Karl Harder answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.
Karl Harder, the co-founder and operations director at renewable energy crowdfunding platform Abundance Generation, will be joining the Sustainable September energy debate on September 16 as part of Blue & Green Tomorrow’s month-long sustainability event.
He will debate, along with Jeremy Leggett, against the motion, “Gas and nuclear power are more cost-effective in reducing carbon emissions in the short-term than renewable energy”. Tickets for the event are available here.
We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?
Democratise the financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Every person in the country is paying the cost of our transition to a low carbon world, we therefore believe that everyone should also have the opportunity to share in the financial benefits.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An adventurer or explorer, I have always kind of regretted living in the 21 century where all the new worlds and people on earth have been discovered and at a time when it’s technically impossible to truly explore space!
How would your friends describe you?
What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?
Reading Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, up to that point I had been involved in the green movement but believed the only the way forward was by regressing – going back to a much simpler way of living. Though I still believe in simplicity, natural capitalism opened my mind to the possibility that by going forward and developing technologies and new clever ways of thinking we could live in balance with the earth.
Who or what inspires you?
It is an anecdote from Natural Capitalism funnily enough. The books illustrates its thesis with the description of the spiders web, possibly the strongest material known to man but one which is produced at 37C in a spiders body from processed fly, but also a material that when it has reached the end of its useful life it biodegrades. Titanium is perhaps an equivalent in human terms and it is produced in ways that are hugely destructive to the planet. If we can redesign our energy and production systems based on insights from nature we have a very real chance of living sustainably.
What really grinds your gears?
The fact I am still cycling around London on a daily basis breathing in highly noxious fumes from vans, lorries and buses.
Describe your perfect day.
Taking my children out climbing, they love it, I love it. We all have fun… perfect! The day is made a little sweeter if I come home and find that the new money invested via Abundance is up at sustainable levels.
What do you see when you look out your window at home?
Currently a very noisy building site at the rear and a quiet terraced street from the front.
What do you like spending your money on?
Food, drink and socialising as well taking the children on adventures.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
What’s your favourite book?
I have not had a lot of time to read recently! So I suppose for consistency I will go for Natural Capitalism.
What’s your favourite film?
Frozen… I have a four-year-old daughter!
You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?
Introduce a whopping great big carbon tax and use all the proceeds to roll out a massive state funded energy efficiency programme targeting lowest income households first.
If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?
Tony Abbot, the carbon tax cutting, Australian prime minister… just so I can keep him out of trouble.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?
Best is it can often be better to make an ok decision quickly rather than brilliant decision over a long period of time.
Worst is taking physics at A-level… Horrendous…!
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
Enjoying running Abundance, but not having to work all hours.
What’s your biggest regret?
I do not really have any regrets, there is always a silver lining
What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?
It is boring but it is the simple things that have the most impact, improving the efficiency of the home, cutting flying, but also perhaps ensuring your money is supporting the building of the new clean economy for instance why not move your money from funds or investments supporting fossil fuel companies and instead investing via www.abundancegeneration.com!
What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?
A legally binding global commitment to limit the world to emitting only 550 giggatonnes more of carbon – that will take us pretty much up to a 2C rise in global temperatures. A limit we may just be able to manage.
What’s your favourite quote?
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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