Carbon Footprint

October 19, 2022

A couple of years ago the Board of NOTL Hydro established a Green Committee.  This is the only committee of the Board so is an indication of its perceived importance.  The Committee was created after a presentation by Jim Harris, the former leader of the Green Party of Canada.  The presentation was not on climate change itself but on the changes to technologies and customer take-up of these technologies that will result.

One of the first acts of the Green Committee was to commission an analysis of NOTL Hydro’s own carbon footprint.  We retained a consultant that not only measures one’s carbon output but looks for cost savings in one’s energy consumption.  This helps pay for the cost of the analysis.  A number of the recommendations for cost savings were acted upon and have since been eliminated.

The measurement of carbon footprint is divided into three scopes.

  • Scope 1 is direct carbon output through the burning of carbon fuels.  This is typically the use of natural gas for heating and cooking and the use of petroleum for driving.
  • Scope 2 is carbon output from the purchase of energy.  Electricity is the most common scope 2 product but could include steam, heating or cooling in commercial or multi-unit residential dwellings.
  • Scope 3 is the carbon footprint of all the other products in the supply chain or that one uses.

NOTL Hydro only measured out Scope 1 and 2 output.  There were a number of reasons for this:

  1. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are those directly under our control.  They are emissions we can act on.
  2. Scope 3 emissions are incredibly difficult to measure and to try to do so is very expensive.  There is no requirement for NOTL Hydro to measure scope 3 emissions and we have no control over our largest purchase which is electricity from the province which we resell to our customers.  A number of companies are working on ways to more easily measure scope 3 emissions so it may be feasible for us to do so in the future. 
  3. By definition, if every company works on reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions then scope 3 emissions will also fall.

NOTL Hydro Greenhouse Gas Emissions (July 2020 – June 2021)

ResourceQuantity UsedGHG (Tonnes/year)
Diesel39,942 litres105
Natural gas23,405 m344
Electricity147,823 kwh6
Total 155

Vehicle fuel usage was a little difficult to measure.  Like us, most companies track what they spend on fuel but not how many litres they use.  Our consultant estimated the average cost of fuel in the period being measured and multiplied that by the total cost.  This period was July 2020 – June 2021 and the average cost used for that period was $1 per litre.  The factor used to convert litres to GHG was

2.62 kg CO2e/l.

Natural gas usage is easier to measure as it is on the monthly statement.  The factor used to convert cubic metres to GHG is 1.888 kg CO2e/m3. 

Electricity usage is also easier to measure as it is on the monthly statement or you can access historical usage with NOTL Hydro’s Customer Connect system.  The factor used to convert electricity to GHG was 0.043 kg CO2e/kwh.  This factor will vary from year to year as it is dependent upon how much fossil fuel is used to generate electricity in Ontario.

NOTL Hydro will be measuring its carbon footprint each year to track its progress in reducing emissions. 

The plan for reducing emissions is largely based on electrifying our carbon-using assets.  The most obvious of these is our fleet of trucks.  We have pick-up trucks, large bucket trucks and diggers.  As the pick-up trucks come up for renewal, we expect to be replacing them with electric vehicles.  We did have one of the new electric Ford F-150s on order but Ford decided to unilaterally increase the price by $20k so we cancelled our order.  As most people know, the market for assets such as vehicles is very tight right now but we expect that to ease by the time we need to order again. 

We happen to have a new bucket truck and digger being delivered next year.  The quality of the electric versions of these vehicles was previously very poor but that has changed substantially.  Our staff were able to test some of the new electric bucket trucks and were very impressed.  One of the additional benefits of going electric, beyond the main benefit of GHG reduction, is that the operation of the working truck is much quieter.  We thought of trying to change our bucket truck to an electric version but in the end decided this was not practical as we were so far along in the process and the lead times for electric versions is very long.  We have two bucket trucks and will need to replace the other one in about 5 years.  I fully expect it to be electric.

Diggers need a lot of power to operate so there is not an electric version of this on the market yet.  Eventually the batteries will be able to store enough power to operate a digger in the same manner as now but not yet.  A more likely mid-step is an electric truck with a digger that is still powered by a separate generator on board.

Natural gas is used to heat our building.  Our furnace is relatively new.  When it comes up for replacement will be the time to look at non-carbon alternatives.  I discussed heat pumps in a recent blog.  I was recently talking to some acquaintances who live in large condo units in Toronto that are fully heated and cooled by heat pumps.  These could therefore be used in our building.

Electrification only reduces emissions if the electricity is itself generated by not burning carbon.  We are fortunate that in Ontario around 90% of our electricity is generated carbon free.  I am not expecting any significant drop in this percentage for the foreseeable future.

For NOTL Hydro, our journey to a lower emission business will be lumpy as we replace direct carbon emitting assets with electric ones.  For society as a whole, if all businesses take this practical approach, the transition will be smoother and, more importantly, will be significant.