Andrex maker rolls out wind for UK plants

Last week, Kimberly-Clark signed a power purchase agreement with Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust that will lead to the construction of a wind farm in Scotland that will power 80% of the company’s UK electricity needs.


December 2, 2021

Household products giant Kimberly-Clark operates in 175 countries and says its products are used and trusted by one-quarter of the world’s population. This includes Andrex toilet roll, Huggies nappies and Kleenex tissues.

But where its energy needs are concerned, renewables are set to clean up.

Last week, Kimberly-Clark signed a power purchase agreement with Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust that will lead to the construction of a wind farm in Scotland that will power 80% of the company’s UK electricity needs.

The deal covers power for factories in Barrow, Flint and Northfleet; and its two main UK distribution centres, in Chorley and Northfleet.

This is Kimberly-Clark’s first renewable energy PPA outside North America and is an important step as it plans to roll out green PPAs across Europe.

A Word About Wind spoke to Oriol Margo, sustainability leader for Europe, Middle East & Africa at Kimberly-Clark, to learn where wind fits in the firm’s corporate sustainability plans and why it might add on-site renewables too.

Cumberhead contract

Kimberly-Clark signed a deal with Octopus for 160GWh of power each year from the 50MW Cumberhead onshore wind farm.

Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust bought construction rights to the project from RDC Partners in the third quarter of 2021 and is looking to complete the project in late 2022 or early 2023.

Margo said that Kimberly-Clark received a large number of proposals from potential electricity suppliers as it ran its tender process for two years: “We had visibility of all of the projects that had the potential in the UK,” he said. “We allowed everyone to participate in our process, and we didn’t specify solar or wind. Then we started shortlisting. It was interesting to see the different technologies are competing with each other.”

Kimberly-Clark is now looking at how it could use on-site renewables to provide the additional 20% of its UK sites’ power.

He said the biggest concern for the company was that it would support deployment of additional renewables capacity in the UK, which represents about one-third of the company’s operations in the EMEA region.

“There are different ways to deploy renewable electricity,” he said. “We could go and buy certificates tomorrow, and we would save a lot of time… But we want to use the power of our brands, the power of our organisation, to incentivise additional capacity in the countries where we operate.”

The company’s sustainability drive goes far beyond the type of energy it uses. This Cumberhead PPA is part of the company’s plan to minimise its carbon footprint, by reducing absolute scope one and two greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2030 compared to 2015; and reducing its scope three greenhouse gas emissions over the same period.

However, the company is also looking to reduce its plastics footprint, its water use, its impacts on forests, and its social impacts. The breadth of its operations means that electricity is only part of its energy mix.

Margo acknowledges that its energy challenges go far beyond electricity – it is also exploring de-carbonised gas and other fuels – but he says that electricity is the area of the energy mix where it is easiest to make quick progress now.

“It’s clear that, by 2030, we need to make most of this progress through electricity,” he said. “When you look at de-carbonising gas, in terms of commercialisation, it is a little bit behind electricity. De-carbonised electricity is commercially available.”

Beyond the UK

Following the Cumberhead PPA, Margo said that his team’s energy focus is shifting to securing PPAs for its factories across Europe: “The UK and the European Union are the market where PPA off-site contracts are more developed, so we are going to do that while we continue working with our Middle East and Africa, Israel, and central and eastern Europe sites to potentially implement some on-site renewables.”

Those latter deals would mean working with developers and understanding different regulatory regimes, including support mechanisms such as Contracts for Difference. Margo stressed that this work was still in the early stages.

Meanwhile Chris Gaydon, investment director at Octopus Renewables, stressed the importance of the deal to investors in its trust.

In the statement announcing the PPA, he said linking up with well-known brands means the Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust was “making it possible for investors to have a tangible part in building, managing and benefiting from the growth opportunity of clean, green energy”.

This shows just how important these PPAs will be as companies of all types, and particularly corporates and investors, seek to be whiter than white.

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