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From oil-rich to renewables-rich: a Middle Eastern energy shift?

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Twenty-six years to the day since rejecting the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) 15% suggested oil price rise, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are becoming increasingly attractive places for renewable energy investment.

For the first time, the pair were last month included in Ernst & Young’s Country Attractiveness Indices – a rundown of the 40 most attractive places for renewables investment in the world.

Their inclusion marked the beginning of an energy transformation that is seeing many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) start to tap into their vast clean energy resources, but wind the clock back 26 years, and it was a completely different story.

In 1976, OPEC, a body that brings together 12 oil-producing nations, had suggested at a meeting in Doha – location of the recent climate change negotiations – that its members increase their prices of oil by 15%, to $13.30 (£8.42) per gallon (as of December 13 2012, the price of OPEC oil stood at $106.01 (£65.42)). But Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced they would only allow a rise of 5%.

We have no aims. We decided the price of our own oil and they decided their own”, the Saudi oil minister said at the time.

In his final month as US president, Gerald Ford, who had lost that year’s election to Jimmy Carter, was quoted by the BBC as saying that the 11 countries that had agreed to an oil price hike had not considered the “destructive consequences of their actions”.

He added, “World prosperity requires a common commitment to the well-being of all peoples and a special sensitivity to the plight of the world’s poorest societies.

The decision of the OPEC majority clearly does not meet such standards of international responsibility.”

The rift created what is since referred to as the two-tier system. OPEC’s plan was to increase oil prices by 10% at the end of 1976, and then by a further 5% in July the following year. But with Saudi Arabia and the UAE only increasing theirs by 5% overall, the remaining 11 nations decided to sacrifice the second rise in the interests of unity and solidarity to OPEC.

Fast forward 26 years, and much has changed in the world of energy. While fossil fuels remain dominant in terms of their role in the global energy mix, investment in renewable energy now outstrips oil, gas and coal investment at a rate of almost 6:1, and in December last year, the trillionth dollar was invested globally in clean energy.

This shift has occurred as more and more investors begin to see the financial risks of investing in finite sources of energy. One of the wisest and most profitable strategies appears is often picking out companies and funds that actively invest in solutions to the energy crisis – renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, for example.

As it perhaps tries to shake off its oil-rich image, Saudi Arabia has unveiled big plans for renewables, and is planning to generate 100% of its energy from clean and low-carbon sources, according to a member of the country’s royal family.

Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, founder of the King Faisal Foundation – one of the largest philanthropic bodies in the world – said that fossil fuels will instead be used for manufacturing, rather than producing energy.

Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source”, he explained in October.

If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don’t think it will be.”

Prince Turki’s call comes after the Middle Eastern country called out for investors for a $109 billion, 41 gigawatt solar project, which would help solar account for a third of Saudi Arabia’s peak power demand by 2032.

While Ernst & Young’s Country Attractiveness Indices continues to be dominated by the likes of China, Germany, the US, India and France (with the UK in sixth place), the first inclusion of Saudi Arabia and UAE is a big step forward for MENA nations’ sustainable energy hopes.

Emerging markets, endowed with resources and high levels of government support, are already learning from their predecessors’ experiences, with many opting for capacity tenders in favour of financial incentives”, said Nimer AbuAli, MENA head of Cleantech at Ernst & Young.

Increasing energy demand in these regions has strengthened government investment in clean energy.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are supported by strong government initiatives, a proven track record in energy infrastructure, and robust financial markets.”

What do you think of Blue & Green Tomorrow? Complete our short reader survey and be in with a chance to win an iPad mini or a Kindle Fire. Survey closes December 21.

Further reading:

Middle Eastern renewables receive encouraging boost

UK slips down renewable attractiveness ranking ahead of energy bill

Global solar market brimming with innovation

Report urges oil investors to hold companies to account over responsibility

The Guide to Sustainable Investment (NEIW edition)

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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Energy

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

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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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