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EIB loans UCL record-breaking amount of money for campus developments

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The European Bank (EIB) has loaned the largest sum of money ever lent to a university to University College London (UCL). The bank has loaned £280 million to UCL who will use the money to develop its Bloomsbury and UCL East campuses. The first phase of UCL East is due to open during the 2019/2020 academic year.

The 30-year loan will provide funding for UCL’s Bloomsbury campus in central London which is undergoing an ambitious programme to upgrade and expand its historic buildings as well as finance for the building of UCL East, the university’s new site at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President and Provost, said: “UCL is proud of its world-class teaching and research and this support from the European Investment Bank will help us deliver our ambitious growth plans, enhancing facilities for students and allowing our academics to continue to tackle key global research challenges.

“Our investment in our Bloomsbury and UCL East campuses is substantial and will support our activities for decades to come, allowing us to deliver on the UCL 2034 programme which sets out our 20 year strategy.”

UCL is investing £1.25 billion over 10 years to implement its Transforming UCL, which includes developing the two campuses as well as other projects across London, to support growth in its world-leading teaching and research and create a more vibrant, student-focused environment.

It is the largest capital investment programme UCL has undertaken since the building of its original campus, and is one of the biggest being carried out in the higher education sector in the UK.

Jim O’Neill, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Supporting Britain’s world-class universities is crucial to the success of our economy, and this significant investment by the EU’s bank, the largest sum ever given to a university, is set to transform UCL’s two campuses.

“This £280 million loan will help grow its world-leading research and teaching facilities, building on the millions of pounds worth of investment already secured from the European Investment Fund. It is a strong example of the benefits that money from the European Investment Bank can bring to support our leading universities across the country.”

Projects in Bloomsbury include the refurbishment and expansion of the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture which will house nearly 1,000 staff and students, and the building of a new student centre, on which construction started this year. Investment in the Bloomsbury campus is expected to be around £740 million.

When the Transforming UCL programme was published five years ago, it was clear that further growth in Bloomsbury would be constrained. In 2014, the university announced that it would build UCL East, a new campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to form part of the wider Olympicopolis education and cultural quarter.

UCL East is envisaged as a radical new model of how a university campus can be embedded in the local community and with businesses.

The new campus will bring together cross-disciplinary UCL expertise in such areas as creativity and material culture, future global cities, experimental engineering, and education and research through public service, including the UCL Centre for Access to Justice.

The loan agreement was formally signed during a visit to UCL by Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the European Investment Bank. The loan follows the investment of £25 million in January in the new UCL Technology Fund by the European Investment Fund, which is part of the EIB group and provides risk finance to small and medium sized enterprises across Europe.

Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the European Investment Bank, said: “The European Investment Bank recognises the impressive and ambitious development planned at UCL that will strengthen world class research, transform teaching facilities and improve student life, as well as creating a new centre of learning in Stratford.

“This new £280m 30-year loan represents the largest ever EIB backing for investment at a European University, and reflects the EIB’s commitment to strengthen the local and global role of leading universities.

“The EIB has supported more university investment in the UK than any other country and provided more than £2.1 billion for investment at 30 universities across the UK over the last six years.”

Since 2010 the European Investment Bank has provided more than £2.1 billion for transformational investment at thirty universities across the UK. This has included new campuses in Swansea and Belfast, cutting edge research facilities in Oxford and Edinburgh, the world-class Technology and Innovation Hub at Strathclyde and new research and teaching facilities in Newcastle, Birmingham, Hull and Lincoln.

Lending by the EIB in the UK last year totalled £5.6bn and represented the largest annual engagement since the start of EIB lending in the UK in 1973. This supported nearly £16bn of overall investment in 40 projects across the UK, which schools, university campuses, hospitals, upgraded energy links, renewable energy projects and water infrastructure.

Over the last decade, in response to requests from public sector and private business clients, the European Investment Bank has provided more than GBP 7.3 billion for transport, education, social housing, water, energy, healthcare and urban regeneration investment across London, with additional investment from UK wide programmes.

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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