A net zero financial centre is realistic, if we work together with the government
A few months ago, the ex-chancellor promised to make Britain the ‘world’s first net-zero-aligned financial centre’. The objective sounded promising for the future of the industry, as it would make the UK’s commercial buildings more attractive, and arguably position UK-based facilities managers as pioneers in sustainability.
However, the latest progress report from the Climate Change Committee suggests that the government is failing to enact the policies required to hit net zero targets. The study found that, while there are policies that have been put in place for many sectors of the economy, there is “scant evidence” that the UK will achieve any of its climate change goals so far.
With the current cost-of-living crisis, followed by concerns regarding energy and a government clear out, it seems that these optimistic plans for the field have been put to the side for the time being. So how can we ensure that we turn the UK into the world’s first net zero financial centre?
Buildings must do their part
A report conducted by the World Green Building Council, which analysed the areas that produce the most carbon emissions, concluded that 39% of all CO2 emissions globally are a result of the building and construction industries. That is a lot to take – for any government. So, is the public sector all to blame for not enabling our buildings to become net zero, or are our properties using simply too much energy?
We all need to do our part in this collective, national effort, and that includes buildings reducing their energy consumption. After all, soaring energy prices and record-high inflation rates should be a good reason for commercial buildings to reduce their overall energy consumption. That’s the key to cutting CO2 emissions and eventually reaching a net zero status.
Spotting non-essential energy
Think about it: the best kilowatt is not the one the government helps us pay for, but the one we don’t use at all without sacrificing performance or tenant comfort. And for that, we need technology that helps us address our non-essential energy consumption.
Demand side response (DSR), is a method that can be employed to reduce non-essential energy consumption, particularly in large buildings. During a DSR event, the ‘Box-on-the-wall’ technology interfaces with the Building Management system in the building to instruct it to lower electricity consumption of energy from non-essential plant and equipment such as pumps, chillers and fans where usage can be lowered for a short window of time, with no adverse effects on the building’s environment. This means that a DSR event has no impact on the operational running of the building or the working conditions of the people who are in the building.
DSR technology is a relatively new method of reducing energy consumption, becoming one of National Grid’s main strategies for balancing electricity supply and demand. It involves businesses temporarily adjusting their electricity use in response to a signal or request, when the grid is under stress. It optimises energy use, helping to reduce the risk of blackouts and any other complications caused by electricity supply.
Employing DSR generates a consistent income, with businesses receiving money for taking part in DSR events, also benefiting from energy and carbon savings as a result of reduced electricity consumption. This means businesses have this option, with no upfront cost given it benefits everybody, helping them to meet their energy consumption goals and ultimately helping the country to reach its net zero targets. Why wouldn’t you use DSR?
It’s been proven that DSR works, and there’s no reason that building owners shouldn’t adopt it. Practically, there should be a scheme where, if the energy bill exceeds £400k per annum, then that property should receive a penalty since there’s a host of buildings that adopt DSR and reduce their emissions. This could be done through audits that examine the energy use of buildings and make sure they’re not unnecessarily exceeding their consumption.
If we are to reach our net zero targets, we need to address them and act now. Waiting for the government to put mandatory regulations that restrict energy consumption in businesses is only going to waste time that can’t be wasted. Businesses need to be self-sufficient, especially when it comes to their energy consumption.
Even though the government isn’t showing the same conviction towards net zero as they were in the past, it is still important for us to address it immediately. Businesses, in particular, need to properly address their carbon emissions, and what steps they can take to make their company, and their company’s buildings, green for the future.