Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Solvay builds an environment friendly plant in France

Solvay announces today that it will build a new epichlorohydrin plant on its industrial site of Tavaux, France, implementing a novel process with greatly enhanced environmental performance. The process, called Epicerol, was successfully developed by Solvay’s R&D and is based on the transformation of glycerine, a by-product of the biodiesel industry. The new plant, which is scheduled to be operational by the first half of 2007, will be fed with glycerine derived from rapeseed oil and fits perfectly with the development of the Biodiesel industry actively supported by the French government.

The development of the glycerine-based process for the production of epichlorohydrin is covered by eleven patent applications issued by Solvay.

The steadily increasing demand for epichlorohydrin – whose main applications include the production of epoxy resins, paper reinforcement and water purification – is expected to exceed the existing global production capacity by 2010. Solvay has secured a long-term contract for the supply of glycerine with French company Diester Industrie, capitalizing on the fast growth of the biofuels industry and the large quantities of glycerine available at an appropriate price. The new plant will have an initial production capacity of 10 kilotons per annum and could be quickly duplicated to respond to the rapid market growth.

In the Epicerol process, glycerine – a renewable material – is substituted for propylene, a hydrocarbon. Other environmental benefits include reduction of chlorinated by-products and sharp reduction of water consumption.

“The industrialization of the Epicerol process illustrates the implementation of Solvay’s strategy to ensure sustainable, profitable growth through innovation,” commented Freddy Gielen, managing director of the strategic business unit Electrochemistry and Derived Specialties. “The combination of our R&D with the new opportunities arising from the ‘green’ chemical and fuel industry gives us the opportunity to optimize the process, making it eventually both economical and environmentally friendly,” he added.

SOLVAY is an international chemicals and pharmaceuticals group with headquarters in Brussels. It is present in more than 50 countries and employs some 33,000 people in its Chemicals, Plastics and Pharmaceuticals activities. Including the recently acquired Fournier Pharma, its 2004 sales amounted to EUR 8.5 billion. Solvay is listed on the Euronext 100 index of top European companies. Details are available at www.solvay.com.

Epichlorohydrin is one of the most useful members of the epoxide family of compounds, its major use being the manufacture of epoxy resins, which have a large number of applications in the car, housing, boating and leisure industries. Other applications include the reinforcement of paper (used for instance in the food industry to manufacture tea bags) and water purification. Epichlorohydrin is traditionally derived indirectly by reacting propylene with chlorine.

The Epicerol process developed by Solvay allows the direct synthesis of dichloropropanol, an intermediate product, from glycerine and hydrochloric acid. A second step – dehydrochlorination – generates the final product, epichlorohydrin. The entire process is marked by a lower specific consumption of chlorine and water, consequently reducing chlorinated effluents. Solvay developed the glycerine-based process described in earlier scientific literature and made its industrialization possible thanks to the creation of an entirely new class of catalysts, among other innovations.

Glycerine is the main by-product of biodiesel production, with the generation of approximately 100 kg of glycerine for every 1000 kg of biodiesel.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Building Green : A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods

Earth Plaster * Straw Bale * Cordwood * Cob * Living Roofs (Paperback)

Available from Amazon

Clarke Snell and Timothy L. Callahan, whose popular Good House Book helped environmentally-minded readers create an earth-friendly home, have returned with a photo-packed, amazingly complete, start-to-finish guide to "green" housebuilding.

This absolutely groundbreaking manual doesn't just talk about eco-friendly building techniques, but actually shows every step! More than 1,200 close-up photographs, along with in-depth descriptions, follow the real construction of an alternative house from site selection to the addition of final-touch interior details. Co-authors Clarke Snell and Timothy Callahan (a professional builder and contractor) provide thorough discussions of the fundamental concepts of construction, substitutes for conventional approaches, and planning a home that's not only comfortable and beautiful, but environmentally responsible. Then, they roll up their sleeves and get to work assembling a guest house that incorporates four different alternative building methods: straw bale, cob, cordwood, and modified stick frame. The images show every move: how the site is cleared, the basic structure put together, the cob wall sculpted, the bales and cordwood stacked, a living roof created, and more. Most important, the manual conveys real-world challenges and processes, and offers dozens of sidebars with invaluable advice. It's head and shoulders above all others in the field.

author's web site

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Energy Efficiency in the Home

Why save energy?

There are two reasons why we should try and save energy - for the planet and for ourselves. When we burn fossil fuels (to produce electricity, heat our homes or fuel our cars) carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide that is released each year has increased. Even more worrying than this, the rate of this increase has also increased, year after year. Carbon dioxide is classed as a 'greenhouse gas' - that is it forms a dense layer around the earth, which prevents heat escaping. The rising temperature that results is leading to climate chaos and we are already beginning to see the effects of this. Latest studies show that within the next 15 to 40 years the effects of climate change will start to feedback on themselves causing a runaway effect by which time it may well be too late to make amends.

On a more personal note, saving energy will save you money, and make your life more comfortable and more healthy. You can reduce your energy bills, improve the warmth of your home and reduce condensation. The amount of money you save depends on the cost of your heating fuel, and although current electricity and oil prices are higher than gas, it is a matter of great speculation as to what the relative prices will be in years to come.

New houses are now SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) rated. This assesses a buildings efficiency and covers thermal insulation, efficiency and control of heating, fuel used, ventilation and solar gain (but not lighting and appliances). Another rating, the NHER (National Home Energy Rating), looks at running cost so includes lighting and appliances and accounts for geographical location. It is predicted that in the future whenever a house is sold it must be efficiency rated and obviously a higher rating (showing greater efficiency) will make a house more valuable.

Where is energy lost?

In the UK, around 30 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere come from the energy used in our homes. Energy efficiency measures can easily reduce this impact by a third, reducing yearly emissions of carbon dioxide by two tonnes. These charts show where this energy goes.

Minimising Heat Loss

Walls - if you have cavity walls you can easily get insulation blown in. This takes less than a day to do and causes minimum disruption. If you have solid walls it is more difficult and more expensive to insulate but may still be worthwhile. You can insulate externally or internally. External insulation is less disruptive and it means you keep the thick thermal mass of wall inside. Stone and brick are solid, heavy materials that absorb heat and then slowly release it making a comfortable living environment. However external insulation does change the outside appearance and can be very expensive. If you are decorating your house you should think about insulating the walls on the inside.

Loft insulation is even cheaper to install and in most cases can be done by the householder. The more insulation you install, the less heat that is lost, although eventually the cost of the insulation (both environmentally and financially) becomes as great as the savings. The optimum thickness has been shown to be 350mm, Building Regulations insist on a minimum of 250mm. If your loft space has been converted into a room then you will need to insulate in the sloping roof. High levels of insulation can be hard to achieve because a free air space of 50mm must be left between the insulation and the tiling felt, unless this felt is of a low-vapour resistance type. The most economic way of achieving a good thickness of insulation in the roof slope is to have two layers of timber: the first to support the roof finish, the second to support the insulation and ceiling finish. Insulation can then fill in between the timbers, providing a thermal break between the timbers.

Floor insulation is easy to install if you can gain access to the space below the floorboards and can fit insulation bats between the floor joists. It is more difficult if there is no easy access to this space or you have a solid floor. It can be done by either lifting floorboards or raising the floor level.

Draught-proofing is a very simple home efficiency job. Draughts will occur down chimneys, around window and door frames, through letterboxes and cat flaps, where services enter, at skirting boards, and between floorboards. As a simple test to find out where there is unwanted ventilation, carry around a smoking stick (incense or cigarette) - if held near a draught you will see the smoke blown horizontally. Some ventilation is essential, for example providing air to rooms with fuel burning appliances and ventilating timbers in the roof and floor, but it is easy to minimise unwanted ventilation. Use a sealant paste to fill in gaps around skirting boards, between floorboards and around service ducts. Unused chimneys should be boarded up - or if you would like a more temporary measure then inflate a balloon into the chimney, in this way if a fire is lit the balloon will burst freeing the chimney. Compression seals and wiper seals are available from your local ironmonger and can be used on openings such as windows, doors, cat flaps and letterboxes. Insulating curtains will greatly reduce night-time heat loss from windows - if drawn!

Central heating will work more efficiently if heating controls such as thermostatic radiator valves and room thermostats are included.

Hot water - energy needs can be reduced by giving your hot water tank an extra jacket and wrapping all hot water pipes in insulating foam. Why not consider solar water heating? - this can provide up to 50% of your hot water needs.

Future upgrades

When buying any new appliance, from light bulb to boiler, ensure they are suitable sized and are the most efficient model on the market. Most are now rated with an Energy Rating that allows you to calculate energy used per year. Any extra cost will soon be compensated for by energy saved.

Many appliances are left on standby all day, every day - adding up to about 6% of your electricity bills. Where possible avoid such appliances or switch them off at the plug. When necessary by a product that has low standby power.

If you are planning on replacing your windows the most efficient type are argon filled triple glazed units made with low emissivity (low-E) glass. Argon is an inert gas that conducts heat less well than air. Low-E glass reflects heat back into the house. A simpler, cheaper alternative is to fit secondary glazing which can be as basic as sticking a clear plastic film around the frame. Your local DIY store will be able to advise you.

Plant a hedge on the windward side of your house and build a conservatory or porch to act as buffer zone between warm house and cold exterior.


Photovoltaic systems: a clean alternative source of energy

Cangiano Sonepar – Sonepar Italia

Arguments such as energy saving or the research of innovative clean energy sources have become nowadays more and more actual if not compulsory. High levels of pollution, frequent black-outs, anomalous climatic conditions which require an always increasing energy production, last but not least the dependence from oil and its inconstant costs, are some of the most evident signals of the necessity for the world to find and adopt alternative and above all clean sources of energy. An example: the photovoltaic technology, which converts the energy of the sun into electrical energy*.

In the last two years Cangiano Sonepar has applied a part of its commercial attention to this market segment. It follows also the interest shown by the Italian national and regional Administrations towards the sensitisation and involvement of the communes in the promotion and diffusion of technologies aiming at the energy and economic savings and the safeguard of the environmental patrimony through the concession of subventions and fiscal deductions.

Cangiano’s activity has consisted in the selection of the best partner suppliers of photovoltaic products. Thus, the company offers advices to its customers installers with regard to the regional announcements for funds and help in the presentation of the necessary documentation to obtain them, the organisation of technical training courses and meetings for the diffusion and promotion of photovoltaic systems and the creation of a specific catalogue for its sales force.
The results of this activity have been immediately considerable and in 2004 Cangiano Sonepar has already produced in this sector a turnover of 1,2 millions of euro.

‘O sole mio in this very sunny part of Italy is not only an old popular song: it has become a modern, profitable and clean source of energy.

*There are many ways that solar energy can be used effectively. Applications of solar energy use can be grouped into there are three primary categories: heating/cooling, electricity production, and chemical processes. The most widely used applications are for water and space heating. Ventilation solar air heating is also growing in popularity. Uptake of electricity producing solar technologies is increasing for the photovoltaic applications (primarily) and concentrating solar thermal-electric technologies. Due to recent advances in solar detoxification technologies for cleaning water and air, these applications hold promise to be competitive with conventional technologies.

Cultivating an ethical flower trade

A new fair trade system for flowers is due to begin later this year.

Called FFP - Fair Flowers and Plants - it will be introduced first in Europe, but aims to become a global system.

The details are reported in the BBC World Service programme Earth Files.

Environmental and social campaigners say it will help to eliminate abuses in the global flower industry, such as overuse of pesticides, child labour, and discrimination.

"We have a saying in Holland; when you buy flowers, you are buying emotion," Kees Hoek, one of the architects of FFP, told BBC Earth Files.

"And you want to have a nice feeling about a bunch of flowers, not for example that it's covered in pesticides."

Environmental cost

Hoek runs a group called OLAA - De Organisatie Latijns Amerika Activiteiten - which campaigns for workers' rights on Latin American flower farms.

"When you talk with workers on flower farms, you get an amazing amount of complaints," he says.

"One of the main issues is freedom of association and collective bargaining.

"In some countries there is no trade union involvement in the flower industry; decent living wages and hours, health and safety; and we would like to ban all kinds of discrimination."

In countries like Kenya where the industry has expanded rapidly in recent years, environmental degradation is also an issue.

Earth Files went to one of the principal growing centres, Lake Naivasha, to speak with Andrew Enniskillen, chair of the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association.

"I came here about 20 years ago, when the flower industry had started but was not nearly as prolific as it is now," he told us.

"The floating weed covering the lake has gone, the bass fish population has completely gone - the opacity of the water is now such that they cannot feed - and if the flower industry was not here, the water level in the lake would be about three metres higher than it is today."

Industry codes

The flower industry has received some unwelcome publicity in recent years, as activists have raised these issues in the West.

As a result, there has been an explosion in codes of practice for growers and exporters.

The Kenya Flower Council, or KFC, the principal trade body for growers in Kenya, has one such code. The council's chair, Erasmus Mureithi, told Earth Files what farms must do if they want to join.

"First and foremost, you must look after your workers. If they are using chemicals, you must clothe them properly so that water does not penetrate; you must give them masks to protect themselves.

"You must give them subsidised medical care, and make sure they do not overwork. And there must be no sexual harassment - in fact sexual harassment means instant dismissal."

But farms which do not choose to join KFC's system can escape scrutiny altogether.

"Many of them are not a member of anything; and with those we have no idea what they do because they don't even allow us to go to their farms," said Mr Mureithi.

"We should let people have a level playground; so that if I incur so much cost by helping protect the environment, and by helping my workers, then let everybody do it."

Flower power

Other codes of practice are international, the best known being the Dutch MPS (Milieu Programma Sierteelt).

And in the UK, many supermarkets now buy directly from growers, and demand adherence to yet more sets of ethical standards.

Because of this plethora of codes, some farms may subscribe to three, four, or even more different sets of standards, which growers say is confusing and wasteful.

Despite the advent of direct buying for supermarkets, the bulk of the world flower trade - perhaps 60% - is channelled through auction houses in Holland.

They process around 40 million blooms a day, taking them in from Dutch growers, and from exporters like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Earth Files visited the biggest Dutch auction house, Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, which during the course of its three-hour trading morning processes 19 million flowers.

Palettes of flowers are wheeled in front of the buyers on an automated monorail.

A giant clock face displays the price of the current batch, in Euro cents. The price steadily falls, and when one buyer decides it is right, he presses a button and the flowers are his.

Blooming dodgems

There are several hundred buyers in the hall, all male. In addition to information displayed on the clock face, they listen to descriptions and ratings of the blooms from the auctioneer, and can access additional information on laptops.

Outside the auction hall, in a giant warehouse, trains of palettes are pulled around by electric carts like a surreal version of fairground dodgems.

Buyers can decide to buy ethically at this stage, because the clock face displays the MPS rating of the blooms on offer.

In theory, the MPS status can be passed on from buyer to wholesaler to retailer to customer; but in practice, it rarely happens, meaning that outside of the supermarkets with their own codes, customers are unable to make the choice of buying ethically.

"If the consumer is not aware of these issues and these abuses, there is no incentive for the producer to take care of the environment or establish proper labour standards," comments Kees Hoek.

The FFP scheme should change all that.

Dutch influence

Consumers will see a logo on FFP flowers demonstrating that they have been grown sustainably.

FFP will also seek to unify all the existing codes of practice, making life simpler for growers and traders.

The first FFP flowers are due to go on sale later this year in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Stage two will involve other European countries, and the eventual hope is that it will end up as a global standard.

Bringing FFP in this year depends on obtaining seed money from the European Commission. But even if the EC does not produce the cash, FFP will begin in two years' time, because the enormously powerful Dutch flower industry has decided to bankroll it.

Some growers in Kenya are enthusiastic about FFP. "At the moment, there is not a level playing field for producers because different farms and different countries operate under such different codes," said Ron Fasol, managing director of the Oserian flower farm on Lake Naivasha.

"I think we have to look at the long term; we have to look at the sustainability of what we do.

"If we're going to have an industry which is here for many years to come, we need to adhere to standards which allow us to continue drawing on the resources which have made us successful so far."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Next Generation of Solar Thermal Systems

Solar thermal systems can contribute to the protection of the environment and save our natural resources. Even though solar thermal systems are well-developed at this stage, a further dissemination of this technology requires a continuous development and optimization. In order to manage this challenge collectively on an European basis, the NEGST project was initiated from the Institut für Thermodynamik und Wärmetechnik (ITW), University of Stuttgart together with the company “Solar- und Wärmetechnik Stuttgart” (SWT).

The project „NEGST“ (New Generation of Solar Thermal Systems) aims mainly at the development and market introduction of cost-efficient solar systems. This “new” generation of solar thermal systems represents a further development of today’s system technology with respect to improvement of performance and reduction of system costs. In addition to thermal solar systems for domestic hot water (dhw) preparation, solar combisystems (systems for combined dhw and space heating) are considered, as well as systems for solar cooling and sea water desalination.

The project which is predominantly financed from the European Comission comprises a budget of 1.3 million Euro and has a duration of three years. The financial contribution of the European Commission affirms the significance of solar thermal technology in Europe. The consideration of the most important European system requirements is guaranteed since 18 different institutions from science, research and industry out of 14 different countries are involved in the project. Consequently a basis for an uniform European market as requirement for further market growth will be created.

For further information on the project

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why washable nappies are better...

Because they are lovely
New designs are easy to use, easy to launder, look and feel great. They come in a huge variety of shapes and styles, patterns and colours, so that anyone can find a range to suit their personal style, lifestyle and budget.

Because they are better for the environment
• Women Environmental Network rejects the conclusion of the recent Environment Agency report that there is no significant difference between the overall environmental impact of disposables and cloth nappies, whether washed at home or in a laundry.
• Flawed as it is, findings in the report show parents can use real nappies and save waste without causing more global warming than disposables. Britain throws away nearly three billion nappies a year, that’s nearly eight million a day so many parents are concerned to avoid contributing to this waste mountain.
• Using a sensible washing routine - 24 nappies washed at 60oC in an energy efficient (A rated) washing machine – real nappies contribute 24% less to global warming than the report suggests – and don’t add to the waste mountain.

Because they could save you money
Washing nappies at home could save parents around £500 on the cost of keeping a baby in nappies, even taking all the laundry costs of energy and detergent into account.

Because they are more natural
While disposable nappies are made of paper pulp, plastics and superabsorbent chemicals, real nappies are mostly made of natural fabrics giving parents the opportunity to choose a more natural product for their baby. For the best option organic cotton and hemp nappies and woollen overpants are available at reasonable cost.

Because they are convenient
• Modern nappies are not what they used to be. They have advanced considerably over recent years with a whole new range of self-fastening, easy to use designs. They come in a variety of styles and patterns and can be a fun element of a baby’s wardrobe.
• Nappy washing services provide the ultimate in convenience and do all the work for you, collecting dirty nappies to be laundered to NHS clinical standards and leaving a fresh supply of nappies in their place.

Because they put you in control
• You can reduce your environmental impact even further by using an eco-friendly detergent, line-drying rather than tumble drying, avoiding fabric softeners or chemical soaking agents, and by choosing organic and natural fabrics.
• The only way to reduce the environmental impact of disposables is to use fewer of them - and that’s not a good idea.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

European Wind energy association: analysis, issues and recommendations

EWEA full report:

1. System operation: power and energy balancing
- A large geographical spread of wind power will reduce variability, increase predictability and decrease the occurrences of near zero or peak output. Power systems have .exible mechanisms to follow the varying load and plant outages that cannot always be accurately predicted.
- Accurate methods for short-term forecasting of wind power are widely available as there is a whole range of commercial tools and services in this area. On an annual basis, reducing the forecast horizon from day-ahead to a few hours ahead reduces the required balancing energy due to prediction errors by 50%.
2. Grid connection: grid codes and excessive technical requirements
- Grid codes often contain very costly, challenging and continuously changing requirements and are developed in a highly non-transparent manner by vertically-integrated power companies, who are in direct competition with wind farm operators.
- Costly technical requirements should only be applied if there is a true technical rationale for them and if their introduction is required for reliable and stable power system operation. These are not needed at low wind power penetration levels.
- Power systems dynamics are not a principal obstacle to increasing the penetration of wind power.
- R&D should continue to further improve the knowledge on dynamic interaction of system and wind power plants.
3. Grid upgrades and costs are not an isolated wind power issue
- Grid extensions and reinforcements will bene.t the whole power system and are a precondition for creating real competition in the emerging EU internal electricity market. Grids are natural monopolies and should be regulated as such.
- In the longer term, a European Super Grid is proposed to accommodate large amounts of offshore wind power and to utilize continental-wide smoothing effects of wind power to a maximal extent, as well as to improve the functioning of the emerging internal electricity market.
- Cross-border transmission of wind power is not a technical issue but a trade and market issue. Making slots available for renewable electricity would enable cross-border trade in wind power according to internal electricity market principles.
4. Fuel replacement and capacity credit of wind power bene.t security of supply
- Wind energy will replace energy produced by other power plants, which improves the energy adequacy of the power system.
- Wind power replaces conventional generating capacity. The capacity credit of onshore wind power throughout Europe varies between 20% and 35% of the installed wind power capacity. High wind power load factors in peak demand season and good wind power exchange through interconnection have a positive effect on the capacity credit.
- Adding wind power to the existing system is contributing favourably to the security of supply by virtue of technology diversi.cation and indigenous production.
5. The economic impacts of wind power integration are beneficial
- Additional balancing is very low and estimated at €1–3/MWh (of wind) for a wind power penetration of 10% of gross consumption and €2-4/MWh for higher penetration levels.
- The grid extension/reinforcement costs caused by additional wind generation are in the range of €0.1 to €4.7/MWh wind, the higher value corresponding to a wind penetration of 30% in the system (UK). When properly socialised in an unbundled market, these cost levels, as re.ected in the end user price are low – even up to high wind penetrations.
- System integration costs, under the most conservative assumptions, are only a fraction of the actual consumer price of electricity and are in the order of magnitude of €0 to €4/MWh (consumer level).
- These additional costs of more wind power would be outweighed by the bene.ts from the expected continuing decrease of wind power generation costs - a reduction of 20% for onshore and 40% offshore by 2020 as compared to 2003 levels.
- The economic bene.t of wind becomes even larger when the bene.ts of CO2 emissions reduction and other environmental bene.ts are taken into account.
- Wind power reduces portfolio generation costs. When added to a risky, fossil-dominated generating portfolio, wind as a .xed cost zero fuel technology reduces overall generating cost and risk.
- Balancing costs, grid extensions and reinforcements come with all electricity generating technologies, not only with wind power. It is impossible to .nd any study on these system costs of other technologies than wind power, hence proper cost comparisons are not possible. Other parties should study and publish the additional system costs for all other technologies than wind power.
- Most countries and institutions continue to ignore the risk element of volatile fuel prices when making cost comparisons between different electricity generating technologies. Rather than using the commonly applied levelised cost approaches, it is recommended to adopt cost calculating methods allowing a proper economic interpretation of (easily quanti.able) cost and risk of volatile oil, gas and coal prices.

1. Improved system operation
- Imbalance payments and settlement on individual turbine level should always be avoided. It is the overall variability of output from all wind farms that is relevant to system operation.
- Long gate-closure times should be reduced for variable output technologies. There is no technical justi.cation for having wind power predict future production 48 hours in advance as demanded by some grid operators. The shorter the gate-closure time for wind power is, the lower the overall cost to consumers.
- More effective balancing and settlement procedures that do not discriminate against variable output technologies must be introduced.
- Distribution grids must be more actively managed.
- Curtailment of electricity production should be managed according to least-cost principles from a complete-system point of view. As wind power is free, constraining of wind power should be the last solution and restricted to a minimum.
- The balance market rules must be adjusted to improve accuracy of forecasts and enable temporal and spatial aggregation of wind power output forecasts.
- Imbalances payments should be settled according to monthly net imbalances as established in e.g. California and Spain.
2. Fair and adequate grid connection requirements
- Grid codes and other technical requirements should re.ect the true technical needs and be developed in cooperation between independent and unbiased TSOs, the wind energy sector and independent regulators.
- A European-wide grid code for wind power is not required.
3. Grid infrastructure investments
- A large geographical spread of wind power on a system should be encouraged through planning and payment mechanisms and the establishment of adequate interconnection. From a system and cost point of view, that will reduce variability, increase predictability and decrease or remove situations of near zero or peak output.
- The cost of grid extension should be socialised, as it is the case for all other electricity technologies. One reason to do it is that grids are natural monopolies.
- Grid connection charges should be fair and transparent and competition should be encouraged.
- In future developments of the European power systems, increased .exibility should be encouraged as a major design principle. Public private partnership and use of structural funds should play an important part.
- The benefits of distributed generation, e.g. reduced network losses and reduced need for grid reinforcements, must be recognised.
4. Proper credit to wind's contribution to system adequacy
- Proper, uniform standards for the determination of wind power's capacity credit must be developed. For small penetrations of wind power the capacity credit will be equal to the load factor in times of peak demand. For very high penetration levels, the capacity credit is reduced but never anywhere close to zero.
- European transmission system operators associations should – instead of referring to wind power as "non-usable power" recognise wind power's proper capacity credit.
5. Solving institutional inef.ciencies and improve power market competition
Solutions include:
1. Reduction of market dominance and abuse of dominant positions
2. Effective competition policies and authorities in the power sector
3. Full legal and ownership unbundling between transmission/distribution, production and trading activities
4. Improvement and expansion of cross-border interconnections between Member States
5. Establishment of undistorted third party access to the grids at fair tariffs and removal of discriminatory practices
6. Adequate grid codes that re.ect the nature of the technologies, developed in cooperation with the wind energy sector and regulators
- Electricity grids are natural monopolies and, hence, transmission and distribution must be effectively, i.e. legally and ownership-wise, separated from electricity production and electricity trading.
- The existing guidelines for trans-European energy networks (TEN-E Guidelines) can provide a good framework for upgrading the European grid infrastructure which has been characterised by underinvestment during the 1980s and 1990s.
- The nascent trans-national grids must be prepared to absorb offshore wind power, and the TEN-E can provide a vehicle to focus on this area.
- A European policy for offshore wind energy is needed. An Action Plan for offshore wind power that addresses offshore infrastructure would be an important step.
- A European super-grid should be developed to bring large amounts of offshore wind power to European consumers, similar to the way European gas pipelines have been constructed.
6. New and continued research and development efforts
Under the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research, more research is needed in the following areas:
1. Improved forecast methods
2. Methods for investigating dynamic interaction wind farms and power system
3. Transmission network studies on transnational level
4. Uniform methods for national system studies for balancing (reserve capacities and balancing costs)
5. Investigation of solutions to increase power system .exibility
6. Systematic output monitoring to validate theories on capacity credit

Monday, January 16, 2006

Commission proposes strategy to improve the environment in Europe’s cities

The European Commission today launched a new Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment to help Member States and regional and local authorities improve the environmental performance of Europe's cities. The Strategy is one of seven foreseen under the 6th Environmental Action Programme. Its goal is to facilitate better implementation of EU environmental policies and legislation at the local level through exchange of experience and good practice between Europe's local authorities. Four out of five European citizens now live in towns and cities and their quality of life is directly influenced by the state of the urban environment.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Europe's cities should be sustainable and offer a high quality of life so that people want to live and work in them and businesses want to invest there. The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment works with Member States to help regional and local authorities learn from one another about measures that are particularly effective in improving the environmental performance of our cities."

The strategy's approach

Europe's urban areas face a number of environmental challenges including poor air quality, high levels of traffic and congestion, urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions and generation of waste and waste water. These can cause environmental damage and affect human health.

Local authorities have a decisive role to play in implementing environmental legislation and improving the environmental performance of a city. The best performing cities have developed integrated approaches to urban management where daily decisions are guided by a strategic vision and objectives. These can improve quality of life and the city's economic performance, which in turn can attract new residents and businesses.

While local action is essential, public authorities at regional, national and European level also need to be proactive. The EU can provide support by promoting Europe's good practices. It can do so best by encouraging effective networking and exchange of experience between cities. Many solutions already exist in cities but they are not sufficiently disseminated or implemented.

The Commission has coordinated the objectives of the Strategy with other Community programmes and proposes support for investments, research and demonstration projects on key urban environment issues such as investment in urban transport and reuse of derelict land, or training in urban management. Member States should exploit the opportunities offered at the European level to make improvements in the environmental performance of their cities.

Proposed Measures

The main actions under the strategy are:

-Guidance on integrated environmental management and on sustainable urban transport plans. The guidance will be based on cities' experiences, expert views and research, and will help ensure full implementation of EU legislation. It will provide sources of further information to help prepare and implement action plans.
Training. A number of Community programmes will provide opportunities for training and capacity-building for local authorities to develop the skills needed for managing the urban environment. Moreover, support will be offered for local authorities to work together and learn from each other. These should be exploited both by the Member States and local authorities.
Support for EU wide exchange of best practices.Consideration will be given for the establishment of a new European programme to exchange knowledge and experience on urban issues under the new Cohesion Policy. The Commission will closely cooperate with Member States and local authorities. This work will be based on a pilot network of focal points on urban issues (the "European Knowledge Platform") which offers advice to local authorities across Europe.
Commission internet portal for local authorities.The feasibility of creating a new internet portal for local authorities on the Europa website will be explored to provide better access to the latest information.

Thematic Strategies

Thematic Strategies are based on extensive research and consultation of stakeholders, address issues in a holistic way that links with other problems and policy areas, and promote Better Regulation.

The other six strategies cover air pollution (), marine environment (), resources (), waste (), soils and pesticides.
See for more details on the Urban Environment Strategy.

The Strategy:

Friday, January 13, 2006

D1 Oils to Test Biodiesel in Performance Race Car

D1 Oils plc (D1), the UK-based global producer of biodiesel from renewable energy crops, is to test the performance of green diesel fuel by sponsoring the entry of a biodiesel powered car in the Le Mans global series of sports car races. The D1 Lola B2K car will be powered by a high performance diesel engine modified to run on a mix of regular diesel and biodiesel produced from vegetable oils. The objective is to test the performance, fuel efficiency and emissions produced by different biodiesel blends. The D1 car and engine are being developed for Le Mans Prototype racing by groupBio, a UK-based racing team.

Under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), announced by the government in November, UK garages will be required to sell diesel blended with biodiesel to a minimum level of 5% by 2010. Biodiesel produces lower emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases than mineral diesel, and is produced from vegetable oils derived from energy crops. These absorb CO2 as they grow, making the net carbon emissions neutral. D1’s objective is to test fuel blends containing 5% (B5), 20% (B20) and 50% (B50) biodiesel, and research the performance and characteristics of biodiesel made from different vegetable oil feedstocks.

D1’s biodiesel feedstock of choice is jatropha curcas, a tree that grows in Africa, South East Asia and India. Jatropha seeds produce a high yield of vegetable oil that can be refined into biodiesel. Unlike other biodiesel feedstocks, such as rapeseed, soy and palm, which require arable land to produce economic yields, jatropha grows on waste and marginal land and its planting will not displace essential food crops in developing countries.

“This is about demonstrating that low emissions don’t mean low performance,” said Philip Wood, CEO of D1. “We are entering a biodiesel car for Le Mans prototype racing because endurance events offer the best opportunity to test and improve the characteristics of this new green fuel. What we learn about how different biodiesel blends perform in our engine is going to be of immense value to biodiesel feedstock producers and refiners, to car and engine manufacturers and to motorists who want to know that biodiesel will get them the mileage and performance they need while contributing less to global warming. It also offers a strong opportunity to build the D1 brand as we expand our planting and refining business globally.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Emissions trading: Commission sets out guidance on national allocations for 2008-2012

The European Commission has published a Communication setting out guidance to help member states when they draw up national plans for allocating carbon dioxide emission allowances for 2008-2012 under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). This second trading period is significant because it coincides with the five-year period in which the EU and member states must meet their targets for limiting or reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Member states need to ensure that their emissions strategies, in which allocations under the ETS are an important element, achieve their targets.

Standardised information

Experience with the first round of National Allocation Plans (NAPs), covering the 2005-2007 trading period, has shown that such plans need to be more transparent and easier to implement. Therefore, the Commission’s new guidance document proposes a set of standardised tables for presenting important information, such as projected emissions, assumptions regarding fuel prices and the reductions expected from other policies and measures.

Guidance on setting caps

Given that the 2008-2012 trading period under the European Trading Scheme coincides with the ‘commitment period’ for meeting emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the guidance document signals the Commission’s intention to look very closely at the overall policy mix – including use of the ETS – which member states propose in order to achieve their targets. It also offers a consistent methodology for Member States to set caps for their emissions.

Scope and definitions

Finally, the Commission addresses the types of combustion installations that should be covered including the situation of ‘small’ installations, i.e. those emitting relatively low amounts of CO2 per year.

In addition, an ongoing revision of the rules for monitoring and reporting of emissions will ease the administrative burden for small installations. The Commission envisages further help in its forthcoming review of the ETS.


National allocation plans

Under the Emissions Trading Directive[1] which established the ETS, governments are required to draw up national allocation plans (NAPs) for each trading period. NAPs fix the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by all the installations in their country covered by the scheme as well as the number of emission allowances allocated to each individual installation.

An installation that emits more CO2 than it has allowances for would need to buy additional allowances in the market, while one that emits less has the possibility to sell its surplus allowances.

The ETS, the world’s first and biggest international emissions trading scheme, began operating on 1 January 2005. Member states are required to notify their NAPs for 2008-2012 to the Commission by 30 June 2006. The Commission needs to approve the plans and has the power to require changes if it finds a plan incompatible with the agreed criteria. The new Communication responds to a Council request from December 2005 asking the Commission to do its utmost to provide early guidance on preparation of the NAPs
The new Communication builds on guidance provided by the Commission for the first round of NAPs. This was published as COM (2003) 830 final.


30 June 2006 is the deadline not only for member states to notify their NAPs for 2008-2012 to the Commission but also for the Commission to report to the Council and Parliament on experience to date with the ETS as a whole and to make proposals as appropriate. Preparations for the review are ongoing.
The guidance document can be found at:
Further information on Emissions Trading and climate change policy is available at:


World Sustainable Development Forum 2006 New Delhi India 2-4 february 2006

DSDS 2006: Driving thought leadership and stimulating action
The emphasis on linkages across MDGs will be a consistent theme running through discussions and debates at DSDS 2006. The success of the eight MDGs would dramatically alter the condition of the world’s disadvantaged, yet their effectiveness is crucially dependent on radical, innovative, and workable collaborations between stakeholders and technologies. DSDS 2006 will facilitate the formation of such linkages by exploring opportunities for partnerships among governments, communities, organizations, and emerging technological breakthroughs. The side events will focus on specific issues related to various sessions and discussion themes of DSDS 2006. Spread over three days in New Delhi, DSDS 2006 will be split into sessions that will discuss problems, opportunities, and solutions on the following themes.
Opening session Creating an enabling environment for MDGs globally Views from world leaders
Ministerial sessions
Plenary sessions and discussion themes
- Involving diverse stakeholders: partnering for change
- Ensuring people’s participation: governance issues in meeting
sustainability challenges
- Applying science and technology for sustainable development
- Energy, the underlying MDG
- Health and sanitation: a crucial determinant?
- Environmental threats to agriculture: coping and adaptation strategies


Friday, January 06, 2006

Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

“Our global civilization today is on an economic path that is environmentally unsustainable, a path that is leading us toward economic decline and eventual collapse,” says Lester Brown in Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble.

“Environmental scientists have been saying for some time that the global economy is being slowly undermined by environmental trends of human origin, including shrinking forests, expanding deserts, falling water tables, eroding soils, collapsing fisheries, rising temperatures, melting ice, rising seas, and increasingly destructive storms,” says Brown, President and Founder of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based independent environmental research organization.

Although it is obvious that no society can survive the decline of its environmental support systems, many people are not yet convinced of the need for economic restructuring. But this is changing now that China has eclipsed the United States in the consumption of most basic resources, Brown notes in Plan B 2.0, which was produced with major funding from the Lannan Foundation and the U.N. Population Fund.

Among the basic commodities—grain and meat in the food sector, oil and coal in the energy sector, and steel in the industrial sector—China now consumes more than the United States of each of these except for oil. It consumes nearly twice as much meat (67 million tons compared with 39 million tons) and more than twice as much steel (258 million to 104 million tons).

These numbers are about total consumption. “But what if China reaches the U.S. consumption level per person?” asks Brown. “If China’s economy continues to expand at 8 percent a year, its income per person will reach the current U.S. level in 2031.

“If at that point China’s per capita resource consumption were the same as in the United States today, then its projected 1.45 billion people would consume the equivalent of two thirds of the current world grain harvest. China’s paper consumption would be double the world’s current production. There go the world’s forests.”

If China one day has three cars for every four people, U.S. style, it will have 1.1 billion cars. The whole world today has 800 million cars. To provide the roads, highways, and parking lots to accommodate such a vast fleet, China would have to pave an area equal to the land it now plants in rice. It would need 99 million barrels of oil a day. Yet the world currently produces 84 million barrels per day and may never produce much more.

The western economic model—the fossil-fuel-based, auto-centered, throwaway economy—is not going to work for China. If it does not work for China, it will not work for India, which by 2031 is projected to have a population even larger than China’s. Nor will it work for the 3 billion other people in developing countries who are also dreaming the “American dream.”

And, Brown notes, in an increasingly integrated world economy, where all countries are competing for the same oil, grain, and steel, the existing economic model will not work for industrial countries either. China is helping us see that the days of the old economy are numbered.

Sustaining our early twenty-first century global civilization now depends on shifting to a renewable energy-based, reuse/recycle economy with a diversified transport system. Business as usual—Plan A—cannot take us where we want to go. It is time for Plan B, time to build a new economy and a new world.

Plan B has three components—(1) a restructuring of the global economy so that it can sustain civilization; (2) an all-out effort to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and restore hope in order to elicit participation of the developing countries; and (3) a systematic effort to restore natural systems.

Glimpses of the new economy can be seen in the wind farms of Western Europe, the solar rooftops of Japan, the fast-growing hybrid car fleet of the United States, the reforested mountains of South Korea, and the bicycle-friendly streets of Amsterdam. “Virtually everything we need to do to build an economy that will sustain economic progress is already being done in one or more countries,” says Brown.

“Among the new sources of energy—wind, solar cells, solar thermal, geothermal, small-scale hydro, biomass—wind is emerging as a major energy source. In Europe, which is leading the world into the wind era, some 40 million people now get their residential electricity from wind farms. The European Wind Energy Association projects that by 2020, half of the region’s population—195 million Europeans—will be getting their residential electricity from wind.

“Wind energy is growing fast for six reasons: It is abundant, cheap, inexhaustible, widely distributed, clean, and climate-benign. No other energy source has this combination of attributes.”

For the U.S. automotive fuel economy, the key to greatly reducing oil use and carbon emissions is gas-electric hybrid cars. The average new car sold in the United States last year got 22 miles to the gallon, compared with 55 miles per gallon for the Toyota Prius. If the United States decided for oil security and climate stabilization reasons to replace its entire fleet of passenger vehicles with super-efficient gas-electric hybrids over the next 10 years, gasoline use could easily be cut in half. This would involve no change in the number of cars or miles driven, only a shift to the most efficient automotive propulsion technology now available.

Beyond this, a gas-electric hybrid with an additional storage battery and a plug-in capacity would allow us to use electricity for short distance driving, such as the daily commute or grocery shopping. This could cut U.S. gasoline use by an additional 20 percent, for a total reduction of 70 percent. Then if we invest in thousands of wind farms across the country to feed cheap electricity into the grid, we could do most short-distance driving with wind energy, dramatically reducing both carbon emissions and the pressure on world oil supplies.

Using timers to recharge batteries with electricity coming from wind farms during the low demand hours between 1 and 6 a.m. costs the equivalent of 50¢-a-gallon gasoline. We have not only an inexhaustible alternative to dwindling reserves of oil, but an incredibly cheap one.

“Building an economy that will sustain economic progress requires a cooperative worldwide effort,” notes Brown. “This means eradicating poverty and stabilizing population—in effect, restoring hope among the world’s poor. Eradicating poverty accelerates the shift to smaller families. Smaller families in turn help to eradicate poverty.”

The principal line items in the budget to eradicate poverty are investments in universal primary school education; school lunch programs for the poorest of the poor; basic village-level health care, including vaccinations for childhood diseases; and reproductive health and family planning services for all the world’s women. In total, reaching these goals will take $68 billion of additional expenditures each year.

A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy’s environmental support systems are collapsing. Brown says, “This means putting together an earth restoration budget—one to reforest the earth, restore fisheries, eliminate overgrazing, protect biological diversity, and raise water productivity to the point where we can stabilize water tables and restore the flow of rivers. Adopted worldwide, these measures require additional expenditures of $93 billion per year.”

Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget means an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion. Such an investment is huge, but it is not a charitable act. It is an investment in the world in which our children will live.

“If we fail to build a new economy before decline sets in, it will not be because of a lack of fiscal resources, but rather because of obsolete priorities,” adds Brown. “The world is now spending $975 billion annually for military purposes. The U.S. 2006 military budget of $492 billion, accounting for half of the world total, goes largely to the development and production of new weapon systems. Unfortunately, these weapons are of little help in curbing terrorism, nor can they reverse the deforestation of the earth or stabilize climate.

“The military threats to national security today pale beside the trends of environmental destruction and disruption that threaten the economy and thus our early twenty-first century civilization itself. New threats call for new strategies. These threats are environmental degradation, climate change, the persistence of poverty, and the loss of hope.”

The U.S. military budget is totally out of sync with these new threats. If the United States were to underwrite the entire $161 billion Plan B budget by shifting resources from the $492 billion spent on the military, it still would be spending more for military purposes than all other NATO members plus Russia and China combined.

Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. With climate change we may be approaching the point of no return. The temptation is to reset the clock. But we cannot. Nature is the timekeeper.

It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our global economy decline and eventually collapse. Or we can shift to Plan B, building an economy that will sustain economic progress.

“It is hard to find the words to express the gravity of our situation and the momentous nature of the decision we are about to make,” says Brown. “How can we convey the urgency of moving quickly? Will tomorrow be too late?
“One way or another, the decision will be made by our generation. Of that there is little doubt. But it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.”


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Commission proposes European strategy for the sustainable use of natural resources

The European Commission today proposed a new approach aiming at more sustainable use of natural resources. The objective is to reduce environmental impacts associated with resource use in Europe and globally in a growing economy. The impacts of unsustainable resource use include e.g. climate change as a result of fossil fuel use and overexploitation of clean water, soil and certain fish stocks. The strategy is focusing on improving knowledge, developing monitoring tools and fostering strategic approaches in specific economic sectors, Member States and internationally. The strategy is one of the seven 'thematic' strategies required under the 6th Environment Action Programme (2002-2012) and closely linked to the waste thematic strategy, which was also adopted today.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Europe's economy uses large amounts of natural resources. This is often done in a way that harms the environment, threatening the resource base on which we depend and thus future economic growth. It also contributes to growing waste mountains. We need an overarching approach that measures impacts of resource use and informs policymaking so we can take appropriate action. This can bring us a decisive step closer to sustainable development."

Environmental impacts of resource use

Economic activities have always been a key driver of resource use. As the global economy grows, so does the use of natural resources such as land, forests, wildlife, soil, air, water, fossil fuels and raw materials. However, many current use patterns and technologies produce environmental impacts that jeopardise the future availability of resources. The recent Millennium Assessment Report,[1] conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, shows that 15 out of 24 ecosystem services that provide raw materials and support life on Earth are being degraded or used unsustainably, threatening the planet.

"More value - less impact - better alternatives"

The "Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources" develops a policy framework to reduce the environmental impacts of resource use in a growing economy. It is aimed at "more value – less impact – better alternatives":

  • More value - creating more value while using less resources (increasing resource productivity);
  • Less impact - reducing the overall environmental impact of resources used (increasing eco-efficiency);
  • Better alternatives – if cleaner use cannot be achieved, substituting currently used resources with better alternatives.

    This is to be achieved over the whole life cycle of resource use, avoiding that environmental impacts are shifted from one phase to another or to other countries. Since waste represents the last phase in the life cycle of a resource, the resources strategy will generate important information for the thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, supporting it in reducing waste.

    Measures proposed by the strategy

    Taking a time horizon of 25 years, the strategy proposes a number of specific measures. They include:

    • A Data Centre run by the European Commission to bring together all available knowledge on natural resources and inform decision-makers;
    • An International Panel to be set up in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide independent scientific advice on global aspects of resource use;
    • The development of national measures and programmes by Member States under the guidance of a High Level Forum with representatives from the Commission, Member States and other stakeholders;
    • The consideration of environmental impacts of resource use in economic sector action plans that the Commission intends to develop in the context of its strategy for growth and jobs;
    • Finally, by 2008 the development of indicators to monitor and regularly review progress towards the strategy's goal.