How to Calculate Carbon Emissions for a Business
How Are Carbon Emissions Defined?
Carbon emissions are divided into three types, or scopes:
- Scope 1 includes direct emissions based on what you do in your facilities and the emissions of company cars.
- Scope 2 is the indirect emissions typically created during the fueling, generation and distribution of energy by an electric utility or other organization you pay for electricity. If you’re using the grid to supply your electricity, you have scope 2 emissions.
- Scope 3 includes most other indirect sources of emissions – from distribution methods to supply chain to employee commutes.
For more guidance on carbon emissions, check out EPA.gov.
Why Focus on Scope 2 Carbon Emissions?
At first glance, scope 2 emissions might seem like something you have no control over. But they’re actually a great opportunity for a reduction strategy because they’re easily quantifiable, and a few targeted projects can have large measurable effects on your carbon footprint. If left unaddressed, they can affect your efforts to reduce overall emissions.
As mentioned above, these indirect emissions are typically in front of the meter, meaning they are created during the fueling, generation and distribution of electricity. Understanding the energy source mix where your organization operates creates a solid baseline to build measurable scope 2 emissions reduction strategies. For example, much of the grid-source electricity produced in the Midwestern states comes from coal-fired power plants, while other grid-sourced electricity nationwide is fueled by more wind, hydro, solar and nuclear, delivering a lower emissions generation mix.
For example, say you’re in the Midwest and you push to electrify your manufacturing and on campus vehicles. You’re doing all you can on the scope 1 side to reduce CO2 emissions, but your scope 2 emissions are still part of your carbon footprint. By reducing your reliance on the grid, you’re tackling a large portion of your footprint in one action and getting the most out of your scope 1 reductions at the same time.
Download Building Your Net-Zero Road Map eBook to get more tips to help you lower your emissions and plan your zero-carbon future.
How Do I Use the Carbon Emissions Calculator?
- The addresses of your facilities
- The name of your electric utility
- The number of total kilowatt-hours of electricity used per year
Using your electric bills and public records of utilities’ generation mix, you can determine the pounds of carbon emissions generated from your electric use for a year.
- Finding the total kilowatt-hours of electricity used per year: If your organization isn’t already tracking your total kilowatt-hours of electricity used, you can find it a couple of different ways. You can add the total kilowatt-hours from a year’s worth of your utility bills together. Or for a broader estimate, you can use the total from one month’s bill and multiply it times 12.
- Finding a snapshot of your utility’s electric generation mix percentages: You can simply enter any number under the total kilowatt-hours field in the calculator if you don’t have your total and click See Results to view your ZIP code’s generation mix. The results will show you the percentages and sources of electric generation for your utility, but you’ll need an accurate number of kilowatt-hours to calculate the estimate of pounds of your carbon emissions.
How Can I Lower My Scope 2 Carbon Emissions?
1. Invest in Energy Efficiency and Conservation
By making higher-efficiency investments in lighting, HVAC, plug load, pumps, compressors, refrigeration and more, every kWh of energy you save will help eliminate emissions by reducing the usage of grid sourced, fossil-fueled electricity. Learn how to do a plant energy audit.
2. Add Renewable Energy Generation
On-site rooftop solar, solar panel parking canopies, ground-mounted solar generation on your properties or community solar can reduce your reliance on the grid as well as your scope 2 emissions and energy costs. Explore renewable energy options.
3. Get a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA)
In a VPPA, your organization signs a contract to pay for electricity generated by a specific renewable generating plant, which locks in your rate. The renewable energy is added to the grid on their end and your facilities keep running off the grid. You own the renewable energy credits (RECs) for the offtake. Dive into VPPAs.