Sustainability

We Know Your Project’s CO2 Footprint – Do You?

The Paris Climate Change Conference held in December 2015 was truly notable. Also known as COP21, short for the 21st Conference of Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it marked the first time all 196 participating countries agreed in principle to reduce emissions as part of the effort to reduce green house gases and global warming.

In a complementary move designed to support the goals of COP21, we publicly announced just days before the opening of the conference our 10 corporate commitments for sustainability. Some of these have been Schneider Electric’s corporate goals for years, and some are new. All support two overall goals: to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, and to help our customers reduce their energy consumption by 30%, and hence their environmental footprints as well.

Our 10 commitments naturally focus on improving our products and solutions to achieve those goals. Several are specifically internal, such as committing to reduce energy intensity at Schneider Electric by 3.5% per annum. But two in particular are external commitments that we have made to the global community.

First, we committed to issuing a climate bond specifically for the purpose of financing low-CO2 research and development (R&D) across our business units. This 200 million euro bond was in fact issued in October 2015. It allows investors who have an interest in sustainability to fund research into improving energy efficiency, developing low-CO2 energy production through connection of renewable energy resources to the grid, and reducing resource intensity and greenhouse gas content associated with our products and solutions.

The other external commitment we made is to ensure CO2 impact quantification for all new large customer projects. Although presently there are no specific requirements for reporting this information, we want to be ready – and therefore our customers also will be ready – when such reporting does become compulsory.

While such quantification may at first sound simple, it actually consists of several potentially complex components from three distinct project stages: construction, usage, and end of life. In the construction stage, we account for the CO2 emitted in the process of obtaining raw materials, including such things as mining and transportation. Then we add the CO2 emitted as part of the manufacturing and production processes.

As the customer uses the product, that usage typically has some amount of CO2 emission associated with it. For example, the electricity passing through switchgear has emissions stemming from the power generation process to be considered, and so on. Thus energy efficient operation comes into play in determining a product’s carbon footprint.

At the end of a product’s life, decommissioning activities such as dismantling and recycling equipment and components also are accompanied by CO2 emissions. By tracking incremental CO2 emissions attributable to each of our products and solutions, then collecting and correlating the data, we will be able to deliver to our customers a full picture of the CO2 emissions associated with their projects.

In addition to knowing the financial cost of producing a project, our customers will also know its CO2 footprint.

Today a CO2 footprint is reported simply in terms of mass, for example by reporting the number of tons of CO2. Few places put a financial price on CO2 emissions, but the day is coming when a carbon tax or charge, or carbon quotas, will be the norm. And when a project’s CO2 footprint does become monetized, the data we provide will help those involved save money. This information also may help attract investors interested in developments that are demonstrably environmentally friendly.

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