Head of Sustainability, UK & Ireland, Martin Fahey reflects on the 2-week event in Glasgow

After attending COP26 twice during the fortnight-long event, I left feeling upbeat and personally invigorated.

I had some inspiring and thought-provoking discussions and attended some amazing presentations with inspirational speakers detailing innovative solutions.

I met Government Ministers and entrepreneurs and I made new connections that we will develop in the years to come. I also strengthened relationships that we as a company already had.

During the event, Mitsubishi Electric also made an important announcement of a major £15.3m investment in our Livingston Factory and our innovative Ecodan Heat Pump range.

This will significantly increase our productivity, efficiency and research & development (R&D) capabilities, with the creation of a SMART factory.

I also learned a lot about the plans and ambitions of the UK and Scottish Governments on the road to Net Zero.

After witnessing COP26 first-hand I believe we are on the right path

Martin Fahey2 Martin Fahey Head of Sustainability, UK & Ireland

An ongoing legacy

While COP26 is now over, the legacy will be in what actually happens from here.

I firmly believe that its companies like ours and many others that will continue to drive the change needed by developing our collaboration in working for a more sustainable built environment.

At Mitsubishi Electric we are working on solutions that will help society achieve Net Zero and this goes far beyond the shores of the UK.

In Japan, we have recently announced a major breakthrough at our SUSTIE® net zero-energy building (ZEB) test facility, which launched at the company’s Information Technology R&D Center (Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture) in 2020.

The building actually reduced its energy consumption to less than 0%, meaning that it created more energy than it consumed, in its first full year of operation.

The facility, a medium-sized office building with more than 6,000m2 of floor space and equipped with solar panels, deployed ZEB operating technology to optimise operations, resulting in a 115% reduction in energy use compared to standard primary energy consumption as specified in Japan’s Building Energy Conservation Law (values differ according to region and building use).

The results demonstrate that ZEB-level operation is possible even in dense urban areas while maintaining a highly comfortable and productive work environment.

Heat pumps are the future

Closer to home, my colleague Donald Daw spoke at a Scottish Enterprise event at COP26 detailing why we believe that the future of sustainable heating on the UK can be answered by the adoption of more heat pumps, both in our homes and commercial buildings.

That heat pump market is just being born in the UK now, despite people’s dreams of it existing for 20 years. Air to water products, heat pumps in homes, is going to be unbelievably big business, despite the market last year being only 30,000 units.

Everyone now realises that we have to stop ‘burning stuff’ and yet there are still over 1m gas boilers sold each year. The government has a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, so we will start to see rapid change on this front.

You can watch Donald Daw’s presentation (from 16:30 – 28:15) in the full Scottish Enterprise hosted ‘Let’s do net zero’ event at COP26.

Embodied carbon

More recently, we’ve also been looking more closely at embodied carbon.

This is a means of defining all of the CO2 emitted throughout a product's life, from the raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, in life usage, and end of life.

In HVAC systems the choice of refrigerant and amount of refrigerant used represents a significant proportion of the embedded carbon.

At Mitsubishi Electric we are developing our own cradle-to-grave lifecycle approach to reduce embodied carbon in our product design and development.

A great example of this is our R32 HVRF which uses a lower global warming potential refrigerant and circa 50% less volume of refrigerant.

We are also increasing the number of products where we can identify the embodied carbon so that designers, specifiers and operators of our equipment can see the complete carbon footprint of our equipment.

A long road ahead

There remains a lot to do on the road to net zero, and both industry, campaigners and individuals need to keep the pressure on our leaders so that the focus cannot shift away from the climate emergency.

To help achieve this, resources such as the ‘Build Better Now’ campaign from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) will be available long after the dust of Glasgow COP26 has settled to keep the discussion going.

After seeing what companies like Mitsubishi Electric are doing and witnessing COP26 first-hand I believe we are on the right path.

We can do this!

Martin Fahey is Head of Sustainability – UK & Ireland