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Rob Steadman explores whether the DFT’s attempts to roll out the electric car in 2011 are having any effect.

With the UK Government’s continuing efforts to reduce CO2 levels, in January the Department for Transport (DFT) started offering generous grants of up to £5,000 towards plug-in cars. This was in the hope that 2011 would become, “the year of the electric car for the UK”.

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Rob Steadman explores whether the DFT’s attempts to roll out the electric car in 2011 are having any effect.

With the UK Government’s continuing efforts to reduce CO2 levels, in January the Department for Transport (DFT) started offering generous grants of up to £5,000 towards plug-in cars. This was in the hope that 2011 would become, “the year of the electric car for the UK”.

Despite this subsidy, sales of the electric car in the UK have failed to take off.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), sales of the electric car were down, with only 106 sold in the third quarter of 2011. This is a steady decline from the 465 in the first quarter and 215 in the second.  

The DFT has budgeted £400 million towards its efforts to roll-out the electric car, (running until March 2012) pledging, “Approximately £80 million supporting research and development activities; £20 million for the installation of suitable infrastructure”.

This negative news contrasts with reports from across the Atlantic. Studies from the University of California have predicted sales of the electric car in the US skyrocketing, accounting for 60% of the market by 2030.

The recent release of the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car, detailing Telsa’s (amongst others) production of the electric car suggested a change in thinking. Current market reports suggest ‘the revenge’ is going to be lucrative. Thompson Reuters indicate impressive stock growth for Tesla Motor, assessing the company’s current revenue to be $3billion – “more than five times its predicted figure” – with its share price predicted to quadruple by 2025.

The UK seems to be stalling on take-off; historically, green campaign groups have argued a lack of suitable infrastructure, whereas the DFT argued a lack of suitable cars to spark the public’s desire. Business Minister Mark Prisk said, “The UK wants to be a world-leader in ultra-low carbon technology and today’s strategy is the next step in our achievement of that aim”.

Despite Prisk’s statement, the UK contrasts with a seemingly impressive growth in a competitive US market, with the UK market lagging behind. But Transport Minister Norman Baker is optimistic saying, “It is the availability of qualifying cars, rather than the public appetite for them that is the main challenge we face in developing the electric car market.  I have every confidence that that will change in the next few months and we will begin to see sales of ultra-low carbon cars improve”. 

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Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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5 Software Applications Green Businesses Need to Streamline Management

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Green Businesses

Green businesses face even more challenges than their traditional counterparts. Every green business faces logistical obstacles, due to increasingly cumbersome regulations, growing data needs and resource limitations. Major advances in HR IT solutions offer the solutions these companies need.  In addition to simplifying their business processes, these solutions reduce their carbon footprint by minimizing paper needs.

For a large business to run smoothly, there are several types of software it needs. From enterprise resource planning (ERP) to human resources (HR) software, the programs needed to run a large business are as important as the employees you hire. Learn more about the type of software available, what it does and why you need it, so you can choose the options that are right for your business.

ERP Software

ERP software is the most important software in your arsenal, so it’s important to choose your product wisely. ERP software handles everything from production planning and quality management to financials. This is the software that shares information between your manufacturing process and business systems. Software such as ERP 4.0 gives you all the real-time insights needed for your strategic planning process, and works with your other systems to ensure the information you receive is current and accurate at all times.

HR Software

HR software helps your HR department with hiring, managing, disciplining and firing employees. It holds all of your company’s policies and procedures, keeps all of your employee’s information and lets you streamline your hiring process. In addition to handling everything employee-related, your HR software handles your employee payroll, automating the process so that your employees have more time to focus on more important tasks.

Shift Planning Software

Shift planning software works in conjunction with your HR software to help HR employees and managers create and maintain employee shifts. Using shift planning software makes managing schedules simple. Managers can enter their employee’s schedules quickly, and the employees can access the shift planning software remotely so they always know when they have to work. When used in conjunction with HR software, employees can submit digital requests for time off, giving them the flexibility they need to manage their own lives while reducing the amount of dropped shifts and miscommunication between management and employees.

Accounting Software

Your company’s accounting software is also extremely important. It handles all of the money coming and going from your company, manages department-specific budgets and connects to your HR system to simplify the payroll and accounts payable/receivable processes. Large businesses need robust accounting software that handles all of the little financial details; has the ability to communicate with your HR and ERP software; and has the ability to handle any and all tax issues. If you’re concerned that a software vendor may not offer what you need, you should consider looking at open-source accounting software. This way, the software you use can be customized to your company’s specific needs.

Open-Source Software

For any company, keeping all of its employees on the same page at all times is critical. However, it’s even more important for large businesses, because it’s a more detailed process. To streamline your workflow and keep all of your employees on the same page, open-source software is a great option. Open-source software, as we mentioned, is customizable, so you can alter it to fit your company’s needs. This means you would have one main software that communicates with your ERP software, HR software, shift scheduling software and accounting software. It’s a one-stop shop for all of the smaller programs that run your business. For large businesses that have multiple departments, as well as departments within departments, open-source software is a great option.

Ultimately, the software you decide to use with your business is completely up to you. Make a list of each type of software needed for your business to run smoothly, and test a few different options to find the one that best fits your needs.

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