If good intentions could decarbonise the world, our climate change ambitions might not be so perilously close to moving out of reach. The most recent UN Climate Change Report reveals that the world is on track to miss its 2050 Net Zero targets, with global temperatures set to increase by more than 2.4°C by 2100. Other research has shown that just 8 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are meeting their carbon targets.
Addressing the challenge is no simple task. At Schneider we have helped our customers reduce CO2 emissions by over 400 million tonnes to date. But our conversations with partners and customers frequently highlight misconceptions held by businesses at the start of their journey to Net Zero. To help businesses move from intention to action here are five of the most common myths surrounding decarbonisation and advice on how to get started.
Myth #1: we’ve got plenty of time
Time is almost up: we need to act now. From extreme heatwaves to intense flooding, we have all witnessed the impacts. Rising emissions are ravaging our world, global demand of energy is four times what it was. It’s clear we can’t continue on this course, and we know what we need to do to offset the increasing demand.
Decarbonising a business isn’t a one-off action. It needs to be treated as a continuing business operation, with senior oversight, goals and an actionable plan. If changes need to be made, it only makes sense to make the choice a sustainable one. At Schneider, we follow a three-step approach: strategise, digitise, and decarbonise.
Strategising requires the collection and management of data. Businesses need to understand the size of their current carbon footprint, what contributes to it and where the biggest opportunities are to reduce emissions. Digitising means organisations should create a single source of truth for energy and sustainability data in the business by monitoring resource usage and identifying opportunities to save. Finally, executing a decarbonisation strategy requires electrifying operations, reducing energy use, replacing energy sources and engaging the value chain.
Myth #2: it’s cost prohibitive
There is no point paying for more energy than you need, whether it has been generated from fossil fuels or renewable sources.
Deploying digital tools enables organisations to monitor, visualise and manage energy consumption. We typically find that just by deploying a building management system in a building, or an energy management system at an industrial site, organisations can see a reduction in energy consumption by 20 per cent, before any significant analysis and optimisation is undertaken.
Of course, these software systems need to be able to talk to the electrical equipment and machines that are integral to creating functional offices, manufacturing plants or public spaces. Typically, this includes lighting, heating, circuit breakers, motor starters and transformers. Sensors can be fitted retrospectively to collect data from older systems if smart, connected devices aren’t already in place.
Once these systems are in place, it’s possible to optimise energy use and reduce energy waste. With the current high price of energy, these systems pay for themselves in a year or two. The ongoing savings can be used to help fund further decarbonisation.
Myth #3: it’s too complicated to get started
Even before the global energy crisis, which has been driving shortages and soaring costs, renewables had already become the cheapest source of new energy for more than two-thirds of the world’s population. Switching to a renewable electricity supplier as an alternative source of energy is the simplest and fastest way for businesses to decarbonise.
Beyond that, microgrids (solar or wind) provide an excellent way to reduce energy costs and emissions and add resilience to your operations. With extreme weather and other macroeconomic events disrupting energy supplies across the globe, being able to generate and store your own power could be the difference between business as usual and business disruption.
Myth #4: there isn’t enough data
Many companies consider a lack of data to be the main challenge when it comes to implementing sustainability goals. The reality is that you can’t show progress on what you can’t measure. By putting digital solutions in place, businesses can not only measure but manage energy consumption and carbon emissions.
For example, heat pumps could increase energy savings by up to 80 per cent and reduce carbon emissions by the same figure compared with natural gas burners. While not everything can be electrified, the technology exists today to electrify far more than we realise. On average 78 per cent of industrial processes are not electrified, but 50 per cent could be. Meanwhile, machinery that runs on diesel can be swapped for electric versions which operate more efficiently, and with zero emissions if powered by renewable electricity. When looking for a place to start, evaluating your Scope 1 emissions and taking steps to electrify is a great way to begin your journey.
Myth #5: it’s too big for any one person to address
Some may feel overwhelmed by the problem at hand, and feel they can have very little impact on climate change individually.
But governments continue to regulate energy consumption. For instance, we’ve seen in recent months that the EU is making Scope 3 disclosures mandatory. Scope 3 encompasses emissions that a business is indirectly responsible for up and down its value chain. For example, the emissions created by extracting and shipping raw materials to manufacture a product, or in the logistics of getting a product to the customer, and the energy used by that customer when using the product. Any business that is part of a supply chain or that leverages suppliers may soon find itself accountable for compliance as well.
The good news is businesses are collaborating. At Schneider, we are working closely with our partners to help create a more sustainable future together.
By Rohan Kelkar, Executive VP Power Products Global Business, Schneider Electric