Archive for the ‘Express 188’ Category

Tapping best brains to cut energy and water use – the two depend on each other

Posted by Ken on April 3, 2013
Posted under Express 188

Water – or the lack of it or misuse of it – is in the news, again.  The all too real scenario in the face of potential water shortages and water stress. In a recent white paper on Tourism and Water, the implications of water shortages for the tourism industry, and the role played by tourism in Asia-Pacific in water management were professionally explored. Managing water well is a strong suit of Singapore, though future water supply will be heavily dependent on energy supply – and using less energy to produce more water – as pointed out by Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at a recent World Water Day event. Read more

Water White Paper Gives Tourism Industry Call-To-Action

In eGlobal travel media (25 March 2013):

Potential water shortages and water stress will present a significant threat to the future growth and development of the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region states a white paper on Tourism and Water released in Singapore.

The international white paper was prepared by a leading research consortium supported by the EarthCheck Research Institute based in Australia, together with Ecolab, the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies.

Dr. Susanne Becken, professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University, together with Dr. Raj Rajan, vice president of Global Sustainability for Ecolab, presented the findings of the white paper at a special World Water Day and International Year of Water Cooperation Distinguished Lecture coordinated by the Banyan Tree Global Foundation.

The white paper provides a global context on water stress, availability and stewardship, and discusses the implications for the tourism industry along the three dimensions of cost, availability and quality.

“The cost of water is likely to increase, and legislation that will initiate some form of water footprint is conceivable, if not inevitable,” says Professor Becken. “Businesses that are prepared to audit and manage their water consumption will have a competitive business advantage for the expected changes in water regulation and control.”

Increasing water scarcity, Professor Becken explained, not only increases regional risk to climate change, but also often leads to conflict. According to UNDCWS (2012), there were more than 120,000 water-related disputes since 1990 in China alone.

The white paper explains that with the ongoing growth in tourism visitation, the Asia-Pacific tourism region must increase understanding of the role it needs to play in water management issues.  PATA predicts more than a half billion international visitors to the region in in 2014.

“Forward-looking hospitality businesses are working to address water consumption and minimize impacts to local communities,” said Dr. Raj Rajan, vice president of Research, Development and Engineering for Ecolab, and a prominent contributor to the white paper.  “The white paper encourages hospitality businesses in the Asia Pacific region to take a holistic systems approach to identifying and implementing water efficiency and conservation measures.”

The paper outlines how water efficiency can be achieved and undertakes a benchmarking review of hotels in the Asia Pacific using EarthCheck data. The benchmarks highlight important geographic, behavioural and operational differences across the region, which require further investigation.

The EarthCheck Research Institute will follow this white paper with two further research reports that will address water use benchmarks and baselines for hotels together with models to guide operational best practice.

Source: and


S’pore’s next challenge: ‘Treating more seawater with less energy’

By David Ee in The Straits Times (23 March 2013):

EVEN if Singapore realises its quest to supply all of its own water, it faces another challenge: acquiring the energy it takes to produce the water.

That was the point raised by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan at yesterday’s book launch of The Singapore Water Story, which chronicles the country’s rise to becoming a world leader in water management.

“Singapore has to realise that, in fact, we have translated a dependence on water to a dependence on energy…as long as you’ve got energy, you’ve got water,” said the minister at the National University of Singapore’s Bukit Timah campus.

The technologies employed in water treatment here today, for example, reverse osmosis, require substantial amounts of energy.

The Minister explained that as the country becomes more water self-sufficient, this “simply substitutes one strategic vulnerability for another”.

To meet its energy challenge, Singapore will have rely on the same things that worked in its water story – political resolve, a clear vision, the right pricing, and a commitment to technology.

Today, Singapore produces at least 40 per cent of its own water needs – with three quarters coming from reclaimed Newater, and the rest from treated seawater.

National water agency PUB wants this to double to 80 per cent by 2060.

Reverse osmosis, the most common method to treat seawater here, typically uses up to 4.5 kilowatt hours to produce 1,000 litres of desalinated water.

That is enough energy to power an HDB flat for several hours.

But PUB is seeking to reduce these levels with new technologies. For example, it is working with Keppel Seghers to develop Memstill technology, which uses waste heat to treat seawater. The process can reduce energy use by up to two-thirds.

It is also exploring longer term solutions such as bio-mimicry, which copies the way some plants and animals treat seawater for their survival, using negligible amounts of energy.

By 2060, Singapore’s water usage could double to almost 800 million gallons a day, enough to fill more than 1,200 Olympic-size swimming pools each day.


Putting rice waste to good use in Thailand – for energy production

Posted by Ken on April 3, 2013
Posted under Express 188

Rice does not just provide energy for our bodies; it can also power a nation’s electricity grid. In Thailand where there is a push for more renewable sources of energy, agricultural wastes have been put to good use. With government support and incentives, more than 300 small plants using renewable sources supplement a power generation system straining under growing demand, while solving the problem of agricultural wastes. Read more

Thailand: Power from waste; 300 plants feed into grid running on renewable sources like sun and wind

By Tan Hui Yee, Thailand Correspondent, in The Straits Times (22 March 2013:

NAKHON RATCHASIMA – From its nondescript entrance, Tong Hua in north-eastern Thailand looks just like any other rice mill in the country.

Walk about 100m into its sprawling compound, however, and you notice something different: A smokestack nudges an otherwise clear skyline, part of a small power plant that turns rice husks into electricity on the spot.

Tong Hua, incidentally, supplies the grain that goes into the SongHe brand of rice sold in Singapore. Its energy production is a testament to the growth of Thailand’s electricity sector, which analysts tout as the most progressive in the region.

Incentives and loans allow small operators to run more than 300 small plants using renewable sources like the sun, wind or agricultural waste. These plants in turn feed electricity back into the main grid, helping to supplement a power generation system that is straining under growing demand.

“It is an example for the region,” says Dr Chris Greacen, founder of non-profit renewable energy group Palang Thai.

Just last month, however, Thailand’s Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn warned a routine gas pipeline maintenance in April may cause partial blackouts. While some bemoaned official ineptitude for the possible disruption, others alleged it was a ploy to fast-track approval for controversial coal or hydropower plants.

Former energy minister Piyasvasti Amranand argues it is time to put the focus back on growing the alternative energy sector and moving away from natural gas, which accounted for some 68 per cent of power generated last year.

According to the Energy Policy and Planning Office, about 5 per cent of Thailand’s electricity is currently generated from renewable resources, if hydropower is not taken into account.

Thailand’s farms and factories seem to have tapped just about every type of waste to produce power. Rice mills burn husks for energy. Sugar mills do the same with bagasse, the fibre left over after sugar cane is crushed. Pig farms use the biogas generated by manure to create electricity.

These developments were nurtured through the gradual liberalisation of the energy sector from the 1990s, allowing small power producers to be paid premiums on top of fixed rates for their power.

At Tong Hua, a conveyor system transports about 200 tonnes of husk daily from its rice mill to a furnace, which burns it at 950 deg C to produce electricity. The firm uses 60 per cent of the electricity generated by its 7.7MW plant and sells the rest to the Provincial Electricity Authority. It sells electricity to the authorities at 2.9 baht (12 Singapore cents) per kilowatt hour but gets another 0.3 baht as part of the incentive scheme.

But its managing director Suthep Wiroadpaisit says it was motivated more by the need to fix an unstable power supply about 10 years ago and for an outlet for the husks. “We had no electricity, nowhere to put our own rice husks. We had to solve our own problem,” he tells The Straits Times.

These alternative energy plants have, in turn, pushed up the prices of agricultural waste. Rice husk, for example, now costs 1,300 baht a tonne compared to just 50 baht eight years ago, says Mr Suthep.

Although Thailand aims to have renewable energy account for a quarter of total energy consumed by the next decade, officials say it has to keep a lid on the premiums paid for alternative energy production so consumers do not end up paying more. It also has to calibrate the amounts of energy from different sources to reduce supply disruption chances.

“What will happen if it is not sunny, or if there is no wind’” Energy Ministry permanent secretary Norkhun Sitthipong points out. “This is not just about capacity, but reliability as well.”


Imagine this! Creatively communicating climate change

Posted by Ken on April 3, 2013
Posted under Express 188

Arts and science will have to go hand-in-hand in promoting understanding of climate change. While getting the facts and science behind climate change right is an essential part of climate change communication, an increasing focus has been placed on how they are presented. Cultural and creative resources are important tools for public engagement that have found utilisation in educational posters, conferences, and theatre and film. All these points towards the importance of engaging the people’s imagination when communicating on climate change. Read more

The ‘art’ of climate change communication

Mobilising cultural practitioners to promote understanding of climate change is important for public engagement

Adam Corner in The Guardian (18 March 2013):

Over the past decade, interest in the ‘science’ of communicating climate change has flourished. Psychologists, social marketers and campaigners have been united in the quest for systematic, reliable evidence with which to promote sustainable behaviour.

But while the science of climate change communication is clearly an essential piece of the puzzle, might there not be an ‘art’ to it too?

For individuals and organisations communicating climate change, it is easy to forget that most people don’t live their lives in a series of dislocated behaviours that can be influenced or nudged in a more sustainable direction. Ask yourself: what are the things that make you laugh, inspire you, or fill your conversations with friends? For most of us, the answer will involve culture, not cognition.

It follows that mobilising our cultural and creative resources might be as important for public engagement with climate change as technological or political changes – and there is evidence that this is starting to happen. To take one topical example, the charity Do The Green Thing (a reliably creative and unpredictable group) are publishing a series of posters by a leading artist throughout March, under the heading of “creativity versus climate change”. These are not po-faced posters, but playful provocations – and they stick in your mind for that reason.

A conference planned for June in Aberystwyth will focus on the potential for syntheses between science and art in responding to climate change. Uncivilisation, a music, literature and storytelling festival (organised by a network of writers, artists and thinkers in search of “new stories for troubled times”) is now in its fourth year. The campaign group Platform continues to oppose BP’s links with the Tate Gallery by using innovative methods like alternative audio tours, which challenge the legitimacy of oil-sponsored culture.

And organisations like Artists Project Earth (a group of artists, scientists, journalists, environmentalists, film makers and authors) have been working for many years to support climate change and environmental campaigning.

But given the importance of the issue, it is surprising how little overlap there has been between the social science of climate change communication and the creative world.

That art provides a vehicle for bringing dry political sentiment to life is certainly not a new observation – but save for a few notable exceptions, there has been a gaping hole where creative energy should be.

Climate change theatre and films are thin on the ground. The situation is barely any different in the world of literature and storytelling. While there are a handful of examples of climate change-oriented novels, it does not seem to have fired the imagination of authors. But while the potential for storytelling to make the invisible, often abstract concept of climate change tangible has so far evaded novelists, some climate change communication projects are starting to explore the territory.

A set of beautifully shot films telling the stories of people’s lives affected by the changing climate in the US state of Wisconsin are an eye-catching entry point to a set of educational materials designed to aid teaching about climate change.

And closer to home, a project aimed specifically at overcoming the limitations of conventional climate change communication strategies (ie that they tend to reach only a very narrow group of the population) offers an exciting blend of art and social science.

Named the Aspects project, it represents an attempt to connect discussion about climate change to people’s everyday lives through the medium of digital storytelling.

The Aspects website hosts a series of short films, featuring people who have a story to tell about their lives, about the weather, about their local communities – and indirectly about climate change.

What’s interesting about the Aspects approach is that while the medium appeals on a cultural level – films, storytelling, and anecdotes about the world around us – the films are also putting into practice good principles of climate change communication. The abstract, invisible nature of climate change is rendered real through everyday stories, while the fact that the storytellers are members of the public, rather than activists or campaigners, creates a positive social norm.

Typically, the challenge of climate change communication is thought to require systematic evidence about public attitudes, sophisticated models of behaviour change and the rigorous application of social scientific research. All of this is true, but it is human stories, not carbon targets, that capture people’s attention.

The science of climate change communication is essential to engage people’s minds, but the art of engaging people’s imaginations may be just as important.

Adam Corner is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on the psychology of communicating climate change. He leads the Talking Climate programme for the Climate Outreach and Information Network and is a research associate in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University.