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.
This issue we open with a well written piece of journalism, titled “The Era of Living Dangerously”. This in my opinion summarises everything quite powerfully, if not with disturbing but undeniable truths.
And as our planet warms, so does the spectre of additional civil war and conflict. We have certainly witnessed additional unrest this year in the UK, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Germany, Italy and France to name just a few. How much of these are due to people being forced to survive with less, but sparked into open conflict because they find themselves pushed out of their emotional and physical comfort zones? I know I get short tempered when I am too hot.
Of course the most obvious answer to avoiding most of this conflict would be to live a sustainable existence. This however doesn’t appear to be palatable to many, so the next step is to find more imaginative ways to cool the planet. This next article on geo-engineering examines a number of ways they hope to achieve this. The first to be trialled is a scheme that will see a giant pipe and balloon tethered 20km above Earth to pump minute chemical particle into the Stratosphere to reflect sunlight and cool the planet. Other schemes under consideration include dumping billions of iron filings into the sea to stimulate a photoplankton bloom; cloud whitening to make them reflect more light or even space mirrors. No one has suggested everyone wearing a mirror hat on our heads yet…
On a more positive note we see that in the first six months of 2011, NZ generated 80% of its electricity from renewable sources as more wind and geothermal generation came on line.
Our next couple of articles takes a broad look at the impact of a variety of disclosure programmes. Simply by having the performance of businesses or buildings being measured and reported on creates a far higher degree of market transparency, leading in turn to a more informed consumer.
The first of these is the annual Carbon Disclosure Programme (CDP). In 2011, 81% of Global 500 companies responded to the CDP, with 93% (up from 85% in 2010) stating their Board or a senior executive oversaw the company’s climate change programme. Of these responding to the CDP, 74% (up from 65%) reported as having greenhouse gas reduction targets and 45% reported as having made emission reductions (up from 19%). Most importantly, introducing these measures were making all companies more profitable, with a majority having paybacks of three-years or less. As we keep saying, a sustainable business is a good business.
Which is why a CFO will eventually have to get the message that sustainability pays. It’s a great investment and will improve investor relations, external reporting and most importantly for the CFO, it will improve operational controllership and financial risk management. And, if you ever want to scare a CFO, just mention that his company has financial risks that are not being quantified nor managed – it will get the rabbit in headlights look.
Other examples of disclosure was the recent news that Google uses 2,600 GWh of electricity a year. To get that into perspective, that is about 6% of the entire annual electricity consumption of NZ. Goggle’s use however is a mere 1% of all the electricity used by data centres round the world. Yes, data centres consume six times NZ’s annual electricity consumption. The spin on this for Google is that they know how much they are consuming and that Gmail is 80 times less carbon-intensive than other email services, and that a year’s usage of Gmail has a smaller carbon footprint than the entire lifecycle of a bottle of wine. Personally I wish they hadn’t drawn that parallel.
But however you look at it, it’s great PR for Google as its competitors now have to respond or face being labelled as energy inefficient or unnecessarily polluting.
The most established branding in the commercial building space is LEED. And LEED have also now introduced a real-time reporting benchmarking rating. No longer is LEED the darling of the designers, who as long as it had a bike rack never really cared if the operational performance of their building was poor. Now they will have to pay heed, as the operational performance will be under constant scrutiny. The energy management industry approves of this.
Moving on to sustainability in general, we look at why every successful initiative entails having employees willingly engaged in the process. Our next three articles examine why employee engagement is critical to sustaining sustainability.
And a good example of employee engagement is in Japan, where in part being dictated by circumstance, the Japanese are exhibiting strong public support under the auspices of the public campaign called ‘setsuden’ to reduce electricity consumption and avoid blackouts.
Waste management and reduction is another action that requires employee engagement. We include a short guide to the four steps required to get an organisation on the path to zero waste. These include 1) Identify your waste; 2) Track and set goals; 3) Find a new life for waste and most importantly if you want it to endure; 4) Put employees in charge.
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.