Circular economy often comes up in discussions about waste management, transportation, or economy in general. But what does circular economy entail? To put it shortly, circular economy aims to utilize and preserve the natural resources efficiently and in a sustainable way. The driving forces for circular economy are global warming, scarcity of nature’s resources and digitalization. Circular economy can offer a solution to various issues we have in our hands. Circular economy offers various possibilities for companies to expand and develop profitable growth.
Circular economy is often associated mainly with the efficient use and recycling of materials, but the same principles apply to energy consumption. According to the EU Waste Directive, all activities must follow the waste hierarchy. In practice this means prioritizing “the five stages of waste management”. The first and most important step is the prevention of waste generation and following the reuse and recycling of materials. The best kind of waste is no waste at all. The same principle applies in energy consumption, the megawatt hour left unused is the most sustainable megawatt hour. The steps of saving energy can be summarized using the same ideology than in the waste hierarchy:
1. Minimize unnecessary energy consumption
- The necessity of ventilation, heating, and lighting. Analyze and optimize if needed.
2. Life cycle assessment
- In technical decision making and in purchasing it is worth assessing the whole life cycle of the product or service. Both its energy consumption and the environmental impacts.
3. Renewable energy production minimizes the environmental impacts
- Renewable electricity, Green Certificates and guarantees of origin.
- Renewable heat, heat pumps, heat recovery and reuse.
In addition to reducing the emissions, energy savings reduce the need for raw materials used in energy production, lower the need for logistics related to energy production and extend the life cycle of equipment that utilise energy. The use of renewable energy also contributes to the circular economy by replacing fossil fuels.
It is worth remembering that even if electricity was purchased at zero emissions with Green Certificates, it is possible to further reduce emissions by cutting consumption in the big picture. When the electricity production is reduced, the first one to get decreased is the fossil powered production. The unused renewable electricity is then released for someone else to use.
Appropriate measurement and monitoring are important factors in reducing energy consumption and waste. A sustainable operation is aware of its environmental impacts and reports them transparently. As mentioned above, the most important factor in energy saving can be the minimization of energy consumption by cutting unnecessary consumption.
EnerKey´s intelligence feature Ines automatically identifies potential energy and emission saving potentials from consumption data using artificial intelligence. In addition, EnerKey SaaS´ sustainability features enable not only the energy consumption of properties, but also the reporting of emissions, waste, and fuel consumption reliably and effortlessly.
According to Sitra’s study, the circular economy can increase the value of our Finland´s economy annually by at least 3 billion euros by the year of 2030.
Jump onboard the circular economy sooner rather than later!