Monday, 28 July 2008

Carbon Dioxide - finding out is a problem

I've been blithely quoting stats on my CO2 usage for a while now and you may (or may not) have wondered how I was calculating them.

I've got a spreadsheet. This will probably not surprise you.

I was updating my little spreadsheet yesterday, and hit the problem that is probably the biggest reason more of us aren't doing more: it's just so hard to work it out! I've been using estimates from various sites for a lot of my stats and I decided to dig a bit deeper.

As far as I know, my biggest CO2-releasing activities are:
- electricity usage at home
- petrol usage in my car
- co-generation which heats my water
- flying around the globe so much

I set out to tackle them in that order. So, here's how I worked out the home-electricity thing. My power comes from Mercury Energy.

Mercury Energy is somewhat coy about how much CO2 is produced by their power generation. I followed a tortuous path from the Mercury Energy website's blather about the environment, which told me precisely zip except that their power is generated by Mighty River Power....

.... so off I go to Mighty River Power's Generation page, which at least told me that they had a bunch of hydro stations (yay!), some geothermal (more yay!), a "biomass energy" station or three (a what?) and a co-generation plant, and that they were thinking about wind. So far so sweet and all but still no mention of CO2.

Some random clicking within the Mighty River Power site brought me to their Reports & Documents section, and from there to the 2007 sustainability report (large PDF).

And there, on page 18, in teeny font, was a CO2 breakdown by plant type! Hooray! And even better, on the following page, they've got a CO2 usage measurement for their corporate activities.

So, they generated 5,339 GWh of power and created 385,061 (love that 1) kg of CO2 in the process.

Armed with that data and a recent power bill I can now calculate that my 8 or so kWh per day results in about 0.58kg of CO2 being released per day into the atmosphere. This is data that should be on my bill, rather than requiring me to hunt through so many pages online.

So my questions to the internet today are:
  1. is there any way to get this data about all the power companies, easily and online?
  2. how does your CO2 production from your home electricity stack up?
  3. and do you agree, that this data should be on our bills?
(Interestingly, I originally ran the calculation on 2005 data by mistake, and on that data I would have been producing only 0.48kg of CO2 per day. Unless I'm mistaken, that means Mercury have been getting LESS green over time. I've done my little bit today by signing up for online billing.)


Rowan said...

You should check out Saul Griffith's site:

He spoke about this at eTech earlier in the year (there is a link to the video on that site).

Carolyn said...

That's a great presentation. I'm going to read it in more detail and make a pie chart of my own...

Thanks Rowan!