Decarbonisation day was the topic of the agenda on day six of Cop27 on the 11th November. Starting the day was the gloomy release of the Global Carbon Project Report concluding that 2022 was the highest ever carbon emitting year. So how does the UK measure up in decarbonising the planet and how can businesses make an impact?
In 2021, Boris Johnson set a target for all of the UK's electricity to come from clean sources by 2035. With renewable sources such as wind and solar power supply increasing four-fold on a decade ago, 45.5% of UK electricity came from low carbon sources in 2021. This is a huge step forward for the UK but with much of the country's electricity still coming from fossil fuels all of which are subsequently used to generate power in homes and businesses, there is still a long way to go.
So exactly how can businesses support the transition to net zero?
When it comes to carbon emissions you’ll often see the terminology Greenhouse Gas Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Scope 2 emissions are those that a company causes indirectly through purchasing and using energy, which is what this article focuses on today.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are chemicals that cause global warming and climate change, such as carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants. The focus is often on carbon emissions as these make up a significant proportion of global GHG emissions and so have a huge effect on the health of our planet.
Human sources of carbon emissions come from activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas to produce electricity.
One of the simplest ways to understand the scope 2 carbon emissions a business emits is to understand where the energy comes from, your location based emissions.
Let's use the example of an office block, home to computers, laptops, monitors, LED lighting, photocopiers and printers. If it is a sunny morning and the office block has a solar panel on the roof, the CO2 from using electricity is almost zero, congratulations!
Meanwhile, if the only thing generating electricity on the grid is a gas turbine, the power to the office is much more dirty, and that powerpoint being presented might end up emitting several kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere.
In reality, there is never just one source of electricity on the grid and so the carbon intensity of your electricity, i.e. how clean or dirty your power is, will depend what share of the electricity has been produced by renewable technologies (e.g. wind and solar) and what share has been produced by fossil fuels (e.g. gas and coal).
Many people often assume the power grid is a lake: where all power is mixed equally and it’s impossible to trace back to the source of a single drop.
In fact, that’s not quite accurate: the power grid is made up of many nodes and branches along which power is continually injected and removed as generators like coal, gas and wind inject power into the system and consumers take power out. The make-up of this power is called the fuel mix and it is different for every branch and node of the electricity grid.
At Advanced Infrastructure, we calculate carbon intensity (a measure of how much CO2 emissions are produced per kWh of electricity consumed) at thousands of points in the grid using half hourly data. This gives real time, location specific, carbon intensity. We use power flow modelling to analyse the activity through the grid nodes and branches and calculate the fuel mix for every half-hourly of the day across the UK electricity grid.
It is from that fuel mix we calculate the carbon emissions associated with its generation.
The type of clean and dirty energy that is produced changes dramatically throughout the day (as the sun shines and the wind blows) and across the country (depending on what generation is nearby) - just have a look!
In the video below, we used thousands of data points to calculate the gCO2/kWh for 8000 points in the grid for every half hour of the day over a 24 hour period in the UK on one day in August. Green shows clean electricity, and red shows dirty electricity.
Knowing how clean or dirty your electricity is enables businesses and consumers to make sustainable choices, emit less carbon and move towards Net Zero.
Currently the majority of companies use retrospective annualised accounting methods that use average national annual emission factors. That means they cannot reduce their location based emissions, as they cannot see when electricity is clean or dirty in their region. This is only possible with Granular Data.
Using bad carbon data means most organisations miss-report scope 2 emissions by up to 40%. You could be unintentionally greenwashing, wasting money and making bad energy decisions right now, as actionable opportunities are hidden!
As COP27 draws to a close this week, the key takeaway message for businesses committed to decarbonising their operations is ultimately understanding their energy data.
Without being able to measure it, you can’t improve it. Understanding exactly where and when your buildings are emitting carbon is the vital first step in becoming more efficient and reducing your carbon impact.
At Advanced Infrastructure, we calculate carbon intensity at thousands of points in the grid every half hourly data, in the UK and the EU. This gives real time, location specific, carbon intensity.
Granular data allows more targeted planning and strategies seeing greater sustainability returns on the same budget.
Constantly validated and checked, our models are regularly updated to provide the highest accuracy possible with industry leading granularity within the industry. More granular data allows accurate future planning and puts you ahead of the curve when the price of offsetting hugely increases due to scarcity.
Accurate data will protect you from increasingly damaging greenwashing claims and give greater have confidence in published sustainability data. This data allows you to Attract ESG investors and benefit from increased public image.