Friday, 30 January 2009

Carbon price crash

Carbon trading is often seen as a mechanism to fund development of sustainable energy solutions, particularly in developing countries, but the effects of recession around the world are hitting the price, potentially cutting funds for some projects. The BBC reports:

It [the EU carbon trading scheme] seemed like a market solution to global warming in Europe, but initially many of these permits were given away for nothing.

Now, as recession bites, industries like steel, cement and glass may be polluting less, but only because they're producing less. So companies are desperately selling off the carbon credits they no longer need to bolster their faltering balance sheets. That has led to a big drop in the market value of carbon permits, and as the right to pollute becomes cheaper, there is less incentive for companies to stop polluting.

Read the full story here.

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Friday, 23 January 2009

AID Foundation joins Clinton Global Initative

AID Foundation International (AIDFI), who won an Ashden Award for their work with ram pumps to supply water to remote villages in the Philippines, have joined the Clinton Global Initiative:
Auke Idzenga, one of the founders of AIDFI was personally invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiatives-Asia held in Hong Kong from December 2-3, 2008.

President Clinton travelled to Hong Kong to join several hundred Asian leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds to further strengthen social and global responsibility in Asia, and move toward the benefits achieved through collaboration.

This meeting was similar in format to the Annual Meetings in New York. The meeting focused on three primary areas of discussion: education, energy & climate change, and public health. As an integral part of membership, each CGI Asia participant made a Commitment to Action—a new, specific, and measurable initiative that addresses a social, economic, or environmental problem of the member’s choosing.

The commitment made by AIDFI:

Supplying Water to the Uplands - Spreading the Technology
The Alternative Indigenous Development Inc. (AIDFI) commits to a two-year program that would establish self-sustaining ram pump manufacturing and installation capacity in Colombia, Indonesia and Madagascar, and scale-up its existing program of hydraulic ram pump installations in upland communities in the Philippines. The program seeks to address the problem of a lack of easy access to water in rural communities in these countries. Lack of water leads to poor hygiene and sanitation, and limits agricultural activities. In addition to providing access to water, the program will establish a self-sustaining manufacturing, installation and maintenance capacity in each of these countries.

This commitment program would follow the technology transfer approach that AIDFI implemented with good effect in Afghanistan. It will be rolled out sequentially across the specified countries to allow learning from each country to be incorporated in subsequent activities. In addition, to scale up its existing operations in the Philippines, AIDFI will provide training and guidance of installation teams from other provinces, hold conferences for installation teams to share their knowledge and experience between communities and monitor the work of the installation teams to maintain quality standards.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Svati Bhogle interviewed by Energia

Svati Bhogle, of TIDE, won the Energy Champion Ashden Award in 2008 for TIDE's work with biomass stoves. She has recently been interviewed by Energia for the Asian Gender and Energy Network Newsletter, and when asked about the future of the stoves she said:

We have demonstrated that stoves have been accepted by end-users, which has significantly reduced firewood consumption and created profit for entrepreneurs and end users. However, we estimate that so far we have reached out to just about 5% of the potential users of our stoves. The future direction for us is to reach out to a large percentage of potential users. We need to develop dissemination strategies that are market-driven and focused on achieving scale. This involves new activities in product design so that stoves are made in production centres either installed or assembled on site, in market development and removing financial barriers that would inhibit the adoption of stoves in large quantity.
You can read the full article on page 7 of the newsletter, which can be downloaded here.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Nepal struggles with electricity shortages

Nepal has huge hydropower resources, and the Centre for Rural Technology won an Ashden Award in 2007 for their work upgrading water mills. However, in recent weeks there have been daily power cuts of 12-14 hours, due to low water levels in rivers. The bad news is that the government is turning to fossil fuels to fill the gap, according to this BBC news article:

Declaring the national power crisis recently, it [the government] brought out a work plan consisting of emergency, short and long-term measures. Installation of the diesel-powered plants was considered to be part of the emergency work plan.

But energy experts say this approach is wrong, especially for a nation with access to so much potential hydropower.

"The decision by the government to bring in 200MW of diesel generation is indeed a step backwards," says Biksh Pandey, a director of Winrock International, a clean energy specialist organisation.

"While the world is moving from dirty to clean energy, Nepal would be going in the other direction."

Criticism from a number of areas led to speculation that the government might change its mind on the diesel decision. But Water Resources Minister Bishnu Poudel did not give the impression of someone about to change their mind. "After the last announcement of the measures to deal with load shedding, we have not made any new decision," he told the BBC.

This suggests that the government is sticking to its plans; one of which is to switch from renewable energy sources to a growing dependence on fossil fuels.

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Small wind turbines criticised

Encraft have just published their report on small wind turbines, known as the Warwick Wind Trials, which was supported by the British Wind Energy Association and the Micropower Council. The full report can be downloaded here.

The report states that:

The average energy generated per turbine per day across the sample set has been 214 Wh (including times when turbines were switched off for maintenance or due to failures). This is equivalent to an average of 78 kWh of energy produced per site per year and an average capacity factor of 0.85%. (This compares to typical capacity factors of between 10% and 30% for larger turbines on free standing sites in good areas).

If the results are adjusted to exclude data from periods when turbines were switched off or broken the average energy generated per turbine per day rises to 628 Wh (230kWh per year equivalent) and an average capacity factor of 4.15%.

Of particular note is that turbines on our high rise sites, Eden, Ashton and Southorn Court were able generate as much energy in one month as other turbines in the trial did in one year. It is unfortunate that these high performing turbines had to remain switched off for the majority of the trial following complaints about noise from the building residents.
and comes to the conclusion:
Overall the trial has painted a picture of an industry and technology that is still at development stage and is likely to make a tangible contribution to energy and carbon saving only on the most exposed sites and tallest buildings. The combination of this reality, aggressive and over-optimistic marketing by some suppliers, and the enthusiasm and credulity of the market (and regulators) has potentially led to an unfortunate outcome where the wind industry as a whole is in danger of suffering from a setback in credibility.

The evidence form this trial is that such potential setbacks can be avoided in future by greater openness by the industry as a whole, and more effort to educate the market and opinion formers about the fundamental science and challenges of new technologies earlier. Micro-technologies need not fear customer resistance, because there are plenty of early adopters out there willing to give things a go. Sustainable technologies and a sustainable future require customers who are properly informed and able to take individual decisions that are both economically optimal and environmentally sustainable. Without open data this is impossible.
To get the whole picture, make sure you download the full report, which includes detailed data on the trials.

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Onil stove on NPR

NPR have published a story on Don O'Neal and the Onil stove he designed. The stove is used by Helps International in Guatemala in a project which won an Ashden Award in 2004.

You can read the NPR article here.

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New SELCO blog

SELCO, who won Ashden Awards in 2005 and 2007 for their work in solar powered lighting, have just launched a new blog that their employees will contribute to. You can read it here:

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World

The latest "State of the World" report from the Worldwatch Institute is now available, here's what they say about it:

It is New Year’s Day, 2101. Somehow, humanity survived the worst of global warming—the higher temperatures and sea levels and the more intense droughts and storms—and succeeded in stabilizing Earth’s climate.

What did humanity do in the twenty-first century, and especially in 2009 and the years immediately following, to snatch a threatened world from the jaws of climate change catastrophe? State of the World 2009 examines solutions that may help us avoid climate catastrophe and build a sustainable society.

You can download chapters of the book for free here, and buy a full paper copy here.

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Friday, 16 January 2009

Financing domestic biogas plants

In October 2008 there was an international workshop on this topic, held in Bangkok and sponsored by the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV).

Several past Ashden Award winners were at the workshop, including:

The proceedings, hosted by the HEDON website, are now available, click here to download them.

The conclusion notes that the provision of transparent and direct financial incentives to rural farmers is a key factor in the uptake of biogas plants in SNV projects, where the finance is only available for plants that meet the required quality standards. The provision of subsidies and/or credit specifically for biogas plants is needed because they don't offer a way of earning income, but instead offer the user a chance to reduce costs, so allowing them to afford to repay the money loaned.

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Sustainable Energy - without the hot air

This book is available to download free of charge at

Here's a review by Dave Howey of Imperial College:

"'Sustainable Energy - without the hot air' by David JC MacKay. There are many books available about sustainable energy, but this book is unique and interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, it is available to download in its entirety for free online at the author's website Secondly, it is written by a physics professor at Cambridge University who has carefully and laboriously assembled the evidence to show just how serious our energy problem is (with a particular focus on the UK), but also precisely what could actually be done about it. By allowing the physical limitations to speak for themselves, MacKay produces some conclusions along the way that may surprise some. For example, he discusses why heat pumps are a much better option than combined heat and power (CHP) for heating our buildings, why electric vehicles make sense (but hydrogen is a bit of a red-herring), and why biofuels for transport do not add up in the UK. It is a coherent, witty, thorough and best of all hopeful review of future energy options."
(Thanks to HEDON for the story)

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Charcoal prices soar in Uganda reports:

Kampala — MOST Kampala residents have shifted from using electricity to charcoal, previously regarded as a cheap source of energy for the poor. But the charcoal prices have doubled within less than a year . Further increases are predicted if nothing is done to put things right. Gerald Tenywa tells how the masses are coping.

AISHA Kamara, a resident of Kinawataka, a Kampala suburb, leads a life full of challenges. "We have food, but no charcoal to cook with," says the 33-year-old Kamara. "So we look for wood chips and gather sawdust, which we use to cook."

She sends out her three young daughters to scavenge for whatever their little hands can get in order to have food ready. Charcoal, which used to be a cheap and easy source of energy for the poor like Kamara has become expensive.

"We can no longer afford to use charcoal everyday," she says. In a survey conducted by The New Vision, a sack of charcoal goes for an average of sh30,000 up from sh25,000 in October-November. The average price of charcoal was sh 15,000 last year, but has remained unstable. In Byeyogerere, Kireka and Banda, the prices range from sh28,000 to sh30,000 per sack.

Read the full story here

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Intelligence Squared Green Festival on Climate Change

The Ashden Awards are partners for the Intelligence Squared Green Festival on Climate Change taking place on Sunday January 25th at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Click on the link below to register and use the promotion code ‘Friend’ to get 20 percent off tickets

Svati Bhogle, director of TIDE in India, who won the 2008 Ashden Energy Champion award for their work on biomass stoves, will speak, and you can visit the Ashden Award display of low-carbon technology from developing countries.

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