New GHG factors to cause 'pain'

8th July 2013

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Organisations using Defra's greenhouse-gas (GHG) conversion factors to calculate their carbon footprints are being warned they may have to adjust their baseline data after significant changes to the guidance on emissions from electricity

After a review in late 2012 to simplify the GHG conversion factors, the environment department has made a number of revisions, including scrapping the five-year rolling grid average to calculate emissions from electricity generation, confirming that a one-year grid average must be used in future.

It also says emissions created through energy losses in the grid should be included in scope three calculations rather than scope two, as some organisations have done in the past.

The changes mean that many firms will have to recalculate their baseline emissions and Carbon Smart, the consultancy that revised the factors on behalf of Defra, acknowledged that “there will undoubtedly be some short-term pain” for some companies. However, it maintained that the simplifications would benefit users in the long term.

John Buckley, managing director of consultancy Carbon Footprint, agreed that some changes to the guidance were beneficial, but warned that others could result in considerable work for companies.

“The explanations about which factors to use are much simpler and easier to understand, but for firms that have been assessing their carbon footprint for a few years there are some quite nasty surprises, which mean they will have to do some work to recalculate past emissions,” he said.

In particular, Buckley believes the clarification that emissions from grid losses and distribution are scope three rather than scope two will generate additional work. “If you’ve got a system that automatically calculates your scope one, two and three emissions, you will now have to rejig how it works to make sure that you’ve got the right numbers going into scopes two and three.”

However, he acknowledges that the changes could make the process simpler for firms “if Defra sticks with them”.

The new GHG factors are available from:

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