Tag Archives: climate change

Fuel cells and hydrogen energy systems- viable option for greener future.

The Uk’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be funding five major government-backed research and development projects intended to bring hydrogen and fuel cell technologies into everyday use. These projects will demonstrate how these technologies can be integrated into other areas of energy and transport (e.g. the generation of renewable energy, a refuelling infrastructure) to develop whole systems and how effectively they can work together.

The projects will be selected through a competitive process, and led by Air Products PLC, BOC Ltd, ITM Power, Rutland Management LTD and SSE plc with the following structure: -

- An end-to-end, integrated, green hydrogen production, distribution and retailing system (the first of its kind in the UK) which will be centred around a fully publicly accessible, state-of-the-art 200 bar renewable H2 refuelling station network across london. (Air Products PLC- expertise in atmospheric gases, process & specialty gases, performance materials, and equipment & services).

-The delivery of solar energy generated hydrogen for Swindon’s existing public access via an electrolyser, and its use in materials handling vehicles and light vans at Honda’s manufacturing plant (BOC ltd- versed in thousands of different gases and mixtures, as well as related equipment and services).

-The integration of an electrolyser based refueller with renewable energy which will allow zero carbon hydrogen to be produced for use as a transport fuel for a number of vehicles (ITM Power- design and manufacture of hydrogen energy systems for energy storage and clean fuel production).

-The demonstration of a viable solar-hydrogen energy system, with benefits shared by multiple end users of a business park in Surrey, through the necessary provision of green electricity and heat (Rutland Management LTD- expertise in facility management)

-The demonstration of a whole renewable hydrogen system by connecting a 1MWe electrolyser to the grid, in conjunction with an Aberdeenshire windfarm. This will explore grid impacts, and the energy storage potential of hydrogen generation, and provide the green hydrogen produced to power of fleet of fuel cell buses (SSE plc- UK’s best overall energy provider for eight consecutive years)

These projects will accelerate the process towards the commercialisation of fuel cells and hydrogen energy systems.

UK as first country where companies need to measure carbon footprint

Nick Clegg announced that the UK wants to measure how quickly natural assets are being lost by recording them as part of GDP. The UK will be the first country in the world to force major companies to measure their carbon footprints. More than 1,000 companies have to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions so they realize how much they are polluting. The plan is that these companies will stop polluting and start looking for more sustainable ways to form a business.

This is all part of a concept called GDP+, where all countries have to start measuring their natural capital. The main goal is that countries start thinking about more than their material wealth. They will also need to reveal their natural wealth, like rainforests, clean rivers and fresh air. They can put a value on precious resources like forests so they understand what it means when they start chopping them down. Because keeping them would boost the GDP of the country.

GDP shows the growth of a country, but when we think about it, it only shows a little part of a country’s welfare. The GDP doesn’t take into account the quality of the growth, like the natural environment needed for a future prosperity. And an average environmental degradation costs the world around 9 per cent of GDP every year.

So GDP needs to have a broader look, it should be a measurement for individual countries to measure what is important, like the forests, so countries can make informed decisions.

Clegg spoke at the Rio Earth Summit where world leaders came together to discuss global issues on sustainable development. He said that Britain will lead the way for other countries by forcing their businesses to act first in measuring their carbon footprint. And this is the first step to managing the greenhouse gases that create global warming.

Hiding greenhouse gas emissions isn’t a good way to lead a business. Reducing them is has many positive outcomes. Not only for the planet but also for the business, they can save money on energy bills and attract companies with their green reputation.

The treasury plans to bring a ‘green tax’ in next year as part of the Carbon Reduction Commitment. But this will be a burden for lots of companies. Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Advisor, said that measuring carbon is useful for companies, but taxing carbon makes companies uncompetitive with companies abroad and less attractive for foreign investors. So he want the plans for the Carbon Reduction Commitment to be scrapped.

Starting from April 2013, the businesses listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange will have to start the carbon reporting. In 2015, they will be reviewed and ministers will then decide if they want to extend the program to all large companies.

The EEF, representing UK manufacturers, complained that Mr Glegg should have thought about the impact on the home economy before announcing all these new regulations internationally. British businesses already have to cut carbon and reduce greenhouse gases by 2025 under European regulations.

Glegg also believes that investing in renewable energy  is the best way for the UK to boost their economy in the future. For example he wants to boost the energy subsidies on green technology like wind energy.

The UN Rio+20 summit will probably not be as spectacular as the last Earth summit in 1992, where a large number of global agreements to tackle climate change were made. Now they want to decide on new sustainable development goals like switching to renewable energy and cutting pollutions. But environmentalist say that the summit is too weak to force actions. There is also some anger because David Cameron didn’t attend the summit himself but sent Clegg.

The idea of putting a price on nature has been protested against by many, including Sarah Reader, campaigner from the World Development Movement. She said that putting a price on nature allows multinationals and governments to buy the right to destroy landscapes without having to feel guilty because they paid for it. She said that ecosystems should be protected by law.

UN Conference on sustainable development

On the last conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago, countries could sign the UN framework convention on climate change. This convention should have stabilized global annual green house gas emissions at 1990 levels. And since the industrialized nations have done  most polluting to the atmosphere, the convention has placed the biggest responsibility to lead by example on these countries. And now that the United Nations is holding another conference in sustainable development, it are these rich countries that need to prove the most.

But the convention isn’t really working. Annual global emissions have continued to rise and the rich countries didn’t lead so far. Rich and poor countries took pledges for action by 2020, but it still seems like the world is heading towards a global warming of 3°C or more. That means there will be temperatures that the earth hasn’t seen for about 3m years.

While approaching this new summit, poor countries are sceptical. This is because it are always the rich nations that express lofty ambitions but they don’t seem to be able to keep up to their promises. An example is the Kyoto protocol that the US and Canada signed, and they weren’t able to honor their signature.

So these rich countries will need more than just words to restore the trust of poorer countries. They are tackling climate change but they are taking their time and in the meantime, they are also criticizing the developing world. But they don’t realize that these ‘poor’ countries are also taking steps in finding solutions to climate change. Some of them, like China, India, Mexico, Brazil and other emerging powers, even have ambitious plans to tackle problems like deforestation and emission. So it’s normal that they’re sceptical when looking to the richer countries since they are the ones who are actually implementing their plans.

And it’s not fair. These poorer countries are most exposed and vulnerable to the impact of climate change, but they have done least to raise the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. So they must, with the small budgets they have, fight poverty, develop and grow economically and now also manage the risks of climate change. But when they invest in a low-carbon economy, they will also need a clear and credible policy and they can start building new technologies and markets. This will all help to create the only truly sustainable growth path for the future and it might even help these developing countries to get out of the depression of their own making.

So it is up to the rich countries to accelerate their own actions but also support the developing countries with technologies and resources.

‘Smart’ built environment

It is very important to think about how the built environment can maintain more sustainable lifestyles. This is because there are a lot of critical challenges facing the world. Like resource scarcity, climate change, increasing population, increased urbanization and burgeoning middle classes. And one of the most important facts, that 70% of current building stock will still exist in 2030. So the built environment should encourage and support sustainable lifestyles in terms of both efficiency and wellbeing.

The built environment can contribute to the social elements of sustainability by enabling healthier lifestyles and greater community cohesion through design. It can also contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing. An example of this is the collaboration between city agencies in New York that led to the publication of Active Design Guidelines. These guidelines highlight the opportunities to increase changes for physical activity and active transportation in everyday places. And the guidelines say that they want more attractive buildings and more engaging places for the encouragement of positive changes to public health.

The future of the built environment will also be inspired by the natural world. There already are some projects like Biomimicry and living architecture that have set the trend. Another example is the Coldharbour Lane in London where green roofs provide green space in high density urban areas. These green roofs also provide biodiversity and thermal insulation and they are based on Skanska’s ModernaHus concept.

But it’s not just the built environment that will change because of Smart technologies, they way citizens interact with the built environment will also change. Technologies enable buildings to respond to external conditions like the weather and time and adjust accordingly. Invisible  impacts can be made visible with data visualization. This has a positive impact on the behavior of those who use the buildings.

It is important to think about how the buildings of the future can stand up to new and different challenges. Innovative and creative technologies must be used in these buildings. But we must keep in mind that the buildings of the future will also be the buildings of today, adjusted with technologies. Professionals within the building environment and other, external stakeholders will have to work together to enable that buildings will be fit for purpose in the future. And infrastructures will have to be more efficient while also contributing to the health and wellbeing of the people.