Energy Efficiency

Millions of dollars of NSW taxpayers’ money is being spent on tiny cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. One charity has received a grant to reduce emissions by just two tonnes over 10 years.

The opposition has criticised the Climate Change Fund, which sets aside about $5 million of its $300 million budget for not-for-profit groups to make their buildings more water- and energy-efficient.

The Central Coast Community College was given $21,018 to save 4.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the equivalent of $4670 a tonne, and the Central Coast Campus Union received $38,000 to save nine tonnes of emissions at $4222 a tonne.

In another case, a family support group in Newcastle received $1400 to tint their windows to reduce electricity use and lower emissions by just two tonnes over the next 10 years.

A Liberal MP for Castle Hill, Michael Richardson, said he supported groups cutting their carbon footprint but not at any cost.

”This fund has been a monumental waste of taxpayers’ funds, given the need to cut millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide,” he said.

”Taxpayers want the Climate Change Fund to succeed, but that can only happen if the government achieves value for money. There isn’t a bottomless pit of funds to draw on.”

Last month the Environment Minister, Frank Sartor, called on groups to apply for a slice of the $5.4 million funding under the Community Savers program.

Mr Sartor said $6.6 million had been given to 281 projects since the program began last year, saving about 1.3 billion litres of water, 48,000 tonnes of carbon pollution over the next 10 years and $1.3 million on bills.

He said as much as $40,000 was available to groups to undertake measures such as installing rainwater tanks, switching to solar hot water and installing water-efficient fixtures.

Source: AuSES.


Heinz has reduced its carbon emissions by 17,000 tons since 2006 at its UK factories in Kendal, Cumbria and Kitt Green with the help of Carbon Trust, reports Food and Drink Digital.

The foods company also has cut its energy costs at the UK factories, saving more than 13 percent of its annual energy costs in the Kitt Green food-processing complex alone, over the last two years, reports Carbon Trust. An energy audit of Heinz’ production lines helped the foods company achieve the energy savings.

Heinz energy managers discovered that a lot of energy was required to heat cold water to rehydrate the dried beans, as well as create the steam to cook the beans in their cans, reports Food and Drink Digital.

By capturing and recycling the waste heat from these processes, less energy is now needed to heat the water, which also has resulted in a drop in carbon emissions, says Carbon Trust.

Hugh Jones, director, solutions, the Carbon Trust, told the news site that there many opportunities to save energy and cut carbon emissions by changing the way companies manufacture everyday products.

Other initiatives that helped Heinz cut energy use and carbon emissions include improving the efficiency of its boilers and making design changes to production line machines.

The foods company also is looking at ways to produce power from waste and use more renewable energy in an effort to help the company meet its goal to cut global carbon emissions 20 percent, based on 2005 levels, by 2015, reports Carbon Trust.

Heinz, along with some of the UK’s largest retailers Asda, Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, also has voluntarily agreed to reduce the carbon footprint of its grocery packaging by 10 percent by 2012.

Source: Environmental Leader.

As the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) releases an energy-savings guide to help quick-service restaurants reduce their energy use by 50 percent, Starbucks continues to move ahead with plans to make the restaurant chain’s stores environmentally friendly.

Starbucks is part of a growing trend by retailers to reduce their impact on the environment despite the initial cost premium for their efforts, reports The Washington Post.

About 1,300 retail locations have enrolled in the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program through September, compared with 900 for all of last year, and represent about eight percent of all 6,000 buildings that are LEED certified, according to The Washington Post.

Starbucks strategy calls for 50 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources and to achieve LEED certification for all of its “ground-up” sites worldwide. The company is one of several working with USGBC on a new certification program that offers operators the option of pursuing the designation for multiple properties at once, reports The Washington Post.

Starbucks will build or renovate 10 test stores around the world as part of the test program.

Starbucks would not reveal to the newspaper how much the green retrofits cost other than noting “it has been pricey.” However, the restaurant chain expects to achieve a full return on investment for these projects in a few years.

To help restaurants reduce their energy consumption, the DOE and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have released a technical report that provides recommendations on how to achieve up to 50 percent energy savings in quick-service restaurants.

The guide, “Technical Support Document: 50% Energy Savings for Quick-Service Restaurants” (PDF), provides a number of energy-efficiency measures that cut energy use in quick-service restaurants by up to 50 percent compared to a baseline standard in less than five years. The 50 percent goal covers the reduction of site energy use in all eight U.S. climate zones.

PNNL used EnergyPlus, an energy simulation program, to determine the energy savings provided by the energy-efficiency measures. The prototype 2,500-sq.-ft. building model was analyzed across all U.S. climate zones, which were divided into 16 representative climate cities.

The report also provides an estimate of the incremental first costs and simple payback years.

Some of the energy-efficiency measures include the following:

–Ultra-efficient cooking appliances that reduced kitchen exhaust air flow

–An optimized HVAC system configuration to better utilize a dedicated outdoor air system and runaround coil loop heat recovery

–Efficient exterior and interior lighting with dimming controls in the dining room

–Enhanced insulation, cool roofs, and high-performance window glazing

The DOE says the 50 percent savings report will provide the foundation for the next series of Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs), which are “how-to” guides that show architects, engineers, and building designers how to achieve above-code energy performance for buildings using existing technologies available today.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) works in collaboration with DOE, the American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society, and the U.S. Green Building Council to develop and publish the free design guides.

The DOE has published guides in several categories for commercial buildings. For example, in September, DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released two technical reports that provide recommendations on how to achieve 50 percent energy savings in new and existing large office buildings and large hospitals.

Source: Environmental Leader.

INDEPENDENT Member for Kennedy Bob Katter attended an International Renewable Energy Conference in Melbourne on Thursday.

He joined the Mount Isa Townsville Economic Zone (MITEZ) development group and CopperString in promoting the Northern Australia Clean Energy Corridor.

The corridor will link one of the world’s richest mineral provinces to the national electricity grid via an 800km high-voltage transmission line.

The line will be intersected by a series of clean renewable energy power stations (fuelled by solar energy, wind, prickly acacia woody weed, hydro-electricity and sugar cane fibre) at Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Pentland, Hells Gates, Ingham and Tully.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wasted no time after forming government to confirm support to the corridor by announcing a range of funding for the project.

Mr Katter said he travelled to the Melbourne conference to support a paper presented by McKinlay Shire Mayor Paul Woodhouse and help promote the fiscal and environmental benefits from the long-awaited project.

“We also had meetings, organised by Mount Isa MP Betty Kiernan, with the Queensland Premier and Deputy Premier, and we emphasised to them the necessity for speed,” said Mr Katter.

“There’s nearly $700 million sitting on the table at present but you just don’t know for how long.

“Whilst the Liberal Party is committed to the project, it’s not as simple as that. I won’t be sleeping peacefully until work has started and that money is in a bank account,” he said.

Mr Katter said the conference addressed by Mr Woodhouse was attended by hundreds of stakeholders from Australia and overseas.

“Everyone involved in renewable energy in Australia was in the audience,” he said.

Source: AuSES.

The Gillard government should move ahead immediately with energy efficiency policies which cut household and business costs while reducing our impact on the climate, the Australian Greens said today.

The recommendations of the Energy Efficiency Task Group, outlined in this morning’s papers, appear to be largely in line with Greens policies, although not as ambitious. They include a national energy efficiency target scheme, removal of the Fringe Benefits Tax Concession which rewards driving longer distances and a form of efficiency standard for light vehicles.

“Energy efficiency is such a no-brainer that it is baffling that successive governments have allowed Australia to fall so far behind the world. It’s time to catch up,” Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

“I will be encouraging Minister Combet to act on the recommendations of this report as fast as possible whilst continuing progress towards a carbon price.

“Certainly a carbon price will help drive energy efficiency, but there is absolutely no reason to delay our efforts to increase efficiency while we work out the mechanism for pricing pollution.

“In fact, getting started with efficiency measures will show the community how much we can all save on our energy bills with a bit of effort and smooth the path to a carbon price.

“The Greens have proposed an energy efficiency target scheme to run in parallel to the renewable energy target scheme as an efficient and effective way to help householders and businesses find ways to save on their energy bills and we’re pleased to see a similar recommendation in this report.

“However, it would be a huge missed opportunity if that target were set at such a weak level that our energy demand kept rising. With a little ambition, we can actually turn around Australia’s sky-rocketing energy demand and start to use less energy to do more.

“Removing the FBT concession that encourages people to drive more is something the Greens and others have been calling for for many years, and was also recommended in the Henry Tax Review. It should be first cab off the rank in Treasurer Swan’s next Budget.

“We will be keeping a close watch on the recommendations for emissions standards for vehicles and the government fleet. These need to be ambitious enough to drive real change, instead of just keeping pace with business-as-usual improvements that the industry is already achieving.

“The Greens have always said governments should help people reduce the amount they have to drive, by investing in public transport and cycleways, and reduce the impact of driving when they have to use the car. We should really be aiming for electrification of the entire fleet, powered by renewable energy, over time.

“Energy efficiency is a way to make Australia’s manufacturing sector more competitive, not less. Not striving for high enough standards shuts us out of European and Chinese markets.

“The government should not be playing down this report – it should get out and sell the message that we can reduce our climate impact while saving money on our energy bills.”

Source: AuSES.

At what point does something become normal? It’s not quite a simple as waiting for the moment when a majority of the population supports an issue. Plenty of philosophies and technologies are adopted by just a small minority of people and yet are deemed normal, while there are also incidences throughout history, most of them tragic, where something is deemed normal but in retrospect emerges as being staggeringly abnormal.

The identification of this crucial tipping point, to use the Gladwellism, between niche and normal is of huge importance to any social and economic movement – not least the transition to a low carbon economy.

The roll out of low carbon technologies and business models faces many economic and cultural challenges, but one of the most important and least well understood is the perception that green solutions are not yet the norm. Whether it is the solar panel on your roof, the hybrid car in your drive, or the carbon label on the bottle of milk you just bought, there is a sense that these products are in some way unusual, niche, perhaps even elitist.

It is in this context that President Obama’s decision to put a solar panel on the White House roof may prove to be of immense significance.

It is easy to see why the Obama administration agonised for so long over this decision, initially rejecting calls to install a solar system before this week announcing that panels would now be deployed. The last President to install solar panels on the White House roof was one term Democrat Jimmy Carter and the last thing Obama needs during election season is to provide right wing nutjobs with another excuse for them to characterise him as an effete elitist tree-hugger.

But regardless of the inevitable brickbats this move will attract, the Obamas have done the low carbon economy a huge service by announcing the installation. The White House is arguably the most famous home on the planet and while this is unlikely to prove the tipping point for mass adoption, installing solar panels at such a high profile site inevitably helps to move the technology a step closer to normalisation.

For anyone who sneers at the Obamas’ environmental concerns, others will conclude that if it is good enough for the president it is good enough for them.

It is for this same reason that the UK’s recently introduced feed-in tariff is so important. As many critics have pointed out the scheme is not the most cost effective means of reducing carbon emissions, but in addition to increasing renewable energy capacity each solar panel and wind turbine installed as a result of the incentive is helping to normalise low carbon technology. It will become much harder for people to be cynical about the green agenda when they can see it in action on their street.

I attended a round table event last week where one of the participants argued that we needed to reach a stage where a solar panel could be installed on the Queen Vic and no one would regard it as strange.

Currently, any effort to feature solar panels or smart meters as part of a long running soap would prompt accusations of government-approved preaching, or even worse, subliminal advertising. But were such technologies to become an increasingly normal part of the urban fabric, then they would also become part of the media landscape, further encouraging real world adoption in what would become a virtuous circle.

Similar adoption curves can be seen time and time again throughout history and they remain one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of us building a sustainable economy over the next few decades.

Whether it is the break-neck pace at which people bought iPods during the noughties or the decades-long battle to normalise equality in the workplace that is gloriously illustrated in TV show du jour Mad Men, it has repeatedly proved possible to engineer economic and social tipping points.

The lesson for those businesses and governments keen to drive the development of the low carbon economy the lesson is clear: there are benefits attached to the visible deployment of green technologies and business models that go over and above the immediate carbon and energy savings.

This is particularly the case for those firms in the media sphere that have the potential to accelerate or slow the normalisation process.

One of the most significant victories secured by environmentalists in recent years was Rupert Murdoch’s acknowledgement of the threat posed by climate change and his promise to mobilize his vast media resources to address the challenge. What followed was an encouraging season of green programmes and articles across the News International portfolio that served to further push the environment up the political and social agenda in the run up to last year’s Copenhagen Summit.

Unfortunately, since then Murdoch has reverted to type, unleashing Fox News to attack the Obama administration’s green agenda and providing millions in funding to a Republican Party that remains in hock to climate change sceptics.

If ever there was an illustration of why it is so important to change what is regarded as the norm, this is it.

Source: Business Green Blog.

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) teamed up on Wednesday to introduce legislation providing tax incentives to the energy sector, The Hill reports.

The bill, the Advanced Energy Tax Incentive Act of 2010, focuses on building and industrial energy efficiency, domestic manufacturing, emerging clean energy technologies and carbon mitigation, the Washington Independent Reports.

The legislation would enables home and business owners to defray upfront costs of investing in energy-saving technologies, including performance-based tax credits for whole home retrofits. It would make $2.5 billion in tax credits available to manufacturers dealing with clean renewable energy or enhanced energy efficiency products.

The measure would also establish a $1 billion tax credit program to enable domestic manufacturers to undertake energy-saving measures that advance their competitiveness, and facilitate the growth of renewable electricity by creating a tax incentive for energy storage systems.

The bill would also revamp the tax credit for carbon capture and storage, provide credits to promote off-shore wind production facilities and the development of domestic fuels derived from algae.

A summary of the bill outlines the various credits in detail (pdf).

Bingaman and Snow are urging the Senate to pass the bill before the end of the year.

In a statement, Bingaman said:

“We must continue to ensure that the Tax Code contains well-designed incentives that will help us transition to an energy efficient economy. Our bill will significantly expand domestic clean energy manufacturing; help American businesses and families reduce their energy use and dependence on fossil fuels; and create thousands of jobs. This is a common-sense, bipartisan proposal that deserves priority consideration.”

Source: Environmental Leader.

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