Moving towards lower carbon electricity generation

The latest UK carbon (‘Carbon’ is being used here as short hand for carbon dioxide emissions – CO2) conversion factors from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demonstrate that a significant and much-needed decarbonisation of the electricity grid is being achieved.


The latest (2017) carbon emissions from UK electricity generation has reached its lowest recorded figure at 349g CO2/kWh. It is worth noting that there is a two-year delay in the release of updated carbon factors in the UK and so, in reality, this rate relates to electricity generated in 2015.  As seen in Figure 1 below, this compares favourably to the latest global average of 506g CO2/kWh2 (although the average for EU countries is still lower than the UK at 302g CO2/kWh).

Figure 1: Average carbon emissions from electricity generation.

Please note: These values relate to the direct (‘Scope 1’) carbon emissions from electricity generation only (i.e. ‘Scope 3’ or ‘well-to-tank’ emissions are excluded).

Given the two year delay between the electricity generated and the reported values, the true carbon emissions from electricity generated in 2017 are expected to be even lower than those stated in the latest carbon emissions. In November 2012 coal contributed 50% of electricity generation, however, in July 2017 the contribution was only 2%.  Based on this, we should expect a greatly reduced 2019 conversion factor given that coal generation in 2017 reached record lows.


Why the decrease?

In short, the observed trends in the fuel mix (and therefore the main driver of emissions) have been:

  • Less coal;
  • More nuclear;
  • More renewables; and,
  • More electricity directly imported from other countries with the use of interconnectors.

The UK is, typically, a net importer of electricity, with the majority sourced from France. This reduces our carbon conversion factor as France has a heavy reliance on nuclear fission which produces zero direct (‘Scope 1’) carbon emissions. For further information, please see Figure 2 which shows how the UK’s fuel mix has changed in recent years.

Figure 2: Quarterly UK electricity generation by fuel source.

As we all know, moving towards less carbon-intensive electricity generation is essential if we are going to meet our statutory carbon reduction commitments, most notability the 80% reduction by 2050 from 1990 (as outlined in the 2008 Climate Change Act).

As demonstrated by the data, the trends are going in the right direction, however, there is still a lot more the UK can do as we continue to lag behind some of the developed European countries (especially the Nordics). Future progress is being halted by a number of factors.


The Challenges

1.  Despite investments in UK clean energy more than doubling from 2010-2015, investments fell by 56% between 2016 to 2017. However with technological advancements in terms of affordability and efficiency, for solar and wind, there could be a reverse in the recent trend. Most notably, the operational costs of offshore wind farms costs have halved to £58/MWh. This is in contrast to the much more expensive rate agreed for Hinckley Point C at £92.5/ MWh6.

2. Continuing with nuclear as our main source of lower carbon electricity is approaching a bottleneck, with many of our active reactors due for decommissioning in the mid-2020s. This creates issues due to the lengthy process involved in commissioning new nuclear plants meaning we may not have enough time to adequately replace them.

3. The current government’s proposal is to substantially increase our reliance on directly importing electricity from other countries, from a current capacity of 5.7 GW to 20 GW by 2024. This equates to a jump of 6.5% to 24%, which further reduces our own energy security. This means the UK will need to become more reliant on mainland Europe than ever before to meet our increasing electricity demand.

4. Carbon efficiency assessments (i.e. conversion factors) often do not consider lifecycle emissions. Therefore, the carbon associated with the materials used in the building of each power station/turbine is ignored. This is especially pertinent to the nuclear power industry which requires huge amounts of concrete (which indirectly emits large amounts of carbon in its manufacturing), combined with a comparatively short operating lifespan.


Final Thoughts

Despite an uncertain future, there is cause for cautious optimism as the UK is moving in the right direction, with appropriate fuel switching as low carbon technologies become more economically viable. However, whether future changes in our fuel mix will be sufficient to meet our climate change obligations whilst simultaneously balancing electricity demand and energy security remains to be seen.

Despite an uncertain future, there is cause for cautious optimism as the UK is moving in the right direction, with appropriate fuel switching as low carbon technologies become more economically viable.Click To Tweet

 

Real Estate Sustainability: Planning for 2018

The new year heralds new journeys for individuals and organisations as we seek to learn from experiences in 2017 and focus on opportunities that preserve and enhance ‘value’ in the myriad forms that it takes.

It is a tremendously exciting 2018 for EVORA and one that has started incredibly positively. We are looking to forward to working with existing and new clients as we implement best practice solutions that deliver value to their funds, assets and the environment.

Below I identify my predictions for 2018 across five topics. In addition, where risks are identified, I propose solutions, to mitigate and manage.

There are many more areas and topics that could be covered, and this reflects the rapid changes the industry is currently seeing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my predictions plus any of your own.  I will commit to reviewing these predictions at the end of 2018, to see how things panned out.


GRESB: an evolution

The GRESB survey is in its ninth year and participation shows no sign of waning, particularly in the Real Estate assessments.

GRESB does not suit all fund strategies and our research demonstrates that Core funds, particularly those with a high percentage of directly managed (multi-let) assets, do perform better than those with Opportunistic strategies and / or a high percentage of indirectly managed (single-let) assets. Perhaps this is no surprise. Consequently, GRESB is reviewing the method in which is benchmarks and scores data availability for indirectly managed (single let assets).

Early adopters of GRESB tend to perform better, as investment managers develop (and align) their ESG strategies with GRESB criteria, particularly through the use of structured frameworks such as an Environmental Management System.Click To Tweet

Early adopters of GRESB (with years of experience) also tend to perform better, as investment managers develop (and align) their ESG strategies with GRESB criteria, particularly through the use of structured frameworks such as an Environmental Management System.

To counter the above two points, GRESB has launched a Pre-Assessment module. This survey is designed for:

  • New investment products that are raising capital and / or undergoing initial investor due diligence;
  • Real estate strategies with opportunistic, short-hold or development focus;
  • Real estate vehicles beginning to incorporate ESG into their operations

I expect this ‘toe in the water’ approach will lead on to greater participation in the full survey, despite the fact that GRESB is now charging participants that complete the main and/or pre-assessment survey. This change will have limited impact for participants who are already members or those who pay for the benchmarking reports (which will be issued automatically as part of the service)

The final, encouraging point for 2018, is the increased engagement by GRESB with a wide range of stakeholders as they seek to shape survey components. This is an important facet to ensure that the survey remains relevant to market needs, whilst continuing to push ESG strategies to deliver meaningful performance improvement.

Prediction: Continued growth in the main Real Estate survey, with respondents in North America and Europe leading the field in terms of number of participants. As it is the first year of operation, I expect a small uptake in the Pre-Assessment, which will increase over time as investors and their managers gain awareness of this approach.

I expect the main GRESB survey to incorporate more Health & Wellbeing (H&WB) questions, possibly at the expense of the separate H&WB module. I expect ‘pilot indicators’ for the measurement of social value, H&WB impacts and potentially governance scorecards. Measurement of environmental impacts alone will not be sufficient as the sole indicator of performance for too much longer.

Debbie Hobbs, Head of Sustainability at Legal & General Real Assets will be speaking about measuring social value, alongside Sander Paul Van Tongeren, MD of GRESB, at our industry event on 7th February. Get in touch if you would like to attend.

Resolution: Continue to work proactively with both GRESB and our participant clients.  Last year we supported over 55 submissions.  We expect this to increase significantly in 2018.

Maintain and enhance our clients GRESB ratings through practical and value driven sustainability programmes, as appropriate to their investment strategy. In 2017, our client Hines achieved Sector Leader status and was rated the number 1 non-listed European fund.


Building certifications: more than just a tick-box exercise

Sustainability building certifications have been in operation for around 28 years following the launch of BREEAM in 1990. There are now numerous in-use and design/construction stage standards around the world. Schemes cover individual topics such as water and air quality, to comprehensive multi-themed sustainability / health and wellbeing  standards.

Whilst the use of these standards for new developments is fairly common-place (particularly in the office sector within major cities), the application for existing (in-use) buildings is less so. However, market drivers such as GRESB, who reward participants for holding certification, together with (future) policy standards and incentives for efficient retrofits have, in our experience, increased the interest for in-use schemes such as BREEAM In-Use and Fitwel. It is important that the application of these schemes leads to performance improvement rather than just a tick box exercise.

It is important that the application of these schemes leads to performance improvement rather than just a tick box exercise.Click To Tweet

Prediction: Increased application of certification for standing investments through schemes such as BREEAM In-Use and Fitwel for major refurbishments.

I also predict more, but not many, WELL certifications for new developments. It will be interesting to see if WELL issue a ‘lighter’ certification route that has wider commercial application that the full WELL standard.

Resolution: Grow the number of EVORA employees that are accredited professionals for sustainability building certification schemes.

Support completion of health and wellbeing certifications through the recognised standards (WELL, Fitwel, RESET) that EVORA has expertise in.


MEES: you might feel the pinch come April

I am sure it is well known to most (but probably not all) real estate professionals, that as of 1st April 2018 landlords will no longer able to lease (via new leases and lease renewals) commercial or domestic space in buildings with an EPC lower than an E rating. Unless that is, a five year time-limited exemption applies and is registered on an Exemptions Register.

Previous studies have indicated as much as 20% of the market could be impacted. From our experience, a high proportion of ‘sub-standard’ EPCs (those lower than an E) have improved their ratings when reassessed by a trusted and competent EPC assessor. Many EPCs issued in 2008-09 were completed quickly using default setting for efficiency ratings. Whilst this was acceptable and legally compliant at the time, the resulting EPC typically did not reflect the state of the energy system in place.

That said, there will be a number of F and G rated units that may leave landlords scratching their heads on what to do, when to do it and crucially, IF they have to do anything at all – noting the relative ease that exemptions could be achieved, albeit with some resource implications to administer.

Prediction: Organisations that were slow to respond may feel the bite come April. I expect the regulation to be largely self-policing, via appointed solicitors, as is the case for the availability of an EPCs for lettings (and sales). However, I also expect enforcement (by local authorities) to be weak based on the relative ease of gaining an exemption and the convoluted nature of MEES guidance.

Resolution: Continue to utilise SIERA’s EPC profiling capabilities to assist clients to quantify the risk of MEES against Estimated Rental Value (ERV), lease and EPC expiry dates. We shall look ahead to the hard backstop of 2023 for existing leases.


Blockchain: new ways of working

Beyond cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the method in which individuals and organisations digitally transact with one another in a secure and verified environment.

Blockchain came into operation ten years ago. It’s use beyond cryptocurrency is becoming clear (in property and sustainability) through applications such as:

  • Smart contracts – simplifying the retrieval of data through distributed ledgers
  • Governance – transparency is key to blockchain and it could increase the range of publicly available documentation.
  • Intelligent grids – facilitating the buying and selling of renewable energy generated by decentralized systems
  • Data management – countless possibilities for swiftly transferring secure and validated data

One final comment on blockchain (particularly mining of crypto-coins) that needs to be made, is how immensely energy inefficient it is. The process of using individual PCs to mine coins has led to Bitcoin alone having the annual energy footprint equivalent to Hungary, at the time of writing, and this is increasing on a daily basis as more ‘nodes’ are added to the blockchain. Bitcoin transactions require several thousand times the energy of other means, such as Visa transactions (source).

The process of using individual PCs to mine coins has led to Bitcoin alone having the annual energy footprint equivalent to HungaryClick To Tweet

Prediction: An exciting year where I expect Proptech companies to introduce new ways of working (more efficiently) through utilising blockchain applications. It is something that our SIERA team is busily exploring.

Resolution: Continue to track the emerging blockchain market (I will do this on a personal level to ensure I can understand what my software colleagues are talking about!)


Policy Landscape: hopeful for clearer messaging

A continued lack of clarity on future policy measures is one prediction that can (unfortunately) be confidently made for 2018. Through BREXIT and the fragility of global politics, uncertainty on the future of medium term policy instruments shall, I think, remain.

Long term achievements have been ratified by global leaders (minus one), however, specific programmes for achieving this for the building sector will not become clear until 2020. The UK government is yet to confirm the replacement to the CRC or ESOS  (carbon and energy assessment and reporting schemes) beyond 2019, although I do appreciate that consultations are ongoing.

Recent UK government publications such as the Industrial Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan are welcomed. However, industry needs to understand how the government intends to act on these strategy papers, rather than see recognition that the points covered are important.

Prediction: 2018 is unlikely to herald the launch of forward-thinking and fit for purpose policies that will progress the sustainability agenda.  However, I am hopeful of a clearer message on the future of carbon reporting and disclosure requirements for organisations towards the end of the year.

Resolution: Continue to voice our concerns and aspirations for clear and forward thinking policy through participation in government / industry consultations and working groups.


Join us on 7th February for an industry event that that looks at planning for Real Estate sustainability in 2018 and beyond.

 

ESOS Phase 2 – time to start planning!

It is now just two years to the day until the ESOS Phase 2 compliance deadline of 5 December 2019. Don’t be complacent – two years might sound like a long time away, but you will save time, stress, and money if you start taking action now by carrying out energy audits. Read on!


The Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have jointly advised organisations that they should all start now carrying out energy audits as part of the compliance process for ESOS Phase 2.

With just two years to go until ESOS Phase 2 compliance deadline – start carrying out energy audits now!Click To Tweet

With only a few exemptions for public bodies, the regulations require all other large UK organisations to take three important steps before the compliance date of 5 December 2019 for ESOS Phase 2:

  1. measure their total energy consumption;
  2. conduct audits to identify cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities; and
  3. report compliance to their national scheme administrator – the Environment Agency in England, SEPA in Scotland, NIEA in Northern Ireland and NRW in Wales.

Consideration should also be given at this early stage as to whether adopting an approved energy management system such as ISO50001 may be a more suitable route to achieving compliance (ISO50001 is the internationally recognised standard for best practice in energy management).

If you plan to implement ISO5001, then early action is definitely required. Alternatively organisations caught under the ESOS regulations should now start conducting audits to identify their cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities for ESOS Phase 2.

Organisations should now start conducting audits to identify their cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities for Phase 2Click To Tweet

Early action should avoid some of the issues and that occurred during the first phase of ESOS. According to Carbon Trust, around 2,800 organisations had to send notifications advising that they would be late in reporting compliance, and a number were ultimately fined.

Carbon Trust also reported that of the hundreds of compliance audits conducted for Phase 1, it was found that that just 16 percent of participants were fully compliant. A full three-quarters of audited participants needed to undertake remedial actions in order to become compliant.

A full three-quarters of audited participants needed to undertake remedial actions in order to become compliant.

The Environment Agency has also indicated that in England there were approximately 500 organisations that qualified for ESOS in the first phase but had not engaged with the scheme. There have been over 300 enforcement notifications sent out to date, more will be going out in the near future. Civil penalty proceedings have also been commenced against a number of non-compliant organisations.

During the first phase of ESOS, EVORA helped a number of organisations to comply with the regulation and we would concur with the Carbon trust’s reported findings that cost-effective measures could usually cut energy costs in buildings, transport fleets and industrial processes by about 20 percent.

ESOS reports have been proven to identify real energy saving opportunities. Good governance requires that Directors consider the report recommendations.

Further reading on ESOS:

ESOS Phase 2 Practical Hints and Tips


The EVORA team is ready to support you with ESOS Phase 2 compliance. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more.

Does the UK’s net zero future need the EU ETS?

The 2008 Climate Change Act already commits the UK to an 80% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050. However, the unwritten long-term target hopefully is, or at least should be, to achieve complete carbon neutrality.


Since its inception in 2005, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has been Europe’s flagship climate policy. It has two stated aims, namely:

  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an economically efficient manner.
  • To promote investment in low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency improvements.

Approximately 15400 installations, accounting for around 45% of EU greenhouse gas emissions, are now covered by the Scheme, over 1000 of which are in the UK. However, with the Brexit negotiations looming, the UK’s place in the EU ETS is under threat.

As an EU member, the UK is currently subject to the Emissions Trading Directive, but this is unlikely to be the case by the end of the negotiation process as such a position is not compatible with the incumbent government’s Brexit rhetoric of removing European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisprudence.

The only obvious option for the UK to remain involved in the EU ETS, whilst avoiding ECJ jurisprudence, would be to create a UK ETS and then negotiate a unilateral or bilateral linkage. Switzerland has been undergoing just such a process over the past decade, culminating in a technical-level agreement in January 2016 that is awaiting ratification.

Before beginning to debate how a UK-EU ETS relationship should be formed however, the question that we should be asking first is: is it worth it?


This seemingly simple question has a rather more complex answer. The UK economy is large enough to have an emissions trading scheme of its own, however being part of a larger trading scheme with more participants carries efficiency benefits, through increasing the volume of available low-cost abatement options and through increasing market liquidity and stability.

What is not clear is the extent to which the UK receives these benefits. Given that the EU ETS is now in its twelfth compliance cycle, there seems to be remarkably little research into the extent of the benefits the Scheme produces. With the March 2019 Brexit negotiation deadline fast approaching, the Government should give serious consideration to commissioning such a study for the UK.

The EU ETS is also far from perfect which, to be fair, is to be expected given that it was the first, and continues to be the largest, emissions trading scheme in the world. The large surplus of allowances, a lingering remnant of the 2008 financial crisis, and the persistently low and unstable allowance price are the stand out issues, and add up to mean the EU ETS is not functioning as well as it could.

The majority of the EU ETS’ regulatory design features could simply be replicated in an independent UK ETSClick To Tweet

If the UK Government wishes, the majority of the EU ETS’ regulatory design features could simply be replicated in an independent UK ETS. Therefore, the decision of whether to remain involved in the Scheme boils down to weighing the aforementioned economic efficiency benefits against the issues the EU ETS is facing and the challenges of negotiating an acceptable linkage deal for both parties.


The UK business community should seek to take greater ownership of this issue, firstly by pushing the Government to conduct the necessary research to make this decision properly, and secondly by each firm reflecting themselves on what the EU ETS does or does not do for them in the pursuit of carbon neutrality. As the global threat of climate change grows, stricter environmental regulations are inevitable, but high costs don’t have to be. Emissions trading schemes are a proven mechanism for producing low-cost emissions abatement, but to get the most out of them they must have the right design. Is the EU ETS right for the UK? This is something we need to work out.

This blog was originally published on Edie.net

Using BIM for Net Zero: How to use BIM to Design Net Zero Energy Buildings

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


The target for all of us involved within sustainability is ‘net zero’ energy buildings.

Roughly a third of all global green house gas emissions can be attributed to the built environment so it’s hardly surprising that there is a growing interest in net zero buildings; buildings that produce as much clean renewable energy on site as they consume in any given year.

Net Zero is achievable, but only with the collaboration in the planning, designing, constructing and operating stages. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for delivering a net zero building. Each project will require its own tailored approach, siting, orientation, climate, occupant profile, control optimisation and then, crucially, ongoing asset management.

Net Zero is achievable but only with the collaboration in the planning, designing, constructing and operating stagesClick To Tweet

Building Information Modelling (BIM), an intelligent 3D model-based process that allows scenarios to be modelled in a virtual environment, is the new tool of choice for designers, proving to be a reliable time-saving method of collaboration amongst all stakeholders.

BIM started out as a tool for spatial coordination and project collaboration but has now evolved to empower designers to model energy performance at all stages of project delivery. Thermal and dynamic simulation modelling, through BIM, is leading to better decision making, informing the delivery of net zero buildings.

Increasingly, EVORA has been creating building models that facilitate BIM collaboration as part of our Strategic Asset Management (BIM:SAM) solution. This innovative approach to managing the whole life cycle of a building is our way of ensuring that ‘net zero’ building design is followed through into actual operational performance.


Take a look at our Guildford case study or contact us to learn more about BIM:SAM.

Net Zero and Solar: Challenges in the Industry

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


The concept of achieving a net zero energy building is becoming increasingly popular, although, in reality, only a very small number actually achieve this. No matter how efficient a building is, it will not reach net zero energy consumption without the help of renewables; the most popular being Solar PV, particularly for on-site generation. Solar PV has increased rapidly over the last decade but in early 2016, the UK solar industry took a significant blow due to government feed in tariffs being cut by 65%.

“Do not let this discourage you in reaching your goals; there is probably a lot more that can be done first.”

The cuts lead to a drop in solar installations of more than 80%, since the payback periods are now often deemed too long to make the projects feasible. However, do not let this discourage you in reaching your goals; there is probably a lot more that can be done first. Below highlights some of the areas that can be looked at to improve efficiency, before trying to hit zero emissions through renewables. It’s a lot easier to offset your emissions if you don’t produce many to begin with.


Taking a holistic approach to net zero buildings

Understand your energy – Compare the performance against benchmarks, such as the Real Estate Environmental Benchmark (REEB). Establish a metering and energy management plan and utilise data management software, such as SIERA, to identify the high energy users. If you can’t monitor it, you can’t manage it.

Establish a metering and energy management plan and utilise data management software, such as SIERA, to identify the high energy users. Click To Tweet

Building Fabric – Find a sensible balance between daylight, heat loss and solar gain. Is air leakage evident? Is there a need for solar reflective film?

Ventilation – Focus on minimising fan power and running hours. Can the windows be opened and a combination of natural and mechanical methods be adopted?

Heating and cooling – Systems should be designed for efficient year-round operation and not just to meet peak demand. Implement controls such as a seasonal set point strategy.

Lighting – Develop a lighting strategy using daylight, efficient fittings and controls. The appropriate amount of light should only be provided where it is needed.

Equipment – Implement power management strategies and switch equipment off at night. Where possible, use energy efficient servers, computers, monitors and appliances.

Other services – Saving water saves energy. Are the urinals on a sensor flushing system? Minimise unnecessary lift use. Has power factor correction been considered?

People – Engage with occupants on sustainability issues. Establish ‘green teams’ and provide simple user guides making it easy for them to save energy.

The above provides an example of some of the steps that can be taken to help achieve a net zero building and illustrates the holistic approach it requires. In practice, a comprehensive energy management plan should be implemented, including the conducting of detailed energy audits and execution of identified energy reduction measures.

A comprehensive energy management plan should be implemented, including the conducting of detailed energy audits Click To Tweet

Although renewables are a fundamental component in achieving net zero, they are by no means a prerequisite for setting a goal to achieve a net zero energy building. In time, subsidy-free Solar PV investment will become more attractive as cost continue to fall, so it’s important that buildings are ready to maximise the benefits when they do.


If you would like to learn more, please contact the EVORA team.

Net Zero and On-Site Renewables: Opportunities and Considerations for Net Zero Energy Buildings

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


As part of the World Green Building Week 2017 theme #OurHeroisZero, this blog explores the opportunities and considerations for on-site renewables in the wider context of net zero energy buildings.

What are net zero energy buildings?

Net zero energy buildings can be defined in many ways, but on a simple level, it is a building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zero. Net zero is usually assessed at the annual level, but it is becoming increasingly common to account for finer timescales in calculations to improve analyses to inform decision-making. This can be achieved by finding opportunities at all phases of the building life-cycle from construction materials at the design stage, reduction in energy consumption during operation, implementation of efficiency measures and incorporating renewable energy systems.

A building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zeroClick To Tweet

What are the opportunities for on-site renewable technologies to help achieve net zero energy buildings?

Alongside design, construction, building management factors and small-scale retrofitting such as efficient lighting, on-site renewables have also played a key role in achieving net zero energy for building energy generation and operation. On-site renewable energy generation have helped to harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.

On-site renewable energy generation have helped to harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.Click To Tweet

On-site renewable energy is a popular approach as the energy generated can be used to offset the actual energy use of the building and can even be integrated as part of sustainable building envelope design. It is not possible to strive for net zero at the design phase only, as net zero energy must be realised through on-going operation and maintenance throughout the building life cycle.

The technologies and mechanisms available are:

  • Solar Photovoltaics (Solar PV)
  • Purchase of green energy from the grid
  • Micro heat and power generation systems
  • Wind turbines
  • Energy storage technologies (battery and heat storage solutions)

More advanced approaches are:

  • DC microgrids
  • Smart grid and digital technologies
  • Active facades, e.g. artificial leaf technologies

Solar PV and Systems Integration

Solar PV is becoming a more viable option because of decreasing costs of materials and maturity in the marketplace. The mature status of the key solar technologies makes them key players in the energy world. According to the IEA’s Technology Roadmap for Solar Photovoltaic Energy (2014), it is projected that solar power could generate 22% of the world’s electricity by 2050. Solar energy is therefore a viable contender for energy and CO2 mitigation. Solar PV is also more versatile due its multi-disciplinary approach and scalability. In comparison, micro-heat and power generation is less scalable and wind energy through turbines are usually applied as off-site renewables.

It's projected that solar could generate 22% of world’s electricity by 2050 making it a contender for CO2 mitigationClick To Tweet

Of course, climate and locational factors have roles to play in determining the level of renewable energy generating capacities as well as cost and scalability. On-site renewables are however most effective when technologies are coupled together into a system to create a smart on-site renewables DC microgrid, with the application of energy storage and digital technologies. This can prove to be effective for local energy management, as well as scaling up net-zero energy buildings from the single building to the regional scale.

Solar PV as Design

In terms of sustainable building envelope design, there is an opportunity for integration into buildings materials, such as rooftops and facades. Solar PV has been especially popular due to its versatility as in the case of building integrated PV. As well as being decorative and architectural interests, innovative designs can make construction materials more productive and cost-effective compared to traditional building materials. Another element of building design is comfort for occupants which is linked to the wider issue of health & wellbeing as a value indicator for buildings.


What are the considerations for on-site renewable technologies to help achieve net zero energy buildings?

Economics

Market incentivisation is key to paving the way for net-zero energy buildings. This boils down to more cost-effective design and construction. Falling costs of renewable energy technologies have helped to increase the use of on-site renewable energy. Increasing digital technologies can help to align tariffs to real-time pricing strategies.

Balancing Loads and interactions with the wider power grid

For building energy management, there always the need to link power generation to building loads. Opportunities can be gained from balancing supply and demand to optimise performance in terms of energy and costs. On top of this, the peak load times and peak consumption reduction prospects must also be considered, as well as interactions with the wider power grid. Digital technology is creating ways to optimise and adjust demand and supply in real-time which improves energy security from outages, systems integration, reducing operation and maintenance costs.

Scaling it up!

Net zero energy buildings should be viewed at both the local and regional scale since net-zero could be achieved at the single building level, but also with the wider energy grid which is becoming smarter with the application of the smart grid. With more digital data available, it is becoming increasingly possible to use this to inform decision-making.

Holistic approach of design, construction and operation

There is a common view that most opportunities will be achieved at the building design stage. This must however be integrated into the operation of the building and integrated across the building life cycle. This is where on-site renewables present an opportunity for energy generation. A joined-up view must be taken for net-zero energy buildings. This is because a building may be designed to be net-zero, but building operation is the challenge when it comes to energy performance despite the intention at design phase and lead to deviations between modelled vs. actual energy performance.


Concluding Remarks

The role of systems thinking can be appreciated within the contexts of energy management, technological developments, economics and policy. Advances and trends in energy storage technology in the microgrid have opened opportunities for net zero buildings and on-site renewable energy generation. For grid and microgrid management, a mismatch of supply and demand is an issue, however this is being resolved by energy storage. For net zero energy buildings to be realised, a coupling between technologies, systems, solutions as well as an eye for scale is required. This can be achieved by finding opportunities at all phases of the building life-cycle from construction materials at the design stage, reduction in energy consumption during operation and implementation of efficiency measures and incorporating renewable energy systems. It is not possible to strive for net zero at the design phase only, as net zero energy can be realised through on-going operation and maintenance.

For net zero energy buildings to be realised, a coupling between of technologies, systems, solutions as well as an eye for scale is requiredClick To Tweet

If you would like to learn more about EVORA and how we can help your organisation, please contact a member of the team.

Net Zero and carbon reduction targets: To what extent will it help us achieve them?

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


The UK target of Net Zero Buildings (NZB) means that new buildings and major renovations should have a net zero impact on carbon emissions from 2030 onwards. This sets the tone for our buildings of the future but what does this mean for our existing buildings? Projections are that half of the existing building stock will still be around in 2050. Even at a reasonable rate of major renovations this still leaves the property industry with its work cut out.

Policies such as the MEES regulations should definitely help to improve efficiencies in existing buildings through refurbishment works and upgrades to take building spaces up to E rating or better. The MEES regulations have undoubtedly got more companies thinking about cost-effective improvements to commercial properties. However, one of my gripes with the whole EPC scheme is that the rating approach is based on theoretical design performance –  the elephant in the room of course being that actual energy consumed doesn’t feature at all.

This means that it’s entirely possible to have a good EPC score on an office and it still be energy inefficient. This is something I wrote about a few years ago with the Better Buildings Partnership and found it was not an isolated example. Furthermore, there are certain types of energy use not captured by EPCs which only potentially complicates the problem. Let’s not forget that addressing actual energy usage is fundamental to succeeding in meeting national and international carbon reduction targets.

Let’s not forget that addressing actual energy usage is fundamental to succeeding in meeting national and international carbon reduction targets.Click To Tweet

This discrepancy between design intent and actual energy usage has been written about extensively under the banner of a concept most of you will hopefully be familiar with – the ‘performance gap’. Studies suggest that this difference between how we think buildings perform and how they actually perform could be underestimated by as much as 50%.

This brings me to one of my main points. Of course, actual energy consumed is significant but so too is the source of that energy; if energy is consumed we need it to be from renewable or ideally carbon neutral sources. Therefore, yes energy efficiency needs to be addressed but so too does the decarbonisation of those supplies.


Decarbonisation targets are likely to be missed, so what does this mean?

The UK Government has targets to improve the decarbonisation of grid energy supplies but research suggests that this is likely to be missed. Also, with the Government limiting financial support for certain types of renewables, investors are hardly getting the certainty that would really help to boost the market. We’ve seen a number of renewables/solar companies going into liquidation, however, demand on the whole for onsite renewables seems to be maintaining (?)

Clearly, in addition to the grid energy mix there’s a role for decentralised green energy generation. Two trends which will be significant in terms of the overall trajectory of the energy sector are the decentralisation of energy generation and energy storage. These are predicted to both increase rapidly.

Two trends which will be significant are the decentralisation of energy generation and energy storage. Click To Tweet

So what does this all mean for strategies of property owners and investors? Clearly, there’s a business case for investment in energy efficiency because of the financial impact of operating costs. As a proportion of overall costs of occupation, this can be hugely variable depending on the organisation, but can relate to factors such as the regional location of property as an example. Nonetheless, DEFRA/DECCs energy price forecasts are that they will continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation so the costs are not going to reduce. Overtime, the cost of renewable energy should become more competitive but there’s little sense in consuming green energy profligately. This means that the property industry really needs to make decarbonisation of energy in existing property portfolios part of its strategy.

This means the property industry really needs to make decarbonisation of energy in existing property portfolios part of its strategy.Click To Tweet

As my colleague, Paul Sutcliffe,  has said Science Based Targets is an approach that is gaining more momentum and rightly so. However, what’s fundamental to achieving the carbon reductions required is an honest assessment of what can realistically be delivered, at the industry-level, through building efficiency and what will be achieved through greening energy supplies.


To speak to the EVORA team about how we can help your organisation, please contact us.

Net Zero and Science Based Targets – Connecting the Dots

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


I was recently asked how Science Based Targets are connected to Zero Carbon Buildings – hmmm, I thought, interesting question.

Let’s start with the definitions.


Science Based Targets

In response to mounting environmental, social and political pressure, organisations have recently begun setting science-based GHG emissions reduction targets (‘science based targets’ or SBTs). In doing this, companies are committing to bringing their operational activities and resultant emissions in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increases below 2oC compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Optional third-party approval of alignment to approved methodologies is managed by www.sciencebasedtargets.org, which is supported by the WWF, CDP, UNGC and the WRI.

The SBT approach is being adopted by companies across multiple sectors as the basis for setting long-term goals for GHG emissions reductions. Importantly, in the long-term the SBT approach may be adjusted to reflect advances of climate science and economic modelling (e.g. to target a 1.5oC increase in global mean temperatures).

A SBT approach may be adjusted to reflect advances of climate science and economic modellingClick To Tweet

Net Zero Buildings

Net zero buildings are highly energy-efficient buildings which uses on or off-site renewable energy sources – to achieve net zero carbon emissions. This definition encompasses all asset classes:  homes, offices, shops, stadiums and theatres of the future.

WorldGBC support the ‘Advancing Net Zero’ project – its aims are to ensure that:

  • All new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030, meaning no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030. All buildings should be net zero by 2050
  • 75,000 professionals are trained on net zero building design and operation by 2030, and 300,000 by 2050.

Laudable – and I can see the 2030 target working with a combination of innovation, creativity and targeted regulation (a carrot and stick approach).  However, the aspiration to ensure that all buildings are net zero by 2050 if a big one.  We are less than 33 years away from this deadline and buildings are designed with much longer life-spans.  The speed of conversion and renovation must therefore increase significantly.  In the UK, Minimum Energy Efficiency (MEES) legislation will ban the leasing of buildings with F and G ratings from 2018.  However, net zero buildings have EPCs of A+ not D.  So, in short, at least in the UK, there is a long way to go.


The Connection?

I believe in SBTs – they require that organisational carbon targets are set in line with the global context and can be all encompassing, covering operational, supply chain and even embodied carbon emissions. However, it should be noted that at least for commercial property, the SBT approach doesn’t actually require that all properties become zero carbon by 2050; rather, a minimal level of carbon emissions performance must be achieved (e.g. ~13kgCOe/m2 by 2050).

As such, a science based target is actually – relatively speaking – less stretching than a net zero building.

Furthermore, science based targets are set at the fund, portfolio or even company level, whereas the net zero buildings agenda is targeting all buildings. SBTS are therefore more flexible.  SBTs can be met based on the average performance of a portfolio, with some inefficient and other efficient assets, which on balance are in line with a 2oC world.

In my opinion though, net zero buildings are a very worthy aspiration and will support any organisation in its aim to achieve performance in line with internationally agreed emissions targets. Certainly for new builds, I think we should be targeting net zero carbon. For existing assets, the challenge is substantial; however, one that we as an industry should be grabbing with both hands.

Net zero buildings are a very worthy aspiration and will support any organisation in its aim to achieve performance in line with internationally agreed emissions targets.

We need a joined-up approach, supported and incentivised by Government, as refurbishing all existing assets is a massive job and should be considered as a national infrastructure project.  However, delivery will ultimately need to be managed by both Government and Business working in partnership.

For existing assets, the challenge is substantial; however, one that we as an industry should be grabbing with both hands.Click To Tweet

We need:

  • A strong approach from Government– balancing regulation with incentivisation
  • Visionaries – organisations prepared to lead, to continue to progress the sustainability agenda
  • Communication and voice – organisations like the WorldGBC,  UK-GBC and the Better Buildings Partnership to promote and
  • Adoption

Now, as they say, ‘that’s a big ask’.

However, so much [read everything] is at stake

Come on Property Industry – let’s take the lead!

110 Seconds To Understand How SIERA Sustainability Software Can Help You

Watch Our New Video Now!

Watch our new animated explainer video for SIERA, which gives you a high-level overview of everything our innovative sustainability software solution can do for you.

Depending on where you are and how convenient it is to watch a video, you can:

1.     Watch the video with the sound on – recommended

2.     Watch the video with the sound off – the captions will allow you to follow along

3.     Read the video script, which is pasted below for your convenience

We hope you enjoy the video and that you will want to learn more by attending one of our webinar demonstrations or getting in touch to book a one-to-one demo.

Thanks for watching!


SIERA Sustainability Software – the right choice for your business


Video Script

Every year, environmental management becomes more complex and reporting requirements become more stringent.

Which is why the sustainability experts at EVORA came up with SIERA – a unique and innovative software solution.

Not only does SIERA make all your sustainability reporting easy – it also enables you to quickly identify energy savings in your buildings.

Not only does SIERA make all your sustainability reporting easy – it also enables you to quickly identify energy savings in your buildingsClick To Tweet

Never before has collecting and validating your environmental data been so easy. Whether it’s automating data collection, or dragging and dropping your data from Excel files, SIERA makes a complex process simple.

The intelligent modelling capability covers a range of regulatory and voluntary reporting requirements, quickly and intuitively.

In fact, SIERA saves our clients up to 70% of their time spent on GRESB reporting.

SIERA also gives you an overview of your property and portfolio performance, helping you mitigate regulatory risk and prioritise improvement opportunities.

SIERA’s ground-breaking Energy Monitoring and Targeting module automatically alerts you to energy efficiency opportunities.

Savings are easy to identify and can be achieved without any capital expenditure.

SIERA gives you an overview of property and portfolio performance, helping you mitigate regulatory risk and prioritise improvement opportunitiesClick To Tweet

Whether you’re seeking a hands-on solution, or a fully managed service with EVORA’s expert consultants – SIERA is the right choice for your business.

SIERA is already managing over 4,000 properties and is being rapidly adopted by large organisations across the globe.

Isn’t it time you used SIERA too?


 To learn more about SIERA and discover how it can save you time, stress, and money, please get in touch today to arrange a demonstration.

 


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.