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.

As we start 2013, we look back at 2012 with the news that worldwide it was the eighth warmest year on record, albeit the warmest ever for the US. Australia has had to introduce new temperature measurement categories to deal with close to record high temperatures, the UK had the second wettest winter on record, the Arctic Sea melted to record low levels and NZ has just seen record water inflows into the South Island hydro lakes. The predictions of extreme weather resulting from a warming world appear to be coming true, with us as their audience and plaything.

So what for 2013 and the future? We include an article that discusses a number of key developments and trends on the emerging role of cities and how data, IT and new platforms for third-party development continue to prove disruptive for energy and transportation. Whilst these are mostly positive and likely to be effective in assisting with combatting climate change, the elephant is still sitting in the room. The elephant in this case, is coal and the likelihood of a further rise in its use due to decreasing prices and a failure of the world to introduce a global emissions trading scheme.

Whilst an increase in demand from China and India over the next five years was always predicted, widespread additional demand elsewhere is now expected. The introduction of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to new and widespread reserves of cheap shale gas, which in the US is now displacing coal as a fuel for electricity generation. So in order for the world to avoid an even greater impact from global warming, an economic and political solution will need to be found. Alas the chances of this happening are about as positive as the likely fate of the Polar Bear and the Honey Bee.

Which is a neat way of introducing an article written by the former Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, discussing unexplained Beekeeper hive losses. Sue bemoans the lack of action by Government on this and the significance of the humble bee to NZ. To cite one of Albert Einstein’s quotes “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Perhaps we should all be paying closer attention to this issue and not allowing the Govt. to continue to only value things in GDP and dollars.

This week we have taken a wide ranging view at sustainability and how we can effectively engage with staff and employees. The next five articles introduce and set out the steps that should be followed as part of a successful programme, starting with having a solid vision and strategy, to engaging in way that resonates with staff and finally what effective action and implementation might look like. This is wrapped up with another couple of articles outlining the seven steps to developing a profitable corporate responsibility or sustainability strategy and how to persuade staff how to take action.

Our final three articles takes the broader issues discussed in sustainability programmes and applies these more directly to what often are the technical aspects of energy management. The first of these discusses how the green building industry needs to pay closer attention to the needs of tenants and how a building needs to be operating as its design intended. This commissioning and fine tuning process can often take years of data collection and control refinement in order to deliver an optimal user experience to occupants. In other words, involve your tenants as part of the feedback loop to ensure you are getting it right.

And involving other parties is often essential to achieving what on the surface should be common objectives. This however can often be challenging as our next article discusses, when it comes to having the Facility Manager and IT Manager work together to minimise energy consumption in server rooms as well as powering down PC equipment when not required.

Our final energy related article examines how the role of the energy manager often entails the wearing of many hats. This is written from a large manufacturer’s perspective which due to its nature is largely technical. Even so, they still divide the tasks into three work streams – 1) the energy manager themselves who maintains overall responsibility for the programme; 2) energy consultants who establish reduction strategies, undertake benchmarking studies and establish targets and 3) an energy auditor who performs technical evaluations around energy balances, correlates production to energy consumption and assists in procuring supply agreements.

If we then consider energy management within a building, which is significantly more demanding due to the requirement to maintain internal comfort levels and the ability of the occupants to complain or misbehave if they are not, then we see that a fourth work stream is required. This stream involves building effective communication strategies with occupants to encourage them to cooperate with energy management strategies and to solicit their assistance in the implementation of any programme.

As most organisations do not have the impetus or budget to employ more than a single professional (if at best), the role of the energy manager is a challenging combination of financial (managing budgets and writing business case plans), psychology (understanding occupants and influencing their behaviour), communicative (devising ways to interact and effectively communicate ideas with occupants) and technical (understanding how to reduce consumption through controls or technological changes). As you can see the role of the energy manager is far from straight-forward or widely understood or appreciated. Oh and not only is it challenging, but the pay often sucks as well.

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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