South Africa College High School (SACS) in Cape Town has made a commitment to clean energy by installing a solar system at its Rosedale Boarding House. The solar system was installed by Energy Partners Home Solutions, part of the PSG group of companies.
Barry van Selm, Deputy Headmaster at SACS explains that installing a solar system at the school was an easy choice. “SACS has become very aware of its carbon footprint, so a renewable energy option was important to us. In the past five years we have also seen huge increases in electricity tariffs so we needed to find a sustainable way of bringing those costs down.”
According to Cala van der Westhuizen, Head of Marketing and Sales at Energy Partners Home Solutions, schools like SACS, with boarding houses and plenty of activity over weekends and holidays, are the perfect place to install solar systems as these types of properties consume most of their energy during the day’s peak solar hours, and can therefore maximise the financial benefits of a renewable energy solution.
He says that the Energy Partners team achieved some interesting results while still working within the parameters that were set by SACS as well as regulatory requirements.
Van der Westhuizen explains that the Energy Partners’ team started off with an in-depth analysis into the requirements of the boarding house. “This involved taking the generation capacity that regulations would permit the team to install, into consideration.”
“According to our findings, we could install a 25 kilowatt inverter at the boarding house, which is the maximum size allowed under NRS regulations for the specific infrastructure of the site. With the actual solar array we had a bit more leeway, so we installed 30.88kWp of multicrystalline solar panels.”
This enables the system to produce at the converter’s maximum level for as long as possible during peak hours and also produce excess power that the school will be able to possibly sell back to the City of Cape Town, says van der Westhuizen.
Van Selm says that as part of the system, the school received a tracking tool that allows them to monitor the system in real time. “Being able to track the system’s energy production is very interesting and allows us to see the results. Our first electrical bill has not arrived yet, but based on what we have seen from the monitoring tool, our use of electricity from the grid has been cut by about one third which amounts to a saving of around R75 000 at the current electricity tariffs.”
“We are very excited about the results we have seen so far and looking forward to reducing our carbon footprint and electricity bills even further in the near future,” Van Selm concludes.
About Energy Partners Home Solutions
Energy Partners Home Solutions (EPHS) offer clients holistic and innovative home energy solution guaranteed to realise significant savings on a household’s energy bills. In 2016, the organisation launched its ground breaking new product, the ICON Home Energy Hub. The first solar inverter and battery combination developed specifically for the South African residential market.
The ICON forms part of a full home energy solution, including Solar PV, Batteries, Heat Pumps and LED lights. By combining these technologies, Energy Partners (EPHS) is able to provide significantly better savings and financial returns than other solutions: a family sized home could save up to 70% of their electricity bill and earn more than 16% return on their investment – twice what a standard PV-only solution would provide. For more information visit: www.poweryourself.co.za
Corporate carbon accounts could be delivering inaccurate results that undermine efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
That is the stark warning contained in a new report (PDF) from consultancy WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, which argues many businesses are failing to adequately account for the significant daily and seasonal fluctuations in energy-related carbon emissions.
The report argues using averages to calculate the carbon footprint of a business or building could result in a distorted picture for corporate and policy decision-makers, especially as smart grid technologies promise to make it easier for organizations take advantage of the periods when energy is at its cleanest.
The study details how the carbon intensity of grid power varies significantly on both a month-by-month basis and throughout the day.
According to the report, carbon intensity peaks at 400gCO2/Kwh for a few hours a day in January and can fall as low as 200gCO2/kWh in August. These fluctuations could become even more pronounced as more intermittent renewable energy comes on to the grid.
“In winter evenings, carbon-intensive energy (such as coal) is required to meet the demand for electricity in homes, which isn’t as high in summer afternoons, when cleaner energy such as solar is more common,” the report states. “Therefore turning on the television in the middle of the day in summer will have far lower carbon emissions than during the evening in winter.”
The report also warns that the widespread use of daily and annual averages to calculate carbon emissions could result in policies that inadvertently undermine the roll out of energy storage and demand response technologies that are designed to better match supply and demand and make it easier for consumers to use the power generated by renewables.
WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff cites the example of the Climate Change Levy, which charged per kWh amount of electricity or gas we use, regardless of when the energy is used.
“The environmental implication is that two buildings or businesses using the same amount of energy could be unknowingly producing very different levels of carbon emissions whilst being charged the same amount through the climate change levy,” the report explained.
“Further, companies that are trying to reduce CO2 emissions by using energy storage measures will be paying more in Climate Change Levy and reporting higher CO2 emissions than those that aren’t, as calculations are based on how much energy is used, not when it is used.”
Barny Evans, sustainability and energy expert at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, said businesses needed to be aware of how their carbon footprint could vary based on the time at which they consume power.
“Buildings and businesses are under increasing pressure to meet legal requirements to reduce emissions, but it’s not as simple as counting a single number,” he warned. “Organizations with specific goals such as carbon neutrality will find their current accounting is unknowingly leading them to take policies and actions that result in higher or lower carbon emissions than they realize.”
He argued plans to deliver smarter energy grids would benefit from a better understanding of when energy has the highest levels of carbon intensity.
“As technology advances and the grid decarbonizes we need to move to a system that better recognizes the benefit of carbon reducing measures including energy storage and demand reduction,” he said. “By taking into account when energy is being used we will have the opportunity to not only work out how to reduce carbon emissions but also our bills.”
The climate change challenge cannot be isolated from the on-going need for economic development in Africa, and the aim should be to reduce CO2 emissions whilst increasing trade and economic opportunities for the growing population on the continent.
Jonathan Horn, Maersk Line Southern Africa Managing Director is shedding light on the environmental challenges that lie ahead, and aims to show that substantial reductions in CO2 are possible while still enabling trade and development across Africa.
Horn explains that in order to create a sustainable low carbon economy, an efficient shipping sector is critical.
“Maritime shipping is the most carbon-efficient method to transport goods – far more efficient than road or air transport. For example, transporting one ton of goods for one kilometre by air or truck emits 560 grams and 45 grams of CO2, respectively. If the same quantity of goods is transported by one of Maersk’s energy efficient Triple-E vessels as little as three grams of CO2 is emitted,” he says.
About 90% of global trade by volume travels by sea and trade is crucial in the pursuit of creating development opportunities. According to the World Bank, no country has significantly increased per capita income the last 50 years without greatly expanding trade.
Horn therefore highlights the need for a more sustainable and efficient trading environment in order to effectively reduce the environmental impacts of trade, still enabling growth.
“The choice of transportation method plays a significant role in the level of CO2 emitted during the transport process. We are committed to further accelerating growth on the African continent while at the same time raising the bar on carbon efficiency. Our commitment is long-term, as is our history in Africa,” adds Horn.
Since 2007, the Maersk Group’s shipping company, Maersk Line, has proven that shipping can decouple growth and fossil fuel consumption, already having reduced emissions per container moved by 42% by end 2015 from a 2007 baseline.
“Maersk Line has driven energy efficiency improvements across the company, pioneering initiatives ranging from network design and speed optimisation, to technical upgrades and the deployment of new and more efficient ships in its network, such as the Triple-E vessels.”
Despite CO2 emissions remaining relatively low in Africa, when compared to other more developed regions, severe consequences can be felt throughout the continent. According to the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, eight out of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. The continent is suffering from increased climate-related ‘shocks’, such as the extreme drought that has persisted across Southern Africa, exacerbated by an exceptionally strong El Niño weather pattern.
“Reducing our carbon footprint remains at the core of our commitment. The Maersk Group is pursuing energy efficiency across its entire portfolio and have set a target to improve CO2 efficiency across the group by 30% by 2020, compared to the 2010 baseline. By the end of 2015, Maersk Group had achieved a 23% improvement,” he says.
My family and I were recently stuck in moderate traffic in Sandton, Johannesburg, which led to a discussion between me and my kids about how traffic, and the way we deal with it as drivers, will look very different in future.
At a minimum, my kids will fully embrace the use of connected Uber-like car-share services to get around – or even more exciting, will use driverless vehicles. The potential impact of this on cities will be tremendous, not only in terms of time and efficiency, but also from the point of view of safety and our carbon footprint.
A report by US consulting firm McKinsey & Company analysed the impact of driverless cars on the incidence of fatal traffic accidents. They claim that deaths on the road in the US will reduce by up to 90% by mid-century. This is just one of the ways that our cities could feel the benefit of smart solutions. Intelligent transport combined with safety, security and utilities management – to mention but a few – will change the face of cities fundamentally for the next generation.
According to reports by the United Nations, in the next 40 years we will see 70% of the world’s population living in cities, and water scarcity for around 1.8 billion people (predominantly in developing countries) as a result of climate change.
This chart from the UN shows how fast African cities, in particular, are expected to grow between now and 2050.
To address these challenges, an efficient and competitive city will rely on purpose-driven industrial transformations to remain sustainable. ICT will be at the centre of this transformation process. For sustainable operations, cities must use ICT in ways that not only meet stakeholders’ initial sustainability requirements, but also enable an ongoing rebalancing of needs, resources and other priorities – such as the right to privacy.
It’s clear that the way in which cities balance economic competitiveness, environmental pressures and social needs will affect the lives of billions of people. But smart, sustainable city transformations are complex and difficult. So how do we ensure that African cities become not only smarter, but more sustainable?
1. A shared vision
There are many opportunities for smart solutions within cities. The challenge is to prioritise these options to three or four key focus areas and to then successfully deliver on them. Stakeholders need shared goals and a clear idea of how to achieve them.
2. Holistic governance
Leadership structures must be capable of retaining the holistic, macro view of the city’s needs, and enable all projects to follow the common vision, integrating both ICT and environmental priorities. In this way, common platforms, data formats and monitoring systems are ensured, which will enable the sharing of information for mutual benefit between departments – something that was impossible previously.
3. The mayor and the ecosystem
Cities are made up of a complex ecosystem of stakeholders. The key is to ensure governance structures, stakeholder groups, city departments, local government, public and private enterprises work together to drive the common smart-city agenda. In this, the mayor should take a leading role.
4. ICT development
The technology landscape is evolving rapidly, so it is important to develop a continuous ICT learning culture among the city’s transformation drivers, sharing new developments and exploring emerging possibilities and approaches. Bodies such as the Smart Africa Alliance create platforms to share best practices.
5. Long-term partnerships
Broad engagement is vital when identifying and ranking the city’s pain points and stakeholders’ concerns. The smart, sustainable city value chain comprises several interconnected ICT layers: infrastructure, enablers, devices and applications. Within each of these layers, various stakeholders are involved. For example, consultation with appropriate stakeholders at the infrastructure and enabling layers can build awareness of the long-term business-case advantages for shared, standards-based infrastructure (as opposed to closed, vertical deployments). Therefore, the various stakeholders are a source of ideas and solutions that can help shape the overall vision.
Most African countries have commendable objectives of promoting technology development and creating ICT infrastructure, capability and skills to connect the unconnected and usher in the era of the internet of things. Their focus is on creating sustainable and smart cities, countries – and ultimately, continent.
This is aligned to Goal 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically relates to sustainable cities and communities. As drivers of change, cities now have more and better technological tools at their disposal than ever before. Becoming smart and sustainable is not a one-off achievement, but rather a continuous journey requiring ongoing engagement, innovation and progress.
To ensure the best chance of success, those shaping the future of sustainable smart cities must lay a solid foundation for transformation, based on purpose-driven planning, networked governance structures, organizational capacity building, broad stakeholder engagement and effective long-term partnerships.
This will make the journey, with or without an actual driver, an interesting one.
Cape Town – It’s no secret that a move to responsible tourism and economic practices in the country is no longer optional.
With human populations growing, temperatures rising and our overall dependence on natural resources becoming more and more, there has never been a time to be more aware of our effect on the environment.
South Africa has an ironic advantage on sustainable tourism, in that tourism growth is behind that of first world countries with leading economies. In Africa, the hotel industry grew nearly 30% over the past year, and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.
With the high pressure to go green, this means that new developments will be able to lay foundations for green hotels from the ground up, instead of having to adopt existing infrastructure to slot in with green practices.
Hotel Verde in Cape Town serves as a prime example. This hotel opened in 2013, and was built on green-only principles. Within one year of existence, the hotel was already named a World leading establishment when became the very first hotel in the world to be awarded double platinum for Ledership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
More recently, in April, Minister Molewa signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement on behalf of the South African Government – an agreement that is universally regarded as a seminal point in the development of the international climate change regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Although this is not only relevant in the Western Cape, the agreement means that new sustainable tourism practices will be further prioritized in the country.
In many ways, SA has to potential to keep leading the world in terms of sustainable development and tourism.
Cape Town International is monitoring its carbon footprint
Testing vehicle smoke emissions as well as monitoring air quality regularly are just some of the things Airports Company South Africa [Acsa] are incorporating at Cape Town International airport to help curb its carbon footprint.
According to News24, Acsa met with the portfolio committee on environmental affairs and development planning on Tuesday, 10 May, to discuss its environmental protection plan and air traffic operational improvements following an increase in arrivals, and says that strategies will be implemented to ensure that the areas surrounding the airport are protected from gases emitted by aircraft.
Green accommodation transformation
The Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape says it will aim more intensely to assist hospitality industries in greening their establishments going forward.
Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s briefing on Economic Opportunities spokesperson, Fernel Abrahams told Traveller24 at a green economies update briefing on Wednesday morning, 11 May, the department will launch a specific programme towards the second half of 2016, focused on raising awareness and engaging companies in sustainable tourism.
Abrahams says hospitality industries are aware of the green initiatives available, but have been slow in implementing radical change.
The Department’s programme will hence focus on helping establishments to engage in sustainable practices.
Robben Island will go solar
During his annual Tourism budget speech Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom told that solar powered initiatives will be launches at 6 iconic SA attractions, in a bid to step off the grid.
Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town will be one of the destinations were this pilot programme is first introduces. Robben Island currently depends entirely on diesel generated electricity, but contractors have already been appointed to install renewable energy on the island, the minister said.
Consumers care more than ever before about the environmental impact of the products they buy, and companies are incorporating green business trends in order to capitalize on this growing demand. As of 2014, “55% of consumers across 60 countries [were] willing to pay higher prices for goods from environmentally conscious companies… 71% of Americans at least consider the environment as a factor when shopping,” according to a green industry report.
In addition to the revenue-boosting effect from ‘going green’, businesses can also appreciate some significant savings from reduced energy costs by incorporating sustainability and energy efficiency into their products, practices and operations.
Innovative & Renewable Energy
Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, have been impacting commercial industries for several years, creating more sustainable practices across the board. Renewable energy and innovative methods of sourcing energy is now more mainstream in business-to-consumer markets as well. As in residential scenarios, businesses can offset their usage and costs by implementing renewable methods like solar paneling. Businesses are also finding more unique ways to generate energy — one company is even turning food waste and sewage into usable energy!
Waste is the antithesis to green behavior, whether it happens with energy, products and supplies, or food. Feeding America® reports an estimated 70 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the United States alone. This food waste generates more greenhouse gases that carry a greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Many urban restaurants, grocery stores, and food producers are cutting back on waste by donating their leftover food to homeless shelters and food banks. Meanwhile, grocery retailers are increasingly redesigning their business models to reduce food waste, going so far as developing zero-waste stores and recipe-based food delivery services.
Energy Efficient Housewares
Green business trends toward energy efficiency are affecting the residential marketplace, particularly with home renovations and the choices homeowners make for a home remodel. Construction companies and providers of home services are offering eco-friendly options that homeowners prefer. Common examples of these popular eco-friendly products include new appliances with high Energy Star ratings, tankless water heaters, solar paneling, and insulated windows or window film. Many construction firms are also incorporating green business trends in their building and sourcing methods, such as using reclaimed or recycled materials for a variety of home renovation applications, instead of brand-new materials and fixtures.
Tech companies and corporate businesses can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond simply adding a recycling bin and encouraging employees and customers to go paperless. Computers and other electronic devices use up a lot of energy, especially when they are left on after-hours and when moving screen-savers are running. Office-based businesses can easily implement a ‘greener’ approach with a policy of turning off the default screen-saver triggers, and asking employees to turn their computers and electronics off at the end of each day. For companies with the budget to replace older machines, energy-efficient electronics with high Energy Star ratings or EPEAT marks are available. Another popular employment benefit for technology and media industries in particular, is to allow or encourage telecommuting. This is also a green business trend, since commuting carries a significant carbon footprint for the employee, and employers spend more in energy and financial costs with larger office spaces.
Marketing and advertising is a cornerstone of virtually any business. Eco-friendly advertising trends and methods are becoming more popular. For example, some companies are choosing to advertise on new billboards that showcase the business while providing an ecological benefit, such as purifying the air or hosting an urban garden. Businesses are also reducing their use of paper products, while saving lots of money in printing costs by focusing more on digital marketing and online advertising avenues.
Moving forward, green business trends are expected to continue to develop with a focus on carbon recycling, green infrastructure, microgrids, the circular economy, and the B-to-B sharing economy, according to a 2016 report from GreenBiz. Progressively, these elements of eco-friendly business practices are becoming more of an opportunity for reducing risks and increasing revenue — opening the door for mainstream investors to finance sustainable business growth.
Cape Town – With global warming on everyone’s mind, thanks to the Paris climate change summit, it seemed a good time to visit Cape Town’s Hotel Verde.
The venue markets itself as Africa’s greenest hotel and the first hotel in Africa to offer carbon-neutral accommodation and conferencing.
Is it just me or does anyone else get annoyed with green jargon? What exactly is carbon neutral accommodation?
Deciphered, this means that guests leave an invisible carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is an estimate of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organisation, event, product or individual. Whereas wasteful energy and water practices create a big, dirty carbon footprint, energy and water-efficiency minimises the carbon footprint. Currently a guest’s one-night stay in an average room at Hotel Verde generates the equivalent of about 54kg of carbon. Hotel Verde offsets this carbon usage by donating carbon credit purchases to an environmental project in Zimbabwe.
There has been huge interest in the venue since it rolled out the green carpet and the hotel was fully booked on the evening of our visit. A news clippings agency estimates the value of the media exposure that the hotel has generated at R25-million, which nicely balances the green budget of R22m.
Hotel Verde focuses on efficient energy use, rather than using renewable energy. In an efficient system, waste products become resources. A slogan on the wall reads “Come shower so that we can flush the toilet”, referring to the fact that used bath and shower water is channelled to the grey water plant, where it is filtered, sterilised and used to flush toilets.
Edged with gleaming silver pipes and decorated with funky murals, the underground parking is surely Cape Town’s most inviting car park. Our guide informs us that instead of concrete pillars that are usually used to hold buildings aloft, the hotel used 46 000 Cobiax void formers. “You must have had a seriously qualified structural engineer” remarks one man in response to the intricate explanation about Cobiax void formers. Basically, because Hotel Verde uses less concrete it is 34 percent lighter than a conventional building.
Above the car park, green roofs and living walls are incorporated into the hotel. I love the idea of picking my spinach from the wall. Who said that vegetables have to be grown in the ground? One wall is a dedicated vertical aquaponics garden where small edible plants, like fennel and parsley, are grown, picked and used in the restaurant.
Everything at Hotel Verde is incredibly controlled – except for the guests. The hotel sends only 13 percent of all its waste to the landfill and most of that waste is created by guests. Other than sifting through their luggage, which visitors don’t really appreciate, there is no way of ensuring that clients don’t import heavily packaged goods or chemical-laden toiletries. The hotel provides environmentally friendly products in rooms and hopes for the best.
Hotel Verde’s gym brings attention to how much effort it takes to generate energy. The exercise bike shows that despite the most frantic pedalling, users only manage to produce enough energy to boil water for a cup of coffee.
This is a variation of the demonstration by Olympic track cyclist, Robert Forstemann. Even with his 74cm thick legs, generating enough energy to power a 700w toaster to create golden-brown toast left Forstemann lying on his back panting. All the talk of Cobiax void formers and complicated cooling systems makes me hungry and I’m keen to tuck into the earth hour buffet. Adapted from the global annual Earth hour, this regular Wednesday night buffet style braai allows guests to dine by candle and solar lighting.
Thankfully, green dining is delicious. Organic food sourced within a 360km radius ensures that the salads are fresh and crunchy. The best thing about the buffet is the conversation it inspires about how to save the world, or at least set up an aquaponics system. My companions are visionaries, people who want to change the world, one bunch of spinach at a time. They include Sheryl Ozinsky who runs the Oranjezicht City Farm at Granger Bay, and Fiona McPherson, who is spearheading the aquaponics movement in SA.
Hotel Verde is sandwiched between carbon guzzling capitalism to the left and poverty to the right. I can’t help but think as I nibble on my organic celery stick that any carbon savings guests might make during their stay are obliterated the moment they step into the airplane. One 8 000km round-trip flight from Europe creates a warming effect equivalent to two or three tons of carbon dioxide per person.
Then there is the awkward fact that township residents have a much more negligible carbon footprint than all the privileged people scuttling about the globe.
Without meaning to burst Hotel Verde’s carbon neutral bubble, I feel compelled to point out that the easiest way for guests to lessen their carbon footprint is to simply stay at home. Air travel is the biggest carbon sin. As the poet Gary Snyder said: “The most radical thing you can do is stay home.” Elaborating on this theme, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit writes: “The word radical comes from the Latin word for root. Perhaps the most radical thing you can do in our time is to start turning over the soil, loosening it up for the crops to settle in and then stay home to tend them.”
In addition to registering significant growth in the number of wine cellars calculating their carbon emissions, the South African Fruit and Wine Industry Confronting Climate Change (CCC) initiative has, over the past year, noted increased interest from other commodity groupings, such as grains and vegetables, in the initiative’s carbon emissions calculator.
“The CCC has also registered overall growth in the number of carbon emissions datasets received for its benchmarking process, as well as increased interest in the high-quality data that has been collected and reflected in the CCC benchmark reports,” says CCC project manager Anél Blignaut.
The CCC initiative, launched in 2008, focuses on agriculture, including citrus growers, wine growers and wine cellars, and aims to encourage information sharing and to ensure the availability of an on line carbon emissions calculator that growers use to accurately calculate their carbon footprint.
In calculating the agriculture sector’s carbon footprint, the user assesses several factors, including but not limited to yearly electricity consumption figures, the litres of diesel used by vehicles and equipment and the amount of fertiliser and plant protection products used. It consists of three phases in which the initiative encourages participants to calculate their carbon footprint. Phase I and II have been completed.
Phase III of the initiative, which builds on Phase II, will run until January 2017, with the CCCcontinuing to strengthen its mandate and its endeavour to promote the continued uptake of the emissions calculator, says Blignaut.
Key focus areas of Phase III include strengthening the capacity and skills across the fruit and wine industries through both technical and train-the-trainer workshops to support users in the calculation of their carbon emissions. Further support outside the workshops is also provided. Phase III also aims to strengthen the industry benchmark database across all commodities through focused regional technical workshops.
Blignaut adds that this phase also places greater emphasis on underrepresented regions to ensure that more growers participate and to support emerging farmers in being able to calculate their carbon footprint.
The CCC is also investigating the addition of a carbon sequestration calculator.
“We are working with the Department of Agriculture to adapt the existing carbon emissions calculator for mixed small-scale farmers to ensure that their needs are addressed and that they can also calculate a quality carbon footprint,” says Blignaut.
The carbon sequestration calculator will also assess several factors, such as land rehabilitation, clean technologies and soil carbon. The tool is expected to be made available by midyear.
“This will enable producers to calculate their above- and below-ground carbon stocks. As many workshop attendees are requesting whether their carbon footprint can be offset by certain activities on their farms or along their supply chains, the carbon sequestration tool will be used in conjunction with the carbon calculator to determine the net carbon emissions,” explains Blignaut.
Source: Engineering News
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By Teresa Legg
With an increased awareness and concern of environmental issues, specifically global warming and climate change, and growing evidence of the financial benefit of environmental sustainability, stakeholder’s expectations have matured. Shareholders, investors, customers and employees are demanding a better understanding of an organisation’s environmental impacts. Measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provides organisations with the base from which to understand their GHG impacts, manage their GHG risks and embrace the opportunities of a low carbon economy. This also provides a means to effectively communicate these outcomes with relevant stakeholders.
This chapter aims to discuss the benefits of measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions in business, as well as outline the process and requirements of internationally accepted GHG measurement and reporting frameworks.
What are the Benefits of Reporting GHG Emissions?
The value of embracing a sustainable strategy is demonstrated through reduced costs, profitability, increased efficiencies, increased market share and customer loyalty, as well as reduced business risk, both reputational and financial. More importantly, a sustainable strategy drives innovation in product and technology, standing a company in good stead for long term success.
Embedding environmental sustainability into your strategy requires a thorough understanding of your impacts and the risks and opportunities that these impacts present. These risks and opportunities need to be brought into your strategy, managed and continually reviewed to feed back into strategy.
You cannot however understand the extent of your impacts and manage them without having a solid measurement framework. In light of expected carbon taxation, measurement also allows a prudent organisation to understand the financial risk of its emissions, both internal and external.
Due to the fundamental link between strategy and environmental impacts, executive leaders need to sponsor the measurement and management of GHG emissions. Understanding impacts is key to a sound strategy and therefore strategy should dictate such impact assessments and the results thereof should be fed back into the strategy. Executive commitment also secures funding and resources and places a priority on the carbon footprint project.
Carbon Footprint Reporting Standards for Business
Understanding your carbon footprint is a starting point to identify areas of the business where greenhouse gas emissions occur and where they need to be managed.
So what is a carbon footprint and why can it be complicated? Simply, a carbon footprint is a calculation of the total GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an organisation or company. This is typically calculated and reported over a period of 12 months. What often makes a carbon footprint complicated is defining the boundaries of the audit and categorising and reporting emissions in line with international standards and protocols, much like one would report financial information.
The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, developed by the GHG Protocol Initiative is widely regarded as the standard for corporate GHG accounting and company reporting. From a carbon perspective, the protocol is analogous to the generally accepted financial accounting principles (GAAP) for an organisation’s normal accounting and reporting practices.
The GHG Protocol Initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership of businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments, and others convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The initiative has developed internationally accepted greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards that have been broadly adopted by business worldwide.
Calculating a Carbon Footprint
The process of calculating a carbon footprint entails translating business activity data into a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for 7 selected greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perflourocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen triflouride (NF3).
To find where these GHG emissions occur in business involves building a GHG inventory from which to operate. This is where a carbon footprint can become complicated and may require the skill of a GHG professional in complex operations or business structures.
Planning a GHG Inventory
Your GHG inventory requires a skeleton of business structures, facilities and emission sources from which your emissions data will be sourced. To define what will be measured, the GHG Protocol provides guidance to assist in determining both the organisational and operational boundaries of the carbon footprint. The organisational boundary refers to entities and facilities that will be included while the operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included.
The GHG Protocol provides three options to define the organisational boundary. These options are as follows:
Under the equity share approach, a company accounts for GHG emissions from operations according to its share of equity in the operation.
The company has financial control over an operation if it has the ability to direct the financial and operating policies of an operation with a view to gaining economic benefits from its activities. Under this approach, the economic substance of the relationship between the company and the operation takes precedence over the legal ownership status.
Under the operational control approach, a company accounts for emissions from operations over which it has operational control. A company has operational control over an operation if it has authority to introduce and implement operating policies.
The operational control approach is preferred as it provides the most complete GHG inventory. It also lends itself to performance tracking as managers can be held accountable for activities under their control and companies are also likely to have better access to operational data under their control. Most importantly, it has the advantage that a company takes ownership of the GHG emissions that it can directly influence.
Once the boundary approach is decided upon, the entities and facilities included in the boundary are identified and form part of the GHG inventory.
The operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included in the carbon footprint. Examples of emission sources include motor vehicles, generators and air conditioning equipment.
GHG emissions are categorised as direct and indirect and accordingly grouped into scopes for accounting and reporting purposes.
Emissions are categorised as ‘direct’ when they are generated from activities or sources within the reporting company’s organisational boundary and which the company owns or controls. Under the GHG Protocol these are called Scope 1 emissions and are accounted for as such. These largely include fuel burned in company owned assets.
‘Indirect’ sources are those emissions related to the company’s activities, but that are emitted from sources owned or controlled by a third party company. These are categorised as either Scope 2 emissions for purchased electricity or as Scope 3 for other non-owned or controlled emissions e.g. rental cars, commercial airlines or paper use.
Under the GHG protocol reporting of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are mandatory. Reporting of Scope 3 emissions is voluntary but encouraged where the activities are material to the overall footprint of the organisation.
The next step involves sourcing business activity information for the relevant emission sources. Business activity data could be electricity consumption or fuel purchases. For each emission source one needs to determine what would be the most appropriate activity units required, e.g. litres of fuel , as well as the availability of such data. Estimations, assumptions and samples may need to be applied where data is incomplete or unavailable.
The data collection process is often an overlooked step, however sourcing the most accurate, appropriate data is vital for the credibility of the report output. As they say, rubbish in, rubbish out. So rigorous quality checks on all data gathered will ensure good quality data is fed into the analysis.
With business activity data for each emission source in hand, the data is converted into carbon dioxide equivalents using formulas and factors that are relevant to the data, organisation and geography concerned.
Relevant, updated factors to apply to the emission calculations also need to be sourced. A review needs to be made on which factors are most relevant bearing in mind the activity data available to the analyst and the geography in which the emission sources occur. Factors are specific to emission source and are generally updated annually. The factor producing the most accurate emission value should be applied.
In its simplest form, a calculation formula would look like this:
Activity data × emissions factor = CO2e emissions
Where activity data quantifies a business activity in units e.g. litres of fuel purchased, tonnes of paper used and the emissions factor converts activity data to emissions values e.g. Kg CO2e per litre fuel or Kg CO2e per tonne of paper used.
However, in reality formulas become more complex where assumptions and estimations need to be applied to incomplete or unavailable data, or where certain emissions require additional factors to be applied. For example in air travel emissions additional factors to account for uplift and radiative forcing are applied.
Due to the varying ability of GHG to trap heat in the atmosphere, each GHG has a ‘global warming potential’. Global warming potential (GWP) refers to a gas’s heat trapping potential relative to that of CO2. Using GWP factors, emissions from all 7 greenhouse gases are converted into a common metric of CO2e and reported as such for consistency and like for like comparisons.
It is important that all formulas, factors, estimations and assumptions are clearly documented in the GHG inventory for transparency and consistency in reporting.
Selecting Base Year and Setting Targets
Managing emissions requires a commitment to reduce absolute emissions or intensity emissions (e.g. emissions per unit of activity). To set this target, one needs to measure against a yardstick – this being the base year emissions. Therefore, a base year needs to be selected from which future years’ performance will be measured against. It is important that the base year emissions are based on reliable emissions data.
Once you have selected a base year, set short and long term targets. Targets can be absolute (e.g. reduce emissions by 5% year on year from base year) or rate based (e.g. reduce emissions per employee headcount or unit of production).
Absolute targets are preferred as they result in a real emissions reduction, whereas emissions may increase in the face of a rate based decrease in emissions.
A strategy and work plan should provide a framework from which to initiate and run reduction projects to meet these targets. This is an on-going process which requires constant measurement and review.
Businesses may want to communicate their performance to stakeholders such as investors, customers, employees or the business community. In reporting information, it is valuable to follow the guiding principles of The GHG Protocol (see insert).
Emissions need to be reported for all seven greenhouse gases separately in metric tonnes of CO2e. Emissions must be categorised and reported by scope, clearly stating the scope totals.
The boundaries of the inventory must be described together with a description of the company.
All emissions information, including methodologies, calculations, assumptions, estimations and exclusions must be disclosed.
The base year must be documented with a view of performance over time.
For credibility of reported information it is wise (and in some cases required) to have your footprint assessed by a 3rd party GHG professional, especially when publically reporting.
Business operates within the context of an environment. Best practice principles, standards and guidelines provide methodologies, processes and guidelines which if followed rigorously will provide a deep understanding of an organisation’s internal and external impacts. For responsible and accountable governance it is imperative to understand and manage the risks and opportunities that emerge from these environmental impacts.
Source: The Sustainable Energy Resource handbook Volume 5
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There are three simple principles for keeping a home cool in summer without inflating your carbon footprint, according to architect Steffen Welsch who will be one of the experts giving advice at the Alternative Technology Association’s Speed Date a Sustainable Expert event in Melbourne this weekend.
First, prevent hot air from entering; second, soak up any heat that does enter within the interior; and third, move air around inside to increase comfort. And most are achievable in an existing detached home or apartment, even if it’s a rental.
Keeping the heat out
To prevent hot air entering is partly a matter of sealing the building envelope, but also preventing sun hitting the windows and other glazing, Welsch told The Fifth Estate. The simple solution is vertical blinds installed on the exterior of windows.
Conventional interior design dictates blinds hung inside to block sun, but Welsch says while the blinds might block the glare, by the time the sun enters through the glass they do not block the heat.
It is worth considering the social aspect, too, of people feeling comfortable in your beautiful, green home and enjoying spending time in it. When people want to be in your home, it makes you feel proud of it. – Steffen Welsch, architect
“Vertical blinds are also more efficient at shading glass than horizontal ones, and vertical blinds reduce the effect of radiant heat on the building,” he says.
Another easy cooling measure those in freestanding homes can implement is creating areas outside the house that soak up heat, such as garden beds and other vegetation, or a timber deck area that will absorb heat instead of paving, which radiates heat.
For an apartment, where many have only an outdoor terrace or balcony, plants in pots, timber decking placed over ceramic tiles or concrete, or even a large timber outdoor table can all help add shade and soak up the sun, reducing the amount of heat the outdoor space radiates.
Soak it up
Welsch says the principle of interior elements that will absorb heat is “underrated and often completely overlooked”. The basic principle involves having thermal mass inside, elements such as stone or concrete floors that will absorb heat from the air, or reverse brick veneer, where the brickwork is on the inside. Exposed solid plaster also works well, he says.
Timber floors generally perform better than carpeted floors for absorbing heat, and in homes where there are struts under a timber floor, it is possible to retrofit underfloor insulation.
Options for insulation include the new “phase change” materials that are only a few millimetres thick but deliver the insulation benefits of a 200mm brick wall. They work by absorbing heat, which changes the state of the material from solid to liquid when it is hot, and from liquid back to solid when it cools.
These are still quite expensive, however, due to the current small market share. Welsch does think the price will, however, go down.
The third principle of moving air about can be achieved through mechanical measures such as ceiling fans and through strategic window placement.
“When the air moves, then you feel more comfortable at higher temperatures,” Welsch says. Fans also assist with airing a house out when the cooler evening change hits.
“You also need to check the window openings are in the right place. For example, in Melbourne the cool change comes from the south west, so a low window should go there, and a high window in the north-east corner.”
The cool air entering shifts the hot air out the higher window, but window placement is another thing Welsch says is often not being properly considered. Generally, diagonally opposite windows will work better for cooling and ventilation than multiple windows on the same side of a room – a good thing to keep in mind when renovating, extending or planning to build.
Clerestory windows set up high under the eaves are also effective for ventilation and cooling. They rely on the natural stack effect of air at different temperatures. They can be manually operated, or it is possible to install automated window opening, which is particularly effective when combined with a temperature sensor control. These are not expensive technologies at the domestic scale – Welsch says an automated window opener can cost between $60 and $80, and a temperature sensor control for about $30.
More cool, green ideas
Even though sealing the building well is part of managing heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter, some form of ventilation is essential for occupant health. Having well-sealed homes also means it becomes more important to be careful in the choice of interior finishes and materials, including furnishings, to minimise the level of volatile organic compounds and other nasties.
Other things those looking to build or renovate would want to consider are double glazing, insulation and zoning controls for any ducted airconditioning system. These are, however, best avoided altogether, Welsch says.
Ideally, in terms of environmental impact, airconditioning should be viewed only as a back-up system, not the main solution. If there is no shading or other measures, a refrigerated ducted system is “questionable” in terms of carbon footprint.
Check the specs
Welsch says it’s best to do the simple things first, and with a new build, this means checking that what was promised is actually being delivered in energy terms.
“[In Victoria] even mass produced houses or dwellings need to have six star energy ratings. But people getting a new home built need to check the certification of the rating and check that all of the assumptions made in the certificate have been implemented.”
This includes checking doors and windows are sealed properly, and checking that where double-glazing has been specified, that’s actually what got put in throughout.
Commonsense is cooler too
“A lot of the solutions people can use are commonsense and good practice,” Welsch says.
That good practice extends to how people occupy their homes, so that when sustainability measures are installed, they are operated properly. Simple things such as closing bedroom doors and blinds before leaving for work while also leaving some strategic windows open for ventilation to let any hot air out.
“Appropriate use is very important. You have to be active about it.”
Growing green thinking needs to embrace new ideas
He says that over the past 10 to 15 years he has seen sustainability shift from being mainly architect-driven to something clients now increasingly want.
But while there is an increasing amount of knowledge, once the design starts to move into details clients can struggle to reconcile their green ambitions and old ways of thinking about design, construction and materials.
Heavy is cooler
“A high performance building in our climate needs to be constructed with heavy materials,” Welsch says.
“The proposition with concrete [however] in terms of sustainability is the amount of CO2 it takes to produce. It is the ‘bad boy’ of building materials in terms of its embodied energy.”
Solutions for a lower footprint can include using concrete containing fly ash, or with recycled content. The real stars in sustainability terms for heavy materials though are rammed earth, also known as pise, which is very low on embodied energy, or the new hemp composite walls, which work extremely well as thermal mass inside a home.
Hemp walls also have the potential to be carbon neutral, Welsch says, as they are a store of carbon. They are not cost-competitive yet, and he would not recommend an entire house be constructed of them. Instead, a number of feature hemp walls could be incorporated, and the cost of this balanced out through downsizing airconditioning.
Ultimately, he says, the way to approach sustainability in a home is as it being something to be proud of.
“It is worth considering the social aspect, too, of people feeling comfortable in your beautiful, green home and enjoying spending time in it. When people want to be in your home, it makes you feel proud of it.”
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