Opening this issue of Snippets, we examine how a recent Californian State mandate instructing their utilities to expand their electricity storage to 1,325 MW is almost certain to rapidly expand the nascent stationary electricity storage industry. But then California had to take a lead on this. With a current renewable portfolio standard set at 33%, possibly rising to 50%, it faces disruptions to grid operations as early as 2015, if storage isn’t available to soak up peaks in generation. As our next article demonstrates, stationary storage has significant scope to grow, and only comprises a small fraction (less than 1%) of the advanced battery market. Put another way, the California mandate will expand the stationary electricity market size by nearly 800%.

So what do we mean when we talk about advanced batteries? An example of these is from Stem, a manufacturer of refrigerator sized 18 kWh batteries that provide modular storage and options for multiple installations. Rather than provide power at traditional times (i.e. for solar at night or wind on a calm day) these can be used at peak demand (and higher priced) times to help decrease load and costs.

Another item that stimulated a lot of discussion around the office, is how 'green'  is the production of solar panels? A recently released book has detailed how the production processes in manufacturing PV panels can produce greenhouse gasses over 23,000 times greater than C02 in their greenhouse effect. Perhaps worth evaluating things from a full life cycle perspective so that we don't leave an even worse legacy behind.

Community groups may protest, politicians may pass policy, consumers may show greater awareness, but you know when the finance sector starts to shift their investments, that real change is underway. Despite intensive lobbying and funding climate denialist groups, the fossil fuel industry now finds itself badly out of favour with investors as they clamour to determine how much of their fossil assets the sector can’t be allowed to extract and burn.

We carry a series of articles how increasing awareness by pension funds and investors to the risks associated with investing in the fossil fuel sector are growing. If we are to keep global warming within a 2C upper limit, the reality that many of these companies with book assets in oil, coal and gas can never be realised is finally registering. Citibank, the third largest US bank has even labelled them as dinosaurs waiting to die.

What however is really encouraging, is the increasingly high profile that the private sector is starting to play in finding and implementing climate change solutions. As Peter Bakker, CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), said, "Business is recognizing that the cost of inaction, the cost of not dealing with climate change, is getting larger than the cost of action."

Taking a lead on addressing the predicted impacts of extreme weather events is the European Union, who have put 20% of their entire budget or €960 billion (NZ$ 1.6 trillion) towards climate related spending.

Much of this spending will be on making EU cities more resilient and in particular old building stock. As building stock only gets replaced over a long time frame (60 to 80 years), one may view these old building as standing in the way of making cities safe and efficient places to live and work. An obviously increasing point of contention as to how to protect existing landlords investments against those of their occupants and those of the wider community. We predict some interesting discussions ahead.

Staying with the building theme, we examine five ways green buildings have reached a tipping point. In the next decade, buildings will need to be more grid-responsive, resilient, efficient, net energy-positive and networked. Something that most of the existing building stock will struggle to achieve and therefore to discussions in how we might be able to balance our desire to retain heritage buildings in a future where extreme weather will place demands they were never designed to withstand.

An example of a green building is Apple Corporation’s new headquarters. It’s not always easy being green but in the case of Apple (when you have US$ 147 billion cash in the bank) anything is possible. We are sure that their design parameters and requirements will make for an interesting place to work. Perhaps ‘Frozen Smoke’  will be used in some of the design. This system has been used to deliver natural light and provide thermal insulation which ultimately leads to reduction in energy costs as covered off in our next article.

Shifting our focus into the natural world, we can only speculate why NGO reps and reporters invited to a attend a two-day Conservation of Polar bears meeting were asked to leave after the first two hours, the rest of the meeting being private. Not only do Polar Bears have to contend with decreasing levels of ice and a declining food source they also must face being hunted in increasing numbers since Canada tripled their hunting quota. By 2050 the polar bear population is predicted to dwindle by two-thirds, with only roughly 25,000 bears left in the wild. All probably because an average Polar Bear hide is worth US $22,000 and up to US$80,000 in China.

So with the Arctic countries struggling to provide safety to their endangered species, are we any better in New Zealand? Not much it seems. The Maui dolphin has been added to the list of critically endangered species with only 55 adults remaining. Sure NZ has enacted measures to undertake research, provided a 350 km square net fishing ban and budgeted for observers to police the ban. However, this is unlikely to be enough as trawl and set nets are still allowed within parts of the sanctuary and an oil spill from exploration gone wrong could wipe them out . What price are we prepared to place on our relationship with other species and environment? Not high enough apparently.

We all have a duty of care to protect living creatures from extinction, including our fellow human beings. Kiribati is a group of atolls in the Pacific that is only a few meters above sea level and is succumbing to the rising sea level. If the sea continues to rise the people of Kiribati will have nowhere to go, because as yet there is no refugee status that allows climate change victims to relocate. The reasoning behind no law being written is that climate change affects millions of people who then would be allowed to seek refugee status. This is why we collectively need to address the causes of climate change rather than its symptoms. Let’s preserve what we have got.

Our final article is a green finger food for thought. In America it is federally illegal to grow Marijuana, but each state has its own regulations. These regulations favour indoor growing which involves growth lights, temperature control and ventilation. It has been estimated that the indoor cultivation of Marijuana is responsible for 1% of all energy consumption in America and 3% of the consumption in California. To put this into perspective, this California consumption equates to about 25% of all NZ’s total electricity generation. Wow man, maybe they need some stronger weed.

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