“Greenhouse gas emissions reporting: more than a tick box exercise” - Stephanie Parker

Comment by Stephanie Parker, Senior Advisor Decarbonisation – Complex Sites at Energy Systems Catapult.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting should not be another tick box exercise for sustainability and estate teams. By prioritising better, more consistent data and reporting, public sector organisations will be able to understand their priorities for reducing emissions and unlock the investment needed.

However, getting to a point where the public sector has a consistent approach, is not a straightforward process. The National Audit Office (NAO) recently said:

“Some public bodies have found it challenging to navigate the range of guidance about how to measure and report greenhouse gas emissionsHM Treasury, BEIS*, Defra and the Cabinet Office all publish guidance, so organisations have to cross-check multiple documents to ensure nothing is missed. There is no single location bringing this information together”.

What is increasingly clear, is the need to end fragmented GHG reporting in the public sector. To achieve this, the government is developing guidance on emissions monitoring and reporting for the public sector, to be published in 2025. A consistent approach is needed that cuts red tape and inefficiencies and unleashes the potential of the public sector to lead by example.

Benefits of consistent data reporting and public disclosure

Making reporting more consistent across the public sector, and enabling public scrutiny, would support a much more transparent and clearer understanding of progress towards Net Zero. It would highlight those who are leading the way and compel others to do better.

Until there is a consistent approach, our new guide on greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and reporting can help you understand the basics and navigate the options available to you. The guide helps you choose a standard methodology, enabling you to repeat the same approach year on year, giving your organisation a clear view of progress.

Making the reported data publicly available would give stakeholders a much better view of progress and open the public sector up to closer scrutiny. Many public sector organisations receive National Audit Office and Freedom of Information requests, putting their data under the microscope. Publishing good quality GHG reporting data puts organisational leaders on the front foot – it demonstrates leadership and a grasp of the challenge, as well as giving the opportunity to highlight progress made, projects implemented and benefits realised.

It’s not just reporting upwards and outwards where you can see benefits. High quality data in the hands of the right teams provides them with a grip on emissions, helps them to create a robust plan to get to Net Zero and can support better day to day energy management. Putting the data in the hands of delivery experts affords a sense of ownership to ensure that the actions they take have a meaningful impact.

Discovering hot spots and anomalies in GHG emissions reporting data should result in taking forward ‘no regret measures’ (interventions that have low payback and quickly provide cost savings). For example, data could help to identify equipment that needs maintenance, a cost-effective upgrade to a bit of power-hungry kit or the root cause of high emissions on site.

These quick wins should end up saving money in the medium to long run while simultaneously cutting emissions. Better still if you have already exhausted your list of quick wins, then good quality data will help decision making on larger investment options to move away from fossil fuels and really tackle the climate challenge.

Getting smart on data

If your organisation is required to, or wishes to, monitor, report, and/or disclose your emissions reporting data, there are some simple steps you can take today.

In our digital world, it is possible to have accurate near live energy data at your fingertips. Better quality information results in a fuller picture of your energy use and facilitates better reporting and decision making. Making the case for this within your organisation, and securing the necessary investment is absolutely worth it in the long run.

Getting to that point is not always easy to achieve, and as well as making the case for investment, there may be practical challenges to overcome. You may still need to manually read meters, you may only occupy part of a building as a tenant or indeed share a building with others, this might mean you need submeters.

For smaller sites, there is an obligation on your energy supplier to offer you a smart meter. Smart meters contribute to Great Britain’s journey to transition to a more flexible energy system, they are one simple but crucial step to deliver Net Zero carbon emission by 2050. Public sector organisations have an opportunity to take the lead on the transition to a more flexible and decarbonised energy system by installing smart meters in their smaller estates.

Many public sector sites, including local authorities and schools across Great Britain are already benefitting from a smart meter, allowing them to take control of their energy use and adapt their behaviors to save money and lower their emissions.

To have a smart meter installed you should speak to your energy supplier, framework provider or third-party intermediary, and they will set the process in motion. Energy suppliers can work in coordination with public sector organisations to plan and manage installations.

You can access more information about smart meters for public sector sites as well as frequently asked questions here.

Giving you the tools for success

Emissions reporting is not a silver bullet. Alone, it will not deliver lower bills and reduced emissions, but it will provide you with vital information to help you plan, make decisions and act. GHG emissions reporting should be considered in the context of your broader Net Zero strategy. To help you develop your strategy and take meaningful actions, you can use the following guides and tools:

  1. BAU calculator for estate emissions
    • This downloadable Excel tool models your future energy consumption, carbon emissions, and associated costs, giving you a baseline from which you can plan your projects to reduce GHG emissions.
  2. Understanding your energy data
    • This guide helps you to gather your energy data and provides support on basic data analysis, helping you to understand your usage as a first step on your decarbonisation journey.
  3. Guidance for public sector greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and reporting
    • We have just launched a dedicated GHG Guide aimed at helping you to demystify reporting and supporting you to pick the best approach for your organisation.

If you’d like to discuss anything in this blog or want to have a chat to understand more about the help that is available to you, then get in touch!

*BEIS existed until 2023 when it was split to form the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). Responsibility for national security and investment policy has gone to the Cabinet Office.

Public Sector Decarbonisation Guidance

Accelerating carbon emissions reduction across public sector buildings, sites and estates… with simplicity, speed & scale.

Find out more

Want to know more?

Find out more about how Energy Systems Catapult can help you and your teams