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Jonathon Porritt: the wonderful world of clean energy technology

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At an event hosted by Ingenious Clean Energy, renowned environmentalist Jonathon Porritt asks whether we’re at the point at which our circularity with energy gets broken, and where we really do start to do things in a very different and cleaner way.

I have a few bits of bad news to start with. This year, we’ve witnessed the worst ever, fastest ever and most profound melting of the Arctic sea ice. Every summer, the sea ice melts away a bit and comes back again in the winter, but this year, it’s the deepest, most profound melting we’ve ever seen. Scientists are now shocked, not just surprised or concerned, but shocked by the degree to which these things are exhilarating.

Five years ago, climate scientists predicted the Arctic would be ice-free from about 2050-2060. Now it’s predicted to be 2020-2025. The speed of the change is utterly extraordinary, which is why scientists are deeply concerned.

There have been profound droughts in America, Russia and the Ukraine, which are now impacting on food prices across the entire world. The increase in average food basket in the UK is £5.62, and in 2013 it will get a great deal worse. And that awful sight is of course linked to the terrible weather here in England.

The funny thing is, the stories about the Arctic, the Corn Belt in America and the wretched summers in England are all connected. Because as the Arctic gets a little bit warmer, it changes the flow in the jet stream which makes the central belt in America warm up and creates what will now reliably be known as the English monsoon. Nobody has yet done an economic calculation of what happens to the British tourism industry when this becomes an on-going reality; not just another bad year.

I’m almost at the end of the bad news. Every year in India, three monumental coal-fired power stations are built. When the country launched onto the capital market around the world two-and-a-half years ago, there was literally no limit to the amount of money it was able to go out and raise. And one of the reasons we are not doing as well as we should be is because the incumbent power brokers in our economy are still incredibly powerful and able to dominate the way in which capital markets work. This is really our challenge, and that is all down to politics.

Now onto the better news. Dr Nawal Al-Hosany is director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize in Abu Dhabi. I was there a couple of weeks ago and I went to visit what is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. You have to suspend your sceptical approach to this for the moment because of course; under our feet is a vast sea of oil, producing enough revenue to allow Abu Dhabi to invest in concentrated solar power plants which are actually quite expensive.

It’s an astonishing thing, though: 120km of nonstop parabolic troughs. The cleaning machine takes a day and a half to get round it. It will come on stream properly at the end of this year. It’s a staggering piece of engineering; it’s beautiful. We could only stand next to it for so long, because the temperature was just so hot. It was incredible.

What Ingenious Clean Energy is doing is inviting people to get really excited about what the technology pipeline looks like for a genuinely sustainable, fair world over the course of the next few decades, and there is literally no limit to the excitement you should have.

We’re a bit more familiar with the standard roof-mounted PV; it’s still a bit of an oddity here in the UK as not many people have done it, relative to the total population. But in Germany, it’s pretty much standard across rooftops. Unfortunately, the way we do things in this country tends to increase regulatory and political risk whereas in Germany and other countries, they managed that risk really well and created a completely different situation.

The UK government in its wisdom has decided that the maximum amount of solar energy we can ever get in the UK, despite the fact that our climate is not that different from Germany, is 22 gigawatts. Nobody knows where that figure came from, and I’m sure it will disappear in due course, but it just shows you how weirdly arbitrary and completely dysfunctional our politicians are. This is not a good scene from a regulatory risk unfortunately.

The pipeline of innovation in all of these technologies is bulging to a degree that you can barely imagine. The irony of this is that our scientists and technologists around the world read the rumours about climate change a good decade ago, and at that point a flow of investment into new technology began to work its way through universities and start-up entrepreneurs, and people began to say that our energy future was going to look very different by 2020-2030.

And at exactly the time when the politicians seem to be stepping back, the pipeline is getting fatter and fatter. Not just for energy; for transportation, waste management, water, soil structure, managing soils properly, building materials and construction. Every bit of what a sustainable world is about has this incredible interconnection of new technology and innovation coming forward, and once we get our heads around how incredible that will be, I tell you, it’s a wonderful world.

I’ll leave you with my last thought. We’ve been talking about this revolution for a long while. In Japan right now, because of Fukushima, they’ve had about 35% of their total electricity generation capacity taken off grid. Can you imagine what would happen in the UK if we lost that percentage of our total generated capability? Japan is now going through a change process which no OECD country has gone through, in conditions of similar stress since America was hit by Pearl Harbour.

It’s fascinating what’s happening there; huge investment in energy efficiency, which they were always brilliant at, renewable energy, which they were always rubbish at, and energy storage, which nobody has got the hang of as yet but is actually the thing on which the whole renewable energy revolution depends on. Out of trauma comes extraordinary inspiration and a different spirit, and they don’t have a choice about it; they probably wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for what happened at Fukushima, because they rather like their nuclear power but they couldn’t do it that way any longer and that’s a country on the move.

Thomas Edison is one of my great heroes. I’m a huge admirer of entrepreneurs, engineers and people who make things with their hands and create the conditions for our world to deliver what we want in terms of goods and services that we depend on. In 1931, Edison said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Well, we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out because that won’t happen for quite a while to come. His challenge in 1931 is just as important to us today.

This is a story about massive scale transformation of the entire energy economy and a transformation of all our lives, which is what makes this so brilliant.

This is an edited version of a speech made by Jonathon Porritt, who was speaking on October 17 at an event hosted by Ingenious Clean Energy.

Further reading:

Arctic ice reaches record low with more melting expected

The climate clock is ticking. Normal isn’t working. What should we do differently?

To tackle the melting Arctic is to tackle climate change itself

Why policy is the biggest stumbling block of all for renewable energy

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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