[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 manufacturing, offices, 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.
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
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!
Despite the lack of an international, legally binding treaty from the Cancun Climate Summit, certain U.S. states and countries are implementing their own policies. We will look at just a couple, both of which are located in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve consists of the northernmost cloud forests in the world and the only ones left in Mexico. While about a fifth of the land is owned and protected by the Mexican government, the rest is a privately owned buffer zone. Most of this land is forested, but the remainder is used to grow crops, including Starbucks’ organic, shade-grown coffee that sequesters carbon. This land seems truly sustainable: the cloud forests continue to be protected (environmental), the hundreds of small farmers get access to an international market for the first time (social) and economic activity has been enhanced (economic).
The other piece of regional news involves a new agreement between California’ EPA secretary and Chiapas’ governor. They have agreed to let California companies offset up to 2% of their emissions by funding anti-deforestation efforts in Chiapas.
Speaking of California, later we will take another look at California’s new Cap-and-Trade rules and their overall impact.
Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Offsets, Energy, Green | Posted on 22-11-2010
Automaker Chevrolet has announced that it will offset 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next three to five years. This value is equivalent to the GHG emissions generated from driving the company’s 2011 model vehicles over the course of 2011. This is also equal to the annual electricity use of a million US homes.
Chevy will invest $40 million in a variety of projects that seek to reduce GHG emissions, ranging from forestry and conservation to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
It is interesting to read the announcement details on their new site, “Chevy Carbon Reduction,” which briefly addresses questions like, “Is this just a marketing play?” and “Isn’t this just greenwashing?” While the company does seem genuinely interested in offsetting their carbon emissions, they do note that the $40 million comes from their advertising budgets. At least they’re honest, and at least that money is going to offsets rather than consumer advertising.
Despite Indonesia’s large-scale burning of virgin rainforests for land-use change and logging, there is some optimism. A pulp and paper company, Asia Pulp & Paper, has decided to convert a large portion of its pulpwood plantation into a massive carbon reserve. The 15,000 hectares (about 37,000 acres) in Jakarta are being reallocated as a deep peat bog for at least 30 years. The reserve will effectively act as a bog with decaying vegetation, peat, which consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide as part of a chemical reaction.
The company is teaming up with Carbon Conservation and is receiving funding from investors who want to purchase REDD-Plus (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) credits in the future. REDD credits are carbon offset credits coming from the mitigation of deforestation in developing countries, and REDD-Plus credits are granted for the promotion of afforestation and sustainable forestry-related projects.
This project is also a perfect example of sustainability. Environmentally, this conversion of land will be a large carbon sink and is an important move in Indonesia, the world’s third largest emitter of GHG. Socially, this land use change will provide jobs for the local community without negatively impacting their quality of life. And economically, both the paper company and the nearby indigenous communities experience long-term economic development.
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.”
Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Offsets, Hydro | Posted on 16-09-2010
The environmental differences between run-of-river and conventional hydroelectric power are dramatic. Conventional dams create methane, a potent greenhouse gas by backing-up organic matter and flooding
huge tracts of land that once were home to CO2-absorbing trees. Run-of-river projects use the natural flow of water caused by change in elevation, eliminating greenhouse gas creation.
Because run-of-river hydroelectricity is not only considered renewable energy but also clean energy, it creates a great source for carbon offsets. For a hydro plant to run in the most environmentally-friendly manner possible, it must take into consideration the migration of native fish populations. This requires costly technology that allows juvenile fish to safely bypass power generation turbines.
We are excited to support the Rocky Reach Run-of-river Hydroelectric project. The project is located in north central Washington State on the Columbia River. The project includes a first-of-its-kind juvenile fish bypass system that was completed in 2003 to help young salmon and steelhead on their way to the ocean. The project invested over $3 million in fish protection improvements in 2009 alone. The visitor center includes a viewing area, which allows the project to count fish. July 2010 saw the largest run on record of returning sockeye salmon.
Rocky Reach generates over 5 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually, which is a significant source of responsible renewable energy. To learn more go to our featured projects page.
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.
- “Architecture 2030 Ranked at Top” http://architecture2030.org/enews/news_071410.html
- “Architecture 2030 Will Change the Way You Look at Buildings” http://architecture2030.org/the_problem/buildings_problem_why
- “A Historic Opportunity” http://architecture2030.org/the_solution/buildings_solution_how
- “The 2030 Challenge” http://architecture2030.org/2030_challenge/the_2030_challenge
Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Offsets, Economy | Posted on 27-07-2010
In the last year, the value of carbon credits and volume of trading has decreased. This has mostly been due to the internationally-felt recession; as profits drop, most corporations would rather spend on traditional investments than become carbon neutral. European-based companies, such as CantorCO2e and Carbon Capital Markets, have had to lay off carbon brokers or shut down their carbon trading entirely because of low demand in the voluntary market.
However, the World Bank reports that despite these setbacks, the carbon market is maturing. With the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012, many have said that carbon credit markets could dissolve then unless governments implement new trading systems. But increases in corporate interest in the environment internationally, coupled with the popularity of Clean Development mechanisms, have experts saying that the markets will exist and even expand in the coming years. Many companies, faced with European laws limiting GHG emissions, have found offsetting to be a cheaper alternative than curbing emissions in-house. And with the price of carbon remaining consistent, the cost of offsetting will remain a clear and viable option. Hopefully the US, China and India – three of the largest CO2e emitters – will soon be able to set up limits on emissions through a mandatory and economically feasible system like carbon trading.
Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Offsets, Economy | Posted on 19-07-2010
A recent report from Sandbag, a non-profit climate change organization, uncovered misconceptions among industry leaders in the EU, particularly in the cement, steel and iron industries.
Companies have argued against stricter caps on CO2e emissions because these regulations would act as a tax, forcing businesses to operate in cheaper developing countries. However, the current structure of the EU carbon market allows companies that buy extra certified emissions reductions (CERs) from abroad and stockpile assigned credits to make a profit. This strategy in effect subsidizes the EU company’s competitors; the majority of CERs are created by emissions-reducing technology used by steel, iron and cement corporations in China and India. In reality, EU companies are avoiding emissions reductions strategies that are “low-hanging fruit” in favor of short-term profits that sacrifice long-term competitiveness.
So what is the solution? Sandbag reports that if the government implements stricter Carbon emissions standards on these industries, companies will make necessary reductions in-house, which allows domestic operations to be a long-term option. Also, these changes would prevent “carbon leakage,” or the possibility of CO2e emissions rising in one country because of reduced emissions in another.
Posted by akeenan | Posted in Carbon Offsets | Posted on 01-07-2010
People are looking more and more at planting trees to help offset CO2 emissions. A recent report by EcoSecurities shows that a majority of businesses view forestry as a desirable offset category. In voluntary carbon markets, the driving concern is the legitimacy of any project’s certification. While it takes years for a forestry project to grow enough to capture all the carbon it promises, the potential benefits to native communities and surrounding ecology are factors that increase forestry popularity and should not be overlooked. Up to 16% of total greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation of tropical areas, so forestry projects that cover rainforest protection and improved forest management are just as environmentally useful as reforestation.
Others are looking for ways to make reforestation easier. Pieter Hoff of Holland has engineered a rainwater collection box that goes around saplings. The device has the potential to be manufactured worldwide, and there are both reusable and compostable models. By collecting condensation and rainwater, along with a two-gallon start, these boxes can help reforestation projects in arid climates and reduces draws on water supply for irrigation. Hundreds have been installed in national parks and vineyards to help guarantee new plant growth, and their incorporation into forestry projects in developing countries could reduce costs and increase carbon sequestration rates.
Even though the voluntary carbon market has lagged this past year with the poor economy, innovative technology and positive consumer attitudes show that forestation projects are far from disappearing.