A regularly seen warning on roads is that “speed kills” and cities have been slowing traffic around the world to protect pedestrians. However, have you thought about how speed as a concept kills? Over at the tech-worshipping magazine, Wired, they’re running an article that explores the idea that reaching for better speeds is in itself a problem. The need for speed is killing the planet and instead, they argue, we need to strive for efficiency.
Here’s the thing: These ideas for accelerating the future fail to address a far more pressing problem than our stalled speedometers. In the US, transportation accounts for 27 percent of the carbon we release into the air, more than any other sector of the economy. Four-fifths of that comes from cars and trucks. The internal combustion engine is rocketing us deeper into a climate crisis that demands an immediate—and big—reduction in those emissions. Hyperloops might run on clean electricity, but it would take decades for them to become extensive enough to replace a significant number of cars. Supersonic flight requires engines that use much more fuel, and more carbon, than slower planes. These rosy renderings of effortless whooshing hither and yon distract us from what the problem demands: a way forward that prioritizes not thoughtless speed but calibrated efficiency.
Usually when economists talk about efficiencies they means firing people so executives can get better returns, this time efficiency is found by using electricity in smarter ways. The myth that increased energy consumption means a better economy has been “decoupled”. The global economy is using less energy for every dollar produced – a sign that economic progress doesn’t have to mean the destruction of the environment.
The EIA also measured energy productivity, which is the inverse of energy intensity, measuring units of economic productivity for every unit of energy consumed. The world also saw significant increases here over the past two and a half decades. China came out far ahead, with a 133 percent increase in energy productivity between 1990 and 2015, largely due to the fact that increases in economic output were twice that of increases in energy consumption. The US saw a 58 percent gain in energy productivity over the same 25 years as well.
It’s been said that once solar power efficiency gets to 40% it’ll be a tipping point for the mass use of solar panels. Now we can see if that is true as a team of researchers partnered with industry has developed technology to make it so solar energy conversion can regularly hit 40.4%.
The advance involved two steps. Three solar panels were stacked to capture energy from different wave lengths of sunlight, and then excess light from the stacked panels was directed by a mirror and filters to a fourth PV cell, making use of energy previously discarded.
“This is our first re-emergence into the focused-sunlight area,” said Professor Green, who pioneered 20 per cent-efficiency levels in similar technology in 1989.
The institute was prompted to revisit the technology in part because of Australian companies’ efforts to develop large-scale solar towers using arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on PV cells.
One of those firms, Melbourne-based RayGen, collaborated with UNSW on the project. It is building a plant in China with an solar conversion rate of about 28 per cent across the year.. “We’d take them to the mid-30s” for future projects with the technology jump, Professor Green said
Banks have a horrible reputation because of their inability to predict economic behaviour, this was highlighted by the ongoing economic claptrap that started roughly seven years ago. Canadian banks have also received a tarnished reputation because of their ongoing unethical investments in the Alberta tar sands. Perhaps as a reaction to this, Scotiabank launched an awards program in 2010.
Their EcoLiving Awards is focused on bringing attention and finances to companies that are improving the efficiency of households. This can range from better windows to new technology systems. You can nominate a company at their website, so if you know a Canadian company that makes the world a little more sustainable on the home front you should nominate them.
“The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards showcase outstanding leaders in home energy efficiency. If you have a great idea or solution, we want to hear from you,” said Kaz Flinn, Scotiabank’s Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility. “We know that Canadian homeowners are likely to consider making their home more energy efficient or environmentally friendly with renovations. These awards bring forward new and innovative ideas.”
The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards recognize winners in three categories:
Business Leadership ($50,000) – a business or individual who is leading the way in home energy efficiency products, services or solutions. Focused primarily on executing a proven idea or program.
Innovators ($15,000) – a business or individual demonstrating innovation in home energy efficient products, services and solutions. Focused on introducing exciting new ideas for products or programs.
Student Leadership ($10,000) – a full-time college or university student who demonstrates promise for the future of home energy conservation.
A new SuperTruck is a huge improvement over current long-haul trucks that ship tonnes of goods around North America. The USA’s Department of Energy wanted to make trucks 50% more efficient through various solutions, even a marginal increase can lower gas consumption and thus pass on savings to a consumer.
The demonstration SuperTruck made a whole swath of changes (as can be seen in the image above) to make their truck way better than existing fleets. All their changes add up to a 61% improvement in freight efficiency!
This was achieved without anything too exotic: The ‘SuperTruck’ uses a higher-efficiency engine and an aerodynamic tractor-trailer that significantly reduces drag combined with a waste heat recovery system, electronic controls that use route information to optimize fuel use, low-rolling resistance tires, and weight reductions all around.