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Where Energy Fits in the Sustainability Puzzle

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Now, more than ever, organizations of all sizes are considering how to be more sustainable.

In January 2020, BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, announced that they would no longer invest in companies that present sustainability risk. This marked the first time a major investor publicly confronted climate change in relation to long-term business viability. With a valuation of $7 trillion, BlackRock’s annual CEO letter has huge influence. Immediately following the announcement, more companies introduced new climate initiatives and Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos pledged $10 billion toward efforts to protect the planet. Cited as a top three organizational priority in a recent report from Centrica Business Solutions, social and environmental responsibility have increasingly become a focal point of conversation and a business investment priority. 

Companies are also striving to be more sustainable to keep up with shifting customer preferences. The U.S. sustainability market is projected to reach $150 billion in sales by 2021, according to Nielsen. Environmental concerns are top of mind for consumers looking to align their shopping with their values. A Futerra survey of over 1,000 American and British consumers found that 88 percent want brands to help them live sustainably.

However, sustainability as a broad, nebulous idea poses challenges to businesses who want to hone in, develop sustainable strategies and implement them. 

 

Waste, water, energy 

Most organizations build their sustainability goals around three main areas: waste, water and energy. However, not all companies view these things equally.

A waste focus may include single-stream recycling, composting and reusing equipment. For example, Harvard University’s extensive initiatives aim to reduce waste per capita by 50 percent by 2020, from a 2006 baseline.

Conserving water is another big sustainability concern. Many beverage companies focus on managing water usage and cutting back on consumption. Coca-Cola developed a water recovery system that can cut a manufacturing plant’s use by up to 35 percent.

Like water, energy is a resource that can be conserved through better efficiency. In addition to boosting efficiency, offsetting emissions and sourcing clean energy provide great opportunities to become a more sustainable organization. 

 

Energy’s role in sustainability

Organizations of all sizes can leverage energy to become more sustainable. Different approaches to sourcing and consuming power and natural gas can be combined to lower emissions, increase efficiency and transition to renewable energy supply. 

Decreasing CO2 emissions 

Leaders and energy managers tasked with meeting sustainability goals often measure progress through decreasing emissions. This aligns with global efforts to curb carbon dioxide and reduce warming through the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Three scopes are used to describe emission types and calculate total carbon footprint.

Three different types of greenhouse gas emissions 

Scope 1 – Direct emissions from operations 
These emissions are produced directly from fuels burned during operations.

Scope 2 – Indirect emissions from purchased energy 
These indirect emissions come from energy consumed and purchased such as, electricity and natural gas. 

Scope 3 – Indirect emissions from the value chain
These indirect emissions come from supply chains – buying product where CO2 was made. Scope 3 can be very difficult to track and monitor. 

Sustainability Managers may use a combination of scopes one through three to improve their company’s energy portfolio.

To cut Scope 1 emissions, large industrial companies often pursue operational efficiency projects that reduce their energy use and help decarbonize the grid. For Scope 2 emissions, organizations can use a combination of sourcing clean power and purchasing renewable energy credits and/or carbon offsets to counteract emissions. Scope 3 usually presents the greatest challenge. Large companies may be in the best position to track and measure these indirect emissions via steps like buying carbon offsets for business travel or incentivizing employee behaviors. 

 

Managing energy usage

Increasing energy efficiency plays a significant role in combatting climate change. According to McKinsey’s Global Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Curve, “energy efficiency represents around 40 percent of the greenhouse gas reduction potential.” A trustworthy energy partner can help complete an energy audit of your facility to identify inefficiencies, then offer solutions like lighting retrofits, timed controls or energy recapture to address them.

Energy management tools are also critical to relieving pressure on the grid. For example, demand response tools can help balance the grid during periods of peak usage and create a new revenue stream for large energy users. Energy efficiency solutions have immense dual potential to help organizations operate more sustainably and lower costs. 

 

Transitioning to renewable energy supply 

Along with efficiency projects, it’s important to consider energy supply to achieve sustainability goals. Energy consumers widely assume that sourcing renewable energy or installing new technology will be too cost prohibitive. However, the more the renewable energy industry has matured, the more costs have come down. The cost of generating utility-scale wind and solar electricity has fallen by 70 and 90 percent, respectively, in the last 10 years.

The dramatic drop in solar costs are attributed to rapidly decreasing technology costs, proactive consumers and organizations buying solar and more efficient installation methods. Some renewable energy technologies are now competitive with fossil fuels and a better option, depending on the market. Cases where sourcing renewable power does not come at a cost savings could still create alternative value by fulfilling stakeholder and customer expectations.

An ideal renewable energy supplier can structure custom deals that are lower cost and renewable. Innovative financing methods offered by suppliers can also help overcome barriers to investment. Organizations that source renewable power at a lower cost than traditional energy supply offer a win-win sustainability opportunity. 

 

Moving sustainability goals forward

Buying renewable energy isn’t simply a matter of cost. Companies are also looking for credible suppliers with the expertise and services necessary to help them tackle sustainability projects. Direct Energy Renewable Services provides a unique advantage. We not only supply electricity, natural gas and renewable power, but also partner with our customers to help them meet their sustainability goals. 

Choices

Ambitious sustainability targets are often achieved by choosing more than one solution. Our offerings include efficiency technologies, demand management solutions like demand response, decarbonizing energy and sourcing wind and solar power. From buying Renewable Energy Credits and carbon offsets all the way up to installing on-site solar panels, we can help you determine the best combination because our services speak to many aspects of sustainability. 

Knowledge

For over 34 years, we have served customers’ energy needs. These longstanding relationships provide a comprehensive understanding of client operations, helping us map patterns using past energy consumption data and then implement a customized renewable solution. We ensure that renewables are integrated into standard, retail contracts without impacting reliability of operations.  

Expertise

We know how to navigate the energy industry to ensure that you implement renewable solutions responsibly every step of the way. By modelling the impact renewable procurement will have on your business, we make it easier to understand the interplay of usage, needs and cost benefits. We can help you identify the advantages of clean energy and help you facilitate sustainability progress.


We all have a role to play in creating a better climate future through environmental stewardship efforts.  When it comes to energy, look for a trusted advisor who can help you implement a range of solutions to achieve your sustainability goals.

Posted: April 13, 2020

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