Essential guide to carbon and energy management

By Andrew Charlesworth
17 Apr 2012 View Comments
A man using his desktop in a field and looking at clouds

The concept of green IT – to help reduce the energy consumption of an organisation’s IT infrastructure – should be familiar. However, beyond efficient datacentres and power-managed client estates, large companies are now turning to IT to manage energy consumption and report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the enterprise.

Further reading

Computerised energy management is nothing new; it’s been applied to industrial machinery and building con­trols for years. But there is also a growing trend for elevating it above the level of individual plant or buildings to provide enterprise-wide consolidated energy and emission reporting and control.

In the same way that consolidated financial management systems provide enterprise-level visibility of subsidiary accounts, so enterprise-scale energy management and emission-accounting software enables organisations to monitor, analyse and reduce energy consumption and emissions across commercial buildings and industrial plants.

GHG accounting packages, from suppliers such as Ecometrica (http://ecometrica.com), seek to establish an emissions-footprint overview of the enterprise, chiefly for reporting purposes in corporate responsibility reports or filings to bodies like the Carbon Disclosure Project (http://bit.ly/Hk0zZ8).

And by providing drill-down on the details, they enable companies to examine the carbon-rich parts of their business and decide how to reduce emissions.

Energy management software aims to make the organisation more energy-efficient by focusing specifically on energy consumption, which doesn’t necessarily equate to emissions. The rise of government Feed-in Tariff incentives (http://bit.ly/nfiKqf) and a growing awareness that micro-generation is not just viable but necessary, has made on-site generation (as well as consumption) a prerequisite of any energy-management portfolio.

The business case

The fact that energy management has risen from the responsibility of individual facilities managers to the C-suite is driven largely by economics. Cash is tight, fuel is expensive, and the price of emitting greenhouse gases is only going one way – up – as regulations like the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme (http://bit.ly/reOhoC) impose increasingly heavy levies on energy use.

Furthermore, chief executives who have said grand things about sustainability are under pressure from green lobbyists and the public to fulfil on their promises. And companies are beginning to see sustainability as a competitive tool.

To cut the energy bill, reduce emissions and “be greener”, means attending to myriad details in offices, factories, logistics fleets, and so on, which is where emissions accounting and energy management software can help.

“The main drivers for sustainability management software and services depend on who is buying them,” says Janet Lin, senior analyst at sustainability research firm Verdantix.

“We see firms motivated by the desire to achieve operational transformation, im­prove operational efficiency, reduce risk, reduce energy cost, increase brand value, and gain competitive differentiation.”

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