Tasmanian island to be powered by wave energy

February 3, 2021 by  
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In about one month’s time, a remote Tasmanian island will be powered by wave energy. If the test project is successful, King Island residents will enjoy renewable energy harnessed from wave swells. This will make the island one of the few places on Earth where three forms of clean energy are used. Currently, about two-thirds of the island’s energy needs are covered by wind and solar power. The island of 1,700 people is being used as an example of how renewable energy can be adopted in the modern world. The project has been backed by federal agents and other investors, and it is led by Wave Swell Energy, a progressive energy company based in Australia . Tom Denniss, the co-founder of Wave Swell Energy, explained how the wave energy harnessing system works. Related: First-of-its-kind device prototype harnesses renewable energy from ocean waves “It’s very much like an artificial blowhole,” Denniss said. “There’s a big underwater chamber that’s open out the front, so the water is forced into the chamber. It pushes that air back and forth. The movement of air that spins the turbine and produces electricity.” Studies have shown that Australia’s southern coast has the potential to generate huge amounts of wave energy . A study carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that the huge swells of waves on the coast can generate commercially viable power. Research showed that if wave energy is well-harnessed in Australia, it could cover up to 11% of the country’s energy needs by mid-century. “Clearly there’s a massive wave resource . It’s definitely a resource worth pursuing,” Denniss said. “We’ll have something soon but it’ll still be relatively small. It’s the future we’re looking towards.” The project uses a boat-like structure that floats on water . The structure is expected to harness about 200kW of power, but Wave Swell Energy has plans for a bigger model. “This is just a demonstration of the technology at this stage,” Denniss explained. “The aim of the project is to get a good estimate and generate data on how much it produces in different-sized waves. We want to see all different-sized waves so that we know across the full range of conditions what the unit can produce.” + Wave Swell Energy Via The Guardian Image via Hans B.

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Tasmanian island to be powered by wave energy

Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

January 25, 2021 by  
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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit Dominic Waughray Mon, 01/25/2021 – 00:30 Buried beneath the dour daily headlines on COVID-19 infections, lockdowns and travel bans, the latest science about our planet released during 2020 makes for tough reading. Despite the reductions in air travel and the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, climate change sadly has not slowed down this past year. We have only until 2030 to  get things on track  for a net-zero and nature-positive economy — this should sharpen our minds for action. Unfortunately, as the economic effects of COVID-19 cause government debts to rise sharply, there is now much less public money available for activities like climate protection or ecosystem restoration — this should sharpen our appetite for innovation. How then to make the shift to a net-zero, nature-positive economy within the decade? If there is good news, it is this: The pandemic has shown that when our backs are against the wall, incredible things are possible. The partnerships catalyzed between governments, scientists and the private sector to produce a suite of new vaccines within 12 months are a remarkable testament to our ability to innovate at scale, fast, when we feel we must. The state of the planet 2020 was, along with 2016, the joint hottest year  on record ever — closing out the warmest decade on record ever. Global average temperatures are now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is getting uncomfortably close to the 1.5 degrees C cap on average warming that governments pledged to aim for when they signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. What  scientists observed during 2020  should worry us all. In the Arctic,  temperatures  are rising at twice the global rate.  Floods  affected more than 10 million people across China, India, Nepal, Japan and Bangladesh, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. Unprecedented wildfires raged across  Australia  and California, with the Australia fires releasing about three-quarters of the CO2 that the country’s industry emitted in 2018-19. The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Less visibly,  more than 80 percent of the ocean in 2020 suffered marine heatwaves , providing more energy for tropical storms, as well as impacting sea life and spoiling fish harvests for the billions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and jobs. In June 2020, the United Nations warned of an impending global food crisis, the worst seen for over 50 years, noting the ” perfect storm ” playing out between these environmental changes and the impact of COVID-19, especially for poorer countries. It is no surprise then that the World Economic Forum  Global Risks Report 2021  identifies climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss, alongside infectious diseases, as the top global risks for the next decade in terms of impact and likelihood. As with COVID-19, perhaps so with climate? The climate and nature crises are now an urgent mainstream issue for many voters, especially among Generation Z. Many  institutional investors  are also seeing the risks and are shifting their money accordingly. Given these voter and investor pressures, an unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation is required among leading “real economy” players from industry, technology and finance, to work together and with government and civil society and make big things happen, fast. Promisingly, for several years, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, an ecosystem of ambitious partnerships for action on climate and nature has been taking root and growing, often with the help of the World Economic Forum. We are now able to start reaping the early rewards of this harvest. For example, the  Mission Possible Partnership  gets leading heavy-industry companies, banks and governments to create investment-grade “net-zero” sector strategies in seven key areas of the global economy — aviation, shipping, trucks, chemicals, steel aluminum and cement. More than 200 companies and organizations are so far involved. This effort has the potential to tackle 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The  Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP)  gets leading consumer goods companies, waste specialists and banks to work with governments to create investment-grade plans for tackling plastic waste pollution, and then trigger the finance and projects to make it happen. Launched in 2018 with the Canadian and UK Governments, GPAP is now helping countries across ASEAN and West Africa to tackle ocean plastic waste. GPAP in Indonesia is helping the government deliver its  national target  to reduce ocean plastic waste in Indonesia 70 percent by 2025 and to be plastic waste-free by 2040. 1T.org (trillion trees)  is a partnership platform that gets leading governments, businesses, technology companies, scientists and civil society groups to work together on initiatives that will conserve, restore and grow a trillion trees by 2030. Such “nature-based solutions” like 1t.org , undertaken alongside the decarbonization of energy and industry systems, can help provide up to  one-third of the climate solution  required by 2030 to keep on track with the Paris Climate Agreement. The  1t.org United States Chapter  was launched in August 2020; so far more than 26 U.S. companies, nonprofits and governments have pledged to conserve, restore and grow more than 1 billion trees across the contiguous U.S. by 2030, and committed to supporting actions such as mapping technology and carbon finance worth billions of dollars. In October 2020 the  One Trillion Trees Interagency Council  was established to be responsible for coordinating federal government support of 1T.org in the US and internationally. These and many other examples of public-private partnerships and alliances are helping to accelerate large scale, practical action for a net-zero, nature positive economy by 2030. They connect together states, cities, provinces, civil society groups, businesses, investors, innovators and technologists. They are also connecting business leaders, technology and finance within key industrial sectors and across global supply chains, as companies work with and learn from each other. And they are spurring leadership groups such as the  Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders  to engage with politicians and decision-makers, to further raise ambition and give business confidence to governments about the pathway ahead. Leaders in this CEO group already have net-zero commitments linked to companies with at least 1.5Gt of global emissions as disclosed in 2019. In an age where transparency and authenticity are key, these partnerships and alliances work to deliver their results in line with the latest science, with the companies involved increasingly adopting disclosure and measurement systems like science-based targets and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, such as the common  framework being developed by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council . Coming together for impact The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Imagine if we could bring many more companies, investors and governments together into these and other “high ambition” coalitions, underpinned by the science-based targets we must meet by 2030, and designed to drive the net-zero, nature-based transition we must create: this would bring to life a real economy that works for people and nature alike and for the long term. Indeed, one of our recent  Nature Action Agenda reports , identified that such a nature positive transition could generate 395 million new jobs by 2030. That is the kind of “real economy” win-win we sorely need in our COVID recovery plan. Inspired by the incredible public-private sprints on vaccine collaboration for COVID-19 and mandated by the universally accepted United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development, we must ensure that such large-scale, public-private collaboration for ambitious climate, nature and food security outcomes become mainstream during 2021. These are the partnership vehicles that can bring together industry, investors and civil society to speed and scale impact, drawing on wide networks of innovation, expertise and resources from across the real economy, at a time when public funds are scarce. To spur these efforts, official climate and biodiversity events should more deeply involve government, industry, investors, civil society leaders and other key stakeholders, and be structured as annual “accelerators” focused on scaling the system change innovation, financing, job creation and partnerships required to ensure we are on track to achieve our 2030 goals. Encouragingly, the official climate COP 26 hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November seems to be leaning in this direction. Pull Quote The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

Bali’s beaches are covered in plastic waste

January 5, 2021 by  
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People come from all over the world to see Bali’s famous white sand beaches. But lately, you can’t see the sand underneath the tons of plastic waste washing ashore. And it’s getting worse. Coastlines around the world are groaning under the weight of plastic trash. “It’s not new and it’s not surprising and it happens every year, and it’s been growing over the last decade,” said Denise Hardesty , plastic pollution expert and principal research scientist at Australia’s CSIRO science agency. “But in monsoonal countries we do find a much stronger seasonal affect.” Related: Surfing trip leads to 4Ocean cleaning coastlines around the world When monsoons blow west to east each year, plastic waste especially piles up on southwestern Bali , which is right where Kuta and Legian are. Kuta Beach has long been known as party central to sun-loving visitors. Legian is a renowned beach and popular surf spot. Together, the two beaches receive up to 60 tons of incoming plastic trash per day. Every day, crews of workers go out and rake the beaches. However, the trash still has to go somewhere. “The biggest problem is actually the trash handling hasn’t been effective in Indonesia,” said Gede Hendrawan of Bali’s Udayana University. “Bali has just started to reorganize it, also Java has just started.” Java is the island directly to the west of Bali and is one of the more than 17,500 islands that compose the archipelago of Indonesia. Wayan Koster, governor of Bali, has emphasized how important it is to keep the island’s beaches clean. “The Badung administration should have a trash handling system at Kuta Beach that is complete with adequate equipment and human resources so they can work quickly to clean up the trash washed onto the beach,” Koster said. “Moreover, in the rainy season when there are tourists visiting, the trash handling systems should be working 24 hours a day. Don’t wait for tomorrow.” CSIRO is planning to use remote cameras and artificial intelligence to get a better grip on littering hotspots in Bali. But as Hardesty pointed out, the real culprit in the problem of plastic washing up on Bali’s shores is the continuing increase in global plastic production. Via The Guardian Image via Ocean Cleanup Group

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Bali’s beaches are covered in plastic waste

Australian government stumbles in climate crisis response

December 30, 2020 by  
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The Australian government appears conflicted in its efforts to adopt environmentally progressive policies following the country’s recent bushfires and record temperatures. A recent Australian Institute  survey  shows that private sector leaders and the general public favor a comprehensive climate policy with renewable energy investments. However, Prime minister Scott Morrison and his administration remain tied to the fossil fuel industry, making it hard for the country to progress.  Currently, Australia is one of the heaviest greenhouse gas emitters. The country continues lagging behind Paris Agreement goals that aimed to reduce fossil fuel pollution by at least 26% come mid-century. Even these goals are now outdated, though, with several other countries having signed onto updated agreements. Australia contributes  three times  more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than the G20 average emissions. To make matters worse, Australia is one of the global leaders that has not committed to a clear climate change policy; the U.K., U.S., Japan and China have all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  While the Australian government slowly finds its way to green energy, the public sector and individual states are keen to lead the way. As CNN reports, “In November, New South Wales announced a plan to support 12 gigawatts of wind and solar and 2 gigawatts of energy storage through the construction of renewable energy zone to replace its aging coal plants.” Additionally, the two richest people in Australia are backing a project to create the world’s largest solar farm. The private sector and individual states see green energy as an economic opportunity. “Australia has a plan to put the technology in place to reduce emissions and ensure we achieve the Kyoto commitments, as we already have demonstrated, and, importantly, the Paris commitments before us. What matters is what you get done, and Australia is getting it done on emissions reduction,” Morrison  said  while addressing parliament on December 10. However, his words and actions are a complete contrast. Morrison’s government has already announced a gas -based economic recovery plan post-COVID-19. His government also authorized the exploration of Carmichael mines in Queensland. Climate experts view these coal mines as a threat to the Great Barrier Reef due to carbon pollution. Experts advise phasing out coal power in all countries by 2040 to avoid catastrophic climate change . In contrast, Australia is set to experience a 4% increase in coal mining by 2030 — unless actions are taken to stop current and new explorations. No matter how hard the private sector and individual states try to cut emissions, they can’t succeed on a large scale without proper government policy. + CNN Image via John Englart

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

December 30, 2020 by  
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Whether winter conjures thoughts of cozy fires and hot cocoa or trudging through snow and ice on the way to work, it’s essential to have a plan for coping with the season in a sustainable way. Here are some tips to saving energy, water and money while staying toasty and warm all winter long. Heat and electricity bills Not only will the bills add up as you bump up the heat, but so does energy consumption. Create a more Earth-friendly indoor environment by keeping your heating and electrical costs down. Remember the basics, like unplugging chargers and small appliances when not in use. Put your holiday and winter lights on a timer. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home Add layers of clothing before heading to the thermostat. Bundling up can save you a bundle in heating costs. Also invest in a digital thermostat and set it to a lower temperature at night and while you’re away during the day. A simple way to spin more warm air into the living space is to flip the switch on the side of your ceiling fans. When they spin clockwise, they push warm air from the top of the room to the bottom. To really improve energy efficiency in your space, consider additional insulation around door and window openings, such rolled towels or a draft snake under door cracks, and an added layer of eco-friendly insulation in the attic, walls or basement. Maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance results in better efficiency and longevity for your home’s heat source. It’s always important to regularly replace your furnace filter, but make it a priority during the winter when the appliance is blowing more often. Snow and ice Depending on where you live, snow and ice may be part of your daily routine or only appear on occasion. When they do, avoid the chemical-laden deicers; use natural kitty litter or sand instead. Skip the gas-powered and polluting snow blowers. Instead, use an electric snow blower. Better yet, get the family out for a good old-fashioned snow removal with shovels and brooms. Water Many people focus on water savings during the summer, but few emphasize it during the winter when we’re not watering lawns. However, winter brings bulkier clothing that results in more laundry, the temptation for long showers or baths on cold days and the potential for broken pipes.  Check your water consumption by setting a timer for the shower and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Turn off the water supply and winterize the automatic sprinklers, AC units and RV plumbing. Recycle the water you do use by cooling the pot of water after cooking pasta or by collecting water in the shower. Use this to water indoor plants. For an added layer of efficiency, add a water recycling system to your house where the laundry or shower can provide water for the toilet. Take advantage of rainy weather by having those rain barrels ready to collect and store water you’ll be using in a few months. Compost By the time gardening season rolls around, the compost from last summer will be ready to use. But you can continue to build your compost pile throughout the winter, too. It won’t break down as quickly as it does in the hotter months, but there’s no reason to trash tree trimmings, leaves or food scraps. If your compost pile is inaccessible, you can at least collect food scraps in a container in the freezer to add to the pile later. Transportation Slick roads and dangerous driving conditions make winter the perfect time to rely on public transportation. Dust off the bus pass or start using the subway and let someone else do the driving while reducing air pollution from carbon emissions.  If public transportation isn’t an option, do your part by ensuring your car is maintained. Change your oil along with cabin and engine air filters. Replace spark plugs, hoses and fuel filters at recommended intervals. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The more efficiently your car functions, the less gas it will require and the less emissions it will release. Waste When you’re ready to warm up with a hot cup of coffee or tea, opt to make your drinks at home in your reusable mugs. When you head for the store or if you shop online, be mindful of packaging. Find retailers that offer sustainable packaging options instead of plastic foam (like Styrofoam) and plastic . Remember your reusable produce and shopping bags when you head to the store or garden stand, so you can buy fresh fruits and veggies without the plastic waste . Efficient kitchens Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by vacuuming out the vents along the bottom. Deice your freezer if it doesn’t have an auto-defrost option. Keep the blender, coffee maker and toaster unplugged when not in use, and leave the oven door open after use to release the warm air into your home. Create a more sustainable coffee station by ditching the single-use plastic coffee pods in favor of a reusable version. Better yet, convert to a ceramic drip or French press, skipping the waste and composting the leftover coffee grounds. Winter is soup season , meaning it is the perfect time to use up a variety of vegetables and incorporate a meat-free dinner at least once each week. Stay cozy! Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry

December 17, 2020 by  
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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry Thomas Koch Blank Thu, 12/17/2020 – 00:20 A recent announcement by Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, may seem like a technical detail only relevant for metallurgists and steel nerds. However, the company’s plan to invest up to $46 billion over the next 15–20 years to expand into an emissions-free iron process being piloted in Northern Sweden is big news for Sweden, the global steel industry and future generations around the world. From a climate change perspective, steelmaking is considered one of the “hard-to-abate” sectors. Given that the industry contributes directly to 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to ignore it. But in contrast to other areas of our society — such as automobiles or power generation — technical solutions to replace conventional methods have seemed either quite expensive or simply unknown. However, this view has rapidly changed over the course of only a few years, and Swedish industry has played a pivotal role in this shift. The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, the  HYBRIT project  was launched as a joint venture between utility  Vattenfall , iron ore producer  LKAB  and steelmaker  SSAB . Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state, while SSAB was privatized in 1994. And with the political backing and de-risking of the early stage of the HYBRIT project, it can be argued that HYBRIT is the outcome of a long-standing political intent to ensure a competitive basic industry sector in Sweden. Looking forward, with customers, investors and policymakers increasing pressure to adhere to the Paris Agreement, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical element of maintaining competitiveness. The process that HYBRIT is currently piloting in  Luleå , a small town in northern Sweden, holds the key to unlocking dramatic CO2-emissions reduction for steelmaking. By using hydrogen instead of coal as a “reduction agent” — to remove the oxygen from the iron in iron ore — the most critical step in the steel value chain becomes virtually free of carbon emissions. These steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. On Nov. 23, LKAB announced that it intends to integrate forward in the steel supply chain and start producing “sponge iron” as a value-added product from its current pellet product, using the HYBRIT process. This pivot in business strategy has major significance for the global steel industry. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. There are three reasons LKAB’s announcement is big news for the global steel industry as well as the economy at large: LKAB will single-handedly contribute to greenhouse gas reductions corresponding to more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint by obviating the need for blast furnaces — many of which are in other nations The hydrogen required will significantly contribute to bringing down the cost of this zero-carbon fuel, which in turn can help the economy to address emissions from other sectors such as aviation or shipping While the process trials are still ongoing (the pilot plant is producing sponge iron, but its scaffolding has hardly been taken down) the confidence demonstrated by this announcement clears up any questions as to whether this technology will be commercially scalable   Implications for the global steel industry Sweden is a small economy that already has comparatively clean energy supply. However, LKAB’s stated strategy to over time integrate forward into primary steelmaking not only enables thousands of jobs with strengthened long-term competitiveness, it also reduces disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable Sweden to punch significantly above its weight class. LKAB’s total production of 27 million tons of iron ore products corresponds to 18 million tons of crude steel. If that steel were produced in conventional blast furnaces, it would lead to emissions of 28 million tons of CO2 — more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint of 52 million tons of CO2 equivalents. Steel production is only one of many potential uses for hydrogen. Indeed, other sectors that are technically challenged to reduce emissions likely will have to rely on cheap hydrogen. Today the cost of hydrogen for fuel cell trucks or buses, as well as using hydrogen (or ammonia) as an aviation or maritime fuel, is prohibitively high. Yet costs are expected to come down as the technology is deployed at scale. The sponge iron capacity that LKAB could build out corresponds to half a million large fuel cell vehicles, a significant step towards the “hydrogen economy” envisioned by the European Commission. The production of the hydrogen could require as much as 10 GW worth of electrolyzer capacity, a quarter of the total  EU target for 2030 . LKAB’s ambition to build a sponge iron plant as early as 2027, just one year after SSAB plans to retire its blast furnace in  Oxelösund , speaks volumes in terms of the technology confidence the joint venture already has established. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Furthermore, Göran Persson, chairman of the board and former prime minister of Sweden, claims that the investments shall be made without any government support, expecting it to be competitive without subsidies beyond the EU carbon price. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30 percent per year over 20 years, diminishing any doubt that the technology can be scaled fast. In the big picture, while this constitutes a significant step towards a decarbonized steel industry, the impact corresponds to less than 1 percent of the emissions from the global steel industry. But even though it’s unrealistic to expect that the whole steel industry will turn upside down to adopt this new technology given the scale of investment in existing blast furnaces, other iron ore companies can of course replicate LKAB’s forward integration. The main iron ore sources in the world, in Australia, South Africa and Latin America, have access to drastically cheaper renewable energy than Sweden. This makes for an even more competitive product using this highly electrified process. Indeed, in these locations  zero-carbon steel can be competitive with blast furnaces completely without subsidies . New challenges, new opportunities The leadership demonstrated by LKAB serves as a role model for the kind of outside-the-box and whole-systems thinking required for the global economy to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Change requires exploration of new concepts and solutions. Bold action both creates new opportunities and surfaces new underlying challenges. For example, adding 10 gigawatts (GW) of load, given Sweden’s current total installed generation capacity of 40 GW, will require significant investments in both renewable generation capacity and grid infrastructure. But for utilities, this opportunity is providing a much-needed headwind to achieve a zero-emission power system, as investing in a growing market is significantly easier than with stagnant demand. The fact that the impact on global emissions will not be credited to Sweden in the political protocols negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underscores the value of corporate action. The private sector remains the most reliable engine for innovation in our economy. Graphic: Auke Hoekstra, TU Eindhoven. Technology disruption is by definition challenging to forecast. In the solar industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) consistently has underestimated both near- and long-term capacity additions to an almost comical degree. Yet the private sector has managed to out-perform expectations, and this is true for LKAB and the HYBRIT team just as it has been for the solar industry. In comparison, the official position of  Jernkontoret, the Swedish Steel Association , that it will take “20-30 years until this technology can be introduced into large-scale industrial production” is conservative, to say the least. The  World Steel Association  is almost completely silent about the opportunity of both hydrogen-based reduction and other alternative technologies.  The association’s 2020 positioning paper  maintains a narrative around need for long-term R&D rather than rapid deployment support. But regardless whether the industry associations are acknowledging it, the snowball has started to roll down the slopes of the  Luossavaara  and  Kirunavaara  mountains (the L and K in LKAB) and the avalanche will hit the global steel industry within this decade. Survivors of the impact will re-emerge to ski in clean powder snow. Casualties will be buried under the masses, anchored down by strategically untimely investments in CO2-intensive technology. Pull Quote The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Topics Emissions Reduction Chemicals & Toxics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A view of the blast furnace of an old steel refinery in  Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, Duisburg, Germany . Photo by Aranka Sinnema on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

November 20, 2020 by  
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Recent research published in  Global Environmental Change  has revealed that only 1% of people cause half of all aviation pollution globally. According to the study, regular “super emitters” are polluting the environment at the expense of millions of people who do not fly.  The study, conducted through analysis of aviation data, revealed that large populations across all countries did not fly at all in the years observed. For instance, about 53% of Americans did not fly in 2018, yet the U.S. ranked as the leading aviation emission contributor globally. In Germany, 65% of people did not fly, in Taiwan 66%, and in the U.K. about 48% of the population did not fly abroad in the same period.  These findings suggest that the bulk of pollution caused by the aviation industry comes from the actions of very few people. Further supporting this point, the study revealed that only 11% of the global population flew in 2018, while only 4% flew abroad. Comparing these numbers to the level of emission aviation causes indicates that the rich few in society fuel this pollution the most. Meanwhile, marginalized communities will likely face the harshest consequences of this pollution . In 2018, airlines produced a billion tons of CO2. Even worse, the same airlines benefited from a $100 billion subsidy by not paying for the climate change caused. The U.S. tops the list of leading aviation emitter countries, contributing more CO2 to the environment than the next 10 countries on the list. This means that the U.S. alone contributes more aviation-based CO2 than the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia combined.  Research also indicates that global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis continues to increase. Before the coronavirus pandemic, emissions caused by flights had grown by 32% between 2013 and 2018. If there are no measures put in place to curb the pollution, these rates will likely continue skyrocketing post-pandemic.  Stefan Gössling of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the study’s lead author, says that the only way of dealing with the issue is by redesigning the aviation industry. “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming ,” said Gössling. “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

November 19, 2020 by  
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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy? Jim Robbins Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published on Yale Environment 360 . Saudi Arabia is constructing a futuristic city in the desert on the Red Sea called Neom. The $500 billion city — complete with flying taxis and robotic domestic help — is being built from scratch and will be home to a million people. And what energy product will be used both to power this city and sell to the world? Not oil. The Saudis are going big on something called green hydrogen — a carbon-free fuel made from water by using renewably produced electricity to split hydrogen molecules from oxygen molecules. This summer, a large U.S. gas company, Air Products & Chemicals, announced that as part of Neom it has been building a green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia for the last four years. The plant is powered by 4 gigawatts from wind and solar projects that sprawl across the desert. It claims to be the world’s largest green hydrogen project — and more Saudi plants are on the drawing board. Green hydrogen? The Saudis aren’t alone in believing it’s the next big thing in the energy future. While the fuel is barely on the radar in the United States, around the world a green hydrogen rush is underway, and many companies, investors, governments and environmentalists believe it is an energy source that could help end the reign of fossil fuels and slow the world’s warming trajectory. “It is very promising,” said Rachel Fakhry, an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Experts such as Fakhry say that while wind and solar energy can provide the electricity to power homes and electric cars, green hydrogen could be an ideal power source for energy-intensive industries such as concrete and steel manufacturing, as well as parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to electrify. “The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking,” Fakhry said in an interview. “Green hydrogen can do that.” Europe, which has an economy saddled with high energy prices and is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, is embracing green hydrogen by providing funding for construction of electrolysis plants and other hydrogen infrastructure. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. “It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonized economy,” the European Commission wrote in a July strategy document. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology never has gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. They argue that widespread adoption of green hydrogen technologies has faced serious obstacles, most notably that hydrogen fuels need renewable energy to be green, which will require a massive expansion of renewable generation to power the electrolysis plants that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is also hard to store and transport without a pipeline. And right now in some places, such as the U.S., hydrogen is a lot more expensive than other fuels such as natural gas. While it has advantages, said Michael Liebreich, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in the United Kingdom and a green hydrogen skeptic, “it displays an equally impressive list of disadvantages.” “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” Liebreich wrote in a pair of recent essays for BloombergNEF. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” In spite of these problems, Liebreich wrote, green hydrogen still “holds a vice-like grip over the imaginations of techno-optimists.” Ben Gallagher, an energy analyst at Wood McKenzie who studies green hydrogen, said the fuel is so new that its future remains unclear. “No one has any true idea what is going on here,” he said. “It’s speculation at this point. Right now it’s difficult to view this as the new oil. However, it could make up an important part of the overall fuel mix.” Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. Two atoms of hydrogen paired with an atom of oxygen creates water. Alone, though, hydrogen is an odorless and tasteless gas, and highly combustible. Hydrogen derived from methane — usually from natural gas, but also coal and biomass — was pioneered in World War II by Germany, which has no petroleum deposits. But CO2 is emitted in manufacturing hydrogen from methane and so it’s not climate friendly; hydrogen manufactured this way is known as gray hydrogen. Green is the new kid on the hydrogen block, and because it’s manufactured with renewable energy, it’s CO2-free. Moreover, using renewable energy to create the fuel can help solve the problem of intermittency that plagues wind and solar power, and so it is essentially efficient storage. When demand for renewables is low, during the spring and fall, excess electricity can be used to power the electrolysis needed to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Then the hydrogen can be stored or sent down a pipeline. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. Such advantages are fueling growing interest in global green hydrogen. Across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, more countries and companies are embracing this high-quality fuel. The U.S. lags behind because other forms of energy, such as natural gas, are much cheaper, but several new projects are underway, including a green hydrogen power plant in Utah that will replace two aging coal-fired plants and produce electricity for southern California. In Japan, a new green hydrogen plant, one of the world’s largest, just opened near Fukishima — an intentionally symbolic location given the plant’s proximity to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It will be used to power fuel cells, both in vehicles and at stationary sites. An energy consortium in Australia just announced plans to build a project called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Pilbara that would use 1,743 large wind turbines and 30 square miles of solar panels to run a 26-gigawatt electrolysis factory that would create green hydrogen to send to Singapore. As Europe intensifies its decarbonization drive, it, too, is betting big on the fuel. The European Union just drafted a strategy for a large-scale green hydrogen expansion, although it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. But in its $550-billion clean energy plan, the EU is including funds for new green hydrogen electrolyzers and transport and storage technology for the fuel. “Large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions,” the European Commission wrote. The Middle East, which has the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, is angling to be a major player in green hydrogen. “Saudi Arabia has ridiculously low-cost renewable power,” said Thomas Koch Blank, leader of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Breakthrough Technology Program. “The sun is shining pretty reliably every day and the wind is blowing pretty reliably every night. It’s hard to beat.” BloombergNEF estimates that to generate enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of the world’s energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates now from all sources and an investment of $11 trillion in production and storage. That’s why the focus for now is on the 15 percent of the economy with energy needs not easily supplied by wind and solar power, such as heavy manufacturing, long-distance trucking and fuel for cargo ships and aircraft. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a green hydrogen facility that can generate as much as 1,200 normal meter cubed (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, opened in Japan in March. Source:  TOSHIBA ESS The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft. But Airbus, the European airplane manufacturer, recently released a statement saying that significant problems need to be overcome, including safely storing hydrogen on aircraft, the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure at airports, and cost. Experts say that new technologies will be needed to solve these problems. Nevertheless, Airbus believes green hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonizing air transport. “Cost-competitive green hydrogen and cross-industry partnerships will be mandatory to bring zero-emission flying to reality,” said Glen Llewellyn, vice president of Zero Emission Aircraft for Airbus. Hydrogen-powered aircraft could be flying by 2035, he said. In the U.S., where energy prices are low, green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas, although that price doesn’t factor in the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The price of green hydrogen is falling, however. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. A major driver of green hydrogen development in the U.S. is California’s aggressive push toward a carbon-neutral future. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, is helping fund the construction of the green hydrogen-fueled power plant in Utah. It’s scheduled to go online in 2025. A company called SGH2 recently announced it would build a large facility to produce green hydrogen in southern California. Instead of using electrolysis, though, it will use waste gasification, which heats many types of waste to high temperatures that reduce them to their molecular compounds. Those molecules then bind with hydrogen, and SGH2 claims it can make green hydrogen more cheaply than using electrolysis. California officials also see green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for diesel vehicles. The state passed a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 to promote electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Last month, a group of heavy-duty vehicle and energy industry officials formed the Western States Hydrogen Alliance o press for rapid deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure to replace diesel trucks, buses, locomotives and aircraft. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. “Hydrogen fuel cells will power the future of zero-emission mobility in these heavy-duty, hard-to-electrify sectors,” said Roxana Bekemohammadi, executive director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance. “That fact is indisputable. This new alliance exists to ensure government and industry can work efficiently together to accelerate the coming of this revolution.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100 million investment to help develop large, affordable electrolyzers and to create new fuel cell technologies for long-haul trucks. In Australia, the University of New South Wales, in partnership with a global engineering firm, GHD, has created a home-based system called LAVO that uses solar energy to generate and store green hydrogen in home systems. The hydrogen is converted back into electricity as needed. All these developments, said Blank of the Rocky Mountain Institute, are “really good news. Green hydrogen has high potential to address many of the things that keep people awake at night because the climate change problem seems unsolvable.” Pull Quote Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Wind Power Solar Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology has never gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. Photo by petrmalinak on Shutterstock.

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Comments Off on The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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