Archive for the ‘Express 131’ Category

Missing in Action?

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Missing in Action?

MIA is an apt explanation/excuse for the delayed distribution of issue 131, the first time in three years that abc carbon express has stretched to monthly instead of weekly!  Consequently, our coverage of news and views covers a broader spectrum of time and space. While now based in Singapore, I’m as determined as ever to present globally relevant content, with a bias towards the Asia Pacific, but not forgetting an Australasian flavour, in our balanced regional coverage. This week/month we profile John Daley, the Grattan Institute, as well as the ambitious Beyond Zero Emissions plan for Australia with Matthew Wright at the helm. What’s happening with the Government’s plan for carbon farming? And carbon pricing is in the news in Australia and Singapore. The Carbon Disclosure Project reports and there’s a review of global emissions in advance of the Cancun conference of parties (all 194 countries). Singapore’s successful green label scheme, the greening of the building sector, green cars and GE all vie for attention, along with Melbourne’s Green Drive Zone. We acknowledge the City of the Future conference (which we attended in Brisbane), the big US solar scheme, how green companies rate and what’s happening in the data centre world. Biodiversity gets some important global attention, as does the international tiger project, led by WWF to its St Petersburg finale. Back to work at the Sustain Ability Showcase Asia. – Ken Hickson

Profile: John Daley

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Profile: John Daley

Reducing Australia’s carbon emissions requires a substantial shift in electricity generation. Acquiring options to roll out any one of a number of technologies is prudent given uncertainties about future technology. Nuclear is clearly a candidate, but it is just one horse in the field – there is no guarantee that it will finish first. John Daley in his Grattan Institute report in Melbourne last week and to the Beyond Zero Emissions Brisbane launch.

John Daley gave a report on Nuclear Power in Context to the Melbourne Energy Institute Seminar last week. Full report available from the Grattan Institute.

He says that reducing Australia’s carbon emissions requires a substantial shift in electricity generation. Acquiring options to roll out any one of a number of technologies is prudent given uncertainties about future technology.

Nuclear is clearly a candidate, but it is just one horse in the field – there is no guarantee that it will finish first. On best guess assumptions, Australia cannot count on a nuclear option towards its 2050 low-carbon electricity targets unless its politicians commit soon to building capabilities and planning.

John was one of the leading speakers at the Brisbane launch of the Beyond Zero Emissions plan for Australia to be 100% dependent on renewable energy by 2020. Here’s the report from Brisbane:

Kerrie Sinclair in the Courier-Mail (28 October 2010):

SURGING gas prices are expected to drive a doubling in power bills within seven years and Australia will still be left with a carbon-intensive economy as carbon penalties ramp up globally, experts say.

Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said the average household’s annual power bill, currently $1100, was projected to hit $2200 about 2017.

“It is a not-well-understood political fact that within the next six or seven years that is likely to double as a result of investing in transmission because of rising airconditioner use and as gas prices are likely to double as Australian gas prices achieve parity with world prices,” Mr Daley said.

He was speaking to an 800-strong audience last night at the Queensland launch of a plan to wean Australia off coal and gas-fired power by 2020 and switch to zero-emission power using solar technology now deployed in Spain and being built in the US.

President Barack Obama this month hailed a 390-megawatt solar thermal plant, to be built by a Californian company with the aid of US loan guarantees, as part of America’s shift to “the new economy”.

The Australian energy plan from Beyond Zero Emissions and University of Melbourne involves 12 solar thermal plants, using currently available energy storage technology, and 23 windfarms.

If funded via power prices – rather than project financing and policy settings – it would equate to a cost of $8 per household per week to 2020, or about $400 a year.

The total investment needed was $370 billion and it would create 40,000 operational and maintenance jobs and 30,000 manufacturing jobs.

Mr Daley said the plan was “doable and manageable” when viewed in the context of currently forecast price rises and because it was becoming “increasingly unclear” that carbon capture and storage technology – to lower coal and gas plant emissions – could be done at an acceptable cost.

“As I said, prices are going to go up anyway but if prices go up under this plan, we have a fighting chance of building ourselves a competitive industry,” he said.

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers last month called on the Gillard government to put a price on carbon emissions before any legally-binding global pact in order to protect Australia’s long-term economic interest.

“We do believe that such a global initiative will eventually come and, when it does, Australia will need to have acted ahead of it to maintain its competitiveness,” Mr Kloppers said.

The Victorian government has made $50 million available to a listed solar company that plans to build what would be one of the world’s largest solar power stations and was also providing $100 million to projects short-listed under a federal program.

The Queensland government’s total funding for solar, mainly rooftop panels, is $115 million over five years. It has committed $300 million to carbon capture and storage.

It has spent $45 million on the first drilling program of its wholly-owned company ZeroGen. But ZeroGen’s site has been dismissed as economically unviable and the venture is looking to launch a second drilling program.

Scientists say developed nations’ annual greenhouse gas emissions need peak by about 2015 and be 80-95 per cent below their 2000 levels within 40 years to give a reasonable chance of holding global warming to 2C.


John is one of Australia’s leading strategists. He has 20 years experience at the intersection of the public sector, private enterprise, and academia. His diverse background includes law, finance, education, and workers compensation.

Previous roles include the University of Melbourne, the University of Oxford, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, consulting firm McKinsey and Co, and most recently ANZ where he was Managing Director of the online stockbroker, E*TRADE Australia.

John has a DPhil in Public Law from the University of Oxford, and degrees in Law and Science from the University of Melbourne.

Grattan Institute aspires to contribute to public policy in Australia as a liberal democracy in a globalised economy. Our work is objective, evidence-driven and non-aligned. We foster informed public debate on the key issues for Australia through both public events and private forums engaging key decision makers and the broader community.

The current programs of Grattan Institute focus on productivity growth, cities, school education, energy, and water. These programs were selected as important to Australia’s future, where fact-based analysis could assist the debate, and where we believed key issues could benefit from further public debate.

Grattan’s Mission

Grattan Institute aspires to contribute to public policy in Australia as a liberal democracy in a globalised economy. Our work is objective, evidence-driven and non-aligned. We foster informed public debate on the key issues for Australia through both public events and private forums engaging key decision makers and the broader community.

The current programs of Grattan Institute focus on productivity growth, cities, school education, energy, and water. These programs were selected as important to Australia’s future, where fact-based analysis could assist the debate, and where we believed key issues could benefit from further public debate.


Australia Moves on Carbon Farming

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Australia Moves on Carbon Farming

Australia’s federal government has taken many by surprise with the speed of its efforts to undo the legislative blunders that led to the effective destruction of the voluntary carbon market in Australia.

The tight deadline it has set for the implementation of one of its key election promises – the so-called Carbon Farming Initiative – has come as a great relief to many in the industry. So says Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator

Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator (23 November 2010):


The federal government has taken many by surprise with the speed of its efforts to undo the legislative blunders that led to the effective destruction of the voluntary carbon market in Australia.

The tight deadline it has set for the implementation of one of its key election promises – the so-called Carbon Farming Initiative – has come as a great relief to many in the industry and suggests that it is serious, not only about talking about a carbon price, but about doing something, too.

Draft guidelines for the CFI were released on Monday and submissions are invited by January 21. The government wants legislation passed in the first half of 2011 so that the scheme can come into effect by July 1 next year.

This will give Australian corporations the opportunity once again to take early action to reduce their emissions – either in anticipation of a compliance market and an emissions trading scheme, or to give themselves a pat on the back in the voluntary market.

It will also open up opportunities for project developers to sell carbon credits to international buyers – such as heavy emitters from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere – and to bring key constituents, such as the farming lobby, on board for a carbon pricing regime.

It’s hard to estimate how big the market created by the CFI could be, because so much depends on final legislation and plans for a broader carbon price; and how many international offsets are allowed by other countries.

However, land use – including agriculture – makes up around 23 per cent of Australia’s emissions. Halting land clearing could reduce emissions by up to 63 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent a year, nearly half of the government’s unconditional target of a 5 per cent cut by 2020. And it is estimated that up to 250 million tonnes could be absorbed by restoring degraded grazing country and more soaked up through better cropping practices.

The guidelines for the CFI include a range of potential offset mechanisms such as forestry (reforestation and revegetation), reduced emissions from livestock, reduced fertilizer emissions, manure management, soil carbon sequestration, savanna fire management, and reduced emissions from rice cultivation (capturing the methane produced), and reduced emissions from landfill waste.

Not all of the mechanisms will be recognised internationally, which means that some projects will be limited to the voluntary market (and a lower price per tonne of emission reductions) and will not be included in Australia’s official emission budget.

Some, such as savanna-burning, are still subject to intense negotiations at the international level, in the so-called LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestation) component of climate change talks that will continue next week at Cancun, in Mexico.

Savanna-burning holds great potential, particularly in northern Australia and among indigenous communities. The idea is that by taking early and proactive action, the amount of emissions produced by controlled burning is about 20 per cent less than that from wildfires. 
But this is not internationally recognised, so such credits cannot be used in international compliance markets, but higher sequestration levels generated by re-growth from such burning is recognised for the purpose of voluntary markets. ConocoPhillips has previously completed one such investment.

The complexity – scientific, administrative, management and verification – that accompanies this and other mechanisms is enormous. The guidelines issued by the Department of Climate Change may well state their preference for “clear and simple” rules, but this will need to be balanced by the need for stringent controls, otherwise the carbon markets in their entirety will be questioned.

Similar questions have accompanied the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, and will no doubt be attached to the proposed Redd+ mechanism proposed to protect forests.

Other interesting initiatives are the recognition of “co-benefits” from forests – meaning that the benefits of their contribution to biodiversity, water management, erosion control and jobs can also be advertised to potential buyers. The CFI guidelines also offer a salvation to companies specialising in trapping methane from landfills.

The measures are likely – subject to detail – to be supported by the Opposition, which sees many of the mechanisms as a ringing endorsement of the direct action policy. (The Greens are not so keen, fearing that it resembles a managed investment scheme.) But the CFI, with some additions and exclusions, largely represents the forestry component of the CPRS, and will likely form the basis of any future emissions trading scheme that might be developed by the current government. If the government plumps for a tax instead, it is possible that tax obligations could be offset by investments in such projects.

Martijn Wilder, the head of the climate change practice at legal firm Baker & McKenzie, says it is a good consultation paper and shows the government is intent on moving quickly.

“It provides a framework for generating government endorsed carbon rights … the result being is that Australia will have a suite of both Kyoto and non-Kyoto credits that can be used in domestic and international market,” he said.

But he notes that while this initiative addresses the supply of credits, demand for the product is still to be resolved. “You need for these credits to be purchased,” he said. That will depend largely on international regimes imposing obligations to reduce emissions – and allowing credits to be sources in other markets – and for confidence in the domestic market that these projects will be able to meet compliance targets in the future.

Andrew Grant, the CEO of offset developer CO2 Ltd, said since the combined impact of the cancellation of the Greenhouse Friendly scheme, the introduction of a new national carbon standard and the cancellation of the ETS, meant projects in Australia had been stymied.

“For a business like us, we can participate in international carbon market, so it’s a huge outcome. This is the first piece of policy that looks to give certainty to the market.”

Grant said his company had projects that were potentially attractive to Japanese clients who could take those credits back to Japan to meet domestic reduction targets. But many buyers were still shy of investing because of the huge changes that had taken place in recent years. “It’s important to get the rules clear,” he said.


Singapore Hopes For Global Deal to Price Carbon

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Singapore Hopes For Global Deal to Price Carbon

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the International Energy Week conference earlier this month that a price on carbon will be introduced in Singapore if there is such a global climate change deal inked by all countries. Jessica Cheam wrote in the Straits Times that while it is still early days yet, the important thing is that the Republic is willing to play its part as a global citizen in putting a price on pollution, and is taking a vital step on the journey to energy diversity.

Jessica Cheam in  the Straits Times (11 November 2010):

ENVIRONMENTALISTS must have pricked up their ears when Singapore last week declared its intention to put a price tag on carbon if all countries pledge to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

It is still early days yet. Such a global deal has not been struck and it is unclear just what form this carbon price will take. But the important thing is that the Republic is willing to play its part as a global citizen in putting a price on pollution, and is taking a vital step on the journey to energy diversity.

But first, back to basics. Carbon refers to the greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide emissions generated when you use fossil fuels to generate energy. These gases pollute the atmosphere.

Most daily activities generate carbon. But while users pay for the energy used, that price does not include the cost of the pollution in the form of worsening air quality, deterioration of the natural environment and climate change, for example.

In economic parlance, pollution is a ‘negative externality’ – a bad side effect of an economic activity that affects everyone but which no one pays for. The result is that no one has an incentive to reduce activities that cause pollution.

The only way to change this is to factor in the costs of such externalities and put a price on them. For example, if turning on the air-conditioner for one night costs $1 in energy but results in pollution that costs the economy 20 cents, the cost of that night of cool comfort to you should be $1.20.

The failure to put a price on pollution has been labelled the ‘greatest market failure of all time’ by former United States vice-president Al Gore and British economist Nicholas Stern.

This was an issue that emerged last week at the Singapore International Energy Week, where policymakers and business leaders discussed energy-related issues. It took place just as governments across the globe are preparing for the next round of United Nations climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the month.

They are racing against the clock to ink an agreement before the current treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012. The current agreement binds developed nations such as Japan and those in Europe to reducing their carbon emissions by a certain amount.

Negotiators are trying to iron out details for a treaty to bind all nations to legal carbon reduction targets beyond 2012.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the conference that a price on carbon will be introduced in Singapore if there is such a global climate change deal inked by all countries.

While experts think it unlikely that the Cancun conference will result in a binding agreement, it is just a matter of time before countries impose some sort of carbon pricing.

The fact is that energy prices look set to rise for the foreseeable future, so many countries will have to eventually look at effective ways to force cutbacks in consumption.

Also, if not at Cancun, the world is bound to reach such an agreement sooner or later – perhaps in South Africa, where next year’s UN talks are due to be held.

As Mr Lee noted in his speech, it is not enough to push for efficiency gains in an economy, or wait for a change in consumption patterns in society.

There are two ways that governments can impose a charge on carbon. The first is a carbon tax, which is a tax levied on the carbon content of fuels.

The other way is a cap and trade system that European countries and New Zealand use. There is a cap on the amount certain industries can pollute, beyond which companies have to pay extra. If they pollute less, they gain carbon credits which can then be sold, contributing to the company’s profits.

Singapore can use either or both mechanisms. Energy prices would then take into account ‘not just the price of extracting and producing the fuel, but also the social cost of carbon emissions’, as the Prime Minister put it.

For Singapore, a move to carbon pricing makes sense, both environmentally and economically.

But putting a price on carbon will also lead to higher costs for both households and businesses. The latter may also raise prices, passing on costs to consumers.

Higher cost is an unavoidable, short-term consequence of carbon pricing. My view is this bitter pill is best swallowed quickly, in order to reap the benefits to follow.

For consumers, a carbon price or tax could be just the thing that levels the playing field between environmentally friendly products, which are often costlier, and more polluting ones.

The financial impact of a carbon price will be very real, but it can be phased in gradually, as the goods and services tax was. The impact on lower-income households can be cushioned with grants.

For industries, a carbon price will raise business costs for sure. This is why Singapore cannot afford to move ahead of everyone else.

But it will provide a very strong incentive in driving efficiency and innovation in energy usage – in much the same way that the water conservation tax has driven innovation in water treatment.

Industries will be more motivated to audit their manufacturing operations and buildings to ensure no energy is wasted, thus lowering costs and becoming even more competitive.

A carbon trading industry could also flourish in Singapore, adding to our financial services sector.

The taxes raised can help Singapore fund renewable energy projects and further cement its position as a clean technology hub for Asia.

At the same conference, Mr Lee also talked about Singapore’s attempt to diversify its energy sources. If solar power becomes as cheap and reliable as fossil fuels, or if nuclear becomes a feasible source of energy, Singaporeans’ energy bills could see a reversal in prices eventually, as we tap on cleaner sources and liberate our economy from its dependence on fossil fuels.

That long-term goal takes political will and the right monetary incentives to nudge behaviour in the right direction. Putting a price on carbon is an excellent first step on that journey.


Who’s Revealing What in the Carbon Disclosure Project

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Who’s Revealing What in the Carbon Disclosure Project

The release of the Goldman Sachs-backed carbon disclosure project highlighted the willingness of big companies to participate, but those actually acting in Australia to reduce emissions is way below international levels. That’s due to government inaction, says John Durie in The Australian. The Carbon Disclosure Project 2010 Australia and New Zealand surveys ASX200 and NZ50 companies on their exposure to risks and opportunities related to climate change.

John Durie in The Australian (19 October 2010)

The release of the Goldman Sachs-backed carbon disclosure project highlighted the willingness of big companies to participate, but those actually acting to reduce emissions is way below international levels. That’s due to government inaction.

Australian corporates are among the best in the world in terms of the importance they place on emission measurement and policy engagements, with 94 per cent claiming board and senior management responsibility.

But confusion over government policy is probably to blame for the fact that just 47 per cent of those responding to the survey have set emission targets, compared with 70 per cent offshore.

News Corporation, publisher of The Australian, came out ahead in terms of carbon performance leadership. This was measured on company strategy in identifying risks, opportunity and setting targets, governance, stakeholder communication and achievement in emissions reductions.

News topped the list in Australia followed by the big four banks, IAG, Qantas, Sims Metals and AGL.

On the other side of the ledger, Fairfax was among the 12 top 100 companies that didn’t even bother to respond to the survey.

Others included Aristocrat Leisure, Bank of Queensland, and Challenger, Duet Group, Primary Health Care, Singapore Telecom, Spark, United Group and West Australian Newspapers.

The survey has run globally for eight years and sets the standard for stakeholder communication on carbon exposure issues.

The Goldman Carbon Disclosure Index comprised of the leaders in the survey has outperformed the ASX 100 by 14.7 per cent since 2006.

The fact that Australian corporates, with some notable exceptions, have taken the time and interest in the issue shows corporate Australia is not only ready to act, it is acting on its own.

The push for a carbon tax from the likes of Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford, BHP boss Marius Kloppers, Wesfarmers chairman Bob Every and Telstra chairwoman Catherine Livingstone is yet further sign of the readiness.

The only thing missing is a government with some courage.


Andrew Gray in Climate Spectator:

How are companies thinking about the risks and opportunities of climate change? How are they changing the way they do business to capitalise on a low carbon economy? And how does this change the way investors think about company valuation?

The Carbon Disclosure Project 2010 Australia and New Zealand surveys ASX200 and NZ50 companies on their exposure to risks and opportunities related to climate change. It is part of the Global CDP initiative and designed to address a growing appetite from investors for detailed information around carbon emissions and climate change strategies. The CDP promotes an important dialogue between companies and investors on carbon emissions and climate change more broadly and helps investors to make more informed investment decisions.

Each year the CDP highlights those companies that exceed their peers in relation to carbon disclosure in its Carbon Disclosure Leaders Index (CDLI). It is a formal recognition of the top 33 per cent ASX200 and NX50 companies with a carbon disclosure score above 70 out of 100.

These companies have provided leading disclosures regarding the consideration and the annunciation of business-specific risks and opportunities and data management practices for understanding Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and energy use.

The CDLI 2010 includes 31 constituents across industries, but what does this index tell investors about the role and the benefit of transparency on carbon and climate change more generally?

Since its inception in 2006, the CDLI has delivered a cumulative outperformance of 14.7 per cent against the ASX100. And what is interesting when you examine the nature of that outperformance is that the majority of it occurred during the height of the GFC. The CDLI outperformance was well correlated with the outperformance of ‘high-quality’ companies, with market leading governance and risk frameworks, during that period of extreme investor risk aversion.

So while the CDLI highlights to investors those companies with best-practice disclosure on climate change, it has also acted as a ‘proxy for quality’, as do many Environmental, Social and Governance factors. In the long term, we believe that companies’ better relative performance on carbon disclosure and management has the potential to differentiate companies in their own right.

But what are companies actually doing to mitigate risks and seize opportunities related to climate change? And how are investors able to make decisions about how well a company is positioned for the low-carbon economy?

For the first time in this market the CDP recognises the ‘top carbon performers’. The Carbon Performers Leaders category enables investors to more easily identify those companies who are likely leaders in the areas of climate change strategy, governance, stakeholder communication and GHG reduction. These companies have been recognised by the Investor group on Climate Change for describing best-practice strategies to address climate change and were also leaders in terms of communicating steps in place to manage their emissions exposures.

Outside of the CDLI and the Carbon Performers Leaders the CDP 2010 identifies some high level, positive themes.

Despite policy uncertainty, the CDP response rates show a willingness among the larger listed companies to remain transparent with their stakeholders on carbon-related risks and opportunities. Seventy-two per cent of ASX100 companies and 72 per cent of NZ10 responded to this year’s CDP. And this strong response rate is in line with 2009 and a positive signal of companies’ continued engagement. Fewer ASX200 (ex 100) companies, however, responded to the survey this year, down from 31 per cent in 2009 to 21 per cent in 2010 and this was largely attributed to resource constraints relative to increasing mandatory reporting requirements.

We can see that companies have not changed their level of transparency on carbon emissions and climate change more generally, but how are they thinking about these issues as they relate to company strategy and performance?

The CDP survey results highlight that climate change management, particularly for larger Australian listed companies, is increasingly ‘strategically driven’. ASX100 companies surveyed in this year’s CDP rank equal third globally for board and executive engagement on climate change. Ninety-four (94) per cent of ASX100 companies surveyed report board or executive level responsibility for climate change, which is in line with the Europe 300 (94 per cent) and ahead of the Global 500 (84 per cent).

This high level of Board and senior executive engagement in Australia is a positive signal as we believe that the corporate governance mechanisms companies use to manage their climate change response will contribute to the value they can deliver for investors over the long term.

From an investment perspective, while information in the CDP around companies’ current year emissions data is important because it sets a baseline to assess the emissions intensity of a company, it does not tell an investor about the ultimate carbon emissions exposure of the risks and opportunities that may arise from a well formulated and executed climate strategy.

The longer-term value drivers are more likely to be determined by the company’s ability to strategically assess carbon risks and opportunities and integrate these effectively into broader company strategy. A strong governance response to support this approach is critical.

The CDP2010 also reveals that a large majority of companies have reduced emissions over the last year, largely through energy efficiency. Eighty (80) per cent of ASX100 responding companies have anticipated or already achieved emissions reduction activities. Cost advantages of energy efficiency, coupled with a clear policy setting, in this case The Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act, are seen as key drivers behind the trend. This is an important trend in this year’s survey and is consistent with the experience of the Global 500. It reveals that where there is a clear policy setting and bottom line advantages, companies are prepared to make the necessary changes to their operations.

It is worth highlighting, however, that companies’ enthusiasm for energy efficiency is somewhat at odds with the low number of ASX100 responding companies with formal emissions reductions targets. A mere 47 per cent of ASX100 companies have set emissions reduction targets compared with 70 per cent of Global 500 companies. We believe that the low level of formal emissions targets by Australian companies likely reflects uncertainty around just what those reductions targets should be.

Overall the results of the CDP 2010 for Australia and New Zealand are encouraging. The majority of companies continue to remain transparent with their stakeholders and importantly they are assessing how these issues integrate with the broader company strategy at a Board level. How, strategically, companies can think about carbon risks and how they can adapt their businesses to a low-carbon economy will be a key contributor to the value they can drive over the long term.

Andrew Gray is head of ESG research at Goldman Sachs Australia. For further information on the Carbon Disclosure Project 2010, please visit 


Good and Bad Congestion in the US & the Biggest Solar Scheme

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Good and Bad Congestion in the US & Biggest Solar Scheme

John Norquist, who heads Congress for New Urbanism, says congestion is like cholesterol. There’s good and bad. He was in Australia last week, along with scholars and top transport and urban officials from the Obama administration, for a conference in Brisbane called City of the Future, sponsored by the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. Then there’s the biggest new solar project in the US to get excited about.

By Andrew West in Sydney Morning Herald (20 November 2010):

Popular preferences and economics are changing urban life.

JOHN NORQUIST has learnt how to stop worrying and love congestion. ”It’s like cholesterol,” says the former mayor of Milwaukee, the northern US city made famous by radical politics, beer and the ’70s sitcom Happy Days. ”There’s good congestion and bad congestion.”

Everyone knows about bad congestion. It’s the type you encounter on arterial roads – such as Parramatta Road, Victoria Road and the suburban motorways during peak hour – when you sit, white-knuckled with frustration, in stalled traffic, the car spewing greenhouse gases.

The federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates this congestion will cost Australia $20.4 billion by 2020.

”You don’t want cars sitting there, burning energy,” Norquist says. ”Nor do you want trucks going through the centre of town and not stopping to do business. There’s no economic benefit.”

Norquist – a progressive Democrat, who, after 16 years as mayor, retired to head the organisation Congress for the New Urbanism in Chicago – says motorways should be ring roads around the edges of metropolitan areas, leaving streets free to clog up occasionally with buses, walkers, cyclists, train commuters and, yes, local cars carrying people who patronise businesses.

”That’s the good congestion,” he says, ”when you generate traffic and passing trade that keeps a neighbourhood vibrant.”

Norquist was in Australia this week, along with scholars and top transport and urban officials from the Obama administration, for a conference in Brisbane called City of the Future, sponsored by the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland.

As mayor, Norquist tore up more than a kilometre of freeway through Milwaukee, liberating 10.5 hectares of prime land for mixed-use development, with an estimated value of more than $US250 million.

He told the conference that urban freeways rarely relieve congestion, and, when they do, it is at a huge cost, scarring streetscapes, razing neighbourhoods and diverting income from main streets to malls and business parks. ”Building roads so cars do not have to slow down does not work.”

The Century Freeway in Los Angeles, for example, is 20 lanes at its widest. ”But it still grinds to a halt in rush hour,” Norquist says. ”Building freeways in cities is like loosening your belt to deal with obesity.”

So the city of the future can be a dystopia of rumbling, choked motorways, main street stores abandoned for shopping centres, gated estates for the wealthy, and where blackouts from coal-fired power are increasingly common.

Or it can be a compact, if occasionally chaotic, place with lots of public transport, short streets on a grid pattern, corner shops, flats and townhouses, markets and even Middle Eastern-style souks.

The likelihood is that it will be something in between the two, as Australians gradually accept the need to live closer together, travel more by train and bus, and shop more frequently but in smaller volumes, while trying to cling to some of our suburban heritage. What is certain is that Australian and American cities will begin to look very similar, as government policies converge.

”We are the two most heavily urbanised countries in the world,” says Professor Robert Yaro, an urban planner and a co-chairman of America 2050, a coalition of groups trying to stem urban sprawl and retrofit dozens of big economic zones, or ”mega-regions”, with public transport and higher-density housing.

”Eighty per cent of the population lives in metropolitan centres – higher than just about any other place. And we actually have fairly high population densities, even though a lot of people choose to live in suburbs.

”It belies the self-image of both places: that we are rugged individualists, that we have a lot of cowboys out there, that we drive around in Range Rovers all the time.”

Australia and the US, he says, are also the only two industrialised countries experiencing rapid population growth due to a combination of immigration and a higher fertility than the rest of the developed world.

On both sides of the Pacific, housing patterns and living habits are also changing radically. The global financial crisis, and the housing crash that provoked it, has swallowed the dreams of many baby boomers, who had moved into big family homes – often leaving little by way of garden or yard – in the ”ex-urbs”, those areas beyond even the suburbs. ”The trend had been towards all those things but it’s changing,” Yaro says.

US banks have been foreclosing on the mortgages over many of those homes, which are now worth less than the amount owners originally paid for them – so-called ”underwater mortgages”.

”In these ex-urban McMansions, people have walked away and there’s just not a lot demand for them any more,” he says.

In the US and Australia there have also been big changes in household structure. According to the 2000 US Census, the number of families without children under 18 was projected to have increased by 28 per cent, from 36 million to 46 million, by this year. (The US government is now compiling this year’s census data.)

”Two major factors contribute to these declines in average household and family sizes,” the census concluded. ”Increases in households and families with no children under 18, and increases in persons living alone.”

It’s a similar story in Australia. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has found ”social trends, such as the move towards smaller households, and an ageing population will continue to drive demand for new housing and will contribute to keeping demand high”.

”Thirty, forty years ago, the average household had mum and dad and two kids and it looked like a TV sitcom,” Yaro says. ”The standard approach to life in New York, for example, used to be that you would be young and hip and single and you’d live in Manhattan, hang around the bars, get married and move to the ‘burbs. But it’s not happening any more.

”The millennials [the generation born between 1980 and 1995] don’t want any part of what their parents wanted and they’re choosing to be in urban settings. They want the bright lights and the ability to walk everywhere. They would rather not sit in the middle of nowhere surrounded by an acre of lawn.”

But the McMansions, even though abandoned across much of America, still stand.

In another example of converging policy between the US and Australia, these houses could be transformed into multi-unit dwellings, Yaro says. In a recent edition of the design magazine Take 7, the Sydney architect Rod Simpson, who has worked on the NSW government’s metropolitan strategy, suggested turning typical four- and five-bedroom two-storey houses into two flats.

”It’s really easy,” Yaro agrees, ”because a lot of these places could become the retirement homes for ageing boomers. In the US, they often have five bedrooms, six baths, industrial-strength kitchens, four-car garages, some even elevators.

”They could become shared housing, with several unrelated people in their 70s and 80s living in a place, sometimes with assistance.”

Polly Trottenberg, the Assistant Secretary for Transport in the Obama administration, who also attended the conference, says US and Australian governments are in lockstep in their policies to support an expansion of public transport. Just as Sydney and the Gold Coast are extending or building light rail, US cities such as Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Denver – all of them traditionally car-based and most conservative in their politics – are adding more lines to their streetcar networks.

As the Gillard government examines plans for a high-speed rail line between Newcastle and Melbourne, via Sydney and Canberra, the Obama administration is funding initial work on nine high-speed intercity rail systems in America.

”Peoples’ preferences are changing,” Trottenberg insists. ”We are not forcing it.”

Accommodating, rather than coercing, change in commuting and living styles is an ethos vital to the city of the future, says Norquist, the former Milwaukee mayor.

US anti-public transport groups, often funded by the oil and car industries, and Australian anti-medium density groups, usually clustered in wealthy suburbs, say the new urbanist movement is trying to impose a new way of life. But economics – including oil prices forecast by the US Energy Department to rise 5 per cent a year for the next 10 years – will do part of the job. Changing preferences will do the rest.

Other than providing good public transport and changing building codes to allow more mixed residential, retail and business development – typically a building with shops on the ground floor, flats above, and a station below – the movement is ”anti-utopian”, Norquist says.

”Traditionally, government intrusion has been counterproductive and anti-urban in nature, pushing highway financing schemes and lending policies that discriminate against traditional main street developments that mix stores and apartments.”

The city of the future, Norquist, Yaro and Trottenberg say, will still have garden suburbs and highways but also more choice for those wanting busier, more compact, less car-dependent neighbourhoods.

Source: and

By Jim Efstathiou Jr. for Bloomberg (22 October 2010):

Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, talks about the outlook for the alternative-energy industry. He talks with Carol Massar on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” Bloomberg’s Matt Miller also speaks.

The world’s largest power plant using heat from the sun to generate electricity, a planned $6 billion project in California, won approval from U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Solar Millennium LLC of Oakland, California, agreed to fund conservation measures protecting the desert tortoise and Mojave fringe-toed lizard in return for permission to build the Blythe Solar Power Project on public land, the Interior Department said today. Blythe will use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy rather than solar panels that convert light directly into electricity.

“It’s one of those marquee projects that I’m very proud of,” Salazar said in an interview before announcing the sixth and largest solar project for U.S. land this month. “We’ll demonstrate to the world that we can have large-scale solar projects here in the United States and that they are very much a real part of the energy portfolio for the country.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council supports the project, most of which is near industrial and agricultural lands appropriate for solar development, the New York-based group said in a statement. NRDC has called on Salazar to develop national guidelines for renewable-energy development on public lands.

“The Blythe project and others approved by Interior demonstrate the need for the agency to improve the permitting process,” Johanna Wald, NRDC’s senior attorney, said in a statement. “By making future renewable-energy projects smart from the start, we can better ensure their biggest impact is on our energy supply, not other natural resources.”

‘Open For Business’

Salazar approved on Oct. 5 projects in California proposed by Chevron Corp. and Tessera Solar, a unit of the closely held, Dublin-based utility NTR Plc. Before today’s announcement, four solar facilities on public lands in California and a project in Nevada with capacity to generate a total of 1,800 megawatts of electricity won approval this month. A megawatt is enough to power about 800 average U.S. homes, according to the Energy Department.

Blythe Solar will cover 7,025 acres on a site 216 miles (348 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, producing as many as 1,000 megawatts, the Interior Department said. The facility will use rows of parabolic mirrors to focus the sun’s energy onto tubes that carry heated oil to a boiler, which sends steam to a turbine.

“We’re open for business with respect to renewable energy on public lands,” Salazar said in the Oct. 22 interview.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package passed by Congress, developers of renewable-energy projects can seek grants for 30 percent of their costs in lieu of an investment tax credit if construction begins by the end of this year.

November Construction

Construction may begin in November, meeting a deadline for government grants, said Bill Keegan, a spokesman for the project, who said it will be valued at $6 billion. Backers have applied for loan guarantees from the Energy Department.

To mitigate potential environmental impacts, Solar Millennium must provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of habitat supporting the desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and fringe-toed lizard. The California Energy Commission, which regulates solar-thermal projects that generate at least 50 megawatts, approved Blythe on Sept. 15.

“There has been extensive environmental review and analysis of this project,” Salazar said today on a conference call with reporters. “Indeed that’s why organizations such as NRDC and a whole host of others are endorsing this project.”

Desert Tortoises

Four desert tortoises were found on the project site, Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, the Interior unit that manages public lands, said on today’s call. The tortoises will be removed to help reduce environmental impacts.

Solar Millennium LLC is a unit of Solar Trust of America, a venture of Erlangen, Germany-based Solar Millennium AG, a maker of parabolic solar-power equipment, and Ferrostaal AG, an Essen, Germany-based engineering company.

Southern California Edison Co., the utility owned by Edison International, has a 20-year agreement to buy all output from the project, and will build a 230-kilovolt transmission line to connect Blythe to a substation at the Colorado River, which separates California and Arizona.

Blythe will create 1,066 jobs at the peak of construction and 295 permanent jobs, the Interior Department said.


Emissions & Temperatures Rise as Leaders Meet in Mexico

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Emissions & Temperatures Rise as Leaders Meet in Mexico

In 2009, the overall amount of global fossil fuel emissions was still the second highest in human history, at 30.8bn tons, just below the all-time high of 2008. In 2010 the emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to rise again, pushing it to record levels. The results of the study by the Global Carbon Project will be used to put pressure on environment ministers meeting in Cancun, Mexico this month for the latest UN meeting to come to a global agreement on cutting emissions. Will Cancun achieve more than Copenhagen?

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent in The Telegraph – UK (21 November 2010):

The research, led by the University of Exeter and involving the University of East Anglia, found that growth in CO2 levels fell in 2009, though by less than expected, because of the economic recession.

However despite continuing problems in the economy in 2010 global emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will increase by three per cent, according to the annual survey.

The United Nations (UN) has been trying to reduce emissions by asking countries to switch to low carbon energy like nuclear or wind and improve energy efficiency.

In the developed world, where there is the money and infrastructure to switch to new technologies and access to fossil fuels is running out anyway, this has largely been successful.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, found UK emissions were 8.6 per cent lower in 2009 than in 2008. Similar figures apply to USA, Japan, France, Germany, and most other industrialised nations.

Emissions from deforestation in tropical countries is also down because of international efforts to stop illegal logging.

However the massive growth of developing countries mean that more fossils are being burned than ever before. CO2 emissions from China, where there is also a large amount of coal, increased by 8 per cent in 2009.

This meant that the drop in emissions was much smaller in 2009 than the 2.8 per cent originally expected. Also the overall amount of global fossil fuel emissions was still the second highest in human history, at 30.8bn tons, just below the all-time high of 2008.

In 2010 the emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to rise again, pushing the amount of CO2 produced by mankind to record levels.

The rise is largely because of the massive increase in the burning of oil and coal in countries like China and India as the population grows and people demand more electricity and goods.

“Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – the main contributor to global warming – show no sign of abating and may reach record levels in 2010,” the study stated.

Concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already more than 387 ppm (parts per million) and is expected to go up further.

Scientists believe that carbon dioxide is trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm in a process known as the ‘greenhouse effect’. It is feared that if concentrations increase further global temperature rise will be pushed beyond 3.8F (2C), causing floods and droughts across the world.

The results of the study by the Global Carbon Project will be used to put pressure on environment ministers meeting in Cancun, Mexico this month for the latest UN meeting to come to a global agreement on cutting emissions.

Scientists agree that global emissions need to halve by 2050 in order to keep temperature rise below 2C.


Associated Press (22 November 2010):

The last time the world warmed, 120,000 years ago, the Cancun coastline was swamped by a 7-foot (2.1-meter) rise in sea level in a few decades. A week from now at that Mexican resort, frustrated negotiators will try again to head off a new global deluge.

The disappointment of Copenhagen — the failure of the annual U.N. conference to produce a climate agreement last year in the Danish capital — has raised doubts about whether the long-running, 194-nation talks can ever agree on a legally binding treaty for reining in global warming.

“It’s clear after Copenhagen that the U.N. process is ‘on probation,’” acknowledged Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran observer and supporter of the process.

Even the Mexican hosts of the Nov. 29-Dec. 10 U.N. conference question whether “it is the best way to work — with 194 countries,” as Mexico’s environment secretary, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, put it.

“We must be really open and sincere. Do we need to make an evolution to a new methodology?” Elvira asked in an Associated Press interview.

The core failure has been in finding a consensus formula for mandatory reductions in countries’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, byproducts of power plants, other industries, agriculture and automobiles.

For 13 years, the United States has refused to join the rest of the industrialized world in the Kyoto Protocol, a binding pact to curb fossil-fuel emissions by modest amounts. More recently, as China, India and other emerging economies exempted from the 1997 Kyoto pact have sharply increased emissions, they have rejected calls by the U.S. and others to commit by treaty to restraints.

No one expects Cancun to resolve that standoff. Instead, delegates will focus on climate financial aid, deforestation and other secondary “building blocks” to try to revive momentum toward an umbrella deal at next year’s conference in South Africa or at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 2012.

“We expect a positive attitude and a restoration of confidence in the multilateral system at Cancun,” said Grenada’s U.N. ambassador, Dessima Williams, chair of an alliance of island nations already facing early impacts of climate change.

While the global talks plod along, those impacts seem to be accelerating.

The world’s warming oceans, for example, are rising at twice the 20th century’s average rate, expanding from the heat and the runoff of melting land ice, says the Geneva-based World Climate Research Program. More ice is melting in Greenland and Antarctica than earlier thought, worried scientists report. Authoritative projections of 2007 — that seas might rise by up to 0.59 meters (1.94 feet) by 2100 — now appear too conservative.

The Yucatan peninsula, where the upcoming talks will take place, once experienced how quickly warming can remake coastlines. Researchers studying fossilized reefs near Cancun report that waters rose at least two meters (6.6 feet) in as little as 50 years during the last natural warming period between ice ages.

Temperatures then, 120 millennia ago, were only 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today. In their 2007 assessment, the U.N. network of climate scientists projected temperatures will rise this century by up to 6.4 degrees C (11.5 degrees F), depending on whether and how much emissions are rolled back.

The U.N. network — the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — recommended emissions be cut by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels. They already rose 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) in the 20th century.

In a nonbinding “Copenhagen Accord” from the 2009 conference, industrialized nations pledged reductions of only 18 percent overall, analysts say. The U.S. pledged a 3 percent reduction. China and other developing nations said they would work to rein in emissions growth.

Only a binding treaty with deep reductions can ensure the world will avoid the worst environmental upheavals of climate change, scientists and conservationists say. But the takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by Republicans, many of whom dismiss strong scientific evidence of human-caused warming, all but rules out U.S. action for at least two years.

Instead, the Cancun negotiators hope at least for agreement on a “green fund” to disburse aid that developed countries promised at Copenhagen — $100 billion a year by 2020 — for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate by building seawalls and shifting farming patterns, for example, and to install clean energy sources.

The developing world hopes, too, for better terms for transferring patented green technology from richer nations. In a third area, delegates aim to make progress on the complex issue of compensating poorer nations for protecting their forests, key to the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

Parallel to the U.N. talks, often with U.S. leadership, governments have been making limited, voluntary side deals to chip away at emissions. That’s “laudable and helpful,” Grenada’s Williams said, but “we have to go beyond that, to take collective action.”

Encroaching seas already are contaminating drinking water and damaging housing in low-lying islands, she said. “It is overwhelming our capacity to stay alive.”


GE Goes Green with EVs & Melbourne Stages Green Zone Drive

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

GE Goes Green with EVs & Melbourne Stages Green Zone Drive

“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and chief executive., who said the company will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. Meanwhile, the world-first Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne last month has been hailed as an overwhelming success.

In The Weekend Australian (13-14 November 2010):

GE will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, converting at least half of one of the world’s biggest vehicle fleets to mostly electric.

“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and chief executive.

He said electric vehicles could deliver up to $US500 million in revenue for GE in the next three years through sales of its WattStation elecric-car recharger and other products.

The company will initially buy 12,000 Chevrolet Volts, made by General Motors, starting in next year.

GE said it will then add other electric vehicles to its fleet as other car makers expand their offerings.

The company said it is in a “strong position to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets.”

GE plans to buy 1000 Volts next year and 2000 to 3000 per year after that through 2015, GM said.

The purchases will comprise a significant portion of GM’s early Volt production. The car maker has said it planned to build 10,000 Volts in 2011.

A GM spokesman declined to say if the company now intends to build more Volts, but signalled that may be the case.

The GE purchase “won’t reduce the number of Volts available to the public”, he said.

GM has said it will start delivering the Volt to retail customers by the year’s end.

It is designed to travel 40km to 80km on an initial charge before a petrol-powered generator kicks in and makes electricity to drive the wheels. The car has a total range of about 480km.

GE’s announcement leaves room for the conglomerate to buy the 160km range Leaf electric car from Nissan as well as the Ford’s Focus electric expected in 2011 and Toyota’s RAV4 electric, due in 2012.

GE’s plan would be the largest purchase of electric vehicles in North America so far as the company seeks to jump-start an industry from which it could benefit.

EVs are a growing interest for GE, which is trying to shrink its finance division to 30 per cent of its profit and expand its industrial divisions, particularly in clean technologies.

The company has said it will invest $US10 billion in the next five years in products such as wind turbines, vehicle batteries and electricity-grid technology.

GE’s purchase could help car makers such as Nissan, Ford and GM more quickly attain the higher volumes needed to lower the cost of producing electric cars — a linchpin in wider adoption of the technology, said Sam Ori, director of policy for the Electrification Coalition, an organisation of companies that is promoting electric vehicles.

Nissan has the capacity to build 50,000 Leafs each of the next two years. That will rise to 150,000 in 2013 when a new plant is finished in Tennessee.

All of the other companies making electric vehicles are pegging much lower production volumes.

Other US fleet owners have made smaller commitments.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to buy 500 Leafs and 100 electric cars from Coda Automotive.

Frito-Lay said it will buy 176 Smith Electric Vehicles delivery trucks and Johnson Controls, which makes electric-car batteries, plans to buy 20 electric Fords.

But GE’s purchase is dwarfed by the commitment of start-up Better Place – a partner of GE – to buy 100,000 of Renault’s Fluence Ze electric cars for Israel and Denmark.

Better Place plans to do battery swapping for drivers who have expended their charge.

GE, which makes 30 per cent of the world’s power-generation equipment, estimates it could make US10c for every $US1 of electric vehicles sold.

To further that it has made a number of investments and launched partnerships with companies backing electric cars.

GE plans to work with Better Place to develop standards, finance batteries and help fleet- electrification programs.

It has a 10 per cent stake in US-based lithium-ion battery maker A123Systems after investing $US70m.

The company has said it would build, with government assistance, a $US100m plant near Albany, New York, to make batteries for hybrid locomotives and for use in boats, mining trucks and cars.

GE also is investing $US100m to build a research and manufacturing facility outside Detroit to focuses on things like wind turbines and electric-vehicle technology.


27 October 2010

World-first Green Zone Drive Event Hailed a Success.

The world-first Green Zone Drive held in Melbourne in early October has been hailed as an overwhelming success by organisers.

Far in excess of 1000 test-drives of low emission vehicles were completed during the unique, inaugural public awareness event, which took place in Docklands.

The aim was to offer Melburnians a hands-on opportunity to sample a wide array of vehicles and technologies, all of which were existing, ready-to-purchase low emission solutions to their mobility needs.

The website attracted more than 35,000 site views from close to 10,000 unique visitors, keen to find out more about the event as well as book test drives.

The most popular vehicles drivers sought to try were the unique Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the first commercially available zero-emission car offered by a mainstream manufacturer in Australia, and the Toyota Hybrids, including the made-in- Melbourne Hybrid Camry.

In fact, the Green Zone Drive event provided the public with the very first opportunity to drive the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, as well as sample the locally produced Blade Electron Mark V electric vehicle, in real world situations.

The full range of showroom-ready low emission technologies was on offer, from high efficiency petrol and high torque diesel, through to petrol hybrids and full electric vehicles. The range of vehicles on offer included all sizes, from small-to medium vehicles such as Hyundai i20 to luxury cars such as the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW X1, and people movers such as the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso.

Simon Mikedis, RACV Manager Environmental Programs, commented on the event’s success in drawing attention to the practicality and availability of low emission vehicles. He particularly emphasised the contribution they can make to lowering our overall emissions and reducing fuel costs.

“For a long time, RACV has provided advice on greener motoring to its members and the general public. It is fantastic to be able to provide this advice in a tangible manner with Green Zone. The Green Zone Drive was a way to raise awareness in Melbourne of the real-world possibilities that low emission vehicles provide.

“We are pleased to see that so many people checked out the website to seek information, as well as took the time to come along to view our technology display and take a test drive.

“The reactions were uniformly positive. Some testers said they had not realised that such a wide range of low emission vehicles were already on sale in Australia.

“A very high number of test drivers were RACV members, which reinforces the view that our members are not just keen to know more about low emission vehicles, they are ready to give them a go.

“Interestingly, the age split of testers was pretty uniform, with almost as many young drivers as older ones taking part. This indicates a broad level of desire to experience low emission vehicles across the car driving public.

“The 21 test vehicles from 10 manufactures covered a total of 3,720km during the eight day public trial. Emissions from the test were fully offset with thanks to Climate Positive,” Simon said.

“We hope the Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne has prompted more car buyers to seriously consider specifying a low-emission vehicle for their next new car,” said Henry O’Clery, Director of the Low Emission Vehicle Automotive Partnership, and organiser of the Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne. “In this way we will be making a meaningful contribution to the reduction in CO2 emissions.”

The Victorian Transport Minister, The Hon. Tim Pallas M.P., whose department actively supported the event – along with the RACV and EPA Victoria – formally opened the event on 1st October, and was welcomed by John Isaac, President and Chairman of the Board of the RACV.

Partners in producing the event were the Australian Conservation Foundation, the 50BY50 Global Fuel Economy Initiative, and Greenwheels; the joint initiative of Future Climate Australia, RACV and EPA Victoria, which provides an on-line guide to low emission passenger vehicles sold in Australia (

The event also benefited from the commercial support of sponsors Shell, Michelin, Better Place and Murcotts.

Test vehicles on offer were: (in alphabetical order) Audi A4 and A5 Sportback; Blade Electron Mk V; BMW X1 and 3 Series Sedan; Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and C5 Sedan; Ford Fiesta ECOnetic and Mondeo Zetec; Hyundai i20 and Santa Fe; MINI Cooper Diesel; Mitsubishi ASX and i-MiEV; Toyota Hybrid Camry and Prius; and the Volvo C30 DRIVe.


Sought after Green Label in Singapore & Pixel Building in Melbourne

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

Sought after Green Label in Singapore & Grocon’s Pixel Building in Melbourne

An eco label from the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has become so sought-after here and around the world, that the non-profit organisation is expanding its scope and upgrading it.When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Melbourne she raved about the Pixel building as an example for the US and Australia to follow to produce greener, more sustainable & energy efficient  buildings.

Victoria Vaughan in Straits Times (5 November 2010):

An eco label from the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has become so sought-after here and around the world, that the non-profit organisation is expanding its scope and upgrading it.

SEC’s Green Label, which certifies companies whose products – ranging from stationery to shaving foam – meet certain international eco-friendly standards, will have 21 more categories added to its current 45.

By September next year, it will include products such as refrigerators, air-conditioners and clothes dryers.

Each accreditation will also come with additional information, like water consumption, carbon footprint and pollutants generated during manufacture.

Companies from 13 countries, such as Germany, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, have sought the Singapore Green Label for their products, with at least 18 more products accredited compared to last year.

All in, the council saw a jump in 80 more products certified compared to last year. The increase comes mainly from companies that produce panel boards, paints and coating and products made from at least 50 per cent recycled content such as glass and plastics.

SEC’s chief executive, Mr Howard Shaw, said: ‘There is an atmosphere of greater demand for third-party verification. Since environmental awareness has risen, everyone has tried to jump on the bandwagon.’

Since the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme began in 1992, 1,655 products from 526 companies here and overseas have obtained the stamp of approval.

It has become increasingly important for exporters such as South Korea and Taiwan to receive such certification as buyers in areas like the United States and Europe are demanding them.

Mr Shaw said Singapore’s reputation for good governance is part of the reason the label is growing in popularity.

There are about 30 eco-labelling schemes globally.

SEC predicts it will accredit 2,500 or more products a year based on the current uptake.

The council will also increase its current charges, which range from $300 to $1,000, to a flat fee of $1,005 from Dec 1. The label needs to be renewed each year.

Other accreditation schemes, like those in Australia and South Korea, cost $3,000.

SEC hopes the additional information on the label will also help with calculating payments for a carbon tax or trading scheme if Singapore takes either route.

‘Over time, I think consumers have become more discerning and they demand far more information. The new label will look more like a report card,’ he added.


US Secretary of State visits Grocon’s Pixel Building in Melbourne:

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you all to Grocon’s carbon neutral Pixel Building, and thank you very much for your attendance. My name is Daniel Grollo, and I am the CEO of Grocon.

Grocon is the development and construction company that has created Pixel, the building we stand in today. As we are all aware, the issue of global warming is one of international importance. And ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint and environmental footprint, as a human race, are under constant investigation with growing momentum. Pixel is a building of which we are very proud at Grocon. It is officially the greenest building in Australia, having received the highest-ever rating from the National Green Building Council, and is the only carbon neutral building of its type in the world.

Further, the building is water-balanced. That is, it requires connection to water only for back-up purposes. That is because it is so efficient with every drop of rainfall being harvested right here on the roof, and being then used three times within the building.

Pixel is also currently being rated by the U.S. LEED and UK BREEAM systems. And with the scores that we are targeting under those systems, we believe Pixel will be confirmed as being at the forefront of sustainable development worldwide. Pixel contains all the latest green technology, like the vertical access wind turbines on the roof, the fixed and tracking solar panels for power, daylight glare control through the colorful sunshades, and the green roof upstairs.

Pixel will produce more energy than it uses, and over time will pay back all of the carbon used during its construction. In creating this pilot project, we have sought to identify best of type technology from around the world in an innovative and sustainable way. We believe Pixel’s greatest opportunity lies in being able to share the solutions illustrated here to help solve a global problem.

Pixel shows that solutions are available today. All that is needed is to the will to make it happen. I believe the announcements of the U.S. and Australian Governments today will demonstrate that both countries do have the will and leadership required.

Hillary Clinton:

Daniel Grollo, thank you for having us at this amazing example of what can be done when contractors, developers, construction companies, owners get together and decide to make the investment that will pay off in clean energy — in this case, zero carbon buildings.

I also want to acknowledge Linda Wilson, the acting executive director of the Australian Fulbright Commission, Nick Otter, the CEO of Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, and Wayne Kent, district general manager of Honeywell.

I have had an extraordinary trip through Asia and — over the last two weeks. I don’t think there is a more important event that I have participated in than this one, to speak about our efforts on climate change and clean technology at a building that represents the future. This building, thanks to Grocon’s commitment, brought together your country’s most creative minds to create a building with ingenious energy-saving features. It puts energy back into the power grid from its wind turbines and its solar panels. It has a living roof, that we just saw, that cuts cooling costs. It uses mainly rain water and filters its own waste water through beds of reeds to reduce the run-off it sends into the sewers.

Now, I am sure that many Australians — and, frankly, Americans and others — will be studying the Pixel Building example. Certainly the State Department will want to send our experts to delve into greater specificity with you, because we are committed to building environmentally sustainable embassies all over the world. So this sets an example.

Unfortunately, it is unique. And in the world we are trying to create, we want it to be typical, standard, routine that buildings do what this one does, in terms of efficiency. We really have very little time to make our buildings, which are massive users of inefficient greenhouse gas produced energy, more in line of what we are seeking. We need innovations like the ones we see here to generate renewable energy and manufacture goods without polluting our air and water. And these tools need to be affordable and available in every country.

So, we need to spark a global, clean tech industry. And that will help our economies grow by creating tens of thousands of new jobs, and give us viable alternatives to fossil fuels, and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. I think that the United States and Australia, working together, can be pioneers of this movement. And I am excited that we are joining forces, taking our sophisticated research and energy abilities, and putting them together for this purpose.

We each have brilliant scientists working on problems like capturing carbon, increasing food production, developing more efficient technologies. And I think both the people of Australia and America don’t want to see more bickering about what should be done to reduce carbon emissions. They want to see action. And the prime minister and I are here today to say we are committed to action.


IT & Data Centres Supreme: Dell is Number One Green Company

Posted by admin on November 25, 2010
Posted under Express 131

IT & Data Centres Supreme: Dell is Number One Green Company

Based on their strong Environmental Impact, plus Reputation score, and excellent Green Policies, Dell was the No. 1 US company in NEWSWEEK’s 2010 Green Rankings. Others in the top ten were Nike, IBM, Intel, Adobe, Yahoo, Applied Materials, Sprint Nextel, Johnson & Johnson, & Hewlett Packard. Meanwhile Queensland’s Strategic Directions a its Partnership with AFCOM®, the world’s leading data centre association. 

By David Bicknell for ComputerWeekly (27 October 2010):

My previous post listed the Top 5 rankings both in the US and globally from Newsweek’s research. Here are Newsweek’s profiles of its Top 10 greenest US companies.

No 10. Nike

Nike stands out for its particularly strong commitment to handling environmental issues in its supply chain. The company has a number of programs in place for evaluating and improving the environmental footprint of its suppliers, including checks on chemical toxicity, water use, and carbon emissions. Nike is also progressing toward carbon neutrality itself and aims to achieve it for company-owned facilities and business travel by 2015. The company has worked to improve its own environmental performance through increased efficiency and use of renewable energy. For instance, it has reduced energy use substantially at some of its facilities by installing energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems, and its headquarters in Belgium and the Netherlands currently run on 100 percent renewable energy (the Belgium facility actually produces more energy than it uses). Nike is also investing in new teleconferencing equipment to cut down on business travel. Nike had a Reputation Survey score of 97.39 (based on a survey of academics, sustainability experts, and CEOs).

No 9. Yahoo

Yahoo. This Internet giant encourages its 600 million worldwide users to be environmentally aware. Its Yahoo Green site is the top destination on the Internet for green lifestyle tips. The company has also supported and worked on related initiatives, including its “Be a Better Planet” program and its annual Earth Day Web site. Yahoo is also a leader in improving the efficiency of its data centres. Its efforts include purchasing energy from renewable sources, such as hydroelectric facilities, and locating new data centres in cooler climates to reduce AC needs. Its new data centre in Lockport, N.Y., which monitors the Yahoo infrastructure, consumes 40 percent less energy and uses 95 percent less water than conventional data centres. The water saved is enough to provide drinking water for 200,000 people for a year.

No 8. Applied Materials

This supplier of manufacturing systems and services to the global semiconductor industry made great strides in reducing CO2 emissions and water use last year, cutting each by 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively, compared to 2006 levels. Both those reductions exceeded Applied Materials’ greening goals, but Applied also acknowledges 2009 was an “unusual” year and says it is reviewing internal data to try to maintain and improve on those numbers. The company also has programs for reducing the hazardous waste it generates and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) it emits as part of its manufacturing. It has also made significant strides in reducing solid waste sent to landfills by nearly 90 percent.

No 7. Adobe.

Three areas on which Adobe has focused are their office building operations, their waste management program, and their product packaging. The company currently has four buildings that are LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council at the Platinum (highest) level, making Adobe a world leader in this area. Employees at the company’s headquarters in San Jose, Calif., also actively recycle and compost, diverting up to 97 percent of the site’s solid waste from landfill. Lastly, Adobe launched an environmentally sensitive redesign of its software packaging based on an evaluation of its packaging materials, production, use, and disposal. The firm’s overall Green Rankings green score came in at 94.15.

No 6. Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel was the first U.S.-based wireless provider to announce a target for reducing its absolute greenhouse-gas emissions. The goal: reduce emissions by 15 percent between 2007 and 2017 by improving energy efficiency within its networks, and by using renewable energy sources, such as hydrogen fuel cells, to replace backup generators at its cell towers. The company boasts a portfolio of three environmentally friendly phones, which is unusual in the industry. It also has a well-known product-recycling program in which customers can return their old cell phones, batteries, and accessories, regardless of brand, to Sprint for free using a postage-paid label. In some cases, Sprint will even buy back old equipment. Their aim is to recycle 99 percent of products; as of 2009 they were recycling nearly half.

No 5. Intel

Intel’s efforts to reduce waste and to mitigate its use and release of toxics are notable. It has high recycling rates for both hazardous and non-hazardous waste and is working to find suitable alternatives for toxic components in its products. Intel also has a strong commitment to energy efficiency. The company ties a portion of its employees’ compensation to reaching environmental goals, and its Intel Core and Atom chips are among its greenest products. The corporation has been the Environmental Protection Agency’s largest green power purchaser among Fortune 500 companies for the past three years, with almost half its U.S. energy coming from renewable sources. NEWSWEEK’s Rankings gave them an environmental impact score of 95.74.

No 4. Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson stands out among its competitors for its climate-change policies, with clear goals and deadlines for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the reduction of baseline 1990 CO2 emission levels by 7 percent by 2010—, goal the company surpassed with a 16 percent absolute reduction. Between 2005 and 2009, the company also reduced nonhazardous waste by 32 percent and hazardous waste by 32 percent, exceeding its goal of 10 percent. Similar goals in paper, packaging, and energy efficiency have been met or improved on through steps like the company’s largest installation of solar panels at a New Jersey site. As a result, a comprehensive assessment of their environmental initiatives earned them a Green Policies score of 98.86 in our rankings.

No 3. IBM.

This global technology manufacturer has a strong program for reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and also offers products and consulting services to help clients make their businesses greener. IBM set out in the 1990s to reduce its own consumption of electricity and water, and between 1990 and 2000 cut its energy use by 5.1 billion kilowatt hours, enough to power a medium-size town. The company’s newest venture, its Sustainability Management System technology, aims to help clients operate their commercial buildings more efficiently. The product was a home-grown solution, allowing an IBM semiconductor factory in Burlington, Vt., to cut water usage (a key ingredient in chip-making) by 30 percent. The company has also participated in a pilot program to reduce Stockholm’s traffic congestion, which resulted in a 14 percent drop in emissions from road traffic in the inner city. IBM is working with London, Singapore, and Brisbane to address their traffic-management and congestion challenges. For its overall excellent scores, IBM ranked No. 3 on the U.S. list and No. 1 on the Global ranking.

No 2. Hewlett Packard

HP has long been an industry leader in environmental issues. The company dates its commitment to the philosophy of its founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, who believed technology can improve society. One of its most notable programs aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and use renewable energy. In 2008, HP began reporting greenhouse gases associated with its supply chain, making it the first major tech company to do so. It is also working to reduce the energy use of its products. If all the printers, PCs, and servers shipped in 2005 (all models, all brands, globally) were recycled and replaced with new HP energy-efficient models, the company estimates customers could save more than $10.4 billion in energy costs and avoid the release of more than 40 million metric tons of CO2 in the first year. That’s equivalent to shutting down 10 coal plants for an entire year. In addition to a strong Environmental Impact Score (90.60), the company did very well in our Reputation Score, making it a close second to Dell.

No 1. Dell

Dell has built its sustainability strategy over the years by setting a series of ambitious goals, several of which it has already met. In 2008, the company announced it would reduce its total emissions by 40 percent by 2015. It is well on the way to achieving that goal. Many of Dell’s efforts are also focused on reducing the environmental impact of its products at all stages of their life cycles, from design to disposal. The company’s laptops and desktops are now built to use 25 percent less energy than comparable systems made in 2005. That effort, among others, has saved its customers more than $5 billion in energy costs over the past few years. The company has also used 7.2 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic to build new computers–the equivalent of recycling 263 million water bottles. Dell also has one of the tech industry’s most comprehensive recycling programs. The company takes back and recycles any of its products for free, and will also take back competitors’ products at no cost with the purchase of new Dell computers or peripherals. Consumers can also mail back old equipment, Dell will pick up items at their homes, or they can drop them off at more than 2,000 Goodwill or 1,500 Staples locations. Based on their strong Environmental Impact score, Reputation score, and excellent Green Policies score, Dell was the No. 1 company in NEWSWEEK’s 2010 Green Rankings.



Strategic Directions announces Partnership with AFCOM®, the world’s leading data centre association 

Strategic Directions Group joins a small, elite group of international Companies as a Strategic Partner with AFCOM, providing thought leadership, education and solutions to the data centre industry.

As a leading designer and planner of best practice data centre facilities, Strategic Directions is committed to the development of alternate energy options and has undertaken significant research into the use of energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, gas, geothermal and hydro.  The company will share its knowledge and findings with the wider data centre community, given the growing financial and social implications of “data centre greening” around the world.

The partnership follows the appointment of Strategic Directions Director Mike Andrea to AFCOM’s Data Centre Institute Board of Directors earlier this year.

Strategic Directions will help with the establishment of AFCOM Chapters throughout the Asia Pacific Region, by highlighting the strong End-User focus and the vendor independent nature of the international AFCOM Forum.


The Strategic Directions Group are ICT Master Planners and Strategists, providing vendor independent strategic advice to Federal, State, and Local Government Agencies and ASX Companies.

The Company maintains Practices dedicated to ICT Strategy, Telecommunications and Networking, Project Governance, and Data Centre design and planning.

Strategic Directions were the ICT Master Planners for Greater Springfield, outside Brisbane, Queensland, Australia..



AFCOM is a leading association supporting the educational and professional development needs of data centre professionals around the globe. Established in 1980, AFCOM currently boasts more than 4,000 members and 40 chapters worldwide, and provides data centre professionals with unique networking opportunities and educational forums and resources through its annual Data Centre World Conferences, published magazines, regional chapters, research and hotline services, and industry alliances.