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Inequalities In Carbon Footprints Of Chinese Households Highlighted By New Study

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Carbon Tracker Study Reveals China Risks Wasting Billions On Coal Plant

New research involving the University of East Anglia (UEA) has revealed that inequalities in China’s household carbon footprints and incomes risk undermining the country’s attempts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers say new policies are needed to improve living standards and encourage sustainable consumption if Chinese lifestyles are to move away from the current trajectory of carbon-intensive consumption patterns.

The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, quantified the carbon footprints of urban and rural households across 13 income groups (5 rural and 8 urban) for services, goods, food, mobility and housing.

The researchers, including Prof Dabo Guan of UEA’s School of International Development and Dr Jing Meng from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, found they are unequally distributed among the rich and poor due to differences in the scale and patterns of consumption. It comes as more people in China move from rural to urban areas – approximately 20 million a year – and increasingly aspire to and adopt westernised carbon and resource-intensive consumer lifestyles.

Using data for the most recent available years (2007-2012), the study’s authors found that due to income inequality the urban very rich income group, comprising 5% of the population, generated 19% of the total carbon footprint from household consumption in China, with 6.4 tons of CO2 per capita (tCO2/cap), nearly four times the national average of 1.7 tCO2/cap.

The rural population and urban poor, comprising 58% of population, produced 0.5–1.6 tCO2/cap. Between 2007 and 2012 the total footprint from households increased by 19%, with 75% of the increase due to growing consumption of the urban middle class and the rich.

In terms of energy consumption, there is a clear urban-rural divide in China. Rural households often use traditional and locally polluting energy carriers, such as straw, wood or coal, while electricity and natural gas are slowly penetrating these areas. In urban areas, modern energy carriers such as electricity, natural gas and LPG are dominant, and mobility, for example travelling by private car, has become one of main drivers of direct household energy use.

Prof Guan, a professor in climate change economics and the study’s lead UK author, said: “Our findings suggest that coming out of poverty is fairly carbon-intensive. This is because poorer households would tend to increase consumption of food, housing and general manufacturing products. Production of those goods are often emission intensive, strongly driven by China’s coal dominated energy mix.

“However, much more problematic are the growing carbon footprints of the urban middle class and the rich, who together produce 69% of the total Chinese household footprint and are rapidly westernising their lifestyles, meaning more resources are required and larger carbon footprints are created.

“Decarbonising the energy system via production-focused efficiency measures and energy-pricing reforms is essential. But developing carbon-free lifestyles beyond the current trajectory of increasing carbon footprints while becoming wealthy will require more substantial debates on the limits of green consumerism and the potential towards sustainable consumption.”

The researchers recommend that the long-term transformations required to create a net zero carbon society should be included in national discussions about the currently dominant mode of ecological modernization, green growth and conspicuous consumer lifestyles.

The carbon intensive lifestyles of the wealthy are being emulated, and serve as role models, while investments in infrastructure and cities are made

Prof Guan said: “The carbon intensive lifestyles of the wealthy are being emulated, and serve as role models, while investments in infrastructure and cities are made. Therefore, social and redistributive policies need to be understood as interacting with climate and energy policy, as well as with efforts towards enabling sustainable lifestyles for all.

“In a globally carbon-constrained future, high levels of wellbeing and human development need to be achieved while rapidly reducing total emissions. Reducing inequalities but preventing emission-intensive lifestyle westernisation in populous developing countries can be a step forward in contributing to global climate change mitigation. Consumers in developed countries can be role models in advocating sustainable consumption as a desirable way of living.”

The researchers conclude that cost-effectively using public and private funding for these societal goals will be crucial. They add that some countries, such as Costa Rica and Thailand, have already achieved a high level of human development with an average carbon footprint of 1 ton per capita, suggesting routes to habitable and potentially more sustainable societies exist.

They also suggest the methods used in the study could be useful for developing sustainable consumption programmes for those income groups which dominate the footprints of certain consumption areas, or for guiding policy design in achieving poverty alleviation while reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency.

‘Unequal household carbon footprints in China’, Dominik Wiedenhofer, Dabo Guan, Zhu Liu, Jing Meng, Ning Zhang and Yi-Ming Wei, is published in Nature Climate Change.

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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