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FT Global Energy Leaders Summit 2012: the speakers



Tomorrow sees the Financial Times (FT) Global Energy Leaders Summit 2012, a two-day event that aims to work out how to tackle the world’s energy challenges, get underway in London.

Taking place at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, a wide variety of names – from politicians to cleantech investors – are due to make speeches to the prestigious line-up of attendees.

Blue & Green Tomorrow will be attending the event, and in anticipation of its opening, has compiled a list of some of the speakers that we’re especially excited in hearing from.

Keynote speakers

Adnan Amin, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

Kenyan development economist Adnan Amin has been the director general of IRENA, one of the world’s leading intergovernmental renewable energy organisations, since April 2011. Boasting over 20 years’ experience in sustainable development, having occupied a number of roles within the United Nations, he’s one of the foremost global voices on clean energy policy, research and implementation.

Fulvio Conti, chief executive officer and general manager at Enel and president of Eurelectric

Enel is one of the largest power companies in Europe with an annual turnover of over £60 billion, and Conti has been chief executive officer since 2005. As president of Eurelectric, the trade association for the European electrical power industry, the Italian is held in high regard by the continent’s energy sector.

José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, chairman and chief executive officer at Iberdrola

Galán has been chairman and chief executive officer at Spanish utility company Iberdrola since May 2006, and after the company’s acquisition of Scottish Power a year later, became chairman of the Glasgow-based company, too. He was recently named as the seventh most influential Spanish businessman by network operator Orange.

Alex Salmond MP, the first minister of Scotland

Salmond became first minister of Scotland in 2007 – the first Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate to be elected to the role. He has been at the forefront of the country’s admirable progress and innovation in renewable energy, which centres predominantly on offshore wind and marine technology.

Other selected speakers

Jeremy Leggett, founder and non-executive chairman at Solarcentury

Leggett founded solar developers Solarcentury in 1998, and is one of the UK’s foremost commentators on the technology. Solarcentury has over 1,000 large and many more domestic installations to its name, with its total installed capacity well over six megawatt-peak.

Lars Bording, CEO at Clever

Clever has an incredibly innovative business model for electric vehicle (EV) charging, and is trying to grow the market for EVs in Denmark. Bording is the company’s CEO and believes that EVs will be his country’s “preferred mode of transport” in just a decade – bold claims, but given the Scandinavian’s pioneering outlook in green energy, it’s certainly possible.

William J. Sims, president and CEO at Joule

Joule is an American company developing alternative, next generation transport fuels. Its website says it is “advancing a platform for renewable fuel and chemical production that is expected to eclipse the scale, productivity and cost efficiency of any known alternative to fossil fuel today”, and its CEO and president, Sims, has over three decades experience in his field.

Ben Goldsmith, partner at WHEB Group

Goldsmith, whose brother is Conservative MP Zac and father was financier, politician and publisher Sir James, founded clean technology fund managers WHEB in 2002. The group’s Sustainability Fund, which invests in technologies that help tackle climate change, global water shortages and clean energy amongst other things, is one of the most popular green funds on the market. He appeared as one of Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Green Dragons in 2011.

James Cameron, chairman at Climate Change Capital

Cameron is chairman at Climate Change Capital, an investment manager and advisory group. He spoke at the Sustainable Finance Conference; an event put on in June by the FT in association with the International Finance Corporation, and is widely recognised as one of the leading names in the UK sustainable finance sector.

Martin Lidegaard, Danish minister of climate, energy and building

Another driving force in Denmark’s green energy push, Lidegaard was appointed as the country’s minister of climate, energy and building in 2011. He has been at the forefront of its pledge to become 100% renewable by 2050, and continues to back the adoption of clean power.

Oliver Griffiths, executive director of the UK Green Investment Bank team at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

Griffiths is leading the team that is setting up the government’s Green Investment Bank, a £3 billion scheme aimed at pushing the UK towards a greener economy. The bank recently announced it was close to finalising its Edinburgh headquarters and also revealed that the first wave of funding would go towards 20 “big ticket” deals.

Further reading:

FT Global Energy Leaders’ Summit 2012: preview

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Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By 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 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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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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