Net Zero Navigator 2023
Expert decarbonisation predictions for the year ahead
Mitie’s expert decarbonisation predictions for 2023
We’ve gathered insights and advice from across our Plan Zero portfolio to help accelerate your path to net zero.
Head of Energy Advisory
Head of Transport Consulting
Head of Natural Environment
Head of Decarbonisation Consulting
Managing Director, Waste and Environmental
Head of Data Science
Head of Energy Markets Research
Plan Zero Director
Surging demand for on-site solar will create supply bottlenecks
Over the past 12 months, organisations have had to contend with an extremely volatile energy market and high supplier risk. But their sustainability targets haven’t gone away.
Demand is now rising for low-cost green energy, Power Purchase Agreements and Renewable Energy Certificates. In fact, demand for green energy is outpacing current UK infrastructure supply capabilities, so there’s only so much to go round.
“With increased government intervention and greater competition, it’s going to become a seller’s market, and the cost of green energy will inevitably rise.”
My best advice is to invest in on-site solar generation. And do it fast.
The necessary Distribution Network Operator (DNO) applications will become a huge bottleneck, with organisations competing for more grid supply and infrastructure upgrades to facilitate their evolving generation, EV and electrification needs. You need to get in early.
These days, on-site solar generation is a cost-effective, future-proof solution with secure prices and secure supply. The business case has never been better, with shorter payback periods and plenty of funding available.
The current energy crisis is a direct consequence of our dependence on fossil fuels – but solar energy is looking more resilient than ever.
The data view
77% of businesses say energy is now their biggest concern
#1 cheapest source of power in the world is solar arrays
80% report that energy is now a board level issue
5 years from now, the world will have added as much renewable power as it did in the previous 20 years
Tardy organisations will get stuck in the EV fleet rush
As everyone enters the race to decarbonise fleets before the Government’s 2030 deadline, the longer you put off EV transition, the longer the process will take.
Many of the barriers to EV adoption haven’t gone away, including issues with commercial vehicle availability and escalating lead times.
Another big reason for slow EV uptake is concern around adequate charging infrastructure. A vast network of accessible charging points is necessary for organisations to maintain an efficient fleet.
To tackle these concerns, it’s a good idea to install prominent EV charging points on your estate. Not only will this provide colleagues with a convenient place to top up, but it will also act as a visual reminder of your organisation’s commitment to reaching net zero.
And as sustainability becomes more important to the general population, such measures are known to help with the attraction and retention of employees. Indeed, EV charging points at the workplace are increasingly viewed as an employee benefit.
“Because of its multifaceted nature, EV transition is no longer just the remit of your fleet manager – it will require a coordinated effort from your FM, sustainability lead, finance team and even HR.”
With the rapid expansion of EV fleets, the coming year may well see delays in installation of necessary infrastructure due to semiconductor shortages and grid upgrade capacity issues. Manufacturers will also start to reduce the number of internal combustion engines they produce before 2030.
The worst thing you can do is to do nothing at all. For each phase of your EV transition, set yourself a deadline for completion; the whole thing will start to feel a lot more manageable.
The data view
62% annual increase in global EV sales over the last four years
22,000 electric vans have been shipped in 2022 – a 49% increase from 2021
20% of EV drivers now charge at their workplace
36% of customers would be put off by the insufficient number of EV chargers
Enhancing biodiversity will take root to become a legal requirement
Thanks to an increased focus on nature at COP27, the world is now realising that the climate crisis and biodiversity are inextricably linked.
In 2023, organisations need to change how their sites are maintained, moving from a traditional grounds maintenance model to a more wildlife aware approach.
For example, laying rather than cutting a hedge can protect vulnerable species like hedgehogs. By partially cutting and then bending the stems at ground level, you can rejuvenate hedgerows and avoid damage to natural animal habitats.
Biodiversity is still very much an emerging consideration for organisations, and most are at the beginning of the process.
In practical terms, this means baselining, monitoring and gathering data around the number and condition of species and ecological systems present on your sites, plus assessing your organisation’s impact, and exploring the financial implications of nature-positive initiatives.
There’s some hesitancy about investing in biodiversity as it is currently voluntary and accreditations are evolving, but ultimately organisations that do not invest will lose out.
“Where industries like construction already have legal requirements to increase their biodiversity, others will inevitably follow. And the best thing you can do in 2023 is take action now and get ahead.”
By the time legal requirements come into place, it will be much harder (and costlier) to demonstrate your progress and meet KPIs retrospectively without already having the right baseline data.
The data view
54% of human-related carbon dioxide emissions have been absorbed by nature over the past decade
62% of firms have plans to address their biodiversity impact, but only 15% have reached implementation
52% of business leaders see reputational benefits as a significant incentive for biodiversity
5% of companies carry out science-based assessments of their operational impact on nature
Data will make or break decarbonisation efforts
When it comes to decarbonisation, 2023 will be all about the quality of your data and the rigour of your processes. After all, good data is essential for predicting, monitoring and subsequently reducing emissions.
Reporting and compliance requirements around energy consumption and carbon emissions are becoming more stringent this year, covering more energy use types and applying to a broader range of companies.
To remain compliant and demonstrate your progress, you will need access to holistic and accurate data to generate the required insights across your entire estate, including buildings and fleets.
Technology is a crucial piece of the puzzle, linking building performance, energy consumption, occupancy patterns and carbon emissions – especially after so much change to working habits since the pandemic.
While Internet of Things (IoT) and automation has been a key enabler of effective building management systems, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming a vital tool. AI can provide insight to your carbon footprint and, in turn, identify ways to reduce it, while maintaining appropriate levels of comfort.
“Start by harnessing data and AI to diagnose any problems and rationalise your estate. Use these insights to ask yourself: do you actually need all your sites? How could they operate more effectively? How much energy are you using and where can you cut back?”
Ultimately, the value of your 2023 data will not be the report you produce – it will be the corresponding actions taken to decarbonise your estate.
The data view
66% of IT leaders are either using AI to achieve sustainability goals or planning to do so
78% of business leaders cite low access to AI expertise as an obstacle to AI adoption
Only 17% of execs use data from measurement tools to optimise their sustainability strategies
4billion+ connected IoT devices in commercial smart buildings by 2028
Water's vital role in decarbonisation will become crystal clear
Water is a resource that we so often take for granted – but organisations cannot function without it.
We’ve now reached a critical tipping point, with drinking water likely to be a scarce commodity in some areas of the UK by 2050. This is not surprising if you consider the ‘water footprint’ of everyday essentials.
The droughts, water shortages and hosepipe bans during 2022 have put water risk on the map for many decision-makers and it needs to be at the top of the board agenda.
As a result, 2023 will see a significant shift in attitudes towards the huge carbon footprint of water, with greater awareness about the energy required to treat, process and distribute water and waste water.
“Water might be cheaper than energy, but you still need to reduce consumption in order to transform your carbon emissions.”
A good first step is to conduct a thorough water audit, investigating how you purchase water, what you’re using across your estate, and how much is wasted through over-consumption or leakages. Many of the solutions are straightforward and low-cost, from rainwater harvesting to vapour capsules on taps.
By focusing on water in 2023, you’ll make cost and carbon savings, and find stable ways to future-proof your organisation against drought.
The data view
By 2030 worldwide demand for water will outpace supply by 40%
2023 drought conditions cannot be avoided with current average winter rainfall levels
x3 more financial risk associated with water scarcity than with carbon risk
15% more companies are reducing or maintaining their level of water consumption
Plastic recycling will become a profitable priority
Plastic has become taboo in sustainability terms, but it’s actually only poorly managed plastics that are bad for the planet. And in 2023, the demand for recycled plastics will be higher than ever.
When polymers are effectively captured and reprocessed, plastic waste is a fully regenerative resource – unlike bioplastics (produced from biomass such as vegetable fats and oils), which aren’t widely recycled in the UK.
“Making plastic is a highly expensive, energy-intensive process. By contrast, reusing your plastic is more energy efficient and will mean a significant cost and carbon saving for your organisation.”
While the concept of plastic recycling is nothing new, the global campaign against single-use plastics is gaining momentum and the demand for pure bundles of recycled plastic is accelerating – just think of the number of messages on everyday products like water bottles about the use of recycled materials.
The UK Government is planning to introduce deposit return schemes, where plastic is collected, sold and used again. Scotland will be launching its own version in August this year.
In 2023 it will be more important than ever for your organisation to start treating plastic waste as a valuable by-product.
On a practical level, this means gaining visibility over just how much waste you’re producing. Then, it’s about educating your people to reduce their consumption.
Introducing mini-treatment centres across your site is a great way to sort and segregate waste, re-using or re-selling as much as possible.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy will only address 55% of global emissions, so we urgently need to transform the way we make and use products. The place to start is plastic recycling, which offers a simple, low-cost way to achieve excellent results.
60% price premium for high-quality recycled plastics over virgin plastics in past decade
Only 9% of the global volume of plastics was recycled in 2019, and 22% was mismanaged
17% of England and Wales’ waste cannot be recycled due to contamination
50%+ of FMs said they had waste management strategies with clear environmental targets
A culture of conscious consumption will take centre stage
In 2023, finding a happy medium on energy price is going to be challenging. Energy should be affordable, but organisations must remain conscious about consumption.
The good news? Actions that reduce energy consumption and costs also reduce carbon emissions. More carbon-conscious mindsets and energy-efficient decisions are a positive consequence of the difficult situation in which organisations find themselves.
“This new carbon literacy is critical at a time when decarbonisation is too often seen as an investment choice rather than an everyday philosophy: use less, buy smarter and keep your costs down.”
To kickstart this culture change, your number one priority should be to forecast your energy consumption and costs. It’s important to factor in everything from the weather conditions to building usage patterns and hybrid working to invisible consumption caused by equipment being left on needlessly overnight.
Using these insights, you can then implement strategies to change the way people think about and use energy across your organisation.
A strong data service is a key building block to help you make this happen – one that can automate as many data points as possible, arming you with real-time insights from multiple data streams.
And you’ll probably need a data scientist to help you. You might already have access to your consumption data, but the challenge is to knit that data together to create actionable insights.
While your top priority might be helping your organisation to survive the current economic turmoil, this will be temporary. If you’ve been forced to pause your decarbonisation activities, 2023 will be about getting back on the path to net zero as quickly as you can – and this starts by changing the way your people think about energy.
The data view
45% of decision-makers leave equipment on needlessly overnight
20% of businesses have been forced to de-prioritise net zero delivery due to rising energy prices
25% of businesses cite cost as the biggest barrier to sustainability for their organisation
25% of businesses say shareholders and investors don’t see the link between sustainability and profit
Greater clarity will drive decarbonisation confidence
A lot can happen in a year. At the start of 2022, we were just at the precipice of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the energy crisis and soaring prices.
In reaction to this extreme volatility, many organisations have understandably focused on short-term, cost-cutting measures, letting other priorities fall by the wayside.
After all, it is hugely challenging to plan a long-term decarbonisation strategy and take decisive action when you don’t have a clear view of the energy market from one week to the next.
But as we move into 2023, the pervasive uncertainty is lessening – the national grid is stepping up, the UK is relatively well-sourced for alternative energy, and we can have greater confidence in our supply.
Now is the time to dial up your decarbonisation activities, not reduce them.
Although the price of energy will continue to rise in 2023, we now have a much better idea of what the coming year looks like. This will enable more accurate price predictions, empowering you to plan your energy strategy proactively.
With a more solid baseline for decision-making and greater certainty about the payback of decarbonisation measures, it will become significantly easier for you to make the business case for change with clarity and confidence this year.
“Now is the time to increase decarbonisation activity – with a strong focus on cost saving – and start making change at scale. Remember – there’s no single journey to net zero, and you don’t need to solve everything in 2023.”
Decarbonisation will become the new normal this year, with a surge in activity across every industry. As long as you make proactive decisions and start implementing them now, you still have time to get it right.
90% of businesses predict that the cost of energy will increase over the next 12 months
50% of CEOs are planning to pause or reconsider their ESG efforts in the next 6 months
25% of businesses have been forced to delay plans to decarbonise their supply chains due to inflation
38% of all global energy-related carbon emissions originate from the built environment sector
Book a discovery session to kickstart your 2023 decarbonisation activities
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