How To Estimate Scope 3 Fuel and Energy Related Activities (FERA) For Electricity, Heat and Steam

Fuel and Energy Related Activities (FERA) or upstream / scope 3

This guide details the background and key methodologies behind FERA / scope 3 emission calculations.

Introduction to FERA

Fuel and energy-related activities are the upstream (Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 3, category 31) emissions arising as a result of fuel combustion either directly (Scope 1) or indirectly (Scopes 2 and 3). These are:

  • Mining / extracting / refining and producing the fuel (well-to-tank / WTT)
  • Transporting the fuel (or energy) to the point of use (transportation & distribution / T&D)

This guidance relates specifically to FERA arising from Scope 2 (purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling). The table below provides some examples of activities and associated emissions sources.

Example activitiesFERA emissions (Scope 3)Example sources of emissions
Purchased electricity used in an office or factory

Purchased heat used in an office or a factory (e.g. district heating)

Purchased steam used in a production process

Well-to-tank (WTT)
• Production of fuel used to generate electricity, heat, cooling or steam

Transportation and distribution (T&D)
• Losses from the point of generation to the point of consumption

WTT of T&D
• Production of fuel associated with T&D losses

Oil extraction and refining coal mining
Extraction of natural gas and transportation by pipeline to point of use
Conversion to gas or liquid, shipping to country of use, pipeline transportation
Electricity losses from transportation network (high voltage & generally regional) and distribution network (post-transformer, lower voltage & generally local)
Heat losses due to distribution pipework (pre-metering point or point of entry into building) and riser losses within the applicable building

Using Climatiq to calculate FERA emissions

The emission factor database (EFDB (opens in a new tab)) contains FERA emission factors for several countries including UK, USA, France and Germany that may be used directly for reporting the upstream impact of purchased energy under the Scope 2 location-based approach. These factors may also be used to report under the market-based approach in certain circumstances (see below).

Refer to the EFDB and API guidance (opens in a new tab) for more information on how to access FERA emission factors. Private emissions factors may also be uploaded and applied (by users on our paid plans) for supplier / company specific data.

Background: How FERA is calculated for purchased electricity

Scope 3 upstream emissions are closely linked to Scope 2 (generation) emissions. However, whereas emissions from generation depend mainly on the fuel burned, the two elements of upstream emissions are affected by other variables; well-to-tank (WTT) emissions depend on how the fuel was produced, and transmission and distribution losses (T&D) depend on grid characteristics, including its physical extent and levels of power demand.

The associated emission factors will therefore change each year even if the fuel generation mix doesn’t change. For example, the UK uses natural gas to generate electricity and in recent years has imported a greater proportion of this as liquified gas, increasing the energy used in fuel production and hence the WTT emissions factor.

Location-based and market-based accounting 2

The key accounting methodologies (e.g. the GHG Protocol) require that organizations report Scope 2 emissions under both the location- and market-based approaches. The associated Scope 3 FERA emissions are most commonly reported using only location-based factors, however, due to a lack of suitable market-based factors.

The GHG Protocol guidance (opens in a new tab) gives two methods for calculating WTT emissions - the average-data method and the supplier-specific method:

  • Supplier-specific method, which involves collecting data from electricity providers on upstream emissions (extraction, production, and transportation) of electricity consumed by the reporting company
  • Average-data method, which involves estimating emissions by using secondary (e.g., industry average) emission factors for upstream emissions per unit of consumption (e.g., kg CO2e/kWh). The location-based approach to Scope 3 uses the average-data method. The market-based approach to Scope 3 uses a combination of both methods depending on data availability. FERA emissions factors are published by the same bodies that publish Scope 2 factors. These factors are typically expressed as kg CO2e / kWh of purchased electricity and there may be separate factors for WTT, T&D and WTT (T&D). FERA emissions are calculated by multiplying purchased electricity (as used for Scope 2) by the relevant country emissions factor:

FERA emissions (CO2e) = electricity purchased×(EFWTT+EFT&D+EFWTT-T&D)\text{electricity purchased} \times (EF_{WTT} + EF_{T\&D} + EF_{\text{WTT-T\&D}})

Each fuel has different WTT emissions factors due to the different methods of production (see table above). The bodies that issue emissions factors combine these factors with information on electricity generation efficiency to get the final generation WTT factors.

The overall WTT emissions factor for the reporting organization’s electricity is a weighted average of the factors for each of the fuels in the supply mix.

EFWTT(total)=Fuel1×EFWTT(fuel1)+Fuel2×EFWTT(fuel2)+Fuel3×EFWTT(fuel3)EF_{WTT}(total) = Fuel_1 \times EF_{WTT}(fuel_1) + Fuel_2 \times EF_{WTT}(fuel_2) + Fuel_3 \times EF_{WTT}(fuel_3)

Where FuelnFuel_n is the share of fuel nn in the supply mix and EFWTT(fueln)EF_{WTT}(fuel_n) is the associated emissions factor expressed as CO2e kg / kWh. EFWTTEF_{WTT} is 00 for zero-fuel renewable energy.

If the underlying emissions factors are not known then it is possible to estimate WTT emissions by multiplying Scope 2 (generation) emissions by associated WTT percentages. These are typically about 15% for natural gas and 17% for coal.

Where scope 2 generation emissions are zero or close to zero (e.g. for biomass and nuclear) the percentage-based approach will not work so emissions factors given in terms of CO2e per kWh must be used. Climatiq uses emissions factors derived from the relevant national emission factor methodology documents.

1 Emissions from FERA are reported under Category 3 of Scope 3.

2 Location-based reporting uses the local (national / regional) grid mix and market-based reporting uses the reporting organization’s contractual fuel mix taking into account any of the tariff, supplier and use of renewable energy certificates (RECS / REGOs). See the separate Climatiq Scope 2 reporting guidance.