“Start with where you want to end up. Set your target and date and work backwards to determine what you need to get there. Identify risks and areas for error.”
That’s the advice from Bethany Goodwin, senior account manager and NHS specialist at Inenco, who was a panellist at the recent IWFM Turbulent Times Webinar – Agents of change: from net zero promises to genuine progress’ with Inenco.
Although Goodwin’s advice is an effective compass to navigate the decarbonisation journey, Reid Cunningham, strategic development director at BAM FM, warned that any “decarbonisation plan is going to be highly specific to an organisation and the sites that it occupies”. Nevertheless, he suggested a few focus points for organisations to get started:
- First, reduce energy consumption (insulation, LED lighting, an efficient BMS);
- Next, consider energy demand; and
- Then look at energy procurement – there are 100 per cent green energy tariffs (renewable energy) in the marketplace.
Carbon neutral versus carbon net zero
“Carbon neutral was really about knowing what your emissions were and then buying offsets to make sure they were, in theory, removed,” said Stuart Wright, operations and net zero delivery director. “Carbon net zero is about reducing your emissions – and everything is aimed at reducing emissions.
“At the end of the day, you will have some residual emission; [with] current technology, no one could run into that localisation completely without emitting carbon. You then have to have a plan to remove that carbon.”
Wright suggested to his fellow panellists that more effort needs to be applied to finding an effective alternative to gas heating for commercial properties.
“A lot of large commercial buildings run their boilers throughout the summer, purely and simply to provide hot water in the washroom,” Wright explained. “If you can provide a small electric heater in a washroom, you move the regeneration source of that heat to green electricity, so no carbon is emitted. You can turn your boilers off instead of running them in the summer. There's an investment required of course.”
Finding the right carbon reduction tool
Energy reduction, rather obviously, depends on having an accurate idea of the amount of energy an organisation is using and when it is being used. For many businesses, however, this data remains a mystery.
Cunningham said: “Often, when we say to customers, what energy data have you got, we would receive monthly bills. The quality of that data is extraordinarily poor.” Far better, he explained, is to have half-hourly data. “There are lots of tools out there that will help you do this.”
Cunningham said when Bam FM started relying on more frequent data intervals, the company saw some buildings would “come alive” around midnight or 1am. Without that granularity – compared to monthly bills or weekly meter readings – “you stood no chance of making any informed management decisions about where you could make energy efficiency improvements.”
The number of data points will rise exponentially, of course – Cunningham said in the past he’d be analysing 36 data points and now that number is more than 5 million – but available tech will help to make sense of that data.
Sensors linked up to an effective BMS is essential, said Wright. “Having variable speed drives, having some sort of machine learning in your BMS so that it starts to understand what's the outside temperature, what's the floor load in terms of people – do I really need to start that at six in the morning? Can I start it at seven? There’s a lot of measurement data.”
In October of this year, Aviva turned down the setpoint temperatures of its buildings by 1.5°C to around 19.5°C. Comparing October 2021 with October 2020, the company has saved 100 tonnes of carbon equivalent in terms of gas heaters. “That’s a no-cost change,” Wright said. Key has been working with building occupants, explaining the thinking behind the change and encouraging them to adopt similar practices as they would at home, such as by wearing warmer clothes.
Image credit | B Keen