At the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders made non-binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and move beyond the pledge of net-zero emissions towards operating at a carbon-negative level – meaning they absorb more climate-changing emissions than they produce each year. 

These promises are well and good, but they must be backed up by intentional actions and results or they are nothing more than greenwashing. Of course, transitioning a country away from fossil fuels and curtailing national emissions is no easy task. It requires not only federal governments to be on board, but also state and city governments, organizations, companies, universities, private manufacturing plants, and facilities. Any entity that is producing emissions and consuming energy must take action for the COP26 goals to be fulfilled. 

So, how exactly can governments, organizations, and facilities reduce greenhouse gas emissions? The key may be implementing energy and sustainability management practices. 

What Is Energy and Sustainability Management?

Energy management is a term that encompasses the process of tracking and optimizing energy consumption to lower energy usage in building(s). (For reference, buildings are the source of 28% of global CO2 emissions annually.) Energy management generally involves a circular four step process:

  1. Collecting and analyzing energy and emissions data.
  2. Identifying optimizations and efficiency projects to improve energy efficiency.
  3. Following through with those optimizations and efficiency projects.
  4. Measuring and verifying those optimizations and efficiency projects to ensure they are having the desired effect.

Engaging in energy management allows governments, organizations, companies, and facilities to lower energy costs (a necessity as we grapple with a global energy crisis) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and thus meet sustainability goals and/or emissions requirements).

Specific Energy and Sustainability Management Solutions

Energy management is multifaceted. Governments and organizations can utilize the below solutions in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use and achieve their sustainability goals:

1. Invoice Data Automated Collection and Consolidation

This involves collecting all utility line-item data and converting or standardizing units to those of your choosing. That data can then be compared to the emissions and efficiency laws in different regions, allowing you to ensure each of your buildings comply. This is particularly essential for meeting COP26 goals, as it will be necessary for governments to set specific emissions and efficiency laws in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

2. Sustainability Reporting

Once you have acquired your emissions and energy data, the next step is sustainability reporting. Sustainability reporting is the disclosure of a company’s economic, environmental, and social effects as well as their progress towards them. Through sustainability reporting, an organization can improve brand integrity and reputation, mitigate risk, and drive performance and innovation, all while pleasing their stakeholders and investors. The value of sustainability reporting stretches beyond the reports themselves – your organization can use the data for action. 

3. Measurement and Verification

Measurement and Verification (M&V) is the process of planning, measuring, collecting, and analyzing data for the purpose of verifying and reporting your energy savings within your facility resulting from the implementation of energy conservation measures (ECMs). Efficiency projects are often necessary for lowering energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. 

4. Real-Time and Interval Data Monitoring

Real-time and interval data monitoring involves collecting your data from meter companies. The daily (or hourly, or in 15-minute intervals) data from your meters help to determine areas of inefficiency to fix, reduce excess energy use, and thus help your sustainability measures succeed. 

5. Benchmarking

Energy benchmarking involves measuring the efficiency of your buildings against each other, against similar “model” buildings, or against national efficiency guidelines like those of ENERGY STAR and GRESB.  Governments and organizations will find that energy benchmarking provides increased control over energy use and improved operational performance.

Key Takeaways

It is easy to look at COP26 as a gathering of faceless government officials whose pledges and promises have little to do with us. However, this is far from the case. Local governments, organizations, facilities, and even individual building owners and managers can help bring the COP26 pledges to fruition by employing energy and sustainability management. But we must act quickly in order curb global temperature rise and prevent the worst effects of climate change. 

This article was written by Beatrice O’Campo, Marketing Associate, EnergyWatch.