Minimizing, substituting, compensating
Carbon neutrality is an integrated approach consisting of three major fields of action: minimizing, substituting and compensating for CO2 emissions. This approach is being realized in the project "Carbon-neutral state administration" on the premise that "minimizing" takes priority over "substituting" which takes priority over "compensating".
The project strategy attaches top priority to the reduction of energy consumption.
Minimizing measures can be implemented, for example, by the energy-efficient use of heating, cooling and lighting systems. The major part of the energy saving potentials can certainly be exploited through investments in energy-efficient buildings, technologies and devices. But even without using financial means, much energy can be saved by merely bringing about a change in the people's behaviour.
Second priority is to substitute as much of the remaining energy consumption as possible in a climate-neutral way. The energy and environmental footprint can be reduced by purchasing emission-neutral or low-emission energy sources, e.g. replacing conventionally generated electricity by green electricity or using renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels for the production of thermal and process heat.
Major milestones in the substitution process are the conversion of the Hesse state administration's entire power supply to green electricity, the initiation of a pilot project in the field of electric vehicles and the changeover to alternative energy sources for heat production and supply, if technically and economically reasonable.
In the end, even if considerable CO2 reductions can be achieved by activating all existing minimizing and substitution potentials, not all emissions can be completely avoided.
If complete carbon neutrality turns out to be unrealizable for financial and economic reasons, the compensation for CO2 emissions will come into play as a third priority. The remaining emissions can be compensated for by purchasing and setting aside high-quality emission certificates from climate protection projects or by in-house energy production.
The CO2 emissions of the Hesse state administration
The first step towards the implementation of a carbon-neutral state administration is the collection and representation of the present emission data in the state of Hesse.
To define the starting line from where to reach the ambitious goal of a carbon-neutrally working state administration by the year 2030 it was necessary to determine an initial carbon footprint representing the current quantity and sources of CO2 emissions produced by the Hesse administration. For this purpose, the system boundaries were defined and the consumption data were collected. After the identification of the climate-relevant emissions an initial carbon footprint calculation was made for the year 2008 and certified by the TÜV Nord CERT GmbH.
The initial calculation of the carbon footprint and its regular updating are the basis for the creation of a CO2 monitoring system which supports the implementation of CO2 reduction measures. The identification of saving potentials together with the reduction of emissions will continuously reduce the carbon footprint of the Hesse state administration.
The figures are more than pleasing: By the year 2014, CO2 emissions could be reduced by just under 50 percent. Compared to the initial carbon footprint of the year 2008, which amounted to the total of 476,223 tons of CO2 equivalent, the carbon footprint for 2014 equalled about 242,000 tons of CO2 equivalent.