The Facts About Fossil Fuels: Reducing Your Organisation’s Impact
The world is facing a climate crisis.
We know this to be true, and we know that the burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent greenhouse gases are the cause of this crisis.
It’s widely understood that the ‘greenhouse effect’ is changing the climate at an unnaturally fast rate where most living things are not able to keep up, causing devastating damage.
Despite this, roads are still traffic jammed with petrol-thirsty cars and trucks, and fossil fuels are still being combusted to fuel our everyday lives.
Something has to change.
Individual change is great, sure. Maybe you’ve traded down to a more energy-efficient personal vehicle, or even changed your diet. But in order to combat the changing climate, your organisation must also step up and take responsibility for its emissions.
It might seem impossible to cut down on fossil fuels, or you might not even be aware your organisation is currently using them.
Not to worry, here we’ll explain the basics of fossil fuels, then outline key areas in which your organisation can reduce its impact and cut back on fossil fuels for a greener reputation, and a healthier planet.
What Are Fossil Fuels?
Carbon-rich deposits buried deep in the earth originate from organisms decomposing over thousands of years, becoming what we call fossil fuels.
These fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas and are considered non-renewable energy sources, which will eventually run out or not be replenished in our lifetimes, or many lifetimes to come.
Fossil fuels are burned to provide electricity, heat, and transport, but in this process, release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and are the main contributors to climate warming.
Reducing our use of fossil fuels is one of the most direct ways to cut back on emissions. With the help of modern technology, your organisation can switch away from fossil fuels, towards a more sustainable future. But where to start?
Transport is a huge contributor to fossil fuel usage, accounting for around 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions each year. This is primarily due to internal combustion engines (ICE), which ignite and burn fossil fuels to produce energy.
Cycle to Work
Reducing the number of cars on the road is a no-brainer when it comes to cutting back on fossil fuels and the emissions that come with them.
Above: Reduced carbon emissions aren’t the only benefit of alternative transport, fewer cars on the road mean less congestion too.
Encouraging employees to utilise public transport networks and even cycling to work is a great way to get started on cutting back emissions. As well as this, cycling regularly has also shown to improve mental and physical health, leading to happier employees, without the carbon cost.
Consider developing a “cycle to work” scheme to incentivise ditching the car, as well as installing secure bike storage in your workplace to support greener transport choices.
If transport to and between meetings makes up a portion of your organisation’s travel costs, consider the potential for teleconferencing.
Driving across the city, or flying across the country, or even the world, for a meeting might have been normal once. However, COVID-19 lockdowns and the changing scope of work has meant that video-calls have become commonplace.
Not only do they reduce the risk of transmission, however, teleconferences also cut down on the fossil fuel use associated with meeting-related travel.
Taking a Look at Your Fleet
If reducing your organisation’s travel isn’t possible, take a look at your organisation’s vehicles in use already.
Transitioning your organisation’s fleet to electric vehicles reduces your environmental impact while cutting back on running costs. Where electric vehicle replacements may not be feasible, focus on fuel efficiency to reduce emissions.
Gathering information about current vehicle usage and company culture can ensure that EV implementation works for your organisation. Drive Electric’s ‘How-To Guide’ tackles some of the key barriers to successful implementation here.
Process heat is the heat used for warming spaces, industrial processing and manufacturing and is most commonly in the form of steam, hot water, or hot gases.
Due to its hefty share in New Zealand’s emissions, one third of energy emissions and nine percent of the country’s total emissions, it’s an area worth working on. In fact, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) has identified process heat as one of the greatest opportunity areas to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy emissions.
Decisions regarding process heat are important, as “heat plants” can have long life spans, up to 40 years. Understanding fossil fuels’ role to play in both process heat and climate change ensures your organisation makes sound decisions for the future.
Around sixty percent of process heat in New Zealand uses fossil fuels, mainly coal and gas, which, when burnt, release greenhouse gases. Coal is currently the cheapest form of energy for process heat yet is the most emission-heavy choice.
Two dairy processors, Synlait and Fonterra, have already committed to build no additional coal-fired boilers. This is a decision that will hold up over the years, as rising carbon prices will eventually result in the financial infeasibility of emissions-intensive assets.
While most of New Zealand’s process heat is used in industry, such as milk processing, commercial and public sectors still contribute. Commercial use is primarily through the heating of large spaces and offices.
Avoiding fossil fuels such as natural gases and coal when making heating decisions is a great way for your organisation to cut back on emissions.
Innovations mean that cost-effective, sustainable energy options are available for a variety of heating needs.
Heat pumps, for example, are incredibly efficient, as well as versatile, with commercially available heat pumps reaching temperatures up to 100 °C. The best thing? These heat pumps, as well other heat sources, run off electricity that, in New Zealand, is made up of over 80 percent renewable energy.
The Future of Fossil Fuels
The future of fossil fuels is looking shaky.
Many experts are saying that we won’t run out of these fuels overnight, but production will peak at some point as it becomes more and more expensive to extract the fuels. This point is called “peak oil”, where production hits a maximum rate and begins to decline.
When we reach this point, the discovery of new sources cannot keep up with the decline in existing sources. New technology developments have pushed back the peak oil point till now, but one thing is for certain, the era of fossil fuels is quickly coming to an end regardless, with some people saying we have already passed peak demand for fossil fuels.
Know the Payback
In order to present a strong business case for sustainable changes in your organisation, such as introducing EVs or changing your heating system, you need to know the payback.
e-Calc™ helps frame the benefits of sustainability efforts in a way that’s accessible for everyone. With outputs displayed in financial ($), energy (kWh), and emissions (CO2e), you can monitor exactly how and where your organisation can save.
Understanding the potential payback for projects helps shape the direction your organisation takes when it comes to sustainability. Make informed decisions that build a better future, for your business and the planet.