Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Steve Chu says US faces "Sputnik moment" with clean energy

The U.S. Secretary of State for Energy, Steven Chu, gave a speech at the National Press Club yesterday, in which he warned that "time is running out" in the race for clean energy technologies.

Dr Chu said that America may face another "Sputnik moment". In 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the first earth-orbiting space satellite.

A Nobel prize-winning physicist, Dr Chu believes that China and the E.U. may take the lead in clean energy technologies.

"Given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy, it's time for America to do what we do best: innovate."

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Monday, 29 November 2010

How to talk about "sustainability"

The Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk (left) says that the way to talk about sustainability is in terms of processes in which individuals are making something sustainable.

It's so weird that sustainability is boring because the word "interest" both connotes your interests as a human being, your interest in staying alive, and your "interest" in being interested in something. So you would expect these things to converge.

But then, on this very threatening phenomenon of the destruction of our ecosphere, you can't get people interested. All sorts of things that are boring when they come out of a scientific journal, or a scandal, or a media moment, might be interesting when it is part of the hero's journey towards a desirable goal, sustainability.

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Friday, 26 November 2010

The Economist backs renewables as "a matter of justice"

The Economist's cover story today is: How to live with climate change. The paper says, 'It won’t be stopped, but its effects can be made less bad.' Climate change also provides

an extra reason for rich countries - which caused the problem in the first place - to find ways to help poor countries develop. That is a matter of justice, not just humanity.

The paper argues that prosperity is the best protection against global warming, but it recognises that as economies grow they consume more energy, which threatens to make the problem worse.

... rich countries can help, by offering poor countries support for greener energy technologies, and thus allowing them to make use of their capacity for generating renewable energy from water, wind and sunlight.

pic: Alamy/Corbis

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Three reasons why solar portable lights have a big future in Africa

A new report from Lighting Africa (above), a joint IFC and World Bank programme, says that solar portable lights could provide access to clean and safe lighting by 2015 to an estimated 65 million Africans, who are currently either un-electrified or under-electrified.

The report puts the potential for development down to three factors: significant improvement in the quality and performance of solar portable lights in the past five years; a decline in the retail price; and product features that have been adapted to meet consumer needs.

Download the full report

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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Award-winning presents for Xmas: the cookstove

Run out of ideas for Xmas gifts? Why not give an award-winning clean stove to a camping enthusiast?

These highly efficient rocket stoves are a simple but revolutionary technology that burn wood or charcoal and cut fuel use by 40 percent or more, reducing smoke and carbon monoxide emissions by more than 50 percent.

Efficient stoves like these tackle one of the scourges of the developing world. Indoor smoke kills 1.6 million people, mainly women and children, worldwide every year.

In 2009 we awarded our Energy Champion prize to the Oregon-based Aprovecho Research Center and SSM in China who together design and manufacture affordable and efficient rocket stoves used extensively in the developing world. The company that has been set up to sell the stove, StoveTec, has sold over 50,000 in countries like India, South Africa and Chile. They aim to reach the three billion worldwide who cook on smoky open fires and inefficient stoves.

But these stoves are also available in the UK. Order and get more information and reviews from UK retailers: Wild Stoves (all the money goes to Stove Tec)and Bell Tents

Or you could donate a rocket stove to a cook in Haiti for £8.00 or fund a stove in Africa for £6.50.

For more on improved cookstoves, read our 'Stoking up a cookstove revolution' report.

(pic: StoveTec rocket stove)

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

UK faces double whammy of price rises and Arctic weather

The UK faces a double-whammy this month of price rises for gas and electricity (here here, and here) and the arrival of a blast of Arctic weather.

It's a good moment to check out our Ashden winners for home insulation (here and here) and remind ourselves of the achievements of Ashden school winners in making energy reductions.

See also Mike on saving £500 on his energy bills, Juliet on how to turn a small, cold, dark house into a Superhome and Simon on how the government's policy is shifting on fuel poverty.

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ashden winners go to INSEAD for advice on how to scale up

Last week, as part of the Ashden Business Support Programme, three of our past winners attended the world-class INSEAD Business School, on the outskirts of Paris, to help them scale up their renewable energy projects. The week-long INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme has been designed specially for those trying to balance social and financial sustainability. For each of our winners, the week came at a critical moment in their business transformation. Each left with valuable insights for the road ahead.

Mariana, our International Programme Manager also attended. When Mariana got back to the office yesterday she reported on the winners' progress:

Sky Link Innovators is facing a point of major decision: it now has to choose which biogas products to focus on and how to grow. Samwel (director) says he has left the course with a much clearer sense of the value of strategic partnerships and he is also thinking about how to manage his technicians to be as effective as possible.”

StoveTec, the commercial spin off from Aprovecho Research Center, is at a stage where it wants to massively scale up its sale of clean cookstoves over the next three years. Ben (director) has returned to work with a much clearer understanding of what models they can use to do this.”

“Lastly, Willem (director) from Rural Energy Foundation, has gained an understanding of how he might manage his staff more effectively as REF faces a turning point, as it moves from a foundation to a more financially sustainable social enterprise.”

“All of our winners left with a massive boost in energy and inspiration, overall it was the interaction and support from other social entrepreneurs facing similar challenges that they valued as well as hearing detailed case studies about how other amazing projects have managed to achieve scale”.

(pic: Mariana, Willem, Samwel and Ben at the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme)

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Monday, 22 November 2010

AIDFI now in top three for BBC World Challenge

AID Foundation: 2007 Ashden Award winner
(pic: children using water from AIDFI pumps in the Phillipines)

News today in the Visayan Daily Star announces that AIDFI (who won an Ashden Award in 2007) is in the top three projects shortlisted for BBC World Challenge. The overall winner will be announced on 29 November at a high-profile ceremony in Amsterdam. It looks as if AIDFI's hard work to secure votes is paying off.

See also:
Ram pumps provide fresh water
AID Foundation selected as finalist for BBC World Challenge

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Friday, 19 November 2010

D.light's solar lighting changes 2 million lives

D.light design, our 2010 International Gold Award winners, announced this week that its solar-powered lighting products has impacted on two million lives. The two million milestone was reached only eight months after the one million milestone. Since the launch of their product line in 2008, the social enterprise has sold solar lanterns to off-grid households in more than 40 countries.

The impact is impressive: d.light customers are saving $60 million over the lifetime of the products while increased productivity from access to better lighting puts another $65 million into the pockets of poor rural families. Furthermore, d.light lamps are reducing carbon emissions by 82,600 tonnes.

President Ned Tozun says:

“Our goal remains to replace every kerosene lantern with clean, safe and bright light. D.light will continue to push boundaries in affordability and effective distribution to reach every single household that does not have access to reliable electricity.”

The company’s goal is to impact 100 million lives by the end of 2020.

(Pic: D.light solar lamp owners in Tanzania)

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Green Deal "needs to be flexible" to help the fuel poor

With current hikes in fuel prices, the issue of lifting people out of fuel poverty is of growing concern. Fuel poverty is defined as when more than 10% of household income is spent on fuel bills. Today there are over 4.6 million people in the UK who are considered 'fuel poor'.

At an event yesterday, hosted by Eaga Charitable Trust, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners, came together to suggest how fuel poverty might be tackled in the light of predicted and continuing energy price rises.

Simon, our UK Business Support Manager, was there, and explains, here, how the solutions might work.

"Of course, the real solution lies in bringing the 26 million UK properties that are not efficient up to the energy efficiency standard of new homes."

"The current coalition government has announced the delivery of the ‘Green Deal’, which will replace programmes like Warm Front and the other of energy supplier obligations programmes that currently exist.

"What is being planned is a market-led ‘Pay As You Save’ scheme. Money for energy savings measures, like solid wall insulation, condensing boilers, or micro generation technologies, could be received in the form of a long-term loan which is paid back (in theory) by the energy savings the measures create."

"However, the ‘fly in the ointment’, for those in fuel poverty, is that taking out loans when you are already poor may not be attractive: you may use more energy as a result of having (say) central heating installed, rather than the one or two rooms you currently heat. As was discussed yesterday, paying back a loan rather than a fuel bill does not lift you out of fuel poverty."

"The Green Deal needs to be flexible enough to offer moderations to the scheme, so that it allows subsidies to be paid to poor households, so that the equations that work for those who are already in warm homes are also applicable to the fuel poor".

(pic: Ashden Award winners Kirklees Council has supported the installation of energy efficiency measures, such as this cavity wall installation, in houses across the region)

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Green Apple award goes to Eritrean cookstoves

(pic: Debasai with improved cookstove owner)

In 2003, Eritrea's Department of Energy Research and Training Center (or ERTC) won an Ashden Award for the design of a new stove for cooking traditional injera bread. Since then, 110,000 stoves have been installed across rural Eritrea.

This week the Eritrean Ministry of Energy and Mines (of which ERTC is a part) has gone on to win a Green Apple Award as International Gold Award Winner for the Built Environment. Debesai Gebrehiwet, ERTC's director, collected the award on Monday.

Yesterday Debesai dropped into the office with the new award. He stressed once again the impact that the cookstoves have on society in general.

“I knew I had to create a better design for existing cookstoves, to save energy, the environment and women. The cookstove is a family matter, because everyone is there, everyone is affected. Making a change with cookstoves makes a good change in the family and in society as a whole.”

Debesai also showed us some of the feedback he's getting. One user, Mrs Abeba Tsefamichael said,

“No words can express how much I am satisfied. As I am a mother of eight children, I have to bake Injera every three days. Thus, I used to consume almost two quintals of wood and animal dung per month. However from the time that I started making use of the modern Mogogo I have never consumed more than a quintal of fire wood per month."

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TV viewers get a tour of Juliet's SuperHome

Juliet's SuperHome was featured on last night's Anglia Tonight. It's online now. The intro runs:

For many of us, winter energy bills are a huge worry- but now a family from Essex have been showing how achieving 'superhome' status can change that. The refurbished house in Tollesbury has reduced its carbon footprint by at least 60 per cent.

How to turn a small, cold, dark house into a SuperHome
This Sunday you can visit Juliet's SuperHome

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Save energy, save money: cavity walls

The thermal image above shows heat loss in a row of houses. The house in yellow has cavity wall insulation. In the first in a new series 'Save Energy, Save Money', Mike Pepler explains the basics.

Most houses built since about 1920 have a 'cavity wall', which means there are actually two layers of bricks with a cavity between them.

When this cavity is filled with air, the walls account for about a third of the heat loss from an average house - and that's costing you money when you pay for your energy.

If the cavity is filled with an insulating material, the heat loss can be reduced by up to 70%, saving energy and saving you money - typically £110/year at 2010 prices.

How to tell if you have cavity walls
It's possible to tell what types of wall you have by looking at the pattern of the bricks. The Energy Saving Trust has a page showing you how to do this.

How to tell if your cavity walls are already insulated
Houses built since 1990s should have had their cavity walls insulated when they were built. If your house is older than that, but you don't know if a previous owner insulated the walls, you can tell by looking for places on the outside wall where holes have been drilled and filled with mortar.
cavity wall insulation installed
If you’re not sure, a free survey by an insulation company will determine whether insulation has been installed

Getting cavity wall insulation installed.
Cavity wall insulation needs to be professionally installed by a company registered with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. One of the easiest ways to find a reputable installer in your area is to contact your local council, as they will be able to recommend one to you and also help you with grants. Alternatively, you can contact the Energy Saving Trust for advice.

The full cost of cavity wall insulation for a 3-bedroom semi-detached house is about £500, but with the various grants available you should pay no more than £250, and perhaps a lot less. Depending on your age and income, it might even be free! With savings of around £110 a year, the payback is very quick.

The insulation is installed by drilling small holes in outer wall of the house:
Leeds City Council - 2008 Ashden Award winner

and then injecting foam or mineral wool to fill the cavity:
Kirklees Council - 2009 Ashden Award winner

Once the cavity is filled, the holes will be filled with mortar to reseal the wall.

What if you have solid walls?

If you don’t have a cavity wall, there are still ways of insulating the walls. We’ll be writing about these soon, but if you can’t wait, then the Energy Saving Trust has some advice.

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Forget 3% cuts: companies need big hairy audacious goals

When it comes to making rapid progress on sustainability issues within major companies, small is not always beautiful. William Todd, head of operations for PepsiCo UK and Ireland, says innovation is triggered by setting big hairy audacious goals:

"This forces us to look at every area of our operations and encourages ideas to bubble up. If you come up with a commitment, say to reduce energy by 3% next year, you will not get people engaged or any real financial engagement. But if you set an engaging vision, you can get a coalition of people excited by the possibilities."

See also: Jonathon Porritt says Unilever's environmental audit and sustainable agriculture plans are a gamechanger for the way global companies behave

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

College students cutting energy compete to be "biggest loser"

About 40 colleges in the U.S. and Canada are competing for "biggest loser" status by cutting energy and water use in the Campus Conservation Nationals. The competitors are using an online app called Building Dashboard (pic), which makes energy and water use visible in real time on the web. (Ht: CP.)

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Friday, 12 November 2010

Chris addresses delegates from 12 sub-Saharan countries on solar and stoves

Ashden Award winner Chris Mulindwa (left), from the Rural Energy Foundation, yesterday addressed 12 partner organisations from across sub-Saharan Africa on climate change and sustainable technologies.

He was guest speaker at a joint international workshop in Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria, organised by the Baring and John Ellerman Foundations.

This was a valuable opportunity for Chris to show the effectiveness of solar and stove equipment to delegates from Mauritania, Ghana, Chad, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and, of course, Uganda.

The purpose of the week had been to share experiences of working with displaced peoples and focus on women, rights and education. Chris wrote to us:

I am mainly going to talk about two challenges - indoor air pollution and lack of access to electricity. I will then share with the delegates some of the technologies available to deal with these challenges (efficient cook stoves and solar energy), the benefits gained from using these technologies (better health, income generation and saving and environmental conservation) and I will share with them the approach that Rural Energy Foundation has taken to diffuse these technologies (market development).

The Rural Energy Foundation won the 2010 Ashden Award for Africa, which was supported by the John Ellerman Foundation.

Update - Chris comments on the response: "A lot of interest was shown by the delegates. It was really eye opening for them, especially the statistics on the deaths caused by smoke and indoor pollution and the lack of access to electricity in Africa. They were also surprised about some of the new technologies which are more affordable like the D.light Kiran and the Barefoot Power Firefly...I've even received an invitation from one of the organizations that attended to talk about the same subject".

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

This evening's live webinar on campaigning and climate change

5pm-6pm: This blog is listening to the webinar about campaigning and climate change (5pm, London time). The first speaker "Pre-COP Communicating Climate Change" is Lorraine Whitmarsh (left), lecturer in Environmental Psychology. Whitmarsh says:

"The public is going to be asked to change energy use in profound ways."

"The evidence suggests that public engagement with climate change is pretty limited."

The next speaker Chris Rose, communications consultant and author of How To Win Campaigns contrasts reflexive and reflective thinking, and maps out society in terms of prospectors, settlers and pioneers. Rose says:

"Nearly all the calls for climate action have come from one bit of the map."

His advice? "Start from where people are - don't try to change minds by changing values."

"If you start by thinking you want to win an argument, it's almost always the worst way."

(Slides and recording of this Earthcast available 10am tomorrow.)

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Sir David picks 12 photographers for sustainability prize

The shortlist for the Third Prix Pictet, the prize for photography and sustainability, was announced today. The theme for this year is 'Growth'. A preview of the shortlisted photographers' works is on show at Galerie Filles du Calvaire, Paris, until 29 November.

The winner will be announced by HE Kofi Annan at the award ceremony in Paris on 17 March 2011. The shortlist was chosen by an independent jury from submissions by over 450 photographers.

The eight-member jury is chaired by Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at Oxford and an Ashden Advocate. Today's statement said the jury looked for photographic series of the highest artistic merit

that also presented a convincing narrative about the critical issues of sustainability and in particular, the theme of Growth. Growth, which lifts countless millions out of poverty, also has a huge and potentially unsustainable environmental cost. It presents one of the great conundrums facing humanity in the early decades of the twenty-first century.

Sir David said, "Any one of these twelve artists would be a worthy winner."

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Harish says, "Look at the need, tailor the product"

The travel writer Frank Bures visits Africa and reports on why technology is "Africa's latest, greatest poverty fighter". Bures' article considers the work of two Ashden Award winners: D.light Design and SELCO. Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, of D.light Design tells him,

"Providing bright light really impacts so many facets of people's lives. It essentially extends their day. It allows them to work for longer hours and more productively. It lets children study longer."

Harish Hande of SELCO says:

"In the traditional, top-down methodology, it's a one-sided supply chain, where the product goes down to the poor. We go from the opposite side. We look at what the need is, then tailor the product to the need."

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

IEA calls for end of government subsidies for fossil fuels

The International Energy Agency calls for governments to stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Last year governments - mainly in the developing world - spent $312bn subsidising coal oil, gas and coal. The BBC's Roger Harrabin reports that the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2010 - released today - says:

"Subsidies that artificially lower energy prices encourage wasteful consumption and undermine the competitiveness of renewable and more energy-efficient technologies."

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Is a Republican town in Kansas the greenest in the world?

Is Greensburg, a Republican-voting town in Kansas, where many people are sceptical of climate science, actually the greenest town in the world?

On May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, was destroyed by an F5 tornado. Almost every building in town was leveled. Eleven were killed, dozens injured. Yet within days, the people of Greensburg had committed to rebuild their town, and to rebuild green. Today, Greensburg is the greenest town in the USA, and maybe the world.


Pic: Greensburg Community Art Center (H-t: Inhabitat)

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ITV visits house with energy bills of less than £100 a year

In September Mike visited The Recycled House at the same time as ITV's Meridian Tonight. The cost of renovations and energy-saving refurbishments at The Recycled House has been £140,000 (with about half of that spent on energy-savings). The result? The Recycled House has cut its carbon emissions by 90%.

Meridian Tonight was impressed by a house with energy bills of less than £100 a year:

“Green technologies like solar panels and tapping into natural heat from the ground are revolutionising the way we light and warm our homes."

Watch the video, which includes an interview with Mike.

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Monday, 8 November 2010

Live blogging and tweeting the webinar on climate change

This blog has signed up to the webinar about campaigning and climate change on Thursday at 5pm (London time). Topics include:

Different roles the public can play in tackling climate change
Behaviour change strategies for encouraging sustainable lifestyles and communities
Messages about climate change that engage the public (and those that don’t)

The speakers on "Pre-COP Communicating Climate Change" are Chris Rose, environmental campaigner and communications consultant, and Lorraine Whitmarsh, lecturer in Environmental Psychology. We'll be blogging and tweeting the webinar from 5. Join in.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Public turns up to see how Juliet turned a small cold dark house into a SuperHome

The day of our first superhome opening began with a final burst of frenetic cleaning of windows and floors, and praying for some sunshine to show off the passive solar gain. It was our lucky day: we were rewarded with plenty of sunshine and a steady trickle of visitors, all keen to do energy saving on their properties.

A WI member brought her husband; some neighbours interrupted their Sunday lunch for a curious glimpse; another neighbour with horribly high electricity bills was looking for tips. Later the sustainability officer from the council turned up with her colleague from the Energy Saving Trust – both young and passionate about their jobs (must be, working on a Sunday!) and keen to align with us as their local “energy champions”.

It was amusing to see some reactions when they walked in the house, which is often called a Tardis. It’s a 100-year-old terraced house that looks tiny from the outside but when you enter it’s spacious and flooded with light. Some anticipated a new build: “I was expecting to see a spanking new eco house!” commented a local reporter who was clearly pleasantly surprised and interested. He even gleaned some tips on insulation and where to get biomass for his stove.

Journalists from the local press and Anglia TV interviewed the whole family, including 11-year old Callum who rose to the challenge. There was much amusement as everyone watched the TV reporter do her piece to camera demonstrating the energy monitor with Callum by switching the kettle on, only to be interrupted for the third time by the dog barking at the next arrival.

Our visitors came from as far as Burnham on Crouch and Manningtree, some 20 miles away, having read an article about us in one of the local papers. Word also passed through the transition town networks, some great nation-wide initiatives that are making communities more resilient to peak oil and climate change.

Although we stressed the money-saving benefits in our publicity about the superhome, hoping to attract some of the un-energy-savvy locals many of those who turned up didn’t need convincing, they were already planning or doing green measures on their own properties and looking to share ideas with like-minded people. Let’s hope at least some of them can become future superhomers to join the growing network. Our immediate target: 100 by March next year.

See This Sunday you can visit Juliet's SuperHome and How to turn a small, cold, dark house into a SuperHome

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Antiques Roadshow ends with thoroughly modern 100th Object

Last night’s episode of the Antiques Roadshow, which took place at the British Museum, ended by highlighting Radio Four’s 100th object.

The solar lamp and charger has received good media coverage following the announcement last month. But this was special: Sunday night on BBC2, on a programme that regularly draws 5.5 million viewers.

The show’s panel of experts pitched in with their own ideas for a 100th item that represented the modern age. There was the SatNav: “nothing has done more for domestic harmony”. There was the pair of rubber clogs: “They’ve changed my life at the seaside". And there was the microchip: “I’ve never seen it, I don’t know how it works, but it has changed everybody’s lives.”

But last night's Antiques Roadshow finished with the 100th Object - the solar-powered lamp, which is housed within the British Museum. The Museum's director, Neil MacGregor, said, "In fact, it's sunshine, captured, harvested and stored, to be taken out and used wherever and whenever we need it."

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Friday, 5 November 2010

Dale reaches 120mph in wind-powered car

Dale Vince, director of Ecotricity, an Ashden Award winner in 2007, takes the Guardian's John Vidal on a test drive of his electric sports car, the Nemesis

"I like to think of it as a wind-powered car because it's important in the whole debate about the shift to electric cars that we don't forget that the electricity has to come from somewhere and in our case what we've built here is a wind-powered car."

Dale has done 120 mph in his electric supercar and hopes, in a few months, to beat the record of 138-9 mph.

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Neil MacGregor on what the 100 Objects teach us

In an interview in today's Independent, the British Museum's director, Neil MacGregor, explains the lesson that can be learnt from a series about 100 Objects, that extends from a two million-year-old stone tool found in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania to the solar-powered lamp from Shenzhen (pic).

"Once you have seen that different societies can organise themselves in different ways, the inevitable conclusion is that social order is contingent and therefore changeable. That totally transforms the role of the citizen, doesn't it? The citizen can change his polity, and then the consequences for society are enormous."

Nick Stern says solar power can free communities from corrupt practices,
In one hour from the sun, we get enough energy for a year,
100th Object introduces us to “the noise of the day",
100th object reminds us of extraordinary amount the semiconductor transistor has done for 21st century life
100th Object going "to change the way we think",
After today's 99th Object, one more to go,
From 100th Object to 100s of solar projects,
What the Twitterverse thinks of 100th Object,
100th Object: "a story worthy of this generation",
Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object,
Tomorrow’s vote on 100th Object keeps solar in the news,
Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship
Will solar powered lamp be 100th Object?

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

AIDFI works hard for votes in last week of BBC World Challenge

(Pic: AIDFI gathers votes at a local college)

The BBC World Challenge is simple: be an innovative project that makes a real difference at the grassroots somewhere across the globe. The AID Foundation (AIDFI) in the Philippines certainly fits the bill. Its use of a simple technology, ram pumps - where the power of a river’s flow pushes water uphill - is saving time and money for 50,000 villagers.

An Ashden winner in 2007, AIDFI was selected as a World Challenge finalist this summer. Over the past two months, volunteers and staff have worked hard to secure votes. AIDFI has also been visited by an ABS-CBN film crew who, trekking across the mountains of the Philippines, recorded the impact of ram pumps in remote communities (pic below).

AIDFI Director Auke Idzenga has been manning the miniature ram pump display in a shopping centre in Bacolod City on Negros island (pic above). The display has attracted the crowds. Auke says:

“Even when you have completely explained how the system works. They will still ask at the end: ‘no fuel, no electricity?' The funniest reactions come after you tell the visitors at the display that the main spare part is an ordinary door hinge. They just shake their head.”

Auke says many of the shoppers in the Mall come back to vote.

“People first pass by the display, accept the leaflet with all the info, then disappear in the mall for a few hours, and then many people come to our booth and vote. They understand and are very, very proud that such a programme and product was developed on their island.”

For AIDFI, getting more votes is not just about the World Challenge.

“The campaign itself is one big gain for AIDFI. It's triggering so much publicity and officials are getting to know us more. What is very important is that people not only vote but as well share the link on their own Facebook page and their networks.”

Voting for AIDFI’s ram pump project closes midnight on 12th November. You can vote for AIDFI here.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Geological Society says emitting more CO2 "likely to be unwise"

The Geological Society has prepared a position statement on climate change, focusing specifically on the geological evidence. As you would expect, it takes the long view. It considers:

What is climate change, and how do geologists know about it?
What are the grounds for concern?
When and how did today’s climate become established?
What drives climate change?
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
What effect do natural cycles of climate change have on the planet?
Has sudden climate change occurred before?
Are there more recent examples of rapid climate change?
How did levels of CO2 in the atmosphere change during the ice age?
How has carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere changed over the longer term?
How has carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changed in recent times?
When was CO2 last at today’s level, and what was the world like then?
When global temperature changed, did the same change in temperature happen everywhere?

and, finally,

In conclusion - what does the geological record tell us about the potential effect of continued emissions of CO2?

The answer:

"it is reasonable to conclude that emitting further large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere over time is likely to be unwise, uncomfortable though that fact may be."

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Five of the toughest energy questions for scientists

1. Could we support our current western lifestyle with only "renewable" energy?

2. Do you agree with the US Joint Forces Command (JFC) that spare capacity in global oil production may very well disappear in 2012 and a shortfall of 10m barrels per day develop by 2015?

3. The world's population is due to rise to 9 billion people. Can the planet supply the energy needed to achieve that end?

4. What's your best case scenario for the world's energy supply mix in 50 years time? What's your worst case scenario? And where you you think we'll actually be?

5. Is energy storage - ie battery technology - one of the biggest things holding back renewables and widespread energy efficiency?


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Delegates at the Hague this week are looking for 'climate smart' solutions: we suggest a few

The Down2Earth Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change is taking place this week (31st October-5th November) at the Hague. International organisations, companies and civic organisations have come together in the Netherlands with delegates from over 80 countries to build a roadmap for facing the triple challenges of climate change, poverty and food security.

They will be looking for ways to achieve climate smart growth within our global agricultural system, that is, growth within the agricultural sector that tackles the twin issues of poverty and the need for climate mitigation and adaptation.

May we suggest that delegates look to the work of some Ashden Award winners for concrete examples of climate smart growth?

Our winners are producing biogas for cooking and fertilizing crops, developing solar drying techniques adding value (and income) to fruit crops and using simple treadle-powered pumps and ‘drip’ irrigation to expand the production of smallholders. They are at the forefront of solutions tackling rural poverty, food security and a changing climate.

Today’s focus on finance models addressed a question that has been key for Ashden winners: "what are the business and funding models that will deliver the adaptation and mitigation solutions needed within agricultural development?"

Tomorrow the Down2Earth Conference will hear keynote speeches from Kofi Annan, HRH Princess Máxima of the Netherlands and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute.

For more discussion on sustainable agriculture see:

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Most popular 10 blogs in October

We've just checked the stats to see which blog had the most visits last month. The winner was the solar-powered lamp, with Juliet's SuperHome (a late entry) attracting a lot of interest in the last few days. Jo's visit to the biogas plant at SKG - published in March - is still in the Top 10.

1. Will solar-powered lamp be 100th Object of the World? (12 October 2010)
2. How to turn a small, cold, dark house into a SuperHome (27 October 2010)
3. Didcot pilots an energy source close to home (5 October 2010)
4. What the twitterverse thinks of the 100th Object (14 October 2010)
5. When electricity boards went on the offensive (27 October 2010)
6. Mike set to save £500-£600 on gas and electricity (29 October 2010)
7. Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object (14 October 2010)
8. Brazil's ex-energy minister could become 'most powerful woman in the world' (7 October 2010)
9. Jo sees installation of biogas plant at SKG (10 March 2010)
10. Dulas brings Endurance wind turbines to the UK (31 August 2010)

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Zardari sees opportunities in Pakistan for 'massive investment' in renewables

President Zardari said yesterday that Pakistan offers promising opportunities for massive investment in alternative energy sources. President Zardari was presiding over meetings on ‘Alternative Energy Options’ available to energy-starved Pakistan.

He advised the authorities concerned that all the new houses being built in the rural areas of Sindh under Behan Benazir Basti Programme should be provided with solar or wind power. The president also said new street lights should be solar/LED-based, billboards and electronic power-based neon signs should be converted to solar, and special industrial hubs set up in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan based on the wind power harnessed in these areas.

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First and largest referendum on clean energy policy

Strong aggressive messaging from climate hawks in California - including its Governor (left) - ensured that voters yesterday rejected Proposition 23, which sought to repeal the 2006 Global Warming Act.

Time magazine describes this result as:

a decisive and historic victory for the state’s clean energy economy, clean air and climate policy. The defeat of the Dirty Energy Proposition signifies the first and largest public referendum in history on clean energy policy.

(Hat-tip: Climate Progress)

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tonight's TV: "priceless goodies and quirky too"

Recommended TV tonight: Part Two of The Secret Life of the National Grid (BBC4 9pm). Part One was a hit in this office, and others agreed.

The New Statesman's TV reviewer said the series director, Gaby Hornsby, is

an extremely deft film-maker, and her documentaries manage to be not only comprehensive - crammed with technical and historical detail, not to mention priceless goodies from the film archives - but quirky, too.

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This Sunday you can visit Juliet's SuperHome

Last week we reported in how to turn a small, cold, dark house into a superhome on how Juliet, Ashden's Media and PR Manager, had transformed her three-bedroom Edwardian terrace house in Essex.

Her local paper, Maldon and Burnham Standard, devoted two pages to the story and quoted Juliet, saying:

"We want people to see how warm and comfy the house is and that you don't have to spend loads of money."

Now people can see for themselves. This Sunday Juliet and her partner Ian Daglish (pictured) are opening their SuperHome in Wycke Lane, Tollesbury to the public between 11am and 3pm. More info: juliet@julietheller.co.uk

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40 years of you and your energy

As You and Yours celebrates its 40th Birthday, Julian Worricker takes a look how energy has shaped the past four decades and how attitudes to energy policy have changed during the lifetime of Radio 4's midday consumer programme.

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Brazil elections "pivotal time" for two Ashden winners

Brazil has elected Dilma Rousseff as its first female president. In her victory speech, Ms Rousseff said her first priority would be to lift 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. The BBC reports that Ms Rousseff is expected to increase the state's involvement in mining and to oversee the huge expansion of Brazil's oil industry.

Two Ashden Awards winners - CRELUZ and Creral - come from the state of Rio Grande do Sol, where Ms Rousseff was originally Secretary of State for Energy.

Valdair Pedro, Director of Finance and Administration at CRELUZ, says this is a "pivotal" moment for the company.

"Election times are always a unique moment in the life of a nation, and it's a pivotal time for CRELUZ: each government proposes different policies in relation to social and environmental work.

The previous government has been good for us in relation to environmental work - its model of working had guaranteed the continuation of our projects in every area, in the technical, social and environmental, given over to the fact that its politics centre around social and environmental issues.

It is important for us that the previous government's agenda will be continued so that we can carry on with our projects for generating clean and sustainable energy. We are currently investigating the installation of new forms of renewable that currently have incentives under the government in areas such as the generation of solar, wind and other forms of energy"

See Brazil's ex-Energy Minister could become Most Powerful Woman in the World.

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