Archive for the ‘Express 211’ Category

Weather Goes to the Extreme

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Weather Goes to the Extreme

Has extreme become the new norm? Looks like it. Take the mid-July news and weather reports from the BBC. Wild fires rage in Greece and California. Typhoons/super storms hit the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and China. Extreme temperatures are all the rage in Europe. Germany’s all-time heat record was toppled on 5 July in Kitzingen, hitting 40.3 degrees Celsius. Spain’s been hotter than ever. Switzerland, usually super cool, has seen the mercury rise to 40 C in Geneva. The year is likely to be rated as the hottest in recorded history. It was bad enough in 2014 if you look at the latest report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with data from 413 researchers in 58 countries. All vital information for representatives from all countries who will meet in Paris in December to decide – yes, they have to decide – on a climate action  plan and commitments for the future. No choice really, but it’s obvious that those most vulnerable to the early impacts of climate change – all those in the tropical belt – will be doing their utmost to get help to cope with what’s happening now and what they know will get worse. So it’s past talking of mitigating climate change. We have to learn to live with it. Resilience, preparedness and adaptation are the words and actions that matter. Extreme actions for a situation that is already extreme. -                                                                 Ken Hickson

Tropical Singapore could show Australia a thing or two

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Tropical Singapore could show Australia a thing or two

When Australian Prime Minister was in Singapore to open the new campus of the James Cook University, he heard about the university’s work to draw attention to the tropics – a region where the world’s future will be decided as it is the most vulnerable to climate change early impacts. He also needed reminding about the state of Australia’s tropical gem – the Great Barrier Reef – but that didn’t stop his Government as it ploughed ahead with plans to derail Australian’s clean energy ambitions. Pity he didn’t pick up on what Singapore is doing about climate change, even though it is not blessed, as Australia is, with vast wind, solar, wave, hydro and other clean resources of energy.  Read More

Ken Hickson reports on the Australian Prime Minister’s visit to Singapore:

It was a monumental day for James Cook University, honoured to have Tony Abbott turn up to officially open the new and expanded Singapore campus.

Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding didn’t hesitate to point out to the assembled gathering that the University was leading the way in tropical studies, as the world’s future will be decided in this important region, with half of the global population and 67% of the world’s children under 15 years of age living in the Tropics by 2050.

“We believe Australia and Singapore have an important role to play as key economies located in the Tropics,” Professor Harding said.

We also heard Mr Abbott speak at the ShangriLa Hotel, in front of a very large audience which included Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong. I was tempted to jump up during question time, but decided my question might seem impolite – or even embarrassing – for the hosts, if not the visitor.

I wanted to ask Mr Abbott if he had discussed the possibility of Singapore and Australia working together on climate change “solutions”, sharing technology, ideas, energy and clean tech plans, as he was quick to point out all the reasons why the two countries should work together and encourage an even flow of talent, trade and technology transfer.

Singapore acknowledges, as the rest of the civilised world does, the reality of climate change and has taken significant steps to cuts its emissions of greenhouse gas, even though it relies of fossil fuels to provide for nearly 100% of its energy.

It has consciously moved to the cleaner natural gas, and away from coal and oil dependence. It has also embarked on a major energy efficiency campaign to reduce energy use and intensity. It is also doing all it can these days to get as much as its possibly can from solar – latest research shows that Singapore could get 20% of its electricity from solar.

There is still hope the new partnership agreement between the two countries can go beyond security, trade, services, technology, tourism and cultural exchanges, to incorporate a collaborative approach and a sustainability agenda. Australia needs to learn from Singapore all about creating a sustainable society – which includes energy, environment, economy and ethics.

Mr Abbott and his strong supporters in the fossil fuel industry need to accept that it is no longer ethical – or even legal – to continue to dig up and burn coal, for example, when it is known to be the biggest (and dirtiest) contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and its seriously impacting on the health and the environment of the whole world.

Singapore’s PM was too polite to tell a visiting head of state – while a guest in his country – anything like that, just as I was not wanting to create a scene. But somehow Singapore must engage with Australia to share not only the secrets of its success, but why it has accepted the inevitability of climate change, recognised what needs to be done to “come clean” and  work together to help give  the whole Asia Pacific region a clean energy low carbon future.

Here are three reports to absorb – one relating to Mr Abbott’s Singapore visit to the James Cook University, one drawing attention to the state of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, and one an ABC report on what the current Australian Government is doing to disrupt the transition to a clean energy, low carbon state of affairs:

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott opens new JCU Singapore campus

From James Cook University Report of the visit (28 June 2015):

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has officially opened James Cook University’s new Singapore campus.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, and a delegation of senior executives from major Australian corporations.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Palaszczuk also attended the event, along with Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education, Ms Indranee Rajah.

The new JCU Singapore campus is located close to Singapore’s Central Business District on 24,000 square metres of land. It has a gross floor area of 19,000 square metres, consists of over 40 modern classrooms and lecture halls, 10 computer and research laboratories, administration offices, a purpose-built electronic financial trading room, and a Psychology Clinic.

JCU is the only Australian university with a fully owned and operated campus in Singapore. JCU Singapore was established in 2003.

JCU Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Sandra Harding said Singapore is a fantastic location for an Australian university that has been charged with pursuing education and research on issues of importance to the peoples of the Tropics.

“Internationally recognised as a university that has focused on conducting teaching and research related to the Tropics, we believe that it is appropriate for us to build upon our presence in Singapore to give better effect to our ambition to be one university in two countries in three tropical locations,” Professor Harding said.

Dr Dale Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of Singapore Campus said that the new campus will allow JCU Singapore to innovate and provide the best facilities for its multi-national student body.

“Having been part of the local education landscape since 2003, JCU Singapore is keen to provide a learning infrastructure that befits our status as the only EduTrust Star institution in Singapore,” Dr Anderson said.

“Every attempt was made to create a cutting-edge learning environment at this new campus, which will allow us to advance James Cook University’s intent to create a brighter future for life in the tropics,” he added.

The opening of the new campus follows the release of the Federal Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. It emphasises that northern Australia sits at the intersection of the two great regions of global economic and population growth – Asia and the Tropics.

“The expansion of JCU’s presence in Singapore underscores the growing and strong bilateral relationship between the two countries, and the importance of the Tropics,” Professor Harding added.

The opening of the new campus coincides with the first anniversary of the launch of the State of the Tropics report, which was led by James Cook University. T

The report revealed that the world’s future will be decided in the Tropics, with half of the global population and 67% of the world’s children under 15 years of age living in the Tropics by 2050.

“We believe Australia and Singapore have an important role to play as key economies located in the Tropics,” Professor Harding said.

“James Cook University decided to establish a presence in an advanced tropical location where the focus on expanding knowledge, innovation and scientific discoveries is aligned to the University’s intent to promote teaching and research that improves the lives of people living in the tropics.”

JCU Singapore is the only education institution in Singapore to have attained the country’s highly acclaimed EduTrust Star quality mark from the Council for Private Education (CPE).

The EduTrust Star is given to institutions that excel in all key areas of management and the provision of quality education services. This mark is also a symbol of recognition for sustained efforts in organisational improvement.



World heritage committee seriously concerned about a real future for the Great Barrier Reef: “in danger” listing remains a possibility

From Environmental Justice Australia (1 July 2015):

Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee on the Great Barrier Reef highlights the poor condition of the Reef and expresses serious concerns about the Reef’s health.

Lawyers from US-based Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia, who together recently released a report finding that the Reef meets the legal criteria to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, say that if Australia does not take stronger action at the domestic and international levels to address climate change – the greatest threat to the Reef’s long term survival – it will remain open to the Committee to list the Reef as “in danger” in 2017.

“The World Heritage Committee found that the outlook for the Reef is poor and that climate change, poor water quality, and coastal developments are major threats to the health of the Reef,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“It recognized the importance of Australia restricting major new port developments and limiting capital dredging to ensure the ‘future conservation’ of the Reef, and it imposed an 18 month review upon Australia,” she said.

“The World Heritage Committee’s decision shows that the international community is watching Australia – and it does not like what it sees,” said Earthjustice’s Australian lawyer, Noni Austin.

“The evidence is clear: climate change is one of the greatest threats to the Reef’s long term survival. But at a time when we must burn less coal, Australia is proposing to expand coal export terminals like Abbot Point on the Reef’s coast.

“These port expansions directly harm the Reef and enable Australia to open massive new coal mines in the Galilee Basin – adding insult to injury by exacerbating climate change.

“Last month we released a legal analysis that found that the Reef meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee gives Australia a reprieve from an ‘in danger’ listing.

“But if Australia does not take stronger climate action and stop the coal port expansions and the development of the Galilee Basin, it will remain open to the World Heritage Committee to place the Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger when it considers the Reef again in 2017,” said Ms. Austin.

“It is time for Australia to step up to ensure this unique and threatened part of humanity’s world heritage is not lost forever,” Ms. Wilkinson concluded.

Read the full Report:


Government ‘sabotages’ thousands of jobs as it ends wind, solar power investment,

By Katri Uibu for ABC (15 July 2015):

Thousands of Australians could lose their jobs because of the Federal Government’s latest “ideology-driven” decision not to invest in wind and small solar power projects, the head of the Australian Solar Council (ASC) says.

The Federal Government has ordered the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stop financing wind and household solar energy and instead invest in “new and emerging technologies”.

But ASC chief executive John Grimes said small business owners would be most affected by the change, saying the “tragic” decision would compromise thousands of jobs.

“There are about 18,000 people in Australia directly employed in the solar industry,” he said.

“These are the jobs of rural and regional Australia and these are the jobs that we want to create. So, the Government is sabotaging the whole industry because of its ideology that we should burn more coal and we need to shut down the renewable sector.”

Mr Grimes said the Government was “completely out of touch with the people of Australia” on the issue and vowed to “campaign hard” for policy change.

Small-scale solar energy installers labelled the Government’s policy a “stupid” decision that was causing them to “move out of the solar industry”.

Installing solar panels has been Richard de Bruin’s livelihood for five years.

Because of the Government’s decision, Mr de Bruin — the owner of R&R Solar Installations — is facing an even “bigger drop” in his revenue. It is a predicament that has forced him to explore alternative business ideas and axe the job of his own son.

“The uncertainty that we’ve had for the last six to 12 months has just really hurt the business to the effect that now we’re moving to a new site, trying to find some more work,” he said.

“I had three employees, now I’ve got two. I’ve got to keep the money coming in. If I can’t get it through the solar I’ve got to find other ways.”

Flow of money ‘not there anymore’

Mr de Bruin said the number of stints provided by his contractors had significantly plummeted, therefore, rather than “working in solar we’re moving out of solar”.

“Currently we’re doing some contracting for other companies. The two businesses that we’ve been flat out working for, one of them has given us one job this year in six months, we usually would get five jobs a week,” he said.

“The other one has given us maybe 10 jobs for the last six months. Hence the reason we’re looking to move to another industry.

“We’re starting to work in wireless where we’re putting up satellite dishes on houses and installing them. We’ve had to completely change what we’re doing.”

What is the CEFC?

The CEFC was set up by the Gillard government in 2012.

It mobilises capital investment in renewable energy, low-emission technology and energy efficiency in Australia.

The corporation operates like a traditional financer, working with co-financers and project proponents to seek ways to secure financing solutions for the clean energy sector.

It focuses on projects and technologies at the later stages of development which have a positive expected rate of return.

As at June 30 last year, the CEFC had contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion.

He said the financial situation had had an impact on his family life and he could not afford to live in a house.

“Our business was going strong. I had my two sons working for me, one bought himself a house,” he said.

“The flow of money in and out just isn’t here anymore. I had to fire one of them, [I] just couldn’t afford it anymore.

“He was the one who bought the house. He went to charitable organisations to get food. I live in a caravan park here in Brisbane to keep my costs down.”

Mr de Bruin said the Government’s decision not to invest in wind and solar energy projects sprung from a “conflict of interest” as it promotes coal exports.

“It’s a stupid idea to reduce investment in an area where it has the effect of saving our environment,” he said.

“Their sales model is to sell coal and to sell coal is to move away from the renewables, because there seems to be a conflict of interest.”


Engineering change for the sake of climate, planet & people

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Engineering Change for the sake of climate, planet & people

Asia watches in awe as the Swiss-invented Solar Impulse breaks a new record for solar powered flight across the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii to illustrate the power of renewable energy. American Elon Musk is reaching new heights of innovation with powerful electric vehicles, accessible solar power and new energy storage systems. Can Asia come up with some innovative means to deal with the global challenge of climate change? When the World Engineers Summit takes place in Singapore this week, you can only hope there’s a lot more than talk. A chance for engineers to show their mettle. Read More


“I feel exhilarated by this extraordinary journey. I have climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest five times without much rest. The team at the Mission Control Center in Monaco (MCC) was my eyes and my ears… The MCC was battling to give me the possibility to rest and recover, but also maximizing the aircraft’s energy levels and sending me trajectories and flight strategies simulated by computer”, said André Borschberg, “This success fully validates the vision that my partner Bertrand Piccard had after his round-the-world balloon flight to reach unlimited endurance in an airplane without fuel”, he adds.

“What André has achieved is extraordinary from the perspective of a pilot. But furthermore, he has also led the technical team during the construction of this revolutionary prototype”, said Bertrand Piccard, initiator of Solar Impulse and one of the pilots.

To catapult this idea to the next level, Solar Impulse initiated the Future Is Clean campaign, calling on supporters to add their voice to the message on a website serving as a petition to convince governments around the globe to implement the necessary clean technology solutions and help ensure that the United Nations’ upcoming Conference on Climate Change (COP21) is successful in renewing the Kyoto protocol this December in Paris.



World Engineers Conference

21 – 23 July at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Singapore

Chairman’s Message

Tan Seng Chuan

Climate change is posing massive challenges to the world. Extreme weather episodes are increasing in frequency and intensity around the globe. In Europe, just this year, UK experienced its harshest winter in more than 60 years and one of its worst floods in seven years. In America, the U.S. endured two of its deadliest and costliest storms in the past decade. In Asia, Typhoon Haiyan wrecked devastation in Philippines and resulted in the loss of more than 7,000 human lives.

At home in Singapore, over the past year or so, we recorded our longest dry spell, together with Malaysia and Indonesia. Wherever you are in the world, climate change is no longer a distant issue wreaking havoc in someone else’s backyard. It has become a real and growing problem threatening our comfort, security and in some cases, survival. No region, country or individual is spared from its ill effects.

It is no longer enough for the world to adopt a wait-and-see approach, as climate change will only continue to hurl greater damages our way with inaction or procrastination. Urbanization without restraint of carbon emissions will only cause temperature and seawater levels to rise faster, weather patterns to become more erratic and properties and lives to suffer greater destruction.

But mitigation of as complex and colossal a problem as climate change could never be achieved in isolation. For this reason, IES initiated the World Engineers Summit, or WES, in September 2013, as we see the need to create a platform for engineers and other professionals from around the world to exchange ideas and knowledge that would be vital to driving positive action against the effects of climate change.

As the national society of engineers in a country that places climate change as a critical national issue, IES wants to fulfill our mission to advance and promote the science, art and profession of engineering for the well-being of mankind through WES.

Building on the important conversations initiated at the inaugural event in 2013, WES 2015 will focus on seeding discussions on sustainable urban development for global climate resilience. The event will also present the Climate Change Expo 2015 – a regional showcase of the latest sustainable and green engineering solutions that could act as valuable game-changers in the battle against climate change.

Join us and be part of a driving force that could alter the trajectory of climate change and give the world a sustainable future.

Programme Highlights

Plenary Keynote Speakers:

Dr Bindu N. Lohani, VP Knowledge, Management & Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank, Philippines

Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman, Public Utilities Board, Singapore

Mr Philippe Joubert, Senior Advisor, Non-Executive Director, World Business Council on Sustainable Development

Track 1: Clean Environment & Water Resources

Dr Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch, Division of Technology, UNEP

Topic: Clean Environment (Resilient Cities and Lifestyles: Circular Resource Use)

Prof Roger Flaconer, President, International Association of Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR), UK

Topic: Water Resources (Global Water Security Challenges and Opportunities)

Track 2: Sustainable Development & Infrastructure

Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive, Housing & Development Board, Singapore

Topic: Smart & Sustainable Towns for Better Living

Mr Antony Sprigg, Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia

Topic: Infrastructure Sustainability – reducing risks and improving social, environmental and economic outcomes

Track 3: Sustainable Energy

Prof Jim Skea, Vice President, Energy Institute, UK

Topic: The Role of Energy Efficiency in Transforming the Global Energy System

Dr John Keung Kam Yin, Chief Executive Officer, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Singapore

Topic: What is in it for us? — Singapore’s 10-year green building journey

Track 4: Resilience & Adaptation against Climate Change

Dr Norman Lowe, President, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, UK

Dr Steven Wade, Principal Consultant and Head of Scientific Consultancy, Met Office, UK

Topic: Bridging the Gap: Translating Climate Model Outputs into Useful Information for Climate Adaptation in Cities

Mr Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director, Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore

Topic: Understanding Climate Resilience in Singapore through the Lens of CLC’s Liveability Framework


Power & Productivity Demands Industry Become Much More Energy Efficient

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Power & Productivity Demands Industry Become Much More Energy Efficient

Swiss engineering giant ABB,  in a roundtable session in Singapore’s historic and recently UNESCO-listed Botanic Gardens, went beyond the green setting and such an environmentally-friendly city to the low hanging fruit – energy efficiency. Solar Impulse, for all its other achievements, has showed an energy efficiency ratio of 94%. Beyond transport, Singapore needs to show how smart it is in managing and reducing its energy use to meet its emissions intensity targets, when by far the lion’s share of it is used by a relatively few very large industries. Read More

If 80% of a Country’s Energy is used by 168 companies How Efficient are they?

Report from Ken Hickson (20 July 2015):

I have written and spoken a lot about energy efficiency over the years – in articles, books, websites. The latest effort by me is something of an informal survey of the state on energy efficiency in Singapore, particularly as it relates to industry and buildings.

This article appears in the latest issue of Singapore Engineer magazine. It’s being released this week at the World Engineers Summit in Singapore – where you can collect your own copy of the magazine or go online – .

I draw particular attention in the article to the big industrial energy users in Singapore. Based on information for 2013 from very reliable sources, there currently are 168 companies operating 213 premises who account for more than 80% of total energy used in Singapore.

Yes, that sounds a lot, but they are the very big energy guzzling industries – manufacturing and manufacturing-related services, as well as those companies engaged in supply of electricity, gas, steam, compressed air and chilled water for air-conditioning, along with those in the water supply and sewage and waste management.

They are required under the Energy Conservation Act to appoint an energy manager, report their energy use and their efficiency improvement plans. But unlike the building sector, industry doesn’t seem to have made as much progress in cutting energy use by embarking on realistic energy efficiency programmes.

Savings can be made – in energy use and energy costs – and there are plenty of capable and trusted advisors around, with technology, systems and expertise to help industry make that happen. Industry can expect much more attention given to their energy use – and reductions – in coming months.

Watch this space!

Meantime read what ABB has to say – one of the international companies very involved in energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes in Singapore. All to help make a smart city even smarter.

Even the Getting Singapore’s smart and sustainable vision right: a nexus of people, environment and technology

From ABB Singapore (15 July) 2015):

Senior business and government leaders make recommendations for a smart, sustainable Singapore

Singapore, 14 July 2015 – Improving the quality of life of citizens and meeting the needs of the people should be the key drivers of Singapore’s vision to be the world’s leading smart and sustainable city, said government, business and civil society leaders at the inaugural Smarter Cities Roundtable earlier today.

This requires political leaders to make the right decisions even though it is not always what the market dictates, said ABB Singapore & South East Asia managing director, Johan de Villiers. He cited the extensive electric vehicle infrastructure in the Netherlands as a result not of market economics, but a result of what people desired.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation vision noted that in the 1950s when Singapore’s first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew made the decision not to power the country with coal-fired plants but gas instead, as he “instinctively knew” the value of clear, blue skies for the people – even if it was not the cheapest option.

The government also plays a key role in creating the right environment for businesses to innovate without taking on too much risk, by providing incentives and removing administrative barriers.

Some other recommendations made by senior leaders included equipping the workforce with the right capabilities and skills to prepare for the digital age, especially in areas such as engineering and computer science, infused with principles of sustainability.

Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) managing director Jacqueline Poh cited the government’s support for Singapore’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem as one example of encouraging innovation and creating an adequate talent pool for Singapore’s growing smart nation industry.

Examples of smart city initiatives shared by Roundtable participants that are helping improve lives for citizens and raise the level of sustainability include – enabling the elderly to receive medical care at home; alerting trained members of the public via an app to deliver emergency first-aid; and improving the energy efficiency of buildings through intelligent building control systems.

Last November, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set out two visions for Singapore. One was the Smart Nation plan to deploy the latest technologies to improve the city-state’s resource efficiency, raise the quality of life and create new business opportunities. The second was the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines a $1.5 billion effort for Singapore to become an eco-friendly city with a ‘zero-waste’ culture and a flourishing green economy by 2030.

Dr Balakrishnan also noted: “There is actually a tight nexus between a sustainable environment, an entrepreneurial dynamic economy, and a smart nation. If we can get this balance right, Singapore will have enormous opportunities to develop potential solutions to global challenges like climate change, economic restructuring and a cohesive society in the midst of great diversity.”

For example, Singapore’s sustainability blueprint focuses on five key areas, including energy efficient, ‘smart’ residential towns, a car-lite culture, a zero-waste nation, and a green economy.

Dr Balakrishnan noted the importance of technology to achieve these five objectives in a sustainable and economically viable way. He also added that the Smart Nation initiative is not about technology alone, but how we apply it to enhance the quality of life for our citizens.

ABB’s Johan de Villiers said: “Singapore is well placed not only in the region, but the world, to pioneer what is possible. Its efficiency and productivity are a great example to the world, and there is much more to come. Developing solutions for smart and sustainable cities will need the exchange of different views, and people to have a brave and pioneering spirit,” he added.

“It’s been a great opportunity to hear the diverse views of a wide range of senior leaders from Singapore’s smart city and sustainability ecosystems. To deliver on the visions, both governments and businesses will have to adopt systems-level thinking to plan for and execute the complex structures that make a city efficient, sustainable and liveable,” said moderator of the dialogue Jessica Cheam, Editor of Eco-Business. She added: “One key consensus seems to be that technology is only an enabler and a means to an end. Ultimately, it is about improving the lives of citizens. All ‘smart’ initiatives should be guided by these principles: They should be efficient, sustainable, and about people.”

“In Singapore’s drive to be a leading smart, sustainable and liveable city, we are also developing a vibrant green economy comprising the clean technology and urban solutions sectors. Singapore is now regarded as a living lab where companies can leverage our existing infrastructure, to develop, test and commercialise innovative urban solutions in a real-life setting. After using Singapore as the reference site in Asia for new technologies, companies can scale up the urban solutions for regional markets and beyond,” said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, Executive Director, Cleantech, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

The inaugural Roundtable, held in the lush surroundings of The Halia at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracted about 50 participants from a wide range of stakeholders.


Promoting Green Purchasing, Sustainable Consumption & Production

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Promoting Green Purchasing, Sustainable Consumption & Production

Informing consumers in Asia about the implications of their consumption decisions and providing sustainable options will help the region maintain quality growth without undermining future development. That’s the clear message from Kaveh Zahedi, Regional Director of the UNEP Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific. Next month, on Thursday 13 August at the Singapore Management University an event will be held to present the report entitled “Sustainable Consumption Guide for Policy Makers: Debunking Myths and Outlining Solutions”. It is also the first public event staged in Singapore for the International Green Purchasing Network. Read More


Ken Hickson reports:

Please keep this important date free:

Thursday 13 August at 5.30pm at the Singapore Management University, level 4 of the Administration Building, Corner Bras Basah and Victoria Street.

This event has been a long time coming. I agreed some time ago to work with the International Green Purchasing Network (IGPN) and promote green purchasing, sustainable supply chains and green procurement in Singapore and the region.

I have attended events with and for IGPN in Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. But now Singapore gets some attention.

This event is an opportunity to look into the latest UNEP report on Sustainable Consumption and Production and why it is important for a mature market like Singapore – arguably “the centre for the unstoppable consumption” in Asia.

With the support of the Wee Kim Wee Centre of SMU, Direct Green and Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA), we are inviting all interested to attend, including Government agencies, community and civil society, NGOs, as well as businesses.

Along with runaway consumption is the associated very serious waste problem. So we gladly support the Government’s intention to move to a zero waste society and support the work of Eugene Tay with his zero waste efforts.

There will be the opportunity for appropriate businesses – with green or eco-products – and the not for profit sector to display their wares and talk about their work.

Please email me directly if you want to be involved in any way.



UNEP report (22 June 2015):

New policy guide offers solutions for Asia’s sustainable consumption and production challenges

Prosperity need not cost the earth – literally – according to a new handbook that was released today, which offers guidance to Asian policy makers on ways to sustainably manage the region’s fast-growing appetite for natural resources without affecting their countries’ ability to meet essential consumption needs.

According to the guide, produced jointly by UNEP and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), the region will account for 48 per cent of global consumption by 2030, with consumer spending likely to reach US$32 trillion.

“Informing consumers in Asia about the implications of their consumption decisions and helping provide them with sustainable options will help the region maintain quality growth without undermining future development. This guide provides solutions and policy approaches to make sustainable consumption a reality,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Regional Director of the UNEP Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific.

The new guide offers policy makers an overview of thematic solutions to sustainable production and consumption challenges. It also debunks common myths such as ‘Sustainable Consumption is incompatible with Poverty Eradication’ and ‘Informed Consumers will Consume Sustainably’ and explores how sustainable consumption, traditionally part of Asian culture, is being side-lined.

“Understanding sustainable production and consumption is a vital step to designing policies towards sustainable development. There is a dichotomy in Asian countries where, on the one hand, material consumption by a growing consumer class mirrors patterns in affluent industrialised countries. On the other hand, poverty blights marginalised areas of cities and limits opportunities for well-being in villages,” said Lewis Akenji, Senior IGES Policy Fellow and lead author of the handbook.

Consumption driven by choice as opposed to need is expected to increase substantially in Asia as higher incomes raise demand for material possessions. Pointing out that ‘consumption’ should not be confused with ‘consumerism’, the handbook notes that under-consumption by the poor is as unsustainable as high consumption driven by rapidly growing affluence in the region.

The handbook, Sustainable Consumption Guide for Policy Makers: Debunking Myths and Outlining Solutions (Asia Edition).


More in the Wind in Thailand & Vietnam for The Blue Circle

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

More in the Wind in Thailand & Vietnam for The Blue Circle

The Blue Circle, primarily operating in the Mekong region (Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia), announces the signing of a joint-development agreement with EREN Renewable Energy’s Southeast Asian subsidiary to develop more than 300 MW of wind projects in Thailand. Earlier,  the Singapore-based renewable energy developer had set up meteorological masts in three different sites in Vietnam to find the best  locations for wind farming in that country and has hired more engineers to do the job. Read More

Media release (20 July 2015):

The Blue Circle and EREN Renewable Energy

to develop more than 300 MW of wind projects in Thailand

EREN Renewable Energy and The Blue Circle will partner to develop a significant portfolio of wind projects in Thailand.

Singapore-based renewable energy developer The Blue Circle Pte Ltd, primarily operating in the Mekong region (Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia), today announces the signing of a Joint-Development Agreement with EREN Renewable Energy’s Southeast Asian subsidiary on 15 July.

EREN Renewable Energy (“EREN RE”) is a global independent renewable energy power producer, which recently opened its regional headquarters in Singapore to manage its business activities across Southeast Asia.

The Blue Circle has been developing wind power projects in Thailand since 2013 with its subsidiary The Blue Circle Thailand and its Bangkok-based team of project managers. With a pipeline of more than 300 MW of wind projects at different stages of development, The Blue Circle Thailand is now partnering with EREN RE to bring these projects to completion.

“We are pleased to partner with The Blue Circle and their team in Thailand to combine our expertise and financing capacity with their strong regional knowledge. As we are building a worldwide portfolio of renewable energy power plants, we see Southeast Asia as one of the most promising regions for wind and solar expansion” said Fabienne Demol, Head of Business Development of EREN RE.

“As EREN RE’s team is made of real wind professionals with an impressive track record, we are thrilled to announce this partnership” stated Olivier Duguet, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Blue Circle. He added “Thailand is one of the most advanced countries in Southeast Asia in terms of wind installed capacity and together with EREN RE, we want to invest and participate in its future growth.”

In addition to Armstrong Asset Management’s commitment to invest US$40 million in The Blue Circle wind energy projects, the deal signed with EREN RE’s further strengthens The Blue Circle financial capabilities. Thus, EREN RE will share, along with The Blue Circle, the project development costs and is positioned to invest up to US$60 million into wind projects themselves.

About The Blue Circle

The Blue Circle is a developer of wind and solar energy projects in Southeast Asia. The Singapore based company looks to bridge the gap in project development in the region by bringing international project development experience, financial expertise and capabilities together with local market understanding. Its growth strategy is twofold: through the development of its own projects and through partnership with local developers. By being vertically integrated and having its own wind engineering team, The Blue Circle can identify green field sites, pursue project development milestones up until financing and operating of the generating assets.

About EREN Renewable Energy

EREN RE is a 100% subsidiary of EREN, founded in 2012 by Pâris Mouratoglou and David Corchia, who both show a significant successful track record in the renewable energy industry. Capitalized with EUR 600 million, EREN Groupe is the first company dedicated to natural resources efficiency, investing in and promoting innovative technologies in the sectors of water, infrastructure and energy. EREN RE develops power projects in countries where renewable energy represents an economically viable response to growing energy demands. Through partnerships established with local developers, EREN RE has accumulated a portfolio of over 525 MW of renewable energy assets in operation and under construction and over 1,500 MW of assets under development.

Source:  and


Wind Energy Projects in South East Asia

Singapore-based renewable energy developer The Blue Circle, operating in the Mekong region (Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia), has strengthened its wind engineering team by hiring two Singapore-trained engineers.

They are:

Irving Paul Girsang, Ph.D. from Nanyang Technological University, who studied at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He was a recipient of a scholarship awarded by the Energy Innovation Programme Office (EIPO) of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

His research interests include structural dynamics, vibration analysis, and control system design with focused application to wind turbine components (i.e. shafts, gearbox, generator, and blades) and machine tools for manufacturing (e.g. turning and milling machines).

Besides Irving’s assignment to work for three months at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Wind Technology Center, Colorado in the United States, he was also a research intern at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Felix Lin Chenghong, who graduated with a diploma in mobile technology from the Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2005, went on to study in the United Kingdom at the Renewable Energy University of Exeter, where he achieved a BSc (Hons), CSM, First Class.

Before joining The Blue Circle, he worked for two years as a project engineer for Goldwind Science and Technology in China, also undertaking projects in Romania, Thailand and Australia.

“Along with Glendon GIam, Intern Wind Engineer, we have a unique set of professionals in Singapore to support our development teams all across the region” reports CEO of the company, Olivier Duguet, himself an expert with many years’ experience in the renewable energy field in Europe.

Wind engineering is a core business for The Blue Circle and its key competitive advantage.

“We do not intend to subcontract this as we are investing in staff training and computer software to further enhance our capabilities,” confirms Gilles Beau, who is the Blue Circle’s Senior Wind Engineer and Chief Development Officer.

Prior to his position at The Blue Circle, Gilles was Senior Wind Engineer for Windlab from 2008 to 2012 and also managed the technical support team for Windlab project developments in Australia, South Africa and North America. As part of his position, he was responsible for wind data analysis, turbine layout and energy yield calculations as well as in charge of relationship with partners and suppliers.

The Blue Circle is the only regional wind project developer in Southeast Asia with an in-house wind engineering team. Based in Singapore, the team comprises of four engineers working solely on wind modelling tools, wind data crunching, sites micro-sitting and turbines optimization.

“With current available computer technology using meso-scale data, we can model wind flows and meteorological patterns all over Southeast Asia to spot the best available wind resources, ” says Gilles Beau.

When crossed with onsite wind data gathered by The Blue Circle meteorological masts, the long term accuracy and predictability of the wind projects revenues are significantly enhanced as is the financial viability of these projects.

Forecasting  the average wind speed of a particular onshore site is not only needed to select the best location to install a project but is also required by banks and investors to forecast the future cash flows of the wind farm to be able to finance its construction.

Pictured is the installation of the third 100 metre high meteorological mast by The Blue Circle in Vietnam – this one is the Dam Nai project in Ninh Thuan Province.


India tries harder, with foreign investors’ help, to come clean

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

India tries harder, with foreign investors’ help, to come clean

India is soon to be the world’s third-biggest oil consumer and will overtake Japan, International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates show. Encouragingly, India and the US have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the PACESetter Fund to support the Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE) to accelerate the commercialisation of off-grid clean energy. On cue, SoftBank will tie up with Bharti Enterprises and Foxconn Technology Group in a US$20 billion solar power venture in India, to add 20 gigawatts of solar generating capacity, as the nation seeks to expand clean energy output fivefold by 2022.  Read More

Oil Addiction Will Put India into Top 3 Global Guzzlers

Bloomberg reports:

India’s growing middle class will soon make it the third-biggest oil consumer, reshaping the global energy map as China uses less and the U.S. produces more.

India will overtake Japan this quarter, International Energy Agency estimates show. The country’s galloping demand growth may eventually surpass China’s, a shift that was unforeseen just a few years ago.

As living standards improve, the number of Indians buying cars and trucks has risen, boosting gasoline use by 19 percent in April alone from a year earlier. The International Monetary Fund predicts the economy will swell by 7.5 percent this year as Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes business reforms, beating Chinese growth for the first time in a quarter-century.

India “reminds me of China a decade ago,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at London-based consultants Energy Aspects. “The demand growth is unbelievable.”

The country’s unbridled thirst for oil has helped bolster crude prices as they start to recover from a six-year low. It’s a further jolt to the energy market after the U.S. shale revolution pushed Russia out of the top spot for natural gas production and paved the way for the first American exports.

The IEA estimates India will consume about 4.1 million barrels of oil a day this quarter, compared with Japanese demand of 3.8 million barrels a day. The U.S. and China are the world’s top oil users.

“India will be a big center of oil and gas demand growth in the next few years,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in Vienna, where she’s attending an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries conference.

Japan’s consumption will drop further as nuclear power stations are restarted, replacing oil-fired plants, she said.

Price Recovery

Oil has rebounded to about $60 a barrel from $45 a barrel in January. A price of $65 would be “equitable,” Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Wednesday in Vienna, where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is meeting to discuss production limits. India imports about 85 percent of its oil, with the majority coming from OPEC countries.

In April, the country’s oil use rose by about 300,000 barrels a day, similar to the growth rate seen in January and February. If that pace is maintained for the rest of the year, India may overtake China, whose annual growth is estimated at 295,000 barrels a day by the IEA.

“India is growing: We have a new government, a new confidence in the economy, people are driving more,” said Lalit Kumar Gupta, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based refiner Essar Oil Ltd. “Even with oil prices rising, demand is continuing to increase here and will keep growing.”

Car Sales

Passenger-vehicle sales rose about 16 percent in April, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. It expects vehicle sales to grow as much as 8 percent this financial year.

“Cars are cheap and finance is available,” said Anand Dorairajan, a 32-year-old human-resources executive at a shipping firm in Mumbai. He bought a Hyundai car eight months ago to add to the Suzuki his family already owned, paying about $11,300. “When young people start working, they want to buy a vehicle with their first salaries. That’s what I did.”

As part of his ambitions for economic growth, Prime Minister Modi has proposed an end to government controls on fuel pricing, putting more money in the hands of state-run refiners. He has called on them to expand to meet demand as he works to shift the economy more toward manufacturing from services.

New Refinery

Indian Oil Corp. started a 300,000-barrel-a-day refinery on India’s east coast in April and plans to add capacity at a plant in Gujarat in western India. Bharat Petroleum Corp. intends to expand its refinery in central India and Chennai Petroleum Corp. will boost capacity in the south.

In all, processing capacity will rise more than 30 percent to about 6.2 million barrels a day by the end of the decade, according to Oil Ministry targets.

The jump in energy consumption is reminiscent of the early days of China’s demand boom. That country’s growth in gross domestic product soared toward 10 percent in the first half of the 2000s, pushing oil use beyond Japanese demand in 2003. China’s economy will grow by an estimated 6.8 percent this year, according to the IMF.



Report from EQ International:

India & USA Launch Of A New Initiative “Promoting Energy Access Through Clean Energy (PEACE)”; Signs A MoU On Cooperation To Establish The PACESetter Fund

India and the United States of America signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation to Establish the PACESetter Fund – A fund to support the Promoting Energy Access Through Clean Energy (PEACE) track of the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) to accelerate the commercialization of off-grid clean energy through early-stage grant funding grants to develop and test innovative products, systems, and business models

The MoU was signed by Shri Upendra Tripathy, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy from Indian side and by Shri Richard Verma, United States Ambassador to the Republic of India from USA side on 30th June, 2015 at New Delhi.The Government of India and the United States of America have announced the launch of a new initiative “Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE)”. This ambitious cooperation is a new tract under the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE), a flagship initiative on Clean Energy that combines the resources of several U.S. agencies and GOI Ministries. This has also been listed in the Joint Statement during the visit of President of USA to India in January, 2015.

India-U.S. corpus of about Rs.500 Million ($8 Million U.S. Dollars) have been drawn on 50:50 sharing basis.Under this, a Steering Committee comprising the Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the United States Ambassador to India, and three representatives from each side has been constituted.It was agreed to cooperate through technical and commercial innovation and the advancement of clean energy in off-grid space.


SoftBank plans $20 billion Indian solar power joint venture

Japan Times reports:

SoftBank Corp. will tie up with Bharti Enterprises Pvt. and Foxconn Technology Group in a $20 billion solar power venture in India, as the nation seeks to expand clean energy output about fivefold by 2022.

The project will aim to add 20 gigawatts of solar generating capacity, SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son said at a briefing in New Delhi on Monday. He spoke alongside Bharti’s Sunil Mittal, who said SoftBank will control the venture, with Bharti and Foxconn having minority stakes.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal is for India to have 100 gigawatts of solar capacity to curb blackouts and pollution, up from 4.1 gigawatts now. The challenge is finding the $94 billion needed to pay for a clean-energy overhaul that reduces India’s reliance on dirty, coal-fired plants. Son’s venture, if successful, would account for a fifth of Modi’s objective.

“The question is whether Japanese investors can get comfortable with the Indian market, where local companies have been bidding extremely aggressively in tenders, and there are risks around land ownership and transmission build that may not be what SoftBank is used to in Japan,” said Vandana Gombar of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New Delhi. Still, “there is no shortage of opportunity in India.”

SoftBank shares have gained 2.7 percent this year, compared with the 18 percent gain for the Nikkei 225 stock average.

Son said he will aim to invest $20 billion over the next decade, with the pace depending on the cooperation he receives from India’s central and state governments.

India has two times more sunshine than Japan, with construction costs for solar parks half those of Japan, Son said. “Twice the sunshine, half the cost; that means four times more efficient,” Son said. “So it makes a lot of sense to create large-scale solar power generation.”

The new venture will look at potential sites in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh states, Mittal said. It also will aim to manufacture solar panels in India.

The intention is to start the first project in 1 to 1½ years, Mittal said.

“Finding good projects is a challenge for every developer, and spending $20 billion on good projects may not be easy,” Gombar said.

Son said SoftBank can bring its experience of the solar industry in Japan to India, adding the company has invested $1 billion in Asia’s third-largest economy in the past nine months.

Japan is the second-largest market for solar cells, after China. India ranks fifth.

Modi’s solar ambition encompasses both rooftop projects and utility-scale plants. Adani Enterprises Ltd., Reliance Power Ltd. and SunEdison Inc. are among those pledging investment. Trina Solar Ltd. said last week that it plans a $500 million solar plant with India’s Welspun Energy Ltd.

Telecommunications company SoftBank set up a unit in 2011, SB Energy Corp., to develop clean energy projects following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan the same year.

Mittal’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. is India’s biggest wireless provider. SoftBank has stakes in more than 1,000 companies, including an Indian chat application venture with Bharti.

The largest member of Terry Gou’s Taiwanese group Foxconn is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., maker of Apple Inc. iPhones.

A gigawatt, or one thousand megawatts, is about the amount of power produced by one nuclear reactor.


Where Would We Be Without Bees Doing Their Essential Work?

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Where Would We Be Without Bees Doing Their Essential Work?

We always thought that humble bumble bees, like some politicians, made a lot of noise, but didn’t do much good. Not so. They are described as “agriculture’s key player” for the pollination of important crops.  And they’re dying as habitats get warmer. The honey bee has been taking a beating too. We’ve reported on this before and the situation appears to getting worse. Reports from the US say both branches of bees are having problems coping with a changing climate, parasites, disease, as well as nasty pesticides. Read More

Straits Times (11 July 2015):

MIAMI • Bumblebees are struggling to adapt to global warming and they are simply dying rather than migrating northwards to cooler climes, said a study that raised new concerns about these important pollinators.

The report in the journal Science on Thursday is the first of its kind to point to the role of climate change in worldwide bee decline, which until now has largely been blamed on pesticide use, parasites, disease and loss of areas for habitat.

“Picture a vice. Now picture the bumblebee habitat in the middle of the vice,” said lead author Jeremy Kerr, a professor of macroecology and conservation at the University of Ottawa.

“As the climate warms, bumblebee species are being crushed as the ‘climate vice’ compresses their geographical ranges,” he added. “The result is widespread, rapid declines of pollinators across continents, effects that are not due to pesticide use or habitat loss.”

Bumblebees help pollinate plants, wildflowers and fruit trees as well as important crops like blueberries and tomatoes, providing an invaluable service to agriculture and wildlife.

“Wild bumblebees are important pollinators of agricultural crops such as blueberry, apple, pumpkin and tomato, and declines in this ecosystem service of pollination could lead to lower crop yields and higher food costs, with consequences for both our food supply and the economy,” University of Vermont biologist Leif Richardson said.

The decline in pollination could make food more expensive and some crops harder to grow, researchers said.

By examining nearly a half million records from museums and citizen scientists on 67 bumblebee species in North America and Europe beginning in 1900, researchers were able to track changes in the bumblebees’ range over time. They found that bumblebees have lost as many as 300km of their historical southern range in North America and Europe.

“This is a huge loss, and it has happened very quickly,” said Professor Kerr.

“We are looking at rates of loss of about 9km per year from those southern areas,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, bumblebees are “generally failing” to move north and are instead going locally extinct in some areas.

“They just aren’t colonising new areas and establishing new populations fast enough to track rapid human-caused climate change,” Prof Kerr said.

The failure of bumblebees to adapt is in contrast to the behaviour of butterflies, which have been shown to change their migration patterns in response to warming temperatures.

Ways to help the bees survive should include reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as helping them establish populations in northern latitudes, a process known as assisted migration, researchers said.



Markham Heid for Time (15 April 2015):

Beekeepers continue to grapple with historically high death rates. And now something’s up with the queens.

From almonds to cherries, dozens of food crops are partially or totally dependent on honeybee pollination. And while media attention has waned, there’s still reason to worry about the country’s smallest and most indispensable farm workers.

Bee researchers first reported massive die-offs back in the 1990s. But the plight of the honeybee didn’t truly buzz into the national consciousness until the spring of 2013, when data revealed the average beekeeper had lost 45% of her colonies the previous winter. A mysterious phenomenon

Jump to 2015. While last winter’s bee death data won’t be published for a few more weeks, things appear to be “status quo,” says Dr. Greg Hunt, a honeybee expert at Purdue University. Unfortunately, the status quo is grim. “We’ve been seeing about 30% loss in an average winter,” Hunt says. “The winter before last was particularly bad and got a lot of attention, but things have been bad for a while.”

Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp—a University of Maryland entomologist who helps collect and publish the winter death data each spring—says there are three “primary drivers” of honeybee loss: The varroa mite, pesticides and poor nutrition. He doesn’t hesitate when asked to name the largest threat to bees: “I’d get rid of the varroa first.”

Varroa mites, properly (and frighteningly) named Varroa destructor, likely migrated to the U.S. sometime in the 1980s. They attach to a honeybee’s body and suck its blood, which kills many bees and spreads disease to others. The varroa can jump from one colony to another, wiping out whole populations of honeybees, vanEngelsdorp explains. There are treatments that combat the varroa. But many small-scale beekeepers don’t use them. “That’s bad, because they can spread mites to neighboring colonies,” he adds.

Of the two other major bee-killers vanEngelsdorp listed, pesticides have arguably gotten the most press—especially a commonly used category called neonicotinoids. While considered safe for humans, research suggests neonicotinoids may be extremely harmful to bees and many other insects, and so have been banned in some European countries. But the amount these chemicals contribute to bee deaths and colony collapse disorder is still debated. “We don’t find levels of neonicotinoids that are indicative of widespread exposure or harm,” vanEngelsdorp says.

The third problem—poor nutrition—is likely the most confounding of the honeybee’s enemies.

“Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers,” explains Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College. Unfortunately, a country once filled with meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers is now blanketed by crops, manicured lawns, and mown fields barren of pollen sources. “A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly,” Mattila adds.

Combine a restricted diet with environmental factors like extremely cold winters and scorching summers, and stressed honeybee colonies are less able to resist the ravages of mites, pesticides, viruses and other potential causes of colony collapse disorder.

To fill nutrition gaps, beekeepers give their wares pollen supplements. Along with tactics like colony splitting, keepers can restore their bee supplies quickly during the spring and summer months. But Hunt says the cost to do this is large—and growing larger. “As long as beekeepers are willing to put more money and hard labor into it, we can come back and rebuild our colonies and numbers,” he explains. “But whether this is all sustainable is an open question.”

Mattila calls this a “Band-Aid,” not a cure. “I think we’re making the best of a tough situation,” she says. Both she and Hunt applaud companies and localities that have started letting wildflowers grow along the sides of highways or under rural power lines—places that used to be mown and sprayed with herbicide. The federal government has also taken steps to protect lands that offer honeybees (and lots of other insects) the sustenance they need. Mattila says every American can help these efforts by planting flowers and avoiding chemical treatments.

But she mentions another emerging concern when it comes to the future of America’s honeybees: The strange, abrupt deaths of many bee queens. “When I started working with bees 18 years ago, we’d replace living queens every two years,” she recalls. “Now queens die after half a summer. Nobody is really clear on why.”

The “Band-Aid” she mentioned might already be coming off.


Deforestation, Land Clearing & Illegal Logging. Who’s keeping Count?

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

Deforestation, Land Clearing & Illegal Logging. Who’s keeping Count?

Ecuador broke the world record for reforestation in May 2015, as thousands of people pitched in to plant 647,250 trees in a single day. Brazil has in recent years done much to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but the BBC’s Wyre Davies reports that  “we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise”. It’s difficult to get a clear picture of the current global state of deforestation, even though it accounts for at least 20% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and forests are still being cleared at an alarming rate in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Chatham House has a report on illegal logging – just one of the associated issues. Read More

Business Insider reported in May:

Volunteers in Ecuador just planted 647,250 trees – in one day.

Ecuador broke the world record for reforestation in May 2015, as thousands of people pitched in to plant 647,250 trees in a single day, President Rafael Correa said.

“I have just been informed that we have broken the Guinness record for reforestation,” the president said in his weekly address.

He said several different species were planted and that the reforestation efforts took place all over Ecuador, which boasts varied geography from its Pacific coast, high Andean peaks and low Amazon basin.

Environment Minister Lorena Tapia said on Twitter that 44,883 people planted the trees on more than 2,000 hectares of land.

The record, set just last year, apparently was taken from a group in the Philippines, Guinness said.

Scientists believe planting trees helps offset carbon buildup, as they sequester carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and help to reduce global warming.

Ecuador holds several other world records, including the most plastic bottles recycled in one week and the most people buried in sand simultaneously, according to Guinness.

Read more:

Brazil’s Amazon wilderness at risk from organised crime

From Wyre Davies, BBC Rio de Janeiro correspondent (9 July):

Wyre Davies has been out with Brazil’s environmental police, as they raid illegal logging camps

We are flying low in helicopter formation over the Brazilian Amazon with agents from Ibama – the state-funded institute responsible for environmental protection.

No country has done more than Brazil in recent years to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but there is a good reason the agents have their guns drawn – we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise.

There are big profits to be made from illegal logging and the fraudulent clearing of rainforest for valuable cash crops and these helicopter patrols are often shot at.

Trying to locate illegal logging operations in the midst of this dense jungle from the air is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Destroyed on the spot

There are probably thousands of small illegal logging camps across the Amazon. Men armed with machetes and chainsaws, cutting down valuable Brazilian hardwoods are the foot soldiers in a highly profitable and dangerous trade.

Those that are caught risk arrest, their camps are set alight and their machinery, including expensive tractors and other equipment, are destroyed on the spot.

All of this might appear harsh but, says Maria Luisa de Sousa, the Ibama official who has been co-ordinating this month-long operation in northern and eastern Mato Grosso, the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organised crime.

“You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting.”

As we wait for our helicopter to be refuelled before heading out on another mission she adds: “They’re getting even more sophisticated, using even bigger tools to deforest, which makes it even more dangerous for us.”.

Everything felled

We fly on, over virgin jungle, but also over immense fields of soya and corn, cash crops that have earned valuable export profits for Brazil in recent decades and also help to feed the growing population in the south of the country.

Some of the most recent deforestation sometimes seems blatant and egregious. Down below we spot two huge tractors – the “new beasts” of the jungle.

They are involved in one of the most destructive forms of deforestation in the Amazon.

In this case, several acres of trees have been felled in a couple of days or weeks. Dragging a huge, steel chain between them, the tractors have felled everything in their path.

New monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year.

Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.

Last week in a highly publicised trip to Washington, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff expressed her “deep concern” for the climate and in a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama, she made numerous pledges about the environment – promising among other things to stop all illegal deforestation.

But many environmentalists are sceptical about her ability to deliver on her promises.

Under tighter economic constraints her government has repeatedly cut environmental budgets, while the emphasis has often lent towards the right of Brazil to develop and exploit its resources over the need to protect biodiversity.

As long as that remains the case and if President Rousseff fails to match the rhetoric in Washington with the appropriate resources, the future of this unique wilderness remains in jeopardy.


Progress in tackling illegal logging slows as new trends offset effective reforms

Chatham House reports (15 July 2015):

Efforts to address illegal logging and reduce the trade in illegal timber have borne fruit and prompted some positive reforms in producer countries, a new report from Chatham House has found. However, changes in the sector mean overall trade in illegal timber has not fallen in the last decade.

EU and US policies designed to reduce demand for illegal timber have helped cut illegal imports to those markets. These reforms and the EU’s partnership agreements with producer countries have prompted improvements in forest governance and a fall in large-scale illegal timber production.

But growth of demand in emerging markets means that the progressive policies of so-called ‘sensitive markets’ are now less influential. China is now the world’s largest importer and consumer of wood-based products, as well as a key processing hub. India, South Korea, and Vietnam are also growing markets. The increasing role of small-scale producers, whose activities often fall outside legal frameworks, and a rapid increase in illegal forest conversion, also present new challenges.

Alison Hoare: ‘The EU and US have spearheaded some progressive and effective reforms. However, the changing scale and nature of the problem demands more coordinated international action. To stop further deforestation and associated carbon emissions, and to help achieve global objectives for sustainable development, the EU and US need to maintain their leadership while other countries – especially China, Japan, India and South Korea – need to step up their efforts to tackle illegal logging.’

The Chatham House report, which is based on the studies of 19 countries, which include key producers, consumers, or processors of timber, and is an update of a 2010 study found:

Timber production

More than 80 million m3 of timber was illegally produced in 2013 in the nine producer countries assessed, accounting for about one-third of their combined total production.

An estimated 60% of this illegal timber is destined for these countries’ domestic markets.

Small-scale producers are increasingly important – for example, in Cameroon, the DRC and Ghana, they account for an estimated 50, 90 and 70% respectively of annual timber production. The majority of this is illegal.

For the nine producer countries, the area of forest under voluntary legality verification or sustainability certification schemes increased by nearly 80% between 2000 and 2013.

Imports of illegal wood-based products

In most of the consumer and producer countries assessed, the volume of illegal imports of wood-based products fell during the period 2000–13.

The exceptions were China, and India and Vietnam where the volume of illegal imports more than doubled.

As a proportion of the whole, illegal imports declined for nearly all countries.

However, at the global level, the proportion of illegal timber imports remained steady at 10% – a result of the growth of the Chinese market.

The EU and US

The volumes of illegal imports into the UK, France and the Netherlands nearly halved over the period 2000-13, from just under 4 million m3 to 2 million m3.

The volume of illegal imports into the US increased between 2000 and 2006, from around 5 to 9 million m3, and then declined to just under 6 million m3 in 2013.

In 2013, more than 60% of illegal imports of wood-based products to the UK and US came from China.


The volume of illegal imports into China doubled between 2000 and 2013 from 17 to 33 million m3; but as a proportion of the whole illegal imports fell, from 26 to 17%.

The volume of exports of wood-based products (legal and illegal) from the nine producer countries to China nearly tripled, from 12 million m3 in 2000 to 34 million m3 in 2013.

The Chatham House report makes the following recommendations:

The EU and US need to maintain and reinforce current efforts

Other countries need to take stronger action – China in particular, but also India, Japan and South Korea

Strong international cooperation is needed to maintain & reinforce current efforts – the G20 could provide a forum to galvanise international action

Producer countries need to focus on strengthening efforts to tackle corruption, improving legality within the small-scale sector, and reforming land-use governance

Alison Hoare: ‘Developing countries are losing significant amounts of potential revenue from illegal logging, which is also causing the loss and degradation of forests, depleting livelihoods, and contributing to social conflict and corruption. Tackling illegal logging and strengthening forest governance are essential for achieving critical climate and development goals. Having seen the progress that can be made, it’s imperative that governments agree to work together to rise to new challenges and promote a more sustainable forest sector for the benefit of all.’


The Science of Solar Comes Down to Earth Three Times Over

Posted by Ken on July 21, 2015
Posted under Express 211

The Science of Solar Comes Down to Earth Three Times Over

1. A new type of solar cell which can convert liquid water into clean hydrogen fuel 10 times more effectively than any other technology has been discovered in The Netherlands. It uses 10,000 times less precious material in the process. 2. Halfway between a balloon and a kite, a flying solar device called Zephyr (from France) is assisting those deprived of electricity in disaster areas. 3. Imagine a tent with an outer solar-powered skin which absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, while the inner skin provides pockets for storage – particularly at the lower half of the shelters. Plus a water storage tank on the top. It’s the work of Jordanian-Canadian architect and designer Abeer Seikaly. Read More

Scientists figure out how to make solar cells produce fuel AND electricity

How does powering our cars with solar fuel sound?

Science Alert (20 July 2015): 20 JUL 2015

A new type of solar cell can convert liquid water into clean hydrogen fuel 10 times more effectively than any other technology, and uses 10,000 times less precious material in the process.

Invented by researchers in the Netherlands, the secret to these new prototype solar cells are gallium phosphide nanowires, which can split water into its hydrogen and oxygen components far more cheaply and efficiently than the batteries and semiconductor materials that have been used in the past.

The efficiency of solar cell technology has improved dramatically over the past decade, and is now providing Germany with at least half its national energy requirements. And earlier this year in the Netherlands, it was announced that a tiny, 70-metre stretch of road covered in solar cells generated enough electricity to power a household for a year.

Over the past few years, scientists have been figuring out how to take things one step further by using solar cells to produce both fuel and electricity. The dream is one day we’ll be using nothing but the boundless energy of the Sun to not only power our homes, but our cars, trains, and buses too.

Previous studies have shown that connecting an existing silicon solar cell to a water-splitting battery can produce hydrogen fuel, but it’s certainly not a cheap enough process to be a realistic alternative. The most promising option is using some kind of semiconductor material that can convert sunlight into an electrical charge while splitting water into useable components, like an all-in-one solar fuel cell, but semiconductor materials aren’t cheap either.

A team Eindhoven University of Technology investigated the potential of gallium phosphide (GaP), which is a compound of gallium and phosphide that’s also used in the production of red, orange, and green-coloured LED lights, and has shown great potential in terms of its electrical properties. But gallium phosphide is expensive to produce, and when used in big, flat sheets, it’s not capable of absorbing sunlight as efficiently as needed for a viable solar cell system. So the researchers tried producing a grid of tiny gallium phosphide nanowires measuring 90 nanometres thick and 500 nanometers long, and integrated them with existing solar cell technology.

Not only did they end up using 10,000 less gallium phosphide than if they’d used it to build a flat surface, but they discovered a whole new way to make solar fuel. “This immediately boosted the yield of hydrogen by a factor of 10 to 2.9 percent,” the press release explains. “A record for GaP cells, even though this is still some way off the 15 percent achieved by silicon cells coupled to a battery.”

The team argues that it’s not just the yield we should be looking at when it comes to producing solar fuel, but the cost of the system, because if it’s not cheaper than what we already get from fossil fuels, no one’s going to use it no matter how much better for the environment it is. Their challenge now is to figure out how to increase the yield of their gallium phosphide grids so their solar cells can meet this 15 percent battery yield.

“For the nanowires we needed 10,000 less precious GaP material than in cells with a flat surface. That makes these kinds of cells potentially a great deal cheaper,” lead researcher Erik Bakkers says. “In addition, GaP is also able to extract oxygen from the water – so you then actually have a fuel cell in which you can temporarily store your solar energy. In short, for a solar fuels future we cannot ignore gallium phosphide any longer.”

The results have been published in Nature Communications.



From Straits Times (20 June 2015):

Solar balloon makes light work at disaster sites

HALFWAY between a balloon and a kite, a flying device called Zephyr is assisting those deprived of electricity in disaster areas.

Designed by students from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the device can generate energy anywhere.

It is made up of a box with an electrical transformer and a lightweight sail. Measuring 3.8m in diameter, the sail is covered with 15 sq m of lightweight solar panels.

Mr Cedric Tomissi, one of the two designers behind the project, said: “All you need to do is unfurl the sail and allow it to inflate.

“The balloon collects solar energy and transports it to the ground via a cable, while the batteries store surplus energy and take over the power supply at night.”

The device can yield up to 3kwh of power, putting it on a par with a traditional generator.

It can supply lighting and heating to 50 people in, say, a refugee camp or an emergency hospital.

The designers have won several awards, including the 2014 James Dyson Award.

A technical feasibility study was carried out on the photovol-taic balloon in November last year.

The next stage is to build an initial prototype.

The team will need about €25,000 (S$38,000) to do that. It has received around €10,000 from various prizes. A fund-raising campaign is set to run from September to January.

The team hopes to move the project into an industrial phase and start selling the device in 2018. About €1 million will be needed at this stage.

In the long term, the aim is to sell an entire range of balloons for various uses, including non-humanitarian applications.

Said Ms Julie Dautel, the other designer: “The balloon can be used for homes in remote areas where the roof cannot take the weight of traditional solar panels, at campsites and in nomadic encampments like those found in Africa and Asia. It can even be used to support communications technology.”


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, on Impact Journalism Day, with the headline ‘Solar balloon brings electricity to disaster sites’.


Collapsible woven refugee shelters powered by the sun

From Green Prophet:

More than 40 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes and left to find shelter in strange lands. Maybe they find a tarp, or a tent, but their quality of life almost always remains dismal.

To close this gap in need, Jordanian-Canadian architect and designer Abeer Seikaly designed a new kind of shelter.  One that allows refugees to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Seikaly, now living in Amman, Jordan is well poised to design a dwelling for refugees given that her ancestors in Jordan probably toggled between nomadic and sheltered life in the desert for centuries.

“The movement of people across the earth led to the discovery of new territories as well as the creation of new communities among strangers forming towns, cities, and nations,” writes Seikaly in her design brief. “Navigating this duality between exploration and settlement, movement and stillness is a fundamental essence of what it means to be human.”

But today, a great deal of migration is no longer voluntary, as wars and climate change force people out of their homes – often with very little money. The collapsible woven shelters, which are conceptual but proven to work, would allow these people to carry their homes with them.

Comprised of a structural woven fabric that “blurs the distinction between structure and fabric,” the shelter expands to create a private enclosure and contracts “for mobility.” It also comes with some fundamental amenities required by modern people, including water and renewable electricity.

The outer solar-powered skin absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, while the inner skin provides pockets for storage – particularly at the lower half of the shelters. And a water storage tank on the top of the tent allows people to take quick showers. Water rises to the storage tank via a thermosiphoning system and a drainage system ensures that the tent is not flooded.