SACE 2010 Carbon Footprint Results

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Footprint, Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets, Uncategorized | Posted on 11-05-2011

[Re-posted with permission from SACE]

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy recently underwent a short stint of navel gazing by calculating its annual carbon footprint for the second time, and we took appropriate action to attain carbon neutral certification for 2010. While SACE can still make many improvements, we have taken steps to more accurately measure our carbon footprint than in years past, and are excited to share the results.

SACE’s carbon footprint in 2009 and 2010 was calculated based on Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions. This means we account for the carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases emitted from our direct energy consumption.

Examples of Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions. Source U.S. EPA

For SACE that consists of our biodiesel manufacturingoffices, transportation and accommodations for work-related events, waste, and staff commutes to the office. In 2009, our carbon footprint was 260 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Last year, in 2010, we had a carbon footprint of 200 metric tons of CO2, a significant reduction.

Becoming Carbon Neutral

In 2009 and 2010, SACE reduced our carbon footprint by participating in TVA’s Green Power Switch. Through this program, we purchased five 150 kWh blocks of green power each month.

This totaled 9000 kWh for the year, which offset about half of the electricity consumption from our Knoxville office. The remainder of our carbon emissions were accounted for by purchasing carbon dioxide offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange Registry by Verus Carbon Neutral, the company that we chose to review our carbon footprint and provides us with our annual carbon neutral certification. The Chicago Climate Exchange Registry is a voluntary, for-profit greenhouse gas trading system. Verus Carbon Neutral purchased 100 metric tons of offsets from Wright’s Dairy Farm and 112 metric tons of offsets from Valley Wood Forestry to offset our carbon emissions.

As you can see in the chart below, we have some overlap in our carbon offsets. This is because we erred on the side of caution and purchased a few extra carbon offsets, making SACE a bit carbon negative this year! We also did not count our recycling credit granted by Verus Carbon Neutral, that credit is not shown in the chart below.

This chart shows the actions SACE took to become carbon neutral in 2010.

Based on these actions, Verus Carbon Neutral was able to certify SACE as carbon neutral company in 2010.

Managing our Footprint

As the old adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The first step SACE took in managing its carbon footprint was simply to begin tracking it. While our CO2 emissions from 2009 to 2010 were reduced, the components of our footprint also changed.

This chart compares SACE's carbon emissions from 2009 and 2010

This chart compares SACE’s carbon emissions from 2009 and 2010

As shown in the accompanying chart, our travel emissions were about 50% less in 2010 than in 2009, and our transportation emissions went up by about 50%. This was due to a few different reasons. Our transportation emissions are from the diesel consumed in trucks used in our biodiesel operations. These emissions changed from 2009 to 2010 because we drove our trucks more miles, and we also used different biodiesel/diesel blend levels. Our travel emissions – emissions from transportation and accommodations for work-related events – were reduced partly because of a shift in programmatic priorities, as well as a conscious effort to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions from flying.

Moving forward, we plan to more proactively manage our carbon footprint – now that we have an idea of the amount, and how we are consuming carbon. For context, 200 metric tons of carbon dioxide is the equivalent of the emissions from the annual electricity use of about 22 homes in the United States.

Recently, SACE purchased an office building in Knoxville, which presents many opportunities for reducing our energy consumption (and resulting carbon dioxide emissions) on site. Retrofits on our building to save energy are already underway, including foaming our external walls, installing Solatubes, and upgrading our lighting system. This week, Pioneer Heating and Air Conditioning is beginning to install a vertical loop geothermal system that we anticipate will reduce our cooling and heating electricity consumption by 70%.

We are also looking for ways to improve our data tracking, which may result in a lower carbon footprint simply because we have better information. For example, Verus uses a model that estimates building electricity consumption based on location and building type. The building model assumption for our Knoxville office is 60% higher than our actual energy usage.

Similarly, employees usually attempt to rent fuel-efficient vehicles for work related travel. However, we did not record the miles per gallon, or make of the vehicles, so, to be conservative we used the 2010 vehicle MPG average (27 MPG). This year, we have encouraged employees to record the make and model of their rental vehicles so we can more precisely track gallons of fuel consumed. We hope that by elevating employee’s awareness of how we are consuming carbon, we will also encourage creative solutions to reducing our emissions.

We also have learned that calculating a carbon footprint is still a bit of an art, particularly when you are getting started. We encourage anyone that is tracking their carbon footprint, on their own or with a consultant, to verify the assumptions being made and double-check the final output – as you would with any analysis. Half of the value of calculating a carbon footprint is understanding how and where you consume carbon. We will keep you posted on how we do in 2011!

GHG Emissions Slowly Approaching Zero-Growth

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Neutral, States | Posted on 07-01-2011

With California’s adoption of a cap-and-trade system, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in New England, the Western Climate Initiative and the Midwestern Accord, examining and comparing GHG emission reductions between states and regions can be overwhelming. Here’s a shortened list of the various state and regional GHG reduction programs, including when the programs begin and end and to what extent they reduce emissions (borrowed from pewclimate.org).

Regional (included states and scope of programs can be found here)

RGGI: 10% below 2009 levels by 2019

WCI: 15% below 2005 levels by 2020, begins in 2012

Midwestern Accord: 20% below 2005 levels by 2020, begins in 2012

State-level

CA: 0% below 1990 levels by 2020, cap-and-trade begins in 2012

FL: 0% below 1990 levels by 2025, 80% below 1990 levels by 2050

IL: 0% below 1990 levels by 2020, 60% below 1990 levels by 2050

MA: 25% below 1990 levels by 2020

NJ: 0% below 1990 levels by 2020, 80% below 2006 levels by 2050

NY: 10% below 1990 levels by 2020

These reductions plans are effective enough that even though a few big states (Texas, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania) do not have any plans themselves, the growth of GHG emissions in the US should drop from a .8% annual increase to a .3% increase by 2035. This could be accelerated with a federal cap-and-trade program, more aggressive reduction plans in the aforementioned states or, most likely, more states committing to GHG emissions targets. Eventually we can hit that 0% increase and begin reducing our national emissions below 1990 levels in unexpected time.

Airlines Turn to Carbon Offsets

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Footprint, Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets, Energy Efficiency, Green | Posted on 24-09-2010

The airline industry is committed to achieving carbon neutral growth in a decade, but how are they going to get there? The director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG, an airline lobby) noted three methods: biofuels, fuel efficiency and carbon offsets.

On paper, biofuels are the most effective choice, having the potential to reduce airline emissions by 80%. The primary issue is that the infrastructure is just not capable of replacing a significant fraction of airlines’ fuel demands, and the industry is set on achieving carbon neutral growth in only ten years. While the use of biofuels is attractive in the long-term, ATAG needs a more reliable tool that can cut emissions in the short-term.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set fuel efficiency goals of 1.5% per year through 2020, which is a strong cost-saving measure. But this target is actually a decrease from last year’s annual fuel efficiency goal of 2% over the same time period, and the value could decrease again next year.

The final option is viable in the short- and long-term: carbon offsets. The offset projects are currently available, and there is no need for maintaining arguably unreasonable efficiency goals for the next decade. While biofuel use and fuel efficiency programs will cut both carbon emissions and fuel costs, the director of ATAG has said that the airline industry will “need offsets to help reach the 2020 carbon neutral growth target.”

Fixing the US Economy With Green Building

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Architecture, Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets, EPA, Economy, Education, Energy Efficiency, Green | Posted on 10-09-2010

The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) is arguably the most recognizable green building organization in the U.S. But a recent survey of industry leaders, composed of architects, engineers, and planners, recognized Architecture 2030 as equally effective as USGBC in terms of advancing green building design and construction.1

Architecture 2030 is a non-profit organization founded by Edward Mazria, author of the The Passive Solar Energy Book and founding member of architectural firm Mazria, Inc. Architecture 2030’s goals are based around two ideas: one problem and one opportunity. The problem is that the US building sector is responsible for as much CO2 emissions as the industrial and transportation sectors combined. In other terms, buildings consume ¾ of the nation’s electricity use, a vast majority of which comes from the burning of fossil fuels.2 The opportunity is that 75% of all buildings in 2035 are expected to be either newly constructed or renovated.3 By utilizing green design and a combination of on-site and off-site renewable power generation, Architecture 2030 strives to achieve carbon-neutral newly constructed and renovated buildings by… the year 2030.4

Architecture 2030 accomplishes this objective by focusing on governments, architects, and schools. The organization provides governments with a guide on how to implement the 2030 Challenge with new building codes that can be easily integrated into current ones. With regard to architects and engineers, there is a strong bottom-up approach by having over 20 of the 30 largest architectural firms adopt the 2030 Challenge and carry out the objectives themselves.1 At a more upstream level, Architecture 2030 pursues design schools by altering the academic curriculum as well as achieving a physically carbon-neutral campus.

I had a chance to hear Mazria speak at the Chautauqua Institution in New York a few months ago. He presented a brilliant plan that would help the economy, reduce energy use and not put a long-term burden on taxpayers. Focusing on commercial properties, Mazria said that if the federal government supplied funding for energy-efficiency improvements today, the construction industry would be put back to work retrofitting older buildings and constructing super-efficient new buildings.

Mazria’s plan would result in a dramatic reduction in energy use, saving businesses billions of dollars. It get’s better. Because energy-efficient buildings are less expensive to operate they have a higher real estate value. The plan includes a provision whereas when the buildings are eventually sold, the business pays back the loan to the federal government. Meanwhile, the government grows its tax base by putting people back to work and businesses become more profitable.

Sources

  1. “Architecture 2030 Ranked at Top” http://architecture2030.org/enews/news_071410.html
  2. “Architecture 2030 Will Change the Way You Look at Buildings” http://architecture2030.org/the_problem/buildings_problem_why
  3. “A Historic Opportunity” http://architecture2030.org/the_solution/buildings_solution_how
  4. “The 2030 Challenge” http://architecture2030.org/2030_challenge/the_2030_challenge

Standards for Carbon Neutral

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets | Posted on 10-06-2010

From issues with the validity of the verification processes for credits to criticism over the theory of carbon offsetting itself, carbon neutrality has started a lot of controversy. Offsetting can just be a “feel-good” act if not accompanied by emissions reductions and proper funding for alternative energy projects.

BSI, a standards body in the UK, recently released PAS 2060 to help carbon neutralization gain more credence among the business and environmentalist communities. By specifically outlining standards for carbon offset certification and the steps a participating group must take to be labeled “carbon neutral,” these guidelines will help reduce “greenwashing,” or advertising certain business decisions as more environmentally friendly than in actuality.

These standards will help consumers, businesses and the environment.  By having specifications for becoming carbon neutral, consumers know exactly what environmental initiatives their money is in part supporting, and how different a carbon neutral company is from a traditional business.  Also, these standards incorporate long-term energy use reductions, which mean increased profits for companies through lower business costs and green publicity. Lastly, specifications for carbon neutrality will guarantee that offset projects and carbon markets will achieve the emissions reductions they promise, hopefully leading to no more than 450 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the scientific community’s limit to keep global warming at only 2 degrees.

Biomass No Longer Carbon Neutral

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Neutral, EPA, News | Posted on 24-05-2010

On Tuesday, May 18, the EPA announced in the final version of its “Tailoring Rule,” a modification to the Clean Air Act to accommodate the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, that biomass is no longer considered a carbon neutral source of energy.
Obtaining energy from biomass usually requires the incineration of plant matter.  The process has often been considered in the past to have zero net carbon emissions because the combustion does not release many compounds besides CO2, which can easily be reincorporated into new vegetation. However, the planting, harvesting and maintenance of any sustainable biomass project do emit carbon, so a more appropriate name would be ‘low carbon fuel.’ Furthermore, the US Department of Energy ranks biomass fuel 18th in terms of environmental cleanliness, with 0.0885 metric tons CO2e emitted for every million BTU consumed.  That’s more than the zero tons CO2e per million BTU emitted through traditional renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, as well as the 0.0531 per unit of natural gas and 0.0732 from diesel fuel.
Although the EPA’s decision comes as a shock to some industries and may push current biomass users to switch to fossil fuels for higher efficiency, the fact that biomass produces so much CO2 makes the recent lack of exemption from CO2e permitting requirements not unreasonable.

Trains, Trucks and Ships

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Neutral, Pollution, Supply Chain | Posted on 05-05-2010

I am used to hearing on NPR about how CSX “can move a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks.”

The Association of American Railroads claims an energy efficiency of 457 ton-miles per gallon of diesel fuel in 2008. Either way this looks pretty Green. Especially compared to a truck. The AAR says that a truck uses 27 gallons of fuel compared to 7 gallons for a train to move one ton from coast to coast.

Not so fast – Meijer , a supermarket chain, is buying the first fleet of U.S. EPA 2010 trucks from Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) that feature near-zero emissions technology. The 75 Freightliner Cascadia trucks are equipped with DD13 engines that represent a family of new fuel efficient, reduced-emission engines developed by Detroit Diesel in collaboration with the Department of Energy 21st Century Truck Partnership Program. With the introduction of these trucks, Meijer expects to see a 47% reduction in particulate matter, a 55% reduction in nitrous oxide and a 3% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The Cascadia fleet will reduce CO2 emissions by 9,300 U.S. tons, while virtually eliminating 525 U.S. tons of smog-creating nitrogen oxides from the air.

Not to be outdone, the shipping industry (ocean) is targeting a 15-25% reduction in fuel use. Most people don’t realize that shipping is already fairly greenhouse gas efficient manner to move freight.  However, it is such a large portion of transportation that reductions are important. Shipping moves 90% of the worlds internationally moved goods, represents 4.5% of global emissions at 1.2 billion tons a year. By comparison, the aviation industry, is responsible for about 650 million tons of CO₂ emissions a year.

The good news is that transportation understands the need to clean up their act. More good news is that the industry is so large that any changes have a large effect. The bad news is that changes are hard to come by especially when freight has been so hard hit in the global recession.

Airlines and the EU, Drawing a Line in the Sky

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Footprint, Carbon Neutral, Greenhouse Gas, International, Travel | Posted on 06-04-2010

In a time when airlines have been long-struggling with operational costs, this strong push for emission reduction technology in aviation coincides with a struggle to avoid inclusion of airlines in the EU emission trading scheme. In July of 2008, the European Union reached an agreement to include airlines, starting in 2012, among the industrial polluters that have to account for emissions in the European emission trading market.

A few weeks ago we featured Continental’s new paint job declaring “Eco-Skies.” Though it touches on greenwashing, we encourage the actions Continental is taking to improve operational efficiency and help lead the way in aviation’s push for biofuel. Continental, however, is among those seeking to be exempted from compliance with the new EU regulations.

The industry is, in fact, broadly seeking to avoid this movement toward regional emission regulation in favor of a more global approach, stating that a global climate deal for aviation must preserve competitiveness and avoid market distortions. Airlines are at risk for paying multiple times for the same Carbon if countries or regions act independently. The Airlines are looking for the United Nations to take on their Climate Rules.

Aviation is already taking action and setting environmental targets, they state that that regional regulation will unfairly burden them. They are also pushing for the legal framework to advance the use of biofuel.

A joint statement released by the heads of the world’s regional airline associations proclaims:
“We reaffirm our commitment to the industry-wide effort to reduce aviation’s climate change impact through three targets: a 1.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency annually from 2010; a cap on net carbon emissions from 2020 through carbon-neutral growth; and a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels…These targets remain the most appropriate tools for addressing aviation’s carbon emissions while allowing sustainable growth, which recognizes the industry’s vital contribution to economic and social development around the world.”

If the EU fully incorporates airlines into their emission trading scheme, passenger, cargo and non-commercial flights will have to meet the following deadlines:

Continental’s Green or Greenwashing?

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets, Green, Greenhouse Gas, Sustainability, Travel | Posted on 29-03-2010

In 2007, Continental Airlines began offering consumers the option to offset the carbon footprint of their flight. That year, they were awarded Fortune Magazine’s No. 1 World’s Most Admired Airline, No. 1 America’s Most Admired Airline, One of 10 “Green Giant” Corporations, and Top 10 World’s Most Admired Social/Environmental Airline.  J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Airline Satisfaction StudySM named them Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Network Carriers in North America. NASA awarded them the Aircraft Particle Emissions Study Group Achievement Award and the U.S. EPA and DOT named them the Best Workplaces for Commuters.

Their 2009 Global Citizenship Report states that “Continental implemented an environmental responsibility program, including a fuel-efficiency-focused fleet management program for aircraft and ground equipment, flight and ground operating procedures that reduce emissions and noise, a comprehensive recycling initiative, sustainable facilities construction, a system-wide paperless initiative, and a carbon offsetting program provided through Sustainable Travel International.” To reduce impact, Continental focuses on efficiency, fuel savings, and emission reductions. In their ground fleet, for example, they employ certified Low Emission Vehicles and use electric ground service equipment at many locations.
They are also testing alternative fuel and fuel additives for long-term use in ground service equipment.

More recently, along with Boeing, GE Aviation/CFM International, and Honeywell’s UOP, they joined the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in carrying out research and conducting a demonstration flight toward using biofuel blends in for commercial aviation.

“This demonstration flight represents another step in Continental’s ongoing commitment to fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility, the technical knowledge we gain today will contribute to a wider understanding of the future for transportation fuels.” - Larry Kellner, Continental Chairman and CEO

So after one test flight, Continental painted a plane declaring eco-skies. Oops! Is Continental GREEN? Where is there focus? Is Continental premature in getting a new paint-job declaring “eco-skies?”

Why not toot the horn? While standing tall in one of the hardest hid industries during a turbulent economic era, they have done a lot to improve efficiency and reduce waste and emissions. They are also involved in the forefront of research that could rapidly reduce net carbon emissions industry-wide. The 50/50 jet fuel, biofuel blend can be used without modifications to the aircraft or engine—providing for the possibility of rapid implementation throughout the aviation industry. This would spark more research, technological improvements, and expansion to other transportation sectors.

The paint job, according to their website, is part of a corporate initiative campaign. They are stating their direction moving forward and declaring the vision to their consumers and suppliers. By flying under this new banner, the site states“we are certain to maintain a keen awareness of the environmental impact of our business and the effect it has on the future of us all.”  Actions do precipitate further action; like sometimes you have to just go ahead and smile—and then you feel more like smiling.

The Supply Chain Gang

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Neutral, Green, Supply Chain | Posted on 09-03-2010

A few days ago, in our post Connecting the Links of a Cleaner Supply Chain, we mentioned Wal-Mart’s move to institute massive supply-chain emission reductions. The significance of this move cannot be overemphasized, as roughly 90% of Wal-Mart related emissions fall within this field.  There is much to the discussion of how the reductions will be achieved, however, as the actual emission reductions will have to be implemented by the suppliers who want to keep doing business with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is jump-starting action based on the public conversation, and creating an important feedback mechanism for consumer-driven energy reductions. Wal-Mart will still have to participate when the conversation continues beyond their current paradigm. A new level of transparency across industries will show the numbers. When the numbers come to bear they will reveal any existing failures in the system including planning and designing as well as use of cheaper/less renewable materials. The pandoras box is open and cannot be closed. As dialogue and policy around climate change grows, along with the continued emergence of other environmental-health related information around many goods (especially food) that they distribute, Wal-Mart will likely find it makes good business sense to continue to shift some basic practices.

Aside from launching their Sustainability Index, WalMart has taken steps to improve fleet efficiency and utilize more sustainable packaging. They have captured waste heat from their refrigeration systems and used it for hot water in bathroom and kitchen areas. Some of their refrigerated distribution centers are now 60 per cent more energy-efficient and they have installed some rainwater collection systems and green roofs. Wal-Mart is also one of the big companies currently piloting the use of the Bloom Box in California.

Their size and broad reach leaves many more actions they could take to continue to improve upon supplier-distributor-consumer impact. The hope is that they will use this reach to eventually also provide better access to other newer, more eco-friendly consumer options and practices. They could, for instance, find ways to profitably provide charging stations for electric cars, or establish recycling hubs for things they distribute like paint, vegetable oil and electronics. Wal-Mart could look at how consumers get to their stores and begin working with communities to help improve that infrastructure.

Wal-Mart is responding to a shift in consumer awareness that gains momentum daily. Their actions reveal that they see the shift as necessary to protect their bottom-line moving into a carbon constrained future. Their vision of sustainability is big news because they are so big. They have taken significant and admirable action—using their talent for restructuring the paradigm they operate in to spearhead the vitally important task of rapidly achieving emission reductions across all consumer-goods related industry. They are big enough to demand, on behalf of consumers they want to sustain, that those who want to be in their club have to play by certain rules.