Investing in Low Carbon Future
Low carbon future is the joint focus of two Interreg Europe projects, SME POWER and RESINDUSTRY, which organised on 16th of June a webinar on New Growth from Energy Efficiency and Renewables for the local audience. The focus of the event was on funding possibilities for energy efficiency and renewable energy development and investment projects, and the calculation of carbon footprint to support the efforts.
Energy Aid for Industry and Businesses
Markku Mäkelä, Product Manager from the innovation funding centre Business Finland, presented available funding options to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in the industry. Currently, the energy aid is directed at the development of innovative solutions for low-carbon energy systems: the growth of renewable energy use, energy savings through energy efficiency, new technology projects, Motiva type energy audits and from 2020, also increase of material efficiency.
According to Mäkelä, in 2019, altogether 17 new technology projects were funded by 1 656 000 €, out of which 70% of projects were related to energy efficiency and 30% to renewable energy projects. As new technology is regarded the first demonstration plant of a novel solution not experimented in Finland.
Based on the number of energy subsidy classification (Figure 1), most applications in 2019 were strongly related to photovoltaics, followed by the building’s energy efficiency and waste heat recovery. Heat pumps have been gaining popularity and the number of applications increases compared to previous years.
Investments promoting energy efficiency and savings in 2020 (conventional technology) is in a range of 15-25%: 20% for companies and entities that have signed energy efficiency agreements, 25% when using the ESCO (Energy Service Company) service, 15% for non-energy performance contracting companies and communities when using the ESCO service. Projects involving new technologies will be awarded on a case-by-case basis with increased support (20-40%) also for companies and municipalities with no energy efficiency agreements.
The investment aid for various renewable energy solutions varies from 10-30%: heating plant projects (wood fuels) 10-15%, heat pump projects (excluding the use of waste and residual heat) 15%, solar heat projects 20%, small hydroelectric power projects 15-20%, landfill gas projects 15-20%, small wind power projects 15-20%, small CHP projects 15-20%, solar electricity projects 20%, biogas projects 20-30%.
For investments in renewables and energy efficiency using new technology, investment aid is up to 40% for SMEs, 30% for big companies. Research projects related to energy audits of the municipal sector, micro-enterprises and SMEs related to energy efficiency agreements can be granted to 50% and other energy audits 40%.
According to Mäkelä, awareness and communication related to energy funding possibilities among companies needs to increase as only an industry fraction has applied so far.
Carbon Footprint Calculation for Buildings and Processes
Climate change is a major challenge that makes the shift towards low carbon energy systems crucial for all fields of society and business. In addition to legislative obligations and desired cost savings, value base is an important driver when businesses are thinking about investments to responsibility. Carbon footprint calculation can bring communicative value to customers and provides a tool for own development work of companies.
The Finnish Government has set up a goal to ensure that Finland is carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon after that. In accordance with the Government Programme, sectoral low-carbon roadmaps have been drawn up in cooperation with companies and organisations in the relevant sectors. This sets the framework for development in the years to come.
Currently construction and real estate account for 40% of total energy use and about 30% of emissions. The energy consumption of the operating phase is significant, although declining due to the new building stock with zero energy construction. This means the reduction margin lies in renovation of buildings and shift to utilisation of renewable energy sources. The so-called carbon peaks during construction phase are also worth studying.
Carbon footprint can be calculated for products, services and organisations. Usually it refers to footprint during the lifespan, but the term is also used to describe, for example, annual greenhouse gas emissions of organisations. The footprint contains at least fossil greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4 etc.), reported in form of carbon dioxide equivalents. Calculation of carbon footprint enables to identify and analyse emissions and pinpoint possibilities for their reduction.
What is then important to take into account when considering about carbon footprint calculation?
According to Elina Merta from FCC Finnish Consulting Group, there is no patent solution – each organisation must find its organisation- or process-specific solutions. The most important starting point is to map the baseline data and situation, and only after that plan the steps forward. GHG Protocol is the most common method for determining the annual operational emissions of buildings and organisations. You can often see this protocol named in the annual reports of large companies demonstrating the carbon footprint.
Businesses and organisations are already quite aware of energy efficiency questions, but there is still much to do in construction processes as well as developing low carbon construction products - all connected to the service life and conversion flexibility of buildings. The utmost important thing is to tie the carbon footprint calculation to planning processes at early stage, when it is still possible to impact and make a difference.
Jaana Myllyluoma who acts as a Senior Adviser in FCG Finnish Consulting Group and coordinates the SME POWER project activities on behalf of Heinola City
Katerina Medkova who works as an RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and Project & Communication Manager in the RESINDUSTRY project.
The texts were originally published in LAB Focus on 30.6.2020: