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Ashden Awards: Can sustainable energy scale up?



Renewable energy usage in the UK has seen a staggering 540% increase in the past ten years, while carbon emissions have dropped 26%. Part of this change may be because of advances in renewable energy technology, the introduction of renewables subsidies and the UK’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

And yet renewable and sustainable forms of energy still only account for 4% of the UK’s total annual energy consumption. Are we really making fast enough progress towards achieving the scale that’s needed for renewables to replace fossil fuels over the next few decades?

There are many barriers that are hampering the efforts of those who are trying to build a low-carbon future, including technological, financial, political and behavioural. The good news is, there are a growing number of organisations that are helping overcome these barriers, and finding a way to scale up their sustainable energy ideas.

With Ashden’s 2015 Awards less than a month away, here are three of this year’s UK Awards finalists, and the barriers they have overcome.

Max Fordham –

Max Fordham is an environmental engineering company that has been helping design and retrofit buildings with sustainability as the main priority for over 50 years. This goes against the grain of what is often practised in the building sector, which is historically very conservative and where cutting costs is often the goal.

By working with architects in optimising building performance from day one of a project, Max Fordham ensures they are as energy-efficient as possible. But even the best-designed buildings can gobble energy if they are not used properly, so Max Fordham carries out rigorous post-occupancy evaluations, working with the new occupants to make sure they get the best out of their building. Max Fordham has truly broken down the barriers of convention in its field, and is not shy about the fact – it regularly presents its work through trade publications and events, encouraging others to follow its lead.

Demand Logic –

Building Management Systems (BMSs) monitor and control the heating, ventilation and lighting of most large commercial and public buildings, but the sheer quantity of data they have access to means that making sense of it is all beyond the skills of a mere human being. Demand logic has created a system that can unearth energy-saving gems from these swathes of data, using ‘machine learning’ to analyse it and distil it into easy-to-read charts and graphs that highlight ‘energy insanities’, such as rooms that are being both heated and cooled, air conditioning running overnight and undiagnosed faults in equipment.

By making sense of the torrent of data that streams through a BMS, Demand Logic is enabling building managers to cut energy use, saving money on bills for the occupants while also cutting maintenance costs for the building owner. The potential for the technology is huge: with BMSs in use across the globe, managing millions of square metres of floor space, the energy savings that can be delivered are equally dramatic. By overcoming the technological barriers in its way, Demand Logic is on the path to reaching its full potential as a market leader in their field.

TGV Hydro –

TGV Hydro, a social enterprise based in Wales, is taking advantage of the country’s abundant hills and rainfall to pioneer cost-effective and streamlined methods of building micro-hydro projects. Getting planning permission and the required licenses was the main barrier TGV Hydro faced in its infancy, as well as the challenge of cutting costs. However, through local demonstration and unrelenting perseverance, it has become the benchmark for sustainable, low-impact micro-hydro in Wales.

TGV Hydro has also been able to significantly cut the cost of its micro-hydro systems by helping start Hydrolite, a local turbine manufacturer, by involving site owners in the construction of the projects and by keeping their business lean and agile. There’s room for significant expansion of micro-hydro within Wales, and also other hilly areas of the UK, and TGV Hydro has shown that the barriers of permissions, licensing and development cost are not insurmountable.

Learning more

This is just a small preview of the inspirational work of these organisations, all of which are striving to create a sustainable UK. If you’d like to find out more, come and meet the some of these and other Ashden Awards finalists in person at the Ashden UK seminar on 11 of June.

About the 2015 Ashden Awards

Ashden is a charity that rewards and promotes sustainable energy pioneers in the UK and across the globe.  Tickets for Ashden’s UK Seminar, Power Struggles: Overcoming the barriers to scaling up sustainable energy, are on sale now. You can book your place here. Tickets for the Ashden Awards Ceremony in the evening of 11 June are on sale here.

Julia Hawkins is PR and Digital Media Manager at Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy

Further reading:

2015 International Ashden Awards shortlist unveiled

An Ashden evening with Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith

Abundance and Ecotricity among winners at Ashden Awards (2014)


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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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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