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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Dutch Revolution in smart charging of electric vehicle

Great, international story from our main site:  Here's a link to watch the video:

By turning itself into one huge Living Lab for Smart Charging of electric vehicles, the Netherlands is fast becoming the international front runner for smart charging EV's, using them to store peak power production of solar and wind. Already 325 municipalities (including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague) have joined the Dutch Living Lab Smart Charging representing 80 percent of all public charging stations. It's also supported by the Dutch government.  

Adding to this some large players on private and semi-private charging stations such as The New Motion and EV-Box have joined. Very soon all Dutch charging stations will be open for tests and research projects.

The Living Lab Smart Charging is an open platform where companies (from multinationals to small tech start-ups, both national and international), universities, local and regional governments and grid operators cooperate. They operate an ambitious three step program.

Step 1. Make as many charging stations ready for Smart Charging. A huge upgrade operation is now taking place across the country making sure the existing charging stations will be able to technically facilitate Smart Charging. All new stations already are Smart Charging Ready, such as the 2.500 new charging points being rolled out by the Southern provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg.

Step 2. Use those innovative stations for research and testing of Smart Charging. Eg. there's an App (by Jedlix) that allows it's users to earn money by using technology to charge the car in the middle of the night when the wind is still producing power but there is little demand for it. In Utrecht 'vehicle to grid' is being tested together with Renault: charging the electric car with solar panels and using it as storage to put power back into the grid when the sun is no longer shining.

Step 3. Putting all innovation, tests and research findings into international standards so everyone can benefit from the Dutch experience with Smart Charging.

The ultimate goal of the Dutch Living Lab Smart Charging: all electric cars driving on the power of the sun and the wind. The idea of the Living Lab Smart Charging is explained in this premiering short animation.

Does Air Pollution Reduce

Most of us work hard to stay healthy.  We moderate diet, reduce stress and try to exercise daily.  Ironic that our outdoor running, biking, hiking could be more detrimental than beneficial.  Here's an example.

That is why we don't focus so much on the  science around "climate change", but believe any reduction in emissions, pollutants, air, ground is great and worthy.

Does Air Pollution Reduce Cycling’s Health Benefits?

Columbia University scientists use innovative tools to investigate how vehicle exhaust impacts cyclists.

by Aaron Sidder

Most cyclists have been there: peacefully pedaling one minute and sucking bus exhaust the next. In the moment, all you can do is keep riding and shrug off the blast of smoke. But now a growing body of research suggests breathing this pollution can have both short-term and long-term health consequences.

A team of researchers from Columbia University has started using a suite of state-of-the-art personal monitoring devices to gather more details about how air pollution affects cyclists’ health.
The new study—a joint undertaking by scientists in the Mailman School of Public Health and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory—aims to show minute-by-minute health and pollution data.

The researchers have equipped volunteer bike commuters with a skintight biometric shirt, a mesh vest stocked with air pollution monitors, a location tracking system that liaises with smartphone GPS software, and a blood pressure monitor. Combined, the instruments will characterize exactly where a rider inhales pollution and how his or her lungs and heart respond.

“We’re really trying to quantify the health impacts of commuting by bicycle in a dense urban setting,” says Darby Jack, an environmental health scientist at Columbia University and part of the study’s brain trust.

A Pollution Problem

In New York City alone, health officials estimate that fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) contributes to nearly 2,000 premature deaths and more than 6,000 hospital visits per year. The young and old are particularly susceptible, as are people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory disorders or heart disease.

“We have internal combustion engines that emit particles, we put them out a tailpipe, and then we drive along our sidewalks. And we sort of emit this stuff right into our breathing zones,” says Arden Pope, a professor of economics and an epidemiologist at Brigham Young University who is not involved in the Columbia study.

As these particles—particularly the fine ones—spew from tailpipes, they are inhaled and accumulate in lungs. Most of these particles are black carbon, but vehicles also discharge nitrogen oxides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
Research has shown that long-term exposure to these pollutants increases the risk of heart and lung disease, and short-term exposure can trigger heart attacks.

The problem is amplified by exercise. During workouts, respiration increases and more air enters the lungs. Jogging, for example, can increase the volume of air by three to four times, and strenuous exercise can push the volume even higher. All this extra air also brings more pollutants into the body.

This creates a conundrum for bike commuters in the city: At what point does exercise hurt your health more than help it?

It is generally thought that the benefits of exercise outweigh the hazard of air pollutants, and a recent study suggests this is true in "the vast majority of settings.” In a city like New York, with background PM2.5 concentrations below the global average, a healthy person without heart or lung problems would need to cycle for hours and hours a day before the adverse impacts of pollution outweigh the health benefits of exercise. At that point, the only health effect you’re likely to suffer is a sore bum from riding all day.

However, Jack says looking at background concentrations alone may not tell the full story. “You can really underestimate the exposure for folks exercising in urban settings,” he says. Pollution varies by location—it is not static or evenly distributed. And as we move through a city, exposure differs depending on the setting.

“Using a single number for PM2.5 to represent an entire city isn’t really true exposure,” explains Patrick Ryan, an epidemiologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who is not involved in the research. “We know that you interact with air pollution over the course of the day … and it really changes your exposure.”
Furthermore, exposure fluctuates based on our level of physical activity. Cranking up a hill behind a belching garbage truck is much different than a casual cruise on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.

Gearing Up

As cycling grows in popularity—over a million New Yorkers ride a bike every month—health and safety are growing concerns for bike advocates.
Advocacy groups are mostly focused on preventing crash hazards and vehicle collisions, but pollution data would dovetail nicely with their cause, according to Paul Steely White, the executive director of New York’s Transportation Alternatives. Safety and pollution trends are mutually reinforcing, he explains, and the group is watching the research carefully.
The research is in its pilot phase, and Jack and his colleagues are focused on convincing themselves—and their funders—that both health and pollution data can be collected simultaneously, in real time.

The team is working with about 30 cyclists—men and women commuters from all corners of the city—but they hope to expand the research to hundreds of cyclists within a few years. Eventually Jack hopes the data can be incorporated into a smartphone app to help cyclists optimize their bike routes based on pollution data.
For now, however, the team is focused on perfecting their measurements and tinkering with the equipment to best capture life on a bike in New York City.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

U.S. can help provide light to mllions with new Give Brighter Plan

We profiled Direct Energy two years ago at Greenfest/Boston.  This is a good follow up and, clearly, an innovative program.  

Profiling smart, creative utility companies is clearly part of our mission in helping you find the new, expanding energy foundation that will help you smartly power your future:

Direct Energy now offers new Give Brighter electricity and natural gas plans to customers in its United States' markets. The fixed plans leverage a partnership with MPOWERD, the companybehind Luci® light, a solar inflatable light. Each time a customer signs up for a new energy plan, they will receive an inflatable, solar Luci light, and one will be donated on their behalf to someone who lives without electricity.

The Give Brighter plan has been available to Texas electricity customers since June. Within the first three months of the product launch, more than 2,000 lights have been sent to MPOWERD'spartners. These lights will go to school children in Malawi, families in South America, and women entrepreneurs in South Sudan.

"This program has been so well-received by the Texas market, we wanted to extend the opportunity to all our customers in the United States to give back," said Cullen Hay, General Manager - U.S. Energy, Direct Energy. "We hope that this program not only helps the 1.5 billion people living without electricity, but also helps to bring an added value to our customers."

Created by MPOWERD, Luci lights offer a safe, reliable light source for any situation. Luci lights use solar power and can brighten a room for up to 18 hours after charging in the sun for 8 hours. MPOWERD works with non-profit community partners to distribute the lights to people in need in countries including Kenya, Haiti, Nepal and the Philippines. The lights enable people to continue their day past sunset, so children can study, entrepreneurs can keep working, and health clinics can stay open.

"Not only has Direct Energy's ongoing contribution to our Give Luci program been heartwarming, but it has bolstered our global efforts in distributing light to those who don't have access to clean energy. They've led the way and set the moral standard around the imperative for corporations to materially participate in solving global issues," said John Salzinger, Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer, MPOWERD.

The Give Brighter plan is available to residents in New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Washington, D.C.

Robust progress to address potent greenhouse gases

From our main site, Renewable  Good to see US follow up on meeting Paris Accord commitments:

President Obama believes that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, and his Administration is committed to taking responsible steps to ensure that further damage is not inflicted onto the earth for future generations.. On Friday, October 13, the White House announced a suite of new private-sector commitments and executive actions that will reduce the use and emissions of the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In addition, the White House recognized the robust progress that has been made against the private-sector commitments and executive actions that were announced in September 2014 to address HFCs. In the past year, a series of actions have been taken that will cut consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2025. Moreover, the private-sector commitments and executive actions announced to-date will slash U.S. reliance on HFCs and reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 through 2025. This is equivalent to taking 210 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

HFCs are factory-made chemicals that are primarily used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam insulation, and they can be up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. Absent ambitious action to limit their use, emissions of HFCs are expected to nearly triple in the U.S. by 2030.

When the President launched his Climate Action Plan, he pledged to reduce emissions of HFCs through both domestic and international leadership. This past July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that will prohibit the use of certain HFCs where safer and more climate-friendly alternatives are available. Simultaneously, EPA also listed as acceptable additional climate-friendly alternatives in order to expand the options for businesses to use chemicals that are less harmful to the environment.

As a complement to those regulatory measures, today’s commitments and progress demonstrate that U.S. companies are at the cutting edge when it comes to developing the next generation of safe and cost-effective alternatives to HFCs and also incorporating these alternatives into American cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products. These announcements come from a diverse set of companies – including producers of the chemicals, manufacturers of equipment that use HFCs, and end-users – which demonstrates that companies throughout the HFC supply chain are stepping forward to phase out or phase down the use of HFCs and transition to alternatives with lower global warming potential (GWP).

Friday’s announcements also highlight U.S. leadership in addressing HFCs in advance of the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai in two weeks (November 1-5). The U.S. has been working to negotiate an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally, and our bilateral announcements with China, India, Brazil, and others recognize the need to advance progress on managing HFCs through the Montreal Protocol. With strong international action on HFCs, up to 0.5°C of warming could be avoided by the end of the century, substantially furthering our goal to limit global temperature rise.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How One Artist Is Turning Beijing's Smog Into Diamonds

Some people see the industrial world as sunk, too far gone to get pulled from our environmental destruction.  Others see it as the greatest investment opportunity of a lifetime.  And believe strongly that mankind will respond to with ingenuity and genius.  We tend, here at Renewable Now, to subscribe to the later.  We are pretty optimistic.

This article falls in the latter as well.  Beijing, if it has nothing else, has plenty of smog.  How about using those emissions to create diamonds?  What an example of a triple-bottom line win.  Just one more approach to clean tech and attacking carbon from as many innovative products designs as possible.

 Thank you Bloomberg for a great story.

An Inside Look at World's Largest Air Purifier in China

Beijing could be taking another step toward shedding its unwelcome reputation for smog and pollution—and creating innovative jewelry while doing it.
Dutch artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde’s “Smog Free Tower” has debuted in the Chinese capital. Using a positive ionization process, the air-cleaning tower captures tiny particles suspended in the air and filters them out. Since more than 40 percent of the collected pollution is carbon, he has struck on a novel innovation: using high pressure to convert the residue to diamonds, which can be sold as jewelry.
Just one of the 23-foot high towers is currently in operation. But as China looks to invest more money in reducing pollution and improving quality of life, Roosegaarde expects to add hundreds more around the world’s most populous nation.
“You could say it’s the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world,” Roosegaarde told Bloomberg Television. “China will invest billions and billions of dollars in the war on smog. They have been doing that and they will be doing that and we are definitely part of that.”

Coral Reefs Doing Better Than Expected

No long ago we ran a story that claimed coral reef destruction was accelerating.  This piece, at least, gives us hope they can recover and thrive.

So, what is the difference?  Us.  How much those reefs are fished?  That is good news in that we can better cut back fishing areas while it is a long fight to slow the warming of our waters.  There is, in essence, long-hanging fruit of remediation that will, we hope, restore some of our pristine reefs.

Good for the environment and, of course, long-term, very good for sustaining a thriving eco-system.

Coral Reefs Doing Better Than Expected in Many Areas


A new study found "bright spots" where corals are thriving, despite global bleaching events.

Despite the unprecedented extent of coral bleaching around the world, a major new study has also found "bright spots" where corals are doing significantly better than anyone expected. And the reason for the improvement is simple: it comes down to how much the coral reefs are fished by people.

This result has important implications for how reefs are protected, says Jack Kittinger of Conservation International, one of the study's authors.  
"Most reef conservation to date has focused on protecting pristine reefs in marine protected areas, but we're finding that's not enough," says Kittinger. "We have to also think about connections to world markets."

The new study was published in Nature Wednesday and was written by 39 scientists from 34 institutions, from universities to conservation groups to National Geographic's Pristine Seas Initiative. The report was timed to raise awareness ahead of the International Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii June 19-24, an event that happens every four years and brings leading scientists together. 

Coral reefs have been increasingly damaged by warming temperatures and rising seas, thanks to climate change. Making things worse this year is a warmer ocean, thanks to a cyclical El NiƱo. And overharvesting of fish can be like the final straw that breaks the camel's back. 

On the other hand, those reefs that are more sustainably managed have a better shot at adjusting to the impacts of climate change over time, Kittinger says. 

Anatomy of a Bright Spot

To better understand these impacts in detail, the team conducted more than 6,000 surveys of reefs in 46 countries. The scientists found that areas that experienced the most harvesting for the global marketplace showed the biggest loss of fish and other species, and therefore the most decline. Those denuded reefs—in 35 "dark spots"—tended to be scattered around the world, but include many examples in the Caribbean, off Africa, and near populated parts of the Indo-Pacific. 

On the other hand, reefs that experienced more sustainable uses were in the best shape, resulting in 15 "bright spots." These were most common in the Solomon Islands, parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati.

What's more, the team drilled down on the bright spots they identified and found a few clear patterns, including a significant surprise. One of the most important was that those areas with traditional tenure rights tended to be the healthiest. Under this system, local people are allowed to harvest fish and invertebrates but outsiders are not. The benefits were most pronounced when the people were most dependent on this resource for their livelihoods. 
"We thought this was counterintuitive," says Kittinger. "You might expect a high dependency on the reefs to mean high harvesting and therefore a dark spot, but we found the converse is true. What we saw is that people who are dependent on it are more likely to be better stewards, perhaps because if they crash that resource they are really in trouble."

On the other hand, areas where fishermen can come from all over tended to suffer from the "tragedy of the commons." Similarly, areas with loose management of fishing tended to see more reef damage than areas with better oversight.

The connection between fish and reefs is inextricable, notes Kittinger. Fish keep algae in check by constantly feasting on their growth. If too many of the fish are removed by people, algae grow too thick and smother the corals.
Another factor that tended to be seen in bright spots is a reservoir of deep water near the reefs, where fish could grow and have a better chance of eluding capture. 

Saving More Reefs?

Going forward, governments should regulate markets to encourage better stewardship of the ocean, the authors argue. Companies and consumers can also play a role by demanding more sustainable seafood, rejecting unregulated and pirate fishing, and insisting that local people's rights are respected. 

"Reef conservation can be depressing, to it was great that we found some seeds of success where things are working," says Kittinger. "We need to double down on those."
But given the rapid decline of coral reefs around the world, "we really don't have much time to get it right," he says.

Friday, October 14, 2016

English Village Becomes Climate

We love this story as, unlike what we just ran on a large scale--country--level, this is a local community committing to cutting emissions and helping to restore our ecological balance.  Think if we did this in thousands of cities and towns?

English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch

Garry Charnock near some of the many solar panels in Ashton Hayes, England. Mr. Charnock, a former journalist, started the town’s emissions-reduction effort about 10 years ago. Credit Elizabeth Dalziel for The New York Times

ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change. Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.
But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”
One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.
“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.
No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.

The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”
“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”

Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.

In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.

They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”

About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.

Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.

They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.

The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.

The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.

Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.

Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.
“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”

Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.
Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.

“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.
Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.
Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.

“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.
She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.

Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.

Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.
Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.

The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.

“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”