Geoff Bennett - Editor

Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

We open this week with an article about what might be the biggest property bubble of all time. China, in an attempt to bring prosperity to their country has been embarking on a disturbing pattern of development for development’s sake – the construction of gigantic infrastructure projects with no regard to the ability of it’s people to afford them. For example – The New South China Mall, in Dongguan, touted as the world’s largest, has been 99% vacant since it was constructed in 2005. And it’s not just the Mall that sits empty, so do rows of massive skyscraper apartment buildings in the CBD of new cities around the country. It is estimated that there are a whopping 64 million empty apartments… now that is a property bubble that makes the one in the US and Ireland pale into insignificance.

And whilst China might have been embarking on new construction on a truly grand scale, at least it is now trying to do in a way that is more sustainable. It’s recently released five-year plan includes a 17% cut in CO2e per unit of GDP, a 16% reduction in energy and 30% reduction in water consumption by 2015. And compared to NZ’s recently announced greenhouse gas targets, you have to think that the Chinese might actually meet theirs. At least they didn’t leak plans to massively expand their coal and oil industries at the same time…

Germany, also continues to literally power ahead with its expansion into renewable electricity generation, with 7,400 MW of PV installed in a single year. Renewables now produce 17% of Germany’s total electricity requirements – more than from gas fired stations, about the same as from coal fired and approaching that from nuclear. NZ has lofty goals of getting to 90% renewable generation but you have to question how this might be achieved? All successful renewable schemes to date have all had feed-in tariffs to encourage and reward investment. Here in NZ they have been categorically ruled out by the present National Government…

And whilst all these initiatives in energy efficiency and generation from renewable sources are very laudable, they are necessary as the efficiency gains are being cancelled out by the continuing growth in household gadgets and their electrical demand. The commercial sector however presents great opportunities for retro-commissioning with the market set to exceed $1.8 billion by 2014. Another possible source of efficiency gain might be through voltage optimisation, so ensuring that equipment and devices operate at optimum efficiency. And our last article looking at energy management this week examines how every company is likely to soon have to have an energy strategy and how this will become a fundamental component in all senior management decision making processes. We give this last article the big thumbs up.

Shifting away from energy management, we look at how climate change is likely to impact on agriculture with some regions being advantaged by warmer temperatures and increased rainfall, with others disadvantaged by either too much rain and growth in pestilence or too little and desertification. Staying with agriculture a little longer, we also examine the fears China has in being able to feed itself. The nightmares from the 1959-61 Great Famine when 30 million Chinese starved to death continue to run deep.

Our last sets of articles look at the automobile industry, with news that the European Commission may ban petrol and diesel cars from European cities by 2050. The strategy called transport 2050 will not only seek to shift most passenger transport to high speed rail, but will also require 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation, and mandate a 40% cut in shipping emissions.

One of the alternatives to petrol and diesel powered automobiles has to be the electric vehicle (EV). Whilst research and production of the EV is at an early stage, there are very ambitious targets with Warren Buffets’ Chinese partner company BYD projecting to be producing 1 million EV’s per year by 2015. Indeed one of the targets of the Chinese five-year plan is to have 5 million EVs on the road by 2016.

There would however to be some user phobias and concerns about using EVs and their perceived lack of range. None of which could have been assisted by the BBC “Top Gear” programme where they misrepresented the Tesla Motor EV by faking it running out of electricity during a race. I still remember Cousin Melkoomb commenting at the time that the only use for an EV would be to hook it up to the back paddock electric fence to try and keep the neighbours goats away from his ‘crop’.

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.

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