nzero 2024
Net zero has a new standard
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The EPA has just released its guidelines for the aptly named Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) cycle, which allocates close to $5 Billion to state and local governments over the next four years. This funding is broken out into two phases: planning and implementation; with one of the main suggested funding items for the planning phase being the creation and adoption of a climate action plan.

Now while many state and local governments already have climate action plans in place, this does seem like a reasonable place to start for a jurisdiction hoping to make use of this funding to begin its journey toward decarbonization.

Challenges With GHG Inventories

If the experience of the early adopter jurisdictions is to be taken at face value, not all parts of the climate action planning process are necessarily an efficient use of public funds. Specifically, because:

 the data used to make pivotal decisions is either based on inaccurate averages or overly expensive/time intensive–or both, as in the case of GHG inventories. Resulting in low-value initiatives that do not efficiently reduce emissions or costs, and thus shouldn’t be the focus of the limited funds available. 

Accuracy And Cost Issues

In principle, conducting an inventory of all of the greenhouse gas emissions within a given city/county/district seems like the right thing to do. After all, you can’t see where you are going or measure progress without identifying where you are, which is usually done by creating a baseline assessment.

However, GHG inventories are notoriously difficult to perform because so much of the data is either estimated or averaged out across multiple overlapping and competing organizations and/or groups of people. The question of which sector owns which emissions comes up frequently, and not everyone is excited about sharing their data or even knows how.

This leads to many local governments hiring expensive consultants to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, who each adhere to their own best practices of data organization depending on who they are working for. In the end, a small jurisdiction might end up spending the equivalent of an FTE or the cost of a stand-alone efficiency initiative solely on creating an inventory that might not even be accurate enough to be actionable.

Limited Funding and Outdated Data

Furthermore, limited funding is usually the main bottleneck in performing GHG inventories regularly enough to be meaningful, with smaller jurisdictions taking 4-7 years to properly qualify and publish their data. By this time both the inputs and the processes for evaluating the data have become outdated, leaving governments with a static and questionable snapshot in time, and limited resources for anything else.

UN's 24/7 Carbon Accounting Standard

These are some of the reasons why the UN recently moved to advocate for a 24/7 standard of carbon accounting, whereby emissions are cataloged on an hour-by-hour and site-by-site basis to ensure accuracy–especially when it comes to understanding the efficacy of renewable energy credits on the electricity grid. It’s also why cities like South Lake Tahoe have switched their own climate action plans and ordinances to hold themselves to a 24/7 standard for all government-owned buildings and vehicle fleets.

How does NZero meet and exceed the UN’s standard? Our platform provides 24/7 carbon accounting and management capabilities with the most accurate and real-time emissions data, making it easy to identify areas of improvement and implement carbon reduction actions. By automating data collection and using advanced grid modeling technology, NZero eliminates the need for manual data entry and ensures the most precise emission factors for each hour.

Benefits Of NZero’s 24/7 Monitoring And Data Automation

In this way, the standard becomes the process, as NZero’s 24/7 monitoring has to be done in exactly the way it’s articulated: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our automation capabilities streamline the data collection process, saving time and resources while providing a 24/7 hyper-accurate view of your carbon reduction journey.

 Having access to and automating this level of data granularity enables prompt and effective decision-making, as in the case of calculating the ROI of a given solar project, or the direct impact of installing an electric vehicle charging station; all while avoiding death by duplicity where the process of measuring becomes the end in itself and not a means toward further action. 

Even in an era where public funds for climate action are at an all-time high, resources are still constrained at the local level. Not every community is large enough to be eligible to receive EPA funding, but all communities have an interest and duty to engage in decarbonization. Rather than focusing energy and resources on defining a moving (and thus undefinable) target, invest in hitting a target continuously.

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