Green Day: Energy Efficency Digest

Al Gore was asked how did An Inconvenient Truth became the third highest grossing documentary of all time. “I’ve had a powerful ally in reality,” replied the Current TV founder and former VP. “Global warming is now clearly the overriding challenge of our time. Nations around the world are waking up to it and putting in place new policies. Of course, much more is needed, but the good news is that much more change is on the way.” Here are some numbers on global power consumption today: one-third goes to factories while one-fourth ¼ goes to the transport sector. 36% goes to heating/cooling mechanisms. 20% of the world’s electricity goes to lighting – of which 40% goes to incandescent bulbs. The International Energy Agency says that the present demand will double by year 2030. “Even moderate efficiency improvements will contribute more to meeting future demand than all the alternative fuel sources combined,” according to Paul Waide of the IEA. What’s being done? 1. Factories are calibrating their plants to achieve maximum energy efficiency. The electricity used by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is generated by turbines run by heat from their steel furnaces – slashing energy consumption by 70%. BASF is recycling heat and energy from one chemical process to power the next one – and this chain is repeated throughout its 200 chemical plants in Ludwigshafen, Germany. This gives BASF a yearly 200 million euros in savings – and a 50% reduction in of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. They are also using this method in their new factories in China. 2. Roofs covered with vegetation are becoming fashionable The Ballard Library Neighborhood Center in Seattle features an 18,000 sq. ft. roof covered by 4 in. of soil with grass and groundcover which 1) absorbs and filters rainwater; 2) removes CO2 ; and 3) insulates the building in summer and winter. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the new Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library was hailed as one of the 2006 Top Ten Green Projects by the American Institute of Architects. Other examples of “green roofs” are Ford’s new River rouge factory and newly renovated Chicago City Hall. 3. Energy efficient cars are hitting the road. In the United States today, diesel is sulfur-free and diesel engines can run up to 100% biodiesel. Toyota has increased mileage by 20% through its best-selling electric hybrids Prius and Lexus RX400h. General Motors has come out with the Chevy Volt, a 150 miles-per-gallon plug-in hybrid – a hit during the just concluded Detroit Auto Show. GM also pilot-tested hybrid models of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. GM has also announced plans to make a hydrogen fuel cell car in 2010. As of press-time, a test-fleet of GM vehicles – Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick Cadillac, GMC, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Hummer and Saab – are being driven on the streets of Washington, D.C. Ford has introduced the hybrid version of its Escape SUV and has come up with the F-150 bi-fuel (gas/propane). Popular in the States, propane is a by-product of oil and natural gas products. Dodge is using gasoline mixed with ethanol through the help of government subsidies. Time will reveal if production will continue once subsidies expire in 2008. Volkswagen is using biodiesel for its Jetta automatic. Biofuel is a mix of alcohol and vegetable oil (even used cooking oil) which can power most diesels with a conversion kit. VW is also rolling out direct-injection diesels with its Passat TDI. Honda was one of the hybrid pioneers with its Insight and is the first to use hydrogen fuel cells in its Honda FCX but it’s just a prototype. DaimlerChrysler has modified its Dodge Durano and Mercedes Sprinter vans into diesel-electric hybrids; while Peugot, Nissan, BMW and Porsche are all set to join the hybrid revolution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 3% of cars in the road in 2009 will be hybrids. 4. The European Union has presented a blueprint to reduce continental energy use by 20% by 2020. The IEA says that phasing out incandescent light bulbs to favor compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) by 2030 would result in 1) energy savings equal to the output of 650 power plants and 2) avoiding the yearly atmosphere contamination equal to 700 million tons of carbon. Dutch electronics giant Philips was the first to announce a gradual phase-out of traditional bulbs last December 2006. The world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart is selling 100 million CFLs before the end of 2007. A $2 CFL can save more than $30 in consumption and replacement costs because it needs only 20% power to give the same amount of light – and it lasts 10 times longer. In March 2007, China passed a law requiring a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020. 5. Power classification of household appliances was a rousing success. Since the EU has mandated appliance makers to classify energy consumption, the sales of Class A – “green” – models soared from zero in 1994 to 80% in the first quarter of 2007. The world’s largest appliance manufacturer, Electrolux of Sweden, has produced refrigerators with vacuum insulation and clothes dryers with heat pumps. The Netherlands joined the energy revolution by granting temporary subsidy to manufacturers – and sales continue to soar even after the subsidies stopped. The IEA says that Class A appliances would reduce world-wide residential power usage by 43%. Today, labeling laws have been passed in 60 countries. 6. Breakthrough roofing and insulation methods are gradually eliminating the need for expensive lighting, heaters and air-conditioners. These include reflective roofing, “superglazed” airtight windows and polyurethane “outsulation” sprays. Prototypes of these state-of-the-art houses can be found in Switzerland and Germany. Texas Instruments re-engineered its Richardson plant that led to 1) 80% reduction of lighting costs and 2) 30% reduction of construction costs. The Alberici Corporate Headquarters utilized a series of angled sawtooth bays that maximize sunlight – while blocking glare and heat. Designed by Mackey Mitchells &Associates, this Overland, Missouri-based international construction firm was included in the 2006 Top Ten Green Projects. 7. Solar panels can supply 95% of electrical needs. The Solar Umbrella House used energy panels as a major design element and these 1) have eliminated air-conditioning; 2) have eliminated lighting except on cloudy days; 3) cut gas consumptiopn by 50%; 4)pre-heat the swimming pool and 5) will generate savings that will reimburse its construction costs in less than 5 years. Designed by architect Angie Brooks, this Venice, California house was another winner in the 2006 Top Ten Green Projects. Fuji Electric Systems has recently developed very thin and very flexible solar panels – weighing only a tenth of conventional crystallized silicon panels. 8. Wall Street companies are embarking on major environment-saving projects. The world’s leading merger & acquisitions firm Goldman Sachs has 1) built its new eco-friendly $2 billion headquarters in Manhattan; 2) persuaded its clients to negotiate the cancellation of 9 coal-fired factories that TXU Corp. is planning to build; 3) established a formal policy that avoids deals with illegal loggers or any individuals who “significantly convert or degrade a critical natural habitat”; 4) pledged a 70% cut in its greenhouse gas emissions; 5) acquired and developed Horizon Wind Energy and 6) set aside 680,000 acres of acquired land in Chile as a natural preserve in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society. The climate change in Wall Street has also been embraced by Citi, Lehman Bros., JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and many others. A change of attitude can save the planet. Energy efficiency is more than many times the value of its investment but temporary government subsidies are “often the bait to get consumers to start thinking,” says Stefan Thomas of Wuppertal Climate Institute in Germany. When the comes to meeting future demands, energy guru Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, one of the leading authorities in the 2007 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, presents the best and the most unchallengeable case: “Increasing energy efficiency is the largest, least expensive, most benign, most quickly deployable, least visible, least understood and most neglected way.” Al Gore photo courtesy of Breakthrough. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama Your comments are welcome and will be answered. You can link your blog using EasyHyperLinks

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