A Siemens Christmas Carol - Bah humbug!
While it’s the most wonderful time of the year as businesses wind down and families get together for the Yuletide celebrations, the excesses of the festive season can have a devastating effect on the environment. Energy costs can go through the roof as we use more to keep us warm and fed; resulting in heftier bills and making for a less than Merry Christmas. With the pressures of being more environmentally responsible can UK businesses really have an eco-friendly Christmas without being Scrooges?
Christmas Past and Present
Replace lighting with something smarter
In the office, it generally makes sense to update lighting systems given 46% of an organisation’s operating costs are spent on energy and utilities, with 25 % of the electricity bill for lighting.
Smart lights - LEDs with integrated IoT sensors – have been a real advancement. They can adjust to individual lighting preferences or allow groups of lights to behave in concert with varying levels of brightness, monitor room occupancy and turn off if everyone has left the room, balance artificial light and daylight to give consistent illumination and co-ordinate lighting across defined areas. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity makes them adaptable to future applications and data collection needs.
Smart light applications also extend to space planning, asset tracking, conference room management and hotdesking. Developers that have opened up their APIs allow for easier integration with other third-party systems and applications including location services and spatial analysis.
Better regulation of lighting means businesses can benefit from better control over their energy management and more efficient use of space, based on data collected about room usage.
Steve Loughney of Siemens Smart Infrastructure says: “Not only are you replacing older lights for newer more efficient ones and reducing your bills but you’re also putting lighting (energy) control at your fingertips - future proofing any investments to create an environment that cares. Smarter lights have added health benefits too; staff will have better levels of concentration and motivation plus lower levels of stress.”
Keep warm without costing the earth
Keeping offices warm and ventilated, particularly in ageing draughtier buildings, throughout the winter months can be costly with significant amounts of money wasted. Building Energy Management Systems [BEMS] offer businesses the ability to manage a more stable indoor climate while reducing costs and carbon emissions. BEMs feature a demand-side response operation that can turn heating, cooling or humidity controls up or down as needed while letting predictive analytics bring energy sources back online depending upon the conditions.
Loughney, Siemens Smart Infrastructure adds: “Maintaining a comfortable work environment doesn’t always mean having to change the thermostat, or opening and closing windows. BEMS help businesses to understand how their environment is performing and allows managers to control and adjust systems to optimise performance and comfort plus they aren’t just for larger or more complex buildings, or multiple sites with a number of buildings as simpler pared-down versions have been developed for smaller needs.”
Over the holiday period, Loughney notes: “Many offices could be vacated with businesses left to leave buildings ‘on’ to maintain a level of warmth and security. There is a fine balance between not wasting energy and protecting a building and some form of environment automation could alleviate issues such as frozen pipes.”
Understand what you are using then make changes
With the government legally bound to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 UK businesses have a responsibility to help reach some of that ambition. The first and most important step is to understand how much energy is being used. An audit of current energy usage details how a business can reduce its total energy consumption so it can lower costs and improve its carbon footprint.
Capturing the right data and its correct application is driving digitalisation. Analysis of information from the past reveals how well buildings and equipment have been performing making decisions smarter when identifying or optimising big energy users, adopting energy procurement strategies or building business cases for on-site power generation.
ESOS, applicable to large businesses (over 250 employees or turnover of more than €250 million), was introduced to help organisations identify measures that could help them become more energy efficient and to promote sustainability. Energy-saving measures could include driving down energy consumption to reduce costs and environmental impact, creating a more sustainable energy mix or storing and generating energy on site to reduce the reliance on the grid and procuring energy at the best price. The Phase 2 deadline passed on 5th December 2019 and ESOS 3 commences shortly after Christmas.
Building operators that want to phase in more expensive improvements with financial support can turn to Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) - a financing instrument that can fund and fast track large scale energy improvement projects. EPC absorbs the upfront capital costs of any energy-saving measures against the expected energy-consumption savings.
On financing energy-saving projects, Mark McLoughlin, Siemens Industries and Markets , Siemens Financial Services (UK) adds “Expert financiers are able to offer customised finance packages, tailored to fit a business’ particular circumstances and cash flow needs, which intelligently spread the cost over an agreed financing period, and flex to ensure that monthly finance payments align with expected benefits gained over time. This removes the need for a large initial outlay, thereby increasing the funds available for other expenditures.”
Loughney of Siemens Smart Infrastructure continues: “With a raft of measures readily available businesses can use energy more efficiently to improve their environmental credentials. We all have a responsibility to learn from the past and lessen our environmental impact so the future yet to come remains sustainable. Actions, no matter how small, make a difference and you certainly won’t have to be a Scrooge to be eco-friendly this Christmas or at any other time.”
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