Archive for April, 2012

Make Every day an Earth Day

Posted by admin on April 24, 2012
Posted under Express 165

Make Every day an Earth Day

Earth Day has come and gone. It was a bigger event in the US than elsewhere in the world and one that brings out the best in people and organisations, as well as a bundle of doubtful claimants of
“greenness”! News in this issue, as expected,  of interest to all who follow earthly developments in clean energy, clean tech, sustainability and social enterprise. Waste is here to stay – or is it? Singapore is showcasing the issue and solutions. Energy efficiency is gaining added credence and even a new global measure of national action – positive and negative. Food miles, clean air, sky pollution, as well as some new moves in clean energy take their places. The French are showing sustainability leadership in Asia. For more on Earth Day and other earthly pleasures or displeasures. Read More

One of our favourite green business portals – – has this to say about Earth Day great pretenders:  “Another year, another Earth Day. Like a plague of cicadas (only more frequent and more devastating) this time of year brings us once again an inundation of marginally relevant, cynicism-inducing announcements tied to the one day of the year when, theoretically, a slightly larger slice of the American populace thinks about the state of the planet.”

Knowing how many people in Asia Pacific and elsewhere genuinely do their best, it is a pity we are still seeing people and companies grasping desperately at green tags to sell more products. At the same time, it is a sign of the times that going green is gaining momentum. But we do want to see companies and people make real changes to the way they produce, transport and go to market. Sustainable production, using less of earth’s resources, managing the supply chain, cutting waste and recycling automatically. Wouldn’t that make our day? Earth Day every day. – Ken Hickson

Fuel Cells for Data Centres, Balloons for Wind Turbines & Wireless EV Chargers

Posted by admin on April 24, 2012
Posted under Express 165

Fuel Cells for Data Centres, Balloons for Wind Turbines & Wireless EV Chargers

Three clean energy options around the world: The US Energy Department announces up to US$4 million to develop wireless chargers for electric vehicles (EVs). Inflatable balloons lashed to the seafloor for when the wind doesn’t blow. Bloom Energy’s revolutionary solid oxide fuel cell technology that converts fuel to electricity at the world’s highest level of efficiency. Read More

Erin Pierce, Energy Technology Program Specialist, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

A new funding opportunity from the US Energy Department seeks to accomplish just that. We’re announcing up to $4 million to develop wireless chargers for electric vehicles (EVs). This funding opportunity is made available through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ‘s Vehicle Technologies Program.

EV wireless charging has the potential to accelerate the adoption of EVs – by making them more convenient for consumers to charge, whether they’re at home or away,  and to reduce the total energy storage requirements of EVs, unlocking the benefits of lighter and smaller battery packs, lighter vehicles, higher efficiency and longer ranges.

In the near term, this funding will accelerate the development of wireless charging technology to provide hands-free, automated charging of parked vehicles.  Static wireless charging – or wireless charging when the vehicle is parked – can ensure easy and efficient vehicle charging.

The Department intends to select up to four projects to research and develop a wireless charging system, integrate it into a production vehicle, and test it in real-world operating conditions.  Vehicles equipped with this technology could reach the market this decade.

For more information on this funding opportunity, including application and cost-share requirements, visit the Department’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website. Applications must be submitted through the Funding Opportunity Exchange to be considered for award.



Phil McKenna, contributor, New Scientist (20 April 2012):

Wind energy proponents have a problem. How can they supply a steady source of power to the grid, even when the wind doesn’t blow? The answer may come from an unlikely source – inflatable balloons lashed to the seafloor. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK are currently testing the Energy Bag, a large inflatable energy storage device submerged in waters off Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

The concept is relatively simple. Excess electricity from offshore wind farms on windy days is used to run an air compressor, which fills large inflatable bags moored to the seafloor. Then, on calm days, the stored, compressed air can be tapped to drive turbines to produce energy.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology floated a similar idea last year using hollow concrete spheres instead of inflatable bags as a storage vessel. Now the idea of harnessing compressed air on the seafloor is going beyond the drawing board with the current testing off Orkney.

The bags themselves are made by Thin Red Line, a developer of high performance fabric structures primarily for aerospace applications. Placing the bags on the seafloor allows project leader Seamus Garvey to utilise intense water pressure found at depth to contain the compressed air rather than having to build a thick containment vessel. At a depth of 600m, a 20m-diameter bag could store around 70 megawatt hours of energy, the equivalent of roughly 14 hours of energy generation from one of the world’s largest offshore wind turbines.

Hydrostor, a Canadian company based in Toronto is currently developing similar underwater compressed air energy storage. The company plans to begin construction on a grid-connected, 4-megawatt-hour pilot project under Lake Ontario this summer. A key challenge for both groups will be achieving an efficiency that is high enough and costs that are low enough to make the system economically viable.


Bloom Energy makes key moves to bring advanced, clean, secure mission critical energy to help improve data security and reduce disruption to mission critical government and business processes.

Bloom Energy announced the formation of its Mission Critical Practice to be led by Peter Gross, a widely recognized authority in the design and implementation of advanced mission critical IT solutions, including data centers. Gross was a co-founder and CEO of EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Inc., the premier consulting and engineering firm dedicated to the design and operations of data centers.

Gross, formerly Vice President and Managing Partner Global Consulting, Hewlett-Packard Company joined Bloom Energy on March 12, 2012 as Vice President, Mission Critical Systems. “Bloom Energy will now fill a critical need in the data center industry,” says Gross. “By providing a reliable, clean and stable energy source that is immune to disruptions to the grid, Bloom will help its customers reduce their security risks considerably, while at the same time improving efficiency and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Bloom Energy Server is based on revolutionary solid oxide fuel cell technology that converts fuel to electricity through an electro-chemical reaction, without any combustion, at the world’s highest level of efficiency. As a result the electricity produced by a Bloom Energy Server is 50% cleaner than that produced by the electrical grid with no harmful Sulfur Dioxide or Nitrogen Oxide emissions.

Because Bloom Energy Servers are located on- site with the customer, they are not vulnerable to disruptions to the power grid caused by human intervention or natural disaster.

With its expansion into data center security, Bloom Energy is addressing an issue of growing national and international concern. Data centers have the same relationship to information as banks do to money—this is where the new “treasure” of information lives and is served from to power our 21st century information age.


Profile: S (Kris) Gopalakrishnan

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

On Earth Day, an urgent call for sustainable commerce, from the co-founder of the Indian IT giant Infosys: “We are not too far away from a time when sustainability will transcend into a way of life and sustainable solutions will get competitive”. Like the internet revolution, Gopalakrishnan says, it will catalyse innovation, business growth and employment generation. Read More

Article by S. Gopalakrishnan in Times of India (22 April 2012):

The last few decades have seen us embark on a great period of transformation brought about by the significant contributions of what we have come to call the information, communications and technology (ICT) industry.

In India alone, it has helped spawn a huge industry that has elevated us to the global map, improved standards of living, helped our people transcend geographical barriers and spurred innovation.

More than a decade into the 21st century, the spawning of another industry, born out of an impending resource crisis, seems imminent.

Sustainability offers immense opportunities for innovation and growth, but most importantly, it is heading in a direction that allows us to morph business with sustainable economic development and societal interest, hitherto considered a euphemism.

In only 40 years from now, the current population will increase by 30%, thereby accentuating the problems of constantly shrinking resources and deteriorating environmental conditions that we will be forced to reckon with. Successful organizations, then, will be those whose core business is aligned to tackle global and local challenges; those that seek opportunity in the delayed or ineffective decision making process by governments owing to constraints of a dynamic and often volatile geo-political situation, where power play of national interest influences their decision-making functions.

Business as usual or business unusual?

In an era that will be dominated by businesses that are sustainable, I will bet on the latter. Business protocols, in the new “normal”, will have to be altered, necessitating ingenuity in product and services, approach to stakeholders and operations. This endeavour will then spur innovations in design, tweak operational efficiency and change behaviour and consumption patterns – all of which will find a place in the solution to the sustainability puzzle.

Business leaders will find a significant share of these opportunities by tapping into the fast growing middle class, which will grow from some 1.7 billion people today to 3.6 billion by 2030, with most of this growth in the emerging economies. When they are treated as an economically-resilient segment comprising creative entrepreneurs and value-demanding consumers, affordable products and services are bound to emerge.

Introspection by businesses with utmost sensitiveness to the environment is the need of the hour. The surge in sectors like real estate, automotive, infrastructure, retail is here to stay for a while in a growing market like India. Those in these sectors can view the play as opportunistic or as a way of establishing sustainable and endurable enterprises.

The challenge and the excitement in businesses of the future will revolve around meeting human demands, within ecological constraints. We are not too far away from a time when sustainability will transcend into a way of life and sustainable solutions will get competitive.

Imagine a carbon neutral industry, allowing entrepreneurs to establish green utilities and present consumers with an opportunity to buy green power.

Imagine future architecture pitched on high performance, powered by cutting-edge technology, LED lights and radiant cooling systems which will consume only 50% of the current energy. Imagine that harvesting and recycling of rainwater becomes habitual.

Imagine an entire upcoming class of people that can be molded to accept and embrace sustainability as a way of life as they get a taste of material consumption.

Utopian as it may sound, this may soon become a reality spiraling into viable business offerings that will provide green solutions to businesses as well as consumers. There will be a dramatic rise in the trend of companies translating internal initiatives into larger business opportunities. However, this calls for collective and collaborative action that includes governments, civil societies, institutions, grass-root entities and industry.

Sustainability in the 21st century is akin to the internet revolution towards the end of the 20th century. The impact, the intrigue and the all-encompassing nature of both concepts are similar.

Sustainability, like the internet revolution, will catalyze innovation, business growth and employment generation. And the internet, with its overwhelming scope to empower a whole generation with information on solutions to the issues at hand, offers us a repository of best practices that we can access and apply to our daily lives.

Every crisis comes with a hidden opportunity. Population explosion, environment degradation and paucity of resources bear immense risks, and corresponding opportunities. We stand at the threshold of a window of opportunity, where strategic thinking will radically change the way businesses will function.

Sustainable commerce will demand enlightened leadership and imagination, because much of the territory ahead is uncharted, and there is no history to guide us. What will help is a constant focus on adapting and making the transition as a principal prerogative. And one that will be ubiquitous – like the internet.

The writer is co-founder and executive co-chairman, Infosys Limited


S. Gopalakrishnan, Infosys Technologies, Ltd.

S. Gopalakrishnan (Kris) is one of the founders of Infosys Technologies Limited. As the Chief Executive Officer, he defined the road map for technology and innovation. In 1981, Kris, along with N.R. Narayana Murthy and five others, founded Infosys Technologies Limited. His initial responsibilities included the management of design, development, implementation, and support of information systems for clients in the consumer products industry in the U.S.

Between 1987 and 1994, Kris headed the technical operations of KSA/Infosys (a joint venture between Infosys and KSA at Atlanta, U.S.) as Vice President (Technical). In 1994, Kris returned to India and was appointed Deputy Managing Director of Infosys. On June 22, 2007, Kris was appointed the CEO and Managing Director of Infosys. Kris previously served as the Chief Operating Officer (April 2002), and as the President and Joint Managing Director (August 2006). His responsibilities included customer services, technology, investments, and acquisitions.

Kris is recognized as a global thought leader. He was selected in Thinkers 50, an elite list of global business thinkers compiled by Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer, in association with the IE Business School, Madrid, and the London Business School’s Management Innovation Lab.

Kris is the Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Southern Regional Council and on the Board of Governors at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore. Kris is also the Chairman of Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management (IIITM), Kerala, and Vice Chairman of the Information Technology Education Standards Board (BITES) set up by Karnataka Government. He is a member of ACM, IEEE and IEEE Computer Society.

In January 2011, Kris was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the country’s third highest civilian honor, by the Government of India. Kris holds master’s degrees in Physics (1977) and Computer Science (1979) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Mr. Gopalakrishnan will be retiring from his position as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, effective August 21, 2011, and will become the Executive Co-Chairman of the board.


Americans Connecting Extreme Weather to Climate Change

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

A new poll showing that an increasing number of Americans are linking the extreme weather events—including the extremely warm, droughts, and hurricanes—to climate change. Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute , is asked why he thinks this shift is happening. Are  policy changes on the horizon? Acting on its commitment to increase national awareness of economic and environmental sustainability, the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce launched of 100 Cities for Change on Earth Day. Read More

By Allison T. McCann in Popular Mechanics (19 April 2012):

The New York Times covered a new poll showing that an increasing number of Americans are linking the extreme weather events of the past few years—including the extremely warm March 2012, droughts, and hurricanes—to climate change.

We asked Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute and a member of PM’s Editorial Board of Advisers, why he thinks this shift is happening, and if it means that policy changes could be on the horizon.

Q. What’s your first reaction to these polling numbers?

A. I am not really surprised. Most people don’t have a very sophisticated grasp of what climate change is, which is completely understandable. But people do have a visceral connection to weather; they talk about it, understand it, and they’re very fond of extremes in weather (in a conversational way.)

Q. What’s it like to see these recent extreme events as a climate scientist? You look at the long term, but it’s these short- and medium-term events that seem to be swaying the public.

A. The psychology is that people know climate change is out there, and they’re trying to make it real to them. So you have a situation where there’s all this talk about climate change, and then seemingly weird things happen like a huge heat wave or a big snow dump, and I think people just naturally associate these things. They want to be able to see something that they can point to and say, “Ah, that’s what these people are talking about.” We experience weather all the time. It’s harder to have a good grasp of what climate is.

Q. Do you agree with the researchers’ “close to home” idea—that is, these extreme events are making climate change and its effects more real for Americans, who previously viewed it as something off in the future or something for other countries to worry about?

A. Yes, this is a very normal psychological thing that we do — we see things and then we associate them. So when there’s a weird heat wave, like we had here in March, people will naturally gravitate toward thinking that’s what climate change looks like. It’s not that anybody’s telling them that, but these things just become associated.

People can tell us general things, but we always look for specific things to make them more concrete. People are not being told the wrong thing; they’re just trying to make connections between the general and the specific.

Q. The last few years have certainly felt strange, in an anecdotal sense. But is it possible to quantify how strange it’s actually been to have all these things together—warmest March ever, so many early tornadoes, droughts, etc.?

A. We often talk about extreme weather events like they’re all one thing—that they’re all increasing or decreasing. But the physics of why you get a tornado or a drought or a hurricane are completely different, and the idea that they all are touched by climate change equally is very wrong.

We’ve done more work in the last 10 years on how climate change gets expressed in weather extremes—as seen in the number of heat waves that are clearly increasing in number and intensity all over the world—and we expect this as we shift the mean toward warmer conditions. But when people talk about ice storms or a single hurricane—there the connection to climate change is much more tenuous. A lot of times the science hasn’t been done on any specific extreme, and because they’re all unique, we need to have more serious data.

Q. Do you think the public’s misunderstanding of weather versus climate is a good or bad thing?

A. Obviously as a scientist, you want the public to know as much as you do, but I think realistically that’s impossible. So . . . it’s not, “Oh my God, people are confused.” It’s more about, “Does this provide an opening? Does this provide a way to talk about the science and have people get a better understanding of what’s going on?”

And I think the answer is yes. These poll results provide an opportunity to talk about how climate science is related to weather extremes and where we’re going and where the difficulty is—this notion of science as a process. There are good things here, because whether or not people are convinced or agree or disagree on climate change, it opens up a space for communication.

Q. There’s an interesting note in the Times story that public acceptance of climate change hit a high point just before the recession, then waned, but now is on the rise again. How big of a factor do you think the economy is in the public’s acceptance of climate change and particularly in moving climate policy forward?

A. The question presumes that climate policy is predicated on the idea that individual people have to make individual sacrifices for climate change, which is not the case at all. The best climate policy is one that nobody notices. If we have to rely on everybody to think about every action they make, it will never happen, so any climate policy has to address the problem without having people think about it.

Q. Do you think more weird weather events in the U.S. will continue to increase public acceptance of human-induced climate change?

A. Probably, yes. If you look at some of the previous polling, the other big spike when people felt climate change was happening was in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And it wasn’t because scientists were telling them that Katrina was caused by climate change—it was just an obvious demonstration that we are vulnerable to weather events and therefore to climate change.


The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce challenges companies, cities and individuals to take a stand for sustainable business

From the US Green Chamber of Commerce San Diego, California (18 April 2012):

Acting on its commitment to increase national awareness of economic and environmental sustainability, the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce launched of 100 Cities for Change on Earth Day, April 22nd. This campaign marks the organization’s first national push for individuals, businesses and cities to come together and pledge their support for socially responsible business.

“100 Cities for Change is not just about saying you or your business is ‘green.’ We know that word has started to lose meaning for people over time. We are looking for a complete paradigm shift,” said David Steel, chief executive officer for the USGCC. “This is about provoking and inspiring people to utilize sustainable business practices and revitalize the goal of a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.”

By pledging to join 100 Cities for Change, people across the nation will be taking part in a grassroots movement of thousands of businesses and countless individuals who are racing to prove change is necessary now and that sustainability can and will boost the bottom line.

The USGCC is also premiering its third party certification program designed to teach organizations best practices for sustainable business while helping to attract eco-conscious consumers. The certification program, which will launch in May, provides:

•             Initiatives developed by outside regulatory entities including trade related organizations and    the EPA.

•             Step-by-step plans to achieve sustainable goals and business practices

•             A trusted certification seal to protect against claims of “green washing”

•             Consumer transparency – QR code technology is provided, allowing consumers to scan the code on a business’ storefront or website and instantly see its progress toward green and sustainability initiatives.

“The USGCC’s long-standing belief is that the triple bottom line is not only important, but it works together seamlessly to support the business environment and societal goals,” said Steel. “Whether your business is looking to improve efficiencies, implement eco-friendly practices or tap into emerging markets, our goal is to be a resource and a facilitator of change. Empowerment is crucial to generate innovation, job creation, and a brighter economic future.”

Individuals can join the movement by “liking” the U.S. Green Chamber’s Facebook page and becoming a member on the U.S. Green Chamber website.

“Cities for Change” memberships are available for $99 which include over $2,000 of benefits including green certification, inclusion in the national business directory, a website proud member logo, a USGCC trust seal, access to a national mentor program through SCORE, media blast announcements, a press release template and more.

About the U.S. Green Chamber:

The U.S. Green Chamber is a nonprofit organization that empowers businesses to grow through environmentally friendly, sustainable practices that positively impact our economy and ecology. It helps both established and emerging companies improve operational efficiencies, tap into unexplored markets and explore new opportunities in the green sector. By providing visibility, advocacy, networking opportunities and educational tools, the U.S. Green Chamber brings businesses, government, nonprofits and individuals together to strengthen their success and work towards environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.


Waste Not, Want Not. East Meets Waste

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

If you look around the world today, particularly in Asia, most of the waste is dumped in landfills. National Environment Agency CEO Andrew Tan thinks it’s time to look at more sustainable ways of managing waste. That’s reason enough for Singapore to organise the very first CleanEnviro Summit and WasteMET Asia in the first week of July this year. ZDNet Asia has the story and Ken Hickson has his say. Read More

By Ryan Huang on ZDNet Asia (20 April 2012):

Organizers of World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit, tell ZDNet Asia why an integrated approach is important for tackling increasingly complex urbanization challenges and what they hope to achieve this year.

SINGAPORE–Come July, the country will take a new approach to help global cities find solutions to challenges regarding urbanization by simultaneously hosting three events–World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week, and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit.

At a media briefing held here Friday, show organizers expressed hope that the integration of all three events–themed “liveable and sustainable cities”–will give world leaders a wider platform to exchange ideas and best practices. Topics to be discussed include how technology can be harnessed to build smart cities.

Technology will play an important part in making cities more liveable and sustainable, noted Cheng Hsing Yao, deputy executive director at the Centre for Liveable Cities. “When it’s used with strong governance and very well-evolved policies, technologies could be used to trace and sense and track, say, the flow of traffic, water and drainage, and so on.

“In addition, technologies can also be used for things such as telecommuting so we can spend less time on moving around and more time on quality life,” Cheng told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the briefing.

One focus at the biannual World Cities Summit will be the ramping up of opportunities for business collaboration. This includes a new platform, called in-focus sessions, on which government leaders and service providers share their ideas and explore investment opportunities in the region, he said.

Cheng pointed out that one of the in-focus sessions will focus on Japan’s experience in its rebuilding efforts after a spate of natural disasters recently.

Added focus on waste management

Another new event that will be introduced is the CleanEnviro Summit which will focus on waste management solutions. Citing estimates from Pike Research, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) noted that, in 2011, out of the 2 billion tonnes of municipal waste generated around the world, only 11 percent went into waste-to-energy plants, while the majority 70 percent ended up in landfills.

According to NEA CEO Andrew Tan, the summit was timely as discussions over waste management had always taken a backseat to other issues such as water and energy.

“There’s one area that’s missing in this equation and that is waste,” Tan said. “If you look around the world today, particularly in Asia, most of the waste is dumped in landfills. It may be the easiest solution but it may not be the best, and I think it’s time to look at more sustainable ways of managing waste.”

Encouraging more partnerships

The Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), which will be in its fifth instalment this year, is seeking to encourage more partnerships for water solutions.

Chew Men Leong, CEO of Singapore’s Public Utilities Board, said the show’s networking platform TechXchange–introduced last year–will be expanded.

“This year, TechXchange will be full day [event], where we will bring the innovators and match them with investors, and see how we can take the technologies out of the labs and help to commercialize them–both in Singapore, and on a regional and global basis.”


By Aneeta Sundararaj in New Straits Times, Malaysia (7 April 2012):

East Meets Waste:  with effective waste management, we will not only save the planet but also money

MOST people start becoming environmentally-friendly by sorting household waste into paper, glass and plastic. Then, they take this waste to a recycling centre and discard it in the hope that the waste will be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. What if this process could become a sustainable business as well?

Ken Hickson of Sustain Ability Showcase Consultancy Asia Pte Ltd sees this as a distinct possibility.

“Sustainability is more than about helping the environment and committing to charitable causes. In a business sense, it involves corporate social responsibility, governance, ethics and transparency,” explains Hickson.

“Say a company wants to invest in a Clean Development Mechanism project. They come to know of a small company that has developed solar power lights. They can invest in this business and provide these lights in an off-grid area. These new lights will replace kerosene lamps which can damage the environment.”

Continuing, he says “It’s a win-win situation.” The company investing in such a project will get carbon credits and the affected area will become more environmentally friendly. The whole idea of carbon credits is to encourage investment in clean energy as an alternative or additional to what’s happening now.”


What underlies Hickson’s arguments is this: “There is a nexus between water, food and climate. It has been reported by the UN recently that water problems in many parts of the world are chronic. If we don’t crack down on waste, the situation will worsen as demand for food will rise,” says Hickson.

After a pause, he asks: “Do you know how much food is wasted?”

Then he frowns and answers: “An American throws away about 15 kilogrammes of food each month. In 2010 alone, 15 million kilogrammes of food ended up in landfills or incinerators across the US.”

Asia does not lag far behind as it is estimated that close to US$25 billion (RM77 billion) is spent on solid waste management per year.

What Hickson is interested in is how to use this waste. “It’s a paradigm shift. Rather than just getting rid of things, albeit in an environmentally-friendly manner, we need to see how we can use these same things as a resource.”


Taipei is one of the best examples of waste management in Asia. Hickson explains how citizens of Taipei had to “hand over their waste in special plastic bags to the municipal council”.

The council had special times and venues to collect such waste. As a result, domestic waste in Taipei has dropped by 60 per cent in 10 years. “It’s an example of effective collection, distribution and management of waste.”

Waste can be categorised in the following manner: the first is chemical waste. This is waste from chemical plants and is both a health and environmental hazard. Then we have electronic waste such as televisions and telephones.

Last is municipal waste such as food, paper and glass.

Reiterating his stance, he says: “Let’s not just dump our waste. Let’s use it.”

He describes how, in Australia, there’s a company that uses CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations as fuel to grow algae. The oil from this algae is used as fuel and the algae itself is used as feed stock for farming. “CO2 is just going into the air. Here’s a good way to use it.”


Then, whipping out his calling card, he asks: “Do you know the paper for my calling card is made from by-products of sugarcane waste?”

Hickson goes on to cite a few more examples of companies around the world that re-use waste products.

First, there’s Cleanevent which focuses on events like the Olympics and Formula 1 Races. “It manages what goes into events.

So, when you reduce the amount of packaging that goes into events, you can reduce the waste that comes out.”

Alpahbio Fuels is a Singaporean company that develops programmes to collect and process wasted cooking oil to make biodiesel.

Then there’s Solena Jet Biofuel Project with British Airways where municipal waste destined for landfill sites will be processed and converted to biomass and organic products to be used to fuel jets.

Hickson’s message is clear: “With proper effort in managing our waste effectively, we will not only save the planet, we will also save money.”


The theme for CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2012 is “”Innovative Clean Enviro-Solutions for Asia’s Growing Cities”.

By 2030, Asia will see one of the biggest urban population explosions in the world. As many cities in Asia are beginning to urbanise, there will be vital opportunities and challenges in managing the various environmental issues faced by every modern city.


Issues on waste management, air pollution, public sanitation and clean water are some of the challenges that emerging Asian cities grapple with in the search of cost-effective and innovative solutions to tackle the problems. Sustaining a clean environment in tandem with urbanisation will become increasingly pertinent in Asia, together with higher accessibility to the provision of more efficient environmental management services.

Source: and

Leaders & Laggards in Putting Energy Efficiency Policy into Practice

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

A deal to deliver a 20% energy savings target for Europe could be possible by June as it’s a priority for Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger and during the Danish European Union presidency. The Triple-E Institute says global economic energy efficiency in 2009 improved 6% in total compared to the base year (2005) and 85 countries that have made a positive contribution. 44 countries have had a negative effect. Read More

Triple-E Institute Releases 2012 Global Economic Energy Efficiency Ranking

Business Wire from Taipei, Taiwan (20 April 2012):

Based on the Global Economic Energy Efficiency Ranking (the base year is 2005 and the latest global updated data is 2009), Professor Yunchang Jeffery Bor, President of the Triple-E Institute and Head of the Department of Economics, Chinese Culture University, has indicated that the global economic energy efficiency in 2009 has improved 6.03% in total compared to the base year.

There are 85 countries that have made a positive contribution to the world’s economic energy efficiency and 44 countries have had a negative effect on the world’s economic energy efficiency. Among 129 countries, the United States is ranked in first place; China is in second place followed by Russia, Germany, and Ukraine.

Global ranking can be found in

Energy efficiency can lessen the impact of high energy prices and mitigate the global warming problem on mother Earth. Improving energy efficiency is also the most cost-effective, ready-to-go and no-regrets strategy. The Advanced Economies have made considerable effort in improving economic energy efficiency of 3.37% since the Kyoto Protocol came into effect on February 16, 2005. On the other hand, economic energy efficiency goes up by 2.65% for Emerging and Developing Economies.

The leading country in North America is the United States that contributed 1.59% to economic energy efficiency. The United States has tried hard to switch from being an energy waste country in the 1990s to becoming the top ranking country in the world.

Germany is the leading country in Europe with a contribution of 0.32%. The practice of either energy saving or new energy developing in Germany is always highly acknowledged by the world.

In the Asian region, the new leading country is Korea (ranking in 7th position), with a contribution of 0.19%. The recent performance of Korea is strong and stable, and serves as a good example and mirror for Taiwan (ranking in 16th position and down 4 places compared to 2008) as well as other Asian countries.

The major reason for the low performance (ranking in 40th position) in Japan is not because of energy wastage but because of the severe reduction in economic growth due to the financial crisis in 2009. India is the worst in the world in 2009 and the major cause is the inefficiency of energy use in the agricultural and service sectors. The poor performance of energy use in the manufacturing makes United Arab Emirates the second worst in the world.

Source: and


By Barbara Lewis for Reuters (20 April 2012):

A deal to deliver a 20 percent energy savings target could be possible in June following talks in Denmark, where no member state was “a blockade”, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Friday.

The Danish European Union presidency has said the Energy Efficiency Directive is a priority for its six months at the head of EU debate, which ends in June.

But it has run into a tide of objections from EU member states, anxious about the short-term costs of measures such as improved insulation and renovation of public buildings.

“I think realistically a solution is possible under the Danish presidency,” Oettinger told a small group of reporters.

“The real message was that there was no blockade from anybody,” he said referring to this week’s talks in the Danish town of Horsens. “My hope is we can come to a solution in June in an ambitious manner that will realise this 20 percent target.”

The Danish presidency also said arguments about the potential of the law to drive growth by creating jobs in housing renovation and in cutting dependency on foreign oil and gas were beginning to outweigh anxiety over initial costs.

“I feel this is the most constructive discussion we have ever had in the Council (of ministers) on this file,” Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building Martin Lidegaard said.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of compromises to be achieved, and it will take flexibility from our side but also from the parliament’s side and the Commission’s side if we are actually to succeed in landing this directive.”

Energy saving is the only one of three 2020 green targets the 27 member states are officially not expected to meet.

The current rate of progress would cut energy use, compared with projected levels, by around 10 percent – half the EU’s goal of 20 percent by 2020.

A Commission paper seen by Reuters drawn up before the talks in Horsens found that objections from member states had drastically undermined the ambition of the Commission’s draft law and a still more ambitious text from the parliament.


The result would have been that instead of arriving at the target of a 20 percent increase in energy savings by 2020, compared with projected levels, the EU would only improve to around 15 percent.

After this week’s informal talks, the process of getting all the parties to agree on a final legal text continues next week after a very difficult round earlier this month.

Debate has been complicated by discussion on how to prop up the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which has collapsed to a series of record lows, meaning allowances are far too cheap to encourage low carbon investment.

Improved energy efficiency would mean reduced demand for carbon permits, potentially adding to a glut following economic slowdown.

On Thursday, Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the Commission would tackle the ETS issue separately by looking at reform of the timetable for auctioning the allowances big emitters need to offset their carbon, effectively tightening the market.

Oettinger agreed the Commission needed to draw up a proposal before the next phase of the carbon market.

“We have to have an instrument to be flexible enough day by day, year by year, to adapt to the economic situation. We need a decision before the end of the year before the next period starts in 2013,” he said.

A stronger ETS would be only one part of establishing greater certainty for those investing in energy.

EU energy ministers on Friday also debated a future road map and policy goals for when the 2020 targets expire.

Oettinger said debate was still fluid, but there was a need for “some binding targets” and he reiterated a previous comment that a decision was needed before the current Commission’s term of office ends in 2014.

If agreements were reached by 2014 that would leave more time for businesses to plan for the new regulations, he said, adding debate on the 2020 goals began in 2002 and took five years.


Foreign Flying for Climate Change & Measuring Food Miles

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

While Australia’s new Foreign Minister is amassing a few more carbon flight miles, he is keen to make climate change central to his diplomatic efforts. And a study by CSIRO is finding, contrary to popular belief, that ”food miles” is a poor indicator of food’s total greenhouse gas emissions, or ”carbon footprint”. More important is the way our food is farmed and how far we drive to buy it. Read More

Nick O’Malley in Sydney Morning Herald (14 April 2012):

”THAT was more fun than addressing the shires association,” said Bob Carr, standing in the corridor outside conference room 2 in the North Lawn Building at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Moments earlier he had spoken for the first time at an open session of the UN as Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. At the end of the day he would dine with Henry Kissinger.

Though not formally a General Assembly, the ponderously titled ”Thematic Debate on Disaster Risk Mitigation” is a big deal at the UN, was opened by the president of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and was attended by representatives of nearly every nation.

The issues raised by the group will be crucial to the Rio+20 environmental summit this year and Senator Carr is keen to make climate change central to his diplomatic efforts. Earlier in the week he told the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon,  that Australia would be happy to give evidence on behalf of a group of nations led by Palau which are lobbying for international legal action on climate change.

The group wants the UN to adopt a resolution seeking an opinion from the International Court of Justice that would mean nations had to take action on climate change under existing treaties. Senator Carr told the Herald that Australia was in a good position to offer its support despite the nation’s coal exports because it had adopted a carbon tax.

Throughout the week he met representatives from around the world to lobby as part of Australia’s effort to secure a seat on the Security Council.

He also attended a private dinner at the home of Dr Kissinger, whom he befriended during the Sydney Olympics. Other guests included Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, as well as New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg.


Natalie Craig in Sydney Morning Herald (15 April 2012):

TWO brands of olive oil, one from Australia, the other shipped 16,000 kilometres from Italy, sit on a supermarket shelf.

Most eco-friendly shoppers would reach for the Australian oil. But despite burning less fossil fuel to get here, it may not be better for the planet.

Contrary to popular belief, ”food miles”, or the distance food has travelled before we buy it, is a poor indicator of our food’s total greenhouse gas emissions, or ”carbon footprint”.

More important is the way our food is farmed and produced, and how far we drive to buy it.

CSIRO studies are expected to show how emissions from farming and food production eclipse those from food freight.

”Local food can often have a higher carbon footprint than food from afar,” says principal researcher Brad Ridoutt.

He says even home-grown vegetables, with ”zero food miles”, do not necessarily have a smaller carbon footprint than those bought in the supermarket.

”With my veggies, I drive to Bunnings to buy fertiliser, and I go away for the weekend and forget to water them, and in the end I only harvest a few things that I can actually eat.

”By contrast, big producers, who can invest in the latest energy-efficient, water-efficient technology, and make use of all the parts of food, can be much more efficient,” he says.

Of course, transporting food from producer to retailer still burns fossil fuels that release greenhouse gas emissions, in turn accelerating global warming. But freight emissions are only a fraction of those released during production, meaning even imported food, sustainably produced, can have a smaller carbon footprint than local alternatives.

The CSIRO research, focusing on farm and production emissions, as well as and other environmental impacts, should ultimately allow for comparisons between production and freight emissions.

The only Australian study to make this comparison was by Aldi and Planet Ark in in 2010. It found that a brand of Italian olive oil had a carbon footprint about 14 per cent smaller, per 100 millilitres, than that of a local brand, despite travelling about ten times as far, mainly because of its steel tin packaging and low-impact, traditional farm production.

British studies have also shown shoppers are likely to be responsible for fewer emissions if they buy organic fruit shipped from New Zealand, and beans air-freighted from manual farms in Kenya, rather than British equivalents grown in gas-heated greenhouses.

In Australia, until the research into food production emissions is complete, it is impossible to compare the different carbon footprints from production and freight.

However, two existing studies provide a rough guide. In 2008, Brunswick environmental group CERES calculated the food miles and corresponding emissions of an average basket of Melbourne groceries.

Carbon consultants Carbon Neutral used a 2005 CSIRO study, Balancing Act, and other government data, to assess the average emissions created by the farming and production of foods in Australia, including on-farm transport such as tractors, for its online carbon calculator.

The examples in the CERES paper show that fruit and vegetables (excluding juices) travelled an average of 745 kilometres from farm gate to shop, creating an average of 49 grams of ”carbon dioxide equivalent” (CO2-e) emissions per kilo of fruit.

According to the Carbon Neutral calculator, the CO2-e emissions from farming and production of fruit and vegetables, per kilo, were about 10 times as high, or 480 grams.

The analysis also shows beef travelled an average of 298 kilometres to reach Melbourne, producing about 20 grams of emissions a kilo. But production emissions, per kilo, were about 1550 times higher, at 31 kilograms – most likely because of cows’ flatulence, which releases methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Carbon Neutral consultant Scott Favacho says it isn’t strictly an ”apples for apples” comparison. He noted that the CERES study only accounted for emissions from road freight, and did not assess refrigerated trucks, or overseas freight.

Newer studies suggest meat production emissions are also likely to be lower than previously thought.

Nonetheless, Mr Favacho concludes that our comparison ”does suggest that the greenhouse gas emissions from freight within Australia form a very small component of the food’s total carbon footprint”.

Consumers in Britain, France and the US, are already aware of the minimal impact of ”food miles” compared to production emissions thanks to ”eco-labels”. But in Australia, many consumers remain wedded to the ”food miles” concept.

In Australia in 2010, Aldi put ”carbon reduction labels”, certified by the British Carbon Trust, on its olive oil range. But neither Aldi nor any other company has released more food products with the labels, and a spokeswoman for Aldi said customer response had been minimal.

”We found that consumer behaviour change, such as switching to these products has been relatively minor,” she said. ”We had hoped that others in the industry would have moved quickly to adopt this consistent system to raise more consumer awareness.”

Regardless of whether they believe in ”food miles”, shoppers at the Victoria Market shudder at the thought of buying imported food.

”The idea of buying garlic from China, it frightens me a little bit,” says public servant Loreto Mills.

IT consultant Paul drove from Cheltenham to shop at the Victoria Market on his way to work: ”Look, I’m not a hippie, but I won’t buy fruit from overseas, and I try not to buy it from interstate,” he said. ”I do like the idea of food not having to travel too far before I eat it, for the flavour, but also the [reduced] food miles.”

David Carruthers is owner of St Kilda restaurant SlowDown!@HarleyCourt, which opened in 2010, offering only food grown or produced in Victoria.

”I agree that food miles alone is not the answer … Choosing suppliers carefully, talking to them about how they grow produce and how they look after their animals is important to me. I like to be able to tell the story of the food on the plate and … connect the grower or farmer to the customer.”


Zero-cost Roof Top Solar Arrives in Australia

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

California-based Sungevity is set to become the first solar company in Australia to offer zero-cost rooftop solar, teaming up with local company Nickel Energy to offer pay-as-you-go leasing deals that have proved enormously popular in the US.  Meanwhile, Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power project reached a major construction milestone this month.  The successful delivery of the Greenough River Solar Farm (in Western Australia) will help kick-off a long-term, sustainable market for utility-scale solar in Australia. Read More

By Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy (20 April 2012):

California-based Sungevity is set to become the first solar company in Australia to offer zero-cost rooftop solar, teaming up with local company Nickel Energy to offer pay-as-you-go leasing deals that have proved enormously popular in the US.

The joint venture, called Sungevity Australia, will introduce a zero-cost solar model that now accounts for around three quarters of sales in California and around two thirds of sales across the country. Sungevity is one of three major providers of solar leasing deals in that country, along with SunRun and SolarCity.

The model allows customers to buy large solar systems – up to 5kW or around $12,000 – for no upfront cost and receive instant savings on their electricity costs.

The arrival of solar leases and zero-cost solar systems was flagged on this web site earlier this month. The Sungevity Australia joint venture is just one of many such proposals being contemplated in a development that has the potential to be a game-changer in the industry – and, as we noted, to the political rhetoric around rising electricity costs and their solutions.

Solar PV, which had been painted as one of the causes (albeit minor) to those rising costs is now firmly part of the solution because of the ability of solar leasing models and the plunging costs of solar modules to deliver rooftop solar systems to all and deliver those savings.

Danny Kennedy, a former Greenpeace Australia campaign manager who is president and founder of Sungevity, says the product will be officially launched in May. It is the company’s second overseas expansion in the last six months. Its first stop was in the Netherlands.

Australia was particularly attractive because it had a lot of sun, and electricity costs were rising quickly as utilities invested billions of dollars into grid upgrades and extensions.

Kennedy said the company’s product, which it dubs “RoofJuice”, could deliver savings at the start. The reduction in the quarterly bill from the local utility would more than offset the leasing costs – possibly delivering savings of 10-15 per cent in the initial phase, but this would grow significantly over time as electricity costs rose, and would deliver thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the lease.

“The leasing model has changed the target audience,” Kennedy told RenewEconomy. “It allows people who don’t have cash up front to get solar electricity and to save money.

“It’s a game changer for the industry. The uptake of solar in the Australian market has been strong but will only get better as electricity bills rise. We think every home will go solar. It’s not just about sunlight, it’s about the economics of electricity costs.”

Sungevity is planning to fund the pilot phase of its new product through its own resources but will then be tapping private sources – funds manager, high net worth individuals – to provide a pool of finance.

Sungevity uses satellite and internet technology to design the installations, and hires contractors to install the systems. It has a presence in eight US states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Nick Lake, the head of Nickel Energy who will run the joint venture, also believes that the new model is a “massive game changer”, and says the Australian market will likely go the same way as America – where third party ownership of rooftop solar systems has jumped from 16 per cent of the market to 75 per cent.

One subtle change between the leasing models in the US and this one in Australia is that this venture will sell electricity produced from the rooftop panels to the householder on a power purchase agreement.

Lake says there are two options. One is at a lower cost to electricity from the utilities, which will deliver savings of 10-15 per cent immediately, and grow as utility costs rise. The PPA will be indexed only to inflation.

The other option will be a fixed price, with a cost initially but with the potential to deliver greater savings into the future. He says this might appeal to businesses and householders wanting certainty over future costs.

Lake says the rates charges will depend on the location (different state tariffs), and systems size, pitch and orientation of the home.

“This is returning the market to the way it was. Instead of outlaying capital cost and providing their own electricity, householders will go back to buying electricity from a supplier, only this will be cheaper and cleaner. We think it will take solar into new markets.”


Australia’s Largest Solar PV Project Reaches Major Construction Milestone

WA Minister for Energy helps mark the commencement of panel installation

Geraldton, Western Australia, April 12, 2012 —

Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power project reached a major construction milestone today as contractor and technology provider, First Solar, joined owners Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services to mark the commencement of panel installation at the Greenough River Solar Farm.

WA Energy Minister, Peter Collier, landholders, members of the Geraldton community and local contractors were present to help celebrate this achievement.

“The demonstration of this proven technology in WA on a commercial scale should encourage the development of larger projects and reduce renewable energy costs in the medium to long term,” the Minister said.

Construction of the 10-megawatt solar farm 50km south of Geraldton began just four months ago. With above-ground electrical work completed and structural supports now installed, the next phase of construction will see local workers install approximately 150,000 First Solar PV modules. Scheduled for completion in mid-2012, the project is expected to create almost 100 jobs.

“The successful delivery of the Greenough River Solar Farm will help kick-off a long-term, sustainable market for utility-scale solar in Australia. First Solar has a strong record of successful project delivery, enhanced by working with local communities to ensure projects make a meaningful and lasting contribution,” said Jack Curtis, Vice President – Business Development & Sales, First Solar.

“When in operation, First Solar’s panels produce electricity with no water use, no waste production and no CO2 emissions,” Mr. Curtis added.

“GE Energy Financial Services sees Australia as a key growth market that will continue to need capital to fuel its expanding renewable energy industry. We hope this is the first of many such milestones in the country,” said Jason Willoughby, GE Energy Financial Services’ Australia business leader. “With our strong partners, Verve Energy and First Solar, we are pleased to help make this landmark solar project a reality.”

“The Greenough River Solar Farm is providing valuable experience for Verve Energy in the development of solar energy in WA,” said Tony Narvaez, General Manager, Strategy & Business Development, Verve Energy. “This experience will be very useful when Verve Energy pursues its aim to develop other solar farm projects in the near future.”

Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 percent of the Greenough River Solar Farm, with the WA Government having provided A$20 million in funding, including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program. No debt has been raised to fund the project. First Solar is supplying its advanced thin film PV modules and engineering, procurement and construction services, in addition to operations and maintenance support once the solar farm is operational.

The WA Water Corporation, which is building the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant near Binningup, has committed to purchasing 100 percent of the solar farm’s output.


Skies Over UK Not So Clear Nor the Air Clean

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

Thousands of deaths each year result from the UK’s failure to keep air pollutants – especially from traffic – at safe levels, the Guardian reports. And half of the UK’s population cannot see many stars because the night skies are still “saturated” with light pollution, campaigners have warned, reports the BBC. Read More

Tim Yeo in the Guardian (22 March 2012):

Snow brought London’s roads to a halt this winter. But back in 1952 when I was a young boy, London’s transport was paralysed by rather different conditions. For five days that December a thick cloud of pollution gathered over the city as the smoke from hundreds of thousands of coal fires was trapped by an anti-cyclone that was pushing air down over the region.

The Great Smog, as it later became known, was so thick that people couldn’t see more than a couple of metres in front of them. Driving became difficult and public transport ground to a standstill. It was so bad that even the ambulance service stopped running. This wasn’t the only impact it had on public health. Some 12,000 people are thought to have died because of the smog and one of Britain’s first examples of environmental legislation – the Clean Air Act of 1956, was introduced as a result.

Pea-soupers may be a thing of the past, but Londoners are still dying from air pollution in 2010. These days it’s not sulphur dioxide from coal fires that’s the main problem, but tiny airborne particles produced by cars, trucks and lorries, which are too small to see.

Coal still plays a part nationally, through dirty power stations such as Drax and Kingsnorth, but the biggest culprit is traffic pollution in our cities. Although vehicles are getting cleaner, there has been a huge growth in traffic levels in the last 20 years, causing pollution levels to plateau. Consequently the UK is failing to keep pollution levels below safe levels set by the EU.

Since 2005 the UK has consistently been breaching safety levels on one of the worst pollutants, particulate matter, known as PM10. And the EU could land UK taxpayers with heavy fines if the government doesn’t get to grips with this soon.

In some of the worst-affected areas – often in the poorest parts of our cities – this invisible killer could be taking up to nine years off the lives of people most at risk, such as those with asthma, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

According to government statistics up to 24,000 people die before their time in the UK every year as a result of air pollution. However, evidence taken by the Environmental Audit Committee suggests that the government may be underestimating the number of deaths poor air quality is contributing to – and that the real figure could be double that.

If this is true, air pollution could be causing more deaths than passive smoking, traffic accidents or obesity. Yet the issue still receives very little attention from government or the media. Defra officials have calculated that poor air quality could be costing the economy as much as £20bn a year. But compared with efforts to tackle smoking, alcohol misuse or poor diet – which inflict comparable costs on society – next to nothing is being spent or done to reduce air pollution levels or raise awareness about its dangers.

The government is spending £75m on its Change4Life campaign to promote healthier eating and exercise and £12m on advertising to warn people of the dangers of alcohol misuse. And rightly so. But we need to make clean air a priority as well. The fact that tens thousands of people are dying in our cities in 2010 because of air pollution is a national disgrace.

The report published today by myself and my colleagues on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee is urging the government to commit the resources necessary to save lives and reduce the enormous burden air pollution places on the NHS. Pollution from road vehicles causes the most damage to health and we must generate the political will for a dramatic shift in transport policy if air quality is to be improved. This means removing the most polluting car and lorries from the road, cleaning up the vehicles that remain and encouraging smarter choices about transport. If we can do that, we will all be able to breathe more easily.



BBC News ( 11 April 2012):

Light pollution ‘saturates’ UK’s night skies

Half of the UK’s population cannot see many stars because the night skies are still “saturated” with light pollution, campaigners have warned.

Some 53% of those who joined a recent star count failed to see more than 10 stars in the Orion constellation.

That had decreased only very slightly from 54% since 2007, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Campaign for Dark Skies said.

The problem remained despite attempts to curb street lighting, they said.

They said that in 2010, local authorities collectively spent more than £500m on street lighting, accounting for 5% to 10% of each council’s carbon emissions.

A number of councils have tested schemes to switch off or dim street lights when they are not needed, although the trials have often proved controversial with residents.

Sleeping patterns

The information was gathered as part of the annual Star Count survey, which was held across two weeks in January and February this year.

Almost 1,000 people in different locations around the country took part.

Participants were instructed to pick a clear night to count the number of stars in the constellation of Orion.

Many children growing up today will never see the Milky Way; never see the unimaginable glory of billions of visible stars shining above them.

Campaign for Dark Skies

Fewer than one in 10 said they could see between 21 and 30 stars, and just 2% of people had truly dark skies, seeing 31 or more stars.

Emma Marrington, a rural policy campaigner for the CPRE, says: “When we saturate the night sky with unnecessary light, it damages the character of the countryside and blurs the distinction between town and country.

“But this isn’t just about a spectacular view of the stars; light pollution can also disrupt wildlife and affect people’s sleeping patterns.”

‘Glaring lights’

Bob Mizon of the CfDS believes light pollution is a disaster for anyone trying to study the stars.

“It’s like a veil of light is being drawn across the night sky, denying many people the beauty of a truly starry night.

“Many children growing up today will never see the Milky Way; never see the unimaginable glory of billions of visible stars shining above them,” he said.

For the first time, national guidance has been issued by the government, to encourage local planning authorities to reduce light pollution through design improvements.

The National Planning Policy Framework, published at the end of March, states that by encouraging good design, planning policies and decisions “should limit the impact of light pollution from artificial light on local amenity, intrinsically dark landscapes and nature conservation”.

There is also a role for businesses to play in ensuring glaring lights and neon signs that light up the night sky are not left on unnecessarily”

Local Government Association

Ms Marrington from the CPRE welcomed the move, saying poor excuses for bad or excessive lighting were heard too often.

“Of course we need the right, well-designed lighting in the right places – and some areas need to be lit for safety reasons – but there should not be a blanket assumption that glaring lights are needed.

“The evidence gathered during this year’s Star Count Week shows that we need to take action now to roll back the spread of light pollution.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said local authorities were “well ahead of the game on this issue”.

“Over the past two years scores of local authorities up and down the country have been trialling the switching off and dimming of street lights late at night in quieter areas,” it said.

However, it added, public safety had to come first and councils would not cut lighting if a large number of people were strongly opposed to the idea and there were genuine safety concerns.

It added: “There is also a role for businesses to play in ensuring glaring lights and neon signs that light up the night sky are not left on unnecessarily.”


New Energy Efficiency Measures in Singapore & Taiwan

Posted by Ken on April 23, 2012
Posted under Express 165

Under Singapore’s new Energy Conservation Act, companies that use more than 15 gigawatt hours each year – enough to power 3,000 four-room flats – will have to appoint an energy manager, submit yearly reports and explain how they will improve their energy efficiency. But eight Members of Parliament want more energy efficiency measures. Meanwhile, Taiwan will end a long-standing government subsidy to raise electricity rates in a bid to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions, possibly slowing the island’s economic recovery. Electricity rates will increase by between 10 and 35%. Read More

By Feng Zengkun  in Straits Times (10 April 2012):

8 MPs call for more to be done to make firms more energy-efficient

A bill to make energy-guzzling companies more accountable drew a lively debate in Parliament yesterday, with no fewer than eight MPs rising to ask for more to be done to make companies more energy-efficient.

While the proposed law targeted high-end users of electricity, they wanted its scope expanded to cover more companies and the law to be given more teeth.

Under the Energy Conservation Act, companies that use more than 15 gigawatt hours each year – enough to power 3,000 four-room flats – will from next year have to appoint an energy manager, submit yearly reports and explain how they will improve their energy efficiency.

The new law, which Parliament eventually passed, will affect mainly companies in the manufacturing, transport and energy supply sectors such as oil refiners, shipping companies and semiconductor manufacturers.

The debate saw MPs rising to their feet to call for more to be done to push energy efficiency, and to raise numerous questions about the Bill.

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam said the Bill would not cover the ‘vast majority’ of companies in Singapore, while NCMP Lina Chiam noted the lack of penalties for companies that do not shape up.

‘(The Bill) seems to be a weak instrument,’ she said.

Nominated MP Faizah Jamal suggested making the energy reports public to pressure companies to reduce their energy footprint, while MP Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked whether existing courses to train energy managers were sufficient and which funds companies could tap to do so.

Responding, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Bill was only ‘a first step’, and that any changes had to be done carefully so as not to inflate companies’ costs.

The Government, he added, will consider adding more measures when the Act is reviewed in 2015.

He gave details on how companies could certify their employees and the funding available, but turned down the idea of making the reports public, saying that this could lead to potential conflicts of interest.

‘We need to beware of… enforcing companies to reveal commercially sensitive data,’ he said.

According to the ministry, the industrial and transport sectors collectively account for the lion’s share of energy use in Singapore – more than 70 per cent in 2010 – but it is unclear how many companies within these sectors will be affected by the new law.

Dr Balakrishnan also rejected a call by Mr Giam to introduce tiered electricity tariffs to get bigger users of electricity to pay higher rates, saying that it would put an additional burden on large consumers and Singapore’s industrial sector.

And while MPs criticised the Energy Conservation Act for not including alternative energy considerations, Dr Balakrishnan noted that studies have shown that green energy sources such as wind or solar energy could not provide more than 14 per cent of Singapore’s needs each.

The higher cost of green technology, he added, was another factor.

‘While you want to be more green, you don’t want to impose costs on your consumers,’ he said. ‘That’s why we’re technology-agnostic and very careful… in rolling out green renewable sources of energy.’



Taiwan to raise utility rates by up to 35 percent

By Annie Huang for Associated Press  (12 April 2012):

Taiwan will end a long-standing government subsidy to raise electricity rates in a bid to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions, possibly slowing the island’s economic recovery.

Effective in May, electricity rates will be increased by an average of 35 percent for manufacturers and between 10 to 25 percent for households, with higher rates for heavier users, Economics Minister Shih Yen-hsiang said Thursday.

No price increases will apply to households consuming minimal electricity, he said.

The government already stirred a public outcry last week by raising gasoline prices by 10 percent.

President Ma Ying-jeou has pledged to reverse a decades-long policy using subsidies to keep utility rates low. The main utility firms have run up large debts as the subsidies don’t fully cover losses from keeping prices low.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has come under international pressure to cut carbon emissions that many climate scientists believe contribute to global warming. Coal-burning plants generate up to 70 percent of Taiwan’s power, with nuclear and hydroelectric plants providing the rest.

Economists say Taiwan’s mainstay steel, petrochemical, cement and a few electronics sectors have long stalled investments in energy-saving equipment because of the subsidies.

“The government has moved in the right direction, but the large-scale price adjustments could have a negative impact on the economy in the short-term,” said Yang Chia-yen, a researcher with Taiwan Economic Research Institute.

Taiwan’s export-driven economy has slowed amid a weak U.S. recovery and Europe’s austerity drive.

With the higher utility costs expected to cut consumer spending and corporate profits, Yang said the government may have to lower the 3.9 percent economic growth rate projected for this year.

Government-run Taiwan Power Co. has accumulated losses of 137 billion New Taiwan dollars ($4.6 billion).