The Value and Gaps in a Big San Francisco Clean-Energy Conclave

Around San Francisco through the rest of this week, government ministers, investors, engineers, climate campaigners and wonks of all stripes will be discussing ways to provide the energy necessary to sustain human progress without overheating the climate. This is a huge challenge (watch the late great Nobelist Richard Smalley) and a long march, no matter how much one shouts “urgency.” Are such meetings worth the carbon combustion it took for hundreds of participants to get to the Bay Area? Over all, I’d say yes, just as was the case last week with the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting on sustainable development that I attended in Nairobi. The value is less in proclamations and joint statement than in creating and sustaining conduits for sharing and shaping ideas, as I explained here in the Nairobi context. A “super wicked” problem like the climate/energy challenge will inevitably have no universal solution applicable everywhere. But discourse can clarify what works where – whether it’s a new financial instrument fostering solar panel deployment or a new battery design. So what’s happening in San Francisco? The main event is the seventh “Clean Energy Ministerial” – the latest in a series of annual intergovernmental meetings largely shaped by the Obama administration but built on a Bush-era template – the “major economies” meetings on energy and climate. The clean energy meeting brings together top energy officials and other representatives from 23 countries and the European Commission and attracts all manner of interested parties (some paying $10,000 a table to be at certain events). The top American official at the conference, secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, explained the strategy this way...

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...

Ford Driving Toward Sustainability

The automobile company Ford is pushing towards the continued development of cars that are energy efficient and do not leave a carbon footprint on the world. The chairman William Ford states that the company is constantly striving for values that are sustainable when constructing every Ford car. A manager for the sustainable environmental department does not agree with the chairman’s statement as he believes a certain type of balance needs to be achieved in regards to the environment and the people. The manager Thomas Niemann believes that the approach should be more sustainable and balanced. The Ford Company is currently striving for environmental sustainability while constructing the vast amount of cars. Ford is currently utilizing a PSI (Product Sustainability Index) system for the construction of the cars as more products that are sustainable are used. Some of the sustainable products that are utilized include materials that are recycled and foam that is soy based. Ford is also reducing the amount of water usage with the painting and cooling process for each particular car. The amount of water usage also decreased nearly 49 percent for each individual car as well. The Ford Company has also decreased its carbon footprint on the earth as well. Carbon emissions were initially at a tonnage of 5.4 million but it recently decreased to a tonnage of 5.3 million for the last business year. The amount of emissions for each individual car has also decreased from a tonnage of 1.09 to 1.01. Ford has also become known for being one of the leaders in the economy of fuel efficiency. Ford currently has 3 cars that...