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.

What is a ‘Wicked’ problem? A policy paper by the Australian Public Service notes wicked problems don’t have simple definition; they are cross cutting, have many links vertically and horizontally and tend to evolve with time. We consider Sustainability to be a Wicked problem, and have gathered a collection of articles to demonstrate this.

The Wicked issue of how to be a sustainable company while also providing acceptable returns to investors is addressed in an article by Deb Gallagher. The article suggests using success stories from the investors own experiences or from others as, after all, investors are a broad range of people and the language of sustainability is different for each one of them.

Following this understanding, our next article gives an example of how more sustainable lighting was proposed to various sectors of one business to get ‘buy-in’ throughout, not only from investors. The treasurer (and, we expect, investors in the business) was interested in generating savings, the mayor wanted to present a good image and the maintenance engineer was keen on reducing workload for limited staff. There can be many important selling factors, not just financial gain, for sustainability.

If you are looking to implement a programme of sustainability in your business, then it needs to be taken to completion to yield financial rewards, a study by researchers from Clark University has shown in our next article. Partially implemented programs tend to yield little or no benefits. To help businesses implement a sustainability programme, a third party verified Energy Management Certification programme based on ISO 50001, SEP (Superior Energy Performance), has been developed, and is described in our next article. It shows the average payback period for implementing the programme is 1.7 years and each facility in the study saved around US$500,000 annually.

The retail sector is an area where there is potential to impact the ‘bottom line’ by implementing energy savings. Business margins in this sector are usually small, energy is a significant cost, and energy efficiencies can show up as significant improvements in financial profitability. A Retail Energy Management Programme has been launched to help Retailers reduce energy costs, and identify areas for improvement – another possible solution to a wicked problem of sustainability in business.

The wicked problem of Sustainability sometimes has those in power at odds with the common person, as can be seen in our next two articles. In India, the government is claiming lobby groups are hurting economic progress by campaigning against power projects, mining and GM food. If the sustainability proponent uses language at cross purposes with the target group, they could be accused of sabotaging development. Governments are under pressure to provide services and often have limited awareness of sustainable alternatives available.

And in Germany, the concerns of the locals when it comes to their national beverage being contaminated with fracking residue in the local water supply, is an issue that the government is now considering tightening legislating on. The oil giants may need to reassess their energy resources to find more renewable options, if this legislation goes ahead. These are two examples of ways we can try to influence those who are making decisions about our future.

For those of you who are still wondering about the whole wicked climate change issue and its impact on the world’s economy, the World Bank have found that action against climate change would improve the global economy. This ties in with the findings from the SEP programme, where, if the programme was fully implemented all businesses involved made notable profits. The World Bank reported carbon taxing was not seen to be the solution, rather identifying specific measures and policies countries could undertake and computer modelling these showed GDP growth of between 1.8tn and 2.6tn – estimated to be 1.5% higher than if business continued as usual. The reduction in air pollution by implementing these policies would also save many thousands of lives. We can take action and make a difference, without it being a financial burden long-term.

In our next series of articles we look at some exciting and innovative products that are on the market or will be (hopefully) in the near future.

Ecosphere Technologies have developed a pop up building that generates its own solar and wind, and has the ability to draw drinking water from the air. It can also provide power to other buildings. It looks to have multiple uses, such as in disaster relief zones, in the military or any temporary application where shelter and power is required.

Next we look at some interesting innovations in sustainability :

Smart windows that run an electrical current through them to adjust the amount of light and heat they allow through; light catchers; a water leak detector; a telephone recycling kiosk that scans the phone for model and condition and gives you cash on the spot; and a ‘Waterboxx’ designed to have a high success rate of ensuring trees and plants survive and thrive in rugged and/or extremely dry areas.

We also look at an electric bus that takes 15 seconds to reach a full charge, about the time it takes for passengers to get on and off the vehicle. With the trolley buses in Wellington coming to the end, is this a possible alternative to diesels or hybrids but without the disadvantage of overhead wires?

We finish up this week with a look at a giant Hamster Wheel currently cleaning up Baltimore harbour in the United States. The Water Wheel Trash Inceptor (as it’s officially called) uses power from 30 solar panels to spin around in the harbour. The wheel can scoop up 22,000kg of rubbish an hour. Rubbish is loaded into a skip for removal to a waste to energy plant where is becomes electricity, an excellent use of rubbish.

All of these examples show small ideas can make big impacts when it comes to sustainable living. Maybe the electric bus idea may end up being a solution for cars as well? The “smart windows” will become solar powered smart windows that minimize the heating requirements for the average home, and the water wheel may be used to generate more power while cleaning up the environment, and used in seas, lakes and rivers the world over?

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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