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Care homes should focus on energy savings and water management

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Care homes should be focusing their sustainability strategies on energy savings and water management within a holistic, long-term approach, writes Mark Sait.

There is an urgent need for residential care homes and nursing homes in the UK to ensure viability with sustainable development. At base, the country’s 20,349 UK care homes are faced with the prospect of energy bills doubling over the next 10 years.

This almost inevitable pressure on financial resources will increase the burden on the UK’s 14,750 residential care homes and 5,599 nursing homes that have seen energy bills rise by nearly 40% over the past three years.

Intense and almost round-the-clock demand for energy and water in these caring environments means that cutting consumption is the only sure-fire route to cutting energy bills and, equally important, reducing carbon emissions.

The current near-obsession with switching suppliers is not a long-term and strategically sound solution. The process of switching carries with it an ongoing burden on best use of precious time while cutting energy and water consumption provides peace-of-mind as well as continued, substantial savings.

Energy saving initiatives by care home managers, whether they are one of the 6,339 independent care homes or part of the 14,010 group properties, should ensure rapid reduction in consumption, a very quick return on investment – and substantial savings year after year.

Heading the list of cost reduction strategies are water efficiencies and lighting as these are proven, simple, measurable and effective.

As Jerome Baddley, sustainability services manager at the Nottingham Energy Partnership advises: “A home that manages its natural environment and its environmental impacts, through a more holistic approach, can benefit residents in terms of wellbeing and home operators in terms of running costs while reducing impacts on the local and global environment.

With an ageing population and rising natural resource costs, it is essential that this sector is supported and encouraged to take an active role in resource efficiency and carbon reduction. This will be critical in both safeguarding affordable care for vulnerable elderly people, maintaining dignity and social participation in old age and in achieving carbon, waste and energy targets.”

Our experience in environments where demand on utilities is exceptional, for example the hotel sector, shows that significant, ongoing savings are made with water and lighting efficiencies.

Care homes that adopt better water management with eco shower heads, eco taps and tap aerators can expect to cut bills through radically reduced water bills and water-heating costs. If the care home is metered, then the savings are even greater.

Eco shower heads, eco taps and tap aerators permanently reduce water (and water heating) consumption by more than 50%.

Care homes can add to those savings through deployment of LED lighting, which reduces electricity consumption for this resource by more than 80%.

If we take a couple of LED energy saving examples, the picture becomes clearer.

By replacing five 50-watt spotlights with 5-watt LED GU10s, the annual saving is around £100 – and you also reduce your carbon footprint by more than half a tonne (of carbon dioxide).

Lighting tubes are also an ever-present fitting in care homes and nursing homes. By replacing five 58-watt standard tubes with LED tubes, the annual savings again are more than £100 with a carbon reduction of more than half a tonne.

Residential care homes can make substantial savings and reduce their carbon footprints with ‘green’ strategies informed by sound, practical and effective advice. Working with a trusted partner, residential care homes and nursing homes would be able to benefit from savings in both energy costs and CO2 output that mirrors those that other 24/7 operations such as hotels and hospitals are achieving.

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com.

Further reading:

Pressure on energy bills rises as national renewable power policy gets a makeover

The government’s admission at Ecobuild hides bigger issues with energy strategy

The real green deal: bringing energy, water and waste under control

Why energy saving, cutting bills and reducing carbon footprint will stay centre stage

Energy bills are going up – and it is mostly our lack of responsibility to blame

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon, a uniquely positioned full-service efficiency partner to organisations and homes that want to reduce energy, water and carbon to improve sustainability. Clients include major hospitality groups, property ownership groups, distribution centres, theme parks and corporate offices as well as SMEs and private residences.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

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.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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