Smart infrastructure is the key to sustainable development

Will 2015 be a watershed in the human effort to solve global problems, or just another chapter in the history of collective inaction? The answer will soon become apparent on construction sites around the world. The two most ambitious international agreements of 2015 – the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate accord – amount to a historic decision to build a world that reconciles improving human welfare with the reality of climate change. The SDGs chart a path for eliminating poverty and securing a better life for all by 2030. The Paris accord seeks to stabilise global carbon emissions by the second half of the century, through a rapid move away from high-carbon energy, transport, housing and land use towards efficient, low carbon, climate-resilient alternatives. But as nations set out to reflect these commitments in planning and budget processes, they face difficult choices: coal or renewables? Highways or public transport? Suburban sprawl or compact cities? And the window for making such choices is narrow. Existing and projected carbon emissions show the urgency of implementing the Paris commitments. But infrastructure projects are time-consuming and long-lasting. Power plants, for example, take from five to 15 years to plan and build and can then last for half a century. And 70% of the forecast increase in emissions from developing countries is expected to come from infrastructure that has yet to be built. This means that infrastructure decisions we make in the next few years could cement our ability to meet the Paris goals – or condemn us to a future in which global temperatures rise well above 2C. In...

New York Hotels Make a Green Pledge

Seventeen notable New York City hotels have committed to getting greener. Marquee properties like the Waldorf Astoria New York, Grand Hyatt New York, Loews Regency New York and the Peninsula New York recently joined the NYC Carbon Challenge, a program Michael R. Bloomberg started as mayor in 2007 with the city’s universities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals, commercial office buildings and multifamily residences were eventually added, and in late December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the initiative would expand to include hotels. This initial group of properties — accounting for more than 11,000 guest rooms — has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings by 30 percent or more in the next 10 years, a move that could reduce emissions by more than 32,000 metric tons and save $25 million of energy operating costs. Buildings account for around 75 percent of greenhouse emissions in New York City, and getting the hospitality industry on board will significantly help to cut down on the city’s overall emissions, said Nilda Mesa, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “Hotels are definitely a cause of emissions, and their involvement can have a big impact in achieving the goals of the NYC Carbon Challenge and the mayor’s overall sustainability goals,” she said. That broader vision, set forth by Mr. de Blasio in September 2014, is to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The Office of Sustainability worked with the Hotel Association of New York City, a trade group that represents 275 hotels in the city, to get the first group of properties to make a...

At Energy-Minded U.S. Hotels, They’ll Turn the Lights Off for You

ROME — At the, a boutique hotel named for the famous piazza here, guests must place a room key into a slot on the wall to activate the lights and temperature control system in their rooms. The Palazzo’s use of the key card device is not unusual in Europe or in other parts of the world, like Asia. Even in countries like Norway where electricity is relatively inexpensive, many hotels use them to reduce energy costs. American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience. Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels. But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use. In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been...

Solar-powered lamp-post provides ray of light for Mali

Momodou Keita, town chief of Sanogola, a small village 300km north of Bamako, Mali’s capital, stands proudly beside the community’s solar-powered lamp-post – a shiny, blue, enamel-coated construction of welded bicycle parts and water pipes. “Ten villages now want these lamps,” he announces with pride from inside his traditional Malian mud-walled compound. “Now we have electricity and it helps us so much,” he says. <!– [if IE 9]><![endif]–> <!– [if IE 9]><![endif]–> Solar technology is spreading throughout countries across Africa and it is getting cheaper and more efficient. The searing rays of sunlight coupled with the lack of electricity grids on the continent make this renewable form of energy a no-brainer. But what makes Foroba Yelen, or Collective Light – the name given to the lamp-posts by the women of the area – so different is that it was designed specifically for the Malian communities who would end up using it, earning funding from the University of Barcelona for winning a special mention in the City to City Barcelona FAD (El Foment de les Arts i el Disseny/Support for Art and Design) award, a competition recognising initiatives that transform communities across the world. Italian architect Matteo Ferroni spent three years studying villages in rural Mali, where close to 90% of the population have no access to electricity. He wanted to design a light that villagers could manufacture for themselves, so went on to study how welders in nearby Cinzana built donkey carts, the traditional mode of transport that is still widely used today. He used their expertise, along with parts that could be found in any small village in...

Africa plans renewable energy drive that could make continent world’s cleanest

An Africa-wide mega-scale initiative backed by all African heads of state should see the continent greatly increase its renewable energy over the next 15 years. The African Renewable Energy Initiative (Arei) plans to develop at least 10 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and at least 300 GW by 2030, potentially making the continent the cleanest in the world. The International Energy Agency, which has said that Africa is at the “epicentre of the global challenge to overcome energy poverty”, estimates that annual electricity consumption per capita in Africa for 2012 was around 600 kWh, compared with the world average of 3,064 kWh. The plan to accelerate solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy could see Africa leapfrogging other continents by developing thousands of small-scale “virtual power stations” that distribute electricity via mini-grids and would not require transmission lines, which involve a loss of up to a quarter of power during the process. The initiative, which is tentatively estimated to cost at least $500bn over 20 years, is billed as “by Africa, for Africa”, and is intended to reduce Africa’s present reliance on coal. As well as reducing emissions, it will help at least 600 million people switch from lighting homes and cooking with diesel, kerosene and wood, and reduce air pollution in homes and cities. Solar is expected to play a leading role. “We are ready to engage in massive solar and wind energy production to attain 100% electricity reach for our people,” said Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s environment cabinet secretary. Speaking at the launch of the initiative at the COP 21 talks in Paris, the president...

El Paso Solar Energy System

The company El Paso Electric helped to invest money for the construction of a CPV which is a KW concentrator photovoltaic. The creation of the CPV by the dual partner of Solar Smart will bring great notoriety to El Paso Electric as the generation of renewable energy will help to create a sustainable environment. Installing the CPV type of technology is the first of its kind for El Paso Electric. The company will be testing the CPV technology to determine if sufficient solar power can be obtained. Regions like El Paso are extremely hot and the company El Paso Electric is hoping that the technology will yield a substantial amount of energy compared to other types of solar technology. Chairman Executive Officer Mark Crowley stated that he hopes that the partnership of Solar Smart and El Paso Electric will provide a CPV technology which will provide a substantial amount of solar energy to the surrounding region and area. Also, if there is a high rate of efficient solar energy than companies would be able to rely on energy that is extremely low in cost. The entire CPV system is actually quite simple as the output of electricity can be obtained from a particular area of land with a time of construction that is minimal. The CPV technology also utilizes solar cells and a reflective system that absorbs the energy from the sun and creates a solar type of energy. There are also a couple of benefits which are connected to the CPV system. The first benefit of the CPV system is that the usage of water is not needed...