Accountability backed by data is key to delivering Net Zero

Feature image from Canva for Wattwatchers blog post by James Clements

Wattwatchers Director Net Zero Property, James Clements, was a presenter at the Real Estate Innovation Festival in Sydney, 9-10 November. This post draws on key themes from his presentation in the event’s Commercial Real Estate Seminar, titled: EnergyTech meets PropTech.

JAMES CLEMENTS: DIRECTOR NET ZERO PROPERTY, WATTWATCHERS

Most energy monitoring solutions companies want your electricity data locked into silos, often with one hardware servicing one software.

Whether by design or incompetence, this limits you the customer’s options, and caps the value you can create from your monitoring investment.

At Wattwatchers, we want your data to be freely available to the platforms and stakeholders that need it.

We do this securely, and quickly, with cloud infrastructure: powering an expanding range of apps and services that are capable of supporting great business decisions.

You’ll be held accountable

Accountability is increasing for Net Zero claims and commitments.. And more commitments are being made every day, almost in a frenzy to lead, raise awareness and stimulate action from more countries and companies.

COP27 began this week, and is very focused on action rather than talk and fine promises. Regardless of the outcomes from this latest annual UN Climate Summit, in property it’s just good business sense to drive environmental improvements.

And data is the weapon to move quickly, and wisely.

Rating systems standardise details

If you’ve got data, it’s best to have a standardised way to use it, and these – NABERS, the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star, and GRESB – are the three most prominent ratings systems that extend into the asset-level. They standardise the detail of measurement to enable fair comparison between assets and transparency, provide pathways to improvement, and distil that into easy to understand scores. 

In all of these rating systems, electricity is an important element because of carbon emissions from electricity use, the potential for onsite renewables and further electrification (including electric mobility and de-gasification), and the drive to understand tenant consumption.

The reasoning behind the success of these rating initiatives is two-fold:

  1. They are linked to market disclosures and investments i.e. asset value.
  2. They have created links to co-benefits e.g. better indoor environmental quality, less comfort complaints, more demand from tenants, 

Under these benchmarking protocols, electricity is measured for a number of purposes, which means a number of ways to extract value. But just having data, any data, doesn’t guarantee you’ll create value, or meet your Net Zero objectives.

Navigating for success

There are pitfalls, and I have tips on how to navigate away from them.

GET THE RIGHT DATA: Looking at energy bills monthly doesn’t cut it if you’re managing a program of work towards achieving Net Zero. For many use cases – like onsite commissioning, solar, and power quality – outages and degradation of equipment can have a significant cost impact. You’ll want to respond to those in a timely manner, driven by data.

Understanding issues before attending a site helps your installers and operations team to be more prepared, which can reduce truck rolls and improve operational efficiency.

RECOGNISE MULTIPLE USERS FOR DATA: There’s rarely if ever just one stakeholder for energy data. Which is why Wattwatchers avoids siloing data, and powers (with data) a much broader eco-system of solutions partners, which can help deliver on a broad range of requirements for companies. This helps to manage progress towards goals that are typically tracked by participating in initiatives like GRESB, Green Star and NABERS. A checklist of relevant stakeholders might include: Property owners, sustainability managers, tenants, facility managers, possibly energy managers, installers, energy consultants, service providers, and various reporting platforms (e.g. for tenant engagement, asset management, and energy apps for operational performance).

FOCUS ON VALUE AND PERFORMANCE: In 2012 I was at GE, working on their Ecomagination business initiative. The core of that philosophy stays with me today: focus sustainability on the intersection of economic value and environmental performance. As I reflect on what’s changed, one of the things that strikes me is a growing level of accountability for business. There’s new initiatives to set standards for disclosure, and make target-setting based in science, as well as more activity on enforcement (including naming and shaming so-called ‘greenwashers’). Which there should be! Because this data is being used to inform investment decisions, and reputation is at stake.

TROUBLESHOOTING FOR SUCCESS: Electricity monitoring projects don’t always meet their full potential. So what can go wrong? Here’s my top-of-mind list:

  • Thinking there is only one stakeholder 
  • Electricity data is aggregated into systems that are hard to get data out of and are inflexible
  • Installing systems that are never commissioned correctly
  • High-cost technologies and services are selected, reducing the amount of monitoring possible to fit within a budget
  • Bespoke integrations with every site (the more standardisation the better)
  • Data quality is poor and therefore is not trusted
  • Monitoring is installed late, which means not getting the baseline you’ll need
  • Incorrect metering specification deployed for the use case
  • Emerging system issues are invisible, and thus not in scope