The Hydrogen Age

EIC explores the potential of Hydrogen fuel to decarbonise the UK, its domestic supporters and success it has already enjoyed in the EU.

Hydrogen showing carbon the door

In the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery is now top priority for the UK government. However, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both staked their flag in making sure it is a ‘green’ economic recovery. As such, industry leaders – particularly within the energy sector – have reopened the conversation on the role of hydrogen in reaching net zero.

The CCC (Committee on Climate Change) published a report in 2018 summarising its recommendations for a UK hydrogen strategy. The hope is to utilise Hydrogen in the UK’s heating systems, specifically by blending it with natural gas, to reduce its carbon footprint.

UK buildings account for 40% of its energy consumption and 70% of industrial building energy is used on space heating and cooling. With these figures in mind, hydrogen’s value is clear to see provided it can get off the ground.

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks to hydrogen use on a mass scale. The biggest of these is that it would require an infrastructural overall of current heating systems. Blended gas requires plastic pipes while the vast majority of those in the UK are iron.

In addition, the production of hydrogen fuel is highly carbon intensive. Fortunately, this embedded carbon can be offset by CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology into its production.

However, these are costly caveats to making hydrogen a viable fuel replacement. Naturally, there are concerns that the government may opt for cheaper, quicker progress that, ironically, may prove unsustainable.

 “On the one hand, we need to put money where it has an immediate economic impact and in the most affected sectors. On the other, we need to keep in mind the long-term benefits of making our economy more resilient.”

– Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for energy

Private sector rescue

The EU commission announced in June that it would provide €750 billion for its green recovery plan, reserving €1 billion for R&D into green hydrogen. Simson has stated that hydrogen has the potential to capture 10-16 percent of the EU’s energy market by 2050.

Following the EU’s lead, industry leaders in the UK approached the government and questioned the absence of hydrogen in both the spring budget COVID recovery plan.

Last month, a letter from the chiefs of four major unions implored the government to move forward on hydrogen development. The leaders of GMB, Prospect, Unison and Unite cited, in the letter, the massive reductions this could offer in the heat, transport and heavy industry sectors. Of course, the development of any new technological sector would also create thousands of jobs.

However, the letter was only one component of the “Hydrogen Strategy Now” campaign led by firms like EDF and Siemens. These companies, along with others supporting the campaign, have stated intentions to invest £1.5bn into hydrogen development.

The government must now sieze the initiative and provide the necessary funding and support to make hydrogen happen. Firms that desire to adopt a long-term view of their energy and heat use might benefit from EICs services.

EIC’s combined heat and power solution has saved businesses up to 40% on energy costs. EIC can also provide a  carbon management team able to deliver a comprehensive net zero strategy. Full details of these services, as well as others, are on the EIC website.

 

EPBD: What you need to know

EIC unpacks Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), it’s origins, purpose and how firms can make sure they are compliant.

The Kyoto Protocol

Two years after the 1992 UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Kyoto Protocol emerged as an extension to the conventions primary treaty.

The UNFCCC’s objective is the following:

“Stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”

The extension took effect in 1997 and was as much political as it was scientific, viewing the climate crisis from a purely mathematical perspective. The consensus was that industrially developed nations were far greater contributors to climate change than rural and agricultural ones.

CO2 emissions would not be divided equally between the committed nations but rather based on their industrial activity. Subsequently, the EU and its member states committed to binding emission reduction targets which remain in effect today.

Following Kyoto, the EU established EPBD in January 2003 to ensure sufficient CO2 reductions from European buildings. The primary objective being to incentivise widespread improvement of their energy efficiency. The beauty of this that its criteria apply more to industrially developed nations due to their carbon intensity.

What legislative requirements are covered by EPBD?

The UK governments interpretation of embedding EPBD, recognises 3 streams of certification, required by both private and public sectors:

  • DECs (Display Energy Certificates) – required by publicly owned or funded buildings on an annual basis
  • TM44 / Air Conditioning Inspections – required for all buildings with installed comfort cooling
  • EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) – required for both domestic and non-domestic new builds, majorly refurbished, sold or let out

The certificates are valid for 10 years from issue. EPCs underpin the MEES standard, whereby a building cannot be sold or let with an energy rating below E.

Building better 

As lockdown restrictions ease, and the ‘Build Back Better’ initiative gains momentum, compliance with EPBD will only become more relevant.

The most recent recast of EPBD, in 2010, focuses on new builds and major renovations thereby adopting a long term view of the situation.

EPBD also protects consumers, it requires disclosure of efficiency measures within a property to buyers, to inform them of running costs.

The requirement led to the widespread introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), one of the major successes of EPBD to date. First introduced in 2007, the UK national database now contains energy performance information on a staggering 40% of homes.

Last year marked the EPBD deadline for all member states to have NZEBs – or Nearly Zero Energy Buildings. The criteria for an NZEB is simply that it have a very high energy performance, made possible by quality insulation and on-site renewable generation.

Since Zero Carbon Homes was scrapped in 2016, EPBD is one of the few legislations that targets the energy performance of buildings.

The fervour in reaching net zero means that this legislation is here to stay and so firms should be asking how they could ensure they are taking part.

Upgrading for EPBD

Improving the energy performance of a structure needn’t be a complex process, however it must be an informed one.

EIC’s approach to structural efficiency is twofold, assessing pre-existing assets using integrated metering and monitoring technology. Next, EIC adopts an end-to-end approach, carrying out initial certification, devising and implementing improvements. Finally undertaking a certificate review to demonstrate progress.

Depending on site limitations, EIC can consult on the installation of on-site generation, with a particular focus on solar generation. Thereby lessening a structure’s energy consumption, lowering your utility bills and improving its overall energy profile. Full details of these services, as well as testimonials from past clients, can be found on the EIC website.

Private investment, public gain: Green investment after lockdown

EIC discusses the Northvolt gigafactory, and how private funding is now flooding into green investment and sustainability projects.

Recharging capital

It began with grassroots environmentalism, then government mandate and finally, major financial institutions have started supporting a green future in earnest. Support in the form of loans and bonds for sustainable economic development and innovation, specifically solar storage options.

One such investment occurred last Thursday as the European Investment Bank (EIB) issued a €350 million loan to Northvolt for its lithium battery plant.

The site is based in Northern Sweden, and is intended to produce the most environmentally-friendly battery storage packs to date. Using 100% renewable energy and locally-sourced materials, it will soften characteristically high environmental cost of the Lithium-ion batteries it produces.

The cells will be used mainly in cars, which are responsible for 12% of the EU’s current carbon footprint.

Northvolt has already secured a €2bn supply contract with BMW and Volkswagen is interested in collaborating on a similar factory in Germany. The latter of these two is no surprise after VW unveiled plans to convert its Emden production plant to electric vehicle production.

Lofty ambitions

The gigafactory will have an initial production capacity of 16 GWh per year and be the first of its kind.

Both the investor and supplier share similarly ambitious intentions moving forward as well. Northvolt plans to scale capacity to 40GWh annually while, back in May, EIB stated its intention to increase green investment financing to over €1bn by the end of the year.

China still dominates the solar battery market of course, producing more than five times that amount in 2019 alone. However Northvolt and EIB have just set an important precedent and other banks are now joining the green investment fray.

“I believe that EIB financing support for Northvolt has been a textbook example of how our financial and technical due diligence can help crowd in private investors to visionary projects,”

-Andrew McDowell, VP EIB

The COVID-19 lockdown has wrought chaos in several energy markets, most notably West Texas Intermediate – which went negative for the first time in April.

Projections show global growth shrinking to -3% after such dramatic losses in this market, as well as many others. Fortunately, the immediate crisis of COVID-19 has not blinkered business and political leaders to the looming threat of climate change.

Despite these losses, April saw a 272% increase of ESG (environmental, social, governance) bonds compared to April last year.

Green investment rush

Finally, investment in green infrastructure has become vogue among Europe’s financiers and firms should take notice. Last week Sadiq Khan promised £1.5bn to upgrade London’s water and gas networks and prepare for more electric vehicle use.

 

Beyond our shores, Danish investment bank, Saxo, is already making predictions about renewable technology taking over the global market.

“Governments will increase investments and subsidies for ‘green’ industries, starting a new mega trend in equity markets… We believe that these green stocks could, over time, become some of the world’s most valuable companies”

­– Peter Garnry, Saxo Bank Head of Equity Strategy

Renewable technology rewards boldness and expediency with huge ROI over time. However the endorsement of institutions like BlackRock and EIB helps reduce risk profiles, making it more attractive to investors.

EIC have championed firms renewable interests for over 40 years, buying and managing approximately 12TWh of energy each year.

The EIC sustainability offering provides carbon compliance, utility management and procurement advice. Combining this expertise under one banner, you and your investors will have all your bases covered when outfitting your firm for a low carbon future.

 

 

 

Success is negative: Carbon negative office spaces

EIC explores the carbon-negative office spaces that are emerging, their role in the green recovery and the technology that make them possible.

Favour the bold

The path to net zero is fraught with obstacles and among these is the carbon intensive nature of the mainstream construction sector. Materials like concrete are extremely resource intensive to produce.

While often offset on a citywide scale, some firms are beginning to focus on the buildings themselves and work sustainability into their initial designs.

Blazing the smoke-free trail are Norwegian architects Snøhetta, who will design exclusively carbon-neutral buildings over the next decade.

The aim is then that from 2030 onwards, Snøhetta will focus on creating carbon-negative designs.

Carbon negative structures either generate more energy than they consume, or sequester more carbon than they produce. The figure includes expenses from initial  construction and materials, as well as operation and decommissioning.

Elusive costs like these are problematic, with 85% of building emissions generated by materials and construction, before the structure is ever used.

“For the next 10 years, we have the ambition of having projects on the table that will become CO2 negative in the cradle-to-cradle definition… This means we have to understand the embodied energies and all the materials used.”

-Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen

Balancing the books

Since less intensive materials suited to large scale construction are not yet widely available, balancing through generation will be key.  Solar is central to Snøhettas plans, with structures taking about 60 years to hit carbon negative with embedded generation. The architect recently completed its Powerhouse Brattørkaia project, which boasts an identical timeline for net negative. The Powerhouse also sports a cutting edge ‘wedge’ shape designed to maximise exposure to the sun’s rays.

While this may seem like a life sentence for business leaders, it is refreshing that groups like Snøhetta are beginning to think in terms of multi-generational gains.

Bywater Properties are leading a similar development project aimed to create the lowest-carbon workplace in London. The office, named ‘Paradise’ for the road it occupies: Old Paradise Street. Supermarket, Iceland has already secured the majority of this space, planting a green flag for the brand in the minds of its customers.

My generation

It is no secret that the attraction of short-term gains have significantly contributed to the environmental challenges we now face.

However, vision extending beyond the next board meeting can help transform the UK and global economy to reach net zero. Carbon negative buildings are a part of that vision.

Unfortunately, that can feel exclusionary to firms that have already established their sites and do not have the luxury of completely retrofitting them.

The complex, modular nature of structures does mean that while carbon negative may not be feasible, ‘carbon-light’ might be possible.

Intelligent building control is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon profile. Primarily because it streamlines the carbon-producing elements of a building, mainly utility consumption, and shrinks carbon footprint as a result.

A holistic ally in carbon reduction is the addition of green spaces to working environments, since these also sequester carbon.

On-site generation further reduces your reliance on the grid and the subsequent sequestered carbon in meeting demand – particularly across long distances.

Other benefits include improved energy supply security, added leverage in procurement talks and a better carbon profile for crucial legislation.

EIC understands that intelligent building design and frugality around resource-use work in hand in glove. As such, EIC offers a comprehensive carbon service combining building management, intelligent procure and compliance acumen.

Marriage of these three pillars means unlocking the full potential of sites, and leveraging for the benefit of all. EIC’s full offering is on its services page.

 

 

 

 

IETA’s net zero plan

EIC breaks down the IETA’s proposed ideas to help guide Europe towards net zero 2050, specifically the role cap and trade practices may play and why we must raise ambitions.

Rowing together

Last month the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) announced its 2020s forecast for the price of carbon emissions, expected to rise to  €32 per CO2 tonne equivalent.

The IETA, in a report published last week, also outlined several ways in which international carbon trading, spurred by the increased price, could aid the fight against climate change.

The report outlined that some countries and firms were better equipped than others to reduce and replace carbon-intensive practices. Infrastructure, resources and trade exports are among the variables that can impede or hasten an organisations ability to stay within allotted carbon allowances while remaining soluble.

The trading of such allowances frees individual states and firms up to offset one another’s emissions in order to achieve the collective goal of limiting global temperature rise.

Moreover, it is effective; the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EUETS) reported a drop of 29% in emissions from stationary structures when comparing 2018 to 2005, thanks largely to such ‘cap and trade’ schemes.

Cap and trade is not a novel concept, it has been suggested as a market-led solution to polluting industry for years. During his presidency, Barack Obama met with a lot of criticism for introducing a bill in support of such schemes with pundits calling it a “sledgehammer to freedom”.

The concern was not unjustified since it was predicted that Carbon intensive industry would simply be undercut by foreign interests able to offer more competitive energy rates to consumers.

However with international cooperation now being actively encouraged, the attraction and probability of price gouging between domestic and international firms is likely to reduce.

The price is right

Alongside the proposed price rise has emerged a surge of concern that, while ambitious, the UK will fall behind on its own national targets unless an even higher charge is established.

The IETA’s forecast would mean an increase on the €27 price that was in effect from June 2018-19 however, think-tank Carbon Tracker believes this would still fall short of the targets stipulated in the UK’s Green New Deal.

A report released by the Zero Carbon Commission has estimated that the IETA’s price would need to be increased by almost 100% to €60 by 2025 to stay within established carbon budgets.

“We need to introduce a stronger, more consistent carbon price signal across more sectors of the economy if we want to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Sam Fankhauser

Assuming that Fankhauser’s perspective is adopted in the UK, carbon allowance trading promises to become a lucrative venture for firms that are able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions ahead of time. Any shortfall between emissions and allowance could be traded with more carbon intensive firms, thereby effectively doubling the value of carbon emissions saved.

Intelligent utility management, on-site generation and smart procurement are all methods to increase the gap between emissions and allowance and, subsequently, its potential value in cap and trade. EIC offers all of these services as well as over forty years of direct experience in integrating and applying them to the benefit of its clients.

COP26’s race to zero begins

EIC highlights the key points made in COP26 President Alok Sharma’s speech, which symbolised the beginning of the organisations ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, and how business leaders can take a poll position despite the starting gun having already been fired.

Mapping the future

News that the UK will postpone its hosting of the UN climate change conference (COP26) was not unexpected, given the necessity for social distancing that COVID-19 has imposed, however it did raise concerns over the UK’s determination to enact a green recovery post-lockdown.

While the UK track record may, in part, justify some of these concerns, individual safety is not the only benefit of such a delay to talks, for one the nations taking part will need a clear idea of the state of their respective economies once lockdown ends before committing to new policy. 

And from a psychological perspective it might be argued that due to the all-consuming nature of the pandemic when it comes to public and government attention, the conference would not receive the attention necessary if it went ahead this year.

How far we’ve come

Despite the conference now being slated for Q4 2021 (-12 November), Alok Sharma gave a speech last Friday that reasserted the UK’s ambitions and responsibilities with regards to the 2050 net zero target and how the race to zero was already hastening its completion.

The UK, in collaboration with Chile and the U.N., are already leaders of the Climate Ambition Alliance – representing over half of global GDP – however Sharma insisted in his speech that “…we must go further”.

Sharma outlined some of the UK’s major achievements in reducing carbon emissions in the last thirty years:

  • Since 1990 the UK economy has grown by 75% while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by 43%
  • In the same time, the UK has two offshore wind turbines able to power 2,000 homes, as of 2020 the UK is leading nation for offshore wind capacity
  • Globally, the cost of solar and wind power have dropped by 85% and 49% respectively
  • Over two thirds of the worlds nations can now generate renewable energy cheaper than coal

While details of the path forward remain scant – not surprising given the reasons for postponement – Sharma made it clear that liberating capital to fund green initiatives and widespread support for electric vehicles would be crucial to the UNFCCC’s success.

Approximately 1,000 business leaders, representing revenue totalling in excess £3.5tn have committed to the scheme including British motor giant Rolls Royce. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC, around 75% of these businesses have already developed strategies and targets aligned with the 2050 target.

Dr. Alison Doig, international lead at the ECIU (Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit) recently commented on the danger of complacency in the opening stages of such a race. 

“This is not, however, about pushing climate action to some date in the future; no entity can reach net-zero in 2050 without starting now… participants will have to present delivery plans, including setting interim targets for the next decade, by the time COP26 opens in Glasgow next year.”

Clean energy was the first element of the British economy that Sharma cited when referring to the need for green growth after lockdown, making it a pressing issue for business leaders looking to get a head start on net zero. EIC provides comprehensive  support and advice to businesses in the procurement, management and generation of alternative energy sources. Each service forms an element of the robust energy management service that EIC offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EIC’s Utility Belt: Tips for more effective utility management

EIC outlines its best advice for intelligent energy management, minor changes that can yield significant savings and the importance of consistency in establishing new workplace cultures.

Technology vs culture 

The majority of your utility belt will be focused on the technology that you are currently using or could utilise in future however there is also a short section on the culture within your business and how that can factor into your success.

Heating and Ventilation 

Comfortable ambient temperature has become something of an assumption, commercially speaking, however the technology behind it often remains unexplored except to establish its basic controls for the user. Given that air conditioning alone can account for up to 30% of a site’s energy consumption, this is a significant oversight that, sadly can be solved very simply.

Sealing off or switching on 

A common method of controlling indoor temperatures is by sealing buildings, preventing windows being left open, however this can actually exacerbate the overall costs trying to be mitigated. It means air conditioning will be working overtime during hotter periods but also that air circulation may take a dip, meaning higher concentrations of CO2 and dampened performance from staff as a result.

IoT connectivity across sites can use occupancy monitoring and responsive temperature and air quality control to mitigate these issues. The provision of real-time data streams means that you can control individual spaces across large sites, maintaining utility usages that are responsive to demand and need.

Casual is smart 

Enstating a casual dress code during acutely hot or cold weather conditions means that staff will be able to offset their own demand on heating or cooling, not to mention be more comfortable in their work. 

Dig for victory

Planting trees is also a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to offset heating costs, since they provide shade and fresh oxygen as well as absorbing latent humidity in the air.

Lighting 

Intelligent lighting control can save 30-50% on energy costs automating this utility according to occupancy and respective demand means that you will not have spaces unnecessarily drawing power that isn’t being utilised. 

Let the sunshine in 

Not always an option depending on how sites are initially designed, however by using automated lighting, you can schedule lights to power down during daylight hours and reactivate once night falls. 

Using what you have 

The installation of LED bulbs for better efficiency and a longer lifespan can be an added boost to light use efficiency without being disruptive to pre-installed equipment, motion sensors are another low-impact option that help ensure that light is never wasted.

Professional culture 

As social creatures, culture is effectively the software that our communities run on, understanding this means that you can leverage your professional culture to become more energy efficient with a minimum of cost.

Empowering your team 

The use of environmental posters can help remind team members that their actions have weight in something larger than themselves. Small adjustments like the use of power strips also make it easier for them to adopt the positive habits that will be the foundation of your new professional culture. 

Communicate that computers should be shut down at the end of the day rather than left in standby, especially before the weekend. It has been estimated that a company with 200 PCs could save £12,000 annually this way. 

Breaking ranks 

2020 has demonstrated many things, among them our ability to work remotely and effectively and how doing so can help foster trust between managers and staff members. Encouraging this way of business means you can reduce or re-purpose the amount you are spending on office space and its attached utility costs. The same can be said of meetings that might’ve taken place on-site, by using video technology to bridge these physical gaps you reduce the occupancy on your own sites and the utility usage along with it.

Measure for measure 

Meters and sub-meters are essential tools in understanding the energy needs of a site as well as what areas have the highest concentration of usage. Armed with this information you are better equipped to make policy decisions pertaining to both technology and culture within your utility management. The Carbon Trust has found that a site meter can save 10% in energy costs while sub-metres, which allow you to pinpoint areas where demand is highest, can offer a further saving of 30%.

Going the extra mile

There are a number of additional features that can be added to the design of many sites to both off-set and reduce utility costs including on-site solar generation & storage, combined heat and power and demand side response schemes.

EIC can create a comprehensive and all-inclusive package for your business that oversees all aspects of utility management from metering & monitoring to IoT empowered devices that keep you connected to site data 24/7.

Open architecture technology affords access to all your vital business systems, meaning EIC can communicate with, control and report on any aspect of any site including heating, lighting and ventilation. Our services page contains full details of our offerings.

 

 

 

 

 

The green gold rush: CCA extension proposed

EIC explains the government’s proposed extension to the climate change agreements initiative (CCA), the benefits of compliance and how EIC can ensure you qualify.

CCA: How and why

The climate change agreements initiative was established to incentivise the continued and effective implementation of energy efficiency strategies among the most energy intensive industrial sectors.

CCA encourages businesses to streamline their energy usage by offering a 93% reduction on electricity, and a 78% reduction on other fuels accrued as a result of the climate change levy (CCL).

Since its inception in 2013, approximately 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions have been prevented each year, with businesses using up to 2.3 TWh less energy or enough to power 140,000 homes.

The need for such legislation becomes painfully obvious when framed in the context of energy wastage, in the City of London alone businesses are losing £35m each year this way according to a Green Alliance think tank report.

Originally, the initiative was due to conclude in March 2023 however Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced in the spring budget that there would be consultation on a possible two-year extension to the initiative.

The show goes on

While 9,000 facilities across the UK are already benefiting from the CCA, this extension is estimated to be worth as much as £300m annually in CCL discounts, for the businesses already taking part in the scheme as well as new beneficiaries that would now be able to apply.

It works by encouraging businesses to make improvements to site energy efficiency over an eight-year period. In return, businesses would receive a discount worth as much as £300m annually on CCL bills.

Given the financial uncertainty that COVID-19 continues to inspire, and cooling attitudes towards sustainable development and practices, the news of an extension is welcome on all fronts.

“Extending the Climate Change Agreement scheme will give businesses greater clarity and security at a time when they need it most. This extension will save businesses money while cutting emissions…”

-Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng

The consultation will cover proposals for the addition of a new Target Period, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022, an extension of certification for reduced rates of CCL for participants 31 March 2025 and finally, to re-open the scheme, allowing eligible facilities not currently participating to apply to join.

Businesses that had previously missed the opportunity to join the scheme now stand a chance of taking advantage of these savings whilst contributing to a greener economy.

However, it should be noted that the criteria of eligibility for the scheme is not under review, rather the extra time will allow businesses to implement strategies that make them eligible in time for the levy discount to bear fruit.

The new gold rush

The extension proposed, should it be approved, presents a significant opportunity to both current beneficiaries and new comers to the scheme, provided they have the reporting mechanisms in place, to adhere to the scheme.

However, businesses that wish to take advantage of this opportunity in future will need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the scheme as soon as possible, in order to reap the most benefit.

EIC’s expert team of carbon consultants and data analysts are dedicated to offering your business a comprehensive CCA service from initial assessments through data analysis to actionable strategy.