Insight from Siemens: Delivering world-class sustainable buildings
By Mark McLoughlin, Siemens Industries and Markets
With mounting public pressure and increasing legislation placed on businesses to reduce their carbon footprints commercial building operators are looking for more creative options to help them reach their sustainability goals.
To help fast track energy improvement projects many go the route of Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) and invite energy service companies in to develop, design, build and potentially, finance energy-saving projects. EPCs are sold on the premise of zero-upfront costs with the savings made on energy consumption offset by the cost of installing any conservation measures. Limited access to funds or expertise often stifle projects at an early stage but EPCs can unlock cash reserves for improvement programmes. EPC use has been growing and numerous projects have been successfully delivered across a range of building types and sectors. There is growing interest among retail, industrial, airports and other markets across both public and private sectors.
Ageing buildings in both the public and private sector, either through fabric or design, waste significant amounts of money. Typically, 46% of an organisation’s operating costs is spent on energy and utilities with approximately 33% of that expended on wasted-energy.
To start the process of improving energy performance a comprehensive audit about an organisation’s consumption is undertaken to provide the insight to help plan the modernisation works. Good quality information, listing any historical or future issues, forms the bedrock of planning. Certain buildings may have known problems that aren’t apparent during a site visit i.e. excessive heating or cooling faults that are only present at certain times of the day or year. Knowing these peculiarities provides the opportunity to factor in measures to improve comfort levels for occupants etc. Altering the use of a building in the future would also affect a project such as the planned transfer of people or machinery to area building a year or so down the line.
Existing energy and water usage also play a critical part in the analysis stage. Data, stretching back a number of years, will help in developing a robust business case that would include an outline of the conservation measures, costs and quantifiable savings and energy consumption expected. Key performance targets could be set for minimum payback periods [e.g. 10, 15 or 20 years], compensating for inflation or loan interest/charges, CO2 savings or the generation of renewable energy sources. An Investment Grade Plan (IGP) takes the EPC onto the next stage and provides the necessary groundwork to add more detail to the plan.
To ensure an EPC a business has signed up to is effectively delivering the energy savings expected measurement and verification takes place. Generated energy is relatively straightforward to measure but energy reduction can be much harder to both quantify and control. If there was a particularly harsh winter or hotter-than-average summer then this would greatly affect the demand for both gas and electricity in air-conditioned buildings. Ongoing calculations within the EPC would need to compensate for any seasonal changes. Additionally, more advanced metering may have to be deployed to gain a better picture of the savings.
EPCs provide businesses with access to the newest technologies and expertise across the entire spectrum of energy management. ISO 9001: 2008 accredited improvements include HVAC and lighting management, renewable or storage energy opportunities, retrofit and upgrade/replacement, smart IoT deployments to energy purchasing strategies and water efficiency measures.
The UK is already legally bound by the Climate Change Act to reduce emissions 80% by 2050 and with energy costs forecast to rise over the coming years anything organisations can do to reduce usage is going to have a positive impact on their finances. EPCs are an option that many businesses should consider. Not only will businesses help the environment but they will also help deliver sustainable environments built for future generations.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere