Creating change through measurement and innovation

Measurement continues to play an important and economically beneficial role in carbon reduction. Leigh Stringer finds out how the Centre for Carbon Measurement is pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Launched in March 2012 at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, the Centre was set up to consolidate and expand NPL’s work on climate data, carbon accounting and low carbon technologies.

According to a recently published independent report, commissioned by the NPL, The Centre for Carbon Measurement will deliver eight megatonnes of carbon emissions reductions and over half a billion pounds in economic benefit over the next decade.

Innovation will be the decisive factor in achieving this and the Centre is currently playing a big part in some major ‘game-changing’ projects that could help businesses and the public accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions through careful resource measurement and management.

Speaking to edie, Head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement, Jane Burston, said: “One potential game-changing technology we are involved in is organic solar PV cells – these are potentially more flexible and cheaper to make than traditional solar cells with much wider potential applications. The Centre is using measurement to inform development of these cells which will hopefully lead to improvements in design, and thereby allow these to increase efficiency and lifetime – reducing cost and other barriers to deploying solar energy”.

The Centre is also involved in other projects that it claims add incremental benefit to technologies that could already be game-changing as they stand.

“For example, we have designed a lighting control circuit for LEDs, which saves 1-2% additional energy. Given the scale at which energy efficient lights could be deployed, adding additional efficiencies of even a percentage could save businesses and individuals worldwide a lot of money – and carbon emissions”.

Burston also highlighted the private sector’s awareness of measurement and the important role it plays in reaching carbon reduction targets.

“On the whole businesses do understand that measurement is important. They recognise it can help to develop clean technology products and verify their performance so investors and customers have confidence that they do what they claim to.

“Businesses also understand the need for measurement to monitor impact on the environment. But of course you can never have too much awareness of a good thing,” she adds.

The Centre’s portfolio of projects, which includes projects to improve the accuracy of climate data from satellites and making energy efficient lighting even more efficient, will provide the necessary technological innovations to improve future measurement capabilities and help businesses put these innovations forward in business cases.

“Historically measurement was about tests in the lab. As measurement is increasingly required to address carbon and environmental issues, there will be a need for more real-world testing”.

“For example we have developed an instrument called the Digitiser, which is being used to understand the impact of a move to more local and renewable sources of energy. It’s portable so is being used in the field to provide close to lab-quality power quality and voltage measurements on the grid. This will be vital in the development of an efficient smart grid,” says Burston.

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