Tuesday, 23 June 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Total wins 'Environmental Innovation Award 2009'

The following press release features Carbon Clear's fuel card partnership with Total.

TOTAL wins ‘Environmental Innovation Award 2009’
Birmingham 17th June 2009 – Awareness of environmental issues in business and among the general public has reached new heights as a result of a constant barrage of reports and studies into the contribution of human activity to climate change. In the fleet and automotive sectors, companies are facing strong pressure to develop products and systems which reduce emissions at the same time as maintaining high performance and productivity levels. As part of its fleet Awards programme, the Institute of Transport Management (ITM) has been investigating fuel cards as a means of reducing carbon emissions and increasing fleet efficiency. On the basis of information collected by the research team, the Awards Committee is hereby delighted to announce that TOTAL is to be presented with an ITM ‘Environmental Innovation Award 2009’ for its TOTALCARD green product.

The TOTAL Group is a major player in the global petroleum industry and is actively involved in both upstream and downstream operations: oil and gas exploration, development and production, and liquefied natural gas (LNG), plus refining, marketing and the trade and shipping of crude oil and petroleum products. It also produces base chemicals (fertilisers and petrochemicals) and speciality chemicals for both consumer and industrial markets (adhesives, resins, electroplating and rubber processing). The company additionally has interests in coal mining and power generation. On the basis of a clear corporate vision and decisive leadership, the company has grown to become the fourth largest integrated and publicly traded company oil and gas company in the world, able to boast sales of more than £150 billion per year and the second biggest capitalisation in Europe, registering in excess of €130 million.

Its TOTALCARD services help fleet operators to fine tune fleet efficiency through web-based, PIN-protected management systems which operate through a nationwide network. Managers can avail of a thorough yet intelligible analysis of fuel use, including spending, miles per gallon and time of purchase. The system gives managers much greater control over the activities of the fleet, resulting in cost savings as well as a better environmental profile. Indeed, TOTAL is fully committed to exploring the potential for environmentally friendly fuel products, and has recently launched a dedicated green card to assist fleet managers in meeting the latest emissions regulations.

TOTALCARD green enables easy calculation of CO2 emissions, implementation of reduction programmes, access to follow-up reports and carbon offsetting. The emissions calculation is based on fuel expenditure and is available to managers online. Collection of such data forms the background for a three-part CO2 reduction plan: price incentives for advanced fuels which decrease consumption by 3.8 percent; ongoing monitoring of daily expenditure, fuel consumption per vehicle and unusual transactions; comprehensive and practical advice relating to the key principles of investing in advanced fuels and lubricants, vehicle maintenance and driving behaviour. Following implementation of the action plan, managers can access online data on emissions levels, percentages of advanced fuels used and resultant savings. Additional emissions can be offset by the Carbon Clear programme to which TOTAL itself contributes in proportion to the fuel volumes of TOTALCARD green clients.

Announcing the Award to TOTAL, ITM Media and PR Director Mr. Patrick Sheedy said: ‘TOTAL has been successful with the ITM Awards programme in the past, winning fuel card titles since the start of the decade. With its latest product, TOTAL tackles the environmental issue head-on through a dedicated green fuel card. Considering the increase in the burden of emissions regulation on businesses today together with public pressure to improve green credentials, fleet companies really do need a helping hand to reduce CO2 output. Having thoroughly examined the fuel cards currently on the market, the Institute is confident that the strongest environmental offering comes from TOTAL, with its TOTALCARD green. This latest fuel card from TOTAL will be a hugely useful tool for fleet managers who must watch emissions at the same time as keeping an eye on the bottom line. It also underlines TOTAL’s dedication towards ensuring a healthy energy future for the planet.”

Mr. Sheedy concludes: “I congratulate TOTAL on winning this Award and hope that other businesses in the transport industry will pay heed and model their own environmental policies on those of TOTAL. I look forward to witnessing the development of further pioneering products and services from TOTAL in the near future.”

More Hot Summers - More Air Conditioning?

(This article was originally published in issue number 80 (June 2009) of the IEMA journal the environmentalist.)

One of the main challenges in the fight against climate change is dealing with unexpected feedback effects. In many cases, a warming globe creates impacts that lead to even more warming. In this article, we explore the feedbacks between climate change and building heating and cooling systems, and discuss some of the options available to environment managers.

The Met Office has predicted a sweltering summer for 2009. According to the UK’s Chief Meteorologist, “….we can expect times when temperatures will be above 30°C, something we hardly saw at all last year.”

Hot summers are becoming more common as climate change takes hold. While summers in 2007 and 2008 were cooler in many northern latitude countries, the summer of 2003 was the hottest in Europe for at least five centuries and in the UK, six out of the seven warmest years since 1659 have occurred since 1990.

And it’s not just a European phenomenon - eight of the past ten summers in the USA have been warmer than the average for the 20th century.

Climate Change and Building Energy

These hot summers have energy implications: according to Government figures, the USA's residential energy demand was approximately 10 percent higher than what would have occurred under average climate conditions for the season, and it is likely that in the UK, electricity consumption will rise as a result of an increase in air conditioning. Since most of our electricity in both countries comes from fossil fuels, increasing air conditioner use makes it more difficult to meet challenging emissions reduction targets.

In the USA 65% of commercial buildings have air conditioning, compared to 27% in Europe, although a higher percentage of buildings constructed after 1991 rely on air conditioning. One rule of thumb is that a 2°C temperature increase translates into a 25% rise in air conditioning loads. If summers continue to get hotter, will the UK adopt the Continental tradition of afternoon siestas to deal with the heat, or follow the USA’s heavy reliance on round the clock air conditioning?

An indication of what might lie in store for the UK can be gained from looking at air conditioning trends in New England. Historically, electricity demand was greater during the region’s snowy winters due to heating demands and a greater reliance on electric heaters. In summer demand would drop as residents relied on windows and fans to keep cool. But around 2000, peak electric loads shifted to the summer due to the increased use of- and the perceived need for-air conditioning. Now, even in northern New England, peak load has shifted to the summer due to more regular use of air conditioning, and a switch away from electricity for winter heating.

Making matters worse are the unpredictable shoulder seasons of autumn and spring. Lag-times in heating and cooling mean gas-fired heating systems may be competing with air conditioners in those months where cool mornings transition into warm afternoons. Simultaneous heating and cooling is not uncommon, especially in small and mid-size buildings which do not have active management and may not have been properly commissioned. Increasingly variable weather during these seasons due to climate change may mean even greater energy consumption.

Can these trends in increased summer electricity demand be reversed, or will our hotter summers continue to be accompanied by a rise in air conditioning and the related emissions from electricity production? Can we take action to break this positive feedback loop?

Small buildings and air conditioning use

Historically, smaller buildings had a single boiler and thermostat. Now even modest buildings of 4,000 square feet (372 square meters) typically include heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems and automated controls with numerous control devices. These systems are generally design/build – meaning the same firm that designs them, installs them. This approach may result in a lack of independence and transparency in the set up and deployment of the building controls.

Typical problems in small retail and office premises can include:
  • Lack of documentation (i.e., no sequence of operation or controls wiring diagrams)
  • Comfort problems (intermittent overheating in the winter or overcooling in summer)
  • Loss of original intent as subsequent contractors modify the system with limited understanding of existing functionality (e.g., programmable thermostats not set properly for use)

This problem of proper commissioning and air conditioning use can be illustrated in an ongoing project evaluating a 4,200 square foot (380 sq meter) office building in northern New England. A review of the monthly consumption of purchased electricity showed that this building’s electricity usage was 40% higher in August than in January due to air conditioning use even though 2007 was not a particularly hot summer in New England The annual electricity usage amounted to 31,850 KWh causing almost one tonne of CO2e emissions . This indicated an average electricity energy intensity of 8.5 kWh per square foot. Regional best practice indicates an average electricity energy intensity of half this amount, 4.12 kWh per square foot. . Optimization of controls could reduce the building’s electricity usage by at least 15% overall - in this case, cutting annual greenhouse emissions by approximately 150 kg of CO2e.

The Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems of small and mid-size commercial buildings typically do not work as effectively and as efficiently as they might. The deficiencies can result from a lack of expertise in control system diagnostics and operations in the staff and in contractors who typically are on site to perform routine maintenance. In particular, smaller buildings and companies often cannot afford to maintain a facilities manager or employee with facilities management expertise.

These results are not unique to the US. A pilot study in the UK evaluated 20 retail premises for temperature and relative humidity. The results showed that higher summer thermostat settings could improve both thermal comfort and the energy efficiency of air conditioning units. However, despite increased energy costs and the public’s mounting concern over climate change, few UK retail outlets have any plan for managing air conditioning use.

These deficiencies lead to on-going costs, lost personnel time due to comfort problems, increased operating costs as contractors are brought on site to address comfort issues, energy waste, and avoidable carbon emissions.

The building as a system

While proper operational control of energy use is often the starting point for making cost-effective improvements and reducing carbon emissions, it is also helpful to recognize a building as a dynamic system – with energy consumption influenced by its site and orientation, building envelope micro-climate, occupant behaviour and landscaping and the surrounding vegetation.

For example, ground soil and groundwater are both warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than ambient air temperature. Ground source pumps use these temperature differentials to pre-cool incoming air and reduce the energy requirement of air conditioners in summer, and do the reverse in winter.

Construction materials can play an important role: masonry has a higher thermal mass than glass and steel, and therefore maintains a more even temperature. The lag time between heating and cooling can be used to maintain interior temperatures and reduce air conditioning loads.

Building occupants can be motivated to reduce internal heat gains in the summer by ensuring lights, computers, printers and other electrical equipment is turned off when not in use. Meanwhile staff can be encouraged not to overcool buildings simply because air conditioning is available – many companies are already encouraging casual wear on hotter days to reduce cooling requirements.

Landscaping can provide a shade canopy in the summer, lock up carbon through photosynthesis, and reduce ambient temperatures through evapo-transpiration. Broad-leaf deciduous trees in particular have canopies which reduce passive solar gain in the summer while allowing it when needed in the winter.

This type of holistic view is easier for new-builds, where such considerations can be factored in at the planning stage. Options for cost-effective improvements are more limited with existing buildings. However renovation does present real opportunities to improve the building envelope to manage heat flow. Natural ventilation can be improved by considering the placement of internal partition walls that do not impede cross ventilation, and windows can be retrofitted to make better use of nighttime cooling to lower cooling requirements during the day.
Nearly every human activity has an effect on the climate. Buildings occupy a critical role in modern society, and climate feedbacks threaten to amplify their impact. However, with careful planning, we may be able to break the link between buildings and global warming.

Suzy Hodgson AIEMA is a Principal Consultant and Jamal Gore AIEMA is Managing Director at specialist carbon management company Carbon Clear Limited.