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Understanding GHG Protocol category 3.3: Fuel and energy-related emissions

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), a widely recognised tool for emissions accounting, provides a framework for categorising emissions sources. It categorises emissions into three scopes.

  • Scope 1 emissions encompass direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from sources that are owned or controlled by the reporting entity.

  • Scope 2 emissions encompass indirect GHG emissions that result from the generation of purchased energy used by the reporting entity.

  • Scope 3 emissions encompass all other indirect GHG emissions that occur as a result of an organisation's activities but are not directly owned or controlled by the reporting entity.

What is GHG Protocol category 3.3?

According to the GHG Protocol, category 3.3,

“includes emissions related to the production of fuels and energy purchased and consumed by the reporting company in the reporting year that are not included in Scope 1 or Scope 2.”

In a nutshell, category 3.3 describes the emissions from the extraction, production and transportation of fuels, electricity and other energy consumed by the organisation but occurring off-site.

Examples include emissions from the mining of coal, refining of fuels, extraction of natural gas, production of biofuels (these are sometimes called well-to-tank or WTT or W2T), or transmission and distribution (T&D) of electricity.

How can you measure fuel and energy-related emissions?

To calculate Scope 3 emissions from fuel and energy-related activities, a couple of methods can be used:

  • Supplier-specific method: Involves collecting data from fuel or electricity providers on upstream emissions (extraction, production and transportation) or T&D loss rates of grids

  • Average-data method: Involves estimating emissions by using secondary (e.g., industry average) emission factors for upstream emissions per unit of consumption (e.g., kg CO2e/kWh) or average T&D loss rates (e.g., national, regional, or global averages, depending on data availability)

Typically, including category 3.3 in a footprint adds about 20-30% on top of emissions from your buildings and vehicles, or Scopes 1 and 2.

But one thing to note when carrying out these calculations manually is that the associated emission factors change each year, even if the fuel generation mix doesn’t change. This is due to the upstream emissions being affected by other variables, such as grid characteristics and fuel production techniques.

Why include GHG Protocol category 3.3 in your footprint?

Although category 3.3 may not be material for many non-energy intensive organisations, pursuing a more comprehensive footprint means including fuel and energy-related emissions.

One way to make this easier is to use a carbon accounting software, which will automatically carry out these calculations for you and include them in your footprint.

Reach out to our team if you are interested in learning more about carbon accounting methods and streamlining the process for your organisation.


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