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How to get to grips with your carbon footprint and invest to reduce it.

OK be honest now, do you really understand what your carbon footprint is? Most of the people we speak with day-to-day don’t really know what it is let alone how to reduce it. That’s not their fault – it’s confusing.

The term ‘Carbon Footprint’ is broad. Until now, it is too broad to fully understand how to cut it.

Businesses up and down the country want to cut the negative effects they have on the environment, but most struggle to understand how to do it from their operations. In this article we’ll explore one way to address this challenge by having an appropriate investment strategy.

Having an investment strategy in either tools, systems or technology is vital to making sure that the business continues to grow all whilst cutting its carbon footprint. 

All investments need a measure of success or outcome, with most mapped to how a technology can perform for your environment.

What on earth is a Carbon Footprint anyway?

Let’s start by defining what we mean by carbon footprint. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.”

This can make calculating your exact carbon footprint extremely difficult, especially as each event can release different levels of gases. So, instead we calculate the combination of all GHG cases to produce a CO2e (Carbon Dioxide equivalent), Including Methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) to name the next two highest proportions are CO2.

The Net Zero challenge

All too often I’ve heard businesses say they can’t decide on what technology is best.

  • “Should I install solar, or solar with batteries?” “Are batteries alone a good idea?”
  • “What about a heat pump, is ground or air source better for me?”
  • “We recycle and cut our single use plastic, but with limited resources I can’t decide what’s next to do!”
  • “I’m thinking of installing an EV charger, and changing my fleet, what do I need to do?”

Sound familiar?

Before we can answer those I must ask you one big question.  Think hard about this question.

Q: Do you really understand what your carbon footprint is?  What the sources of carbon are, and why you are creating them?

A: for the most of you I think you’ll answer yes, but I’m going to challenge that.

Business carbon footprint – the usual suspects

Carbon sources for most businesses are their energy supply, that is their gas and electricity forms the highest proportion of a carbon footprint.  Others are, water supply and water waste, vehicle fleet and business travel.  But, what about your suppliers, and customers who go onto use your products and services repeatedly.

For the vast majority of businesses, the bulk of their carbon footprint comes from the gas and electricity supply. So, let us concentrate on that for a moment.

The current process undertaken by most is to take a whole years energy consumption in kWh and multiply this by the BEIS conversion factor to give a figure of carbon in g/CO2e.  (See here to understand more about this).

Where to start with reducing your carbon footprint

Let’s, say you want to cut this by 30% this year.

Most will sensibly opt for a solar installation. First, an important step is to map the potential generation against know consumptions to produce a set of outcomes for the investment and as a measure of success.  But this is where many fall foul of using simple models to produce in accurate results for success. 

Typically, a solar system generation model will be done as a full year’s figure of energy. On a long term trajectory, it typically does not take into account the highs of summer and the lows of winter versa the energy demand. On a shorter term the analysis will not look at the early morning and late evening peak requirements, and so the solar system will typically generate outside of your demand needs.

Looking at the energy demand and generation on an hourly or at best half hourly segments will identify those mis matches.  Once that data is known, and proven the power is with you to identify the true size, scaling, and investment in the right amount of carbon cutting technologies required to make the immediate and longer terms reduction in your carbon footprint.

Modelling the benefits, in both cash and carbon will provide your business accountants with the advanced income and expenditure required to take your sustainability to the next stage.

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