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 the news that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is expected to pass the symbolically important 400ppm in May this year. The last time CO2 levels were so high was probably in the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2m and 5m years ago, when the Earth's climate was much warmer than today.

At the same time and probably coincidental, China and the US recently strengthened commitments to address climate change. China has the world's largest renewable energy capacity and is seeking to introduce a national greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in 2016. The US has almost doubled its renewable energy capacity in the last four years and now has 10 States with operating emissions trading schemes. Quickly and quietly things appear to be changing.

Which if they weren't already changing we suspect they soon will be with White House briefed on the perils associated with the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice and the threat of global food shortages. A public statement released by AMEG – a UK based group of international climate scientists in response to the briefing read “The weather extremes from the last year are causing real problems for farmers, not only in the UK, but in the US and many grain-producing countries. World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue”. Gulp…

These dire predictions are also accompanied by warnings that Europe needs to adapt faster to the changing climate and the expected destructive storms, floods, heavy rainfall and higher sea levels. Avaler, Ingoiare, Schlucken…

Our next series of articles look at ‘smart'  building strategies but interestingly enough the first step to introducing new technology starts with behaviour (in other words are processes within the building being utilised as well as they should be). The next step with the introduction of any smart technology is to ensure they work in unison with the buildings system and monitoring any changes to ensure suggested improvements occur. Zigbee Alliance has created a wireless standard that provides information and control for both wired and wireless networks to better manage communication and operation of all internal and external load and power sources. Pan Pacific Hotel Group has introduced a minibar in a number of their hotels which utilises smart technology that monitors and adjusts cooling production in accordance to guestroom status. A number of other protocols include notifying staff if the mini bar needs to be restocked leading to staff efficiency improvements. In our final story we look at how electric vehicles could stabilize the grid and make money for the vehicle owner. Electric vehicles with two way chargers can effectively send electricity back to the grid stabilizing overall supply and make money to boot.

Moving from smart energy and smart technology, it's now time to get smarter about patenting and companies monopolising markets. Monsanto is a world food giant and leader in genetic engineering of seeds for crops and produce about 90 percent of all soybeans and 70 percent of all corn. The NY Times paper has finally spoken out about this monopolisation and genetic engineering but how far will it go? Patenting is common for inventive goods and services, but now Monsanto is patenting everyday vegetables such as onions and melons. Monsanto are able to genetically alter that patented vegetable and take control of the market, eventually the only vegetables you will be able to buy are genetically engineered. This appears to be a classic example of monopolisation and exploitation of an industry. Click on the article link to find out more about the implications of monoculture...

The nexus of investors, companies and capital markets inaction on ESG issues is a thing of the past. Our next article discusses the forthcoming global sustainability mega forces and how these translate into both risks and opportunities for all three. The market needs to appropriately recognise these mega forces or be subject to the consequences at their own peril. As the article points out, introducing a new global rating standard, reporting framework and regulatory reporting guidance will assist to create a virtuous cycle where “capital markets reward corporate sustainability performance with the capital and credit it deserves”. Past performance is no longer a proxy for future success, now, all bets are off.

The next article gives a very exciting look at how the humble bicycle is increasingly being seen as a popular and sustainably smart mode of transport. Bike-sharing isn't a new trend (it's been around since 1965) but is growing around the world. Bike sharing enables people like you and me to pick up a bike at one bike station and ride a certain distance and leave it at another bike station, all for a small membership fee or forward bond payment. Cities like Wuhan in China, Washington DC, Copenhagen and many others have ambitious plans to increase the numbers of bikes as demand grows. These types of forward thinking cities are being inspired and starting to understand the benefits of bike-sharing.

Lastly we have a look at an often overlooked element of power transmission – harmonics. These can seriously effect load balancing of three phase power. This article looks at the use of active filters to remove the problem.

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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