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Carbon countdown

Pressure is mounting on businesses to make the transition to zero carbon, but Graham Oxley, MD of Energy with Services at ENGIE, says the road to carbon neutrality is far from straightforward

Many organisations are fragmented, with different departments responsible for facilities, operations, energy, logistics and other factors that impact their carbon footprint. Achieving zero carbon status requires a coordinated, determined approach from every area of the organisation, covering every aspect of its operations – and facilities managers have a leading role to play in integrating the efforts of all involved.

The pressure to reduce carbon emissions is coming from many directions. The government has set a net zero carbon target for the UK by 2050. Businesses will have a major part to play in achieving this target. That means progress towards carbon reduction is likely to become increasingly regulated as the deadline approaches and the government needs to incentivise effective actions. Businesses will need to anticipate and adapt to these new regulations.

Organisations also face pressure to cut carbon from their own shareholders, as well as customers and the wider public. Employees today expect their employers to take safeguarding the environment seriously. That means carbon reduction policies could affect an organisation’s ability to attract the best new talent.

Pressure for climate action also comes from supply chains. Globally, organisations want to work with suppliers and partners who share their principles. Those that fail to take action on carbon reduction are likely to find it difficult to participate in the increasingly connected and environmentally conscious supply chains of tomorrow.

There are, of course, many business benefits in transitioning to a zero carbon model, from improved operational and energy efficiency to greater resource optimisation and cost reductions – but organisations face many barriers.

These include time pressures, everyday business priorities and external uncertainties, including the UK’s exit from the EU. Access to funding to support the process, including investment in low-carbon technology, is another significant barrier, alongside access to the expertise required to identify and implement the most effective measures.

Facilities managers have an opportunity to lead the way in creating zero carbon businesses, by coordinating the efforts of all sites, departments and individuals across their organisations to maximise opportunities for sustainable carbon reduction.

To understand what zero carbon would look like for your organisation, it’s essential to take a holistic view of your organisation’s operations. A good starting point is an initial carbon assessment. This should identify the origins of all carbon emissions in your organisation.

Any carbon reduction programme will rely heavily on reducing energy usage. Facilities and energy managers need to work together to assess how much energy the business is consuming, when and where it is being consumed, and where efficiencies can be made. Accurately targeting energy efficiency requires a clear view of all energy data, and sophisticated energy management software can help to analyse this data and identify opportunities for improvements.

In many cases, energy use can be reduced by tweaking processes, altering temperature and control settings, modifying equipment set-points and adjusting timings. Implementing smart building systems can also help to automate many of these controls, and to manage all building assets for optimum efficiency.

In addition, existing assets may need to be converted into more energy-efficient alternatives, or investments made in new low-carbon equipment.

After making the best use of the energy consumed in your organisation, the next step is to consider where that energy comes from. Sourcing electricity from renewable generators is an effective way to reduce the carbon emissions. Corporate power purchase agreements enable you to secure a direct supply agreement with a specific renewable generator, enabling you to demonstrate exactly where your energy is coming from.

Another option is self-generation. Installing wind or solar generation assets on site provides a direct source of renewable power. Installing batteries on site to store surplus electricity and provide back-up power can further reduce your need for energy from the grid.

Migrating your company fleet to electric vehicles would be a significant step towards decarbonisation. Installing charge points on site, connected to renewable power supplies, would make this switch a fully sustainable solution.

It’s likely that reaching zero carbon status will require a combination of all of these measures. It’s essential to achieve the correct balance of options for your organisation. FMs will need to work closely with other departments to integrate efforts throughout the business. Eliminating carbon needs to be a prominent consideration in every decision taken, whether it relates to energy, water and waste management, or operational, logistical or commercial activities.

For an organisation to remain truly sustainable, management systems and processes will also need to be reviewed continually to ensure they remain effective. It can be challenging for facilities managers to juggle all of their existing responsibilities with the need to fulfil zero carbon priorities. That’s why the support of a specialist partner is essential, helping to review your entire operations and devising a strategy that works for you.

About Sarah OBeirne

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