This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined

August 13, 2020 by  
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This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined Adam Aston Thu, 08/13/2020 – 02:15 You may not know it, but you rely on industrial heat every day. It helped make the bricks that hold up your home; the cement underfoot. It forged the steel and glass in your car, and it also cooked the aluminum, plastic and silicon in the very screen on which you may be reading these words.  Industrial heat is essential but largely invisible. To transform basic inputs into stuff we need, manufacturers constantly heat (and cool) minerals, ores and other raw materials to extreme temperatures. And for all the magic of this everyday alchemy, industrial heat poses a growing threat to the climate. The world’s kilns, reactors, chillers and furnaces are powered mostly by fossil fuels.  High-temperature industrial heat, over 932 degrees F, poses a particular challenge because that’s the point at which fuels beyond electricity become the mainstay. Overall, industrial thermal energy accounts for about a tenth of global emissions, according to a December study by Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF, a Japan-backed multinational expert group). At 10 percent, industrial heat ranks on par with the combined emissions of cars (about 6 percent), planes (about 2 percent) and ships (about 2 percent).  Yet while those transport sectors are advancing towards low-carbon solutions — with promising technologies cultivated by multilateral accords — industrial heat lacks any consensus plan and has a long to-do list to develop low-carbon alternatives.  The options include biodiesel, renewable electricity, renewable natural gas, solar thermal, geothermal, thermal storage and hydrogen. Yet as a best guess, if these were market-ready today, renewable thermal solutions would cost from two times to over 10 times more than fossil fuels, according to an October report from the Center for Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University.  Making natural gas renewable  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. Chemically similar to the fossil gas piped to our kitchens, RNG is instead generated from the breakdown of organic matter at landfills (the biggest current source), municipal sewage treatment plants, farm waste and similar sites. RNG also can be blended into regular natural gas pipelines with minimal modification, much the way that input from windmills can flow onto the same grid as power generated by a coal plant.  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. In fact, the wind example can help illustrate how early efforts to decarbonize industrial thermal energy are shaping up. In the 2000s, when wind and solar weren’t yet cost-competitive, market players pioneered ways to sell renewable energy indirectly. The solution was a set of standards and trading rules known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. The credits let a business in, say, Pittsburgh buy wind power generated in California, even before renewables were yet available on Pennsylvania’s grid.  What’s more, RECs allow a wind farm to sell both the power it generated and the renewable attributes of that power. As consumer and corporate demand for renewables grew, the value of the RECs rose, thereby incenting new wind and solar projects. Over time, RECs let companies source the renewable energy they needed, even when it wasn’t available locally, which made it easier for companies and states to slowly boost their targets for renewables.  Certifying renewable thermal solutions  Fast forward to 2020, and a team of collaborators is hoping to adapt learnings pioneered with RECs to nurture a nascent market for zero-carbon fuels, such as RNG, that buyers including L’Oréal USA and the University of California System are already using to generate renewable thermal energy. Today, RNG is held back in part by a Catch-22 financial trap. Costs add up quickly: equipment to collect biogas (the unprocessed methane-rich vapor given off by waste); upgrade the gas to pipeline quality; and connect to existing gas pipelines.  Capital needs for smaller landfill projects run from $5 million to $25 million. Larger projects — such as agriculture and wastewater plants — can hit $100 million, according to Jade Patterson, BloombergNEF’s analyst covering RNG. On average, each RNG project requires $17 million of capital investment, based on data from the RNG Coalition. A cement factory blast furnace in Maddaloni, Italy. At that price, most farms or town dumps can’t afford to develop biogas collection on their own. “An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations,” Patterson said. And if farms see reliable demand for their RNG, more are likely to make the investment: supply grows; prices fall; and the Catch-22 can be broken. “Companies are trying to decarbonize the heat piece of their Scope 1 carbon footprint,” explained Blaine Collison, an Environmental Protection Agency veteran and senior vice president at David Gardiner and Associates, a co-convener – along with the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – of the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Thermal Collaborative. “Creating renewable thermal attributes and trading instruments is critical to enable companies to act, to show the actions they’re taking and to demonstrate the reductions they’re achieving.”  The effort to extend a REC model to renewable thermal energy is being co-led by the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), a San Francisco based non-governmental organization that’s been advancing sustainable energy via policy and market-based innovations since 1997. The first step? CRS is building a set of rules that meet the highest environmental standards and ensure that when customers buy green fuel, such as RNG, they can verify its zero-carbon merits, said Rachael Terada , CRS’ director of technical projects, in a recent webinar .  Now in its first draft, CRS’ Green-e certified fuel certificate standard is focusing initially on RNG, already being produced and sold on a small scale across North America. The standard can be extended to other renewable fuels in time. (Watch out for more news in this space at CRS’ Renewable Energy Markets 2020 , convening online for free Sept. 21-24.) Covering the U.S. and Canada, the CRS Green-e certificate program will establish protocols to create a registry such that each dekatherm (equal to 1 million British thermal units) is unique and cannot be double-counted, Terada said.  An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. There’s already demand from industry to buy more RNG, said Benjamin Gerber, chief executive of Minneapolis-based M-RETS (formerly Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System), one of CRS’s partners in creating this trading platform.  “Having clear standards for renewable thermal products along with robust trading platforms will help drive greenhouse gas reductions,” Collison said. “We know that there’s a growing corporate need for these solutions.”  Thermal energy, in the long run CRS’ Green-e initiative has the potential to accelerate investment in renewable fuels, and thereby open up ways to decarbonize industrial energy markets.  Before then, companies can take some basic first steps, such as auditing their thermal energy use. “A lot of organizations simply haven’t done the work to understand how they’re heating and cooling their operations,” said Meredith Annex, who heads BloombergNEF’s heating decarbonization research team. The urgency is growing. As industrialization accelerates in China, India and other emerging markets, global demand for industrial heat has grown by 50 percent since 2000, estimates BloombergNEF , and without lower carbon options, will continue to rise.  Without a fix, global climate goals may not be achievable. “Decarbonizing industrial heat production will be essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals,” notes David Sandalow, a former Obama administration official and lead author of ICEP’s roadmap to decarbonize industrial heat .  Pull Quote In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Manufacturing 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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This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined

Architects design COVID-19 mobile testing labs for underserved communities

May 21, 2020 by  
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Perkins and Will’s New York studio has teamed up with Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and multidisciplinary design group Arup to create a proposal for retrofitting defunct school buses into mobile COVID-19 testing labs as a means of improving testing in underserved communities. Informed by the newly approved Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, the design concept would outfit school buses with ID NOW rapid-testing instruments as well as sanitation infrastructure such as plexiglass shields, negative air pressure systems and gravity-based hand washing sinks. All elements of the mobile testing lab would be sourced off the shelf from vendors for easy replicability.  The health and economic ramifications of the pandemic have disproportionately affected lower-income and underserved populations. In an attempt to make testing more accessible, the interdisciplinary design team has created an open-source mobile testing lab to serve vulnerable and isolated groups. To follow social distancing guidelines, patients would be encouraged to make appointments through a mobile app; however, smartphone access would not be a prerequisite for access. Related: Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing For safety, the public would not be allowed onto the bus ; a canopy and protective barrier would be installed on the side of the bus, and samples would be taken from behind a protective barrier. Samples would then be labeled and brought into the lab environment on the bus via a pass-through box. Each lab would host two technicians who analyze the samples with the ID NOW rapid-testing instruments, record and upload results to the federal government’s official database and then discard test samples and expended materials in biohazard waste bags for safe disposal. Results would either be verbally communicated or transmitted via the smartphone app to the individual. “We aim to bring together intuitive technology and service design into a unique mobile care space,” said Paul McConnell, Arup’s director of digital experience design. “Through rapid prototyping, we can better learn and refine how we get people through the process and give communities the confidence to return to normal.” The retrofitted buses would draw electricity from generators mounted on the roof. Perkins and Will is presently looking for more project partners to expand on the design concept. + Perkins and Will Images via Perkins and Will

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Architects design COVID-19 mobile testing labs for underserved communities

Poland Spring pledges 100% recycled bottles by 2022

June 5, 2019 by  
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This week, Nestlé Waters North America promised that its Poland Spring brand would start using 100 percent recycled bottles by 2022. The announcement is part of Nestlé’s larger pledge to increase recycled bottle use and has the potential to significantly boost the recycled plastic industry. According to the $247 billion corporation, 25 percent of all its water products will use the recycled bottles by 2021, and 50 percent will use recycled bottles by 2050. The Poland Spring brand has a huge market share in the U.S. and will amount to a significant amount of recycled bottles used annually. Related: New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year “We spent a lot of time designing these bottles to ensure that they move efficiently and effectively through the recycling value web. We want the bottle back,” said chief sustainability officer David Tulauskas. Tulauskas also noted that because of discrepancies in recycling programs and compliance in different cities across the country, the recycled bottle program has been difficult to streamline and roll out. Cities with stricter recycling policies actually make the process more complex, because the recycled plastic buyer must rely on consumers taking the proper measures to clean the plastic and place it in the proper recycling stream. The buying power of Poland Spring will boost the confidence and dependability of recycled plastic producers. Without secured buyers, these facilities do not have the motivation nor reliable cash flow to increase production. Poland Spring’s interest and investment in the industry has the potential to increase the amount of food-grade, high-quality PET plastic produced, which is the type of plastic needed for bottles. “They need confidence that we’re going to buy from them for the long term to make sure that it’s worthwhile for them to make the investment,” Tulauskas explained to CNN . Last year, Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles and only recycled 23 percent of them. That means that approximately $1 billion in recyclable plastic is wasted every year when it could be re-routed back to companies to quench the thirst for plastic next year. + Nestlé Via The Hill and CNN Image via Mike Mozart

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Poland Spring pledges 100% recycled bottles by 2022

Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers

June 5, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Peru have discovered some of the earliest evidence of air pollution , and their report reveals new information about the extent that carbon emissions accelerate the melting of glaciers. The report, released by the National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (INAIGEM) in Peru, also indicates that black carbon emissions in particular have a direct impact on the rate at which glaciers melt. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 According to Jesús Gómez López, the Director of Glaciers Research at INAIGEM, “There are different sources of black carbon that can deposit on glaciers, some are wildfires, burning of agricultural waste and the emissions from vehicle fleets. Studies show that the concentration of black carbon is greater in glaciers close to large cities.” The 1,200-year-old Quelccaya Ice Cap contained small traces of lead and mercury believed to be pollution from silver mines during the early Spanish invasion. Climate change and air pollution can often be tied to colonialism and the exploitation of indigenous populations and lands. Metal working and mining by the Incas had “most likely only a local impact on the environment surrounding their mining operations. In contrast, the mining … activities performed by the Spanish had an impact on the atmosphere of the entire South America continent,” said Paolo Gabrielli, a researcher from Ohio State who contributed to the first paper on the discovery. Although the age of the pollution is impressive, researchers are quick to point out that all glaciers contain human-caused pollution at this point. “Today, there are no glaciers on Earth where atmospheric deposition of anthropogenic origin cannot be detected,” said a report from Ohio State University. Researchers also suggest that emissions from fires, transportation and industry should be curtailed in order to reduce glacial melt and trap carbon in place. They also note that while air pollution is hundreds of years old, today’s level of air pollution is unprecedented. Via UN Environment Images via Cassie Matias

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Leaf power: How a ‘hero product’ drives Nissan’s reputation

June 13, 2013 by  
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A company innovates, builds brand value, and garners the confidence to innovate some more. It happens all the time in companies, but rarely in green.

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Leaf power: How a ‘hero product’ drives Nissan’s reputation

New report calls for ‘extended leadership’ on sustainability

June 13, 2013 by  
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Six paths to broadening leadership beyond your company, reshaping business and society as a whole.

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New report calls for ‘extended leadership’ on sustainability

Cleantech Survives a Crisis of Confidence

January 27, 2012 by  
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Despite widespread beliefs that clean technologies are struggling under political and technological burdens, the reality is that green is growing and holds more promise than ever.

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Cleantech Survives a Crisis of Confidence

The Bottom-Line Brand Benefits to Changing Consumer Behavior

September 25, 2011 by  
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Susan Hunt Stevens, the head of Practically Green, talks about how her consumer-focused website uses gamification and a points system based on LEED to give people the confidence to change to greener behaviors.

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The Bottom-Line Brand Benefits to Changing Consumer Behavior

A 6-Ingredient Recipe for Sustainability

September 24, 2011 by  
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There’s no simple way to get companies up to speed on sustainability, but these six ideas can give any company the skills to get started.

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A 6-Ingredient Recipe for Sustainability

Radical Confidence: Follow the Evidence that Points to a Greener Future

July 28, 2011 by  
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I have the radical confidence to believe in a positive future, one in which our better instincts enable us to interpret the evidence presented by the laws of the planet so that all life on Earth can prosper.

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Radical Confidence: Follow the Evidence that Points to a Greener Future

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