Tuesday 25 October 2016

Climate Change and You: How innovative companies are putting their stamp on ideas to reduce carbon footprint

Trucks that avoid left turns, electric cars, and a bank HQ powered by the sun

Simon Rowe

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

All EU member states have signed up to binding renewable energy targets, which in Ireland's case include having 16pc of energy from renewable sources by 2020 (Stock photo)
All EU member states have signed up to binding renewable energy targets, which in Ireland's case include having 16pc of energy from renewable sources by 2020 (Stock photo)

Companies are embracing the concepts of carbon reduction and energy efficiency like never before.

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Not only are they doing it for their investors and their customers, they're doing it because it makes commercial sense.

Another significant driver of change is the looming prospect of EU regulators slapping Ireland with major penalties. All member states have signed up to binding renewable energy targets, which in Ireland's case include having 16pc of energy from renewable sources by 2020. If the country undershoots, it could be hit with fines of between €100m and €150m for every percentage point it falls short.

The penny is slowly dropping that action must be taken as a matter of urgency.

The most popular methods employed by environmentally aware firms are simple to adopt, such as eco-driving - a way of driving that reduces fuel; teleconferencing and Skype meetings to save on air miles and the resulting carbon footprint; and a reduction in water usage. But other firms are being more innovative:


US delivery giant UPS has taken an unusual route to tackling the climate change problem. Its global fleet of delivery trucks - of which there are 120 in Ireland - are programmed to avoid left turns. UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops", UPS improved profits and safety while helping save the planet. UPS's 'no left turn rule' has saved the firm around 10 million gallons of petrol and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.


AIB is installing a solar installation on the roof of its headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. A 240kWp system, including a solar car port, will be completed early next year in conjunction with solar energy specialists Power Capital.

Power Capital will build, own and maintain the plant, while AIB contributes the roof space and contracts for the electricity from the solar plant. The plant will reduce the bank's carbon emissions by 115 tonnes annually.

AIB's motivations for the system go beyond these benefits, however, with the bank seeking to position itself as a finance leader in the renewables space ahead of the introduction of a government support scheme for solar.

"Moving AIB into a leadership position in financing the renewable energy space starts with how we manage our own facilities and the credibility we can build from deploying technology, like solar, and driving carbon targets," says Ray O'Neill, head of the office of sustainable business.

AIB already has a comprehensive energy, waste and water programme. "Our green strategy includes zero waste to landfill and 100pc renewable electricity targets. We also have been reporting on our carbon footprint now for over 10 years through the Carbon Disclosure Report process and we have won numerous awards in this area," says Karen Coyle, the bank's energy and environmental manager.

AIB HQ is also buzzing with the sound of 200,000 bees. Its rooftop also hosts Ireland's first ever bee yard on a commercial building. The yard, or apiary as it is known, is now home to 200,000 honey-making bees.

The apiary is located on the roof of the sixth-floor AIB headquarters and the aim is to increase the population of the insects in the country.


Kingspan Energy's 1.3MW solar rooftop installation at the group's manufacturing plant in County Armagh is the country's largest. It will help power Kingspan Environmental's head office and principal manufacturing facility, where it produces solar thermal modules. The company estimates it will produce around 1.3GWh of electricity a year, enough to meet 30pc of the site's daytime annual energy demand. The installation consists of over 4,700 solar modules.

Kingspan has also fitted an electric car charging point at its HQ, so that Group Chief Executive Gene Murtagh and others can charge their eco-friendly vehicles there.

This comes in handy for Murtagh, who in 2014 snapped up a Tesla, the electric car pioneered by tech guru Elon Musk.

ABP Food Group

Since 2008, Larry Goodman's meat processing facility in Cahir, Co Tipperary, has made savings of over €300,000 by reducing water usage by 45pc.

Meat processing facilities use water in almost all of their operations.

In 2008, ABP launched its "doing more with less" campaign aimed at different sustainability aspects throughout the company, with water as a key focus area for savings. Having already reached a corporate target of 10pc in water reduction, ABP Cahir decided to launch an intensive water efficiency project in 2014 to achieve even higher gains.

We want you to give us your one good idea, big or small, on how to address the problem.

It can be anything from cycling to work to developing energy efficient technologies in your town.

Send your #onegoodidea to climatechangeandyou@independent.ie or on Twitter #climatechangeandyou The best ideas will be published on Independent.ie and in the Irish Independent.

You are also invited to take part in our reader survey on attitudes to climate change at www.independent.ie.

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