Turning Net Zero Targets into Net Zero Actions

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In the afterglow of COP26, emotions are mixed about how effective the Glasgow conference will be at tangibly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the levels they need to be to avert a climate disaster. But politics aside, a positive result from the summit, and even in the lead up to it, was the fact that we’re all talking about net zero now. It’s not about ‘if’ anymore, but ‘when.’ And that’s a good thing.

Businesses everywhere, including commercial buildings – the focus of our business – have set or are in the process of setting their net zero targets. They’re calculating their carbon risk. Processes, behaviours, strategies, and technologies are all being re-evaluated, improved, altered. ESG consultants are being engaged. Ratings systems are being employed or reassessed or receiving greater focus. There’s movement at the station for the word had passed around… In his famous poem The Man from Snowy River, Banjo Patterson perfectly articulated the feeling of anticipation we’re experiencing across industries regarding climate action. We are gathering. Each of us has our eye on the prize. And strangely, net zero, like a pack of wild horses, won’t be easy to tame.

Ok. Enough with the analogy. I’m sure you get the picture. Back to buildings now.

Consider a 10,000 square metre commercial office property. Not too big, not too small, just right to punch out some nice round numbers. This building will use approximately 150kWh per square metre per year, so 1.5 million kwh in total. At 20c a pop, the energy bill for this hypothetical building is $300,000 per year. This amount of electricity also results in 1,230 tonnes of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 270 passenger vehicles driving around for 12 months. These numbers are calculated on base building by the way, meaning that tenant lighting isn’t included, but let’s work with our round numbers.

Using our advanced data analytics platform, EP&T Global clients can save an average of 22% on their base building energy costs. Using the above example, the energy bill would be reduced by $66,000 and their CO2 emissions by 270 tonnes every year. What’s even more mind-blowing is that there are approximately 25 million square metres of office space in Australia. That’s 3.75 trillion kWh or 3.075 million tonnes of CO2 every single year using the assumptions from our sample building. Saving an average of 22% on energy costs, equal to $750 million, though building optimisation sounds like a very good idea, doesn’t it? So why isn’t everyone optimising their buildings?

Anecdotally, one reason that’s been raised with me is that some people do not want to imagine their building as anything but perfect – the perfect investment, the perfect place to lease, to tenant, to manage – and that there’s pride in this. However, more and more building owners and operators are now pressed to talk about their net zero actions, because buildings are responsible for 36% of the global energy use and 39% of the world’s carbon emissions*. So, our sector had a significant role to play in moving to a more sustainable economy and society. Well-intentioned pledges have made their headlines during the past couple of years, the COVID-19 years. But going forward, shareholders, tenants, governments, and banks will press our sector to move quickly from targets to actions.

There’s never been a better time.

For so many reasons this is one of the best times in history to transition your building quietly and methodically to one that is optimised. Firstly, green loans, rebates, incentives, and Energy Savings Certificates (ESCs) are all mitigating the financial impact of your sustainability infrastructure projects. Secondly, if there was any hesitancy before about disclosing your building optimisation projects, someday soon your shareholders will demand it. For the moment, publicise the results if you want to, or keep them quiet. It’s up to you. What matters is that when you are asked to report in on your operational efficiency and your efforts to curb energy spending and carbon emissions, if you’re partnered with a smart building analytics company like EP&T Global, you will have access to the data and the expertise that will support and accelerate your sustainability journey.

With no upfront costs, immediate ROI, and an average saving of 22% on energy use and costs, there’s hardly a better partner for commercial buildings who are looking to optimise their assets. If you’re prepared to realise your net zero targets into net zero actions, you can contact me here.

*2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, IEA, UN Environment Programme

This article first appeared on Futureplace.