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7,000 businesses compelled to report energy use and potential energy saving strategies

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Cutting energy consumption is clearly concentrating government minds, as more than 7,000 businesses will soon be compelled to produce detailed reports on energy use or face fines.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is finalising the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) to be announced in next couple of weeks.

Add to this the coalition’s very public promotion and support for energy savings strategies in the public sector, together with the Energy Act’s impending energy efficiency imperatives, and the sustainability agenda moves even further to centre stage.

All these reinforce the reasons why SaveMoneyCutCarbon is here, growing and delivering sustainable energy saving strategies across the widest range of businesses. It should be crystal clear now that better energy-use management makes compelling business sense.

ESOS is the UK’s response to a new energy efficiency directive from the European Union. The aim is to help the EU meet its target of reducing energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Currently, the EU as a whole is ahead of carbon emissions reductions targets, unlike Britain so the country needs to shift up a couple of gears pronto – and six years is no time at all.

Companies with more than 250 employees, a turnover of more than £41.5m or an annual balance sheet total of more than £35m will now be affected, that’s around 10 times more than previously.

DECC is announcing the details sometime in June but, in outline, businesses will have to provide:

– A review of the total energy use and energy efficiency
– Energy use per employee, focusing on key buildings, industrial operations and transport activities
– Clear information on potential savings, identifying and quantifying cost effective energy savings opportunities
– Wherever practical these should be based on life cycle assessment not simple payback periods
– Identification of an approved ESOS assessor (either an in-house expert or an external consultant) to conduct the assessment

ESOS could deliver energy savings of nearly £2 billion from 2015, which is why the scheme is being seen in a more positive, financially-driven light than the current frameworks such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, Mandatory Carbon Reporting rules and Climate Change Levy.

DECC advises that compliance with the rules will cost just a fraction of the energy savings on offer. The estimated £19m cost to businesses would be balanced by overall savings of £1.9 billion between next year and 2030.

Running the numbers, we think the potential savings should be much larger. DECC has taken a conservative approach in its calculations, which is understandable, given the record of not achieving energy saving, carbon reduction targets. DECC estimates that only 6% of energy saving recommendations identified by companies will be picked up and turned into real action.

In our experience, companies that are shown substantial savings that are sustainable over the longer period grab the opportunity with both hands so the savings could easily be three times the government figure.

DECC is expected to unveil a list of approved ESOS assessors to be managed by the Environment Agency – a flood of applicants is expected (sorry!).

But the good news is that companies which have an energy manager would not need to hire external auditors if they can prove that they have completed the job in-house. That will be a wake-up call for those companies frozen in the glare of complex sustainability strategies, or simply not that bothered.

It also seems certain that DECC will accept other forms of certification such as the Carbon Trust Standard and ISO 50001 energy management standard, as long as these cover 90 per cent of the business operations as required by the legislation.

The Carbon Trust estimates that around 500 Carbon Trust Standard bearers will be large companies that would be caught up by ESOS, while CRC data suggests that 4,400 to 6,400 large enterprises are already reporting on their energy use, meaning the new ESOS regulations will not represent a huge step up in compliance requirements for those firms that are already taking steps to manage energy use.

And Jon Williams, head of CSR and sustainability at Achilles, the organisation which operates the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme, advised SME Web, “The ESOS scheme is already being seen by businesses as a real ‘double-edged sword’. Many businesses don’t measure and record their energy use and face a big administrative burden unless they get external support.

However, for those not already focused on carbon reduction and energy efficiency, ESOS compliance represents short-term pain for long-term gain. Ultimately, this is a fantastic opportunity for companies to save thousands of pounds on their energy bills while communicating positive messages on their achievements.”

We’d go further – beyond rapid payback timescales to whole lifecycle perspectives – and say that companies which grasp the commercial benefits of going green by cutting energy and water consumption will be the ones most likely to survive and thrive in the long-term.

Mark Sait is managing director of energy efficiency specialists SaveMoneyCutCarbon.

Photo: Chris RubberDragon via Flickr

Further reading:

Green deal changes put pressure on carbon reduction

Commercial property sector faces £29bn green refurbishment bill

Pressure on energy bills rises as national renewable power policy gets a makeover

The real green deal: bringing energy, water and waste under control

Why energy saving, cutting bills and reducing carbon footprint will stay centre stage

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon, a uniquely positioned full-service efficiency partner to organisations and homes that want to reduce energy, water and carbon to improve sustainability. Clients include major hospitality groups, property ownership groups, distribution centres, theme parks and corporate offices as well as SMEs and private residences.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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