Finding the right balance when achieving net zero


Reaching net zero emissions is, for many organisations, a significant challenge. How to you begin to approach such a task? Alan Barber, director of Salvis outlines his approach to Tim McManan-Smith about being pragmatic about investment cycles and cash available and being aware of the non-energy benefits that will be realised.

Where do you start with a complete decarbonisation plan? The inherent collaborative nature of many solutions will require the right catalysts to ensure rapid and effective implementation. Much of the basic structure will be familiar to those working in energy. Determining a baseline, investigating viable options and then implementing and measuring the impact.

“Like most energy management projects, you have to start with the data”, says Alan Barber, director, Salvis.” From there, once we understand the current demand and a picture of the wider estate, we can offer a menu of retrofit options that will cumulatively reduce the organisations energy consumption and reduce its carbon footprint.”

When formulating strategies to achieve net zero there is the magnitude of the projects involved and the timescale to take into account. We have two business cycles to achieve net zero. “For many users, such as hospitals, looking at major upgrades it is important to fully review alternative technologies to the normal gas fired boilers and CHP. However, the reality in many cases is that the technology and economics are not quite there yet. It may be technologically possible to replace a gas heating system with a heat pump, but the capital cost could be significant, and a balance is needed to identify the right solutions along the journey.”

Salvis has been been working with West Berkshire Council to carry out a feasibility study on how to reduce the carbon emissions of three schools and a community building. Investigations showed that it would be cost prohibitive to entirely replace the existing gas boilers and radiators to install a heat pump.

“Salvis designed a hybrid system where the primary heating is provided by an air source heat pump and gas boilers are used to contribute towards the heating in periods of cold weather”, says Barber. “The increase in electrical demand from the heat pump is balanced by installing solar PV and LED lighting throughout, and usage is reduced further by introducing a new BMS and localised controls. The packaged scheme was subsequently approved for grant funding under the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.”

Developing the zero carbon strategy is also an excellent opportunity to improve the working environment of buildings and the health and wellbeing of occupants. A well designed solution can transform buildings by improving the lighting levels, temperature and ventilation while at the same time reducing operational costs and carbon emissions. There is no silver bullet when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving building services and it is likely that a package of solutions will be required which further emphasises the importance of engineering design.

Once a building is operating with the minimum energy and has procedures in place to ensure it stays that way it is then time to design in and size onsite generation and storage to meet that demand.

A key difference in reporting an organisation’s carbon emissions is the requirement to report indirect supply chain emissions in addition to direct emissions under a company’s control. This is in contrast to existing schemes such as ESOS, SECR and climate change agreements. Emissions are broken down into three categories; Scope 1, 2 and 3 with Scope 3 presenting the greatest challenge and change to existing reporting procedures.

Scope 1 – Direct Emissions from organisation’s activities under its control such as heating and fleet vehicles.

Scope 2 – Indirect Emissions from electricity, heat or steam purchased by an organisation.

Scope 3 – Other Indirect Emissions that occur from sources that an organisation does not own or control. These are sometimes referred to as value chain emissions and cover emissions associated with both up and downstream products and services that are used.

Scope 3 emissions include items such as business travel, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity, the extraction and production of procured materials and fuels, waste disposal, water, outsourced activities.

The net zero carbon strategy can map this journey out for an organisation and identify the calculated carbon footprint by the target year after all reasonable interventions have been implemented to show the unavoidable emissions that are still emitted. These hard to reduce emissions can be offset through methods such as tree planting schemes and it is important to understand what the residual carbon footprint is forecast to be so the carbon sequestration programme can be planned to align with the net zero carbon target year.


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