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article imageInnovative New Website Tracks Real Time Carbon Emissions

By Mat Elmore     Jul 19, 2009 in Environment
Think that turning on the light switch translates to the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions during all hours of the day? Think again.
Friday saw the creation of realtimecarbon.org, a United Kingdom-based website that allows UK citizens to view the varying carbon intensity of their energy usage throughout the day.
The site tracks the carbon footprint of a KW of energy over time. Demand for electricity fluctuates depending on the time of day and season of the year. Peak hours are normally daytime and early evening and cold winter months when electricity is needed for heat and the days are shorter.
When consumers use energy during these peak hours, the carbon intensity of each unit of electricity used is higher because it increases the cost of wholesale energy which causes utilities to switch on the cheapest sources, usually coal-fired power plants.
For example, on average in the United Kingdom, boiling a pot of water or running the dishwasher in the middle of the afternoon emits 40% more carbon dioxide then doing the same activities in late evening or at night.
The website "uses data from the organisations who manage the ‘balancing and settlement’ of the electricity grid to determine which power stations or wind-farms are generating electricity at any given time. It then calculates the overall carbon intensity using coefficents for each type of generation."
The self-proclaimed goals of the tool are to "reduce carbon emissions, enable more accurate carbon accounting for businesses, promote smart-grids with smart demand, and encourage debate on energy and climate change policy."
Duncan Clark at The Guardian's environment blog explains its significance, "It may sound geeky but it's hugely significant... Anyone interested in energy and emissions has known about this for years – though only on a theoretical level. For the first time, Realtime Carbon actually gives us some numbers."
The website does not have a North American counterpart yet, but a real time carbon counter was installed in New York City just a month ago.
The creators of the website are hoping to reduce carbon emission and spur the creation of clean energy projects by making it easier for companies to understand, estimate, and reduce to their carbon emissions.
Tom Raftery of GreenMonk blog describes the advantages of the website for companies and organizations:
One of the beauties of this site is that they provide an xml feed of the realtime carbon intensity data (see the pdf on how to access the feed for more info). The xml feed will allow organisations to programatically monitor the CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation in the UK. Thus it will be possible to have devices programmed to automatically respond to realtime CO2 intensity signals coming from RealtimeCarbon.org i.e. shutting down when highly carbon intensive and starting up when carbon-light.
Realtimecarbon is a joint project by AMEE and Demand Logic limited and is sponsored by a charitable grant from Dynamic Demand.
More about Carbon intensity, Real time carbon, Greenhouse gas emissions, Real time
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