Getting to Carbon Neutrality

Organizations are using many avenues and tools to lower or eliminate their carbon footprints and to meet their sustainability goals. The concept of carbon neutrality has recently gained a lot of traction, and though it is achievable, the audit and implementation processes are complex and require a deep dive into whole-systems thinking. Carbon neutrality claims are increasingly coming under scrutiny and being openly questioned. Net Zero Analysis is here to help organizations design or review their paths toward eliminating their carbon footprint and ensure their sustainability claims can be properly supported if challenged. Many companies and other organizations have carbon-reduction plans that include the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) or a contract for the purchase of electricity from renewable energy. This addresses some of the organizations carbon footprint, but only as it pertains to electrical power use.

If an organization: Is purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) Is purchasing renewable power in the form of a Bundled Physical Power Purchase Agreement (RECs plus the power in the same electrical grid) Has a Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement (power only) Has a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA  – a long-term Renewable Energy Credit contract with a renewable energy plant NOT in the same grid)
…They may claim that: They are supporting renewable energy. They are supporting renewable energy, they have reduced the carbon footprint of their electricity use, and they have reduced the cost of their electrical power. They have reduced the cost of their electrical power. They are supporting renewable energy.

These steps alone, however, are not enough to achieve carbon neutrality, and it does not address the carbon footprint associated with transportation fuel use, water use, or other utilities and activities. Renewable Energy has a carbon footprint! Its footprint is smaller than grid electricity but it is not carbon-free. Renewable Energy Equipment Manufacturers have all performed an ISO 14001 – 2015 Carbon Audit which provides a carbon footprint in grams/KWH. This is used to calculate the carbon footprint of the installed system, which must be taken into account when calculating the carbon reduction achieved through the production of non-fossil fuel electricity. Our calculator can be a valuable tool in this determination and can be found here.

A carbon offset represents a reduction of one metric ton (MT) of carbon emissions. That’s one MT of carbon that was not put into the atmosphere. This is usually accomplished by establishing a carbon sink (trees and grasslands) or by reducing fossil-fuel energy use and substituting renewable energy for fossil-fuel energy. These reductions must be audited by a third party to verify that they are truly additional and represent permanent reductions in carbon. Carbon offset purchasing has traditionally been saddled with high due diligence costs stemming from this process and the issues described in this NRDC article:

Net Zero Analysis, acting as gateway to the Entrex Carbon Market, has verified all offsets offered on the platform so that buyers may be sure that everything they find there conforms to UNFCCC standards for carbon offsets. This allows for purchasing bundles that meet an organizations exact offsetting needs without necessitating expensive individual rounds of private due diligence on each offset source.

Organizations claiming “Carbon Neutrality” should be reviewing the requirements and equipment labeling and comparing them to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) standard. Organizations must have performed, or be in the process of performing, the following steps:

A)     Facilities Audit: ISO 14001 – 2015 Environmental Emissions Audit for all of their facilities to determine their Scope 1 & 2 Emissions.  Once the emissions have been determined in numbers of MT of CO2e they are then ready to start purchasing offsets from the Entrex Carbon Market Platform.

B)      Supply Chain Audit: ISO 14001 – 2015 Environmental Emissions Audit Scope 3 in which the company requires its supply chain to perform the ISO 14001 -2015 Environmental Emissions Audit Scope 1 & 2 to determine the supply chain carbon footprint and offset that footprint to Carbon Neutral by purchasing Carbon Offsets.

For further reading and discussion on RECs Vs. Offsets, click here.