Do you really “like” someone – or something for that matter – when you enter that over-used word in Facebook or where-ever else the unremarkable one word opinion is called for? Are you expressing admiration, appreciation and/or acknowledgement? Or are you just saying something as briefly as possible just for the sake of it? To be noticed? “Like” is a much over-used word in the casual, but often reported, speech of the young and not so young. We should say more than “like” if we really want to show our support for something or someone significant. I was thinking about the inadequacy of “like” when considering the legacy of the late – and to many, great – British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher. She was liked, admired, even loved, by many. She was a strong leader – you have to “like” her for that – but she also generated just as many “hates” for her pronouncements, her actions and her treatment (of colleagues and opponents). We report today on Thatcher’s early leadership on climate change. We “like” that. Remember she was an Oxford chemistry graduate and research chemist before she took up law, then politics. Also in this issue: Reports of sustainability and profits as business bedfellows; creating climate wealth; the importance of ethics; and wise words from Jeffrey Pfeiffer & Nitin Paranjpe. We “like” what they have to say. Stories on clean energy developments in Australia, UK and the US, along with clean cookstoves in Cambodia and the latest LED energy saving lights. US companies campaign for the climate and robots have a place in the construction industry. A little bit of serendipity, historic heroes, a cleaner maritime industry and hackathons for the environment. What more is there to like? – Ken Hickson
Archive for April, 2013
Energy efficiency is a core priority at the French energy company Total, because it offers a response to today’s environmental challenges and conserves valuable fossil fuel resources. This is the message on the opening of a new plant (jointly with Veolia) in France that expands engine oil treatment capacity to regenerate used oil as high end engine oils. Total is also a leader in the production of lubricants for the marine industry using biofuels as was demonstrated at the recent SEA Asia conference and exhibition. Read More.
Ken Hickson attended a presentation on Future Fuels by Total Lubmarine, on the sidelines of the recent SEA Asia conference and exhibition in Singapore.
Future fuels is a topic that continues to drive significant interest across the shipping industry, at a time when unprecedented challenges including sustained high bunker fuel prices, emissions regulation and capital and credit starvation are all impacting the market.
In such an environment, it is critical to look ahead; supporting the industry’s recovery by scaling the boundaries of innovation and sustainability.
Total Lubmarine hosted a presentation on: Shipping Industry Challenges , with Serge Dal-Farra, marketing manager and Future Fuels and Lubrication Solutions with Jean-Philippe Roman, technical director.
This followed by a discussion exploring the prospects, operational challenges and opportunities that vessels operating on alternative fuels will encounter.
The challenges the industry faces are apparent and meeting or exceeding emission regulations is the answer from Total.
At the presentation, the Total representatives pointed out that through design and technology, greater efficiencies were being introduced in the maritime industry with cleaner burning fuels and management of waste and discharge.
Total also operates according to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) as a measure to support the objective to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping. Being a measurable method for determining the energy efficiency of a ship, the EEDI quantifies the amount of carbon dioxide a ship emits in relation to its value for society.
The introduction of biofuels for marine engine lubrication was a major advance the company. Not only are the lubricants clean to start with, they are also biodegradable and therefore cleaner to dispose of.
Total, being highly sensitive to environment protection and sustainable development is producing biofuels and bio-lubricants for many purposes, not just the marine sector
Total has therefore developed a range of bio-lubricants designed in priority for activities where there is a direct risk for the environment if there is a leak or accidental loss of the product.
The term bio-lubricant applies to all lubricants which are both rapidly biodegradable and nontoxic for humans and aquatic environments.
A bio-lubricant can be:
- vegetable oil-based (e.g.: rape-seed oils),
- based on synthetic esters manufactured from modified renewal oils or from mineral oil-based products.
Advantages of bio-lubricants: Biodegradability, low toxicity, respect for the environment, low oil evaporation losses, good lubricating properties, high viscosity index, high ignition temperature, increased equipment service life and possible longer intervals between changes.
Gonfreville l’Orcher, France — April 12, 2013
€55 million invested, of which 35% for local contractors;
45 direct jobs created, 120 during construction;
Processing capacity of 120,000 metric tons of oil a year, or nearly 50% of the volume of used oil generated in France each year;
A recycling yield of around 75%, among the best in the world.
Veolia Environment and Total today inaugurated the Osilub plant at the Gonfreville l’Orcher site in Normandy, France. Completed after 20 months of construction work, the new plant expands engine oil treatment capacity in France and, more broadly, northwestern Europe, to regenerate used oil as high end engine oils.
“Developing innovative industrial solutions to convert waste into new resources is a cornerstone of the new Veolia that we are building. Our success in this area will be shared with our customers and partners, who are working with us to safeguard the environment. The virtuous cycle model developed in synergy with Total to regenerate used engine oil at the Osilub plant offers a compelling example of a forward-looking industry initiative that supports both economic growth and sustainable development,” commented Antoine Frérot, Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Environnement. “The intentional choice of Le Havre reflects our deep industrial roots in this region, where we have invested nearly €90 million over the past five years.”
“Total is a major player active across the whole lubricant life cycle. Osilub’s innovative process will optimally regenerate used oil to offer customers superior quality products as part of a virtuous ‘circular economy.’ Energy efficiency is a core priority at Total, because it offers a response to today’s environmental challenges and allows us to conserve valuable fossil fuel resources,” said Philippe Boisseau, President of Marketing & Services and New Energies at Total. “Osilub is also a new chapter for Total in Normandy. We have a number of facilities in the region and are investing substantially there, especially in the integrated Normandy platform, comprising a refinery and a benchmark petrochemical plant.”
Several years of research underpin the wiped-film vacuum distillation process deployed by Osilub, which preserves the oil molecules and ensures high yields when recycling fine chemical products. The base stock produced by Osilub will be treated in dedicated facilities, including the Normandy refinery, and reused in high-end engine oils that meet the latest standards.
This industrial project supports sustainable development, in line with the European Union’s emphasis on recycling. It also consolidates the presence in the Normandy region of Total and Veolia Environnement, two key business and industry players locally.
About Veolia Environnement
Veolia Environnement (Paris Euronext: VIE and NYSE: VE) is the worldwide reference in environmental services. With more than 220,000 employees*, the company provides tailored solutions to meet the needs of municipal and industrial customers in three complementary segments: water management, waste management and energy management. Veolia Environnement recorded revenue of €29.4 billion in 2012*. www.veolia.com
* Excluding Veolia Transdev employees and revenues currently under divestment.
Total is a leading international oil and gas company with operations in more than 130 countries. It is also a world-class chemical producer. Its 97,000 employees put their expertise to work in every part of the industry — exploration and production of oil and natural gas, refining and marketing, new energies, trading and chemicals — to keep the world supplied with energy, both today and tomorrow.
Total has a number of industrial sites in the Normandy region, including the integrated Normandy platform, which since January 2013 has comprised the Normandy refinery and the Gonfreville petrochemical plant. Total is investing €1 billion to upgrade the platform and adapt the facilities to changing demand.
Total also has a research and technology center in Gonfreville, a special fluids plant in Oudalle, two lubricant manufacturing plants, in Rouen and Nourrey-en-Bessin, a lubricants logistics platform in Rouen, and a container production plant in Gonfreville.
An increasing emphasis on the natural environment raises an interesting question for Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why are polar bears or even milk jugs more important than people, not only in terms of research attention, but also as a focus of company initiatives? Shouldn’t we face up to the idea of human sustainability? Read More
The thinker interview: Jeffrey Pfeffer on human sustainability
By Neelima Mahajan for CKGSB Knowledge (5 Aril 2013):
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Organization behavior expert and Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer on the poor state of human sustainability in organizations
In a career spanning more than four decades, there is one thing that Jeffrey Pfeffer has never done—mince words and sugarcoat advice.
As the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Pfeffer is one of the most influential authorities in the field of organizational behavior today.
Over the years, through more than a dozen books written with his trademark candor and biting wit, he has helped many individuals confront and come to terms with uncomfortable truths about the organizational and business environment.
Among his most successful books are The Knowing-Doing Gap (with his Stanford colleague Robert Sutton), Hard Facts: Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense (with Sutton again), and the more recent Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t.
While Hard Facts ruffled many feathers because it put the spotlight on evidence-based management and warned against fads masquerading as the “next big management idea”, his 2010 book Power dismissed the notion of the hierarchy-less office as pure bunkum. It went on to advise employees that to succeed in their careers, they must actively seek power for themselves. More recently, Pfeffer has started focusing on an idea he likes to call ‘human sustainability’.
In an Academy of Management Perspectives article, he rued the fact that while more and more organizations are focusing on their environmental impact, they pay little attention to the affect they have on their human and social environment.
He focused in particular on the impact on employees—ranging from ill health and stress, to mortality.
“This emphasis on the natural environment raises an interesting question: Why are polar bears or even milk jugs more important than people, not only in terms of research attention, but also as a focus of company initiatives?” he asked.
In this interview, Pfeffer elaborates on the idea of human sustainability, also the subject of his next book.
Q. By putting the spotlight on employees and the kind of conditions and environment they have to cope in, you have brought to the fore an issue that has long been ignored. What really prompted you to look at this direction? And how does it tie in with your past work?
A. It began when I wrote Competitive Advantage through People (1996) and then The Human Equation (1998). I have also given a lot of talks, read a lot of the literature on high-performance or high-commitment work practices and served for several years on the Human Capital Leadership Council for Hewitt (now Aon Hewitt), one of the big HR consulting firms. What struck me (was that) if you look at consulting firm research or academic research, there has been for decades a recognition that organizational performance would be enhanced if companies basically reorganized their management practices to engage the workforce and reduce work-family conflict—basically do things that would permit people to make decisions and exercise their gifts and skills, and provide training. After decades of research, and lots of reports coming out of the HR consulting firms, I did not see that any of this work was being implemented, very much, or in very many places. So if profits did not motivate companies to do the right thing, I began to think if there was some other way in which we might get companies’ attention. It occurred to me that maybe some of the management practices that would increase organizational performance might also be related to employee health. That’s what got me on this thing, kind of trying to think of a hook, or a lever, or some way of getting companies’ attention on this issue.
Q. We usually hear of sustainability in the context of the environment and you have put a human dimension on it. How do you define ‘human sustainability’?
A. I would define human sustainability, in a way, analogous to environmental sustainability, (which is really about whether) you are engaging in economic activities in a way that disrupts to the least extent possible the natural world. It’s exactly the same for human sustainability. When companies—and you can see this in China and certainly in the US—do not care about employees and the employees’ work environment, you have higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, health problems, workplace-related stress, psychiatric problems and workplace violence. To the extent that employees are being ‘used up’, both physically and psychologically, that does not strike me as a very sustainable practice. It’s more sustainable in a country that has more than a billion people like China, but it’s still not very sustainable, because China has a one-child policy so sooner or later they’ll run out of people too. Sustainability means just what it implies: are you engaging in work practices that do not disrupt, in this case, the social or human environment, and which do not basically kill people.
Q. Now that we have human sustainability in the picture, how do we need to rethink a concept like the triple bottomline that every company is talking about now?
A. We need measures of employee well-being. I have a dear friend who’s just been promoted to chairman of the board of a non-profit modeled after the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), called the Sustainability Accountability Standards Board (SASB). If you look at the measures that they want companies to adopt, this goes back to the quality movement, and everybody in management will tell you, that what you inspect, you get. As soon as I begin measuring and inspecting, my carbon footprint and the size of that footprint, now I will pay attention to it. Companies, for the most part, do not measure employee well-being. They may do an annual survey of employee engagement which most of them don’t pay much attention to, but they are not measuring employees’ physical and mental health, and particularly, they are not tying those measurements to what they are doing inside their organizations. Look at the discussion in the US about healthcare—it’s always done in terms of cost. Look at companies, and they are for the most part, talking only about dollars. To the extent that they are talking about anything else, it’s, you know, a carbon thing or something (like that). We need to have measures and attention to human well-being. To use the words of a friend of mine who teaches at IESE in Barcelona, ‘Why should we care more about polar bears than we do about human beings?’ We need to measure human well-being. We need to have standards for that, and we need to compare organizations to each other and to themselves over time and we should see if companies are doing things to make their employees healthier as oppose to less healthy.
Q. What are the different dimensions of human sustainability and how would you measure and quantify them?
A. Interestingly enough, since I’m doing a lot of work on this I can tell you this: there is a single-item question. It’s called Self-Reported Health Status (SRHS). It basically asks people how healthy they are. (It) turns out to be in some studies more correlated with their prospective subsequent mortality than even physiological measures. So it’s actually quite easy to measure. You ask people basically, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Is your work-related stress interfering with your health? Is it interfering with your ability to live your life?’ You ask them about their physical health, psychological health, and how much stress they’re experiencing. The problem with many companies’ wellness programs is they assume that your individual decisions about smoking, drinking, overeating and substance abuse or any other individual issues that you have, that this is somehow your individual responsibility. While they will provide you perhaps with some incentives, or dietary and nutrition counseling, or a once-a-year cholesterol measure, what companies have failed to recognize is that a lot of the individually unhealthful behaviors such as overeating, not exercising, drinking and smoking are directly related to workplace stress, and the stress that comes from economic insecurity, including the threats of layoffs and relatively high unemployment rates. While it is true that individuals have some responsibility for their own choices, those choices are not made in a vacuum. There is actually a very large epidemiological literature that suggests that people who are laid off, or who face the threat of unemployment, or who have been unemployed are much more likely to engage in individually unhealthful behaviors, controlling for everything else, than people who have not faced those kinds of stresses.
Q. Has the situation with regard to human sustainability worsened in recent years?
A. There’s an article in Health Affairs which talks about the fact that at least for the less educated groups in the US, mortality is up and life expectancy is down, so they are clearly worse off. Overall, I think it’s a mixed thing, but the US has now more uninsured people than ever before, this is prior of course to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. This is from the Kaiser Foundation’s studies—a smaller percentage of employers are offering healthcare coverage than before, and healthcare coverage is related to health and mortality and morbidity. Certainly the levels of job satisfaction according to the Conference Board are lower, and if you go to virtually any of the major human capital consulting firms’ websites, you will see that the levels of employee engagement are pretty low and are probably not as good as they used to be. To the extent that there are indirect indicators, they suggest that things at least in the US are probably worse than they were. I think this is less true in places like Northern Europe, which have, I think, very humane policies mandated by the government towards the workforce. There was an article in The New York Times, which spoke about all the suicides occurring in Greece because of the severe economic stresses that that country is under. Economic insecurity and economic turmoil lead to a variety of forms of unhealthy individual behaviors and bad health outcomes. So yes, I think things are probably worse.
Q. We are all well aware of the dangers of ignoring human sustainability issues, but most of it is really from the perspective of the individual. What are the dangers of ignoring these issues from the organizational perspective?
A. At the moment, at least in the US, and I suspect this is probably true in China as well, from the individual organization’s point of view there actually are no dangers, because as long as there is a reserve army of the unemployed, as long as there is an adequate workforce, as long as I can replace my workforce, as long as there is sufficiently high unemployment rate and a sufficiently large number of people with the skills I need available in the workforce, there is no real cost. The costs are really paid by society. In the US, when people become unhealthy, they either die, which of course costs nobody anything, or they leave the workforce, and once they leave the workforce, they become the responsibility of the state. Forty years ago, if I polluted either the air or the water, what was the cost to me? Nothing. Those costs were externalized, to use an economics term. Other people had to clean up the water, other people suffered from the air pollution and I, as a company, paid no price. So one of the things that physical environmental regulation did, was it said that if you were going to pollute the physical environment, either that was going to be proscribed or else the cost would be borne at least partly by you, which would give you an incentive to figure out how to engage in less air, water and other forms of pollution. Basically cut if off at the source. Prevention is always cheaper than remedy. It’s the same thing for human sustainability and human health as well. Until companies have to pay for the social costs they’re incurring or imposing on people in terms of their physical and mental health, there’s really no reason for companies to change their behavior.
Q. Is there a tradeoff between achieving the typical organizational goals of, say, efficiency, quality, low-cost, scale, etc., and employee well-being? Is it an ‘either or’ or can the two be achieved together?
A. Literature suggest that healthier employees, of course, are more productive, which wouldn’t surprise you. But many of the practices that cause economic insecurity and stress are not actually economically efficient either. I think this is a win-win situation not an ‘either or’.
Q. Have you actually seen anyone do that? Typically the companies that are successful, like Walmart for instance, are probably the worst offenders on this account.
A. It is (one of the worst offenders). Walmart is definitely one of them. Companies which are on rankings like the Great Places to Work list and the Fortune Best Places to Work list, I think do a pretty good job at this, places like the SAS Institute, Patagonia and Google. The SAS Institute has had onsite healthcare for decades, and has offered generous health insurance and family-friendly work policies. So there are companies that have done this, but there aren’t, unfortunately, very many of them.
Q. What are the possible solutions to this problem?
A. If the organizations want to address this problem, it’s actually quite simple. If you have a problem with your production quality or with sales, you basically do the same thing: first of all, you have measurements which permit you to see if the problem exists, and then you try to use, to the best of your ability, those measurements to figure out the source of the problem and how to fix it.
Q. One of the things you also talk about is rethinking job design in this context.
A. You certainly should offer more autonomy and flexibility and there’ve been lots of studies that suggest that that’s a good thing to do. One of the biggest predictors of health problems is absence of control over your work environment. So you have people changing your deadlines all the time, making capricious demands on you… you don’t understand what you need to do in order to be successful because it changes all the time. To the extent you give people clarity about what they need to do, why they need to do it, and you offer them a predictable and controllable environment, they will be better off and the company will be better off as well.
Q. On a lighter note, we live in a world of quick-fixes. Is there a ‘Pfeffer Formula’ for dealing with human sustainability problems?
A. There is a very simple formula: to the extent that people actually take this seriously, they will address it. One of the things that distresses me is that we have all these discussions, and human well-being is never a part of the calculation. There’s lots of discussion about should we expand or contract Medicare and Medicaid in the US, and that is a discussion talked about only in dollar terms, even though there is enormous amounts of research that shows how access to those specific programs affect people’s lifespans. So yes, I have a quick-fix, and the quick-fix is that when you discuss any issue of performance, you add human well-being to the dollars.
Presented by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, China’s leading business school.
More than 30 US companies have signed the Climate Declaration and have a clear message for Washington: Act on climate change. “We are and it’s good for our businesses,” said Anne Kelly, Director of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP). “The cost of inaction is too high. Policymakers should see climate change policy for what it is: an economic opportunity.” See which leading companies have joined this 100 day corporate campaign. Read More
By Mike Bellamente, Director, Climate Counts (11 April 2013):
Companies Unite in Call for U.S. Climate Change Policy
Leaders from the business community made one thing clear when they came together on Wednesday to announce a 100-day corporate campaign in support of climate change policy: This is not a right or left issue. It is not about appealing to a base of liberals or conservatives. According to signers of the campaign, it is about tackling one of the greatest economic challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
“The longer we wait, the higher the risks will be to our business, to our consumers and to society as a whole,” said Betsy Blaisdell, Senior Manager of Environmental Stewardship at Timberland. “We’re motivated to see progress made on the issue of climate change, and it will take everyone to get it done.”
Timberland is just one of more than 30 companies that have signed on to the Climate Declaration; an effort spearheaded by Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, or BICEP, which, in turn, is quarterbacked by Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and public interest groups.
When asked “Why now?” BICEP director, Anne Kelly, responded, “The president has made it clear that climate change is on his second-term agenda, and, honestly, we think it’s important for Members of Congress to recognize that business leaders are wholly supportive of comprehensive climate policy.”
The U.S. has long been seen as slow to act when it comes to embracing climate change legislation. In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the Senate refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to the U.S. economy. Now, in somewhat ironic fashion, it is major economic contributors like Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., Intel, and eBay that are rallying Congress to enact legislation.
Of particular note about the Climate Declaration itself, however, is the absence of hot button issues like the Keystone XL Pipeline, carbon taxes and hydro-fracking that congressional leaders may find repellent. Wood Turner, Vice President of Sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm and one of the key drivers behind the Declaration, attributes this to not wanting to detract from the message by incorporating prescriptive elements into the text.
“We realize the path toward climate policy will not one without compromise,” says Turner, “but we must first all come to the table with the understanding that it is simply the right thing to do.”
While addressing climate change may indeed be seen as a moral obligation, signers of the initiative are quick to point out the direct economic consequences associated with extreme weather.
“As a global company, L’Oreal has a vested interest in the markets we serve,” says Pam Alabaster, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Sustainable Development and Public Affairs for L’Oreal. “We’re seeing impacts on our business in North America as a result of climate change, and we’d like to see policy that adequately addresses the issue.”
To be sure, L’Oreal isn’t the only global company that is pressing U.S. policymakers to push the issue back onto the national agenda. Of the corporations that are currently signed on to the Climate Declaration, at least six are headquartered outside the United States, including Adidas, IKEA, Unilever, Nestlé, Swiss Re, and L’Oreal.
But, when asked to crystallize why companies would make an overtly public appeal for domestic climate policy, it was someone representing a U.S. company (albeit one that is owned by Unilever) who said it best. Quoting Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, the company’s activism manager, Chris Miller, put the world in the context of ice cream by saying, “If it melts, it’s ruined.”
Mike Bellamente is the director of Climate Counts, a national nonprofit aimed at bringing consumers and corporations together to address climate change. In February 2012, Bellamente was named to Ethisphere’s list of 100 most influential people in business ethics.
U.S. Business Leaders Urge Strong Policy Action on Climate Change
Starbucks, Intel, Levi Strauss & Co., others sign “Climate Declaration,” highlighting the American economic opportunity of responding to climate change
Ceres report (10 April 2013)
As the President unveils his budget for the coming year, 33 major U.S. companies, including eBay Inc., Nike and Limited Brands signed a “Climate Declaration,” urging federal policymakers to take action on climate change, asserting that a bold response to the climate challenge is one of the greatest American economic opportunities of the 21st century.
Signatories of the Climate Declaration are among the country’s best-known consumer brands, including EMC Corporation, IKEA, Jones Lang LaSalle, L’Oréal, the North Face, the Portland Trail Blazers, Timberland and Unilever, among others. (A full list of signatories is available at www.climatedeclaration.us.)
Over the course of an ongoing campaign organized by Ceres and its BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy) coalition, other leading businesses, as well as individuals, will be encouraged to sign the Declaration and join the call to action.
“The signers of the Climate Declaration have a clear message for Washington: Act on climate change. We are, and it’s good for our businesses,” said Anne Kelly, Director of BICEP. “The cost of inaction is too high. Policymakers should see climate change policy for what it is: an economic opportunity.”
Together, the Declaration signatories provide approximately 475,000 U.S. jobs and generate a combined annual revenue of approximately $450 billion. Extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy have affected several Climate Declaration signatories and exposed the United States’ economic vulnerability to climate change.
“From droughts that affect cotton crops to Hurricane Sandy, which caused extensive damage to our operations, climate affects all aspects of our business,” said Eileen Fisher, CEO of New York-based apparel firm Eileen Fisher, which suffered severe damage and business interruption during the 2012 storm. “As a socially and environmentally responsible company, we are trying to affect positive change, but business can’t do it alone. We need the support of strong climate legislation.”
The signatories of the Climate Declaration are calling for Congress to address climate change by promoting clean energy, boosting efficiency and limiting carbon emissions – strategies that these businesses already employ within their own operations.
“Businesses understand that planning for a successful future takes investment today. One of the most important things Congress can do to grow our economy and protect our planet is to pass smart climate change legislation this year. Our workforce, supply chain and consumers are counting on us to lead the way,” said Anna Walker, Director, Government Affairs and Public Policy at Levi Strauss & Co.
BICEP members have supported several climate-driven policies, including historic automotive fuel economy standards signed into law in 2012 and the extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind power. Innovation within the transportation, electric power sectors and IT sectors, among others, will be essential to meeting the climate challenge.
“eBay Inc. is committed to driving a future for commerce that embraces clean energy innovation and is ultimately more sustainable,” said Lori Duvall, Global Director, Green at eBay Inc. “Our efforts extend across our data, employee and distribution center portfolios, our shipping and logistics infrastructure, as well as the actions of buyers, sellers, and merchants on our platforms. We see our participation in this coalition as a key element in bringing to life our vision for enabling greener forms of commerce over the long term.”
The Climate Declaration comes on the heels of the President’s renewed commitment to combat the threat of climate change and a recent study from Ceres, Calvert Investments and WWF indicating that a strong majority of Fortune 100 companies have set renewable energy or greenhouse gas reduction goals. Recent polls conducted by Gallup and Yale University, respectively, indicate that a majority of Americans believe climate change is happening and that corporations, as well as government officials, should be doing more to address the issue.
Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $11 trillion. For more information, visit http://www.ceres.org
BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy), a project of Ceres, is an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation enabling a rapid transition to a low-carbon, 21st century economy – an economy that will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth while stabilizing our planet’s fragile climate. BICEP is a project of Ceres.
The Energy for All Team from the Asia Development Bank (ADB) participated in the Clean Cooking Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last month and is encouraging the piloting of off-grid renewable energy systems. The Forum highlighted the market-based approach to the global adoption of clean cooking solutions, continuing to drive innovations in research, market development, standards and testing, project finance and policy development. Meanwhile, Philips announced that it has developed the world’s most efficient “warm white” LED lamp which has the potential to reduce worldwide energy consumption by more than 7%. Read more
A World Record for Energy-Efficient Lighting
By Melissa C. Lott in Scientific American (13 April 2013):
Philips announced that it has developed the world’s most efficient “warm white” LED lamp. Designed to replace the fluorescent tube lighting that is ubiquitous in offices and industrial facilities, the new TLED (tube-style light emitting diode) has the potential to reduce worldwide energy consumption by more than 7%.
Innovation in the LED lighting industry is generally measured in terms of two categories – cost reductions and efficiency improvements. The former is reflected in the final price tag. The latter is measured in terms of “lumens per watt,” describing the amount of visible light that a source emits at a certain rate of energy consumption.
According to a Philips, their new prototype tube lighting produces 200 lumens per watt (200 lm/W). And it is expected to cost only slightly more than the equivalent strip lighting set-up (at 100 lm/W). Traditional bulbs only produce 15 lm/W.
But, the arguably more significant accomplishment with Philip’s new TLED is that it produces warm white (~2700K) light, the type of light prehat most people prefer for indoor lighting. An easy way to increase the efficiency of a bulb design is to increase the color temperature. So, the fact that Phillips managed to keep the temperature in this lower range, while still hitting the 200 lm/W rating, is even more impressive.
Globally, building lighting represents 15-19% of total energy consumption and florescent tube lighting accounts for more than half of the lighting market. In the context of Thursday’s announcement – if Philips’s new bulb makes it to market by the summer of 2015, it will have the potential to reduce worldwide energy use by more than 7%.
Energy for All participates in Global Cooking Forum
ADB reports (8 April 2013):
The Energy for All Team participated in the Clean Cooking Forum, March 18-22 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The goal of the Forum was to further a market-based approach to the global adoption of clean cooking solutions, and to continue to drive innovations in research, market development, standards and testing, project finance, and policy development.
ADB and Energy for All supported the event and presented during various sessions at the forum. On 19 March, Jiwan Acharya presented ADB’s carbon market programme in the session “Leveraging Carbon Finance in a Down-market; Trends, Threats and New Opportunities”.
The session highlighted the current down-turn of the carbon prices which leads to reluctance of many organizations to take on the high monitoring and validation costs for carbon credits. The session concluded that although the reluctance, carbon market remains a funding opportunity in the long-run and risk reduction mechanisms exist that diversify the risk for the individual organization through bundling of projects by carbon vendor organizations, like Energy for All partner Nexus.
Sununtar Setboonsarng, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist, moderated the session on “What’s cooking in Southeast Asia” on 19 March. The speakers presented the business models and technologies in the countries of Lao PDR, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Timor-Leste. It was highlighted that the need for financing capacity building activities and the availability of public sector support – in the areas of provision of testing/standards, financing and creating a enabling policy environment – remain the major challenges in up-scaling the cookstove sector.
On March 20, Jiwan Acharya presented in the session “Household energy access: a critical link to sustainable development” ADB’s view in addressing the issue of household energy and the importance of linking household energy programmes to productive uses.
As a member of the Sustainable Energy for All (S4ALL) practitioner’s network, ADB also joined the workshop on March 17-19, which was part of the pre-forum events of the Global Cooking Forum. Practitioner’s came together to discuss current issues energy access practitioners around the world are facing to move forward on the Sustainable Energy for All agenda.
Eric Sidgwick, Country Director of ADB’s Cambodia Resident Mission gave brief opening remarks acknowledging the importance of energy access for least developed countries as Cambodia and highlighted ADB’s efforts in Cambodia, especially in grid extension, building the capacity of relevant government bodies and testing and piloting off-grid renewable energy systems. In the session on “Towards Sustainable Energy for All”, Jiwan Acharya presented Energy for All’s contribution to the United Nations Secretary General’s Initiative.
Coal generation is lower than ever and renewables reach record levels. That’s the clan energy picture from Australia. Greenhouse gas emissions across Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) have fallen to a ten year low due to increased competition in the power generation sector, as thin demand and increased supply of renewables squeezes out coal generation. Read More
By Hugh Grossman for RenewEconomy (11 April 2013):
Greenhouse gas emissions across Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) have fallen to a ten year low due to increased competition in the power generation sector, as thin demand and increased supply of renewables squeezes out coal generation.
Coal generation is at its lowest level in 10 years, contributing 74.8% of all generation, down 11% from 85.8% in 2008-09. Renewables output has inversely reached record levels, with wind and hydro generation reaching 12.5% across the NEM.
Gas generation (12.7%), Hydro (8.7%), and Wind (3.8%) are all at record high generation levels, with the full commissioning of Macarthur’s 420MW of wind capacity to further increase wind generation going forward.
Coal generation has felt the impact of thin demand in the NEM, and increased output from other fuel sources, notably wind and hydro.
Gas, hydro, and wind have all increased their output, with hydro’s gains dominating the energy mix behind strong output from Tasmanian Hydro and Snowy Hydro. Since its inception, the carbon price has nearly doubled wholesale electricity prices, resulting in large profits for hydro generators that have been able to out-compete gas-fired peaking generation.
Coal generation nationally continues its bumpy ride, with generation reductions in NSW turning around as smaller generators pick up the slack left from the closure of half of Wallerawang C. Fall in demand has resulted in a reduction in supply to NSW from QLD and VIC, which reverses the trend from H1 FY12-13 where QLD generation largely displaced NSW output.
Victorian brown coal generation continues to fall, with reduced generation from brown coal-fired generators Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, Yallourn, and Hazelwood.
While coal still generates the lion’s share of NEM electricity consumption, the downturn in output has driven Australian power emissions to record lows.
Demand and low carbon price to support coal generation through to 2020
In the short-term we forecast resumed net growth in electricity demand due to the energy sector in NSW and Queensland, which is expected to bring relief to coal-fired generators, in-turn driving emissions up through to FY17, before falling marginally by FY20.
The return of brown coal is reinforced by a weak carbon price in FY16 (refer to RepuTex Carbon Price Outlook, April) and carbon compensation for brown coal generators. After FY17 brown-coal generation will be particularly vulnerable to competition due the expiration of carbon pricing compensation.
The increased rate of build for new renewable generation is expected to eventually outstrip the pace of electricity demand growth across the NEM, as the market seeks to meet the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET).
As brown coal generation slows post FY17, NSW and Queensland will eventually replace Victoria as the state with the highest CO2 emissions. South Australia and Tasmania will continue to decrease their emissions as coal- and gas-fired generation is displaced by more on shore wind generation.
LNG Processing to drive emissions – and carbon price – through to 2020
Although the Australian power sector dominates CPM emissions, and will continue to do so, the sector is forecast to continue to become cleaner in the long-term as renewable generation begins to displace coal output.
Across all CPM industries, the energy sector, in particular LNG processing, is forecast to see rapid growth in emissions from 2014 through 2018 as its large pipeline of LNG greenfield projects come online. Browse (Woodside), Wheatstone (Chevron), Gorgon (Chevron), Australia Pacific LNG (ConocoPhillips) and Icthys (INPEX) are forecast to become the sector’s five largest emitting plants once fully operational. Between them they are forecast to emit just under 29mt, representing around 40% of the entire Australian energy sector’s emissions by 2020.
The sizable liability of the energy sector is forecast to play a key role in determining the Australian carbon price as auctioning commences in 2014, with the magnitude and timing energy sector growth to hinge on the number of LNG trains constructed.
Hugh Grossman is Executive Director, Energy and Carbon Markets, at RepuTex Advisory
Did she or didn’t she? Claims that the late Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister for 11 years, had a “Climate Change Of Heart”. She was in fact one of the very early advocates of action and one of the first world leaders to champion climate science, issuing a call to action to fight man-made global warming at the Second World Climate Conference hosted at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in 1990. She was quoted: “It may be cheaper or more cost-effective to take action now than to wait and find we have to pay much more later.” Something very similar to what Nicholas Stern advocated in his landmark report of 2006. Read More
By Lucia Graves in The Huffington Post (9 April 2013):
In 1990, Margaret Thatcher emerged as one of the first world leaders to champion climate science, issuing a call to action to fight manmade global warming at the Second World Climate Conference hosted at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
She lavished praise on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, then in its infancy, and laid out the conservatives’ case for environmental stewardship in the face of climate change. “I see the adoption of these policies as a sort of premium on insurance against fire, flood or other disaster,” she said. “It may be cheaper or more cost-effective to take action now than to wait and find we have to pay much more later.”
She would later recant many of her positions, however, adopting an increasingly skeptical stance. Although some maintain that she was consistent in her advocacy for the environment, more than 10 years later, she publicly criticized the push to protect it.
Her speech in Geneva acknowledged the uncertainty of the science behind climate change, before vigorously affirming that “the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now … there is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.”
A year before, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York she urged the global community to take action.
“The evidence is there. The damage is being done. What do we, the international community, do about it? … It is no good squabbling over who is responsible or who should pay. We have to look forward not backward, and we shall only succeed in dealing with the problems through a vast international, co-operative effort.”
She called for the United Nations to ratify a treaty by 1992. The New York Times covered it at the time with the headline: “Thatcher Urges Pact On Climate.” Excerpts from some of her climate-change speeches are here.
But in 2003, she backtracked on her climate advocacy, calling climate activism a “marvelous excuse for supra-national socialism,” and denouncing Al Gore’s calls for international cooperation around climate change “apocalyptic hyperbole.”
In her 2003 book Statecraft she wrote of “a new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-center governing classes,” praised former President George W. Bush for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol and bemoaned the “costly and economically damaging” schemes to limit carbon emissions.
While it would appear Thatcher, who died on Monday at age 87, did a complete 180 on the issue, Iain Murray with the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., has argued that she remained an environmentalist.
“Thatcher’s environmentalism is founded on Edmund Burke’s conservative view of our inheritance as being worth defending,” he wrote. “Yet that view is tempered by her classical liberal belief that human wealth and progress are crucial. That is why Lady Thatcher can be described as a true free market environmentalist.”
Will Oremus, writing for Slate, notes she never abandoned her faith in the scientific method, nor her belief that true conservatism entailed caring for the Earth so that future generations may thrive.
The ‘profit-at-all-cost’ business model is fast becoming an out-dated one. Companies operating in today’s world can ill afford to ignore the increasing expectations by society for a more sustainable way of running a business, at the expense of their long-term profitability and longevity. Far-sighted companies such as Unilever, then, will have to craft new business models that incorporate profit and sustainability; with positive impact on people and the planet. Read more
By Nitin Paranjpe for Entrepreneurs in Forbes (8 April 2013):
We Need Business Models that Blend Profit and Sustainability
How do we deliver healthcare, education, nutrition, financial inclusion and other social goods in a sustainable manner to the populations that need them most? This article is part of “The Art and Science of Delivery,” an anthology of essays published by McKinsey & Company in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Skoll World Forum—to be live-streamed April 10-12. It is the most recent installment of McKinsey’s ongoing series, Voices on Society, which convenes leading thinkers on social topics.
There was a time when the word “green” referred mainly to the environment. Today that canvas has grown to encompass a host of issues beyond resource utilization, including fairness, transparency, and equity. This green dynamo is gathering strength in the hearts and minds of millions, including many who are economically deprived and do not have access to better standards of living.
The international community has struggled to address these widespread concerns. We hear plenty of rhetoric about the importance of sustainability but do not get nearly as much action. Many companies and sovereign nations have remained passive because they fear that action will cause them short-term, personal pain in exchange for nebulous and generalized gains sometime in the distant future.
This tendency has produced a widening gap between how businesses work and how society increasingly expects them to work. It’s no surprise that surveys across the world indicate a rapidly declining public trust in business.
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that fewer than one in five respondents believe business leaders will act ethically when confronted with difficult issues. The Occupy Wall Street movement, which emerged from the heart of the capitalistic world, is another indicator of the deep divide that has taken root.
At Unilever we recognize that existing models of economic growth are becoming increasingly unsustainable because we lack the resources to power them endlessly. Yet we must grow to meet rising demand as millions of formerly impoverished consumers start exercising their right to better living standards. Their needs cannot be brushed aside just because more developed segments of the global economy have overused or exploited the environment.
The answer lies not in condemning and slashing consumption but in finding new sustainable ways to meet demand. The new path must balance rising demand, scarce resources, and the growing power of consumers to hold companies accountable for their actions. The change will come sooner than we think. Who could have imagined that the frustration of a fruit-and-vegetable vendor in Tunisia would topple dictators in four countries? As our global CEO Paul Polman has noted, if national power structures can fall in a matter of days, brands and companies can disappear in nanoseconds.
Business leaders have every incentive to create sustainable growth models now. If we don’t do it, we’ll sink. Moreover, we believe companies that figure out how to grow sustainably will have a real competitive advantage. We have no reason to believe that pursuing sustainability is bad business. It can be a driver of huge success and simultaneously have a positive impact on people and the planet.
That’s why Unilever articulated the Sustainable Living Plan, which committed us to developing a new model of business that would decouple growth from resource use and have a positive impact on society. The plan commits Unilever to growing our business while:
• Halving our environmental impact
• Encouraging a billion global consumers to adopt healthier, more hygienic lifestyles
• Ensuring that 100 percent of our agricultural raw material comes from sources that independent agencies have certified as sustainable
When these goals were first announced in late 2010, they generated great excitement within Unilever—but also a degree of nervousness and concern. Many of us wondered how we would get there. Others feared that these commitments would act as constraints that could compromise our competitiveness.
But our plan was public; the commitments had been made. This created a sense of urgency and a new mind-set. More than two years into the journey, we are convinced that it’s indeed possible to do good business and also achieve our broader societal goals. Today, our teams are more energetic and enthusiastic than ever. We are selling more Lifebuoy soap than before while promoting good health. By fighting preventable diseases, we are giving our businesses a new sense of purpose and direction.
The success of Hindustan Unilever’s Pureit range of water purifiers shows that it’s possible to build an entirely new business segment by providing cheap, clean drinking water to millions of consumers who lack electricity or a flowing tap. Both Unilever and our customers profit as a result. The Shakti program is expanding our reach in the media-dark hinterland and also providing a livelihood to women who take our brands to remote villages, selling our products and building a new market.
But this is only the beginning. We need many more such examples, and we must find them faster while at the same time delivering growth that is consistent, competitive, and profitable. We can find the right answers. The question is whether businesses can find the right leaders to push for those answers. We need leaders with the courage and conviction to take bold action ahead of others.
Nitin Paranjpe has been the chief executive officer and managing director of Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (formerly, Hindustan Lever Ltd.) since April 2008. Paranjpe also serves as an executive vice president of Unilever companies in South Asia.
While the construction and property industry has made great advances in introducing green and sustainable materials with “green buildings” becoming the norm, it has not significantly improved its productivity for 40 years. Unlike the automotive industry, where for every 10,000 workers there are 700 robots. Which all goes into making more automobiles more productively, more sustainability, utilising recycling material, using less energy, less water – and most importantly – less men and women. Ken Hickson flies into the future of building. Read more
By Ken Hickson in abc carbon express (15 April 2013):
“Up, down, flying around,
looping the loop and defying the ground.
They’re all frightfully keen,
those magnificent men in their flying machines.”
From the 1965 film and song of the same name, “Those magnificent men in the flying machines”.
Fast forward to 2013 and former aviation writer – now sustainability consultant – Ken Hickson witnesses technology and good old fashioned inventiveness coming together in the appropriately named CREATE building in Singapore.
Flying in the Face of the Construction Industry:
Aviation Aids Architecture & Digital Fabrication
The words wouldn’t get out of my amused and inspired mind – “Up down, flying around” – as I watched with intrigue as small radio – or more correctly, computer – controlled mini-helicopters lifted and correctly positioned blocks to build a multi-storey construction.
Yes, this was happening right here at a serious minded seminar involving very serious Swiss and German architects, engineers, scientists at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) of the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability (SEC).
Admittedly, it was video-taped demonstration and shown to the room, but also on hand was one of the real little flying machines to show their size and shape.
Robots in action to build buildings – and high rise at that – are not some figment of an imaginative architect but being put into practice – admittedly in test beds and research centres at this stage – in Singapore and Switzerland.
And for good reason. The construction industry worldwide has been very slow to adopt automation. If you could find robots anywhere on a building site, they are literary dwarfed by high rise cranes – hundreds of them – in an industry obsessed with getting more and more men doing more menial tasks.
Compare construction with the automobile industry, where automation plays such a major role. Robots do practically every task on the car production line, once manned by busy manual workers.
For every 10,000 workers in automobile industry there are 700 robots. Which all go to into making more automobiles more productively, more sustainability, utilising recycling material, using less energy, less water – and most importantly less men and women.
At the same time, the human mind is still well utilised. The cars of today and tomorrow are still designed by real people, but the same designers are making greater use of computers and automation.
Why hasn’t the construction industry adopted some of these practices. Admittedly architects and engineers are well practiced in the use of CAD designs, BIM systems and go through building simulation and computerised assessment of materials and methods.
But for all that – as an industry leader told me recently – the construction and property industry has not significantly improved its productivity for 40 years. Forty years of advances in technology have not made their presence felt on the construction site, even as buildings have gone up higher and higher. They take just as long to make now – and involve just as many men per square metre – as 40 years ago.
That has to change. And the Future Cities Laboratory, with its architects and engineers driving it, are moving towards significant changes. With robots and mini flying machines to the fore.
It was an experience to visit the Laboratory and talk to the scientists there, including Professor Ralph Eichler, President of ETH Zurich University as well as Professor Doctor Gerhard Schmitt, the director of the Singapore centre. Also on hand to deliver the most impressive presentation on robotic fabrication was Professor Fabio Gramazio.
On the day of the visit, ETH had this to say:
“The world today faces a rapid growth in urban population – the United Nations estimates that nearly 75% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas by 2050. Cities, as we know it, will become even denser than they are now. Innovation is needed to create an environment that can cope with the growth of urbanisation in a sustainable way and increases liveability.”
So the work of the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL), set up by Singapore’s National Research Foundation and the Swiss Federal Institute ofTechnology (ETH) Zurich, incorporates research of digital fabrication to investigate the implications of robotic fabrication processes on the design and construction of high rises.
A panel discussion on the day focussed on the pace of urbanisation in Asian countries, agreeing that high rise buildings will continue to play a critical role in high-density cities, especially in cities like Singapore, where land area is limited.
“High rises are here to stay, and while we have gotten used to their presence in our cities, it is now pertinent for us to start investing in innovative, sustainable and more importantly, integrated ways of constructing these high rises,” said Professor Gramazio, who leads robotics team at FCL.
As we noted earlier in this article and ETH confirms that “robotic and automatic productions have taken over large parts of many industrial sectors. However, the potentials of robotic fabrication are not fully exploited if only in used for the execution of purely repetitive mass fabrication processes”.
As we observed, robots can be controlled individually and thus offer the potential for variety, differentiated assembly and mass customisation – at a large scale.
Professor Gramazio further emphasizes: “It is time to think about customised robotic processes, products and planning methods for architecture at larger scales.”
Reinforcing Professor Gramazio’s sentiments, Professor Eichler added that the accelerating rate of urbanisation is a great global challenge.
“In high-density urbanisation, robotic fabrication of high rises will certainly play an innovative and efficient role.” The ETH Zurich President, who was in Singapore to officially assume the role of Chairman of the International Alliance of Research Universities, also concluded that the collaboration of top scientists and engineers within the FCL and together with the universities based in Singapore is a unique opportunity to deliver ground-breaking research.
The final words come from a fact sheet produced by the ETH Future Cities Laboratory
ARCHITECTURE AND DIGITAL FABRICATION: DESIGN OF ROBOTIC FABRICATED HIGH RISES
Robotic and automated production processes have taken over large parts in many industrial sectors. In architecture and building attempts to deploy robotic processes remains the exception.
Many applications have been confined to prototype and, at larger scales, have often resulted in failure. This is because the general approach has been to either automate existing manual processes or the complete production process. However, the potentials of robotic fabrication are not fully exploited if used for the execution of purely repetitive mass fabrication processes. Robots can be controlled individually and thus offer the potential for variety in design as well as for differentiated assembly.
As Singapore’s land area is limited, high rises represent the most common building typology. In order to investigate and develop customised robotic processes, products and planning methods for architecture at such a large scale, three robotic facilities were installed at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore. These facilities allow the fabrication of 1:50 scaled models of up to 50 storey high buildings.
The research module carefully investigates specific design logics and construction processes to identify potentials for robotic application and to develop new high-rise typologies. The aim is to define strategies for the production of formal differentiation and functional diversification in generic urban contexts, and to test the integration of robotic technologies into the design, construction and fabrication of high-rise buildings.
In Chicago streets, vehicle tires now roll over smog-eating pavement, the streetlights run on solar and wind power, the sidewalks are made with recycled concrete, and shrub-filled ‘bioswales’ keep storm water out of overtaxed sewers. While in UK industrial heartland, Air Products is building a second 350,000 tonne per year waste to energy plasma gasification facility on Teesside which will divert up to 350,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill every year, which we will turn into reliable, controllable, renewable energy. Read More
Smog-eating pavement on greenest street in US
AFP report (7 April 2013):
The big rigs rattling past smokestacks sure don’t make this Chicago roadway look like the greenest street in America.
But their tires roll over smog-eating pavement, the streetlights run on solar and wind power, the sidewalks were made with recycled concrete, and shrub-filled ‘bioswales’ keep storm water out of overtaxed sewers.
‘Sustainability is critical for us,’ Karen Weigert, chief sustainability officer for the city of Chicago, told AFP.
‘We think of it as a part of quality of life, about economic opportunity in terms of what kinds of jobs we attract and about stewardship of tax dollars.’
The Windy City has been experimenting with greener approaches to urban planning for years as part of a broader plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change: more intense storms and more extreme temperatures.
The $14 million project to reshape two miles (3.2 kilometers) of the industrial Pilsen neighborhood incorporates pretty much everything city planners could come up with to cut energy use, fight pollution, reduce waste, manage water use and help build a sense of community.
Amazingly, it cost 21 percent less than a traditional road resurfacing project and is expected to be cheaper to maintain.
‘These are all critical issues for cities to address,’ said Karen Hobbs, a water analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Heavy rain washes pollution off roofs, roads and parking lots which too often ends up in rivers and lakes that supply drinking water. If the storm drains get flooded, raw sewage can also end up in the mix.
Planting more trees, shrubs and grass belts doesn’t only help keep rain out of the sewers, it also helps capture carbon dioxide, reduces the ‘heat island’ effect of sun-soaked asphalt and generally makes a neighborhood more pleasant.
Improving public transportation and adding bicycle lanes reduces congestion while cutting pollution, which also improves quality of life.
Cutting energy by using more efficient street light bulbs or installing the mini solar and wind power stations not only helps reduce emissions but also saves money.
Chicago is one of a growing number of cities that are no longer waiting for the federal government to deal with climate change and are instead finding local, ‘no-regret’ solutions, Hobbs said.
‘In other words, activities that save its residents and businesses money, improve quality of life and, as an added bonus, reduce emissions,’ she added.
Chicago says it is the first in the nation, however, to lay down smog-eating cement.
The seemingly magical material was first developed when the Vatican wanted to build a church to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity that would stay white in the face of Rome’s pollution.
Italian cement giant Italcemeti developed a product that uses titanium dioxide to set off a chemical reaction with sunlight that essentially cleans the surface of the church by speeding up the decomposition process.
They discovered that it wasn’t just cleaning the grime off the Dives in Misericordia church, it was also cleaning the air up to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) above the roof’s surface.
Because it’s significantly more costly than traditional pavement, Chicago is using it in thin, permeable pavers for the bicycle and parking lanes along Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road.
Project manager Janet Attarian insists that while the smog-eating pavers are pretty impressive, it’s the combined approach that is going to make a real difference.
‘I really hope this project inspires people to think about the full range of opportunities that are available,’ Attarian said during a site visit.
‘We tend to take the roads for granted, like ‘oh it’s just a road what can we do about it.’ But there’s actually quite a bit.’
Reducing the storm water impact on sewers by as much as 80 percent means the city can hopefully prevent, or at least delay, multimillion-dollar upgrades to its aging system.
Recycling 60 percent of the project’s construction waste and sourcing 23 percent of new materials from recycled content means less pressure on the city’s landfills and showed local contractors a new way to cut costs.
Choosing drought-resistant plants for the bioswales means they ought to be able to withstand the hotter summers forecast as a result of climate change without wasting fresh water.
Other details are more focused on building community, like benches near a pond that captures storm water from a high school roof and courtyard, new shelters at the bus stops and signs up and down the street describing the project.
The city is currently drafting new guidelines that will incorporate many of these green approaches as requirements for any new road work going forward.
‘These infrastructure projects last for 50, 100 years so you can’t afford to redo them again when you finally figure them out,’ Attarian said.
‘You have to be designing for the future not just the present.’
Second plasma gasification plant for Teesside following government deal
By Ben Messenger, Managing Editor of Waste Management World magazine (12 April 2013):
Air Products is to build a second 350,000 tonne per year waste to energy plasma gasification facility on Teesside following the signing of a 20 year power purchase agreement with the UK government’s Cabinet Office.
According to the government the deal is worth 2% of government’s energy spend and is expected to deliver £84 million in savings over the life of the contract through a fixed agreement that will provide stability in what the public sector pays for energy.
As part of the deal, the government said that Air Products expects to invest an amount similar to that of its first plant, around £300 million, to build a second waste to energy facility in Tees Valley, Teesside to supply the agreed 37 MW.
The government said that the agreement means that through its Government Procurement Service (GPS) it will buy a portion of its energy directly from a UK-based generator at a low fixed price, rather than buying entirely through short-term wholesale markets which are subject to unpredictable price fluctuations.
New model for government procurement
“This is the beginning of a pioneering approach to how government uses its collective buying power and long term demand to buy energy,” said the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.
“Not only have we secured £84 million of savings for taxpayers by signing a new, low cost energy deal with Air Products, but we’re also helping the UK compete in the global race by investing in growth and creating hundreds of new jobs through the construction of a new ‘energy from waste’ plant,” he added.
Lisa Jordan, Air Products’ business manager for Bio-Energy Europe, commented: “By buying the electricity we produce, the Cabinet Office will help Air Products divert up to 350,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill every year, which we will turn into reliable, controllable, renewable energy.”
According to the Cabinet Office said that the new approach will lead to more engagement with the energy industry to assess opportunities for further energy procurements over the next five years.
The government claimed that this could mean a significant increase in generating capacity in the UK and help drive down bills for everyone through increased competition.