Insight 11 May 2023

For the longhaul: the first class route to decarbonisation

Your decarbonisation strategy needs to stand the test of time. Learn how data and a live view of energy use can help you stay ahead.

Decarbonising effectively requires a well-planned strategy. But how do you ensure that strategy has the staying power to see your organisation through to net zero?

As we explored in our recent discussion with Mitie’s Managing Director, Energy and Decarbonisation, Prad Pandit, your strategy can’t be a “one-and-done” affair. It needs to speak to all functions of your organisation and engage them in open dialogue, based on what’s working, what isn’t and what needs to happen next.

The most effective long-term strategies are also built on accurate carbon benchmarking and actionable insights into all energy activities. To learn more about creating a lasting net zero strategy, we spoke to Mike Sewell, Mitie Plan Zero Director, and Catherine Wheatley, Mitie’s Head of Data Science. Here’s what we learned.

Establish a baseline – and address carbon literacy

You’ll struggle to encourage long-term strategic buy-in without a baseline understanding of your carbon footprint, where you want to be and why you’re aiming for net zero.

As Mike recently discussed, the smartest business plans for decarbonisation focus on reducing energy costs, improving energy resilience and attracting investors and customers. But to do that well, you need to address your organisation’s carbon literacy, which may mean confronting uncomfortable truths.

Business people having casual discussion during meeting
It is time to address your organisation’s carbon literacy

“The C-suite is aware that legislation and socioeconomic pressures are nudging them to decarbonise, and they may have loosely committed to a net zero 2050 window,” says Catherine. “But they’re unlikely to engage in meaningful long-term changes until they understand where the organisation is letting itself down. Good or bad, it’s the reality of your footprint, and you can’t hope to improve if you aren’t honest about it.”

For this reason, you need data to establish a real-time view of your estate and its energy usage, as well as how your outside activities contribute to your overall carbon footprint.

“It’s easy to think that if you can’t see it, then it’s not happening,” says Catherine. “But it could be that your worst carbon offenders are your vehicle fleet or supply chain partners. And if you’re not measuring it, you’re not managing it.”

Rich insights are essential

Accurate data collection is a must if your organisation is to achieve a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions. You’ll only gain a comprehensive picture of buildings, assets, fleet and other sources by monitoring them closely, and implementing measures to improve on your findings. Catherine recommends automating the process to ensure success.

“It’s important to automate as much of your data collection as possible. This should focus on buildings, assets, fleet and also your largest customers,” says Catherine. “Through such monitoring you can build an accurate profile that tells you how much energy is used and when. Add AI modelling, and you can benchmark and identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency more easily.”

Improved visibility can also help you forecast energy use at specific times and locations, optimise your assets around that and identify your biggest cost centres.

“A living energy model identifies what energy sources you use at certain times, from the grid to on-site generation such as solar PV. It also shows the impact of using different energy-saving technologies on the energy required to meet your needs,” says Catherine. “For example, it can enable deactivation of HVAC systems in a certain part of the workplace if more people happen to be working at home.”

The benefits of such solutions are easy to share with stakeholders, so they can see how their cooperation is positively impacting the organisation and its bottom line.

Optimise what works to stay futureproof

When asked how organisations can ensure their decarbonisation technology is futureproof, Catherine mentions two key considerations.

“Firstly, to measure your footprint and set goals around it, you’ll need smart metering and business intelligence (BI) technologies so you can see what’s going on. And because hardware advances so slowly these days compared to software, you’re unlikely to need to update it for a long time.

Graphics depicting digital data waves, coloured purple, blue and green
Accurate data collection is a must to achieve a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions

“Secondly, the same can be said for renewable energy assets. Solar panels and heat pumps have been around for a long time, and the only significant changes have been in how we use them. Again, that’s because data-driven innovation is always finding new ways to simplify and optimise operations – including how we consume energy.”

Delivering an effective long-term strategy therefore depends on how you use your data to optimise energy use, and how you identify quick wins to meet your decarbonsiaiton goals. The slow advancement of the required hardware means that whether you want to install solar planels, LED lights, heat pumps or even replace your petrol fleet with electric vehicles, you can do so with confidence.

Get Decarbonisation, Delivered

Mitie works with organisations across the UK, designing, building and managing the bespoke decarbonisation solutions needed to reach net zero. That includes the software and hardware required to monitor, optimise and adapt to shifting energy trends and demands.

To help your journey to decarbonisation, we’ve created a guide to overcoming the five biggest challenges to net zero.

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