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ESG data driving business cost savings and standards compliance

ESG data

ESG data is vital for addressing climate change but it can also help businesses improve operations and save money, Nick Gibson writes.

ESG data and its role in the net zero journey is part of a total market valued at $12 trillion according to a recent World Economic Forum report detailing sustainability technologies that address UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Business, industry and households can only reduce their energy use, save money and help the planet if they have information they need to understand and change their behaviour,” says Anthony Coates-Smith, md of heat networks specialist Insite Energy. “Data is key to achieving this practical and cultural change.”

Across industry data systems are vital for management and decision-making to ensure efficiency, safety and compliance, says Richard Clifford at Keysource who maintain over 200 assets in the design and construction of data centres. “I have been surprised by the large number of major organisations that do not have a clear sustainability strategy in place. Net zero should be at the core of your business and data systems are essential to ESG reporting that can improve operations and save money. I don’t believe it is wilful blindness, more a matter of not knowing what to do given the scale of the challenges involved.”

ESG data and the built environment

In the built environment ESG data plays a pivotal role in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of low carbon or net zero buildings. From the use of dynamic digital twins to real-time smart metering data delivers practical benefits once only dreamed about in the analogue world.

“The past five years have witnessed development of better, more powerful data analytics solutions with big data systems now fully adopted by major utilities and building operators,” says Anthony Coates-Smith. “Accessing real-time data on how energy is used is the first and most critical step in influencing how we reduce the use and cost of energy.

“Half of our 250 heat network clients are now investigating the greater and broader use of data to improve the efficiency of their networks. The only way to improve operation and the costs involved is to understand the metadata coming from the system. In the past it would have been a spreadsheet exercise with a good deal of estimation involved. Now there are software solutions such as EnergyRaven that capture the data and present it in a visibly user-friendly format to allow real-time oversight at proxy level, plant level, block level and at heat production source level to deliver vital control, management and reporting information. In many cases the things that are going wrong are invisible, things like energy wastage or heat loss. Data solutions enable you to see, in real-time, what may need attention.”

Benefits of ESG data solutions

The benefits of data solutions on the journey to net zero are best promoted by real-world examples and success stories. How many companies actually practice what they preach?

“We have a sustainability strategy, an ESG data policy and ISO procedures in place,” says Coates-Smith. “The major part of our own net zero journey has been digitalisation, from old-school paper billing to online documentation, from meter data to invoicing and visualisation. The majority of our business is now totally data-driven. We’ve invested in digital metering solutions to reduce the cost of heat networks and have also spent a lot of time and money on consumer and client education to demonstrate the benefits of a sustainable approach and how to reduce energy use. Our efforts have resulted in a 28 per cent year-on-year reduction in heat energy consumption by our clients and customers.”

ESG data solutions can help improve operational efficiencies and reduce energy costs, says Richard Clifford, who suggests ways an organisation can begin their net zero journey. “A net zero journey for a data centre operator should begin with metering and measuring power consumption across the facility, collecting and reporting data to identify trends and where savings can be made. In projects we’re currently involved with we’re generating energy savings of around 25 per cent.

“A data centre stack is vast and contains everything from virtual applications to mechanical, electrical, fabric and utilities. A lot of work is required to integrate all these elements and ensure seamless operation and data reporting; things like cooling control technology, BMS data collection and reporting. Data is vital to forecasting over ten to fifteen years to manage and control operations and oversee costs savings and improvements involved in embedded carbon.

“Facilities designed ten years ago for a certain level of demand and computing power now require upgrading and that includes the latest data capture and reporting systems to manage demand fluctuations. It’s not about simply tweaking the existing system, it’s about needing powerful ESG data solutions to understand the real-time dynamics of load and what can be done to reduce carbon use, improve efficiency and save money.”

Data is absolutely critical to net zero transition says Peter Bance at Origami, a company that specialises in technology to monetise energy assets. “Different types of data are now becoming essential; data from operation of physical assets, data from financial and traded market arenas, contractual data and of course ERSG data. You can only manage your business effectively if you have high quality oversight and decision-making should be based on facts and knowledge that only real-time data can provide.

 “A few years ago organisations could get away with verbal reporting and a few paper spreadsheets but those days are gone. The scale, complexity and value of a net zero journey is such that you have to harness the power of digital solutions to effectively manage and prosper from it. Without data you are flying blind and you will fail to generate the various returns that can be achieved from renewable technologies and a net zero strategy.

“The way to make renewables cheaper and create value is to blend technology and data systems with the physical asset to allow dynamic management. Real-time operational data allows for efficiency and cost savings and the ability to respond to hourly and daily demand and market trends.”

“To realistically achieve Net Zero, we must incentivise investment in digital technology which will enable a smart, dynamically managed green energy system,” Bance urges. “Companies behind the digitalisation curve will suffer as they’re unable to keep up with market volatility. To deliver a green energy landscape with fair pricing and stable returns, and navigate economic shocks, you need powerful real-time digital tools.”

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