This article was originally published on Corporate Knights and is republished with permission.
Reducing transportation emissions is the single biggest opportunity for businesses looking to green their Canadian operations. According to Environment Canada, the transportation sector makes up for more greenhouse gas emissions than electricity generation or even the oil sands. That’s why, in September, Bullfrog Power introduced a new solution to the transportation emissions puzzle with our green fuel product, giving Canadian businesses the possibility of reducing their transportation-related emissions by supporting the country’s nascent biofuel industry.
Over the past decade, Bullfrog Power has been providing a green electricity offering for homes and businesses, including major businesses, such as TD Bank Group, Unilever Canada and The Co-operators. By “bullfrogpowering” a home or business, Bullfrog Power enables the injection of renewable electricity into the grid to match the amount of power that the facility consumes. What we were doing was unique because we entered into 20-year contracts with wind developers, allowing consumers of electricity to play an active role in the energy marketplace and help advance the development of more renewable energy facilities.
Since Bullfrog Power was founded in Toronto in 2005, we have expanded across the country and brought on new renewable electricity facilities to supply our growing customer base. Along the way Bullfrog Power sourced from the first wind project in BC and helped bring the first independently owned and non-government funded wind project in Nova Scotia to market. In 2011, we introduced another first, launching green natural gas, a renewable alternative to conventional natural gas.
For us, green natural gas was a groundbreaking product because we were doing something that no one else in Canada had done before. Now, with green fuel, we again have the opportunity to do something new. Bullfrog Power was built on the idea that Canadians should have a say in how their energy is produced. To give them that say we had to innovate new ways to channel their support to renewable generators.
Recently, we decided to focus on transportation-related emissions. Why? Because organizations struggle with various alternatives which can be impractical or logistically untenable when addressing their transportation-related emissions. These emissions include those from travel required by employees commuting on a daily basis to and from the office or factory.
There is also the challenge of greening existing vehicles that use gasoline and diesel. Swapping out conventional internal combustion engine vehicles for more environmentally friendly electric vehicles or hybrids involves costly retrofits of existing vehicles or fleets and significant upfront investment. As a result, we decided to investigate the potential impact of Canada’s biofuel industry.
Federally, Canada mandates that large refiners blend ethanol into gasoline at a 5 per cent level, and include 2 per cent biodiesel in diesel fuel. Even if those levels were higher, a vehicle’s engine may only contain between five and 20 per cent biodiesel, depending on weather conditions. As a result, there is a physical limit to the amount of biofuel that an engine can use unless it is modified for pure biodiesel use.
Although some businesses purchase biofuel directly, this is mostly done by primary industries or those with large fleets of heavy vehicles which use diesel and can add biodiesel to their blend. Infrastructure challenges may also prevent some businesses from directly purchasing biofuel. For vehicles using gasoline, there is no commercially available method today to purchase fuel blends with high renewable content.
Bullfrog Power’s green fuel is different because it provides a way for businesses to support the biofuel industry, which produces a renewable fuel alternative that is already recognized by federal and most provincial governments as a low carbon solution.
With green fuel, we’re focused on fostering the development of Canada’s renewable fuel industry, and supporting different technologies to help transition to a cleaner Canadian fuel system, not just creating short term emissions reductions.
Transportation fuels in Canada, whether they are gasoline, diesel or jet fuel are all derived from petroleum. Bullfrog Power’s green fuel sources fuels such as biodiesel made from used cooking oils from restaurants and kitchen facilities or waste from food and feed manufacturing. And so, when a business purchases Bullfrog’s green fuel, Bullfrog Power is matching litre-for-litre the conventional liquid fossil fuel that is used by a vehicle with biodiesel that is then injected into the Canadian fuel system. In effect, this action is helping to green the Canadian fuel system, reducing the amount of petroleum needed to create fuel in Canada and displacing transportation-related emissions.
One concern with the existing biofuel industry is the use of corn- or wheat-based ethanol crops, or biodiesel made from soy, which deliver a renewable fuel solution but don’t result in a compelling emission reduction benefit when considering the energy required to produce those crops.
That’s why we only work with producers of advanced or waste-based biofuel. Part of the reason why this product exists is to support and motivate the private sector to further develop a biofuel industry in Canada that avoids food-versus-fuel conflicts. When we decided to launch the product we knew that we would need a private sector champion. The first company to step up and partner with Bullfrog in this endeavor was TD.
TD saw an opportunity with Bullfrog Power’s green fuel product to be a leader in recognizing and supporting at an early stage a technology and industry that may have a meaningful impact in addressing climate change.
“As North America’s first carbon neutral bank, TD manages its carbon footprint through a variety of measures, such as reducing our travel-related carbon emissions by supporting the use of public transit and investing in virtual meeting software – but we recognize that real change requires the diversification of energy sources,” said Karen Clarke-Whistler, Chief Environment Officer for TD Bank Group. “By investing in Bullfrog Power’s green fuel, TD is investing in a new, cleaner energy source and helping to raise awareness of biofuel as a sound, low-carbon alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based transportation fuel.”
Just over a year later, with Bullfrog making its green fuel available to business customers across Canada, TD’s investment has helped support the biofuel projects Bullfrog has worked with and brought a greater awareness to this new transportation solution. As a result, a broader spectrum of businesses are now reducing the emissions from their transportation, primarily by greening their delivery vehicles.
For Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, the addition of green fuel is finding ways to address all aspects of its emissions footprint, making it one of the first of Bullfrog Power’s customers to take advantage of all three of its products.
“Two years ago, when we decided to make the switch to choosing green electricity and green natural gas, there wasn’t an easy way to reduce our transportation-related emissions,” said Steve Beauchesne, CEO of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. “As we continue to grow we’re able to take advantage of new technologies like green fuel that are helping us to show the rest of our industry what’s possible.”
For companies disclosing their emissions footprint and steps they are taking to mitigate those emissions under the Carbon Disclosure Project or their own internal measures, a business’s emissions are generally split into three distinct areas or scopes. Scope 1 emissions are those directly created on site by the combustion of fossil fuels, such as a natural gas furnace, or through owned vehicles, such as a car. Scope 2 emissions are indirectly created on your behalf as with natural gas or coal burned to generate the electricity we use. Scope 3 emissions are other indirect emissions – think rental cars, flights, or delivery vehicles used by a logistics firm to get your product to market.
At Bullfrog Power, we had solutions to address scope 1 (green natural gas) and scope 2 (green electricity) but only with green fuel are we able to offer a “3-scope solution” for a business’s emissions profile. For businesses that use fleets of company cars for their sales team, delivery vehicles, tractor trailers, business flights, and other forms of travel – scope 3 emissions end up forming a huge portion of their total emissions and pollution impact.
However, with a growing number of businesses opting to prioritize social good, the decision to support an innovative green energy solution is more about pushing the needle forward than just harm reduction. For example, British Columbia’s Ethical Bean Coffee has a focus on fairtrade, community and environmental issues that made it a natural early adopter.
“Environmental accountability is one of the core tenets of our business. We want to be a leader in this area and so the opportunity to green our delivery and corporate vehicles with green fuel was a logical next step for us,” said Ethical Bean Co-Founder and CEO Lloyd Bernhardt.
On the other side of the country, Dianne Hamilton, Senior Director of Operations for Halifax’s Pete’s Fine Foods, also sees supporting a biofuel product to be an extension of their role as a “green” grocer.
“We ask and listen to what is important to our customers. They are very clear about the importance of choosing a grocer that holds sustainability as a high value. This aligns with our core values so it is easy to jump on board with Bullfrog’s green fuel initiative,” said Hamilton.
So what’s the future for a biofuel offering like Bullfrog Power’s green fuel? When so much is said about the growing adoption of electric vehicles, where is the place for a product that is fundamentally about emissions reductions and the biofuel industry, but which doesn’t require physical changes in the vehicles being used on a day-to-day basis?
At Bullfrog, we believe the future of transportation requires fundamental changes in infrastructure to enable the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the electrification of mass transit system and, for larger transport vehicles, a broader adoption of compressed renewable natural gas—but we’re not there yet.
A solution like green fuel is meant to bridge the gap between the realities of today—where we need immediate reductions in transportation-related emissions—and the green energy future we want to get to.
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