The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has launched a new guide for procuring renewable energy and carbon offsetting for net zero carbon buildings.
The guidance, which is expected to provide clarity for the property and construction industry, includes a set a principles which should be used to evaluate the quality of renewable energy procurement routes.
According to the Climate Change Committee’s report published in December 2020, the procurement of renewable electricity within the UK is currently having a limited impact and in many cases, no impact at all on emissions reductions either for the organisation or for the country.
This is because most of the renewable energy being procured today either already exists, for example, from an existing wind farm, or 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, which includes the vast majority of ‘green tariffs’, where the positive environmental impact is overstated.
The latest guidance also outlines how the environmental integrity of an offset is determined, the existing carbon standards that provide this assurance of integrity and how domestic carbon standards can play a role within organisational net zero strategies.
It also sets out a ‘leadership approach’, which demonstrates how organisations and consumers can use carbon offsetting to go beyond emission reductions and support the development of a broader value proposition that is aligned to long term business strategies and supports the UK and global transition to net zero.
In line with UKGBC’s guidance, carbon offsets should only be used to compensate unavoidable emissions in a timeframe aligned to the point of pollution: annually for operational energy and at the point of completion for construction.
The guidance is intended to be used by building developers, designers, owners, occupiers and policymakers and is expected to be of most use to energy procurement, facility management and sustainability professionals within these organisations.
It is applicable to all building types, sizes and ownership scopes where annual public disclosure of energy use, generation and carbon offsets is possible.
Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC said: “Designing for reductions in whole life carbon and greater energy efficiency are just two pieces of a complex puzzle when it comes to out 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 in a meaningful way, is paramount to ensure the credibility of any net zero carbon building claim.
“This guidance marks an important step forward in helping the industry to deliver on our net zero targets and ultimately respond to the climate crisis with buildings that are fit for the future.”