Top Ten Tips to Carbon Accounting – by Parsons Brinckerhoff
Abigail Frost suggests ten measures for achieving carbon reductions in line with the incoming Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme
While carbon footprinting has become increasingly prevalent over recent months, the pressing concern now is for companies to understand the detail of their footprint and know how to reduce it.
There are two main routes through which the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) can be achieved: either by implementing direct carbon reduction measures or through buying allowances. Organisations will be publicly ranked on the basis of performance, and as such there are likely to be cost and corporate reputation issues to address.
Whichever method you decide to adopt, in terms of achieving reductions, the first step is to understand your baseline emissions sources. A robust and reliable footprint should be undertaken, ensuring viable data sources have been used. An auditable record of data should be maintained to support the requirements for submission of an evidence pack in line with the CRC. Having completed the baseline footprint, the next step is to identify where emissions savings can be made and which reduction measures are most appropriate to your organisation.
1. Understand your emission sources
Once the footprint has been completed, data should be analysed to provide a detailed understanding of your organisation’s emissions. The analysis will serve two purposes. In order to develop appropriate reduction measures, it will firstly be essential to identify your key consumption areas and the corresponding emissions volume in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Identifying current trends in data will help your organisation to detect any future changes to emissions levels and therefore assess performance over time. They will also help identify where greatest improvements can be made cost-effectively.
Secondly, the analysis will highlight any gaps or anomalies within the data. This will be critical for the purpose of verifying subsequent emissions reductions. All data inputted to the footprint should be accountable and transparent. If gaps do exist, it will be important to understand why and how this may influence your overall footprint.
2. Set targets
Steps should be taken to embed carbon reduction targets into business policy to ensure carbon reduction is firmly on the agenda. Committing to targets and actively achieving them demonstrates to stakeholders the seriousness with which your organisation views carbon reductions, particularly if commitments and progress are demonstrated publicly.
3. Gain corporate and stakeholder support
Every individual using a facility has the capacity to influence energy demand. Therefore, achieving carbon reductions will involve co-operation from stakeholders across all levels of your organisation. Central to the success of achieving reductions is gaining the commitment necessary, at the most senior level, to implement changes at policy level. In its report on the Implementation Proposals for CRC (2008), Defra said that without new policies, emissions from businesses are set to increase over coming years. Accordingly, it is vital that key decision-makers are fully conversant with both the environmental and financial benefits of increasing energy efficiency, to ensure existing and new policies and strategies incorporate emissions reduction targets.
4. Change behaviour
Changing energy efficiency behaviour provides a relatively inexpensive method of achieving immediate carbon reductions. Education of building occupiers provides quick-win solutions, and could be simply achieved through delivering workshops and presentations. Raising awareness around the office plus ongoing progress reports can help maintain continued efforts.
5. Engage in sustainable procurement
Following the publication of the UK Government Sustainable Procurement Action Plan (2007), public sector organisations should already be utilising sustainable procurement principles to improve the energy efficiency of their managed properties, products and services. The same principles should also be taken advantage of by the private sector. Adopting sustainable procurement policies would benefit your organisation through energy and financial savings, for example, through the purchase of A-rated electrical goods and equipment which inherently require less energy to operate.
6. Reduce heat loss in existing buildings
A significant proportion of the carbon footprint of existing buildings originates from providing heating and cooling. Yet, controlling rapid fluctuations between office summer and winter temperatures can be costly in both financial and carbon terms. Approximately 70% of a building’s heat may be lost through the building fabric, with the remaining 30% lost either unintentionally through leakage or purposefully for ventilation. By improving the fabric of the building it is possible to reduce the amount of energy required to regulate the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation demands.
Optimising performance of your building fabric need not be expensive. Simple improvements can be achieved through reducing heat loss through walls, roofs, windows, doors, ceilings and floors.
Major refurbishment also provides an opportunity for upgrades to be made, for example, re-cladding, re-glazing and adding insulation during roof repairs.
For the most part, the degree to which the fabric of existing buildings must be improved during the re-fitting of commercial premises is controlled by Building Regulations. But it is possible to improve the thermal performance of buildings beyond Part L of the 2006 Building Regulations, to further reduce energy consumption arising from heating.
Implementing upgrades to heating / cooling systems can be expensive, and should ideally be investigated only after the building fabric has been improved.
7. Use new technology
Reducing the carbon content of the heating, cooling and power supply is also possible through installing low and zero carbon technology.
On-site micro-low and zero carbon technology can help to reduce the carbon footprint by supplying heating and/or power from renewable means, thereby reducing the requirement to use fossil fuel and grid electricity to provide heat and power to the building.
These solutions can be implemented on a building-by-building approach: examples of which include solar thermal collectors, biomass boilers and heat pumps. But the potential for reducing carbon emissions using on-site microgeneration is limited because of the low electrical yields possible from solar photovoltaic cells (PV) and small wind turbines. These technologies are also location-specific and not always suitable.
It is also possible to generate heat and power using a combined heat and power (CHP) plant or heat from biomass boilers to supply heat to buildings using a buried district heating network. The power generated from CHP can either be exported to the grid or used on-site if the right electrical infrastructure is in place. As up to 60% of energy from conventional power generation is lost as waste heat, the fact that CHP recovers and utilises that lost heat makes it an increasingly viable option.
However, these solutions do require a minimum density of energy demand, relative to the cost of infrastructure, in order to make their implementation financially and technically viable. An advantage of supplying buildings from a district heating network is that the buried pipes can last more than 50 years, whereas the heat supply technology has a lifespan of around 15 years. So it is possible to replace the original technology as and when emerging technology becomes technically and financially viable.
8. Use supporting organisations
Proving and verifying your emissions reductions will be vital for demonstrating your energy savings through the CRC. Early action will give you both a competitive and financial advantage, and devising accurate data reporting systems, data management and audit trails will be central to this process.
Several independent businesses and organisations are able to deliver advice and support to help you install data management and audit systems, and increase your company’s energy efficiency. Taking advantage of their services could, in the short and longer-term, save you time and money. Contacting organisations like the Energy Savings Trust can provide you with additional advice on increasing energy efficiency and cutting energy bills.
9. Work towards the Carbon Trust Standard
The Carbon Trust has provided a standard through which organisations participating in the CRC can verify their current emissions reduction and their commitment for future year-on-year reductions. Those achieving the Carbon Trust Standard will receive a higher ranking in the league table and a greater recycle payment. You will need to provide proof of your carbon reductions, which will then be entered in a league table from which financial rewards will be divvied up according to performance.
10. Implement, manage and monitor
There are many options and solutions available which will enable you to achieve immediate carbon reductions in line with the CRC. Yet, in order to realise this crucial objective, a system of ongoing emissions monitoring and review is paramount. Only through a continued understanding of your energy demands and review of the reduction measures employed can you reliably and meaningfully drive forward sustained carbon reductions.
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