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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Heading to net zero: rethinking how we do infrastructure

  • By
    portrait of Olivia Kalb
    Olivia Kalb, Communications Specialist
  • 13 September 2021
     2 Min Read

As climate change shifts the energy landscape, our customers are prioritizing the decarbonization of their portfolios. We’re aligned in helping them achieve their targets and are working to find ways to scale net-zero solutions.   

During the United States Energy Association’s 3rd Annual Advanced Energy Technology Forum in September, Catherine Hunt Ryan, Bechtel’s CFO, joined other experts in the energy industry, taking part in a panel on “Infrastructure Challenges and Opportunities” to discuss how achieving a net-zero future requires the EPC industry to adapt to the changing environment. In her talk, Catherine raised three challenges that the industry needs to meet if it is going to successfully help customers navigate the risks of decarbonization.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change 

For the first challenge, Catherine discussed how more frequent and worsening weather events have made infrastructure more complex and expensive to build.  

As businesses and governments move to implement net-zero strategies, the industry needs to respond with more resilient solutions and build infrastructure that can withstand the impacts from climate change while still being an investment that makes sense.  

Scaling resources to reach net zero  

To reach zero emissions by 2050, electricity production with zero carbon emissions must increase by a factor of six, which requires mobilizing more capacity across the value chain from manufacturing to financing and labor.   

Catherine explains that renewables will need to be a high-volume industry. It isn’t just building six times bigger; it’s building six times as many. Bechtel is responding to this challenge by exploring ways to help customers deploy projects in significant numbers using a programmatic approach. 

The company is also helping provide financing to some projects in early development when higher risks make attracting capital difficult. Early-stage financing needs to be scaled up to achieve net zero.   

Additionally, she said, more labor and onsite training, such as Bechtel’s apprenticeship programs, are needed to create a larger skilled workforce that can handle the growth in renewables projects.   

Sustainability and land stewardship   

Catherine’s final challenge requires EPC firms to look at a project’s full life cycle—from lessening upfront carbon emissions by using solar power in manufacturing to avoiding landfills where possible—and how it contributes to the community in which it lives, which includes engaging with the community early and often.   

Since the nation’s energy footprint will have to quadruple to reach a climate neutral world by 2050, it is more important than ever to design facilities that fit the landscape and the community.    

Watch the full “Infrastructure Challenges and Opportunities” discussion with Catherine.

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