How business can help halt the rise in global emissions
There's been a lot of media coverage over the past week about rising levels of CO2 and the likely impacts, despite international efforts to cut greenhouse gases.
Clearly more needs to be done to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, which aim to keep temperature rises to 2˚C or less by the end of this century (at our current rate, we are on track to hit a life-limiting 3˚C).
Exactly what actions need to be taken will be under discussion next week when participating nations – that’s everyone but the US and Syria – meet to discuss next steps at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn.
The role business can play will undoubtedly be on the agenda. But what can energy professionals do to support the reduction of emissions now?
UK making good progress
In the UK, we already have a good track record. We have seen emissions levels drop by 42% since 1990, despite the economy growing by 67%.
The goal is to increase this to an 80% reduction by 2050. And to help meet this target, the government recently unveiled a number of plans in its Clean Growth Strategy.
Businesses asked to make 20% energy savings
As part of this, the largest UK business and industrial consumers will be asked to implement energy efficiency savings of 20% by 2030. Large businesses collectively account for 25% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, so if achieved, these reductions will make a big impact on our national targets.
But as many are already adopting energy efficiency measures, implementing further reductions may seem challenging.
Thankfully, new technologies and approaches are providing answers, as we are finding with the companies we’re supporting with our new Energy HQ platform.
Behavioural change is key
For example, behavioural change can make a major difference to overall energy savings, yet is often overlooked by many businesses.
It’s been estimated by the Centre for Economics and Business Research that behavioural change could deliver potential savings of around £860m for UK businesses, with large businesses accounting for £460m of this. The sectors with the greatest scope for savings were identified as wholesale and retail, manufacturing, administrative and support services, and scientific and technical.
We recently worked with one large industrial manufacturer, at a site that was already considered ‘energy optimised’, and managed to generate £500k in annual savings simply by implementing a bespoke behavioural change strategy using our Carbon Psychology approach.
Insight identifies where to save
Another common area where savings can be accelerated is through more effective energy monitoring. When you can pinpoint exactly when and where your energy is consumed, you can then better identify where wastage can be cut.
In particular, sub metering can help to highlight problem areas, such as unusual patterns in consumption or excessively high consumption plant. You can then begin to isolate and resolve these issues – for example, by automating switch-off procedures or replacing old and inefficient machinery.
Adopting the gold standard for energy management
A catch-all for implementing all-round best practice is adopting an energy management system. ISO 50001 is considered the gold standard and provides a framework for implementing greater efficiencies via a process of continual improvement.
If ISO 50001 was adopted on a global scale, the standard could save more than $600bn in energy costs and reduce carbon emissions by 6,500 metric tonnes. This is according to the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), which is a group of global leaders from 23 countries that collectively account for 75% of the world’s emissions and 90% of clean energy investments.
Via its Energy Management Campaign, the CEM is urging all governments and businesses to use the ISO 50001 standard in order to strive towards climate and energy goals and provide transparency to stakeholders.
In Germany, for example, ISO 50001 accreditation is incentivised through tax relief for companies who achieve it. It will be interesting to see if the UK and other nations decide to follow suit after the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn next week.
The role of DSR in reducing emissions
Demand-side response (DSR) is regarded by many businesses as a revenue-generating activity to offset rising energy prices, rather than a tool to reduce global emissions.
But as more companies start to utilise plant flexibility to support the electricity grid in balancing supply and demand, so the volume of standby generation from fossil fuel plant can be reduced.
According to the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, DSR could deliver peak demand reductions of at least 4GW – which is 0.8GW more than the capacity of the new £19.6bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.
Despite a three-fold rise in DSR contracts awarded in the latest Capacity Auction (2016 T-4) – up from 450MW in 2015 to 1400MW – this still only represents around 2.8% of the UK’s peak demand. Yet in the US and Australia, 15% of peak demand can be met by DSR.
An integrated approach
Clearly, there is much that businesses can do to actively cut emissions. It may be that governments start to legislate to enforce reductions – or they may instead provide incentives to encourage greater energy efficiency.
Either way, for any business, cutting energy use and emissions is not only good for the environment – it makes a positive impact to your bottom line by delivering lower energy bills. And that seems like two very good reasons to start making changes now.
Mark Rose, Head of npower Business Solutions