifying their business model. Others have been content to leave production to established providers, but sought to ensure their own consumption is beyond reproach. They have tried to stimulate demand in the market by requiring renewable energy provision when tendering. We have highlighted some of the different approaches companies are adopting in the ‘How are companies innovating?’ section of this report.



ACCIONA, Anglian Water, BT, Doosan Babcock, DSM, EDF Energy, Eurelectric, GSK, Google, IKEA, Group, Interface, LafargeHolcim, Philips Lighting, Sappi, Stora Enso


Installing solar panels


Executive summary

We invited 15 companies and business organisations to share their experiences with renewable energy and the innovation within their organisations, and interviewed them on the European context in which they operate. These companies together represent a cross-sectoral group of industries. Discussions explored the decisions taken on renewables and what the business drivers had been that prompted those decisions. Interviewees were asked if and how the existing Renewables Directive had affected corporate policy, whether the measures it contained were effective in achieving its goals, and how future Directives could best facilitate further action.

A common message from these discussions was a desire for a more ambitious, consistent, and co-operative approach to renewables policy, and a wish to see Europe lead on innovation in this area. Companies reported frustration with policies that they perceived as inconsistent, unenforced, and unambitious. They identified low levels of national and regional co-operation, and an absence of a coherent framework within which to plan future operations.

Other key insights included:

•  Most companies interviewed welcomed bold targets.

These are seen as a good way of delivering results in the private sector, while unambitious targets were felt less likely to drive business investments. Proponents of stronger targets argued that they must  be high enough to prompt action and intervention,  not merely predict where business as usual will end up.

•  Some interviewees argued that success depends on giving everyone a clear mandate. 

These interviewees believe Member State commitments should continue to be part of the solution, because the absence of binding targets on renewable energy devalues policy ambitions and creates an environment where investments are perceived as risky.

•  In a number of interviews, there was a clear recognition that greater consistency is needed in renewables policy between, and within, countries in Europe.

Europe’s Energy Union needs a common framework for cross-border co-operation that includes standard market design, templates for regional co-operation, and measures for enforcement.

Many of the companies interviewed felt they could easily absorb the current level of ambition for transitioning to renewable energy, and see the potential for doing much more if the EU would step in to rationalise the current landscape of conflicting policy and regulation. A clearer and more ambitious policy landscape will provide much-needed confidence that can enable business investment and take EU renewable energy supply to significantly greater levels.

In contrast to other companies interviewed, EDF Energy would like to see a progressively reduced emphasis on technology-specific targets (such as renewables) and a greater commitment to using a strong carbon price  to drive the development of the lowest cost, low carbon energy solutions.


Citing this business conversation

Please refer to this publication as University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2017). 21st century energy: Business reflections on renewables in Europe, Cambridge, UK: The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.



UK Industrial Strategy: Navigating a changing world

January 2017 – This discussion paper has been commissioned by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group to inform the development of an industrial strategy fit for the 21st century.

UK Indudtrial StrategyDownload the discussion paper

About the discussion paper

Published ahead of a major consultation to define the UK’s new industrial strategy, this paper argues that the UK can have a bright future if government and business work together to ensure the country can participate in the industries of tomorrow.

It sets out three major challenges facing the country – boosting sluggish economic growth and stagnating productivity; promoting greater regional development; and moving toward a more sustainable economy with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to tackle these challenges, the briefing identifies four trends that the government’s industrial strategy should respond to:

  • growing demand for different types of industrial products, partly as a result of digitalisation
  • the move to a sharing economy where services are sold in lieu of physical objects
  • changes in the way industrial products are produced, including as a result of increased reuse and recycling
  • changes to the nature and availability of key inputs, including energy.

The UK’s industrial strategy must be cognisant of, and consistent with, these trends, to meet its overarching objectives. The UK has committed itself to dramatic improvements in the sustainability of its economy. Under the Climate Change Act there is a commitment for UK industry to become zero carbon by 2050. A new industrial strategy must therefore work to create jobs, improve productivity, boost innovation and create regional growth across the UK, at the same time as working to make industry low carbon and sustainable.

Citing this briefing

Please refer to this report as University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2017, January). UK Industrial Strategy: Navigating a changing world. Cambridge, UK: The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.



Future Proofing: Sustainable plans for prosperous economies

November 2016 – This policy briefing highlights the importance of long-term policy planning to deliver the vision of the Paris Agreement and outlines key characteristics of business friendly long-term plans.

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About the briefing

Tackling climate change will require us to collectively and significantly reassess our long-term social, technological, and economical systems. Governments and business must work together to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future. To do this we must make policy and investment decisions today that consider how a low carbon society will operate in the decades to come.

Decision-makers in both business and policy circles may struggle to connect their immediate priorities and planning to a 2050 timeline. However, long-term vision is a crucial tool for developing sensible and rigorous short and medium term-policies. If done correctly, such plans can build understanding across society about the nature of the changes underway, surface important assumptions and trigger key conversations about the plans and actions required. This would help strengthen the framework that will allow business to act on climate change and deliver sustainable development. This briefing provides an overview of the complementary relationship that can exist between government and business when it comes to policy, particularly on climate change. It also outlines key characteristics of business friendly long-term plans.

The briefing includes:

  • Connecting long-term strategy to immediate plan
  • Example case studies from around the world
  • Designing business-friendly long-term plans
  • Key characteristics for long-term plans
  • Recommended resources and further reading

Citing this briefing

Please refer to this report as University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2016, November). Future Proofing: sustainable plans for prosperous economies. Cambridge, UK: The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.


10 years of carbon pricing in Europe – A business perspective

July 2015 – This report, commissioned by The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group, was produced to mark the ten-year anniversary of the EU Emissions Trading System. It is based on a series of interviews with companies covered by this cornerstone climate policy who have made notable progress to reduce their carbon emissions during its lifetime.

10 Years Carbon Pricing 200

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Nine companies were included covering a variety of sectors ranging from energy companies and energy intensives, to those for whom the carbon price in Europe is more marginal in impact.

The interviews were free-ranging discussions focusing on what action companies had taken and the drivers behind these actions, whether and how the European carbon price had impacted on these actions and what other carbon reduction policies were relevant.

Interviewees were asked to identify what was helpful and what was more problematic in climate policies and how they hoped these would develop in the future.

Jos Delbeke, Director General of DG Climate Action, was also asked for his insights on how the EU ETS has developed over this period.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s longest standing business platform, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) is a select club of European business leaders working together, under the patronage of The Prince of Wales, to advocate solutions to climate change to policymakers and business peers at the highest level, both within the EU and globally.

The CLG has commissioned this report with the support and engagement of the We Mean Business Coalition and the World Bank Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.


A Decade of Progress

27 January 2015 – The first ten years of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.

Decade of Progress  200x280

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Ten years ago, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) brought together a group of thirteen pioneering business leaders to write an open letter to the UK Prime Minister. We called for UK leadership on climate change and offered to work in partnership with the UK government to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.






Better Growth, Better Climate – Business Briefing on The New Climate Economy Synthesis Report

January 2015 and September 2014 – This briefing presents the findings of The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate as documented in their New Climate Economy Synthesis Report, ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ as a short and relevant summary for a business audience.

Better Growth Better Climate

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Download the briefing

A short and relevant summary of the New Climate Economy synthesis report has been released by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.

The report sets out to understand how countries with different economies can achieve economic growth and development, while reducing the risk of dangerous climate change. 

The succinct briefing is prepared with a business audience in mind and highlights the key points of the report: that the next 15 years are crucial, there are major opportunities for economic systems such as cities, land use, and energy, and that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

The New Climate Economy project was overseen by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Chaired by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, the Commission is made up of 24 former heads of government and finance ministers, and leaders of businesses, cities, international organisations, and research institutions. The Commission was advised by a panel of 15 economists, all world leaders in their respective economic disciplines.


A Vision for a Strong, Sustainable UK Economy

27 January 2015 – These case studies illustrate that members of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group have found that action to reduce emissions can deliver growth and benefits to consumers.

CLGs New Vision UK

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The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) is a select club of European business leaders working together, under the patronage of The Prince of Wales and with the support and advice of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), to advocate solutions to climate change to policymakers and business peers at the highest level, both within the EU and globally.

As members of the Corporate Leaders Group we are all playing our part in driving the transition to a low carbon, resilient, and sustainable economy in the UK and across the world. We are active across most major sectors of the economy, and, as these case studies illustrate, across the board we have found that action to reduce emissions can deliver growth as well as emission reductions and benefits to consumers. However, government support has been key to much of the progress we have been able to deliver; shifting the transition up a gear will only be achieved with a clear and ambitious vision driving a long-term and consistent policy framework across Government.


We Mean Business: The Climate has Changed

September 2014 – Climate action was once perceived by many governments and many businesses as about sacrifice. Today, the value proposition is very different.

The Climate Has Changed

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Today, it is the sacrifice economies and communities will increasingly have to make if the world fails to address climate change and the buildup of greenhouse gases.

The Climate Has Changed report demonstrates that bold action on climate change makes good business sense. Analysis of data collected by the Carbon Disclosure project (CDP) reveals that companies are already achieving good internal rate of returns from their low carbon investments.

It also highlights that longer term policy is needed to help companies do more.



The Corporate Climate Communiqués since 2007

Since 2007 The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) has created Communiqués which set out the business case for an ambitious, robust, effective and equitable UN climate framework and offers a progressive global consensus on the shape of an agreement.

Communiques fanned


The Trillion Tonne Communiqué (2014) is a global call to arms from businesses who take the science of climate change seriously and are demanding a proactive policy response. 

Read The Trillion Tonne Communiqué. 

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The Carbon Price Communiqué (2012) made the case for setting a price on carbon emissions as one of the main building blocks of an effective and ambitious climate change policy framework.

Read The Carbon Price Communiqué. 

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The 2°C Challenge Communiqué (2011) called on governments to break the deadlock in the international negotiations and take action at a national level to ensure a successful transition to green growth and a climate resilient economy.

Read The 2°C Challenge Communiqué.

The Cancun Communiqué on Climate Change (2010) made it clear that the case for a comprehensive international framework to tackle climate change still stood after Copenhagen, and that the need for action was increasingly urgent. The signatories urged governments to redouble their efforts to achieve this framework and also to take necessary and appropriate mitigation actions in parallel with such efforts.

Read The Cancun Communiqué.

The Copenhagen Communiqué on Climate Change (2009) was signed by over 950 companies from 60 countries including the US, EU, Japan, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, India, China, Korea and South Africa; ranging from the world’s largest companies and best known brands, to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Read The Copenhagen Communiqué.

The Poznań Communiqué (2008) was launched by the CLG ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland. The Poznań Communiqué set out the key elements of an international deal on climate change and was endorsed by the business leaders of over 140 companies worldwide.

Read The Poznań Communiqué.

The Bali Communiqué (2007) was published by the CLG to governments gathering at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. CEOs from over 140 global companies signed The Bali Communiqué and it was published in a centre-page spread in the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune on the eve of the conference. It was an unprecedented move by business and received significant worldwide media attention.

Read The Bali Communiqué

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