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Setting targets for community emissions – Part 5



This is part 5 of our blog post series on community emissions. The first four articles investigated the development of a community GHG inventory. This article analyses community targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

What is greenhouse gas emissions community target?

A target for a city or community relates to a desired future GHG emissions result for a local government administration boundary.

Introduction

Humans and communities are at the centre of climate change. Reducing emissions is a shared responsibility of governments, businesses and of cities and communities. Moreover, in the absence of strong national leadership, local governments need to step in and act. Setting targets enables efforts to be directed towards achieving that target, rather than letting emissions grow unchecked.

However, setting an appropriate target can be confusing. What percentage reduction should you choose? What target year shall you select? Should the target revolve around renewables or carbon emissions, or should you instead focus on tangible measures like solar PV installations in your community?

What targets are in line with science? What target will get accepted by the community? What kind of targets are other cities and communities setting themselves? Should the local government drive the target setting or shall efforts be community-driven?

Before we try to answer these questions, let’s have a look at the underlying problem first.

Rising carbon emissions and the Paris Agreement

Due to all historical and current carbon emissions, global temperatures have already increased by ~1°C from pre-industrial levels, with even higher increases being experienced on land. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen to above 400 ppm, which exceeds the ‘safe’ level of 350 ppm. Moreover, the IPCC predicts that without additional efforts, there will be further growth in emissions due to increased economic activity and population growth.

The main driver of long-term warming is the total cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over time. As shown by Climate Action Tracker in Figure 1, without additional efforts, human-caused carbon emissions may increase to over 100 billion tonnes annually by 2100, which is double current global emissions. The resulting increase in global temperatures could be up to 4.8°C (as per the IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report).

However, with current climate policies around the world, global temperatures are projected to rise by about 3.2°C.

To prevent dangerous climate change by limiting global warming, close to 200 of the world’s governments signed the landmark Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement forms the basis of science-based targets to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2050. With current pledges, and if all countries achieved their Paris Agreement targets, it could limit warming to 2.9°C.

The Climate Action Tracker’s warming projections for 2100, various policy scenarios
Figure 1: The Climate Action Tracker’s warming projections for 2100, various policy scenarios

However, to limit warming to well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, current Paris pledges made by countries are not enough[1]. Carbon emissions need to decline at a much steeper rate in the near future and reach net-zero by mid-century to have a 50% chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C.

Achieving net-zero by 2038 improves this chance to two thirds, but global emissions would have to fall by up to 70% relative to 2017 levels by 2030. For every year of failed action, the window to net-zero is reduced by two years[2].

So how many greenhouse gases can still be emitted? This concept is encapsulated in the term ‘carbon budget’.

What is a carbon budget?

Just like a financial budget sets a ceiling on how much money can be spent, a carbon budget is a finite amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere before warming will exceed certain temperature thresholds.

The concept of a carbon budget emerged as a scientific concept from the IPCC’s 2014 Synthesis Report on Climate Change and relates to the cumulative amount of carbon emissions permitted over a period. Given that the carbon budget is not annual, but cumulative, it means that once it is spent, carbon emissions have to be held at net zero to avoid exceeding temperature targets.

Higher emissions in earlier years mean that there can only be lower emissions later on. You can compare this concept to your own budget. If your yearly budget was $120,000, and you spent $30,000 in each of January and February, you would only have $60,000 left to spend between March and December, or $6,000 per month. Conversely, if you are careful with what you buy and only spend $5,000 every month, then your budget will last twice as long (2 years).

The carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C is smaller than the carbon budget for limiting warming to 2°C.

Please have a look at the following two carbon budgets we developed for a local government client. The ‘blue budget’ shows a 2°C pathway, whereas the ‘orange budget’ shows a 1.5°C scenario.

Example of 2°C carbon budget

Example of a 2°C carbon budget
Figure 2: Example of a 2°C carbon budget for a community greenhouse gas emissions target

Example of 1.5°C carbon budget

Example of a 1.5°C carbon budget
Figure 3: Example of a 1.5°C carbon budget for a community greenhouse gas emissions target

The area of the carbon budget is much smaller in the ‘orange’ graphic. And while both carbon budgets trend towards net zero in 2050, there are much steeper reductions earlier on in the 1.5°C scenario.

How can you set a target/carbon budget based on science?

Targets are considered science-based if they are in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global average temperature increase well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, as described in the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC. All science-based target setting methods use an underlying carbon budget.

There is no universally accepted method of how to calculate carbon budgets at the city level and many cities have worked hard at developing a fair carbon budget. As per the C40 Deadline 2020 report, the three principles that dominate the debate on the allocation of carbon budgets are:

  1. Equality, based on an understanding that human beings should have equal rights
  2. Responsibility for contributing to climate change, linked to the ‘polluter pays’ principle
  3. Capacity to contribute to solving the problem (also described as capacity to pay).

Specific considerations include the current global carbon budget[3], adjusting it to an appropriate time frame, adjusting it from carbon dioxide to carbon dioxide equivalents, and then deriving a fair and equitable national budget. Once there is a national budget, it needs to be apportioned fairly to the city by using factors such as population and potentially adjusting it based on the sector representation in the community.

A simpler method to arrive at a carbon budget that is tracking towards net-zero is to follow a science-based target-setting method by adopting a target which is proportional to the overall world’s target using the contraction approach and to scale emissions down linearly. There are two science-based temperature scenarios you can align with, a 2°C and a 1.5°C scenario. The minimum annual linear reduction rates aligned with 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios are 4.2% and 2.5%, respectively.

Example method for calculating your science-based target

The following method, which you can use as an example, shows six steps on how to set a community emissions target based on science.

Step 1: Calculate your GHG inventory

Your carbon inventory should be aligned to GPC. Please read our article on calculating community carbon footprints if you are unsure about this step.

Step 2: Project emissions

Once you have a fully developed carbon inventory, project your emissions into the future to get an idea of where your emissions will be in the absence of any abatement measures

Step 3: Decide on carbon budget allocation method

Choose an approach that is suitable for your circumstances. The simplest method is to contract to net-zero by 2050.

Step 4: Choose a pathway

You need to choose whether you want your emissions trajectory to align with a 1.5°C or a 2°C scenario.

Step 5: Choose a target year

While you are aiming to track towards net zero by mid-century, it will help to establish interim targets, based on your chosen degree scenario.

Step 6: Validate your decisions

Consult your community to get feedback.

Six steps to set a science-based community emissions target
Figure 4: Six steps to set a science-based community emissions target

What kind of targets are there?

There are two main categories of targets, top-down and bottom-up ones.

Top-down targets

With top-down goals, you set the goal first, and then determine actions to get there. Top-down targets can be informed by science (‘science-based targets’) or by a community’s aspirations. Each of these approaches effectively gives the community a carbon budget to stay within for any chosen pathway.

Externally set top-down target – science-based:

An external top-down target is informed by science. Science-based targets are aligned with either a 2°C or 1.5°C pathway and lead to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Internally set top-down target – aspirational:

Aspirational targets express the vision of a community and where it would like to be in future. They often relate to a target year earlier than 2050.

Bottom-up targets

With bottom-up targets, you analyse the carbon footprint first and then develop abatement actions. Carbon reduction actions are modelled to investigate the amount of carbon reduction that can be achieved and the cost to facilitate and fund them. Based on the level of carbon reduction that is feasible, you set a corresponding target.

Top-down and bottom-up targets can work in tandem. For instance, you can decide to set a science-based target, and then translate this target into tangible, staged and evidence-based bottom-up targets. Examples of such tangible targets are the number of solar PV installations on houses, or the rate and amount of electric vehicle take-up in a community.

Who sets a community target?

Targets can come directly from the community, or they can be driven by the local government authority. If they are driven by the local government, it is a good idea to undertake community consultation, present the facts and then get feedback on the proposed target(s).

What does a net-zero target mean?

A net-zero target means that by (and from) the target date, there must be no greenhouse gas emissions on a net basis. Within the geographic boundaries of a city, a ‘net zero city’ is defined as:

  1. Net-zero GHG emissions from stationary energy consumption such as natural gas use (scope 1)
  2. Net-zero GHG emissions from transport activities (scope 1)
  3. Net-zero GHG emissions from electricity consumption (scope 2)
  4. Net-zero GHG emissions from the treatment of waste generated within the city boundary (scopes 1 and 3)
  5. Where a city accounts for additional sectoral emissions in their GHG accounting boundary (e.g. IPPU, AFOLU), net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from all additional sectors in the GHG accounting boundary

Table 1: Definition of a net-zero target for a city

Definition of a net-zero target for a city

Once you have achieved carbon neutrality, it needs to be maintained year after year. For further information, please refer to the C40 paper, ‘Defining Carbon Neutrality For Cities And Managing Residual Emissions’.

Using carbon offsets to reach net-zero

Even after you have reduced your emissions as much as possible, there may be a residual carbon footprint. It may not be technically or economically possible to achieve zero emissions for all inventory sources, in which case you can consider carbon offsets.

As per the C40 paper Defining Carbon Neutrality for Cities, possible approaches for carbon offsets you can consider include:

  1. Developing carbon offset projects outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (including local/regional projects that may or may not generate tradeable carbon credits) and taking responsibility for managing the project for the duration of its lifetime;
  2. Investing in carbon offset projects outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (e.g. provide funding to enable a project to get underway or commit to purchasing a set quantity of future vintages, thereby providing upfront funding for credit registration costs), and
  3. Purchasing carbon offsets from outside of the city GHG accounting boundary (local, national, or globally-sourced projects that generate tradeable carbon credits) from a registered/credible/established carbon credit provider.

As with any carbon offset purchase, your carbon credits should be credible and of high quality. Criteria that your carbon offset projects should achieve are that they are real, additional, permanent, measurable, independently audited and verified, unambiguously owned and transparent.

Using Carbon Dioxide Removal and Negative Emissions Technology to reach net-zero

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) means that you are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in addition to what would happen anyway via the natural carbon cycle. Because you are removing carbon emissions, this is also called ‘negative emissions’, or ‘negative emissions technology’ (NET).

You can draw out excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by enhancing natural carbon sinks (trees and soil) or using chemical processes, such as extracting carbon dioxide from the air and storing it somewhere suitable (e.g., underground).

Negative Emission Technology (NET) is at various stages of commercial development and differs in terms of maturity, scalability, costs, risks, and trade-offs. To date, none of these technologies has been adopted at large scale.

As a side note, in IPCC modelling, all pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C include CDR measures. If we cannot reduce emissions fast enough, global temperatures will overshoot 1.5°C, which means that we need NET to bring global temperatures back down.

A city that plans on utilising NET is Oslo. The single biggest carbon reduction measure in Oslo’s Climate and Energy Strategy is the implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at its Klemetsrud waste incineration facility.

Target setting under the Global Covenant of Mayors and C40

Target setting under the Global Covenant

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) is the world’s largest alliance of cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to a low emission, climate-resilient future. As of October 2019, 26 local governments in Australia have joined the GCoM.

Through the GCoM, cities and local governments are voluntarily committing to fight climate change, mirroring the commitments their national governments have set to ensure the goals of the Paris Agreement are met.

Local governments committed to GCoM pledge to implement policies and undertake measures to:

  • Reduce/limit greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prepare for the impacts of climate change
  • Increase access to sustainable energy
  • Track progress toward these objectives

When you join the Global Covenant of Mayors, you need to submit a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target(s) within two years upon joining. The target boundary needs to be consistent with all emissions sources included in your GHG emissions inventory. The target year needs to be the same (or later than) the target year adopted nationally under the Paris Agreement. The national target is called the ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC).

If you set a target beyond 2030, you also need to set an interim target. The target needs to be at least as ambitious as the unconditional components of the NDC. You are only allowed to use carbon offsets if your target’s ambition exceeds the NDC.

Target setting under C40

C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. Cities that commit to being part of C40 need to have a plan to deliver their contribution towards the goal of constraining global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C. In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne are members.

To remain within a 1.5°C temperature rise, average per capita emissions across C40 cities need to drop from over 5 t CO2-e per capita to around 2.9 t CO2-e per capita by 2030. Every city needs to diverge considerably from its current business-as-usual pathway and cities with a GDP over USD15,000 per capita must begin to reduce their per capita emissions immediately, which results in an immediate and steep decline of emissions.

C40 recommends that the trajectory for emission reduction follows the typology as introduced in Deadline 2020.

  • Steep Decline – Cities with a GDP per capita over $15,000 and emissions above the average for C40. Emissions need to be immediately and rapidly reduced and the city is sufficiently developed to do so.
  • Steady Decline – Cities with a GDP per capita over $15,000 but emissions lower than the average for C40. The city is sufficiently developed to immediately reduce emissions, but a less rapid rate of reduction is required than for the Steep Decline group.
  • Early Peak – Cities with GDP per capita below $15,000 and higher than average emissions per capita. An early emissions peak is required, although the city’s development status means that decline cannot be immediate.
  • Late Peak – Cities with a GDP per capita below $15,000 and lower than average emissions per capita. A slightly later emissions peak is possible.

The following table shows the current and reduced science-aligned and C40 per capita emissions for scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Table 2: Average per capita emissions figures for C40 cities in 1.5- and 2-degree trajectories

Average per capita emissions figures for C40 cities in 1.5- and 2-degree trajectories

Examples of city targets

The following list shows examples of ambitious targets for cities across five continents.

EThekwini Municipality, Africa

The eThekwini municipality includes the city of Durban, South Africa and surrounding towns. It is the first city in Africa to develop a 1.5°C climate action plan with the support of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. The target is to reach a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 80% reduction by 2050.

Hong Kong, Asia

In May 2019, Hong Kong achieved CDP’s top ‘A’ score for its climate strategy, among 7% of cities reporting to the CDP. Hong Kong’s targets are as follows:

  • Reduce carbon intensity by 65% to 70% by 2030 compared with the 2005 level, which is equivalent to an absolute reduction of 26% to 36%
  • Resulting in per capita emission of 3.3 to 3.8 tonnes in 2030
  • Carbon emissions to peak before 2020

The 2030 Climate Plan includes objectives, such as phasing down coal for electricity generation and replacing it with natural gas by 2030, saving energy in the built environment, focusing on rail as a low-carbon public transport backbone and encouraging active transport modes, such as walking.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia

The ACT is a federal territory of Australia containing the Australian capital city of Canberra and some surrounding townships. The ACT’s first targets were introduced in 2010, revised in 2016 to increase ambition and again in 2018. The current targets are to reduce emissions (from 1990 levels) by:

  • 40% by 2020
  • 50-60% by 2025
  • 65-75% by 2030
  • 90-95% by 2040
  • 100% (net zero emissions) by 2045.

The ACT also set a target to peak emissions per capita by 2013. This was achieved in 2012-13 at 10.53 tonnes of CO2-e per person and has remained below this level ever since. In 2017-18, emissions were 8.09 t CO2-e per capita. The ACT’s targets were informed by considering the ACT’s share of the global carbon budget.

Oslo, Europe

Oslo has the objective to become a ‘virtually zero-emission city’. The current targets are as follows:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 766,000 tons of CO2-e by 2020 (applicable to all emission sectors except agriculture, aviation and shipping)
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels)

The second goal depends on the successful removal of emissions from a major waste incineration plant.

In 2016, Oslo introduced a climate budget, which sets a ceiling on the volume of carbon dioxide that can be emitted in the city in a given year. The climate budget is fully integrated with the financial budget of the city. The climate budgets show measures implemented or planned for Oslo to reach its climate targets and become a low-carbon city.

San Francisco, North America

In its Focus 2030: A Pathway to Net Zero Emissions, San Francisco defines the following targets:

  • Supplying 100% renewable electricity from 2030
  • 68% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2030
  • 90% reduction by 2050

San Francisco identified that emission reduction must come from three primary sectors, being buildings, transportation and waste. The city also defined sub-targets for these sectors.

Transportation:

  • Shift 80% of all trips taken to walking, biking and transit by 2030.
  • Electrify 25% of private cars and trucks by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

Buildings:

  • Electrify space and water heating with high-efficiency products such as heat pumps
  • Increase building energy efficiency
  • Power buildings with 100% renewable electricity

Waste:

  • Reduce generation by 15% by 2030
  • Reduce disposal to landfill or incineration by 50% by 2030

Conclusion

Cities and communities should consider setting themselves targets in line with science. To avoid catastrophic climate change, emissions need to start falling now and reach net zero by 2050. Interim targets will help to stay under an allocated carbon budget.

Both vision and leadership are needed to enable steep cuts to our emissions, which translates into unprecedented, rapid change across the globe to limit global warming. The way electricity is generated needs to change to clean energy. The way we transport people and goods and the way we produce everything needs innovation. Land use planning plays a big part, and different economic models need to be adopted that will makes such a transformational shift possible. In the next part of this series, we will look at community carbon abatement measures in greater detail.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations, communities/LGAs and councils determine suitable targets, be they science-based, aspirational or bottom-up/action-based. Our community inventories align with the GPC and targets can be based on IPCC global carbon budgets. If you need help with your community inventory, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Footnotes

[1] For instance, Australia’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030

[2] https://www.c40.org/researches/defining-carbon-neutrality-for-cities-managing-residual-emissions

[3] The Global Carbon Budget website provides annual updates of the global carbon budget and trends.

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5 ways of visualising emission reduction pathways

Many of our services involve the development of emission reduction pathways, which greatly enhance climate change action plans. In this blog post, we will show you 5 common ways to visually display such a pathway. Seeing these different illustrations can help you to shape how you would like to present your own organisation’s pathway towards a low carbon future.

Introduction

What are emission reduction pathways?

Emission reduction pathways allow for the easy communication of

  • where your organisation is currently at in terms of greenhouse emissions (or energy consumption)
  • where you can be through the implementation of reduction measures that are feasible and cost-effective over time
  • where you would be in the absence of any measures to reduce emissions

Pathways usually start with your selected baseline year and end at some point in the future, typically at 2030, or when agreed or proposed targets are to be met.

What do emission reduction pathways cover?

Boundary:

Your emissions boundary will typically consider three things:

  • The level of an organisation or region you want to assess in terms of emissions reduction. This could be a single site, an asset class (e.g. community buildings), a Division in an organisation, a whole organisation, a town or community, and up to State and National levels.
  • The emissions and energy sources that you want to evaluate. For example, electricity, natural gas, petrol, diesel, refrigerants, waste, wastewater and so on.
  • The Scopes of emissions you want to include. Typically Scope 2 (electricity) is included, and material Scope 1 emissions (on-site combustion or direct emissions). Selected Scope 3 emissions may also be included, such as upstream emissions associated with energy usage and waste.

Units of measure:

The unit for reductions or savings to be modelled will typically be tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, or a unit of energy, such as kilowatt-hours or megajoules.

What greenhouse gas reduction measures are considered in abatement pathways?

For most organisations greenhouse gas reduction measures usually relate to six high-level carbon abatement areas as shown in Figure 1 below, being

  • Energy efficiency
  • Management of waste and other Scope 3 emissions sources
  • Sustainable transport
  • Local generation of renewable energy such as rooftop solar PV
  • Grid decarbonisation
  • Buying clean energy and/or carbon offsets

These high-level categories can be further broken down into as many subcategories as relevant within your selected organisation boundary.

Figure 1: 6 categories for carbon reduction opportunities

The need for a graphical representation of emissions pathways

For many people, it is hard to engage with complex data presented in a table or report. In our experience, it is most effective if abatement potential can be shown in a graph. The visual representation of a carbon abatement pathway allows people to better grasp the overall opportunity for abatement, where this will come from, and the timeframes involved.

It also helps organisations to better communicate their plans to their stakeholders, be they internal or external. Simple and well-presented graphics can also help when seeking decisions to budget for and implement cost-effective measures.

5 ways to graphically represent emission reduction pathways

There are many different ways you can display an emissions reduction pathway; some are more suited to specific circumstances than others. The five examples we are using in this blog post are:

  1. Line chart
  2. Waterfall chart
  3. Area chart
  4. Column chart
  5. Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC)

Let’s look at these examples in detail.



Example #1 – line chart

A line chart is a simple but effective way to communicate a ‘Business-as-usual’ or BAU pathway compared with planned or target pathways at a total emissions level for your selected boundary. Such a boundary could be comparing your whole-business projected emissions with and without action to reduce greenhouse gases.

This type of graph is also useful to report on national emissions compared with required pathways to achieve Australia’s Paris commitments, for example.

Figure 2: Example of a line chart

Example #2 – waterfall chart

A waterfall chart focuses on abatement measures. It shows the size of the abatement for each initiative, progressing towards a specific target, such as 100% renewable electricity, for example. It is most useful to highlight the relative impact of different actions, but it does not show the timeline of implementation.

Figure 3: Example of a waterfall chart

Example #3 – area graph

Area graphs show the size of abatement over time and are a great way to visualise your organisation’s potential pathway towards ambitious emissions reduction targets.

They do not explicitly show the cost-effectiveness of measures. However, a useful approach is to include only measures that are cost-effective now and will be in the future, so that decision-makers are clear that they are looking at a viable investment plan over time to lower emissions.

Figure 4: Example of an area chart that shows reduction actions and diminishing emissions

Another option of displaying an area chart is shown in Figure 5. In this area chart, the existing emission sources that reduce over time are not a focus, and instead, the emphasis is on emission reduction actions. You may prefer this version if there is a large number of reduction measures, or if you include fuel switching actions.

Figure 5: Example of an area chart which emphasises emission reduction actions



Example #4 – column graph

A column graph is similar to the area graph but allows for a clearer comparison between specific years compared with the continuous profile of an area graph. In the example column graph below, we are looking at Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as abatement in an organisation over a 25-year timeframe covering past and future plans.

In the historical part, for instance, we can see Scope 1 (yellow) and Scope 2 (blue) emissions in the baseline year. The impact of GreenPower® (green) on emissions can be seen in any subsequent year until 2018.

Going forward we can see in any projection year the mix of grid decarbonisation (red), new abatement measures (aqua) including fuel switching and renewables purchasing, as well as residual Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

Figure 6: Example of a column chart

Example #5 – Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) Curve

MAC curves focus on the financial business case of abatement measures and the size of the abatement. MAC curves are typically expressed in $/t CO2-e (carbon), or in $/MWh (energy), derived from an assessment of the net present value of a series of investment over time to a fixed time in the future.

The two examples below show MAC curves for the same set of investments across an organisation. Figure 6 shows the outcome in 2030, whereas, in Figure 7, it is to 2040 when investments have yielded greater returns.

MAC curves are a good way to clearly see those investments that will yield the best returns and their contribution to your overall emissions reduction goal.

Figure 7: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a short time horizon

Figure 8: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a longer time horizon

Please note that no one example is superior over another. It depends on your preferences and what information you would like to convey to your stakeholders.

100% Renewables are experts in putting together emission reduction and renewable energy pathways. If you need help with determining your strategy, targets and cost-effective pathways, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Shrinking your combined load profile [includes video]

In June, Barbara, our Co-CEO, presented at the Renewable Cities Australia conference at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. The topic of her talk was ‘Reaching ambitious energy efficiency and renewables’.

At the core of her speech was a demonstration of how the combined load profile of a typical metropolitan local council changes after the implementation of energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy.

Please note that a video of the ‘shrinking load profile’ is included at the bottom of this post.

What is a load profile?

A load profile shows how your energy demand changes over a 24-hour period, from meter data that your energy retailer can provide on request or via a web portal linked to your account.

Meter data starts and ends at midnight and is usually in half-hour or 15-minute intervals. The vertical axis shows your energy demand in kilowatts as it changes over this time. The less your energy demand, the lower the curve.

A load profile can also be called ‘interval data’ and is a very useful tool for analysing your energy consumption. For example, a load profile can identify equipment that is running unnecessarily at night or may show you spikes in your energy consumption that hint at inefficient operation of equipment. Changes in your profile from summer to spring or autumn can give you an idea of the energy use needed for cooling in a building.

You use load profiles to help you identify how you can be more energy efficient, and they can also help you to size your solar PV installation.

What is a combined load profile?

A combined load profile adds the demand for all your sites to show you the overall energy demand of your organisation. This information is particularly important when you buy energy via a renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement that is supply-linked.

Building up a combined load profile

In this blog post, we build a combined load profile for a metropolitan local government. Figure 1 shows the combined demand of small sites, like small libraries, amenities blocks, community halls and childcare centres.

Energy demand typically rises sharply in the morning as people start to use these facilities, and it falls as people leave them in the evening. At night there is usually demand for appliances, small servers and emergency and exit lights.

Figure 1: The energy demand of small sites



Now, we are adding the electricity demand for large sites on top of the small sites. Examples for large sites are central administration offices & chambers, depots and aquatic centres. Night demand for depots and offices may be low with good after-hours controls. However, pools are usually heated all the time and can be energy-intensive at night.

Figure 2: The energy demand of large sites

The surprising thing for metropolitan councils is that most of the energy demand happens at night, through streetlighting, which runs from dusk until dawn. Streetlights can consume as much as half of a metropolitan council’s electricity! This creates a combined profile with high demand at night and a big dip in demand during the day.

Figure 3: The energy demand of streetlighting

Lastly, we add parks and sporting fields. Most of the energy demand for sporting fields is lighting and irrigation, so naturally, this demand also occurs from late in the evening (sporting field lights) to early morning (irrigation).

Figure 4: The energy demand of parks, ovals and fields

The impact of onsite energy efficiency and renewable energy measures on the combined demand profile

Now that we have a load profile that aggregates energy demand across all sites, let’s implement onsite abatement measures such as energy efficiency and solar PV.

So that you can see the impact of these measures, we are providing a visual cue to show you where our starting line is, because now we start subtracting.

Figure 5: Implementing onsite measures



Energy efficient lighting for parks and sporting fields

LED lighting replacements and smart controls for parks, ovals and fields can lead to a 40-70% reduction in energy demand. At the same time, you may improve your service provision through better lighting, more activated fields and higher utilisation. The net benefit is shown in Figure 6. A reduction in energy demand brings down the whole load profile from the starting point.

Figure 6: Lighting replacement for parks, ovals and fields

Figure 7 shows the impact of a bulk upgrade to LED lighting for local roads. LED streetlights are 60-80% more energy efficient than older technologies such as Compact Fluorescents or Mercury Vapour.

Figure 7: Streetlighting upgrade for local roads

Figure 8 shows the impact of a bulk upgrade to LED lighting for main roads, with similar levels of savings as local roads. Smart controls such as dimming can further increase savings for streetlights.

Figure 8: Streetlighting upgrade for main roads

Implementing energy efficiency improvements to lights, air conditioning, IT systems, appliances, motor systems and building controls at your facilities can achieve at least a 10% reduction, but more might be achievable. It depends on your individual circumstances and what measures you have implemented in the past.

Figure 9: Energy efficiency at Council sites

Installing onsite solar PV

Figure 10 shows the impact of installing onsite solar PV at your sites. You can see the dip in the load profile in the middle of the day, as the solar energy generation reaches its maximum.

Figure 10: Impact on Solar PV

Battery storage will allow further savings in your electricity and peak demand. Figure 11 illustrates how stored solar energy can reduce a building’s peak demand in the afternoon when peak demand charges might apply, thus reducing power bills.

Figure 11: More Solar PV and battery energy storage



What the load profile was and what it could be

So, we have implemented a number of cost-effective efficiency and renewable energy measures, and we can see that demand has reduced significantly. Figure 12 shows what the load profile looked like before implementation of any actions, and what it could be through energy efficiency and onsite solar PV.

Before you think about switching your electricity supply to offsite renewables (e.g. through a Power Purchase Agreement), you should consider the changes behind-the-meter measures like energy efficiency and solar PV can make to your energy demand, and how this can lower the amount of energy you need to buy over time.

Figure 12: Summary of what load profile is and what it could be

Switching your electricity supply to renewables

Figure 13 shows what remains of your original load profile. The next step will be to switch from conventional electricity supply to 100% renewable energy. This can be staged over time or may be possible all in one go.

Figure 13: Offsite opportunities like PPAs

Goals achieved!

In our experience, by implementing onsite energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, you can save 30-40% in electricity demand. By switching your supply to renewables, you can also achieve 100% renewable energy.

Figure 14: Goals Achieved!

You can watch a video of the shrinking load profile here:

Would you like to see how much you could reduce your load profile?

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their renewable energy strategies and timing actions appropriately. If you need help with analysing your load profile and with developing your renewable energy plan, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Challenges with achieving ambitious targets

Challenges with ambitious targets
Challenges with ambitious targets

In part 1 of the blog series, we investigated what the scope of your climate change target could be. In part 2, we looked at the global and national goals you should be aware of. In this blog post, we will shed light on some of the challenges that you may face when setting ambitious goals.

Striking a balance

Setting targets is often about striking a balance between what we know can be achieved with today’s commercially available solutions and what will be available in coming years.

This is why many targets for renewable energy, for example, are 100% by 2030. It is expected that battery storage for solar and renewable energy sourcing for energy supply will be readily available and cost-effective by that time.

Interim targets tend to focus on onsite measures that are known to be cost-effective now, such as energy efficiency and solar panels.

Challenges with achieving ambitious targets

In our experience, both interim and ambitious long-term targets can present challenges for you. Here is a list of some of those challenges.

Ongoing internal support, resources and funding

This is often the most common barrier and challenge; how to gain and sustain the support and funds internally to make efficiency and renewable energy initiatives happen. There are usually limited funds, competing priorities and resources are stretched.

Without internal support at senior level as well as people to develop business cases and implement projects, most programs do not last or succeed.

Strategy tips:

  1. One or a few key staff and managers who want to see continued action on renewables and emissions reduction, and make it a priority on an ongoing basis.
  2. Having clear financing strategies for renewables, efficiency and other emissions reduction measures, including awareness of state and federal incentives such as the Energy Saving Scheme and the Renewable Energy Target, a consideration to fund from Capex or a loan, revolving energy funds or similar.
  3. Alignment of renewable energy and emissions reduction plans with your organisation’s strategy so that this is embedded in your organisational priorities.

Understanding electricity markets and your energy purchasing processes

Energy procurement will most likely deliver the bulk of your organisation’s ambitious renewable energy goals, so without a plan, you may not be able to achieve an ambitious renewable energy goal ahead of the ‘greening’ of the grid.

The ability to meet an ambitious renewable energy goal cost-effectively is heavily influenced by how you source electricity from the market. Whereas in the past, GreenPower® was available, but at a cost premium, many organisations are now able to source energy from renewable energy projects at similar or even lower cost than conventional power.

Strategy tips:

In this rapidly evolving environment, you need to take time to understand how the electricity market and renewables procurement work and develop your energy sourcing strategy accordingly. In particular, investigate the following aspects of energy procurement:

  • The current and future electricity and renewable energy market
  • Contract terms for renewable energy supply
  • Types of contracts for renewable energy purchasing
  • Interest in collaboration or partnering for volume to achieve better pricing are all aspects of energy procurement

Transport and waste

Transport and waste can be sources of large carbon emissions. However, solutions to achieve step-change in energy demand, renewable energy or carbon emissions can be limited, particularly if your organisation is already focusing on emission reduction in these areas.

In our experience, the level of focus on carbon emissions and renewables for these sources is low or lags the focus that is applied to electricity and stationary gas. This often leads to the omission of these sources from targets.

An emerging aspect of this is the potential for electrification of vehicles to change electricity demand and thus increase the amount of renewable electricity that needs to be sourced to meet ambitious targets. Some organisations are beginning to assess their future energy demand with an EV fleet and incorporate this into their long-term forecasts.

Strategy tips:

Consider including transport and waste in future targets if they are not already part of your goal. Make sure that you apply appropriate resources to understand opportunities and future trends.

The emergence of electric vehicles will introduce new challenges for the identification of new opportunities. A good strategy is to forecast what changes will occur and when. This may not be a significant factor for the next 4-5 years but will almost certainly be a more important issue as we approach 2030.

Organisational growth

While you are implementing efficiency and renewables, your energy demand may grow with organisational growth. Your emissions intensity may reduce, but your absolute emissions may still be growing.

Strategy tips:

The greater the level of organisational support and understanding of the nature, scale and timing of opportunities, as well as an understanding of the type and scale of changes that will occur to your assets over time helps to set targets that are realistic and achievable.

You need to take these changes into account so you know what combination of emission reduction options can help you meet your target in the most cost-effective way.

Conclusion

You may find you have only achieved a small part of your goal after a few years, despite the fact you have progressed several onsite solar and energy efficiency projects. Often, building energy efficiency and onsite solar can deliver part of the solution, but each project is individually small.

This is beginning to change with cheaper solar panels making larger-scale systems cost-effective, which in turn has a greater impact on emission reduction and onsite renewable energy generation.

The overall effort towards ambitious goals is likely to include a small number of measures that have individually significant impact (e.g., a renewable energy PPA), plus a large number of small measures that have low impact but are good for the bottom line.

Your strategy to meet ambitious targets should include both these measures.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their renewable energy strategies and timing actions appropriately. If you need help with developing a target and action plans that help you meet this target, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

How choosing a target influences your emissions over time [with video]

100% RE - emission reduction through 100% renewable energy
100% RE – emission reduction through 100% renewable electricity

We recently worked with a regional council to provide their senior management and other key stakeholders with input to the development of their climate change action plan and target-setting process.

An important part of our work was to show council, based on our experience with many other local governments, what different carbon reduction scenarios look like in this sector. In particular, we showed what a no-action scenario would mean for electricity demand, what a focus on demand reduction within council operations would look like, and what an approach that encompasses both aggressive demand reduction and a comprehensive renewable energy supply strategy could achieve.

Presenting and workshopping these scenarios helped our client to set ambitious goals for energy and carbon reduction that are achievable, affordable and can be planned and resourced in the short, medium and long term.

Three scenarios for electricity-based emissions

To illustrate how inaction and action to mitigate climate change can influence emission reductions over time, we created a series of animations. Please click on the video (< 4min) below to view the effect of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures on a council’s business-as-usual electricity consumption.

Scenario 1: no action

For most local councils, rising population, asset upgrades and service improvements are factors that influence the energy demand of council operations.

In the absence of clear policies and practices to reduce energy demand and increase renewables, these factors will lead to increased energy use. As electricity prices also rise, this will result in higher energy costs over time.

Scenario 2: action within council operations

In most organisations, there are numerous opportunities to reduce energy demand and increase onsite renewable energy.

  • Upgrading building lighting systems, air conditioning controls and installing rooftop solar panels usually have an attractive payback.
  • Incorporating lowest life-cycle cost technologies and solar into new developments, and implementing sustainable procurement policies for appliances and office/IT equipment can reduce or reverse energy growth over time.
  • Replacing capital-intensive equipment such as air conditioning systems, water & sewer pumping systems, sporting field lighting and servers with best-practice energy-efficient technologies can similarly reduce or reverse growth in energy demand.
  • Street lighting is often one of the largest energy-using accounts in a local council. As LED technology becomes available, local and main road lighting can be upgraded, leading to large energy savings.

Planning, scheduling and funding implementation of these opportunities over time will lead to a sustained and cost-effective reduction in a council’s grid energy consumption.

However, for most councils, these actions will only take climate mitigation so far, typically a 30% to 40% reduction over time. This would likely fall short of the 2018 IPCC report on ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’, which states that we need to reduce global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

Scenario 3: ambitious action on energy demand and supply

In our experience, it is not possible for a council to achieve deep emissions cuts without focusing on both energy demand and energy supply. In an ‘ambitious action’ plan, there will be a more aggressive rollout of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, as well as an energy procurement strategy that will source renewable energy for council’s operations.

Energy demand action will:

  • Extend solar PV to more marginal sites,
  • Develop a plan for larger-scale onsite solar with battery storage,
  • Incorporate smart controls with street lighting,
  • Plan for charging of electric vehicles over time, including passenger and commercial vehicles and road plant

Energy supply action will include renewable energy purchasing as part of a council’s normal energy procurement process. Typically, this takes the form of a renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) as part of overall energy supply, with the potential to scale up renewable energy purchasing towards 100% over time.

For some councils, building their own solar farm may be another way to scale up supply-side action on renewables.

Ambitious action that focuses on both energy demand and renewable energy supply is aligned with global targets to decarbonise by mid-century. As leaders, local governments have an important role to play in showing their communities that deep cuts in emissions are possible and affordable.

You can read more about achieving ambitious targets in our ‘How to achieve 100% renewable energy’ paper.

Ambitious action is achievable and cost-effective

It is possible to achieve ambitious targets cost-effectively – what is required is to plan and resource ahead, to understand the cost implications as well as the cost savings, and to know what measures can be rolled out at what point in time.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their renewable energy strategies and timing actions appropriately. If you need help with setting targets that are achievable and cost-effective, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Claiming ‘zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs [Part 3]

This blog post has been updated in Dec 19 to reflect the re-branding of NCOS to ‘Climate Active’. 

In our first blog post on electric vehicles, we analysed the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. In the second blog post of the series, we present three considerations for making zero-emissions claims for your electric vehicles. In the final blog post of this series, we are investigating ways you can safely claim ’zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs.

There are many ways to ’green’ the energy supplied to charge your EVs at your own business premises. However, what if you charge your vehicles at shopping centres, other businesses, at home, on a freeway, or other locations? If seeking to use renewable energy or be ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet, your strategy should include both ’onsite’ and ’offsite’ charging plans.

Claiming ‘zero emissions’ for the operation of your EVs

Strategies for claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at your business premises (‘onsite’)

The good news about charging EVs at your own locations is that you have complete control over the emissions-intensity of the electricity powering your charging stations. There are five basic options you can consider:

  1. Buy 100% GreenPower® for charge points
  2. Corporate Power Purchase Agreement
  3. Become carbon neutral
  4. Switch to carbon neutral electricity
  5. Solar panels (and batteries)

Strategy #1 – Buy 100% GreenPower®

An easy way to charge your electric car from clean energy is to purchase 100% GreenPower® for the account the charging point is connected to. All you would need to do is call your electricity provider and ask to be switched over to their 100% GreenPower® product.

For more information, please read the GreenPower for Businesses Guide that we developed for the National GreenPower Accreditation Scheme.

Strategy #2 – Corporate Power Purchase Agreement for renewables

If you are a large energy user, you could enter into a corporate Power Purchase Agreement and include sites/accounts that power your EV charging point(s).

You could either enter into a bundled PPA agreement where you purchase both the electricity and the green credentials (RECs/LGCs) or into an LGC-only PPA.

If corporate PPAs do not suit your circumstances, you can also buy LGCs directly from brokers, with 1 REC/LGC purchased and retired for each MWh of electricity consumed for your EVs or facilities including EV charging points. While this is a potentially more expensive strategy than strategy 3 or 4 (below), you can claim both ‘zero emissions’ and ‘fully renewable’ for your electric vehicles.

For further information for different PPA options, you can read our article on how you can make your organisation 100% renewable or our introduction to PPAs.

Strategy #3 – Carbon neutrality

If your organisation is carbon neutral, then your EV charging points would be included in your carbon footprint. You may pursue carbon neutrality for stand-alone buildings or events, and where EV charging forms part of the scope of these activities, then it can also be carbon neutral. You may simply wish to be carbon neutral for your EV charging stations if these have separate metering or sub-metering.  If this is data is not available, then you can get this information from your EVs, as most have the capability to track their energy consumption.

The basics steps for becoming carbon neutral are to measure your carbon footprint, reduce it as much as possible and offset the rest through the purchase of carbon credits. Australian organisations can consider becoming carbon neutral under the Climate Active, or you may simply purchase offsets for emissions within the boundaries of your carbon neutrality claim.

Strategy #4 – Switch to carbon neutral electricity

There are currently three electricity providers in Australia that offer carbon-neutral electricity, Powershop, Energy Australia and Energy Locals. You could consider switching suppliers and selecting their carbon neutral products. You can find more information in our article about 10 ways to green your electricity supply.

You need to make sure that the charging point is connected to the account that you are switching over to carbon-neutral electricity.

Strategy #5 – Charging EVs from solar panels

Organisations are starting to put EV charging stations at locations where they also have solar PV installations. One of the first Australian examples is the Macadamia Castle on NSW’s Far North Coast which in 2014 installed a 45 kW solar system on its car park canopy. The solar installation powers both the main building and the EV charging station.

If your business is considering using solar to power electric vehicles, note that you are likely to also use grid power to supplement solar energy, so you should not simply assume that all charging from a solar array is ’green’. If at any point the power output from your solar array is less than the power draw to charge the vehicles, then you will be using grid energy to achieve the shortfall. There are chargers that will only use onsite solar generation to charge EVs, and have settings to slow or stop charging when there is insufficient solar power available (e.g. Zappi).

You could install batteries as well which could increase the amount of onsite solar electricity that charges the vehicles, though this technology is expensive at this time. Australian startup Chargefox, whose vision is that road transport will eventually be powered by renewable energy, is rolling out super-fast chargers for electric cars. The Chargefox network will feature sites powered by the world’s first solar, battery storage and 350kW charging combination.

Depending on the size of your solar system and the energy demand from cars or other equipment/facilities connected to the solar, you may achieve a ’net zero’ result, where you generate more solar energy than is consumed by connected equipment and vehicles over a set period of time.

Where there is a shortfall between electricity produced onsite and electricity consumed to power EVs, your business can use one or more of the above strategies to achieve zero emissions.

Note:

You can also use strategies #1, #2 and #5 for claims for ‘100% renewable’. You can find out more information about the difference between carbon neutral and 100% renewable in this article.

Claiming ’zero emissions’ when charging EVs at other locations (‘offsite’)

Your EVs may need to charge at locations outside your business premises. These could include charging stations on freeways or main roads, in shopping centres and public carparks, at clients’ premises, at schools, hospitals, hotels, and at home.

Unlike petrol and diesel fleet fuel consumption, which most organisations measure through fuel card systems, electric vehicle charging is far more distributed with varying availability of data.

The two key pieces of information your business needs to make credible ’zero emissions’ claims for your EV fleet charged ’offsite’ are energy consumption, and the sources of energy generation.

Measuring energy consumption

Most EVs have the capability to track their energy consumption, and if you know how much energy went into charging from onsite locations, you may be able to derive the energy consumed from offsite locations.

Another method is to estimate the energy consumption of your EVs based on kilometres travelled and applying known or estimated energy intensity – most EVs travel 3 km to 7 km per kWh of electricity consumed. Refer to information provided by the vehicle manufacturer to estimate consumption from your particular model.

 

Also, if you are charging and paying for power from the emerging and growing network of EV charging stations and management systems like Charge Star, ChargePoint, Tritium, or NRMA, energy consumption and cost data will become increasingly available to users and enable better reporting of EV energy demand.

Nonetheless, it is likely that the source of some of your offsite EV energy use will be unknown, and to support credible emissions/clean energy claims it may be necessary to make reasonable estimates of energy use.

Greening your offsite EV electricity use

Even if you estimate or calculate your EV energy consumption from external charging, do you know if the electricity came from a renewable energy source or just from the mix of generation in the grid?

For example, Tesla has a global policy that where possible they will use 100% renewable power for their supercharger installations, but this will likely happen over time and may not apply to all chargers at this time.

The charging stations of Queensland’s Electric Super Highway (for travel between Cairns and Coolangatta) use green energy either through direct green energy credits or offsets.

Similarly, if you are charging at another business that sources all or most of its electricity from renewables via rooftop and/or corporate PPAs (e.g. RE100 companies such as IKEA, CBA, Mars and PwC), then its source may be partially or wholly renewable.

Even at your employees’ homes electricity for charging may come from both grid and rooftop solar, or employees may purchase GreenPower® or carbon-neutral electricity. In short, it is currently very difficult to apportion the kind of energy that is being used to charge vehicles offsite.

Apply a cautious approach

Offsite charging presents challenges when you are looking to support claims for ’zero emissions’ for your EV fleet. A cautious approach would use one of the methods outlined above to offset emissions for all of your estimated electricity consumption.

100% Renewables can help with evaluating these options for you. Please contact Barbara or Patrick for further information.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Three considerations if making ‘zero emissions’ claims for your electric vehicles [Part 2]

Zero emissions for your electric vehicle
Zero emissions for your electric vehicle

This blog post has been updated in Dec 19 to reflect the re-branding of NCOS to ‘Climate Active’.

In our previous blog post, we analysed the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. We distinguished between manufacturing emissions, emissions during the operations of the electric vehicle and emissions at the end-of-life. In this blog post, we will present three considerations for making zero-emissions claims for your electric vehicles.

Introduction

With increasing choices of electric vehicles and prices decreasing, more organisations are considering buying or have already purchased electric vehicles. By switching your passenger fleet to electric vehicles, you have the potential to contribute to a reduction in transport emissions, with passenger vehicles making up 8% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

We sometimes hear the claim that electric vehicles are ‘emissions-free’, or ‘zero emissions’, but this is not necessarily the case. In this blog post, we look at some things to consider if you are looking to make this claim in your communication materials.

Three considerations for ‘zero-emissions’ claims

With all the good environmental work you are undertaking, it is important to make the right claims about your efforts. Failing to do so may cause reputational damage. The most notable recent example was, of course, Volkswagen in 2015 with the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, which led to vehicle recalls, fines, loss of reputation and the resignation of senior executives.

What this means for your organisation is that you need to be careful about your environmental claims – the more precise your claims, the lower your reputational risk.

Consideration #1 – Thinking that because it is an electric vehicle, it will be ‘clean’

If you have purchased or are considering purchasing electric vehicles for your organisation’s fleet, you are reducing petroleum emissions. However, it is quite possible that you will charge your electric vehicles from the grid. As we discussed in our previous EV article, the grid is a mixture of fossil fuels and renewables. Whether this mix leans more towards renewable energy depends on what state you are charging your EV in.

Electric cars are only as clean as their energy supply. To make sure you are not replacing oil with coal and gas, you need to make a conscious choice to change the source of energy to emissions-free electricity.

Our next blog post will show you how you can change to emissions-free electricity.

Consideration #2 – Emissions from the manufacturing of electric vehicles

A common counterclaim to the view that electric vehicles are clean or will reduce emissions is that higher greenhouse gas emissions are created during the manufacture of electric vehicles, mainly due to the batteries that are being used.

For buyers of electric vehicles, one thing this highlights is the importance of clearly defining your claim – i.e. limiting claims to operational emissions rather than leaving claims open for others to query or challenge in this way.

In relation to embedded emissions, some car manufacturers have started to address this problem by changing the production of electric vehicles towards being carbon neutral and 100% renewable.

For example, Volkswagen has plans to make the production of its upcoming I.D. Neo hatchback carbon neutral to save one million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. They are targeting a carbon reduction across the whole lifecycle, including the sourcing of raw materials and batteries, to recycling at the end of life.

Because of the 2015 scandal, VW is also making sure that over the coming years its suppliers use renewable energy where possible to make their claim as credible as possible. To get the carbon footprint to zero, VW will purchase carbon offsets.

Another example is BMW i’s manufacturing plant in Leipzig, which is powered from 100% renewables. Daimler plans that from 2022, all its Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plants will be 100% renewable.

If your business is looking to purchase electric vehicles it is recommended you consider the upstream emissions embedded in the vehicle manufacture, and not just whether they will be powered with renewable energy during their use phase.

Consideration #3 – Extended reporting of the carbon footprint of electric vehicles in future

When organisations first started to report under Australia’s Climate Active, it was enough to report on Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and to include a limited set of supply chain emissions from waste, paper consumption and air travel. Over time, the acceptable boundary for Scope 3 emissions has shifted to include more embedded emission sources, like IT equipment, food and catering, telecommunications, advertising, cleaning services, legal fees or stationery.

While currently, it is a requirement to only report on the operational emissions of vehicles, in future you may be required to report on embedded emissions as well.

What claims CAN you make?

This blog post looked at things you should consider when making environmental claims about your electric vehicle. In the next blog post, we will be looking at how you can safely claim ‘zero emissions’ for the operations of your electric vehicles without incurring the risk of misleading the market.

If you need help with how your EV strategy fits in with your organisation’s energy strategy, please talk to  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.”

Appendix: Emissions from Australia’s transport sector

As per the Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2018, in FY17/18, we emitted 555.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions in Australia, excluding LULUCF[1]. Of these, electricity production is responsible for 33% of our emissions, while the transport sector is responsible for 18%.

Breaking down the transport sector emissions further, we can see that cars are responsible for 8% of our overall emissions. This may not sound much, but emissions are four times larger than those from domestic aviation, and emissions from the transport sector are growing fast.

Australia's transport emissions
Australia’s transport emissions

By converting our existing car fleet to electric vehicle and running them on 100% renewable energy, we have the potential to eliminate 8% or roughly 46 million tonnes from our emissions inventory. By converting light commercial vehicles and buses to electric, we could save even more.

[1] Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) is defined by the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat as a ‘greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct human-induced land use such as settlements and commercial uses, land-use change, and forestry activities.’

The carbon footprint of electric vehicles [embedded, operational and end-of-life emissions] [Part 1]

Many of our clients are considering the purchase of electric vehicles, either as a trial or for replacing part or even all of their existing light fleet. Electric vehicles are touted as one of the solutions to our climate crisis, but are they really emissions free? To analyse this question, we are publishing three blog posts. The first (this one), will focus on the carbon footprint of electric vehicles.

The second article will discuss three considerations when making a ‘zero emissions’ claim for your electric vehicles. The third article in the series will show you strategies for ‘zero emissions’ claims both for ‘onsite and offsite’ charging.

The difference between embedded, operational and end-of-life carbon emissions

Have a look at the following graphic. The emissions are split into embedded, operational and end-of-life emissions – three stages, which roughly follow the lifecycle of a car.

The carbon footprint of Electric Vehicles
The carbon footprint of electric vehicles

1 Embedded carbon emissions in cars

Every human-made object, like a book, clothing, or a car has embedded carbon emissions. Most objects consist of multiple materials that must be obtained from nature, usually from mining.

For a car, you need to mine oil to obtain plastic. You also need to mine other materials like metals. Mining is usually done by burning a lot of diesel.

The constituent materials are then processed and transported (using a lot of diesel) to a factory where the car is put together.

The carbon emissions during the manufacturing process depend on the energy sources that are being used and the energy mix of the grid of the country, area or facility in which the car is produced. The greener the energy that is being used, the fewer emissions in the production process. Ideally, the energy used would be renewable.

From the manufacturing plant, the car needs to be transported to distribution centres, then shipped, then further transported until it ends up in your hands. These upstream transport activities are based on burning diesel.

All processes, from mining to when you use the car, cause carbon emissions – together, these are called ‘embedded’ or ‘embodied’ emissions. From a carbon accounting perspective, embedded emissions are classified as Scope 3.

Both electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicles based on an internal combustion engine (ICE) have embedded emissions. These embedded emissions vary, depending to a large part on where the car is produced, and the source of the energy.

There may be extra emissions involved for the materials and fabrication of lithium-ion batteries; on the other hand, there is no internal combustion engine to produce. If there are extra emissions from the production of electric vehicles, then these are easily offset by the reduced emissions while driving.

2 Operational carbon emissions when driving cars

Operational emissions are generated during the operation of an asset. In the case of a coal-fired power plant, for instance, operational carbon emissions are mostly carbon dioxide, and to a lesser extent nitrous oxide and methane.

In the case of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE) based on fossil fuels, operational carbon emissions are what come out of the tailpipe. Like with a coal-fired power plant, greenhouse gas emissions are mostly carbon dioxide, and to a lesser extent nitrous oxide and methane. However, emissions from ICE cars also include Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Particulate Matter (PM10) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) which cause air pollution.

In the case of an electric vehicle, no emissions are coming out of the tailpipe – EVs don’t even have tailpipes! This means that from a carbon accounting perspective, there are no Scope 1 emissions.

However, just like ICE cars, the electric vehicle must be supplied with energy in order to run. The amount of operational carbon emissions depends on the source of the energy going into the electric vehicle.

The source of the electricity determines how cleanly your electric vehicles run

If your electric vehicles are charged from the grid, it depends on the ‘greenness’ of the grid as to how cleanly your cars are powered. In a country (or a state) that is mostly supplied from renewables, the energy source is cleaner than if the electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas.

For instance, an electric car charged in Costa Rica or Iceland, where practically all electricity is being produced from renewables, is emissions-free from a Scope 2 perspective. In Australia, where about 80% of our electricity comes from fossil fuel sources, it is not as clean to run your electric vehicle.

Having said that, if you charge your car in the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania or South Australia, your cars will run very cleanly.

For more information on greening your EV’s electricity use, please read part 3 of this blog post series.

3 End-of-life carbon emissions

Every asset has its lifetime, and there are emissions associated when a car ends up being scrap metal. Greenhouse gas emissions at the end of life are similar between ICE cars and EVs, with the only difference being the EV battery.

Batteries are troublesome from an environmental perspective, but as technology progresses, EV batteries will last longer. It is also possible to recycle EV batteries and use them for stationary purposes, like battery storage in a home, or indeed for EV charging stations.

An example of an Australia-based company that can recycle lithium batteries is Envirostream. They are able to recycle over 98% of the product and are branching out to PV recycling.

What you need to consider when claiming zero emissions for your electric vehicles

Stay tuned, for in our next blog post we will look at considerations when making claims around the ‘greenness’ of electric vehicles.

100% Renewables are experts in energy and carbon strategies. If you need help with your strategy, please contact Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

 

Allowable ‘offset mechanisms’ for 100% renewable energy and carbon neutral goals

This blog post has been updated in Dec 19 to reflect the re-branding of NCOS to ‘Climate Active’.

In an earlier blog post, we analysed two different targets, carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy. In this blog post, we answer two customer questions about ways to offset typical emission sources, as well as displaying a summary table.

Can you offset your entire carbon footprint by purchasing renewable energy?

The short answer is no. It is possible for 100% of your electricity demand to be met by renewable energy. However, it won’t be possible to reach carbon neutrality solely based on an efficiency and renewables strategy.

This is because renewable electricity purchases can only be used to offset your electricity consumption and not to offset other emission sources like natural gas, diesel or petrol emissions, or supply chain emissions like paper consumption. For these emission sources, carbon offsets may need to be purchased until renewable energy alternatives are widely available.

You can read more about the differences between the energy and carbon footprint in this blog post.

Can you use LGCS to offset the electricity consumption from assets over which you don’t have operational control?

LGCs, or Large-Scale Generation Certificates are Renewable Energy Certificates, which certify that renewable energy has been produced. Every 1 MWh of eligible renewable energy generation creates 1 LGC. You can use LGCs to offset your electricity consumption and claim the renewable energy. You can buy LGCs indirectly by purchasing GreenPower®, by entering into a corporate PPA or buying LGCs through a broker.

LGCs can be used against your electricity consumption, but they can also be used to offset the downstream electricity consumption from assets over which you don’t have operational control. Examples of this would be the energy consumption of street lights in the case of councils or the energy consumption of an outsourced data centre.

Allowable offset mechanisms per emission scope
Figure 1: Allowable offset mechanisms per emission scope

You can purchase LGCs to cover your own electricity consumption plus additional ones for your outsourced assets and retire them on behalf of your outsourced provider. This decision is particularly important for the size of a potential Power Purchase Agreement.

Offsetting mechanisms for your typical emission sources

The following table helps to clarify which offset mechanism can be used against which emission source using the example of a Climate Active-compliant inventory. It also shows what emissions sources carbon neutrality and achieving 100% renewable energy relate to.

Allowable offset mechanisms for carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy

Emission SourceUsing carbon offsets to ‘offset’Using LGCs (RECs) to ‘offset’Achieve carbon neutralityAchieve 100% renewable energy?
RefrigerantsYesNoYesN/A
Natural GasYesNoYesAchievable only with renewable fuels
Fleet Vehicles DieselYesNoYesAchievable only with renewable fuels
Fleet Vehicles PetrolYesNoYesAchievable only with renewable fuels
Fleet Vehicles EthanolYesNoYesAlready renewable
Fleet Vehicles BiodieselYesNoYesAlready renewable
Fleet Vehicles LPGYesNoYesAchievable only with renewable fuels
ElectricityYesYesYesYes
Electricity (Street Lighting)YesYesYesYes
Electricity consumption base buildingYesYesYesYes
Outsourced electricity consumption (e.g. data centres)YesYesYesYes
Water and sewerYesNoYesOnly if water/sewer provider is powered by renewables
PaperYesNoYesN/A
EquipmentYesNoYesN/A
Food and CateringYesNoYesN/A
PostageYesNoYesN/A
Taxis, Uber and other servicesYesNoYesOnly if third-party organisation has fleet powered by renewables
Employee commuteYesNoYesOnly if all employees’ commute is powered by renewables
Waste to landfillYesNoYesN/A
Green wasteYesNoYesN/A
Air travelYesNoYesOnly if planes are powered by renewables

If you would like to know more about the best strategy for your organisation to offset your emission sources given your unique circumstances, why not have an informal chat with Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.”

Are ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘100% renewable’ the same?

It is not always clear what the targets carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy mean. In this blog, we will define these targets and talk about the difference between your energy and carbon footprint. In one of our next blog posts, we will look at allowable offset mechanisms like RECs/LGCs and carbon offsets.

The difference between your energy and carbon footprint

Your energy footprint relates to your business’ energy consumption. For most organisations, ‘energy’ encompasses not only electricity but also stationary energy and transport fuels. Examples of stationary fuels are natural gas, diesel for generators, and LPG for forklifts. Examples of transport fuels include diesel, petrol, and LPG that power your fleet.

A carbon footprint is the sum of your emission sources, a big part of which is your energy consumption. You can develop a narrow carbon footprint of emissions that happen at your place of business (Scope 1) and the emissions associated with electricity consumption (Scope 2). Alternatively, you can develop a wide carbon footprint which also includes emissions in your supply chain (Scope 3).

A carbon footprint is usually broader than your energy footprint. You can see in Figure 1 that an energy footprint is a subset of a carbon footprint. From a carbon accounting perspective, your energy footprint relates to your Scope 2 emissions and to some of your Scope 1 emissions.

The difference between your energy footprint and carbon footprint and claims for 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality
Figure 1: The difference between your energy footprint and carbon footprint and claims for 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality

What is carbon neutrality?

Carbon neutrality (or zero net emissions) is reached when all emission sources in your defined boundary are zero. This is demonstrated in Figure 1 in the bottom line. Ideally, your defined carbon footprint boundary encompasses as many emission sources as possible so that your claim for carbon neutrality is credible.

You can reach carbon neutrality by:

  1. Reducing your emissions onsite through energy efficiency or by installing solar PV
  2. Building or purchasing renewables offsite, and by
  3. Offsetting the rest of your emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets

For further information on these three categories, you can read our blogs on the carbon management hierarchy, compare the value of onsite and offsite solar, and installing solar via onsite PPAs.

What is 100% renewable energy?

You are 100% renewable when the amount of renewable energy produced is equal to or more than what is consumed. In most cases, people associate only electricity with ‘100% renewable’. However, as you can see in Figure 1 ‘energy’ can encompass stationary and transport fuels as well. So, to be truly 100% renewable, you would have to include these fuels. While it is relatively straightforward to reach 100% renewable electricity, it is more difficult to achieve 100% renewable energy for stationary and transport fuels.

To avoid doubt if your real objective is to green your electricity supply, you can define your target to be ‘100% renewable electricity’. You can reach this goal by:

  1. Implementing onsite solar PV
  2. Building your own mid-scale solar farm or solar/wind farm in partnership with others
  3. Buying renewables (e.g., through a corporate Power Purchase Agreement)

For further information, you can read our Guide on ‘How to achieve 100% renewable energy’ or buy Barbara’s book ‘Energy Unlimited – Four Steps to 100% Renewable Energy’. Signed copies can be purchased here, and the ebook version is available from reputable bookstores.

Conclusion

Carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy are two different targets. It is easier to reach ‘carbon neutrality’ than to reach ‘100% renewable energy’, especially if the boundary for energy encompasses both electricity, natural gas and transport fuels. However, to be a leader in climate change, your organisation should also strive towards a renewable energy target as your impact will be much greater.

It is possible to reach 100% renewable energy AND carbon neutrality. Microsoft has been achieving both since 2014. You can also pursue both targets in a staged approach. As an example, you could aim for 100% renewable electricity in the first instance, followed by carbon neutrality in the medium term, followed by 100% renewable energy in the long run.

If you have specific questions about defining a target that works for your organisation, or if you would like us to develop a pathway to your sustainability goal, please have a chat with Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.”