Update to UK Government GHG conversion factors

Update to UK Government GHG conversion factors
08 June 2018

Update to UK Government GHG conversion factors sees massive drop in energy emission conversion factor for 2018

The UK Government GHG conversion factors annual update has come out today. Ricardo Energy & Environment has generated the factors, as it has done since they were first introduced. Each year new factors are added in response to market requests while existing factors are updated to reflect changes in approach, method or underlying data.

This year there have been several things of note. The big elephant in the room that we all monitor is, of course electricity, and this year there is a really positive story to tell.

Electricity emission factor

The electricity factor has again reduced significantly: a 19% reduction compared with last year’s value has been observed.

This will significantly impact any company’s Scope 2 location based report, as it will bring a reduction in emissions. It will also offer a monetary benefit in schemes such as CRC.

In addition, given the reduction in coal generation and increase in natural gas generation, benefits will also be seen in the market based report, as the emissions will be related to the mix of electricity that you are provided.   

This massive drop is due to a significant reduction in the amount of coal burnt for electricity generation. Interestingly though this has been substituted by an increase in natural gas. Renewable generation of power from 2016-17 has remained near enough constant.

But of course, the emissions factors are generated based on a full set of data from the previous year so when we talk about the reduction of coal it aligns very much to the announcements we have seen in the press. April 2017 saw the first coal free[1] day since the industrial revolution, and there is potential to continue to see further reductions next year, having already achieved three coal free[2] days in a row in April 2018.

So, how are we doing on our overall goals to tackle climate change? Comparing the fuel consumption in electricity generation in 2018 to 1996, the UK has reduced the proportion of coal from 42% down to 11%. At the same time, renewable energy generation, both through thermal and non-thermal sources, has increased tenfold.

HGVs and buses

For the first time the emission from heavy duty vehicles and buses have been estimated, taking into account changes seen with the injection of Urea. This has been included in the overall CO2 emission factors.

Urea can be added to the exhaust of large diesel vehicles to help reduce pollution by reducing nitrogen oxides concentrations. Newer vehicles are now required to be fitted with this system. The new methodology therefore reflects the regulations that have been implemented for the automotive industry to ensure new engines reduce their emissions of key GHGs and other pollutants.

How the spreadsheet works (and a bit more detail…)

At a glance the spreadsheet is the same as it has been for the last few years, but underlying that are numerous improvements and additional explanations. As before, the Scopes all have their own coloured tabs, which becomes useful as a guide as more factors are added in areas such as electric vehicles. These were introduced last year, providing a way to calculate emissions associated with running an electric or hybrid vehicle. Some of these factors are located in Scope 1 and some in Scope 3, which is based on the variation of activity rather than emissions used. It could be considered complex, however on the passenger vehicle tab in Scope 1 there are a series of tables giving guidance about what to include for the variations of use.

Another hidden improvement this year is the rebuilding of the model that allows heat and steam emissions factors to be generated. There is no difference in the outcome, but it provides improvements in the clarity of calculations.

All in all, a positive year for the emissions factors.

Got a question to ask us or a suggestion for improvement?

Did you know that each year Ricardo has to make recommendations on how the factors can be improved? If you have any ideas or suggestions that would help you use the factors better then let us know. You can submit your ideas at https://ricardo.com/contact-us or email enquiry-ee@ricardo.com