Luke Nicholson takes a late and frugal lunch of soup and bread in the fourth-floor conference room of a former fabric warehouse in London’s East End. The walls are thinly-painted brick, the floors are bare wooden planks, and there’s a visible gap by a nearby window frame, letting air and light in through a place they shouldn’t go.
It’s an unlikely setting for Nicholson’s company Carbon Culture, a cutting-edge clean-tech startup that writes software to monitor energy consumption, expenditure and carbon emissions in eight U.K. government departments, and is about to roll its product out to the private sector.
Since 2010, Carbon Culture has been helping government offices – including Number 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister’s official residence – figure out how much electricity, gas, and heat they are using, how much it’s costing, and how it’s affecting the environment. It displays all the information on its website in real-time tabular and graphical form.
From July 18 to 24, for example, Number 10 used 17,664 kwh of electricity, costing 1,530.49 British pounds, and emitting 9,264 kg of carbon into the atmosphere, the company’s web site showed. It also presents a graphical overview of energy use for the period, and calculates per-hour rates for all of the measures. The data is taken every five seconds from on-site meters, and sent to Carbon Culture’s data base.
The data is designed to help the government make its own contribution to meeting an ambitious national target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2025. That’s the underlying goal of a new regulation requiring mandatory carbon reporting for large business from the start of the next financial year, making the U.K. the first country to require emissions data in company reports.
At the Department of Energy and Climate Change, a key testing ground for Carbon Culture’s technology, daytime gas usage has fallen 20 percent since the company has been providing real-time data on energy use there. Thanks to the constant data monitoring, and a highly motivated DECC workforce, most of the department’s “low-hanging fruit” in terms of easy energy savings has now been picked, and further gains there are likely to be incremental, Nicholson said.
The government’s energy and environmental agenda, together with growing popular support for energy efficiency, is creating a favorable climate for the cluster of clean tech companies like Carbon Culture that are springing up in London, said Nicholson.
“Some of the most interesting low-carbon businesses in the world are growing in London,” Nicholson told AOL Energy. He attributed the growth to the government support that sprang from an initiative announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in late 2010, and to British public backing for the idea of a low-carbon world.