Our approach to net zero

Our approach to net zero

Helping you achieve net zero carbon


With Ricardo’s tried and tested six-step approach to net zero (outlined below), you will be confident, from your board room to the shop floor, that your roadmap will get you to net zero in the timeframe expected by your investors, employees and customers - in ways that minimise costs and maximise savings. 

Support at each stage of your net zero journey

Ricardo has a long track record of helping organisations with baselining, developing and implementing carbon reduction strategies and policies and responding to environmental legislation.

We can support you no matter where your organisation is on its journey to net zero carbon emissions. We can help develop a strategy that meets your specific needs and ambitions, identify projects needed to achieve your ambitions and provide expertise to help you implement and monitor those projects successfully.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you reach net zero carbon emissions.

If you're from a local authority, take a look at our net zero capability statement.

Our tried and tested six-step approach to planning and delivering net zero roadmaps

Step 1: Understand your current emissions

The starting point for your journey to net zero is to understand your current emissions. Whether you want to work from an existing carbon footprint for your baseline year or complex, Scope 3 emissions, Ricardo can help.   

Since 1982, we have calculated the carbon emissions factors for the UK. These factors are used by the UK Government to report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and to assess the UK’s progress toward its domestic carbon emissions reduction targets.

Working with Ricardo – as an authority on emissions factors, modelling and accountability – you can rest assured that your net zero roadmap is based on an accurate calculation of your current emissions baseline.   

Step 2: Analyse pathways to net zero and set targets

From installing renewables to fuel switching to carbon offsetting, there are lots of ways to get to net zero. With a full understanding of your carbon emissions, we will model different mitigation pathways using our Net Zero Gap Analysis tool. We will consider the realistic impact of each scenario on energy use, carbon emissions and costs to give greater certainty on the impact of different mitigation measures and investment timelines.   

Our detailed understanding of a range of solutions across different areas such as heat, transport, buildings and waste allows us to carry out this analysis.

Scotch Whisky Association net zero gap analysis

Whisky distillation is an energy intensive process. With some processes not having changed in over 100 years, innovation will be required to deliver net zero. 

Ricardo has helped the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to identify actions that will move the sector towards a low carbon future. We have calculated the sector’s baseline carbon footprint, projected business as usual emissions and produced technology roadmaps using our Net Zero Gap Analysis tool to develop net zero scenarios.

Our work has provided the SWA with costed technical solutions for decarbonising the sector and a list of policy options with which to lobby government to support sector decarbonisation.


Step 3: Develop your net zero roadmap

What does your roadmap to net zero look like? How does it compare with forecast business-as-usual carbon emissions? We’ll show you your net zero emissions trajectory, identify interim targets and forecast any residual emissions that will require offsetting.

All Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions sources can be included, and projected future growth of your organisation will be taken into account.

The output of steps 1 to 3 is your net zero roadmap. It includes:
•    A responsibilities, resource allocation and organisational structure.
•    A carbon footprint summary that compares the outcomes of various options with those of the business-as-usual scenario.
•    Outputs of the net zero gap analysis modelling.
•    Outputs from heating, cooling, electrical and transport energy options
      assessments complete with recommendations.
•    Recommended net zero pathway and targets, grouped by operational area.

Our team can deliver internal communications, awareness raising activities and training workshops to support the launch of your net zero roadmap.

UK Water net zero roadmap

The water sector uses a lot of energy to collect, purify, supply and process water. It has embedded ways of delivering services, supplying water and treating wastewater, so innovation is going to be required to achieve net zero.

Ricardo is working with UK Water to 
•    Secure agreement on industry-wide targets.
•    Establish a baseline for the sector’s carbon footprint.
•    Identify mitigation options and establish an offsetting strategy.

Our work is providing cross-sector agreement on UK Water's roadmap to decarbonisation.
Carbon sequestration model 

Ricardo has developed the Land Cover Carbon Sequestration and Flux Model (LCCSFM). It helps local authorities better understand carbon stocks and annual fluxes for land to meet policy and climate change commitments.

The model uses land cover areas derived from Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) data, and selected carbon stock and flux coefficients from scientific literature. It enables simulations of:
•    Carbon stocks per land cover type.
•    Annual carbon flux per land cover type.
•    Investigation of management and ‘what-if’ scenarios on carbon budgets.

Ricardo has applied this model to two UK water companies’ land holdings, but it is equally applicable to a range of local authority uses and different land cover scales. 
QAS Independent Auditor for carbon offsetting services

The Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) for Carbon Offsetting is an industry-led initiative aimed at increasing consumers’ understanding of the role of offsetting in tackling climate change and helping them to make informed purchases of good-quality offsets. The core component of this project involves Ricardo - as the Independent Auditor -being responsible for the independent checking of applications from offset providers and resellers. 

Step 4: Build and maintain governance

A broad range of stakeholders from across your organisation will be involved in ensuring your journey to net zero is a success. From estate, transport and waste teams to internal and external policy and procurement practices, there is a lot of change to bring about.

Many of your stakeholders may not have had any involvement in carbon reduction activities, which presents challenges. Therefore, it is important to build a strong governance structure to take your net zero initiative forward.

We can help you ensure your governance structure is designed around key principles of accountability, transparency and participation.

Example - a robust governance structure we developed and managed for one of our NHS clients:

Net zero governance

Step 5: Feasibility studies and design

During a feasibility study, we will examine all your options for energy efficiency, decarbonisation of electricity, heating and transport. Our technology diagnostic approach ensures that your net zero targets can be met realistically while minimising risk and cost. 

Our breadth of technical expertise spans the energy, waste, transport and water sectors. This enables us to evaluate all options and identify the most suitable path for you to implement, while working with facilities management contractors to verify the viability of projects.

The outcome of the prioritisation from a list of identified measures feeds into your overall outline plan and recommendations.

The timing of implementation is the critical component of the roadmap. Therefore, the plan will include the recommended timescale for each major measure, setting out the critical path to implementation, while taking into account their priority, urgency and interplay with other measures, as well as the technology’s commercial readiness.

Modern Energy Partners (MEP) programme

Ricardo has been working on the Modern Energy Partners (MEP) programme, which is funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Stragey (BEIS) and the Cabinet Office. It has been delivered by the Energy Systems Catapult since 2019. The aim of the programme is to develop an approach to support whole energy-system solutions to decarbonise the public-sector estate – focusing on Ministry of Defence (MOD), Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and National Health Service (NHS) sites.
Ricardo led the delivery of one of four pilot projects at a prison cluster. Subsequently, our experts have provided support with a mixture of energy surveying, submetering strategy development, and heat and/or power assessments at over 20 prisons, hospitals and MOD sites. The overall outcome from the MEP programme will be a scalable, consistent and standardised approach to developing decarbonisation plans for the public sector estate.
Hospital: net zero concept design feasibility

Our client is aiming to be on track to cut the hospital's emissions to net zero by 2050. Heating accounts for the largest proportion of energy use at the hospital and is the largest source of emissions. Following preliminary analysis and a feasibility study, gas-based combined heat and power (CHP) – including hydrogen-based CHP – has been identified as the most viable solution to reduce emissions. Ricardo is supporting the hospital on the concept design of the CHP system.

Our analysis involves: 
•    Carrying out a site audit.
•    Reviewing available data.
•    Analysing the heating, cooling and electricity demands.
•    CHP sizing.
•    Conducting a financial analysis of the feasible technical options.
•    Recommendation and conceptual design of the preferred option. 

The analysis will also consider the barriers, challenges and potential for burning a gas mix that could have a hydrogen content of up to 20%. Ricardo will undertake a review of the hydrogen equipment market and will analyse the performance of the CHP based on a hydrogen/natural-gas blend. 
Waste Carbon Tool

Ricardo’s Waste Carbon Tool models the direct and indirect emissions and carbon impacts associated with local authorities’ waste collection (recycling, transport, processing, treatment and disposal operations). 

It drills down through the results hierarchy to show the biggest contributor to carbon emissions – ‘carbon hotspots’ – and identifies possible interventions and service changes. These can be compared as multiple scenarios to measure the potential influence of each scenario. 

This enables local authorities to concentrate resources on interventions that represent the maximum environmental benefit (e.g. carbon impact per tonne of residual waste production) rather than focus on collecting the heaviest components of the waste stream. 

Ricardo's Waste Carbon Tool provides a more level playing field between rural and urban demographics and enables a transition from absolute targets to individual material stream targets linked to the best environmental option for a particular material.
Decarbonising Brighton & Hove City Council's Domestic Housing Stock

As a registered social landlord, Brighton &Hove City Council has a portfolio of domestic properties that are heated by natural gas. However, as the forthcoming Future Homes Standard prohibits new gas heating systems from 2025, the Council was required to seek zero carbon alternatives.

Ricardo delivered a technical analysis of alternative heating systems for a new build estate, including assessing the economic and carbon impact of ground source heat pumps (GSHP), district heating, solar photovaltaic (PV) and thermal storage, and worked with the Council’s facilities management team and architects to validate the proposed solution.

Ricardo’s expertise ensured that the Council had:
•    Independent advice when making complex decisions.
•    Certainty that the optimal solution had been identified.
•    A planned and costed solution.
•    Buy-in from internal and external stakeholders.
•    A net zero carbon heating solution.

Step 6: Implement changes

As well as providing the net zero strategy and plan, we can also: 

  • Support the presentation of your net zero roadmap to your board for signoff.

  • Work with the internal lead to drive implementation.

  • Set action owners to work.

  • Communicate your net zero strategy to stakeholders and clients through meetings, your website and the annual report.

  • Monitor and report on progress.

In addition to the traditional funding routes, we also research and review other funding options, including innovation funding, which we will discuss with you.

Planning application management and design requirements of a solar PV farm in Victoria, Australia

A solution was required to address local electricity reliability and supply issues. The key challenge was to use farming zones for non-agricultural use and the removal of extensive native grass land.

The technical solution:
•    Involves 93.75ha of land for a solar energy facility.
•    Includes a 44MW solar farm and 50MWh battery storage facility.
•    Contributes to the rural economy of Wellington Shire.
•    Integrates with agricultural uses.
•    Was created in accordance with the Victorian State Government’s ‘Solar Energy Facilities Design and Development Guidelines’ and the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) ‘Guidelines for Renewal Energy Installations’.

Ricardo delivered a complete service, involving the coordination and management of stakeholders including; planners, the State Government, land owners, communities and the CFA. We provided expert guidance in accordance with the Victorian Government’s new ‘Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines’.
Delivering a low carbon housing development: West Carclaze Development

The challenge to Ricardo was to design a housing development that optimised benefits for householders and the wider community. These included low carbon generation and supplying and storing electricity and heat within the community, while considering the potential for long-term revenue stream for the developer.

Ricardo delivered:
•    An area wide assessment of heating, power and transport loads.
•    A techno-economic analysis of different energy solutions and interaction between them.
•    A micro-grid with MW scale wind generation and GSHP district heating.

The benefits to our client include:
•    Low carbon housing development design. 
•    Fully costed micro-grid concept with business case.
•    Householder ownership of the energy infrastructure used to power and heat their