Meet Sandy Taft

By Benjamin Campbell

What are your responsibilities as Director of Environment and Sustainability Policy at National Grid?

My overall responsibility is to think and work on what sustainability initiatives National Grid as a company might be able to bring forward. One of our overarching goals for example is to reduce our own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050. That involves emissions from sources such as our power plants, our vehicles and buildings, methane emission from our gas distribution system and SF6 from certain electrical components on our electric transmission and distribution system. And I do this role collaboratively with my colleagues in the UK—emissions reduction is a global commitment. Right now we’re working on granular metrics and targets for other sustainability goals such as waste reduction, and getting specific about what we can do with efficiency in our buildings. It’s important to think through the sustainability initiatives and make sure that we are prioritizing our goals in terms of environmental and community concerns as well as economic sense. I also monitor and comment on state policy proposals and how the states intend to meet their own carbon reduction commitments – this I call the 80×50 initiative because the three states we operate in have committed to reduce economy wide GHG emissions 80% by 2050.

What’s your background in sustainability? Sustainability

I’ve always been involved in environmental management issues for the company. I have a BS in geology and a MS in geology, and I started work in the company initially involved in the investigation and remediation of former Manufactured Gas Plant sites and the responsibility expanded to other environmental obligations such as air permitting, land permitting, and commenting on emerging regulations. It wasn’t until 2008 that I moved into focusing solely on climate change and sustainability initiatives. I also spent two years in the strategy group focusing on energy and environmental policy.

Tell me about something you’ve been working on recently.

I’m pretty excited about the metrics we’re starting to develop beyond just greenhouse gas emissions. One thing that we’re trying to take advantage of is all the work going on in National Grid in the Process Excellence (PEx) space! We have been trying to use PEx methods to advance the sustainability conversation. To that end, we’ve established a cross functional virtual PEx hub for sustainability–as a means to engage different employees and enable departments to be successful in achieving results with PEx. The 80×50 initiative has been exciting as well. The analytical work we are doing to understand the implications of these policy objectives really is foundational in how we relate with our customers, regulators and policy makers as well as where we want to go as a business.

What about getting other employees involved?

For one thing, National Grid has in its line of sight a statement that refers to them considering sustainability in every decision. It’s no different than the new thinking that came about with Connect21—it’s about approaching every project by considering the concerns of the customer from an affordability, community, and environmental standpoint. If we approach projects with that mindset, I think we’ll do best by our customers and by our planet.

If you’re looking for ways to get involved in the sustainability space at National Grid, the Sustainability Lunch group is a great place to start! Read about them here.

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Allan Arena

What portion of our current annual greenhouse gas emissions is generated by our LI power stations? Considering this, what do you foresee as the most likely means of meeting the 80% reduction target?

Sandy Taft

Hi Allan,
In the last five years (2011-2015) Generation has accounted for 62-67% of US emissions, Gas Operations has accounted for 29-35% of emissions, and the remainder was from Fleet, Facilities and Electric Operations.

The management of the LI power stations is limited by our contractual obligations with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) who determines which units to dispatch and their fuel choices. LIPA has recently embarked on an integrated resource plan for the future energy needs of Long Island that should be completed this year. Once these results become available we will be better positioned to determine the optimal approach to reducing emissions in our Power Generation sector.

In looking to meet our target we are also focusing on our other greenhouse gas emission sources such as Gas Operations, Fleet, and Facilities. For examples, in Gas Operations we continue to ensure funding for gas mains replacement programs as well as partnering with EDF for some strategic approaches for targeting our work; in Fleet we have electric vehicle targets and we will continue to replace our fleet vehicles with low carbon alternatives; in Facilities, we have initiatives at some of our largest sites in the US to decrease our energy use through energy efficiency retrofits.

Alex Kushnir

Are we taking into account our accelerated program to replace aging gas lines that will ultimately reduce the amount of methane into the atmosphere as the number of gas leaks go down as well?

Sandy Taft

Hi Alex,
Yes we are! For example, in the state of Massachusetts, National Grid has implemented a Gas System Enhancement Program (GSEP) Plan to accelerate the replacement of aging and leak-prone natural gas pipeline infrastructure. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is currently proposing declining annual methane emission limits through 2020 with a possible continuation thereafter. As a result, the continuing implementation of the GSEP will result in increasing GHG emissions reductions on an annual basis in a cost and resource efficient manner. We are also working with Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and stakeholders to prioritize the repair of Grade 3 leaks; specifically those Grade 3 leaks that have a significant environmental impact. Similar work is also taking place in NY & RI.


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