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Consumer priorities crucial to electric vehicle transition



Electric vehicles have the potential to revolutionise how electricity is consumed, says David Porter, POWER-GEN Europe Advisory Board Member and a Senior Advisor to the London energy team of Navigant. But, the engineering challenges should be seen alongside the social and economic considerations

Electric vehicles are an exciting prospect. With smart grids, they may revolutionise how electricity is consumed across Europe – not least in the volume, timing and location of demand.  However, people who are keen to see the switch to electric transport should not underestimate the scale of the other challenges that have to be addressed before the use of electric vehicles becomes the norm. Utilities are concerned with making networks robust enough to cope with new expectations and with having to manage them differently. Smarter grids go with smarter metering and data handling. All those things – already on the agenda – are demanding enough, but the challenges do not stop there.

Electric vehicles will be quieter and cleaner; they may even offer lower fuel costs and if climate change targets are to be met, sooner or later, a reduction in emissions from transport has to play a big part.  But, electric vehicles will be judged by their users against what has served us so well for so long. We are used to being able to refuel in five minutes and to drive all day if we want to – in air-conditioned comfort. The car and battery manufacturers are trying hard to match that by breaking through today’s knowledge barriers. But already the alternative solution of a fuelling station where – rather than re-charge – we would swap a discharged battery for a charged one, is being considered. However, would muscle power become a requirement for working in those places? Or, would that challenge be met with battery standardisation and specialised handling gear?

Most of today’s cars run on petrol or diesel and we drive to petrol stations to fuel them. The stations where we fill up were not planned and built as part of a master plan, of course. They were built in response to growing demand and in more recent times, lots have closed because of the lack of it – many rural garages have become unprofitable. Even where population is dense, demand can be affected by the availability of good public transport.  In rural areas, it is a particular problem because people rely so heavily on their cars and there is intense pressure on the subsidies that maintain the already limited public transport services.

Of course, as technology makes electric vehicles more viable, the electricity supply industry will play a huge part in providing and managing the power upon which they depend. Utilities and consultancies such as Navigant are already deeply involved in solving the issues that must be addressed.

However important those issues are, this is not just a series of engineering challenges. The transition needs to be considered from the point of view of the people that will use the new vehicles. In the UK, some have already taken the plunge. Subsidies on electric vehicles will have encouraged them, and so will measures like zero-rated vehicle taxation and exemption from London’s congestion charge.  But, these people are an enthusiastic, mainly urban, minority who make only short trips and who can afford to be early-adopters. They are, of course, using today’s infrastructure and technology – which would be totally inadequate if the transition gathered pace.

What about the other 99 per cent?  What would induce them to go electric?  The new cars would have to become cheaper to buy of course and more convenient to use. New infrastructure would have to be built in advance of a mass take-up. But, what would finally induce a family to change their petrol- or diesel-fuelled car for an electric one? A law banning petrol- or diesel-powered cars? Or a tax that made them too expensive to run? This would probably make those vehicles worthless and voters would not take kindly to that. Even bigger subsidies for electric vehicles, perhaps? Government payments for scrapping older vehicles?  But governments tend to be heavily-indebted and short of cash. Perhaps utilities would get involved, offering inducements to their customers. But, few utilities are awash with cash either. So, could this be the issue that will bring new names into electricity supply, perhaps investing not only in electric vehicles and their infrastructure, but also in the commodity that keeps them moving?

There are also big questions concerning government income. The British government currently receives approximately £27 billion (€37 billion) per year in fuel duty and London collects, net of facilities and running costs, £150 million (€210 million) from the Congestion Charge.  Not only that, but in the UK, the annual taxation of vehicles is related directly to their CO2 emissions, with electric vehicles currently paying nothing. One way or another, government would have to maintain its revenue. Perhaps someone in the Treasury has calculated what VAT on ‘extra’ electricity sales might raise.

I have no doubt that the electricity supply industry can cope with the challenge of a transition of electric vehicles. But, as it develops its thoughts on smarter infrastructure, it will need to reassure itself that public policy is also as smart as it needs to be. Not only smart, but consistent in its application across Europe.

Electric Vehicles will be a key topic of discussion at the upcoming POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy Europe conferences that are being held at the Amsterdam RAI from 9-11 June 2015.  For further information go to

Photo: Department for Communities and Local Government via flickr


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Further reading:

The future of EVs part 2: Which consumer concerns will affect the electric vehicle transition in Europe?

The future of EVs: What can the power industry do to facilitate the electric vehicle transition?

Electric vehicle sales doubled across the EU in 2013

The market challenges facing electric motorcycles


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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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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