Sustainable practices have become a key part of the planning process when it comes to assessing building assets today. Over one-fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies have net zero commitments according to the report “Taking Stock: A global assessment of net zero targets.” These companies together represent annual sales of nearly $14 trillion. While we once strived for net zero, is that enough or can we push ourselves to go further and achieve net positive?
What is net positive?
A net positive asset produces more energy than it consumes through on-site energy generation, such as alternative energy. Net positivity is the future for sustainable operations and in turn, better business performance. Genpact’s new research Tech for Progress 360: Accelerating Climate Action with Data-Led Insight found that executives who strongly agree that their companies have embedded environmentally sustainable business practices have better business performance than those who have not. Moreover, their companies are more likely to have adopted new technologies over the past two years, showing that forward-looking companies often lead the way on multiple fronts.
Where do I even start?
The first step is to assess your current energy use. Start by monitoring your energy usage or have a building expert perform an energy audit. Then, collaborate with your building solution provider to have them analyze your data and provide you with recommendations for next steps. For example, implementing digital services in your building will enable a regular cadence for receiving data from your system, including insights from dashboards to help find opportunities for reducing energy use and increasing efficiency & productivity through system optimization. If you go with a system integration solution, potentially half of a building’s energy use can be controlled with a single platform that combines your HVAC, lighting, and other building components. Once you have agreed on a plan with your solution provider, you can start implementing it.
How do I know that my operation is now working for me?
Implementing and upgrading controls in conjunction with building management systems can help enhance your energy management strategies and give you much better visibility into your energy (i.e. utilities usage/spend). With these tools, you can analyze how much energy is being used and produced by your system to evaluate if it has achieved net positivity. For future equipment or construction, an energy services consultant can help you select the most effective systems to ensure that your sustainability goals are being met.
Once you have achieved net positive energy, you get to enjoy benefits like potentially lower energy bills and increased energy security. The energy you may save can be repurposed for other activities like charging electric vehicles or landscaping equipment, and the time and funds you have saved can be refocused on activities that support your core mission – growing your business, enhancing your learning environment, or supporting your community. Excess energy can even be sold back to the utility in a process called net metering if your state allows, providing a new income stream for your operation.
Pursuing a net positive energy strategy will help to reduce business costs, improve your organization’s reputation, attract new customers, and retain employees and investors who value sustainability - all helping yield both bottom line and top line returns for your business.
Research and copywriting contributed by Caroline Keys.