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A Revolution in the Introduction of Greener, Cleaner Buses in the UK is Helping Deliver on Both Climate and Air Quality Objectives



Greener, cleaner buses have arrived in large numbers in the UK. They are playing an increasingly important part in cutting carbon emissions from road transport sector and, in particular, reducing pollution in cities around the UK. A new report by the LowCVP for Greener Journeys describes The Journey of the Green Bus; how innovation and supportive policy over the last decade and more has transformed the bus sector from being a part of the problem to being an important part of the solution to poor urban air quality as well as contributing to tackling climate change.

Maintaining our ability to move around in increasingly congested towns and cities is more critical today than ever before, so with road transport responsible for around a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and up to 60% of roadside NOx pollution in many cities around the UK, the introduction of cleaner, low emission buses is a vital component of a low emission transport future. Older technology buses historically contributed up to two-thirds of NOx emissions in the most densely trafficked areas.

From its inception in 2002 the LowCVP had a clearly defined objective to help bring low carbon buses to the UK market.  Building on many years of work by LowCVP members (in particular Millbrook and TfL) the LowCVP developed the criteria for the Low Carbon Emission Bus (LCEB) for the Department for Transport (DfT) which provided the basis for £90m of support under the four rounds of the Government’s Green Bus Fund. There are now around 3,500 buses on the road which meet the LCEB criteria. More than one in four buses sold in 2015 was a LCEB and over half of all 2015 bus registrations met the Euro VI standard.

Following further policy development, the LowCVP supported OLEV and DfT in producing the new Low Emission Bus (LEB) criteria, providing the basis for the recent Low Emission Bus Grant; a £30 million fund to be run over three years (2016–2019) designed to stimulate the purchase of Low Emission Buses.

A Low Emission Bus is defined as a vehicle which can achieve a reduction of more than 15% well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions compared with a Euro V diesel bus, as well as the Euro VI HD engine standard for pollutant emissions.

A wide range of technical solutions have been adopted and, validated through real world emissions tests, are now delivering clear and demonstrable air quality and carbon benefits. The technologies adopted include the full spectrum of hybrid solutions (plug-in hybrids, diesel-electric hybrids, flywheel hybrids and micro-hybrids); battery electric buses; and a range of fuel solutions including buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells and biomethane.

Air quality regulations have been set in Europe for various air pollutants to protect human health.   Whilst much has been achieved to date, the latest research by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) shows that at least five regions in the UK are still facing an immense challenge in meeting European air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The Low Emission Buses beat every standard needed to operate in Clean Air Zones including the London ULEZ.

Speaking on the launch of the report at the UK Bus Summit 2016 – held at London’s QEII Centre in Westminster – the LowCVP Managing Director, Andy Eastlake said: “While an increasingly wide range of transport options now exist, there’s no doubt that an effective bus operation can deliver one of the best solutions to the mobility challenges of air quality, climate change, congestion, convenience and, of course, cost.

“The Journey of the Green Bus chronicles how the last 20 years have transformed the emissions, efficiency and experience of buses. It will, hopefully, help to dispel some of the outdated perceptions of this essential travel option.”

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys and a LowCVP Board member, said: “This report demonstrates that low emission buses are a crucial part of the solution to reducing roadside pollution and tackling a major public health risk. For many years the bus industry has worked to improve and innovate, and the result is a fleet of greener buses which are among the cleanest vehicles on the UK’s roads.”

Mike Weston, Transport for London’s Director of Buses and Chair of the LowCVP’s Bus Working Group said: “London has always been at the forefront of trialling green bus technology to reduce harmful emissions and we have shared our experiences with our counterparts across the UK.  The Capital’s bus fleet is one of the greenest in the world with more than 1,600 hybrid buses alongside hydrogen buses and a growing number of pure electric buses.

“By 2020 all double deck buses operating in central London will be hybrid and all single deck buses will be zero emission – delivering air quality benefits right across the Capital.”

Mark Munday, Technical Director of First Bus, a leading operator of LCEBs said: “I’m proud to be at the forefront of new technology, driving customer friendly improvements which benefit local communities and the environment.  Significant advances have been made by the industry in improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions through focussed effort to develop and exploit new technology for our buses.”

Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at a leading UK manufacturer Alexander Dennis said: “The UK market and policy environment has provided a fantastic opportunity for Alexander Dennis to help develop new fuel saving and low carbon technology on our products, benefiting our customers, reducing air pollution and supporting the UK bus industry to be at the forefront of low emission bus adoption globally.”

Phil Stones, Head of Powertrain – Emissions & Fuel Economy, Millbrook, a leading UK testing centre said: “Millbrook is proud to be have been working with the bus industry, the LowCVP and other parties to help drive more fuel efficient and less polluting buses into the market.

“It is remarkable to think that from the first old Routemaster we tested in 1996 through to the latest Euro VI hybrid today how far the industry has moved technology forward to deliver these benefits while still improving safety and passenger comfort.”


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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