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Craft an In-Plant Decarbonization Plan That Works For You

June 1, 2023

The latest climate science is clear: Limiting climate change is both possible and practical. However, to avoid the worst environmental impacts, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be reduced by half by 2030, eventually achieving net-zero. The path to decarbonization must be swift, but purposeful. Therefore, a corporate decarbonization plan, once viewed as a pet project, is now a crucial component of a companies’ triple bottom line success.  

The good news is that industrial sustainability efforts are resulting in a marked positive impact for both the environment and implementors. This article will answer the why’s and how’s of crafting a robust decarbonization plan that delivers big for people, profit and planet.  


The Case for In-Plant Decarbonization 

 Scope 1 and Scope 2 are the emissions that happen under your watch in your facilities. A credible overall decarbonization plan includes aggressive and persistent reduction of these emissions under your direct control. It is not the entirety of your decarbonization plan, but it should absolutely be a central piece. 


Five Strategies to Decarbonization 

In our mission to help industry decarbonize, we have determined five strategies that will help you start your decarbonization journey today. 

Take a Holistic Approach 

We often see a disconnect between the C-suite and the implementation teams at our clients’ facilities. The C-suite will establish comprehensive goals, but facilities and production teams have a lot on their plate already. To successfully achieve your decarbonization goals, the facilities and production teams need to feel like part of the solution and be given the resources to make it happen. It’s important to assess holistically what solutions can happen now vs later and which are cost effective. Every plant needs to contribute, rather than relying on a C-suite pet project. 

Say and not or 

You’ll need hundreds of solutions to decarbonize, there is no one solution to get you to net-zero. 

Get paid to decarbonize  

Find the solutions with a negative cost of carbon and implement these first. After addressing solutions with a negative cost, you can start implementing solutions with associated costs. It may come as a surprise how many low to negative cost solutions are out there. It’s often cheaper to reduce carbon emissions than to continue emitting them.  

Invest in your plants 

Invest in your plants by upgrading equipment and systems: a 1% efficiency gain on a 200hp motor has equivalent carbon removal as installing 300 sq ft of solar panels.  

Energy efficiency is the lowest cost decarbonization strategy, and often provides ancillary benefits such as reliability, quality, and operational efficiency. 

Get serious about persistence 

Decarbonization is a multi-decade journey, and it can only be successful if every solution implemented persists. Especially your lower-cost solutions! If not, you will end up replacing low-cost decarbonization with more expensive options later on. Persistence is the single most important strategy to lower the cost of your pathway to net-zero. You need systems, tools, and people to support this goal. Consider outside services and expertise to ensure your savings persist. 

The Cascade Energy Decarbonization Roadmap 

There is no single proven framework to guide in-plant decarbonization, but we have created a six-phase framework that borrows from the Department of Energy and other thought leaders with an emphasis on energy management and savings persistence. Applying the five strategies learned above to this six-step process will put you on the right track towards decarbonization. 

Step 1: Target 

First, set a target that engages key stakeholders and has clear accountability. 

Step 2: Footprint 

Assess your carbon footprint and make a data collection plan to ensure you can consistently track and report each source. 

Step 3: Report 

Set up a reporting and disclosure process. 

Step 4: Plan 

Make an action plan that includes your current footprint and measurement boundaries, expected growth, targets, and timeline. Evaluate the impact of available solutions and develop strategies for each scenario. Reassess steps 1-4 every 3-5 years.  

Step 5: Act 

Plan-do-check-act : This is where Strategic Energy Management practices come in. This step relies on the “say and not or” strategy of decarbonization. There is no one solution, so to reach your decarbonization goal, you will need to implement hundreds or thousands of small projects. This step requires ongoing implementation and continual improvement.  

Step 6: Grow 

To ensure your low-cost decarbonization increases and you continue to grow your savings, you must build a culture of energy accountability, quickly identify when backsliding occurs, recover and remain at peak efficiency. This is another area that will require ongoing implementation. Using a tool like Energy Sensei to track persistence can ensure your savings grow, not diminish, across changes in operations, schedules, and personnel. 


Becoming a Climate-Friendly Company 

Crafting a decarbonization plan supported by structure, guided by insight, and fueled by tenacity will empower companies to play a pivotal role in fostering a more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Cascade’s insightful tools and coaches are ready to guide your path to energy efficiency and decarbonization – reach out to learn how our unique approach can support your net-zero goals.

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