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Education is the Seed for effective energy transformation

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Education in the UK is in a prime position to be the leader in transformation of precious public sector energy resource management through Seed.

Seed – or Sustainable Efficient Energy Direction – encapsulates just one group of ideas that SaveMoneyCutCarbon is shaping to create effective strategies for schools, academies, further education colleges and universities in Britain.

The working principle of Seed is to ensure rapid, measurable and manageable solutions to institutions of all sizes that save money through vastly reduced energy bills, shrinking carbon footprint and reinforcing social responsibility credentials.

We use energy in the widest sense and within this we also capture ideas around most efficient water management, which ensures that pumping or heating costs and carbon footprint are minimised at all times. All this feeds into the greening of education.

Every education institution is keenly aware of the capital drain caused by rising energy prices, which have doubled in past decade and are predicted to double again over next ten years. For many institutions, there are also indirect costs of the carbon reduction commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme.

Heating and lighting focus

Heating and lighting are the biggest energy costs for the sector – up to 60% of the annual total. The good news is that investment in energy-saving lighting, efficient water management and better heating management is repaid rapidly, with savings then continuing over many years, freeing up capital for other much-needed projects.

Sustainability strategies that embrace LED lighting, smarter lighting controls, intelligent heating controls, maximum boiler efficiency and smart pumps with variable speed drives together with water-saving solutions are essential throughout the education sector now.

Deployment of these highly effective, simple consumption cutting solutions across all areas, from teaching and study areas, offices, store facilities, accommodation, washing facilities and kitchens, will rapidly deliver savings on energy and water bills while radically reducing carbon footprint.

Solutions of the right quality and ‘best fit’ would also deliver substantial economies over many years through greatly reduced maintenance costs.

Clearly, there is little point in implementing any sustainability plan without the inclusion of effective monitoring, which goes beyond meter and bill watching. Working with a trusted energy-efficiency partner should provide a granular level of detail about energy-saving projects, both in terms of pre-installation surveys and post-installation measurements, which can also support any case for Climate Change Levy exemption.

Reduce energy costs

As a Carbon Trust accredited supplier, we know that our solutions can contribute to a substantial reduction in UK schools energy costs. The trust itself estimates that around £44m annually can be slashed from energy bills, with concomitant reduction in carbon emissions of 625,000 tonnes.

Our experience in a wide range of comparative sectors also demonstrates that these savings can be achieved without negative effects on the teaching environment. Actually, with the right strategic partner and processes, the sustainable solutions deployed can have dramatic and positive cultural effects in the organisation.

We have seen how implementation of simple solutions in energy-intensive organisations can deliver savings of more than 40 % with carbon emissions reductions of 50 % and more. As the Carbon Trust advises, annual energy costs for the further and higher education (FHE) sector are around £400m with CO2 emissions of around 3 million tonnes.

Without urgent effective and sustainable action, these figures will only continue to rise as sector growth continues – student numbers have increased increasing by a factor of five over the past 30 years.

Financial pressures will continue to be a pressing challenge for the foreseeable future and every education institution has to deliver the best learning facilities on a limited budget. A comprehensive, astute assessment of energy use, allied to an agile, effective consumption reduction programme will free funds for curricular resources.

Mark Sait is managing director of energy-efficiency specialists SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com.

Photo: spydermurp via freeimages

Further reading:

7,000 businesses compelled to report energy use and potential energy saving strategies

Power shortage warnings show need for effective national energy reduction

Pressure on energy bills rises as national renewable power policy gets a makeover

The real green deal: bringing energy, water and waste under control

Why energy saving, cutting bills and reducing carbon footprint will stay centre stage

Mark Sait is managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon, a uniquely positioned full-service efficiency partner to organisations and homes that want to reduce energy, water and carbon to improve sustainability. Clients include major hospitality groups, property ownership groups, distribution centres, theme parks and corporate offices as well as SMEs and private residences.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/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

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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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

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.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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