Monday, 10 August 2009

GHG emissions factor problems

Best Foot Forward (BFF), a carbon accounting consultancy, apparently uncovered some errors in the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions conversion factors issued by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) a couple of weeks ago.

The conversion factors are used to calculate carbon emissions from a variety of fuel types and sources. The errors in question were connected with factors for biofuels and aviation. The company apparently also raised other data and methodology concerns and queries with Defra/DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change). The main problems were quickly fixed and new tables published, but there still seems to be some outstanding queries.

This is a bit worrying. The conversion factors are the basis for all GHG calculations and there are a lot of them. They vary by fuel type, source, emissions type, by country and over time. In some countries (e.g. the US) factors can vary by region, supplier and even facility. If you're an international company tracking emissions over time, then a wrong factor can make a huge difference.

With so much depending on these factors being right (including the governments own legislation), lets hope some significant effort is being made to ensure errors don't get through again.

The lesson for users is to make sure you always have the latest figures. Better still, use an online Carbon Emissions Management (CEMS) solution that automatically accesses conversion databases.

© The Green IT Review

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