Making Industrial Facility Operations Sustainable
The industrial sector is a key driver of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and a significant share of these emissions comes from facility operations. As an example, natural gas is commonly used for space heating, contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. For industrial companies wanting to improve their sustainability performance, it is relevant to understand the environmental impact of their facility operations.
Growing attention for facility related emissions
For the industrial sector, environmental incentives and regulations have historically been focused on reducing emissions from physical products and manufacturing processes. Attention is now turning to emissions related to facility operations as these contribute to about 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 15% of the industrial total. Hence, for companies looking to improve their sustainability positioning, facility operations is an area that cannot be neglected.
Potential to decarbonize and reduce cost
Progressive industrial companies are putting increasing demands on the sustainability performance of the facilities in which they operate. Investing in sustainability improvements, such as solar PV, most often reduces operating costs while also reducing carbon emissions. The recent surge in energy prices has drastically reduced the payback time for these types of investments, making them significantly more attractive.
The risks with natural gas
Energy related to facility operations is mainly used in four areas: heating, lightning, cooling and office equipment. Currently, natural gas is the established solution for heating facilities across Europe. Natural gas is, however, a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and comes with both financial and political risks, as demonstrated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. For companies with progressive sustainability targets, moving away from natural gas in facility operations should be part of the agenda.
How to move forward
Companies looking to improve the sustainability performance of their facilities should start with assessing the current situation in terms of energy usage and energy efficiency and identify any hotspots such as usage of natural gas or oil for heating. There are three generic key opportunities to investigate:
- Sourcing green electricity through power purchase agreements (PPAs) or renewable electricity certificates
- Moving away from natural gas through solutions such as biogas, heat pumps or wood pellets
- Increasing energy efficiency through better thermal insulation, smart thermostats or ventilation systems
Understanding the best way forward and how to invest for each facility depends on factors such as investment costs, the local infrastructure, energy prices, building standards and relation with the landlord. Triathlon assists companies in this process and enables clients to understand the efforts needed as well as the potential ways forward on how to act and invest to make facility operations more sustainable.
- 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, UN
- Industrial waste heat recovery, 2018. Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments