Environmental, Social and Governance

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations inform and shape all stages of FSFL’s investment process and day-to-day operations; ensuring stable and long term growth.

Foresight Group is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. As a signatory to this voluntary framework, Foresight Group submits an annual report to the UNPRI on its responsible investment activities. For the 2018 full year period, both Foresight Group as an organisation, and Foresight Group’s Infrastructure division, were awarded A ratings.

View how many UK homes FSFL's portfolio powers

In 2018, the Company’s 723MW operational UK portfolio produced enough clean electricity to power 223,049 homes, according to Ofgem’s assessments. Meanwhile, in the first half of 2019, the Company’s 740MW operational portfolio produced over 400GWh of renewable energy. Using Ofgem’s assessment that the average UK household consumes 3.1 MWh per year, it can be inferred that the Company’s portfolio generated enough clean electricity to power c. 130,000 UK homes during the period.

Watch our short video to learn about FSFL's ESG efforts in the UK

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Environmental stewardship

Each asset is closely monitored for its localised environmental impact. The Asset Manager is a working partner of the Solar Trade Association’s Large-Scale Asset Management Working Group and is a signatory to the Solar Farm Land Management Charter. The Asset Manager ensures that solar power plants are managed in a manner that maximises the agricultural, landscape, biodiversity and wildlife potential, which can also contribute to lowering maintenance costs and enhancing security.

Throughout the year, the Asset Manager’s Environment and Sustainability Manager, James Jenkison, pursued a number of initiatives to ensure the solar power plants are being effectively managed for biodiversity. Such schemes include:

Hedgerow and tree planting
To date, more than 32km of hedgerow have been planted across the portfolio. Planting helps to promote biodiversity, absorbs carbon, improves drainage and soil quality and reduces site exposure to extreme weather conditions.

Building of animal refuges
Ponds, swales and hibernacula are built at a number of sites to provide natural shelter for flora and fauna as well as help improve natural drainage.

Bat and bird boxes
The Asset Manager regularly installs bird and bat boxes to attract local species to the sites.

Sheep grazing
Numerous sites have been either built, or adapted through the installation of barriers and the protection of cabling, to ensure their suitability for continued sheep grazing.

Beehive installation
The Asset Manager has worked with local bee keepers to install hives to help restore the native bee population and support crop pollination and honey production. The Asset Manager encourages the productivity of these hives through the planting of nectar rich wildflower species.

Paddock Wood Solar Plant, Kent

Climate change risk
Flood risk assessments have been carried out for all sites. Panels are installed above the ‘worst-case scenario’ water level; any array identified as breaching this level and is declared defective and action is taken to remedy the problem.

Grassland management
Grass cutting is limited to access points and the areas directly around the solar panel arrays in order to promote the growth of wildflowers and encourage biodiversity.

Coombeshead Solar Plant, Cornwall 

Social

During the acquisition process, and throughout an asset’s lifecycle, the Company engages with contractors, local residents, community organisations, landowners and local authorities to promote public support for the project, maximise the local benefit and minimise any actual or perceived negative effects. This has been achieved through a number of initiatives:

Community engagement
The Asset Manager regularly attends parish council and local community meetings, conducts visits with O&M providers, landowners and construction companies to encourage community engagement and ensure that local stakeholders are engaged. During 2018, the Environment and Sustainability Manager conducted over 50 site visits.

Community investment
The Company supports community benefit schemes that assist local authorities in developing and maintaining community assets and organisations. In 2018, over £100k worth of grants were provided to local communities throughout the UK. At Sandridge solar farm the Parish Council used the funds to install emergency defibrillators around the Parish. Copley solar farm used the grants to repair and refurbish the local village hall and at Upper Huntingford the grants were used to fund refurbishments to the village hall, local cricket club and educational activities at the local library. In March 2018, the Company also launched the Bannerton solar park grant scheme, providing grants of up to AUS$5,000 to local community groups. The groups which were awarded grants were: Rotary Club of Robinvale – Euston; St Vincent de Paul Society – Robinvale; Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative – Robinvale College; Mallee Almond Blossom Festival – Englefield; V8 Car Trek team – Robinvale; Storm Rugby Club – Robinvale; Euston Netball Club and Robinvale Rowing Club and Youth Association.

Educational initiatives 
A large part of generating public support comes as a result of educational initiatives, generating interest in and understanding of solar power’s benefits. At one of the Company’s Australian sites, Bannerton, located in Victoria, students from Robinvale College visited the site and learnt about solar power. in the UK, for the second year running, the Company invited the Institution of Engineering and Technology to visit Wymeswold solar power plant in Leicestershire. The group toured the 78-hectare site to witness first-hand the operational aspects of a solar farm. Meanwhile, the site’s O&M contractor, Brighter Green Engineering, explained details of the plant’s day-to-day management and the steps taken to maximise operational efficiency and environmental stewardship.

Students from Robinvale College visiting Bannerton Solar plant

Health and well-being 
The Health and Safety (H&S) of everyone working on or visiting the site and of local residents is of paramount importance. The management and monitoring of H&S onsite is a top priority for the O&M contractor, who is responsible for recording and reporting all H&S related incidents to the Asset Manager on an ongoing basis. In addition to this, to improve the management of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality), reinforce best practice and ensure regulatory compliance, the Asset Manager appoints an independent professionally accredited H&S consultant who ensures that contractors are appointed on the basis of their health and safety competence and regularly visits the sites to ensure they are meeting industry and legal standards.

Public benefit
The Company’s first Australian solar project, Bannerton, will provide clean power to Melbourne’s tram network. Not only will this contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of the public transport network in Melbourne, it will also reduce noise and air pollution at the point of use, increasing both the health and the well-being of the local population.

Governance

The Asset Manager actively reviews the consents of all solar assets to ensure that all solar plants are compliant with the permissions and conditions attached to them and actively engages with local government organisations to ensure ongoing compliance. In addition to ensuring the Company is protected from potential legal action, this also promotes trust with local communities.

GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) 
GRESB’s Infrastructure Asset Assessment uses high-quality ESG data and advanced analytical tools to benchmark ESG performance of assets against its peers, identify areas for improvement and aid engagement with investors. The Company submitted the Southam Solar Farm to the GRESB Infrastructure ESG Assessment in 2018. Overall, the asset received an above peer average score.

UNPRI (United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment) 
The Investment Manager has been a signatory to the UNPRI since 2013. The UNPRI is a globally recognised voluntary framework concerned with the incorporation of ESG considerations into the investment decision making process and provides a basis for potential and existing investors to judge the quality of a company’s ESG processes and positioning within an industry sector. The Investment Manager achieved an A level rating across both the ‘Strategy and Governance’ and ‘Infrastructure’ modules in its 2018 submission.

FSFL's ESG Case Studies

Paddock Wood Solar Park, Kent

At Paddock Wood solar power plant, the following measures have been implemented:

Planting a new apple orchard, 440 metres of new hedgerow and wildflowers.

Log piles built.

Bird and bat boxes installed.

Local bee keeper invited to keep hives at the site.

Funds have also been raised to set up signs for the Hop Pickers Line Heritage Trail. The solar power plant is located on the historic hop pickers railway route where London families used to take ‘Hopper Specials’ from London Bridge Station to the hop fields for harvesting to earn extra income and enjoy the countryside.

Paddock Wood Solar Plant, Kent

Bannerton Solar Park, Australia

Supplying Clean Power to the Melbourne Tram Network

FSFL’s first Australian solar project, Bannerton, won a tender from the Victorian Government to supply clean power to the Melbourne tram network. Not only is this good from a clean energy perspective, by lowering carbon emissions, it will also be beneficial from a social perspective as it provides low cost travel and will help reduce the number of petrol powered cars on the road.

Foresight Partner and Head of Infrastructure, Nigel Aitchison, and Foresight Partner, Carly Magee, supporting the Melbourne Solar Tram

Local Community Grant Scheme

In March 2018, FSFL launched the Bannerton solar park grant scheme, providing grants of up to $5,000 to local community groups. The groups which were awarded the grant were:

Rotary Club of RobinvaleEuston

St Vincent de Paul Society Robinvale

Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative

Robinvale College

Mallee Almond Blossom Festival

Englefield V8 Car Trek team

Robinvale Storm Rugby Club

Robinvale – Euston Netball Club

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