Sunday, July 31, 2011

Europe’s Incentive Plans for Spurring E.V. Sales
EUROPEAN governments are reaching deep into their pockets and plumbing the depths of their imaginations to get electric vehicles out of showrooms and onto the highway. Though the goals of the individual countries are mostly similar — carbon-free fleets in pollution-free cities — many different approaches to making it happen are in place.

While Britain, Norway and Portugal are creating state-of-the-art electric infrastructures for E.V.’s and enticing urban commuters with time-saving driving privileges, buyers of electric and hybrid vehicles in other countries are tempted with monetary incentives like tax credits or rebates.

Currently, 17 of the 27 European Union countries levy carbon dioxide related taxes on passenger cars, and 15 nations offer tax incentives for plug-in vehicles, according the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. ...

The number of electric vehicles in European garages is still modest. The European Union’s ambition is to reduce by half the number of conventionally fueled cars in cities within 20 years and to phase them out entirely by 2050....

... In the United States electric vehicles are eligible for a maximum federal tax credit of $7,500; the battery size determines eligibility and the size of the credit. Some states sweeten the pot further with rebates or lane-use permits for freeways. ...

European ... perks are largely based on the vehicle’s level of carbon emissions, determined by standards linked to Europe’s climate change targets. Whether the vehicle is pure electric, hybrid, natural gas-fueled or propelled by another means is largely irrelevant; the key figure is carbon emissions. Logically, electric cars with zero carbon emissions qualify for the largest incentives.

Here is a sampling of incentives that European governments offer to buyers of environmentally friendly vehicles:

AUSTRIA In addition to tax breaks, owners of hybrid and other low-carbon vehicles benefit from a fuel consumption tax that pays bonuses to passenger cars with low carbon dioxide output. Alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids, qualify for as much as $1,120 in annual bonuses.
FRANCE In a similar program, a maximum benefit paid for new e-car buyers is $7,000, while buyers of high-carbon-emissions vehicles can pay penalties of up to $3,650. France sees itself as a future leader in e-mobility and has begun construction of 400,000 charging points, expected to be in operation by 2015. GERMANY Germany’s new post-Fukushima energy plan envisions great things for e-transport, a segment where this auto-producing nation has lagged. One proposal is for a $1.4 billion program of electromobility research and development; rebates are not in the mix. The current five-year grace period, during which private owners of E.V.’s are exempt from the annual motor vehicle tax, is being doubled to 10 years.
BRITAIN E.V. buyers can count on $3,200 to $8,000 in rebates until at least 2016. In London, electric-car drivers save the daily congestion charge (about $13) and enjoy limited free parking. Moreover, exemption from a vehicle excise duty (a car tax based on carbon emissions) could be worth up to an additional $1,500 a year. ...
NORWAY Norway, and in particular the city of Oslo, is the Shangri-La of electric transportation, though no monetary rebates are offered. The country provides other privileges, including the world’s largest E.V. parking lot as well as free charging. E.V. drivers on their way to work in the morning can use taxi and bus lanes, cruise through tolls without stopping and park free. Buyers are exempted from a wide range of taxes, fees, import duty and congestion charges.
PORTUGAL Portugal’s nationwide public network of 1,350 charging stations was visionary, enabling E.V. drivers to travel anywhere in the country. Buyers of electric vehicles and passenger cars with other exclusively renewable energy systems receive a premium of $7,000 and an additional $2,100 if they scrap their old car, as well as income tax relief of up to 30 percent, or $1,114. ...

by Paul Hockenos
The New York Times
July 29, 2011

In "Plug-and-Play Batteries: Trying Out a Quick-Swap Station for E.V.’s:  also in the July 29, 2011 New York Times Bradley Berman notes

THERE may be fewer than 500 electric cars on Danish roads, but signs of progress in building an infrastructure to support a larger population of E.V.’s. are already evident.

The first electric car battery swapping station in Europe opened here last month, the initial site in a network of 24/7 fully automated drive-through stations. There, the lithium-ion battery packs, which weigh about 600 pounds, will be removed from specially designed cars and replaced with a fully charged pack. The swap takes five minutes.
Better Place Denmark, the local branch of the Silicon Valley company. It is building the swap stations and related businesses in Australia, China, Denmark, Israel (where the world’s first swap station is) and eventually, the United States. 
Better Place has 19 more battery swap stations in the works for Denmark. “By the first of April, we will cover the whole country,” Mr. Hansen said, referring to 2012, with stations no more than 40 miles apart.

At this point, only Renault is making cars designed for quick battery swaps. The company stretched the gasoline-powered version of its Fluence, a Corolla-like sedan, by five inches to accommodate the suitcase-size 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The resulting Fluence Z.E., for zero emissions, goes into full production later this year, available in either swappable or fixed-battery versions.
Swipe a membership card at the entrance and the garage door to the battery-change track, similar to a carwash tunnel, opens. Pull forward and the robot takes over — the driver simply shifts into neutral and lets go.
As the car is guided forward, it’s lifted a few inches....About a minute into the experience, the dashboard message indicates empty battery — meaning it’s gone — after which there’s no air-conditioning, although music and other functions continue. During most of Denmark’s year, the brief lack of climate control would not be a problem,... four and a half minutes after entering the station, the car had a fresh battery. The sedan was lowered and we pulled out of the tunnel ready to drive another 100 miles or so, according to Renault’s range estimate....
Better Place subscribers purchase their cars, but not the expensive battery packs. For a fixed fee of about $350 a month, they will lease access to the batteries, swap stations and charge points. 

Renault says it intends to produce more than 100,000 Fluence Z.E. sedans through 2015, although availability in Denmark will be limited. Another battery-swappable model from Renault, the Zoe Z.E. — a smaller hatchback more suited to Danish tastes — is expected next year. But it could be a number of years before other carmakers produce models that work with the Better Place stations.

The economics are challenging. Each station costs “a couple of million Euros” — about $3 million — to build, Mr. Hansen said. That is a big investment for stations that might barely be used in the next couple of years.
The Better Place business model is a top-down, central-office approach to electric car charging infrastructure.

by Bradley Berman
July 29, 2011
The New York Times

Friday, July 29, 2011

UNEP Report Spotlights Economic Benefits of Boosting Funding for Forests 

Investing Just 0.034 Percent More of Global GDP Could Halve Deforestation, Generate Millions of Jobs and Combat Climate Change

Investing an additional US$40 billion a year in the forestry sector could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050, and catalyze the creation of millions of new jobs according to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Backed by the right kinds of enabling policies, such an investment - equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is spent on the sector today - could also sequester or remove an extra 28 per cent of carbon from the atmosphere, thus playing a key role in combating climate change.

Forests in a Green Economy: A Synthesis was unveiled during this year's World Environment Day (WED) celebrations. The theme, Forests: Nature at Your Service, underscores the multitude of benefits that forests provide to humanity.

WED 2011 also comes during the UN-declared International Year of the Forests, which is in part focused on the critical links between forests and the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy.

"WED 2011 comes precisely 12 months before the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil next year where the world will come together to try and forge a new and more decisive response to the sustainable development challenge of the 21st century," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

"The Green Economy initiative has identified forestry as one of the ten central sectors capable of propelling a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, employment-generating future if backed by investment and forward-looking policies," he added.

"There are already many encouraging signals; the annual net forest loss since 1990 has fallen from around eight million to around five million hectares and in some regions such as Asia, the Caribbean and Europe forest area has actually increased over those 20 years," said Mr. Steiner.

The report also spotlights how the area of planted forests including those as part of agroforestry schemes on farms and plantations have grown from 3.6 million hectares in 1990 to just under five million hectares in 2010.
Groups like WWF are cataloguing information and experience in respect to plantations to maximize biodiversity and ecosystem services.

It shows in areas such as Brazil's Atlantic rainforest how more creative tree planting can assist in providing buffer zones around intact forests allowing regeneration and recovery.

"There is also an increasing engagement from the private sector in these nature-based assets and mobilization by cities and communities across the globe in tree planting efforts. Meanwhile, new kinds of smart market mechanisms, ranging from REDD+ to payments for ecosystem services, are emerging," he added.

"WED is a day for everyone to act in support of forests and to nurture these green shoots of a Green Economy as the world looks towards how best to accelerate, scale-up and above all implement these transitions in Rio in 2012," he said.

The Forests in a Green Economy synthesis also builds on the work of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a broad partnership hosted by UNEP.

It underlines that natural capital such as forests can represent up to 90 per cent of the GDP of the rural poor. India is among a dozen countries taking the global findings of TEEB into national assessments that in turn could translate the value of nature and its services into national accounts.

The synthesis report spotlights other ways in which governments are using forward-looking policies nationally that can also catalyze market-based instruments, such as credit, microfinance, leases and certification schemes.
  • For example, the host of this year's World Environment Day festivities, India, has recently approved a national initiative to increase forest cover over five million hectares, improve quality of forest cover over another five million hectares and improve crucial ecosystem services provided by forests, such as hydrological services. The new Green India Plan aims to increase forest-based incomes for three million households.
  • Over 80 per cent of the US$8 billion National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which underwrites at least 100 days of paid work for rural households in India, is invested in water conservation, irrigation and land development. This has generated three billion working days-worth of employment benefiting close to 60 million households.
"We must accelerate investments for protecting the planet's forest resources as recommended in the 'Forests in a Green Economy' report. We must leverage forward-looking policies that conserve and improve the quality of our forests, while generating employment and socio-economic returns for local communities - much like the Green India Mission that we have launched. An integrated approach such as this will prioritize conservation and sustainable management of forests, and truly enable forests to play a critical role in greening the economy," said India's Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh.

"I must add that the road to a Green Economy needs a new economic paradigm that can bring out the true value of our natural capital. Here in India, we have initiated a major exercise on the valuation of our natural capital, and will incorporate this into our mainstream national accounts by 2015," he said.
Globally, to undertake a green transition, an additional average investment of US$ 40 billion per year?or around 0.034 per cent of global GDP- in the forest sector is required, starting with US$15 billion in 2011 and increasing up to approximately US$57 billion by 2050.

Carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25 million today to 30 million by 2050.

To mobilize public and private investments in forests, the UNEP report emphasizes the role of the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

PES is a scheme of voluntary transactions aimed to compensate land owners for providing ecosystem services to society, such as carbon storage, watershed protection or biodiversity conservation.

REDD+ recognizes the importance of forests for carbon sequestration through conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. To support these activities, this mechanism allows financial transfers between industrialized and developing countries and between national level agencies and communities and landowners.

Both mechanisms provide new avenues for leveraging political attention, and much-needed private, public and bilateral finance. For example:
  • In Ecuador, the local government in the town of Pimampiro pays US$6 to US$12 per hectare per year to a small group of farmers to conserve forest and natural grassland in the area surrounding the town's water source.
  • Norway's contribution to the Amazon Fund in Brazil is achieving a new form of partnership for realizing deforestation reduction targets. In 2010, Norway announced a grant of US$ 1 billion to Indonesia in return for agreed measures to tackle deforestation and degradation. Under the terms of the agreement, Indonesia has announced a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear natural forests and peatlands.
The value of the services forests provide is not confined to developing economies. One scientific assessment by the Pembina Institute has estimated the value of the services in Canada's boreal forests - including flood control, pest control by birds and carbon sequestration- at just over US$90 billion a year.

Moving forward
The report suggests that knowledge, vision, enabling conditions and new investments are all necessary to realize the full contributions of forests in a green economy, which is based on a new economic paradigm.
"A major issue is that green economies and associated policies will no doubt apply differently across countries, depending on national circumstances, priorities and capacities. Encouraging a transition to green economies will require a broad range of financial, regulatory, institutional, and technological measures. This is a specific area in which the capacity of developing countries has to be strengthened." says Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.

The Green Economy "in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" is also one of two key issues that will be addressed at the Rio+20 Summit next year in Brazil.

The public and the private sector both have an important role to play in accelerating the transition to a Green Economy. On the one hand, governments must promote policy and technical support to ensure forest-based investments.

On the other hand, business and financial institutions need to invest in forest projects, and provide independent and verifiable risk assessments and risk insurance services, amongst others.

Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) said, "Supportive social, legal and institutional settings are key to the sustainable management of natural resources. Optimal land use, further life cycle analysis, ecosystem landscape management, and governance are all key themes that will help unlock the full potential of forests in creating green economies."

Additional investment is also required for up-front capacity building and preparatory work, continued implementation of mechanisms that compensate for opportunity costs, reforestation, and payments for forest protection.

Some examples of successful policy interventions noted in the report highlight the benefits and positive results of sustainable management of forests.
  • Forest related interventions in Costa Rica have led to economic growth and a dramatic increase in forest cover. In 1995, forest cover in the country was 22 per cent, but by 2010, it had recovered to 51 per cent of the country's land area.
  • Community Forest Management is the second largest forest management system in Nepal, where forests cover more than 40 per cent of the land. It has contributed to restoring forest resources in the country, and turned an annual rate of decline in forest cover of 1.9 per cent during the 1990s into an annual increase of 1.35 per cent between the period of 2000 and 2005.
  • The restoration of natural mangrove forests in Vietnam for US$1.1 million resulted in annual saving of US$7.3 million in sea dyke maintenance.
These examples, amongst others, illustrate the significant socio-economic returns that forests can provide. With additional investments and policy reforms, the forest sector can provide a foundation for building a low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive green economy.

Download the report free of charge

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is a voluntary arrangement comprising 14 international organizations and secretariats with substantial programmes on forests (CIFOR, FAO, ITTO, IUFRO, CBD, GEF, UNCCD, UNFF, UNFCCC, UNDP, UNEP, ICRAF, WB, IUCN). The CPF's mission is to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forest and to strengthen long term political commitment to this end. CPF members share their experiences and build on them to produce new benefits for their respective constituencies. Joint initiatives and other collaboration activities are supported by voluntary contributions from participating members. For more information:

United Nations Environment Program
Press Release dated June 5, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Report Shows Continued Growth of Renewable Energy in 2010 
The REN21 report shows that global investments in renewables have increased to a record US$211 billion

The REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report released on July 12, 2012 shows that the renewable energy sector continues to perform well despite continuing economic recession, incentive cuts, and low natural-gas prices.
In 2010, renewable energy supplied an estimated 16% of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20% of global electricity production. Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity. Including all hydropower (estimated 30 GW added in 2010), RE accounted for approximately 50% of total added power generating capacity in 2010.

In 2010, existing solar water and space heating capacity increased by an estimated 25 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), or about 16%.

The report was commissioned by REN21 and produced in collaboration with a global network of research partners. (

"The global performance of renewable energy despite headwinds has been a positive constant in turbulent times", says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of REN21's Steering Committee. "Today, more people than ever before derive energy from renewables as capacity continues to grow, prices continue to fall, and shares of global energy from renewable energy continue to increase."

Global solar PV production and markets more than doubled in comparison with 2009, thanks to government incentive programmes and the continued fall in PV module prices.

Germany installed more PV in 2010 than the entire world added in 2009. PV markets in Japan and the U.S. almost doubled relative to 2009.

Globally, wind power added the most new capacity (followed by hydropower and solar PV), but for the first time ever, Europe added more PV than wind capacity.

Renewable energy policies continue to be the main driver behind renewable energy growth. By early 2011, at least 119 countries had some type of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level, more than doubling from 55 countries in early 2005. More than half of these countries are in the developing world.
At least 95 countries now have some type of policy to support renewable power generation. Of all the policies employed by governments, feed-in tariffs remain the most common.

Last year, investment reached a record $211 billion in renewables - about one-third more than the $160 billion invested in 2009, and more than five times the amount invested in 2004.

Money invested in renewable energy companies, and in utility-scale generation and biofuel projects increased to $143 billion, with developing countries surpassing developed economies for the first time, as shown in the GSR's recently released companion report, UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011. China attracted $48.5 billion, or more than a third of the global total, but other developing countries also experienced major developments in terms of policies, investments, market trends, and manufacturing.

Beyond Asia, significant advances are also seen in many Latin American countries, and at least 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa have active renewable energy markets, the report says.

Developed countries still led the way in investment in small-scale power projects and R&D during 2010. Germany, Italy and the US were the top three.

"The increased renewable energy activity in developing countries highlighted in this year's report is very encouraging, since most of the future growth in energy demand is expected to occur in developing countries," says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of REN21's Steering Committee.

"More and more of the world's people are gaining access to energy services through renewables, not only to meet their basic needs, but also to enable them to develop economically", says El-Ashry. Renewable energy in even the most remote areas is ensuring that more of the world's people are gaining access to basic energy services, including lighting and communications, cooking, heating and cooling, and water pumping, while also generating economic growth through services such as motive power.

Further highlights from the Report:
*Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity and supplies close to 20% of global electricity, with most of this provided by hydropower.
*Developing countries (collectively) have more than half of global renewable energy power.
*Solar PV capacity was added in more than 100 countries.
*The top five countries for non-hydro renewable power capacity were the United States, China, Germany, Spain, and India.
*In the United States, renewables accounted for about 10.9% of U.S. domestic primary energy production (compared with nuclear's 11.3%), an increase of 5.6% over 2009.
*In the United States, 30 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
*China led the world in the installation of wind turbines and solar thermal systems and was the top hydropower producer in 2010. The country added an estimated 29 GW of grid-connected renewable capacity, for a total of 252 GW, an increase of 13% compared with 2009.
*Renewables accounted for about 26% of China's total installed electric capacity in 2010, 18% of generation, and more than 9% of final energy supply.
*Brazil produces virtually all of the world's sugar-derived ethanol, and has been adding new hydropower, biomass and wind power plants, as well as solar heating systems.
*In the European Union, renewables represented an estimated 41% of newly installed electric capacity. While this share was significantly lower than the more than 60% of new capacity in 2009, more renewable power capacity was added in Europe than ever before.
*The EU exceeded its 2010 targets for wind, solar PV, concentrating solar thermal power, and heating/heat pumps. Countries including Finland, Germany, Spain, and Taiwan raised their targets, and South Africa, Guatemala, and India, among others, introduced new ones.
*Developing countries, which now represent more than half of all countries with policy targets and half of all countries with renewable support policies, are playing an increasingly important role in advancing renewable energy.

REN21 is also launching its Renewables Interactive Map - a streamlined tool for gathering and sharing information online about developments related to renewable energy.

REN21 is the global renewable energy policy network that provides a forum for international leadership on renewable energy. Its goal is to bolster policy development for the rapid expansion of renewable energies in developing and industrialised economies. REN21 Secretariat is supported by both The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Press Release dated July 12, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Slow Start for the for Carbon Credit Market
As U.N. talks keep failing to agree how to raise money to protect forests, private investors are testing a trade in credits to slow the deforestation that emits as much carbon as all the world’s cars, ships, trucks and planes.

BNP Paribas is one of a handful of financial institutions and investment funds entering the risky but potentially lucrative market for “credits” in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, or REDD. A credit represents one ton of carbon dioxide not emitted because a forest was left standing.

Last September, BNP’s commodities derivatives arm provided $50 million to Wildlife Works, a conservation project developer designing a portfolio of ventures to reduce deforestation and degradation in Africa.  BNP also acquired the rights to buy as many as 1.25 million carbon credits over the next five years from Wildlife Works’ flagship project in the Kasigau corridor in Kenya. The program aims to protect more than 202,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres, of forest, secure a wildlife migration corridor between two national parks and bring sustainable benefits to local communities through education, jobs for rangers and an “ecofactory” producing organic cotton clothing.

But such carbon credits have found demand only in a small, thinly traded voluntary carbon market, as countries struggle to agree on new, binding emissions cuts under U.N. climate talks.

“There is growing impatience with the multilateral process, not only from practitioners such as myself, but more importantly, from many forest countries,” said Christian del Valle, environmental markets and forestry director at BNP Paribas in London.“Thus far the multilateral process has not delivered meaningful on-the-ground results, and forests continue to be lost because the only accessible price signal today indicates they are worth more cut down than standing,” he said.

A full U.N. climate deal could create a market through which rich, polluting countries could buy carbon credits, paying for forest protection in the process, just as they pay for clean energy projects now under the Kyoto Protocol’s existing carbon offset market, the Clean Development Mechanism.

So far, the only demand for forest carbon credits has been in the voluntary carbon market, worth $424 million last year, which lacks the binding rules of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Governments like those of Norway, Germany, Britain and the United States have pledged $6.5 billion to help poorer countries develop systems to reduce emissions from deforestation, but that is seen as only a halfway measure. Private-sector involvement will be essential.

Recent studies suggest that between $17 billion and $33 billion per year is needed to achieve a U.N. Environment Program recommendation to halve global emissions from deforestation by 2030.  “We are not going to get the scale of what we need without participation by the private sector,” said Donna Lee, who was the lead U.N. negotiator on REDD for the United States and is now a consultant for the advisory group Climate Focus. 
by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters correspondent.
The New York Times
July 24, 2011

Building a 21st century communications economy - New Paper highlights that economic value will increasingly reside in bits and bytes, rather than molecules and atoms
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) outlines an opportunity to forge sustainable economic growth in a new paper, Building a 21st century communications economy. While global oil demand is projected to grow by a fifth by 2030 1 (equivalent to using the entire U.S. strategic oil reserves in a month 2), this new paper presents an alternative; creating a low carbon, low-environmental impact economy through greater investment in advanced communication networks.

Paul Dickinson, executive chairman of CDP, explains, “We are at a historic moment where nations will either enter into a contest for finite resources, where everyone is guaranteed to lose, or we can enter into a golden age of economic growth, without the serious threat of climate change, built on the enormous potential of communications. The 19th century saw massive advances in agriculture and the 20th century was defined by manufacturing. We have the opportunity to define economic growth in the 21st century by advanced communication networks where economic opportunity is not limited by time, distance, or geography.

“Economic value will increasingly reside in bits and bytes3, rather than molecules and atoms of products and commodities, in effect, decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from growth.”

With increased competition for natural resources, the most competitive economies of tomorrow will be those that revolutionize the way we live and work, generating increased value using fewer resources. Investment in broadband – expanding access to next generation technology to communities across the U.S. and across the globe – has the potential to stimulate job creation and increase access to goods and services including healthcare and education whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is particularly true for rural communities and areas that are currently not served or underserved by broadband access.

CDP analysis shows that the average Information Communications Technology (ICT) company generates over $4,000 of net income per company for every metric ton of CO2 equivalent emitted. This is double that of the Consumer Staples 4 sector and seven times that of the Materials sector 5, showing it’s a sector that is well positioned to continue to grow in a low carbon, resource efficient economy. 6

However, the ICT sector’s greatest impact is likely to be through enabling companies across sectors to drive energy efficiencies and transform working practices, thereby increasing their net income per metric ton of carbon ratio. The Smart 2020 report 7 showed that ICT could help reduce emissions by an estimated 13 to 22 percent from U.S. business and see gross energy and fuel savings of $140 billion to $240 billion 8. Employment in this area is predicted to increase by 450,000 jobs between 2004 and 2014 9.

Dan Esty, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) affirms, "ICT can help customers and business to become more sustainable. By acting as the platform, ICT can be used to drive emissions reductions...instead of having people fly for a 2 or 3 hour meeting, it is much more cost effective and sustainable to have the meeting via telepresence. Telecommuting enables employees to work from home and reduces the carbon footprint."

To realize the potential greenhouse gas savings, access to broadband is critical – if devices are not reliably connected to the network they will not be adopted. Currently, 14 million people in the U.S. lack access to high speed internet. As U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2010, “This new era in global technology leadership will only happen if there is adequate spectrum available to support the forthcoming myriad of wireless devices, networks, and applications that can drive the new economy.”10

Robust global accounting of emissions is integral to achieving a successful 21st century communications economy. Danny Quah, from the London School of Economics says, “ICT and broadband can play an important role in helping advanced economies decrease their carbon emissions. But advanced economies also outsource to the emerging economies the production and carbon emission of what they consume. A truly dematerialized economy is not limited by geography and physical boundaries, and therefore neither should the accounting for the associated carbon emissions.”

Dickinson concludes, “The world as we know it is changing, to a world that is cleaner, more inclusive and unconstrained by where you live. The key to unlocking the potential of all these technologies is an efficient and reliable communications network. We have an opportunity to grow our economy with less environmental impact, and fundamentally transform the way we live, work and play.”

1 On average more than 20 million barrels a day by 2030, reaching a level which is more than twice Saudi Arabia’s production
2 International Energy Agency, 2009. World Energy Outlook. Available from  Last accessed June 16th, 2011.
3 Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, February 1997, vol. 37 no. 1, pp. 49-56.
4 GICS category - includes manufacturers and distributors of food, beverages and tobacco and producers of non-durable household goods and personal products.
5 GICS category - includes chemicals, construction materials, glass, paper, forest products and related packaging products, and metals, minerals and mining companies, including producers of steel.
6 CDP analysis
7 U.S. addendum to the seminal Smart 2020 report by the Climate Group.
8 The Climate Group, 2008. Smart 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age. United States Report Addendum. Available from Last accessed June 16th, 2011.
9 Berman, J. 2005. Industry Output and employment projections to 2014. Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review. Available from  Last accessed June 16th, 2011.
10 Cited in Middleton, J. 2010. Obama plans to free up 500MHz of spectrum. Available from Last accessed June 16th, 2011.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent not-for-profit organization holding the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world. Some 3,000 organizations and cities across the world’s largest economies now measure and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies through CDP, so that they can set reduction targets and make performance improvements. 

Press Release dated June 28, 2011

New study: Cloud computing can dramatically reduce energy costs and carbon emissions
By 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil – enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.

This is according to a new study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), “Cloud Computing: The IT Solution for the 21st Century,” conducted by independent analyst research firm Verdantix and sponsored by AT&T.

According to the study, companies plan to accelerate their adoption of cloud computing from 10 percent to 69 percent of their information technology spend by 2020.

The report finds that a company that adopts cloud computing can reduce its energy consumption, lower its carbon emissions and decrease its capital expenditure on IT resources while improving operational efficiency.

Stuart Neumann, Senior Manager at Verdantix, commented: “The study also analyzed the business impacts of transferring an essential business application—human resources— to the cloud and shows such an investment could give a payback in under one year.”

In addition to a predicted aggregate, annual carbon reduction of 85.7 million metric tons by large U.S. companies, cloud computing can:
  • Help users avoid costly up-front capital investments in infrastructure
  • Improve time-to-market as a new server can be created or brought online in minutes
  • Provide greater flexibility as clouds allow firms to pay for excess capacity only when they need it
  • Avoid the continual maintenance of excess capacity needed to handle spikes
  • Improve automation that helps drive process efficiencies.

... Paul Stemmler from Citigroup commented: “Carbon reduction is one driver, but not the primary driver. The primary driver is time to market. Developers used to take 45 days to get new servers, but in the internal cloud infrastructure that we operate in our own private network, it takes just a couple of minutes.”

Verdantix conducted in-depth interviews with multi-national firms—including Aviva, Boeing, Citigroup and Juniper Networks— in diverse sectors. All study participants had adopted cloud services for at least two years. Many of the firms interviewed reported cost savings as a primary motivator, with anticipated cost reductions as high as 40 – 50 percent.

Paul Dickinson, Executive Chairman of CDP, welcomed the ICT sector’s leadership in driving sustainability: “A large percentage of global GDP is reliant on ICT – this is a critical issue as we strive to decouple economic growth from emissions growth.....”  This study follows the release of a recent paper, “Building a 21st Century Communications Economy.” Tying these studies together, Dickinson commented: “The communications economy of the 21st century has the potential to generate more economic value with less environmental impact, and ICT companies will lead the way.”

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) an independent not-for-profit organization holding the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world. Some 3,000 organizations and cities across the world’s largest economies now measure and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies through CDP, so that that they can set reduction targets and make performance improvements.

Press release dated July 20, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Going Green in New York: One Co-op’s Story
[In the past three years the Brevoort], a 1955 co-op tower in Greenwich Village] ...  has spent nearly $6 million. The projects ranged from the prosaic, like new windows and light bulbs, to the ambitious, like green roofs, converting from heating oil to natural gas, and installing a $3.2 million cogeneration plant capable of powering the 20-story building in a citywide blackout.

The extent of the work and the amount spent in such a short time are unusual. But board members say the building is now a model of energy efficiency and proudly note that other co-op boards have come to see what it has done.
In April, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced new heating oil regulations for thousands of buildings across the city. Now those buildings — most of them apartment houses — are reviewing their heating systems.The new rules require that by 2015, about 10,000 buildings switch from No. 6 heating oil, the cheapest but also the dirtiest fuel available, to No. 4 heating oil. Some buildings need to make the change as early as next July. But since buildings will be required to use either No. 2 oil or natural gas by 2030, many building owners are contemplating making the larger change now to avoid two separate conversions. Natural gas currently costs about 30 percent less than fuel oil.

City officials say that the soot pollution created by the 10,000 buildings that use No. 6 oil exceeds the amount created by all the cars and trucks in the city. At a seminar given by the Real Estate Board of New York earlier this month, a representative from the mayor’s office said that while converting to natural gas can be expensive, switching from No. 6 to No. 4 oil could cost a building as little as $7,000. But contractors and consultants in the audience challenged that figure, saying it represented a best-case scenario — a building whose equipment needed only minimal upgrading.

David Kuperberg, the chief executive of Cooper Square Realty, which manages about 450 buildings in New York City, described the extent of the work and the amount invested at the Brevoort as “the exception by a long shot.”

He said his company had urged the owners of its buildings to make similar changes, “but there is a great deal of skepticism and people just don’t believe the savings are there.” Most co-op and condo boards, he said, would rather make incremental changes and take on one project at a time.

About 100 of Cooper Square’s 450 buildings use No. 6 oil. “We’re in front of all our boards now,” offering advice and information on what needs to be done, Mr. Kuperberg said. Wherever possible, Cooper Square encourages gas conversion. But “the initial cost scares off a lot of buildings,” even though “we could prove the economics.” He pointed out that the savings from gas conversion could pay for the upfront costs in a few years.

The changes at the Brevoort did not come without pain.

Vigorous efforts were made to unseat board members in the last two elections, with some unhappy residents likening members to harsh and unyielding prison wardens.

But opposition candidates came shy of the votes they needed in both elections, and Ms. Nardone was re-elected this spring to her sixth term.

The switch from No. 6 oil to natural gas cost the Brevoort $225,000. It involved replacing the burner on the boiler, removing two 20,000-gallon oil tanks, and installing equipment to draw gas from the available Consolidated Edison pipeline. The board expects to save as much as $70,000 a year in fuel costs....

Property managers and environmental experts say that gaining access to gas pipelines maintained by a utility like Con Ed or National Grid could be a huge hurdle for some buildings. As Isabelle Silverman, a lawyer with the Environmental Defense Fund, put it, “The infrastructure to bring gas lines to the buildings definitely has to be built out, and we don’t know how long that would take.”

City officials say that is why the imminent rule change is for No. 4 oil and the natural gas requirement does not kick in for 20 years.

Most buildings are already hooked up for cooking gas. But long stretches of pavement may need to be ripped up to connect a building to the pipelines for heating gas, which are larger in diameter. “When you can get it and how much it will cost depends on where your building is relative to the gas line,” Ms. Silverman said.

Of the roughly 100 residential buildings managed by Rose Associates, 6 are in the process of converting to natural gas.  J. Brian Peters, a senior managing director at Rose, said that “the due diligence on this really pans out, and there is a track record that shows the savings and benefits are real.”  Getting permits and physically converting the equipment takes four to six months, he said, but how quickly Con Ed can hook up a building is less certain.

For the 15-story co-op at 910 Park Avenue, converting the burner to accept either No. 2 fuel or gas took less than six months and cost $73,000. The work was done in October, but the building burned No. 2 oil all winter, while it waited six months for Con Ed to connect its gas line.

Jerry Cohen, a board member, ... ran a spreadsheet and it showed that in three years, the savings would give us payback on the cost of the conversion.” The board approved the plan unanimously.  Con Ed waived the $23,000 cost of connecting Mr. Cohen’s building to a pipeline that runs along Park Avenue because the building committed to using Con Ed’s gas exclusively....  He said that a friend at a building on Madison Avenue had recently learned that connecting to a pipeline would cost $1 million.

Joseph McGowan, the manager for gas sales at Con Ed, said that Con Ed would install up to 100 feet of
pipe free to a building with five or more apartments, and could waive the fee for more, depending on the utility’s anticipated revenues from the building.

Hypothetically, he said, the cost to connect a building at, say, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, to the appropriate pipeline along First Avenue could be as high as $3 million. “Just think about having to trench along 42nd Street for that many blocks,” he said.

But if Con Ed found that seven additional large buildings along that route also wanted to convert to gas, “the revenue from all those buildings could take care of the cost.”

It has taken the co-op board at 12 East 97th Street about a year to weigh the benefits and figure out the cost of gas conversion. John Slattery, the vice president of the board, said the building was now close to signing contracts and expected a bill of $100,000 to $200,000. “All of this goes agonizingly slow,” he said, “because like most boards, we only meet once a month.”

Mr. Slattery says the building is trying to decide whether to go with a gas-only contract or to spring for the option of using both oil and gas. “It seems like most major property holders are doing dual fuel,” he said. “Maybe they’re just belts-and-suspenders people, but in today’s world, who knows what’s going to happen with the price of gas or oil?”

Myriad calculations and unknowns complicate the decision making. “The real problem is there are a lot of variables out there,” said Paul Gottsegen, the president of Halstead Management, which manages about 200 apartment buildings. “At this point, people are scrambling for the best ideas and the cheapest and greenest options.

To encourage gas conversion, utility companies are creating incentive programs and the state this year provided $6.5 million in grants to about 240 buildings. Francis J. Murray Jr., the president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said applications poured in and the money was spoken for shortly after the fund was announced in April.
“The demand clearly exceeded what was available,” Mr. Murray said. The agency is seeking other funding sources and hopes to offer more grants next year.

The state agency also provides grants for cogeneration plants, which burn gas to produce both heat and electricity, and this year distributed $20 million to 19 projects across the state, including three residential buildings managed by Rose Associates. Mr. Peters of Rose said that for certain buildings, it made sense to put in cogeneration at the same time as a gas conversion.

“It depends on the scale and the unique character of the property,” Mr. Peters said, adding that one of Rose’s rental properties, London Terrace Gardens, installed cogeneration about six years ago and saves about 15 percent on electricity annually.

At the Brevoort, while most residents approved of gas conversion, many felt the cogeneration system was unnecessary, even though the building received a $500,000 state grant for the work.... Debt went from about $3.5 million to $11 million,” he said. “Maybe we should have gone slower.”  The building this year issued a $2 million assessment, which works out to about $10,000 for the owner of a two-bedroom apartment.

5 Steps to a Waste-Free Lunch plus Top 10 Picks For Kids
According to the EPA, each child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day generates 67 pounds of waste by the end of the school year. With this in mind, - a one-stop shop for 1000s of eco-friendly products - has created The 5 Steps to a Waste-free Lunch.

Additionally, has selected the Top 10 lunch items for kids and adults. Plus, they offer 150+ Made in the USA lunch items.

1. Reusable lunch bags - replace the brown bag with something safe and sustainable. Reusable bags are better looking and better for the environment.
2. Food containers - estimates that eliminating disposable packaging and single-serving items can save families $250 a year. Buy in bulk and use reusable containers to portion out your lunch.
3. Snack and sandwich bags - Sierra Club estimates that families spend $85 on disposable plastic baggies. Save money and resources with reusable bags and wraps.
4. Utensils and more - napkins, utensils, even straws. Why throw it away when you can use it again and again?
5. Reusable bottles - Americans spend about $16 billion annually on bottled water, that's 38 billion plastic bottles in our landfills. Break the wasteful cycle by bringing your own bottle.

1. PackIt Personal Cooler - $19.95
The PackIt insulated lunch bag is like a stylish mini cooler - pop it in the freezer, remove it when ready. The built-in Eco-Gel liner stays cold for up to 10 hours.
See all of reuseit's lunch bag options here.
2. LunchSkins Sandwich Bag - $8.95
Once you use a LunchSkins reusable sandwich bags, you'll never want to go back to wasteful plastic baggies. There's even a convenient area to write your or your child's name on the bag.
See all of reuseit's snack & sandwich bag options here.
3. reuseit Flatware and Napkin Kit - $14.95 estimates 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the U.S. alone, the majority of which are thrown away after one use. The reuseit bamboo flatware & organic cotton & hemp napkin kit eliminates thousands of disposables.
See all of reuseit's napkins, utensils & more options here.
4. Aladdin Collapsible Lunch Bowls - $19.95 (set of 3)
Ditch takeout containers for decorative Aladdin collapsible lunch bowls. They pack discreetly, are easily transportable and much more attractive than that outdated tupperware.
See all of reuseit's food and take-out containers here.
5. Thermos Foogo 10 oz Insulated Water Bottle - $15.95
Great for carrying juice or milk, this leak-proof, insulated thermos holds up to 10 oz, and is an ideal alternative to kids' juice boxes. The hygienic push-button lid even hides a pop-up silicone straw.
See all of reuseit's water bottle options here.

Recognized as a leader and innovator, won Green America’s prestigious Green Business of the Year in 2007 and their Longtime Leadership award in 2009. A trusted source, the company is a BizRate Circle of Excellence Gold Honoree and was recognized by Inc. 500|5000 in 2009 and 2010 as one of the nation’s Fastest Growing Companies. The company has been featured hundreds of times by major media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, ABC News and Vogue. is an authentic, triple-bottom-line company, supporting Fair Trade Practices and donating one percent of all sales to environmental causes through 1% For the Planet.
Environmental News Network
Press Release dated July 20, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

DVR, Cable and Satellite Boxes Waste $2 Billion of Electricity Every Year -DVR Leads Energy Vampire Pack, Consuming More Energy Annually Than Typical New Flat Screen
Digital video recorders (DVRs), cable and other pay-TV boxes cost American consumers $3 billion a year -- $1 billion to operate when in active use and an additional $2 billion while inactive but still running at near full power, according to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Also known as set-top boxes, these devices squander the equivalent annual energy output of six coal burning power plants (500 MW) because they are not equipped to power down when not being used.

“Set-top boxes are the ultimate home energy vampires, silently sucking significant amounts of energy and money when nobody’s using them,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the NRDC.  “The consumer, who pays the electric bill, deserves technologies without hidden costs.  At a time when everyone is trying to cut waste from our budgets and electric grid, service providers shouldn't saddle their subscribers with boxes that unnecessarily squeeze their wallets.”

The NRDC study, Reducing the National Energy Consumption of Set-Top Boxes, also found that today’s average new cable high-definition digital video recorder (HD-DVR) consumes more electricity annually than the new flat panel TV to which it’s typically connected and about 40% more than its basic set-top box counterpart.  In contrast, cell phones, which also work on a subscriber basis with a need for secure connections, are able to use extremely low levels of power when not in use – primarily to preserve battery life.

There are approximately 160 million set-top boxes installed in US homes, or the equivalent of one box for every two Americans. These boxes consume as much electricity each year as that consumed by the entire state of Maryland and are responsible for 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

National set-top box electricity use is growing as more consumers shift from basic boxes to DVRs, which provide consumers with a convenient way to record and playback shows. A typical household with one DVR and one basic set-top box uses approximately the same annual electricity use of one new refrigerator.  These devices still run at near full power when the consumer is neither watching nor recording a show.  Hitting the on/off button merely dims the clock or display and does not significantly reduce the amount of power used.

Dramatic energy savings can be readily achieved by having set-top boxes automatically go into a low power mode when people are neither watching nor recording a show.  This functionality is beginning to appear in boxes used in Europe. To achieve this in the United States, pay-TV service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, Direct TV, Dish and the phone companies – who control set-top box installation, configuration, software updates, repair, refurbishment, retirement and resale service – could work with manufacturers to develop and deploy more energy efficient devices.

Likewise, to make sure their interests are being met, consumers can request their pay-TV service provider (e.g. their cable or satellite company) supply them with set-top boxes that meet ENERGY STAR Version 4.0.

“We’ve improved the efficiency of all sorts of electronics – from TVs to video game consoles,” said Horowitz.  “It’s just as possible to improve the efficiency of our DVRs and other pay TV boxes.  But they’re not going to build a better mousetrap unless we, the consumers, demand it.”

For more information, see Noah Horowitz’s blog:

A New York Times Editorial at discussed this issue.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. 
Press Release dated  June 14, 2011