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New Energy Awards 2012: the nominees at a glance

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Tonight, dozens of the country’s most innovative companies will congregate at the Science Museum in London for the fifth annual New Energy Awards – a celebration of “commitment to alternative sources of energy”.

Across the nine categories, there are 55 individuals and companies shortlisted to receive an award.

After speaking to the event founders for an overview of the awards ceremony, Blue & Green Tomorrow spoke to ten of them, and they each explained more about their business, and why they are strong contenders in their respective categories.

First up is Lancaster Cohousing, a Lancashire-based housing development company that has been nominated for developer of the year.

[We are] the strongest contender in the developer of the year category because we have demonstrated that a community company working by consensus can carry through a large, complex and multi-faceted green building project that is self-sufficient in energy and low in carbon production.”

Next up is Zenex Energy, a company involved in energy saving and efficiency, whose managing director, Chris Farrell, is up for entrepreneur of the year.

Zenex is leading the UK’s energy efficiency drive by implementing new methods of increasing the efficiency of households through the use of the Gas Saver, which will result in lower energy bills for households. This will create a fall in energy bills of £1 billion in four years if every one of the 1.5m replaced boilers each year is fitted with a Gas Saver.

Chris has found a way to increase the efficiency of even A-rated boilers to a new level. They are called super-condensing boilers to show that this is a bridge further than anything else on the market. [A New Energy Award] would shine the spotlight on a fresh, British innovation, which is at the forefront of the world energy industry.”

Highview Power Storage is in the running for the newly-added innovator of the year, and claims it is “blazing the trail, not following the path”, when it comes to energy storage.

Highview has taken a novel energy storage technology from initial concept to pilot demonstrator operating on the UK’s Grid. It is in fact the world’s first large-scale energy storage solution using liquid air. It is also the only new energy storage technology demonstration project on the Grid in the UK.”

Another contender for the innovator of the year crown is Quadrise Fuels International (QFI). It “offers a game changing technology, which enables step change improvement in economic and environmental performance in several major industries which consume heavy fuel oil.”

QFI summarised the reasons why it should be given the gong in four key points:

QFI is the strongest contender because: breakthrough innovation in fuels technology; very large scale application at a global level; offering a win-win-win for producers and consumers improving costs and efficiency; delivering a large and measurable ‘green dividend’ at micro and macro levels.”

One of the firms in the university spin-out of the year category is Amantys, a power electronics company that formed in 2010 on the back of academic research conducted by a group at Cambridge University.

Within its first two years of business, the company has attracted two financing rounds, launched first products and achieved first revenues. The latest investment round secured £4m from leading industrial and financial investors with ARM Limited and Moonray Investors (part of Fidelity International), and delivering a six-fold return to seed investors.

Elected to the Global Cleantech 100 in 2011, its products are targeted at applications across the spectrum of generation, transmission and consumption, including wind and solar power generation, high voltage direct current, industrial and marine motor drives, locomotive traction and plant machinery, hybrid and electric vehicles, and data centre power supplies.”

In the investor of the year category, Oxford Capital, one of the longest established cleantech investors in the UK, is included amongst the nominees.

2011 was notably a strong year for renewable energy investments. In terms of renewable infrastructure, Oxford Capital has financed nearly £20m worth of solar installations, which equates to roughly 6.5 megawatts (MW) of capacity. This was installed on over 2,500 homes in the Southwest of the UK and will provide 5.8m kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, which should save over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 from being produced annually. Oxford Capital continues to be dedicated to investing in renewable energy infrastructure and related projects.”

Octopus Investments, a London-based investment company, is another firm vying for the title of investor of the year.

With its strategic partnership with Lightsource Renewable Energy, Octopus’ dedicated in-house solar development company, [Octopus] has made a significant contribution to the UK solar market investing in both small and large scale solar power sites. In little over a year we have successfully raised and deployed over £100m into solar energy generation, making us the biggest investor in the UK commercial sector with over 50% of the large scale sites in the country.

We are especially proud of this achievement given that, unlike some of our competitors, we started 2011 with zero solar investment. Our partnership with Lightsource enables us to complete our investments efficiently and in a shorter timeframe than we would otherwise be able to do, thereby maximising the solar opportunities and FiT benefits available to our investors.”

A nominee in the advisory firm of the year category is Altium, whose Energy, Waste and Renewables team “is the strongest contender because over recent years it has a sustained high level of activity, completed an incredibly broad range of transactions types, which cross a wide range of business and technology areas, all undertaken during some of the toughest years for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and fundraisings.”

Peter Darwell, chairman of renewable energy project manager, Eco2, is up for an individual award in the entrepreneur of the year award.

[Peter] has founded no fewer than four different renewable energy businesses. These include Eco2, the biomass pioneer that in 2011 put together a deal for the UK’s first bank-financed biomass plant for twelve years. Eco2 also made the largest commercial deal in Wales in 2010, by selling its 37.5MW wind farm project. Peter’s most recent venture is a small wind business, Kinetica Energy, which aims to erect 6,000 sub 500kW turbines in the coming years, transforming the small wind industry.

Throughout his career, Peter has balanced the development of several hundred MW of renewable energy with investment in tidal power technology, which he believes will fuel the next generation of growth for the sector.”

The final firm in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s nominee taster is professional services network, Grant Thornton, which is in the advisory firm of the year category.

At Grant Thornton we understand the need to contribute to the development of these agendas and over the past 12 months have developed major thought leadership, for example, around the Green Investment Bank, Sustainable Cities and the Green Deal. In the coming months, we expect to launch our Sustainable Businesses report which will look closely at whether sustainability is a key element of companies’ long term business models.”

So there you have it. We hope your appetite for innovation is considerably whetted. Ours sure is.

Visit the event website, and check our site on Friday for a rundown of the winners in each category, but in the meantime, why not read our new report, The Rise of Renewable Energy, to find out why celebrating all of these companies and individuals is so important.

We also recommend that you visit Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity provider, to see how you can convert your own home to clean power.

Further reading:

New Energy Awards 2012: an overview

An unsustainable budget

Budget statement: what about the environment?

Denmark named as leading innovator in cleantech ranking

UK clean technology recognised by global list

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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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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