September 2010

15 September 2010


Fisher & Paykel Appliances Ltd said it has developed a new compressor that delivers a leap forward in energy efficiency in refrigerators.

The company describes the new technology as revolutionary and industry leading.

The company said it developed the compressor design concept and technology and worked closely with Embraco, a company owned by Whirlpool Corp, in the past few years to fine tune it.

In partnership with Embraco, the next stage will take it into field trials, and then mass production.

"The new technology is not only significantly more energy efficient than conventional compressors by up to 30 per cent, it has the additional benefits of increasing storage capacity and refrigerator design options, while enhancing the temperature control to improve food quality and safety," the company said.

15 September 2010

The West Australian

China will exhaust all means to hit an energy efficiency target it set for the end of the year, but fulfilling the goal will prove difficult, a top official said Tuesday.

China pledged to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010, but such a task was proving arduous, Zhang Xiaoqiang told the "Summer Davos" meeting of the World Economic Forum.

"In order to fulfil this goal we will exhaust all effective means, especially those aimed at shutting down small electric plants, small steel makers, small cement plants and other high energy consuming enterprises," the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

"This is no easy task," said Zhang, a vice minister at the National Development and Reform Commission, China's economic planning ministry.

The pledge essentially amounts to a vow of more energy-efficient economic growth, but overall Chinese carbon emissions would still increase.

As the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China has insisted that the cuts are necessary to reduce pollution and clean up its environment.

Missing the goal could result in red faces for top leaders who have trumpeted efforts to curb emissions growth and develop renewable energy.

China will next month host the final United Nations climate change meeting before full global UN talks on the issue in December in Mexico.

At global climate talks in Copenhagen last year, China pledged that it would reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP, also known as carbon intensity, by 40-45 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels.

Zhang said that energy efficiency would remain Chinese policy, whether the 2006-2009 goals are met or not.

China reduced its carbon intensity by 15.6 percent from 2006 to 2009 based on 2005 levels, he added.

Zhang's commission had previously said the 2006-2009 reduction was about 14 percent. He did not explain the discrepancy.

Carbon intensity rose 0.09 percent in the first six months of the year, the first year-on-year increase since 2006, the government said last month, signalling the difficulties in meeting the 2010 target.

In recent months, the government ordered thousands of companies to close high-polluting plants by September in a last-ditch effort to hit the five-year goal.

10 September 2010


There’s a new watchdog group called the Smart-Electronics Initiative that is working on various campaigns not only to publicize the power consumption potential of gadgets but to also to work toward industry-wide standards and a labeling methodology that will help buyers better understand the green tech properties of what they are buying. Among its priorities are advocating things like the use of lighting emitting diodes (LEDs) and power factor correction.

For perspective, consider that all the gadgets in your house — from your stereo to your home theater — account for about 15 percent of your total household consumption. That amount is rising. Oh, and P.S., I don’t think that includes what’s in your home office, but I’m not totally sure.

Another rather astonishing stat that the initiative is throwing around: by 2030, the consumption of all the electronic gadgets in our lives will triple to 1,700 terawatt hours, which is the current collective home power usage in the United States and Japan, combined.

The corporate powerhouse behind this new group is a rather self-interested party, Marvell, which makes the integrated silicon that goes into consumer electronics devices. The two other key stakeholders right now are GreenTech California and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The organization was already involved in the development of the “Smart Electronics Act” that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. Among other things, the bill advocates the notion that consumer electronics should be covered as a category under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

Here are the four priorities of the Smart-Electronics Initiative:
1. Call attention to the problem.
2. Rally stakeholders to develop ways to address state and federal policy gaps.
3. Look for ways to improve energy efficiency in consumer electronics through innovative technology.
4. Develop a national measure of energy efficiency for consumer electronics devices. 

14 September 2010

The Australian

Australia's $60 billion energy sector will, for the first time, have a national, co-ordinated strategy to build and operate next-generation smart electricity networks.
The peak body for energy networks will tomorrow unveil its grand design to help operators build "modern" electricity networks that will give them access to information which was previously unattainable.

The Energy Networks Association includes ActewAGL, Aurora Energy, Country Energy, EnergyAustralia, Envestra, Ergon Energy, RailCorp NSW, SP AusNet and TransGrid.

Smart networks will show power flows in networks so utilities can automatically detect and repair faults, manage energy demands, easily detect ageing network assets and ultimately avoid crippling power blackouts.

Homes will be equipped with smart meters to monitor power usage and consumers would also be able to go online to check their power consumption patterns.

"The foundation infrastructure to build smart networks is available now," the strategy paper said. "However, before infrastructure deployment can take place electricity distribution businesses need to: perform tests, pilots and trials; develop standards and protocols; and develop commercial, policy and regulatory frameworks.

"The deployment of infrastructure will take place gradually over the next 20 years as ageing assets need replacement and as businesses are able to develop a commercial and regulatory case for investment.

"In parallel with the deployment of the smart infrastructure, businesses will need to change their processes and adapt to

new business models to fully realise the benefits of the smart network."

The ENA estimates it could take up to 30 years for the full potential of smart networks to be realised.

The two-year strategy has four priority areas for action -- the most important being consumer education and participation.

ENA will develop literature to explain the benefits of smart networks as most consumers aren't aware of its advantages and show customers how the technology can help track and eventually reduce power consumption.

ENA chief executive Andrew Blyth told The Australian he would like to model its education drive on the federal government's Digital Ready campaign, which had simple, straightforward messages four years ahead of time to explain the analogue to digital TV switchover.

"A study by McKinsey confirmed that we're neither behind nor ahead in smart networks . . . you don't want to be too ahead because you need to get the consumer with you (as a utility player)," Mr Blyth said.

The second area will focus on "customer protection mechanisms" which will see the group work alongside government to ensure new pricing arrangements don't burden consumers.

"It will be important for stakeholders to work together to ensure that the introduction of new service offerings is well understood and accepted by customers. Where a need is identified, governments will need to work with stakeholders to develop customer protection mechanisms, such as concessions, to ensure that vulnerable customers are protected from any hardship that results from new pricing arrangements that facilitate the delivery of the other smart network objectives.

"ENA's activities in this priority area involve working with other stakeholders to ensure that equity issues are addressed," the paper said.

The third area will touch on network capabilities -- the association will develop a library of commercial smart networks research and trials by the end of the year, to be updated quarterly.

The ENA will develop and advocate an industry position on spectrum needs of smart networks and work with NBN Co to deliver smart network communications.

The final point covers the development of commercial and regulatory frameworks so energy distribution companies will have a strong business case for investing in smart networks.

The ENA has been working on the strategy for the past 12 month, said Mr Blyth, who will present the strategy at the National Energy Conference in Sydney.

Meanwhile, the government's $100 million Smart City, Smart Grid project is well underway. In June EnergyAustralia was announced as the preferred applicant to trial the technology.

The government said it would sign a contract with the NSW utility to provide up to $100m in funding for the pilot.

EnergyAustralia spokeswoman Kylie Yates said the agreement was expected to be signed "very soon".

Mr Blyth said he looked forward to the results of that trial, and added that the ENA enjoyed a good relationship with new Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet, and Martin Ferguson, who retains his energy portfolio.

10 September 2010

Los Angeles Times

Is where you work making you sick? A new study finds that employees who move from buildings with poor indoor environmental quality to more healthful "green" buildings may reap some benefits, including less absenteeism and higher productivity.

The green building movement isn't just concerned with constructing buildings that are more energy efficient and environmentally responsible - they're supposed to improve indoor surroundings as well, making it more healthful and pleasant for those who work there, via lighting, ventilation, acoustics and ergonomic design.

Researchers from Michigan State University did two case studies evaluating the physical and mental health status of people who moved from traditional to green office buildings. One scenario involved 56 people and the other 207, and employees were asked through surveys about absenteeism from work in both types of buildings for asthma, allergies, depression and stress-related conditions. They were also asked about productivity in the two settings.

Both green buildings received high ratings from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification organization.

Being absent from work for asthma, allergies, depression and stress decreased following the move into the green buildings; for example, hours absent from work due to asthma and allergies was on average 1.12 per month in conventional buildings and 0.49 in green buildings. The average number of work hours affected by illness per month also declined after the move. Productivity improved.Using the numbers, researchers estimated that better health and higher productivity could translate into more work hours per year.

Researchers plan to do additional research at other sites as well as follow these employees to assess changes in health and productivity and to make sure that the results aren't due to the Hawthorne effect, a phenomenon in which people change the behavior that's being evaluated because they know they're being studied.