What is Decarbonization?
You’re likely hearing the word a lot in the media, but what does decarbonization mean?
Decarbonization is the effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are part of the world’s traditional fossil fuel-intensive energy production and consumption. While we can’t remove carbon once it’s emitted, it’s a way to draw a line in the sand and attempt to cause minimal damage to the atmosphere moving forward.
While you may think of gas-burning vehicles when you think of carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 30 percent of domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions actually come from the industrial sector, nearly as much as the 35 percent which come from transportation.
The United States has a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Let’s explore what that means to you and your business.
Methods of Decarbonization Businesses Can Implement
Research has revealed four main approaches to optimizing efforts toward decarbonization:
- Energy efficiency programs. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to employ decarbonization techniques is to simply use less energy. Installing LED lights and using facility controls to automate building systems are examples of ways to avoid wasting energy.
- Producing low–carbon or carbon-free energy. Using Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) like solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energy assets, either along with or exclusive of conventional energy sources, can make a big impact in reducing emissions.
- Electrifying more services. From electrifying building systems to constructing the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, there is a push to move away from fossil fuels.
- Carbon capture and diversion. There will always be situations that continue to create greenhouse gasses. For instance, cows will always create manure, which releases methane. However, it’s possible to manage those situations to divert GHGs from entering the atmosphere. In the agricultural arena, EnTech Solutions and our partner Northern Biogas have repurposed a biodigester to capture methane and carbon dioxide from agriculture waste and convert it into renewable natural gas (RNG). This results in a carbon-negative process because renewable solar energy is used to power the facility and produces a product–RNG–that replaces a carbon-based version of fuel.
Carbon sequestration is another method of decarbonization, and there are two types—geologic and biologic—which are explained nicely by the U.S. Geological Survey. Geologic carbon sequestration is the process of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic formations. Biologic carbon sequestration refers to the natural storage of atmospheric carbon in vegetation, soil, trees and bodies of water.
Making Decarbonization Financially Feasible
Let’s be honest: for organizations to consider sustainability projects, there must be financial benefits.
Regardless of the clear altruistic benefits of decarbonization for the world, there still needs to be a business reason for investing in systems and technologies. Luckily, those financial incentives have been falling into place in recent years to complement the need to “do the right thing.”
The following market forces are contributing to the acceleration of decarbonization from a financial standpoint:
- Grants and tax incentives. The time is now to take advantage of federal grants and tax incentives for renewable energy projects. EnTech Solutions includes information about eligible programs as part of our estimating process. These incentives likely won’t last forever, so now is the time to consider whether your future includes an energy upgrade and whether a postponed timeline is worth the risk of relevant programs ending.
- Market premiums. Companies with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals or local mandates will pay a premium for renewable energy or products produced using a carbon neutral or carbon negative process.
- Balancing the bottom line. Thanks to advances in how we are building and utilizing renewable energy resources, the assets required to build the infrastructure and the results of utilization are now cost effective.
In the end, most business decisions are made based on value and return on investment. At EnTech Solutions, we design projects that incorporate your priorities regarding the same three variables, adjusting to fit your specific needs:
- Highest value (usually means the lowest carbon emissions)
- Least expensive
- Most reliable
We model each design to deliver on all three of these variables and adjust based on your project needs and corporate priorities. Thanks to our proprietary modeling software, Energy DNA™, we can create multiple iterations to ensure we hit your targets for operational and financial optimization.
How to Get Started (or Take the Next Steps) in Your Decarbonization Efforts
Once the financials start to fall into place, one of the final obstacles to decarbonization is understanding what solutions are possible for your business. Our recommendation is to engage with an expert like EnTech Solutions early in the process.
You don’t have to have it all figured out; we can walk you through the process. Once you provide some relatively basic information, we can model numerous design options and show you a variety of scenarios that could help you reach your goals. If your most important goal is net-zero emissions, then we can show you what that might look like. If your goal is to improve operational resilience and create a reliable power source, then your design will focus on that. And if you simply want to make some progress on sustainability goals on a limited budget, that is possible, too.
The end result is a personalized solution tailored to your organization’s specific decarbonization goals.
Our ability to assess your current state of operations and model possibilities is the first step in determining how viable a reduction in carbon emissions is for your company and your circumstance. When you work with an EnTech energy advisor who can be with you from beginning to end, we often hear that it brings peace of mind around these decisions.
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