Sunday, October 19, 2008

Digital Green Earth

In 'From Digital Economy to "Digital GreenEarth"' Yasuhiko ARAKAWA (Director, Institute for Nano Quantum Information Electronics) argues that ICT can create a low greenhouse gas emission economy in Japan by 2050. He predicts that online information requirements will increase 200 times from 2006 to 2025, so the energy use of the technology needs to be reduced. The estimate of a 200 fold increase is probably an underestimate, but even greater efficiency should be possible.

Professor ARAKAWA suggesters:
  1. Boosting energy efficiency of network infrastructure and servers
  2. Energy management in lighting and air conditioning
  3. Better Human Interfaces
  4. Innovative nanotechnologies.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Testing Heat Pump Water Heaters

The New Zealand Government has issued a request for tender for a test strategy for Heat Pump Water Heaters. There is a common Australia/NZ standard for these (AS/NZS 4234), but this has two climate zones unique to NZ, which the heaters need to be tested for. Heat pumps are very efficient for heating water, but have problems operating at low temperatures.
To develop a laboratory testing method that determines the key air-source HPWH performance characteristics of the common system Configurationsand to develop in parallel,TRNSYS models for the common HPWH configurations so they can accept the outputs of the HPWH performance testing methods.

The models are required to model the HPWH seasonal performance for the two NZ climate zones defined in AS/NZS 4234.

From: To develop an Air-Source Heat Pump Water Heater performance test and TRNSYS annual performance Model, ICNNZ Reference: 21289

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Garnaut Climate Change Interim Report

The interim Garnaut Climate Change Review, commissioned by Australian governments has been released. The suggested cuts in green house gas emissions are possible with minimal impact on our lifestyle and economy. Reducing energy use with computers, broadband and the Internet, could help. A further Draft Report will be released 30 June 2008 and a Final Report 30 September 2008.

Available are:
  1. Media release (353kb)
  2. Executive Summary (44kb)
  3. Full Report (634kb)
The full report is 64 pages long. All the documents appear to have been efficiently and carefully encoded in PDF, unlike many government reports. But the reports could do with shorter web addresses. They are about 150 characters long. Removing the duplicated text and "MicrosoftWord" would help, especially as the files are in PDF format, not Microsoft Word.

Here is the text of the executive summary:
This Interim Report seeks to provide a flavour of early findings from the work of the Review, to share ideas on work in progress as a basis for interaction with the Australian community, and to indicate the scope of the work programme through to the completion of the Review. There are some important areas of the Review’s work that are barely touched upon in the Interim Report, which will feature prominently in the final reports. Adaptation to climate change, energy efficiency and the distribution of the costs of climate change across households and regions are amongst the prominent omissions from this presentation.

Many views put forward in this Interim Report represent genuinely interim judgements. The Review looks forward to feedback from interested people before formulating recommendations for the final reports.

Developments in mainstream scientific opinion on the relationship between emissions accumulations and climate outcomes, and the Review’s own work on future “business as usual” global emissions, suggest that the world is moving towards high risks of dangerous climate change more rapidly than has generally been understood. This makes mitigation more urgent and more costly. At the same time, it makes the probable effects of unmitigated climate change more costly, for Australia and for the world.

The largest source of increased urgency is the unexpectedly high growth of the world economy in the early twenty-first century, combined with unexpectedly high energy intensity of that growth and continuing reliance on high-emissions fossil fuels as sources of energy. These developments are associated with strong economic growth in the developing world, first of all in China. The stronger growth has strong momentum and is likely to continue. It is neither desirable nor remotely feasible to seek to remove environmental pressures through diminution of the aspirations of the world’s people for higher material standards of living. The challenge is to end the linkage between economic growth and emissions of greenhouse gases.

Australia’s interest lies in the world adopting a strong and effective position on climate change mitigation. This interest is driven by two realities of Australia’s position relative to other developed countries: our exceptional sensitivity to climate change: and our exceptional opportunity to do well in a world of effective global mitigation. Australia playing its full part in international efforts on climate change can have a positive effect on global outcomes. The direct effects of Australia’s emissions reduction efforts are of secondary importance. Australia has an important role to play alongside its international partners in establishing a realistic approach to global mitigation. Australia can contribute to the development of clear international understandings on the four components of a successful framework for global mitigation: setting the right global objectives for reduction of the risk of dangerous climate change; converting this into a goal for stabilisation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a specified level; calculating the amount of additional emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere over a specified number of years if stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations is to be achieved at the desired level; and developing principles for allocating a limited global emissions budget among countries.

Australia should make firm commitments in 2008, to 2020 and 2050 emissions targets that embody similar adjustment cost to that accepted by other developed countries. A lead has been provided by the European Union, and there are reasonable prospects that the United States will become part of the main international framework after the November 2008 elections. Some version of the current State and Federal targets of 60 per cent reduction by 2050, with appropriate interim targets, would meet these requirements.

Australia would need to go considerably further in reduction of emissions as part of an effective global agreement, with full participation by major developing countries, designed to reduce risks of dangerous climate change to acceptable levels. Australia should formulate a position on the contribution that it would be prepared make to an effective global agreement, and offer to implement that stronger position if an appropriately structured international agreement were reached.

The process of reaching an adequate global agreement will be long and difficult. Australia can help to keep the possibility of eventual agreement alive by efficient implementation of its own abatement policies, and through the development of exemplary working models of cooperation with developing countries in regional agreements, including with Papua New Guinea.

Australia must now put in place effective policies to achieve major reductions in emissions. The emissions trading scheme (ETS) is the centre-piece of a domestic mitigation strategy. To achieve effective mitigation at the lowest possible cost, the ETS will need to be supported by measures to correct market failures or weaknesses related to innovation, research and development, to information, and to network infrastructure.

Establishing an ETS with ambitious mitigation objectives will be difficult and will make heavy demands on scarce economic and finite political resources. The difficulty of the task makes it essential to use the most efficient means of achieving the mitigation objectives. That means efficiency both in minimising the economic costs, and in distributing the costs of the scheme across the Australian community in ways that are broadly seen as being fair.

To be effective in contributing as much as possible to an effective global effort to avoid unacceptably high risks of dangerous climate change, soundly based domestic and international policies will need to be sustained steadily over long periods. Policy-makers will need to eschew short-term responses that seem to deal with immediate problems but contribute to the building of pressures for future policy change. The Review aims to provide the basis for steady long-term policy at Commonwealth and State levels, and for productive long-term Australian interaction with the international community on climate change policy.

From: Executive Summary, Garnaut Climate Change Review Interim Report to the Commonwealth, State And Territory Governments of Australia, February 2008

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize 2007 to IPCC and Al Gore

Climate Change 2007 - The Physical Science Basis: Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold "Al" Gore Jr. have won the Nobel Peace Prize 2007, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

IPCC members such as Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, have done much hard work over many years to bring climate change to world attention. It seems odd that they all have to share half the prize with Al Gore, who produced little more than the Powerpoint presentation of an "An Inconvenient Truth" (and DVD). However, Mr. Gore's presentation probably had more effect on public opinion than all of the experts on the IPCC, as the Nobel committee notes:An Inconvenient Truth - Book Cover

... Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted...

From: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, Media Release, Nobel Foundation, Oslo, 12 October 2007

Some books available on the topic:

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Green office building opens in Canberra

Back of Australian Ethical Investments green building with bike racks, water tanks, light wells, chimney and evacuated tube solar hot water systemThis morning Senator Bob Brown opened Australian Ethical Investment's (AEI) new environmentally friendly office in Canberra.

AEI refurbished Block E of Trevor Pearcey House in the Bruce Technology Park. It has:
* hydronic heating and cooling
* designated parking spaces for small cars and motorbikes
* bicycle racks for staff and visitors
* double glazing on windows and increased shading
* skylights
* added insulation and
* water tanks and water saving toilets and urinals.

From: Treavour Pearcy House, AEI
AEI are aiming for a 75% reduction in energy use (and consequent reduction in CO2 greenhouse gas). What is most impressive is that they have done this within the restrictions imposed by an existing building which has to still fit in with the other building of the technology park.

The building has been clad in insulation to reduce heating and cooling needs. But you can't notice the difference with the building next to it. If you look closely the AEI building looks smooth, whereas the one next door shows a rough painted brick surface. The AEI building actually looks slightly higher quality as a result.

It is a shame AEI couldn't make the building's green technology more visible from the outside. The back of the building is far more interesting than the front. The front looks like a bland technology park building. The back has the bicycle racks and water tanks. On the roof you can see the light wells and solar chimneys, as well as the evacuated tube solar hot water system. The Micros
oft Technology Center in Cambridge UK made the bicycle racks a feature of the building (and easier to find when I wanted to park my bike). The energy and water efficient homes at the "Eco-living Exhibition" in Canberra made a feature of the solar chimneys and panels.

Australian Ethical Investments green office with suspended low energy lights, exposed cableways and heat sink concrete ceilingInside the suspended ceiling of the building has been removed on the ground floor to allow the concrete underside of the first floor to act as a thermal mass: providing cooling in summer and heating in winter. The concrete has been mostly painted white, with low energy light fittings suspended. Power and computer cables are in suspended cable ways. I have seen a similar arrangement at IBM's Centre at Ballarat University.

Offices in the center of the AEI building have conventional suspended ceilings. The architect has decided to leave the edges of the ceiling exposed, to allow natural ventilation. This is perhaps taking the industrial esthetic a little too far. It makes the building look half finished, with a rat's nest of cables and insulation exposed. Some sort of grille could have been used to cover the gap, allowing ventilation but providing visual continuity.

Conduits for power and computers are simply stuck to the concrete of the ceiling in most places. Having spent many hours with my head in ceilings and floors running computer cables through tiny holes, this is a great improvement. However, the architect might have done better to leave the concrete ceiling grey and used the hanging lights and cable ways to create a virtual ceiling. Looking up, you would see the bright white of the light fitting s and cable ways and not tend to notice the grey concrete above.

The building aims to maintain a temperature of 19 to 26 degrees C, which should be comfortable. The requirement for government buildings is 22 degrees plus or minus 1 degree and this tight range greatly increases energy consumption and cost, without providing much extra comfort. In fact the cold office on a hot day might not be as comfortable for the occupants.

The building uses a computer controlled system to open the windows at night in summer to cool it. I might see if some ANU students would like to do a project to interface the system and report the building status on the web (or even a mobile phone). The AEI building is by the same architects as the ANU's Ian Ross engineering building.

At the launch I bumped into Keith Price, who works on computer systems for the Centre for Australian Ethical Research. CAER are one of the occupants of the building and undertake research for AEI. The environment and ICT were an emerging theme at the ACS Conference last week. I suggested to Keith that perhaps we needed to form a Special Interest Group to address this in Canberra.

I am an AEI shareholder and have money in their ethical super fund. But while AEI's green credentials may be good, it can be frustrating difficult to put money into their fund. With other super funds I can simply use BPAY to electronically transfer money. AEI want me to set up a bank transfer and fill in a paper form. This is error prone and unnecessary and I suspect they are missing out on a lot of funds as a result. If you think e-payments are a trivial system see my discussion of the eighteen character problem.

ps: Apart from ICT for the environment, there is another computer connection to the AEI building. The building is named in honor of Dr Trevor Pearcey, Australian computing pioneer and one of the founders of the Australian Computer Society. In 1993 I took part in a future study for Canberra and wrote "Canberra 2020: World Information Capital" (published in Informatics Magazine, September 1993). This featured Trevor Pearcy House.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth - Book Cover
The book "An Inconvenient Truth", by Al Gore, provides a lucid argument for action on global warming.

This "book of the film" is 328 pages long. But it is not an old fashioned academic book. It is more for a coffee table, with mostly large color photos, a few diagrams a minimum of very large text (much like a children's book). The last few pages provide a useful set of suggestions as to what the average person can do to save the planet.

There is no table of contents in the front and no index in the back of the book. About the only way to look for topics in the book is using Amazon's "look inside" feature. I used this to find there are six references to Australia and none to the Indian "Reva" electric car.
An Inconvenient Truth - DVD Cover
Al Gore probably has done more for the world by presenting this material than he was likely to do as President of the USA. It will be a better seller than previous books by Al Gore which were famously lampooned on "The Simpsons" for their dull earnestness. But still the DVD of the documentary film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, is likely to sell more than the book (you can also download the video).

There is also a web forum to discuss the issues.

Some other books on the topic:

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