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Posts tagged 'Energy'

Economic growth is decoupled from carbon again this year

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For second year running, the economy grew while decreasing its carbon footprint, according to analysis of preliminary data for 2015 released by the International Energy Agency (IAE).

CO%22 The two largest emitters, China and the United States, registered a decline in energy-related CO2 in 2015.

The emissions in China declined by 1,5%due to the restructuring of its industry towards less energy-intensive industries and the government’s efforts to decarbonize electricity generation, which pushed down the coal use. Therefore in 2015 in China less than 70% of the entry was coal generated, 10% less than in 2010. This energy was substituted by hydropower, solar and wind generated energy.

Meanwhile, in the United States the emissions declined by a 2% as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.

In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe theres is still a moderate increase.

This decline observed in the two major emitters was offset by the increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies.

Finally, all those Economic ministers / Treasuries that thought this was imposible now they have their proof.

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Is energy storage the real killer?

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A new report from The Carbon Trust says energy storage could save £2.4bn every year in the UK electricity system if some market barriers are removed. Some of the key identified barriers are: policy risks, failure to recognize externality benefits to society, revenue cannibalisation risks, distorted markets price signals, among others.

The analysis, backed by UK department DECC, estimates that around £7bn could be saved annually if energy storage technologies are integrated effectively into the grid system.

Please see the full new report from the Carbon trust.

Recently, the US department for Energy announced good news about breakthrough energy storage technologies, especially for large scale storage.

Please see the full article from the Guardian

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Is Tesla’s Powerwall A Real Game Changer?

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Tesla Last week Elon Musk from Tesla announced the Powerwall, their home battery pack power unit. The core idea is that you can draw and store energy from solar and other power sources when available and/or at lowest cost.

I have no doubt that energy storage is a great strategic play in the micro generation market but these kinds of products have been around for several years, so why have they not taken off before? And is this really going to be a game changer for us and the energy industry?

It raises many further questions, some of which I will try to answer:

Price – At $3500 and $3000 for the 10kw and 7kw respectively – is this the right price point? Well the battery is cheap, much more so than the competition (roughly 1/3 the price) but this does not include the inverter to convert the DC to AC to suit your home, solar PV, or installation. When you do the full ownership maths it’s not all that cheap if you’re already using a decent renewables based supplier.

How sustainably sourced/produced are these units? How are they built, applied and recycled? – It’s too early to really know but the life and process cycle of lithium-ion is well understood. It would be a PR disaster if there were serious holes in their thinking but lets see. They are guaranteed for 10 years but at what efficiency at the end of that life-cycle?

Integration – Are they easy to install and maintain? We don’t know yet. We do know that the Deliveries start this summer so we’ll expect to hear more very soon. I think the key here is to apply this solution with solar, if you’re able.

Energy cost and savings – Early estimates suggest 15c to 25c per kwh which is ok’ish but in no way game changing. In the US energy costs can be as low as 10c but in Hawaii for example you can quadruple that. However – if nothing else, this product release may budge other service providers to offer more sustainable solutions at more reasonable prices and service levels. I appreciate this may sound a little naive, but the ego fuelled board rooms of big power companies may just feel some of the pinch.

Tesla’s brand power – Every new market needs the maverick and the executer. Elon Musk appears to be both. He’s shaken up the auto industry at exactly the right time and their brand power may just be enough to get us all thinking about where and how our electricity is generated.

Developing countries – I can’t see at this price point how it will benefit the developing world but maybe it will bridge some of the gap for the more affluent or more vital services in remote or power poor areas.

Tesla BatterySpecs

Technology – Wall mounted, rechargeable lithium ion battery with liquid thermal control.
Models – 10 kWh $3,500For backup applications7 kWh $3,000For daily cycle applications
Warranty – 10 years
Efficiency – 92% round-trip DC efficiency
Power – 2.0 kW continuous, 3.3 kW peak
Voltage – 350 – 450 volts
Current – 5.8 amp nominal, 8.6 amp peak output
Compatibility – Single phase and three phase utility grid compatible.
Operating Temperature – -4°F to 110°F / -20°C to 43°C
Enclosure – Rated for indoor and outdoor installation.
Installation – Requires installation by a trained electrician. DC-AC inverter not included.
Weight – 220 lbs / 100 kg
Dimensions – 51.2″ x 33.9″ x 7.1″ – 1300 mm x 860 mm x 180 mm
Certification – NRTL listed to UL standards

WIRED’s writer Brent Rose takes a more ‘real world’ look:

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A dozen points on the EU’s climate and energy efficiency package

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2030 Climate Energy Framework1. At Interface we strongly support the idea of promoting energy efficiency. At our European division we have been able to cut our carbon emissions by 90% since 1994 and we continue to drive them down. Improvements in energy efficiency have been responsible for 60% of these cuts, with the remaining 30% coming from converting to green electricity and, more recently, to biogas.

2. Our experience is that improving energy efficiency is the most effective, easiest and cheapest option available to businesses and governments that wish to reduce their carbon emissions. If, for instance, we had managed to achieve 60% of our carbon emissions since 1994 by converting to renewable energy, then that would have been much more expensive.

3. Interface has been supportive of the European Union’s climate and energy efficiency package, and we are pleased that the EU is now looking at putting more effort into promoting energy efficiency across the continent. But we believe the time is right for a more radical approach. Just setting modest targets will not deliver the rapid change that we need. Instead the EU must come up with a proper energy efficiency package supported by updates of several relevant directives.

4. We think the most effective way of encouraging energy efficiency improvements is through regulation that concentrates on the product level. A great example of this has been the EU’s work with the car industry, where it has defined a performance metric on tailpipe emissions (gCO2/km) for manufacturers, set out an average target for companies to meet (90gCO2/km by 2020) and introduced regulation that forces the publication of that metric in advertising and at point of sale. These measures have been supported by national and local governments, which have introduced tax breaks and penalties that have reinforced the drive towards lower carbon cars.

5. We need a similar roadmap for other industry areas. If we take buildings, for instance, the EU could pick two performance metrics: kWh/m2 for energy in use and kgCO2 for embodied carbon in new construction. It could then introduce strong European targets for new buildings, mandate all public and company buildings to show their energy efficiency levels and, at national level, encourage governments to link energy efficiency performance with stamp duty and with local council taxes.

6. If we want to make real progress on energy efficiency the EU needs to adopt a similar approach sector by sector, preparing a battery of actions for each sector at product performance level. It needs to regulate energy when it is consumed, not when is generated.

7. The EU has been also successful in implementing performance standards and labels for energy using products such as fridges and washing machines. But it’s time to get much more radical and get those companies to compete much more fiercely in obtaining the lowest energy consumption. Let’s find a way to reward those companies who will come with the best innovations instead of having a minimum common denominator approach. We also need to expand that approach to more energy using products.

8. Some argue that the EU should be wary of improving energy efficiency across the board because this will distort the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but we reject that analysis. The ETS does not in any case deliver a proper price for carbon. We cannot put off action any longer due to fears that such action will damage an already broken system. The primary goal for EU climate policy must be an aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency. Once that has been undertaken, we can adjust the rest of climate policy to accommodate the primary goal of decoupling Europe from energy consumption.

9. It is also a fallacy to say that pursuing better energy efficiency costs too much. European Commission research has shown that across Europe we can achieve a 2.6% reduction in imported gas for every 1% increase in energy efficiency. According to the European Alliance to Save Energy, if all computers were switched off when not in use, that would save 360m euros per year in the UK and Germany alone, and if every company PC in Germany was fitted with energy saving software, the national economy there would be 1.9bn euros better off.

10. The product thinking used for cars or energy using products can be equally effective on products with high embodied energy. A building can be design to have radically less embodied energy by using different raw materials or by designing in a smarter way. That applies for a sofa, a diet, a plastic bag, a toy, a chemical, carpet or cement. The first step is mandating product transparency through either EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) or developing magic metrics for each product category.

11. If there was an EU regulatory regime that rewarded companies for redesigning their products to save embodied energy, then the gains could be even more impressive. For example, for a little more cost Interface can design a carpet with 50% less embodied energy, saving a huge amount of energy in the supply chain. But there is no financial incentive to do so. If, however, a carpet with 5kgCO2/m2 was subject to lower VAT than a carpet with 20kgCO2/m2, then we would have an incentive to convince more customers to buy those products., instead of just appealing to a good cause. The same would apply for all kinds of physical products, from plasterboard to plastics. The only way to incentivise product design is through the same battery of policy initiatives that were targeted at the car industry.

12. In summary, huge and relatively cheap gains on energy efficiency can be made across industry by focusing regulation on product design. What we need are directives allied to performance metrics across all sectors, an average target for companies to meet, further regulation that forces the publication of those metrics, and the support of national and local government tax policies to reinforce these measures. If we move down this path, then dramatic change can be achieved. Carrying on with the current mindset, where only general EU-wide headline grabbing targets are set with little regulatory back-up, will deliver too little, too late. We urge the EU to take this unique chance that we have to move in a new direction as soon as possible, given that both energy security and climate change are back in the headlines for a period of time.

Let’s take this opportunity in front of us right now.

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What percentage of the investment required for our 2030 energy needs will be in renewables?

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This week has seen several articles like this one from The Climate Group exploring what $ investment amount is currently required to meet our energy needs in 2030. Most importantly, citing what percentage of that figure will be invested in renewables.

Global Power Generation BNEF

It’s been proposed that two thirds of the near $8 Trillion required (that’s eight with twelve zeros) will go on renewables. That is still too conservative! If you reverse the figures that’s still a very uncool $2.5Tn spent on the wrong side of the fence.

More must, and in reality, will be invested in renewables.


* The political landscape is sliding aggressively towards climate policies that will affect real change where it’s most required. This proposed ruling from the EPA in the USA is a prime example.

* We can crack the energy storage conundrum. It’s highly likely with current breakthroughs and smart-grids. Plus if Graphene lives up to its promises, then expect step jumps in storage and transmission technologies in the very near future.

* Will coal be around and viable by 2030? Why invest in obsolescence?

* The cost of renewables has already hit marketable levels. This article from the Huffington Post highlights key elements from solar.

It won’t be long before ‘alternative’ energy is simply labelled – Energy.

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The embodied impact of cement

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Corporate Sustainable Development Report 2013

The publication of Holcim’s sustainability report has made me think about the high embodied impacts that cement brings. Some progress is under way but it is not enough.

Here are the numbers:

Cement production is highly energy intensive. The energy to make one tonne of clinker was 3466MJ in 2013, a reduction from 4500MJ in 1990. But production has increased significantly. For example Holcim’s cement production has increased by almost 120% since 1990 and even energy from coal and pet coke has increased by 25% despite a 14% use of waste as an alternative fuel. So cement growth for Holcim is pushing for 25% growth in coal and pet coke.

The most worrying part is that Holcim is actually the best in the industry (lowest carbon intensity) with net emissions of 572kg of CO2 per tonne of cement.

They aim to reduce that by 25% by 2015 and are on track.

The cement industry could be much more ambitious. It’s easy to point fingers when we have achieved a 90% absolute reduction but that’s not my point. They have instant options, for example – they could reduce the reliance on clinker by using slag from blade furnaces and other alternative materials.

Outside of the industry there is a compelling argument to reduce the demand for cement. Buildings can be designed so that they use less cement and still deliver decent thermal mass and high insulating values. This offers huge opportunities and much more scope for innovation. Architects, urban planners and infrastructure developers have the biggest leverage.

That obviously cannibalises the cement industry but it also offers opportunity to a new business model that sells less tonnes and more value. Innovations at product level that lead to premium products and services will have to be the key driver to decarbonise the cement industry.

Source: Holcim’s sustainability report 

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Act On Facts – A Great Wind Energy Campaign

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I came across this site – which is a great resource for all things Wind Energy, focussing on the facts, not myth.

About Act On Facts – Did you know that all over the world, a large number of wind energy projects that could save millions of tons of CO2 every year are right now being stalled or blocked because of misunderstandings or myths about wind energy. Act On Facts is a campaign designed to straighten out the facts and activate public support towards wind energy.

Act On Facts

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John Lewis Partnership to power sites with renewables

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SmartestEnergyThe John Lewis Partnership (JLP) has signed a deal to buy 100% renewable energy from SmartestEnergy.

More than 380 JLP stores, including Waitrose and John Lewis, will be supplied with 100% renewable electricity by the small energy supplier starting January 2015.

Nigel Keen, JLP Partnership’s Director of Property Services, said:

‘As a responsible retailer, the Partnership aims to source sustainably across its supply chains and this agreement provides us with full transparency over where our energy is coming from. Working with SmartestEnergy means we can support independent renewable generators and contribute to progress towards the UK’s target for 15 per cent of energy demand to be met from renewable sources by 2020.’

Robert Groves, CEO at SmartestEnergy, said:

‘We have worked very closely with the Partnership’s energy buying team over the past six months and been very impressed both with their approach to sustainability and genuine interest in the energy entrepreneurs we work with. This agreement is good news for the growing number of independent renewable generators in the UK as continued expansion in demand for green energy ensures they have a route to market for their power.’

JLP joins other retailers such as supermarket chain Sainsbury’s which is Europe’s largest rooftop solar operator.

Marks and Spencer topped UK-based carbon management firm Carbon Clear’s ranking of the carbon performance of the FTSE 100.

Top 10 Performers:

Marks and Spencer

BT Group

National Grid



Reed Elsevier

TUI Travel



British Land

Research revealed that the 25 companies, including Apple and IKEA, with the highest total solar capacity as of August 2013 have deployed more than 445MW at over 950 different facilities, enough to power 73,400 American homes.



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Some Key #Sustainability Stats

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Recently there have been some fascinating publications, news feeds and reports highlighting sustainability issues.

I’ve pulled some key stats together here. Obviously this is not a comprehensive list, but some interesting items to consider:


* The IEA’s World Energy Outlook estimates that fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $523 billion in 2011.

* World economic output in 2011 was US $78 trillion, and according to the IMF is expected to grow to US$111 trillion by the year 2017

* By the year 2025 there will be eight billion people and by 2050 there will be over nine billion people.

* By 2050 it is estimated that 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.

* According to insight by Shell, demand for energy could treble by 2050.

* Global water demand is forecast to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, with the largest increases coming from manufacturing, electricity and domestic use.

* The World Steel Association expects production to double by 2050 in order to meet the growing demand for steel.

* Energy production accounts for about 15% of the world’s total water withdrawal.


Please do add more in the comments or Tweet me @ramonarratia

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UK Energy efficiency in manufacturing

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Here is an excerpt from the NMR report that I am proud to have been involved with, researching the UK’s energy efficiency in manufacturing. A key message: As savings are made, jobs are being created.

In 2011, the total UK energy usage in the manufacturing sector in fuels and electricity was 26.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe)22, which cost £9.4bn.

For the past two decades, the energy intensity of each manufacturing sub-sector has been gradually decreasing due to a number of background reasons including improved equipment design, better management practices, improved production processes and offshoring. Since 2002, with the rapid rise in energy prices, many companies have also actively increased their energy efficiency activities.

To date, companies have used a number of energy efficiency improvement approaches, ranging from incremental behavioural changes and putting energy management processes in place, through to more fundamental structural and core redesign changes to their businesses and products.

Best practice companies in most manufacturing sub-sectors are reducing their energy intensity at 4% p.a. compound or better above the background improvement rate. Moving the UK manufacturing sector to these higher improvement rates provides a gross opportunity of £1.9bn p.a. in energy savings, over and above ongoing efforts, as well as greenhouse gas emissions savings of 19MtCO2e p.a.

Energy efficiency activities also create skilled jobs at the rate of 7.7 jobs per £1million spend p.a. Implementing the savings identified would create 3,500 new full time jobs. Four key barriers currently prevent the UK from reaching its energy efficiency potential: senior executive leadership; information; resource constraints, and; application of an appropriate skill mix.

Historical UK Energy Consumption by Manufacturing Sector

Historical UK Energy Consumption by Manufacturing Sector

For the full report, please click here.

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