Saturday, February 6, 2010

Educating Municipalities on the Carbon Market

EcoAsset Solutions was invited to speak at the Pinellas Green Government PartnershipUniversity of Florida/IFAS Pinellas County Extension, local municipalities, and the Florida Green Building Coalition to promote sustainability within local governments, share best practices, and provide resources.  meeting this week.  The Pinellas Green Government Partnership was formed last year between

Sandra Kling, our Chief Environmental Scientist, and I provided the attendees with an overview of the voluntary carbon market in the United States.  Most importantly, however, we wanted to leave them with concrete examples of carbon offset projects that could benefit their local government and how they can begin to take advantage of these opportunities.  Carbon offset projects are stand alone projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to offset greenhouse gas emissions from another entity or activity.  For every metric ton of CO2-equivalent reduced, a project generates one carbon credit.   

We highlighted four categories of carbon offset project types that municipalities should consider developing:

1) Fuel switching: Most municipalities have sizable vehicle fleets and transportation systems that currently run on gasoline or diesel.  Depending on the size of the fleet, converting a portion of the fleet to a lower-carbon fuel such as natural gas or biodiesel can qualify for a carbon offset project.

 2) Energy Efficiency: Every year, municipalities spend a lot of money lighting, heating and cooling old inefficient buildings.  Energy retrofits can yield significant energy savings and can be subsidized with the development and sale of carbon credits.  Another great example is a carbon offset project that was developed in the State of Texas by distributing 1,000,000 compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) to low income residents.  The project resulted in millions of carbon credits and was estimated to reduce electricity consumption by over 400 GWh. 

3) Renewable Energy: There are many renewable energy options that local government can consider including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.  The upfront capital costs of these systems can be partially offset through the sale of carbon credits.
4) Capture and Storage: Many local governments own and operate parks, preserves and conservation lands.  Planting more trees and changing forest management to increase the amount of carbon sequestration can generate carbon credits and a new source of revenue for cities and counties.  Likewise, methane, a greenhouse gas 25x more potent than carbon dioxide, can be turned from a liability into an asset.  The gas rising from many municipal landfills can be captured and converted into electricity.  The greenhouse gas emission reductions from the process can be turned into carbon credits and the municipality now feeds electricity into the grid.

So what are the next steps?  Local government can scan their operations and lands for potential projects.  This process is called Carbon Offset Project Scoping.   EcoAsset Solutions has a six-step scoping process to help its clients narrow down the projects that are going to give them the best return on investment:

1) Scan operations and lands for projects
2) Estimate carbon reduction potential of projects
3) Estimate economic value of projects
4) Determine feasibility of projects
5) Prioritize carbon offset projects
6) Develop a strategic plan for participation

After the initial scoping and prioritization, we also help our clients develop the project design documents required to register the projects and commercialize the carbon credits.

David Palange

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