THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEA IN ENERGY EFFICIENCY

This article looks into the most important idea in energy efficiency. Also notice the way I said idea rather than technology as that is exactly what we are going to look at today.

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I have been a fan of Amory Lovins and the work that the Rocky Mountain Institute put out for a while. This week I was reading his paper How big is the energy efficiency resource? It was published in Environmental Research Letters in 2018. I was totally blown away by his findings, which could have a really big impact on sustainability.

Amory debunks the commonly held perception that energy efficiency is plagued by a problem of low hanging fruit, where easy gains will be made early on and gains will become progressively harder as time passes. This is based on a theoretical construct, that works well in textbooks, but is not born out in reality.

I am minded to quote the great Yogi Berra who once remarked that: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” This is why it is important to test theories to see if they are actually correct.

I could not do it justice by paraphrasing, so I have pasted Amory Lovins’s research finding in full below:

“The efficiency resource far exceeds the sum of savings by individual technologies because artfully choosing, combining, sequencing, and timing fewer and simpler technologies can save more energy at lower cost than deploying more and fancier but dis-integrated and randomly timed technologies. Such ‘integrative design’ is not yet widely known or applied, and can seem difficult because it is simple, but is well proven, rapidly evolving, and gradually spreading.”

This finding that integrative design and not more and fancier widgets is the key to energy efficiency is extremely powerful. Unfortunately, it goes against a lot of our human instincts which probably explains its slow uptake. But there is always time to turn that around.

What you need to know

This article looked into the most important idea in energy efficiency.

It was based upon Amory Lovins’s 2018 paper How big is the energy efficiency resource?

His finding that integrative design unlocks far more potential than individually targeted initiatives may be the most important idea in energy efficiency.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think the most important idea in energy efficiency is?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

WHAT MAKES AN EVENT A SUSTAINABLE EVENT?

This article looks into what makes an event a sustainable event. It is based on the analysis of Meegan Jones, who has a great book titled Sustainable Event Management. You can find a picture of the cover below.

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Meegan picks out 5 themes that make an event a sustainable event and we will look into them in turn.

1.     Purchasing

Events like other activities consume resources. But the temporary nature of events means that sustainability is often sidelined in favour of other parameters. Lots of important decisions need to be taken in the run up to the event to make it as sustainable as possible.

Where possible all products should be purchased with responsible sourcing schemes. This provides third party assurance of their sustainability credentials.

If possible, all materials should be sourced locally so that the event contributes to the local economy and it cuts down on unnecessary miles being travelled.

2.   Waste Management

The waste generated by events is probably more visible because of large volumes of people in a small area without permanent waste management infrastructure. But those people would have also generated waste if thy were at home and not at any event. That being said, the propensity for people t0 eat out of takeaway packaging means that the per capita waste generation is probably higher for someone who is at an event, rather than in their daily life.

The key for waste management is really communication and making recycling as easy as possible for people at the event. Work also needs to be done to streamline the amount of different types of packaging that vendors bring to the event. As mixed messaging will confuse attendees.

I am a big fan of cup and bottle deposits and you can read more about my thoughts on this topic below. I think it is a good way of incentivising people to recycle and getting them involved in the process.

ARGUMENTS FOR CUP AND BOTTLE DEPOSITS

3.   Energy production

The nature of events means that they are large consumers of energy. However, if procured sustainably this doesn’t have to be bad for the environment.

Making sure that contracts with generator suppliers are structured so as to incentivise sustainability rather than excess would be a start. Also, making every effort to get temporary power supplies to every corner of the site to cut down on generator use to the greatest extent possible would be another bonus for sustainability.

There are also lots of opportunities to use solar powered technology for perimeter fence lighting and for other purposes.

The main energy intake should also be sources from a 100% renewable supply and if this was done it would make a really big difference.

4.   Water management

Depending on the location of the event this could either be an important or extremely important consideration. In arid regions water scarcity could threaten the viability of an event.

Water conservation is therefore key. This can be done through water saving devices and other measures. Capturing grey water is also very important.

As with everything else, communication is key. If people are unaware water is scares, they are more likely to use it wastefully.

5.    Transport

Transport is a very visible sign of unsustainability at events. Rows and rows of cars parked in enormous car parks demonstrate that the vast majority of people did not come by public transport. Research shows that transport is often the largest contributor to carbon emissions for live events.

The main options for making the events transport more sustainable are encouraging public transport, walking or cycling, or incentivising cars with high occupancy rates.

As with most aspects of sustainability, these won’t happen by default. Large events can put on specialist busses from destinations to the event. There may even be scope for chartering trains from large urban areas to the event. Where this is possible it should definitely be explored.

Overall, all events need to come up with initiatives to make the most sustainable transport options the easiest and cheapest.

What you need to know

This article looked into what makes an event a sustainable event. It was based on the analysis of Meegan Jones, who has a great book titled Sustainable Event Management.

Overall, the sustainability challenges at events are not so different from the sustainability challenges elsewhere.

The temporary nature of events means that people will likely only have one chance to prepare for it each year and it means that there are fewer learning opportunities for everyone.

I would say that the overall trend for sustainability at events is positive, but there is a lot more work still to be done.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes an event a sustainable event?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

Kevin Anderson – Cut the Crap

This article looks into Kevin Anderson’s perspective on climate change.

I was lucky enough to see Kevin’s cut the crap talk at Glastonbury 2019 and I found it to be truly eye opening.

I had seen videos of his before, but it is always better to watch speakers live.

The link below takes you to a Kevin Anderson video on climate change.

Watch it and let me know what you think.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of Kevin’s perspective on climate change?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WILL READ ABOUT GLASTONBURY 2019

This article looks into Glastonbury 2019 and what actions individuals can take to make it the most sustainable music festival in the world.

love the farm

 

At age 16 I went to Glastonbury 2007 and I instantly fell in love with the festival. It is a big festival, with an unrivalled quantity and quality of entertainment on offer.

But big events have big impacts on the environment and Glastonbury is no different in this regard. The sustainability agenda at Glastonbury is driven under the agenda of Love The Farm Leave No Trace. There is also the slogan that runs underneath of Reuse Reduce Respect.

I would say that whilst these slogans have been good in raising the profile of the festival’s impact on the environment, you still see frequent instances of behaviour that is detrimental to the environment.

green pledge

Linked to the love the farm leave no trace slogan is the green pledge that everyone who buys a ticket is made to agree to.  You can find an image of these below.

green pledges

If you are reading this and you are going this year, please try and adhere to the pledge that you made.

Taking your tent home saves you money and saves the organisers having to divert money away from entertainment and spending it on clean up costs.

Using bins is fairly common standard practice. If you had friends over for a BBQ, you wouldn’t like it if they littered all over your property.

Glastonbury probably has more recycling bins, with good quality labelling than any other festival, please use them.

Urinating on the land is probably not something that people think would be extremely problematic, but when you multiply that by 200,000 attendees, even if only a small percentage of them urinate on the land, this leads to serious problems. You wouldn’t like it if people did it in your house, so please do not do it on the farm.

Glastonbury has been doing loads on single use plastics, even going as far as banning plastic drinks bottles at this year’s edition. Please bring a re-usable one with you to help reduce the volume of waste that is generated.

These are fairly simple ambitions, but if they were implemented by everyone that is attending or working at Glastonbury it would make a real difference.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes a festival a sustainable festival?

Let’s stay connected

 

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

HOW PIGOUVIAN TAXES COULD CHANGE THE WORLD

This article looks into Pigouvian taxes and explores how they could change the world. Pigouvian taxes are named after English economist Arthur Pigou (1877–1959) who also developed the concept of economic externalities.

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In lay man’s terms, a Pigouvian tax is a government cost on activities that create socially harmful externalities. An externality is an activity that creates a negative effect on others in a society but not necessarily the person who does that activity.

A Pigouvian tax, aims to correct an undesirable or inefficient market outcome. It does this by being set equal to the social cost of the negative externalities.

For those of you who like graphs there is a very helpful graph below that shows how it achieves this.

Social_cost_with_tax.svg

Pigou’s recommendation was for taxes to be placed on the offending producer, proportional to the damage that they inflict. This could be applied equally well to both social and environmental problems.

Hopefully you can see where I am going with this, as there is a lot of similarity to the polluter pays principle, which I was writing about recently. You can find a link to this article below.

THE RENAISSANCE OF THE POLLUTER PAYS PRINCIPLE

What you don’t want is blanket taxation that punishes people who are not responsible for negative social end economic outcomes as much as those who are responsible for them.

Pigouvian taxes are also important for their focus on making amends for the externalities that are caused, but not necessarily going any further into punishment territory. The aim of a Pigouvian tax is to cost the producer an amount equivalent to the harm they caused others.

This makes them a more politically acceptable form of taxation. After all, who could be against holding those responsible for externalities accountable for their actions?

A great example is beginning to emerge of clean air zones in urban areas, where drivers are charged for bringing the most polluting vehicles into urban areas. This has developed very quickly into an important phenomenon. But the driver behind these zones is principally poor air quality as opposed to the climate change impact of these vehicles.

An altogether different approach would be to apply Pigouvian taxation to the problem of climate change. This would come in the form of a carbon tax.

We have briefly discussed the idea for this before in my article on Elon Musk’s perspective on climate change. You can find a link to this article below.

ELON MUSK ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Elon’s suggestion is for a non-partisan revenue neutral carbon tax. This would mean that only those using a high level of carbon would pay an increased level of taxation.

Carbon taxes have been implemented in the past. However, the lack of success in past schemes is more to do with the low-price set for carbon. These schemes could not be described as Pigouvian as they were not set at an equal rate to the externality of climate change.

If properly applied to the problem of climate change, Pigouvian taxation could be the missing link that drives carbon emissions down in the timeframe that we need this to happen by.

What you need to know

This article looked into Pigouvian taxation and how it could change the world.

A Pigouvian tax is a tax that is applied to a negative activity in proportion to the damage that it occurs.

If applied to the problem of climate change, it could be revolutionary in making those responsible for carbon emissions, responsible for paying for the damage done.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about the potential of Pigouvian taxes?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

3 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT AIR QUALITY MONITORING

This article looks into my recent experimentation with portable air quality monitoring.

Monitor

The theme for World Environment Day 2019 was air pollution, so I decided to get involved by buying a portable air quality monitor and taking some measurements to see what I could find. Here are 3 things that  learned about air quality motioning this week.

1.  Calibration is key

I rarely read the instructions when I buy a new product. I am normally too excited and rush into using it straight away. This is one occasion when reading the instructions is strongly advised.

For the Temtop M2000C monitor that I bought PM is read straight away, with no warm up period.

For CO2 readings there is a 3-minute warm up period. Do not make the mistake I did of rushing to take readings without also performing the 30 minute calibration. My initial impression, is without this calibration period, you will get CO2 readings of roughly double what they actually are.

2. You need multiple readings

You also need multiple readings. One reading at one snapshot in time will only be able to tell you so much.

Even a short experiment that I conducted today along the metropolitan line showed that some of the readings that I was collecting were higher than the otherwise stated air pollution risk of low for London.

So multiple readings over multiple locations over long periods of time are needed to get a full picture of what is actually going on.

3. You can’t manage what you don’t measure

It’s an old management adage that still holds true today. But accurate measurement of air quality in urban areas is key to developing strategies that will solve this problem.

It is reported that there are 100 air quality monitoring stations in London which if you take London’s population to be 8 million, means that there is 1 station for every 80,000 people. To me this doesn’t sound like there is enough and that much more granular data is needed, that is fed back in real time so that people can act upon it.

What you need to know

This article looked into air quality monitoring and my first experience of it this week.

If you are not satisfied with the level of reporting out there, I would definitely recommend buying your own monitor.

Ultimately monitoring is only one side of the coin, but having accurate data to base decisions on is crucial.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done about air quality monitoring?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

THE RENAISSANCE OF THE POLLUTER PAYS PRINCIPLE

This article looks into the polluter pays principle and its modern day renaissance.

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The Renaissance was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. This took place from the 14th century to the 17th century. The Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art. A fantastic example of this is Sandro Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which is pictured above. It looked great when it was pained in 1845 and it still looks great now.

The polluter pays principle is a really important aspect of environmental law. It originated from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It is a principle that if properly enacted and enforced, could be transformational in changing the relationship between man and the natural world.

The essence of the polluter pays principle is to make the party responsible for producing pollution, responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment. It is a simple principle, but its translation into reality has been underwhelming.

However, there has been one area in particular where the polluter pays principle has begun to flourish. Just as The Renaissance saw an explosion in activity in the arenas of art, architecture, thinking and writing. Perhaps this new modern renaissance of the polluter pays principle in dealing with urban air pollution could be the catalyst for applying the principle more widely to deal with other environmental problems.

Let’s now turn to a few UK examples of how the polluter pays principle is being applied to urban air pollution.

London

London already had a non charging low emission zone that covered most of Greater London. But as with most things in life, money talks and the impact of this non charging zone can be described as marginal at best.

What has really caught the public’s attention is the recently introduced Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) that went live in April 2019.

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This is coming in two parts, which you can see from the picture above. The inner zone that went live in April 2019 and the expanded zone that will go live in October 2021.

The most polluting vehicles that do not meet the standards required of the ULEZ will incur the following charges:

  • £12.50 for private cars, vans, motorcycles and mopeds
  • £12.50 for taxis
  • £100 for buses, coaches and HGVs

I think it was the £100 charge for larger vehicles that was really driving interest in the ULEZ. But pollution from HGV’s are estimated to be responsible for £40 billion worth of costs in Europe. So, it is only fair that they pay for the damages that they incur.

Leeds

Leeds is another city in the UK that will be introducing a clean air charging zone. It will go live in January 2020 and cover most of the city centre.

Leeds ULEZ

Non-compliant vehicles will incur the following charges:

  • No charge for private cars, vans, motorcycles and mopeds
  • £12.50 for taxis (or £50 per week for Leeds-licensed vehicles)
  • £50 for buses, coaches and HGVs

Again, just like London, this is a very positive step forward that will see those most responsible for urban air pollution paying for the damage that they create. My only disappointment is that there is no charge for private cars, but perhaps that will come with time.

Birmingham

Birmingham also has plans for a charging clean air zone that have been approved by the government.

Birmingham

This scheme will charge non-compliant vehicles at the following rate:

  • £8 for private cars and taxis
  • £50 for buses, coaches and HGVs
  • Motorcycles and mopeds are expected to be exempt

The zone in Birmingham will be introduced from 1 January 2020 on or inside the inner ring road.

Heathrow

Heathrow is neither a city or a local authority, but they have drawn up their own plans to improve air quality around the airport.

This would come into force in 2022, the Heathrow charging ULEZ will see vehicle standards identical to those of the London ULEZ applied for cars and private hire vehicles entering car parks and drop-off areas at any of the airport’s terminals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This policy was only announced in late May 2019 so precise figures for charges have not yet come about. But it is believed that a fee of £10 – £15 is being considered. It is also rumoured that black cabs will be exempt from the charge, which is something that I do not believe should be the case. The cost of their air pollution needs to be internalised so as to make public transport more attractive.

Elsewhere

It is also worth pointing out that there are very advanced discussions for charging clean air zones in Bath, Sheffield and Manchester. However, the exact details of how these schemes will work has yet to be decided upon.

What you need to know

 This article looked into the polluter pays principle and its modern day renaissance.

The Renaissance was a period of rebirth and rejuvenation.

The polluter pays principle has struggled to flourish in the years since it was first conceived in 1992. But perhaps with urban air pollution we are seeing a problem that is well suited to being solved by the principle.

Time will tell how successful these schemes are. If they are successful, there is nothing to stop the polluter pays principle from being applied to other environmental problems.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about the polluter pays principle?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby