Archive for the ‘Express 178’ Category

Australia Puts Private Sector in the Sustainability & Energy Driving Seat

Posted by Ken on November 6, 2012
Posted under Express 178

To achieve national renewable energy targets, it should remain untouched by politics, according to Australia’s Climate Change Authority. Its report recommends that Australia stand firm on its target as any reworking will impact investor confidence in the renewable energy industry and affect its development in the long run. The sustainable industry in Australia also received another boost with the appointment of Ben Waters, GE’s Director of Ecomagination, as the chair of Sustainable Business Australia, bringing a wealth of experience in innovative business practices and driving sustainable development. Read more

Aussies Try Clean Energy Policy Without Politics

By Pete Danko in Earth Techling:

Like the U.K., Australia is trying to insulate questions regarding climate change and energy policy from politics — emphasis on trying — and that could help save the country’s renewable energy target. It’s an approach the United States might want to consider.

The expert Climate Change Authority, analogous to the U.K.’s independent statutory body the Committee on Climate Change, released a draft paper late last week recommending Australia stand firm on its 2020 target, commonly referred to as 20 percent renewables, in order to maintain investor confidence in the clean energy sector.

Some politicians and business and energy interests in Australia have been pushing for a pullback on the target – which is actually a gigawatt-hour amount – saying that Australians were headed for skyrocketing power bills because the incentives that underpin the target will actually push Australia well beyond 20 percent renewables, mainly because the country is projected to use much less electricity than had been previously forecast.

In its paper, the CCA agreed that renewable energy generation could very well end up surging past 20 percent; it estimated that with current policies in place Australia will be getting about 25 percent of electricity supply from renewables in 2020. But the committee said ratepayers would gain little if the target were reworked:

The Authority considers that the projected resource cost savings to society overall that might be achieved by reducing the target would not be large enough to offset the damage to investor confidence that such a change could entail.

In terms of the impacts on electricity prices paid by energy users, taking into account both the cost of certificates and the decrease in wholesale electricity prices, modelling to date suggests that the difference between the scenarios is likely to be small, and the net present value of the impact on average household bills between now and 2030 would not be significant.

And perhaps more importantly, the committee feared the damage a shift in policy might do to investment in clean energy:

The Australian electricity market is already facing considerable uncertainty, particularly in relation to the future of the carbon price. The Authority is concerned that adding to these uncertainties by recommending major changes to current policy settings at this time could increase risk premiums required by lenders and investors in renewable energy, and may affect perceptions of risk for investors in clean technologies more broadly.

This point is particularly interesting from an American perspective; with energy and climate change policy highly politicized, governments – the federal government, and state governments as well – are finding it increasingly difficult to establish or maintain long-term policies that investors, entrepreneurs and the scientific community can act on. Witness the debate about the wind energy production tax credit; it’s due to expire in two months. Will it? Nobody knows. A lame duck Congress might rescue it. Or it might not. Meanwhile, the industry is stalled and workers are being laid off.

Ultimately, Australia’s government will make the decision on climate and energy policy, but with an independent body providing ballast in the roiling waters of debate, the likelihood of stable, considered and ultimately more effective long-term policy decision-making does seem to be enhanced.

The CCA’s 185-page discussion paper “Renewable Energy Target Review,” is available online as a PDF.



SBA (6 November 2012):


Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) today announced it had appointed Ben Waters, GE’s Director of Ecomagination for Australia and New Zealand, as its Chair of Directors.  The appointment follows Mr Waters’ admission to the SBA Board as a non-executive Director in December 2011.

Mr Waters said he was pleased to accept the position and was looking forward to working closely with the SBA Board to further promote sustainability as good business practice.

“I am honoured to take on this role with the SBA Board and glad to be able to support and work more closely as Chair with SBA’s CEO Andrew Petersen,” Mr Waters said.

“In the coming months we will be strongly promoting SBA’s sustainability agenda as a competitive business proposition, emphasizing that sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but the commercially smart way to operate,” he said.

SBA CEO Andrew Petersen said he was delighted that Ben Waters would be the new Chair.

“Ben will bring a wealth of business experience to the role and has clearly demonstrated his capabilities since he joined the Board last December.

“I would also like to thank Rob Purves for agreeing to stay on the Board and for his tremendous leadership role and support throughout his six years as chair.”

Outgoing Chair Robert Purves said he had greatly enjoyed his years as Chair of the SBA Board.

“While we have faced many challenges over this period, including a major branding change from Environment Business Australia to Sustainable Business Australia at the end of 2010, I am proud to have been associated with such an important and effective organisation that has established some essential partnerships with government and businesses in a rapidly-changing commercial environment,” Mr Purves said.

“As GE’s Director of Ecomagination, Ben Waters has already become an influential voice on innovative business practices in Australia, demonstrating a commitment to driving sustainable development in this country.

“Ben’s knowledge and expertise will help strengthen SBA and propel the sustainable business agenda at an exciting time of change, which will provide added benefits for SBA’s national membership.

“I believe SBA will become increasingly important for business and government and I am sure it will consolidate its position as a critical advocacy group and think tank with Ben Waters as Chair,” he said.

As new Chair of SBA, Mr Waters will be providing the opening address on 8 November at the inaugural Australian Sustainability Conference & Exhibition (ASCE), which will be held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre from 8-9 November 2012 (

Sustainable Business Australia is the peak body for the low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector. We are also a think tank focusing on the growth of ‘new markets, new industries and new jobs’ as part of the sustainable development agenda.


Global Water Game Playing is as Good as it Gets

Posted by Ken on November 6, 2012
Posted under Express 178

Key issues concerning the regulation of our water resources can often seem esoteric to the average citizen, putting a barrier to engagement. This is due to change with the development of a computer-based simulation by Global Water Games giving players the experience of real-time economic and environmental impacts of their actions as key stakeholders. This can lead to a higher level of collaboration in finding solutions, making it a powerful agent for multi-sector stakeholder engagement. Read more

How game-playing created a sea change for one bay’s stakeholders

By Anna Clark in GreenBiz (31 October 2012):

Green enterprises are constantly challenging the conventional wisdom that environmental regulation impedes profitability, but a group of innovators are now turning the challenge into a game. The Global Water Games, a collaborative initiative of the University of Virginia and Azure Worldwide, co-founded by Philippe Cousteau and UVA alumnus Andrew Snowhite, has developed a computer-based simulation to demonstrate the interrelation of human activity and natural processes. Taking the roles of key stakeholders, game players make decisions based on their livelihoods or regulatory authority, experiencing real-time the economic and environmental impacts of their actions.

“The game format provides a way for citizens to engage with these issues as critical decision makers,” said Jeffrey Plank, Ph.D., associate vice president for research of UVA. “Initially, players rely on themselves, but then they learn that only through collaboration do solutions arise. This game is a powerful change agent for multi-sector stakeholder engagement. This template is the first of its kind.”

Environmental regulations have been controversial since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring put industry in an uproar 50 years ago, and the debate continues. From banning plastic bags to subsidizing renewable energy, proposed regulations can be vague in terms of costs and benefits, and misunderstanding leads to gridlock. In certain cases, environmental health benefits for all parties are clearer, such as when Chesapeake Bay was polluted by excess nitrogen and phosphorus, causing the fishing industry to suffer. Twenty years of real-world cleanup make the Chesapeake Bay rich subject matter for Global Water Games’ first computer-based prototype simulation, UVA Bay Game.

The game presents a microcosm of the issue multi-sector groups face everywhere: How do you get stakeholders with seemingly divergent interests to find common ground? By enabling participants to visualize environmental issues such as nonpoint source pollution as economic threats — and giving them the opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes — the technology has the capacity to turn adversaries into allies. The ensuing dialogue can revolutionize policy-making and environmental education, leading to rapid development of win-win solutions to problems that have long divided regulators and business. “What has taken us 20 years of trying to get through to people,” said one game player, “can now be demonstrated in two hours.”

A Watershed Moment

“I remember being with my grandfather, Jacques Yves Cousteau, in New York City,” recalled Philippe Cousteau, Jr. during a press conference at SXSW ECO in Austin, Texas. “He was 79 and I was 9. I was playing a Game Boy, the one sold with that huge add-on magnifying glass. He turned to me and said, ‘What about that Game Boy?’ I lit up. He saw it as a tool not just for entertainment, but also for education.” The world famous explorer and scientist recognized the opportunity to leverage the power of games to help people understand the commitment to the environment. Philippe Cousteau — social entrepreneur, CNN correspondent, and explorer in his own right — is carrying on his grandfather’s legacy by using his own platform to commercialize the new game-based conservation technology.

“Water is the defining crisis of the 21st century, and this game is an interesting and fun way to help people understand the complexity,” said Cousteau. “When people first play the game, they focus on an individualized pursuit. When I saw them play over a period of time, I noticed they moved out of their bubble. By the third and fourth session, there was this ‘aha’ moment when they began to reach out to each other. After the sixth or seventh try, they started to see themselves as working together to solve the problem.” (For more on gaming and the environment from Philippe Cousteau, listen to the podcast.)

When I got my chance to demo the game, about 40 of us were seated at workstations with our laptops. Philippe and several UVA professors walked around answering questions about the relatively user-friendly prototype of the simulation game. They also filled us in on facts about the Chesapeake, a watershed extending over six states and 64,000 square miles. Playing the game, we began to see how everything we do on the land—including the use of automobiles, fertilizers, pesticides, toilets, sewage, water and electricity—affects the streams, rivers and the bay. It was our job to balance economic with environmental interests to maintain bay health, on which we all depended.

Representing the 27 million residents in the watershed, each player is assigned a stakeholder role. Farmers make decisions about whether to leave land fallow or apply cover crops to their fields, for instance, and land developers choose between regular and sustainable development. I was assigned “Bay Regulator,” and I confess it was a power trip. With the stroke of a key, I could regulate the fishing season without restraint. (The shorter the dredging season, the better the environmental health of the bay; the longer the season, the more days the fishermen could fish).

Initially, greed and power ran amok, as agriculturalists tried to max out their profits and regulators remained rigid. Before long, we could see the results of our decisions on the main screen. The overall health of the bay began to decline steeply due to runoff from cattle farms, which ended up affecting the crab yield and ultimately the economy. Going into it, I admit that my interest was in protecting the bay first, industry second. But sitting across from a “cattle rancher” stakeholder, I got another point of view. “They want me to make $500,000 in improvements,” he explained, “but the incentive is only $600.” Suddenly, it became very clear how regulation could become uneven and counterproductive.

By the fourth try, players started getting up and walking across the room to sit together, working toward a common goal: clean up the bay or risk further economic and environmental damage. All over the room, participants discussed the merits and drawbacks of their actions, possible incentives, and suggestions for achieving consensus. In under two hours, we managed to restore the bay back to health, walking away wiser, more experienced, and I daresay, as friends.

What’s Next for Global Water Games?

At SXSW ECO, the team announced a partnership with The Nature Conservancy to develop another iteration of the game called the Texas Water Game. “Water is a fixed asset,” said Nature Conservancy Texas State Director Laura Huffman. “The amount of water hasn’t changed, but we’re moving from 7 billion to 9 billion people in the space of a few decades. Texas is a great laboratory for water conservation because we have 25 million people now and we’re projected to add at least 10 million more by 2050. We are going to have to learn to solve other people’s problems. The game shows the benefits of working together and the drawbacks of not working together.”

Since the launch of the Global Water Games, research collected from players suggests new directions for research in behavior change and policy development. The pioneering, interdisciplinary team continues to introduce the technology to classrooms and multi-sector stakeholder settings all over the world. While the subject matter is about conservation, these innovative, participatory simulations are also turning out to be phenomenal tools for teaching systems-based thinking. And that’s a good thing, because as much as we humans are changing our environment, we’re going to need to change our thinking even more.


Last Word: Brainstorming the Energy Future from the Inside Out

Posted by Ken on November 6, 2012
Posted under Express 178

A glimpse into the distinguished minds of sustainability and energy experts at the CNBC-Shell Energy Brainstorm offers a wealth of ideas touching on energy issues and opportunities. At the top of the list is the need for realistic prices on carbon and energy, which will then drive development and investments in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy. This and many more gems on how to bring about sustainable change in the way we conduct business and develop communities from the brainstorm session. Read more

Ken Hickson joins the Energy brainstorm with CNBC and Shell

Brainstorm Call to Monetarise Efficiency, Effectively Priced Energy and Carbon

By Ken Hickson

None of the brainstormers could contain themselves. Ideas and opinions flowed freely and flew across the table and across the room.

Cameras caught at least some of the action, while elevator pitch deliveries from chosen representatives from the ten tables contained essential highlights of the wide-ranging energy issues and opportunities aired.

Having Minister Grace Fu on hand – from the Prime Minister’s office no less – did not deter anyone else from raising thorny issues or extreme clean energy options, and whether they had relevance at home or abroad, didn’t seem to matter.

Vocal contributions were extracted from all, even from my table which was also graced by the presence of Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War room, brother of UN Climate Change boss Christiana, and son of Costa Rica’s game-changing former President.

He freely shared his thoughts and wisdom too, as did fellow participant Dr Geh Min, the noted conservationist and former President of the Singapore Nature Society.

The good thing about the CNBC Shell brainstorm format is that everyone has the chance to have their say, unlike many conferences and forum where the “big-wigs” monopolise the show and the rest of us – whether media or common delegates – might be lucky enough to get an odd question in.

So what’s the verdict for the future energy scenario in Asia in 2035, for which we were all asked to do some considered crystal ball gazing?

Consistently, the matter of a price on carbon – and a more realistic price for energy – was something raised repeatedly which came out tops. The world must face up to and implement effective pricing – which will drive, and be driven by, energy efficiency and investment in renewables –to maintain a liveable climate, energy security and a safe environment.

Maybe there wasn’t one single great idea, but there was enough energy and brain power in the room to give some hope that we are in good hands. Maybe we can plan ahead and effectively manoeuvre our way through a minefield to deal with a volatile and unpredictable future.

Energy was obviously at the heart of the matter and here are some of the brainstormed highlights:

•             Governments must work with business and provide incentives to effect a move to a low carbon economy and a clean energy future

•             There are “multiple benefits” in energy efficiency – save energy, save money – which would make carbon taxes or higher energy prices more affordable and palatable

•             The need for effective regional sourcing and distributing of renewable energy with cross country grids, underway in Europe and necessary in Asia

•             Accessing and utilising energy and environmental data more effectively to help to “monetarise efficiency” – the winning idea from table 4!

•             Let’s create wealth from waste – it’s a resource and not something to destroy, but instead turn into energy

•             Government must be an enabler to drive change through public private partnerships and boost economic performance to manage population growth

•             Maybe it will take a global catastrophe – in the order of a Fukushima – to make us accept the inevitable – a global energy tax and a pan Asian high voltage grid

•             To boost private sector investment in renewable energy and achieve “grid parity” , regulation must be reduced

•             There will be – or need to be –“transformational technology” to decarbonise economies along with a mindset change through research and education

•             Cities are where change can best take place – change the culture, reduce energy consumption without reduced levels of comfort

Ken Hickson, who participated in the brainstorm in 2011 as well as this year, is the Chairman & CEO of the Singapore-based consultancy Sustain Ability Showcase Asia , the producer of the respected abc carbon express, a fortnightly review of all things related to climate, energy and environment, and the author of the 2009 landmark book “The ABC of Carbon”.  He has just released his list – for the second year – of 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders.