Net zero has quickly risen to the top of the corporate agenda. Our team speaks regularly to C-suite executives on how to deal with the complexities and risks of creating a decarbonisation programme. A number of questions and issues come up regularly when we talk to the people charged with implementing net zero strategy in organisations of all sizes.
In this article we will give a brief overview of the most frequently asked questions that we come across. Whether you are just starting out on your net zero journey or have a full road map with delivery stages, these answers may help you to implement your own net zero plan. Corporate priorities will differ; saving money versus tonnes of carbon saved or energy resilience. Running different scenarios may provide you with key information in deciding on your net zero strategy. There is no “one-size fits all” solution. For instance, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) or onsite solar are often quick wins, but may or may not be the optimal route for your company. A platform that lets you perform advanced data-led analyses can be the best way to assess and compare likely outcomes. Looking at the top frequently asked questions from management in companies may offer some insight into the best approach that your company should take.
Here, in our first instalment, we review the first 7 FAQs with a focus on data collection and onboarding questions.
If I don't want to use a consulting firm or a sustainability specialist, what is the best way to reduce the time and effort I need to go through on the road to net zero?
Knowing what data you need and how you can get access to it is key here. Typically this will come from a number of different sources in the company. Electricity purchased - the information on consumption and mix of fuels to produce this electricity on the grid will come from your electricity provider. The onboarding of the metered data to your net zero platform can be automated in most cases making the calculation straightforward. For goods and services purchased from suppliers; a starting point here will usually be the spend data from your accounting or ERP system. Picking the appropriate emission conversion factors will give you a calculation of your Scope 3 emissions. Most companies look to go to supplier-specific calculations as soon as is feasible and your platform should cater for both scenarios. Special consideration should also be given to business travel and remote working. For Scope 1, the amount of on-site fuel consumed by way of petrol, diesel and gas can be collected from meters or billing information.
Reporting and collecting data is very time-consuming. What can we do to automate it?
Collecting data; any good platform will have a variety of methods of onboarding data with the more advanced ones allowing for real-time updates using APIs to onboard the data. For more complex situations you may want to engage with the consulting section of your software provider who can provide a more bespoke solution using the platform. At NeuerEnergy we can support the onboarding of data in a variety of ways. Our preferred approach is API integration with internal and external systems. This is where we automatically populate your data onto the platform through a connection with a diverse range of systems such as ERP (SAP, Oracle), BMS, Smart Meters, and external energy suppliers.
We can also support onboarding through Robotic Automation, Data Files such as excel and Manual Data Forms.
How do we go about automating different types of data onto the platform in their various sources and formats e.g. metres, ERP systems etc.?
Most platforms can onboard data in a variety of different formats with the standard being direct entry through forms or importing of CSV files to the system. At Neuerenergy, we also offer the mass upload of data through spreadsheets and PDFs along with the automation of data through API integration for real-time or near real-time updating.
Our suppliers overseas are resistant to sharing their consumption data or any carbon calculations. How do we deal with this?
The ideal time to do this is when your supply contract comes up for renewal or renegotiation. We encourage clients to develop criteria for assessing suppliers which extends beyond just price. Carbon footprint is one element but also factors such as the risk of discontinuity due to supply chain shocks should be considered. Cheaper is not always better if your production is at risk of being disrupted. The so-called Golden Screw where the last critical item is holding up the whole production line. We have seen in the last few years with pandemics, outbreak of wars and natural disasters these scenarios are not just hypothetical but need to be planned for. Investors and customers increasingly want to know that you have properly prepared for business continuity in the event of any unwelcome surprises.
All that being said, you may still have to cater for the absence of specific supplier data to calculate CO2 emissions. This is where the use of appropriate emission factors comes into play. The choice of whether to use industry or sector-specific emission conversion factors versus country or market-specific factors will have to be made depending on each company’s individual circumstances. The concept of materiality comes into play when assessing which set of conversion factors to choose from. All these factors are based on averages in the industry or market may be used provided they do not differ materially in their calculation from the actual supplier-specific emissions. More guidance on this can be found on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol website (https://ghgprotocol.org/) or from your net zero advisors.
Some buildings are leased and have rent and energy included. Can we do the calculations on CO2 emissions for those?
Yes. We can calculate emissions based on the cost of the energy you are charged. Equally, we can estimate your actual energy consumption based on factors like square footage of the building, utilities, sector and equipment on sites. Finally, we can facilitate the installation of technology solutions that monitor energy consumption. These IOT (Internet of Things) and Smart Meter devices can give individual readings on consumption of energy at a machine or location basis and are becoming increasingly popular. Remember what gets measured gets done and providing detailed information on performance can lead to significant behavioural changes. Energy reduction is always the first pillar in the net zero journey.
A good platform can suggest improvements to both technologies on-site, but also the staff using the building or equipment. A platform like NeuerEnergy Net Zero can provide alert-based reporting when trends in usage data start to shift into bad behaviours. An example might be leaving equipment on after traditional working hours.
How long does it typically take to onboard a client's data onto a Sustainability platform?
That can vary depending on the complexity of the data, the size of the business, and the features of the platform that are being used. Where historical data has already been collected this can be loaded directly onto the system relatively quickly. Where data has not been collected we will perform a survey to locate the data that is needed for onboarding. At NeuerEnergy, we typically onboard our customers' data in stages across a few weeks and support them along the way.
Do we need sub-metering or IoT to measure the efficiency of various processes and machines?
Data is fundamental to knowing the efficiency of technologies and machinery.
If the equipment you are reviewing is already energy efficient or uses low electricity then it’s unlikely to require sub-metering. If the equipment is business critical and a high user of power, then a low-cost metering or IoT solution certainly helps.
Collecting and automating data is the first step to robust decision-making for optimised net zero pathways. This is the basis for not only efficient carbon calculation and reporting but also scenario analysis. Comparing potential impacts of the multitude of technical carbon mitigation solutions available, as well as the rest of your journey, procuring and management of those solutions.
Contact us if you have your own questions on how our digital SaaS platform can transform the net zero journey for organisations of all sizes at any stage to decarbonisation.