Hot on the heels of a Climate Change Committee statement that renewable energy procurement in the UK is having little effect on emissions reduction, the UK Green Building Council has published new guidance which will clarify how the property and construction sector should procure renewable energy and implement carbon offsets to achieve both net zero buildings and organisations.
The publication of Renewable Energy Procurement and Carbon Offsetting Guidance for Net Zero Carbon Buildings follows soon after the December 2020 Climate Change Committee report which concluded that within the UK renewable electricity procurement is having a limited effect and, in many cases, none at all, on emissions reductions.
The explanation for the failure is that most of the renewable energy being procured already exists, perhaps because it is produced from an existing wind farm, or it is supported by Government subsidies.
“As a result, the procurement does not guarantee a causal relationship between an organisation’s action and any emission reduction delivered,” the UKGBC said in a statement. “This includes the vast majority of ‘green tariffs’, where the positive environmental impact is overstated.”
Actual increase in renewable energy is key
The new guidance includes a set of principles to be used for the evaluation of the quality of renewable energy procurement routes. This includes how to achieve additionality, by actually causing the increase of renewable energy capacity.
“Buying renewables or offsets for what you know you have to use is key to reducing carbon emissions whilst you work on improving the performance of your operations,” said JLL service line manager, utilities, David Mead, service line manager, utilities, at JLL, which participated in the compilation of the guidance.
The guidance also looks at carbon offsetting, which has been criticised because of the scope that it provides for ‘green-washing’. However, “the use of high-quality carbon offsets can be employed as part of a credible pathway to 1.5 degrees aligned net zero, if used responsibly,” the UKGBC concluded.
“This guidance provides a vital definition of what good looks like. This will help the industry on its path towards a more sustainable future and, by setting clear standards to live up to, safeguard against greenwash,” said Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby. “The UK is establishing an enviable track record in renewable power but there are many hard yards left to run in the race to net zero. Property has a mission critical role to play in investing in the infrastructure and technologies needed to reduce the sizeable share of emissions from the built environment.”
Guidance aimed at all areas of the property business
The new guidance, which is intended to be used by building developers, designers, owners, occupiers and policy makers, outlines how the environmental integrity of an offset is determined, the existing carbon standards that provide an assurance of integrity, and the way in which domestic carbon standards can play a role within organisational net zero strategies.
The guidance is applicable to all building types, sizes, and ownership types where annual public disclosure of energy use, generation and carbon offsets is possible.
A group of 32 industry experts helped produce the guidance which was also informed by a consultation run by UKGBC last year. These initiatives were part of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero Programme, which is supported by the Redevco Foundation as lead partner. Programme partners include BAM Construct UK, Berkeley Group, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Hoare Lea as well as JLL UK.
“Designing for reductions in whole life carbon and greater energy efficiency are just two pieces of a complex puzzle when it comes to our transition to net zero carbon buildings. The importance of the principles put forward in this guidance to evaluate the quality of renewable energy procurement routes, to calculate the residual emissions, and to offset those residual emissions in a meaningful way, is paramount to ensure the credibility of any net zero carbon building claim,” said UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen.