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 issue with yet another article highlighting the continuing decline of coal – this time by the world’s largest coal miner, Coal India, who has announced its plans to close 37 mines (9% of all mines in India) which are no longer economically viable. This comes on the heels of the latest Indian energy auction where solar energy tariffs fell to 3.8 cents/kWh, with wind not far behind at 5.2 cents/kWh. If the US expect their coal industry to flourish, they are sorely mistaken. Even their planned border wall with Mexico is going to have PV! [1]

Whilst Coal India’s announcements may have been founded on economic measures, other organisations are reaching the same conclusion, but based on a mixture of economic and risk management considerations. A good example of this is a recent announcement by BNP Paribus, the world’s seventh-largest financial institution, of a new palm oil policy. This policy requires the protection of forests and indigenous people, end of the use of hazardous chemicals and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as a pre-condition of financing. In other words de-risking the schemes they finance. [2]

The heightened focus on taking risks out of business is also being exhibited by companies such as Apple and Ikea, where investing in their supply chains in order to avoid unknown and potentially environmentally damaging activities is occurring. Examples of these include investing in forests and recycling plants. [3]

Another business that is taking significant steps to reduce risks is Carlsberg. Carlsberg are taking a first mover stance as "a response to increasing consumer demand for sustainable products at a time of global challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and public health issues." The Carlsberg plan is aimed at wiping out its carbon footprint by 2030 and limiting temperature increases to within the 1.5C scenario. As Cees 't Hart, Carlsberg Group CEO, said "I'm certain that in achieving our targets we'll create efficiency improvements, risk reduction and a more resilient business that exists in harmony with local communities and the environment." We will drink to that – cheers’ Cees. [4]

Our next article looks at net-zero building positively impacting the world, with a net-zero building being one whose energy needs are being met through on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. The concept itself is quite powerful and radical as it is one of the key solutions to carbon neutrality and the elimination of fossil fuel use. Introducing innovative ideas, the article points out that essentially the net zero principle represents some old time, traditional values; living within your means, only gathering what is required, reducing excess, and harvesting our resources. By looking into the past we recognise each era’s threats and can evaluate how we addressed each of them. We are at a time now where a significant threat is upon us. Perhaps we should learn from the past in an effort to tackle this one right the first time? [5]

Sticking with buildings, the world’s soon to be largest timber office building in Brisbane is due to be completed in 2018. The 52m high office tower is being constructed entirely from timber, using solutions such as cross laminated timber for load bearing. Environmentally this is a major success, as while concrete is the usual primary source of construction materials in building and produces 900kg of carbon per tonne, the wood in this new structure acts as a carbon sink. With a carbon footprint reduction of 22% expected over the building’s lifespan, and approximately six weeks less construction time, this building is a win-win. [6]

For the last year we have been reading articles and listening to Elon Musk talk about Tesla’s solar roof. In May this year they became available in California. The solar roofing tile, which includes a lifetime warranty, is incredibly affordable, being cheaper $/sq.ft than tiles, metal or slate. Taking into consideration the value of the generated capacity the lifetime cost is in the negatives. Tesla are also considering the impact on the grid, with encouragements to install a Powerwall battery system along with the roof. Installations are currently on their way with the first roof in California being installed next month. [7]

The building industry is making an effort to combat climate change, with the introduction of net-zero buildings, solar roofs and sustainable construction materials. However one thing often overlooked is the installation and maintenance of lighting in buildings. Some forward thinking organisations have seen an opportunity in this area - introducing 'lighting as a service'. The service provider implements a lighting retrofit, with no upfront costs to the owner, and delivers a specified, measured lighting service, sharing energy savings with the customer. [8]

Next, a slight deviation from our preferred article content, as we think that sometimes it is important to inform, even if it is not ‘good news’ or positive.

So we take a look at ‘The rise of the food barons’. Bayer, the second-largest pesticide producer in the world, is attempting to acquire Monsanto, the largest seed producer, for €66 billion ($74 billion US). If this acquisition is approved, 3 companies will control over 60% of the global seed and agrochemical market! “Baysanto” alone would be the proprietor of almost every genetically modified plant on the planet. Do we really want so few controlling so much? Certainly makes you think…. [9]

We finish up this week with a look at ‘The 7 sustainable wonders of the world’. Technical innovation is to the fore here. The list contains the wondrous bicycle, the magnificent clothesline and the humble public library to name a few. These, and the others listed, are all very simple in design and application but make a big difference in our everyday lives. [10]

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we 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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