‘Net zero is commercial sustainability with environmental sustainability’

Jorge Pikunic leads Centrica plc’s business and public sector energy division, Centrica Business Solutions – he spoke to future Net Zero about the journey towards 2050

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Born to Croatian parents and raised in Venezuela, Jorge Pikunic has been an oil and gas man, a consultant, a product engineer and had a stint in academia, all before joining Centrica a decade ago.

He now leads Centrica plc’s business and public sector energy division, Centrica Business Solutions. He tells me his career has shaped his thinking.

“My career has been very diverse, so having had exposure to a very customer-centric company like Proctor and Gamble, to the energy sector and to academia. And then working with multiple companies has shaped the way I see things today.”

And his view is built on the changing face of the customer.

“We’re moving to a system where customers, us in homes but also businesses, have a role to play in the energy system. So, they can generate and store their own energy, so really the entire energy system is turning on its head. And really being centred much more around the customer,” he says.

New technologies to enable the net zero pathway, also mean new ways of thinking about traditional ‘supply’ and what business consumers will want from energy companies like Centrica, is more freedom and flexibility.

“The most economical way of getting that flexibility is through more localised energy and having for example, more energy storage at a local level. Also demand response so businesses and consumers will be able to respond to their own energy demands, in a flexible way according to the needs of the system.

“Those are examples of flexibility that will be required increasingly, as the system becomes more decarbonised and more reliant on renewable energy. So, I see it becoming much more greener, more flexible and much more smarter, in how it operates.”

“The one thing I have seen change significantly over the last two years. And it’s dramatic right? Is how businesses are working and are much more active on their path to net zero.

“One of the things we developed is a methodology called the Energy Pathway [to support net zero delivery for our customers]. It is quite important to think, how do we get to net zero and it’s not a couple of months journey, it’s a multi-year journey.

“And I think there will be opportunities that generate not only sustainability gains but commercial gains in the short term. We see that with all customers that we have, public sector and the commercial sector.

“In face of Covid-19 and how that has shifted companies to care more in the short term about cash, that’s very important. It shows companies need to be agile and prioritise those sustainability measures that generate some cash for them.”

“So that’s how we’re going to help these companies, to say what’s your pathway? What’s your ambition? How do you get there? And make sure what you’re doing is future-proofed? So, those things to get the maximum value and the maximum in terms of sustainability need to happen in a particular sequence.

“A sustainable business can really hold and manage together both commercial sustainability and environmental sustainability. And that’s what we’re here to help our customers do.”

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