The hot topics in building performance are energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy, and sitting squarely at their intersection is the reduction of carbon emissions. — it also helps us track our progress toward reducing those impacts.
According to the EPA, carbon emissions fall into one of three categories:
- Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse (GHG) emissions from sources owned or under your organization’s direct control. These are the emissions associated with fuel combustion in company assets such as boilers, furnaces, and company vehicles).
- Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with purchasing electricity, steam, district heat, or cooling for company assets. Although Scope 2 emissions occur at the facility where they are generated (usually, a utility plant), they are accounted for in your organization’s GHG inventory for two reasons. One, they result from your organization’s energy use, and two, since utilities try very hard to match their capacity to marketplace demand, in theory, they would not be generated by the utility if not for the needs of your particular organization.
- Scope 3 emissions are also indirect, but they are generated from assets not owned or controlled by your organization. Instead, the result is the up-and-down-stream activities within your value chain and support your organization. Like the Scope 2 emissions, in theory, Scope 3 emissions only exist because your particular business or organization exists. Examples of Scope 3 emissions are those associated with the transportation of raw materials, production waste, transportation of finished and processed goods, travel for business purposes, and employee commuting. Initially, most carbon reduction plans begin with Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions since these are typically more within the boundaries of company control.
A successful strategy for an initial carbon reduction plan should consider the following six basic elements:
- An energy use analysis that details how much energy is used in the facility and, most importantly, the nature of each energy form and its associated carbon generation on a unit-consumption basis.
- A carbon baseline developed from the energy use analysis. For each energy form consumed onsite—electricity, natural gas, gasoline/diesel for transportation, and other fossil fuels, determine the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated.
- A list of energy efficiency measures (EEMs) can be implemented at the facility to reduce energy costs, consumption, and impacts.
- A list of electrification opportunities to take each system or piece of equipment currently using non-electric energy forms and transition it to electricity.
- A carbon reduction plan that takes the lists of EEMs and electrification opportunities and develops them both into a combined action plan with both short and long-term goals, objectives, and targets.
- A list of site-specific renewable energy opportunities to fill the gap between your yearly carbon reduction goals and the impact of your EEMs and electrification opportunities. This list should include onsite generation, virtual power purchase agreements, and options to purchase renewable energy credits.
Once the initial plan is in place, implemented by the facility team, and supported by company executives, the next step is to incorporate Scope 3 emissions. Rather than direct, business-related actions of company employees, the reduction of Scope 3 emissions will rely more on influencing suppliers and vendors. This may take the form, for example, of negotiations with the trucking company used to transport your goods or the development of new policies for purchasing and company travel. It might also include education components to persuade employees of the benefits of carpooling or choosing an electric vehicle when they make their next vehicle purchase.
The transition to clean energy intersects energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy. It will not be as easy as flipping a switch, but it is doable and necessary. Like many significant undertakings, progress will be incremental and require collective efforts. So, we’re all in this, and Energy Sciences can be your partner every step of the way We’ll make the clean energy transition, celebrate the milestones and enjoy a cleaner, healthier world together!
Elie Touma, PE, PMP, CEM
Director of Client Solutions