So we’re getting through the plan little by little.
It’s Friday again, day to look at the Conservation and Climate Action Plan.
The next section, if you recall, is the emissions inventory.
University of Montana environmental studies professor Robin Saha and UM students did the inventory, and here is what they found:
“Municipal emissions for 2008 totaled 11,540 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalents (mtCO2e).”
I remember the presentation a couple years ago when Saha shared this number with the Missoula City Council. He made it tangible.
“I thought it would be good to convert it to Subaru Outback equivalents,” Saha said back then.
It’s the weight of 7,500 Subaru Outbacks, according to the earlier story, and that many wagons would stretch bumper to bumper from Missoula to Lolo and all the way back again.
It’s a lot of Subarus.
I wanted to know how you even calculate emissions, and Saha explained in an email, which said actual emissions are probably higher than reported. He gave a short version and a longer version.
Short version: “You look at greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) associated mainly with energy and fuel use, so yes, utility and fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane, and biodiesel, though the latter two are not significant or no longer used) bills paid by the City.”
I’m going to paste the long version at the end of this post. It explains why – get this – emissions are probably higher than the estimate reported.
In the plan, the inventory included recommended actions, and one of them was to set a reduction target. You probably already know what it is: CARBON NEUTRAL BY 2025.
But one interim goal is to cut down emissions 10 percent by 2015.
On a side note, back in 2010, the city contracted with Johnson Controls to do some energy conservation upgrades for an estimated $1.37 million.
Now, three years later, the city is supposed to have saved $108,538 a year because of those upgrades. The savings were guaranteed, so if they didn’t work, the company was going to pay the difference.
Sounds like a good idea to follow up, doesn’t it? A phone call to Mr. Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent Jack Stucky is in order soon.
Next up with the Conservation and Climate Action Plan? Task Force and Working Groups and Strategies.
You await with bated breath.
TGIF, and as promised, from Saha, the long version of how you arrive at an emissions count:
The City of Missoula has nearly 300 accounts with NorthWestern Energy. The 2010 emissions inventory also accounted for energy used by city employees to commute to work and back, and energy used to pump, treat and distribute water for city parks and other municipal uses. That information came from Mountain Water.
To convert kilowatt-hours of electricity used to pounds of C02, we used ‘grid intensity factors’ for our region (the Pacific Northwest) electricity mix and a similar conversion for therms or cubic feet of natural gas used.
These conversions were embedded in the Clean Air and Climate Protection software that we used. Emissions inventories done at UM used a different software but rely on the same type of underlying conversion factors. Because the energy mix in the entire region uses a greater proportion of emissions-free hydropower than we do in Montana, the emissions estimates are conservative, that is, they err on the low side, which means actual emissions are probably higher than we have reported.
Emissions associated with use of city vehicles and equipment (street cleaners, snow plows, mowers, pavers, etc.) were determined fuel use data that were obtained from Jack Stucky, who maintains a database of fuel purchases made by city employees.
Emissions associated with employee commuting were based on a survey of 125 city employees and their reported commuting behavior (# of days/week commuting, communing mode, distance from work, and type of vehicle used if applicable). The details of those calculations are described in the emissions inventory report.
Emissions in FY2008 from the following sectors were reported (along with the percentages of total emissions):
- Wastewater treatment (38%)
- Municipal buildings (27%)
- Municipal fleet (15%)
- Employee commuting (9%)
- Outdoor lighting (9%)
- Water use and misc. (2%)
Emissions associated with embedded energy in products used by city staff such as office paper or paving or construction material were not included, nor were emissions from fertilizers applied to lawns or emissions from waste disposal, which are sometimes counted. Those latter emissions are associated with: (1) the transport of solid waste to the landfill and release of methane from the landfill; and (2) composting of leaves and collected and delivered to Eko Compost. They are generally considered and have been found to be relatively small (less than 2% of total emission) in inventories done by other municipalities. Also, there is no accepted or reliable way to determine those emissions.
No subtractions were made for carbon dioxide that are absorbed by urban forest, parklands or open space, which is an area for future research (carbon may only be absorbed temporarily but may be released, for example, as leaves or cut grass decomposes).
Wow. That’s amazing. It’s a lot of work. And it’s interesting. Thank you for the long version, Robin.
– Keila Szpaller