Mhlnews 2167 Tomorrows Promise

Technology: Tomorrows Promise

Feb. 1, 2009
Mitigating climate change is sure to top legislative agendas in the years to come. Smart companies are turning the potential burden into an opportunity.

By Pablo Päster

Any regulation aiming to mitigate climate change is often seen as a burden or even a threat, particularly when budgets are tight. However, some companies are rethinking greenhouse gas (GHG) management as a way to achieve economic benefits and improve their public image. A company’s GHG emissions—generated directly through on-site combustion, indirectly through electricity use or throughout the supply chain—are as costly as they are environmentally damaging.

That’s why the case for managing GHG emissions goes beyond “doing the right thing” for the environment. Companies can reduce energy and fuel costs, gain positive media attention and improve employee productivity. They can also reduce risk exposure during periods of extreme energy-price volatility.

So, how does a company get started? The traditional process has been for an internal team or outside consulting company to perform an annual audit of company emissions. The resulting report is then verified by an independent third party and can be used for compliance purposes or internal use. It can also assist in voluntary initiatives, such as EPA Climate Leaders, an industry-government partnership focused on climate-change strategies.

Another option is specialized technology. With many advanced IT solutions, a consultant needs only to perform an initial setup. The third party would be called on later when a company is prepared to implement an emission reduction project.

Many new tools are Web-based, so they can automatically populate data by connecting to legacy systems. This allows companies to track the effectiveness of emission reduction measures almost immediately. Access to this kind of actionable information is often more effective than typical GHG emission inventory reports. The more reliable and timely the data, the more effective it is for decision making.

A third option for starting an emissions reduction project is tapping the expertise of an energy services company. These third parties can connect data-logging equipment to facilities and material handling equipment that monitors energy use over time.

For example, we used a data logger to monitor a compressor for one of our clients. Once the data was collected, the customer discovered the compressor was running intermittently throughout the night while the facility was closed. The compressor was put on a timer, and the air pipes were checked for leaks and repaired. Right away, the company gained considerable energy savings.

Managing GHG emissions will likely become an important part of corporate strategy in the coming years. One of President Obama’s stated goals is to reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. Achieving such drastic emissions reductions will require far-reaching actions by companies in every sector of the economy.

Photo Credit: Diana Casanova

Additionally, when the successor to the international Kyoto Protocol is developed later this year, the U.S. is sure to have a more proactive seat at the table. Currently, the Northeast’s Regional GHG Initiative is the nation’s only legislated cap-and-trade system for reducing GHG emissions. California is expected to begin regulating GHG emissions next year. These regional systems will likely evolve into a national initiative for reducing overall emissions.

But, these changes don’t have to be seen as business threats. On the contrary, they can be opportunities to maximize cost savings and support environmental objectives. Companies that take action today will be better prepared to face tomorrow.

Pablo Päster is the vice president of greenhouse gas management at Climate-CHECK, a GHG services company. Päster has a master’s degree in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management in San Francisco and authors “Ask Pablo,” a weekly environmental question-and-answer column on Treehugger. com, a Discovery Channel company.

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