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Deciphering Scope Emissions Series: Scope 1


May 25, 2022




As more companies look to minimize their environmental impact, they know they must reduce their carbon footprint, but often don’t know where to begin. What type of emissions should they monitor? What kind of company-related activities have the greatest impact? What can they do today that will make a difference? There are many possibilities to consider, and it can be overwhelming—but, it doesn’t have to be. In this blog series, we’ll explore Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions with the goal of helping businesses account for all the moving pieces while providing guidance on how to start your emissions baseline. First up: Scope 1 emissions.

Why are Companies Prioritizing Scope Emission Reductions?

The United States set forth a new target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels to align with the decarbonization initiatives noted within the Paris Agreement. In response, state and federal governments have evaluated different means of targeting and reducing their respective emission levels. Currently, businesses account for a significant portion of the U.S.’s carbon footprint—including supply chain, transportation, materials, consumption of fossil fuels, and beyond. In fact, carbon emissions are responsible for more than 80% of overall greenhouse gas emissions and businesses are the greatest contributors.

What are Scope Emissions?

In its simplest form, Scope emissions are a way of categorizing GHG emissions based on whether they are direct or indirect and if they come from owned or outsourced assets. Scope monitoring enables organizations to categorize and track emissions within specific segments of their operations and wider value chain. To get started, a company first must segment their emissions into three categories: Scope 1, 2, or 3. This time around, we’re focusing in on Scope 1.

Scope 1: Direct Emissions

Scope 1 emissions result from a company’s (owned or controlled) direct operations—making it often the most logical place to begin. These emissions are a direct result of business activities from company buildings and vehicles that fall into four categories: stationary combustion, mobile combustion, fugitive emissions, and process emissions.   

1. Stationary Combustion: These are emissions that result from the production of electricity, heat, energy, and other heating sources.

2. Mobile Combustion: Mobile combustion emissions come from any vehicles that are owned or controlled by an organization.

3. Fugitive Emissions: This is when there are leaks or irregular releases of gases or vapors from pressurized containment appliances like air conditioning units, refrigerators, and storage tanks. It should be noted that these gases can be much more dangerous than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions—making it very important for companies to track and reduce.

4. Process Emissions: Process emissions are released during industrial processes, primarily from burning fossil fuels. Sources of process emissions include cement manufacturing, factory fumes, and other chemicals.

Prioritizing Scope 1 Emission Reductions

There are numerous opportunities for companies to implement a tailored decarbonization strategy for Scope 1 emissions—including alternative fuel and renewable thermal energy.

1. Alternative Fuel

With transportation accounting for 27% of GHG emissions in 2020, it’s crucial that the adoption of alternative fuels continues to push forward. To target Scope 1 emissions from owned or leased vehicles, fleet directors have been reconfiguring their fueling strategies to align with expectations from stakeholders, investors, and governments. However, as more fueling types solidify and policies become more stringent, defining your fueling roadmap will require close consideration of technology readiness, operational capacity, cost, and sustainability appeal.

Alternative fuels come in many forms—including renewable natural gas (RNG), electric, hydrogen, biodiesel, and renewable diesel, to name a few. And, each fuel type comes with its own carbon intensity (CI) score—impacting your Scope 1 footprint differently. However, regardless of your operations and sustainability goals, your fleet can benefit from a tailored polyfuel portfolio, rather than deciding on just one fuel type. Many fleets are planning to strategically deploy renewable natural gas (RNG), battery electric (BEVs), and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in conjunction to reduce their Scope 1 emissions.

Want to dive deeper into alternative fuels? We’ve created an easy-to-follow transition plan in our 5 Steps to Simplify Your Transition to Alternative Fuel that can be especially helpful in the beginning stages.

2. Renewable Thermal Energy

Energy from heating and cooling comprises ~50% of total global energy demand and 39% of energy, CO2 related emissions so, as a result, stakeholders are beginning to hold corporations accountable. Organizations can meet these expectations by utilizing renewable thermal energy. RNG is one solution in particular that provides immediate Scope 1 emission reductions without costly changes to operations.

“Decarbonizing process heating and cooling is our next great industrial challenge, and RNG is an important part of a solution set that also includes green hydrogen, thermal storage, beneficial electrification, solar thermal, and sustainable biomass.”

– Blaine Collison, Renewable Thermal Collaborative

As the renewable energy landscape continues to evolve, expanding and contracting to feature emerging energy feedstocks, facility operators don’t have to wait to drive meaningful change today. For those organizations already using conventional natural gas to heat their facilities or produce process heat for resource creation, renewable natural gas allows organizations to avoid facility upgrades, ongoing maintenance, and disruptions to operations.

Key Considerations

As you continue (or start) to explore ways to lower your CI score, making changes to your fuel selection and facility heating are important to be successful in reducing your Scope 1 impact. It’s important to factor in emissions from production, use, and end-use in addition to the impact cost and government regulations may have. Incentive programs and grant funding are available to help offset the initial cost of adoption—and low carbon fuel programs can lower the cost of alternative fuel through credit generation.

Creating an emissions baseline across your Scope categories and having a data backed approach directing you through this process is a great place to start. If you’re interested in reducing Scope 1 emissions within your business and evaluating the potential for alternative fuel, credit generation, or renewable thermal energy, contact us—our team is here to help.

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