Founder Note
Article
6
min read
James Dice

Introducing: The Decarb Roadmap

April 5, 2023

Hey friends, 

As an energy engineer for the first 10 years of my career, I always felt like I was doing important work. I loved studying mechanical rooms and putting together retrofit projects that helped my clients save money by saving energy. 

But over the past few years, I've realized the game has changed. Energy efficiency is no longer enough. To truly make a difference, we need to focus on decarbonization.

This realization has led me on a two-year-long pursuit to understand what's changed and how the new game is played. I've talked to experts on The Nexus Podcast and studied the latest technology and policy developments. And now, it’s time to launch a new Nexus Labs column, Decarb Roadmap, dedicated to synthesizing these insights.

In this column, we'll explore the new game of decarbonization and develop a framework for how any organization can go from setting a Carbon Target (e.g. Net Zero) to reaching that decarbonization destination. We'll cover everything else after the target is set: from data collection, benchmarking, planning and action, procurement and carbon offsets, and more.

If you're interested in reducing your organization's carbon footprint and playing a leading role in the fight against climate change, then this column is for you. Let's get started co-creating the Decarb Roadmap for commercial real estate! In this first installment, let’s explore and summarize Nexus Labs’ archive of existing content on this vital topic.

Our rough framework 

First, we’ve started creating a rough framework for the Decarb Roadmap. I say “rough framework” because our industry is still developing these methods. We don’t have best practices yet. So the framework is tentative and we’d love feedback on it. All that said, here it is:

Let’s summarize each step. 

0. Market Transformation: In each local and financial market, external factors are driving the need for decarbonization. Think mitigating risks and chasing opportunities like changing regulations, investor pressure, and changing consumer preferences. 

👉Go deeper: 

1. Setting a carbon target: Building owners’ first step… setting a goal for reducing the carbon emissions of their portfolio. They must grapple with how aggressive to go, how fast to go, how to pay for it, how to get there, and how they will team up with and communicate to their stakeholders. Either that, or they just shoot from the hip and figure the rest out later! 

👉Go deeper: 

2. Collecting data: It’s time to crunch numbers: utility data, meter data, device data, carbon intensity, and math. Where is the organization today vs. where it needs to go? As shown in the graphic above, more stringent targets require better data analysis… and more data. And the better your data tools, the easier Step 3 will be. 

👉Go deeper: 

3. Benchmarking & Reporting: Now let’s see how each building stacks up against our target, the rest of the portfolio, and others in the industry. Let’s report on our progress to internal and external stakeholders.

👉Go deeper: 

4. Planning & Action: It's time to get strategic and come up with a game plan for reducing carbon emissions… then execute. 

👉Go deeper: 

5. Optimizing & Maintaining Performance: Decarb is not a one-and-done deal, folks. It requires constantly monitoring and optimizing to avoid performance drift. It's like a game of whack-a-mole!

👉Go deeper: 

6. Procurement & Carbon Offsets: For the emissions that can’t be eliminated, we gotta purchase some carbon offsets or renewable energy credits (RECs). Some might advocate for using this tool earlier, but I put it last for a reason: the more real action you take through retrofits, the lower your cost of carbon can be.

👉Go deeper: 

That’s it! Easier said than done, amiright? 

In The Decarb Roadmap column, we’ll go deeper into each step of this framework. And based on your feedback, we might rearrange it all together! We’ll also interview leading building owners and vendors to understand best practices and lessons learned. Do you want to help create this column with us? Apply to become a Partner here

Next time, we’ll talk about the technology landscape and overlay it on top of this framework. Teaser: it’s messy and fragmented! 

Until then, 

—James Dice, Founder and CEO, Nexus Labs

P.S. The Decarb Roadmap column is produced courtesy of our Partner Program. Partner categories mentioned in this installment: Market Transformers, Decarb Consultants, Grid & Market Connectors, Energy Management, Carbon Accounting, FDD, and Supervisory Control. 

Partners in these categories include NYSERDA, WattCarbon, Bueno, and Clockworks Analytics.

Upgrade to Nexus Pro to continue reading

Upgrade

Upgrade to Nexus Pro to continue reading

Upgrade

Hey friends, 

As an energy engineer for the first 10 years of my career, I always felt like I was doing important work. I loved studying mechanical rooms and putting together retrofit projects that helped my clients save money by saving energy. 

But over the past few years, I've realized the game has changed. Energy efficiency is no longer enough. To truly make a difference, we need to focus on decarbonization.

This realization has led me on a two-year-long pursuit to understand what's changed and how the new game is played. I've talked to experts on The Nexus Podcast and studied the latest technology and policy developments. And now, it’s time to launch a new Nexus Labs column, Decarb Roadmap, dedicated to synthesizing these insights.

In this column, we'll explore the new game of decarbonization and develop a framework for how any organization can go from setting a Carbon Target (e.g. Net Zero) to reaching that decarbonization destination. We'll cover everything else after the target is set: from data collection, benchmarking, planning and action, procurement and carbon offsets, and more.

If you're interested in reducing your organization's carbon footprint and playing a leading role in the fight against climate change, then this column is for you. Let's get started co-creating the Decarb Roadmap for commercial real estate! In this first installment, let’s explore and summarize Nexus Labs’ archive of existing content on this vital topic.

Our rough framework 

First, we’ve started creating a rough framework for the Decarb Roadmap. I say “rough framework” because our industry is still developing these methods. We don’t have best practices yet. So the framework is tentative and we’d love feedback on it. All that said, here it is:

Let’s summarize each step. 

0. Market Transformation: In each local and financial market, external factors are driving the need for decarbonization. Think mitigating risks and chasing opportunities like changing regulations, investor pressure, and changing consumer preferences. 

👉Go deeper: 

1. Setting a carbon target: Building owners’ first step… setting a goal for reducing the carbon emissions of their portfolio. They must grapple with how aggressive to go, how fast to go, how to pay for it, how to get there, and how they will team up with and communicate to their stakeholders. Either that, or they just shoot from the hip and figure the rest out later! 

👉Go deeper: 

2. Collecting data: It’s time to crunch numbers: utility data, meter data, device data, carbon intensity, and math. Where is the organization today vs. where it needs to go? As shown in the graphic above, more stringent targets require better data analysis… and more data. And the better your data tools, the easier Step 3 will be. 

👉Go deeper: 

3. Benchmarking & Reporting: Now let’s see how each building stacks up against our target, the rest of the portfolio, and others in the industry. Let’s report on our progress to internal and external stakeholders.

👉Go deeper: 

4. Planning & Action: It's time to get strategic and come up with a game plan for reducing carbon emissions… then execute. 

👉Go deeper: 

5. Optimizing & Maintaining Performance: Decarb is not a one-and-done deal, folks. It requires constantly monitoring and optimizing to avoid performance drift. It's like a game of whack-a-mole!

👉Go deeper: 

6. Procurement & Carbon Offsets: For the emissions that can’t be eliminated, we gotta purchase some carbon offsets or renewable energy credits (RECs). Some might advocate for using this tool earlier, but I put it last for a reason: the more real action you take through retrofits, the lower your cost of carbon can be.

👉Go deeper: 

That’s it! Easier said than done, amiright? 

In The Decarb Roadmap column, we’ll go deeper into each step of this framework. And based on your feedback, we might rearrange it all together! We’ll also interview leading building owners and vendors to understand best practices and lessons learned. Do you want to help create this column with us? Apply to become a Partner here

Next time, we’ll talk about the technology landscape and overlay it on top of this framework. Teaser: it’s messy and fragmented! 

Until then, 

—James Dice, Founder and CEO, Nexus Labs

P.S. The Decarb Roadmap column is produced courtesy of our Partner Program. Partner categories mentioned in this installment: Market Transformers, Decarb Consultants, Grid & Market Connectors, Energy Management, Carbon Accounting, FDD, and Supervisory Control. 

Partners in these categories include NYSERDA, WattCarbon, Bueno, and Clockworks Analytics.

⭐️ Pro Article

This article is for Nexus Pro members only

Upgrade to Nexus Pro
⭐️ Pro Article

This article is for Nexus Pro members only

Upgrade to Nexus Pro

Are you a Nexus Pro member yet? Join now to get access to our community of 600+ members.

Join Today

Have you taken our Smart Building Strategist Course yet? Sign up to get access to our courses platform.

Enroll Now

Get the renowned Nexus Newsletter

Access the Nexus Community

Head over to Nexus Connect and see what’s new in the community. Don’t forget to check out the latest member-only events.

Go to Nexus Connect

Upgrade to Nexus Pro

Join Nexus Pro and get full access including invite-only member gatherings, access to the community chatroom Nexus Connect, networking opportunities, and deep dive essays.

Sign Up