Smart Grid Overview

Global consumption of fossil fuels are on the rise at an alarming rate. Much of this usage comes from transportation. While fuel efficiency continues to improve, the combustion that occurs during driving, even with recent improvements to vehicle efficiency, still release large amounts of CO2 & other GHG's, which are responsible for trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming. Individuals are, in greater and greater numbers, opting for more environmentally responsible solutions to this global problem by carpooling, buying hybrid vehicles, and walking or cycling when convenient.

Many major cities don’t have appropriate infrastructure for safe cycling or walking, or don’t have reliable mass transit systems. These problems continue to turn people off of to ditching their cars for more sustainable options. Infrastructure is an important investment for cities that wish to be more environmentally friendly. Cities could learn a lot from Vancouver, the alternative transit capital of North America

In Vancouver, 10% of work commutes are done on bicycle, which is more than other North American cities of similar size. Even more trips are taken by foot within city limits. Vancouver has a goal of increasing walking as a major form of transportation for trips within city limits. Vancouver took steps to ensure they didn’t fall victim to city planning pitfalls, that frequently result when attempting to move towards more “active transportation” (i.e. walking and cycling).

Vancouver is the only major North American city without a freeway running through it. In the late 1960s, residents first rejected a plan that would separate the city from the iconic waterfront with a freeway, and no such freeway plan has passed in Vancouver since then. This transit dilemma led to the development of the SkyTrain, the world’s longest fully automated metropolitan train system, the West Coast Express, SeaBus, and the development of streetcars.There are SkyTrain lines connecting downtown Vancouver with other major nearby Canadian cities and connecting to the Vancouver International airport, as well as new lines, running to such places as the Waterfront. Vancouver also has the West Coast Express, a commuter rail service, for travel within the city.

In addition to the SkyTrain & West Coast Express, Vancouver offers the SeaBus. There are 3 double-decker ferries in the SeaBus fleet, each holding up to 400 passengers. Each ferry does 2-4 trips an hour, and runs over 100 hours per week. The trips run under 15 minutes most of the time, and connect Waterfront Station (SkyTrain terminals) and downtown Vancouver, with North Vancouver's markets and Transit Exchange. 

The 2010 Winter Olympics were also a source of increased solutions for greater cycling and pedestrian ease of transit, and less automotive traffic. One major change was the creation of large, safe, and expansive bike lanes. Vancouver has also invested a lot of money and time into expanding their mass transportation network. While initially, an expensive investment, at around $2 billion, plans like these can actually be sourced with freed up funds from areas like road repair, which are not as needed, as there are fewer cars on the road. Vancouver today has a vast network of buses, trollies, Commuter Shuttles and even NightBus routes. 

Vancouver’s next goal is to have 66% of all trips made by walking, cycling, or public transit by 2040. To do this, the city will continue to make investments in large, protected bike lanes, better sidestreet lighting, and improved crosswalks. These safety measures, in combination with increased proliferation of educational materials about why using these modes of transportation is important for the environment, and about how to use these modes of transportation safely and efficiently, are the best ways to increase alternative transportation and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.


For more information on Vancouver's alternative transit, please see: green city: Vancouver


Snippet from the 'green city - Vancouver article'-

"Pedestrians are a priority in Vancouver, as walking is encouraged by citywide programs that maintain the city's natural beauty. Vancouver has land-use patterns that encourage walking and biking through creating high-density city centers and even widening sidewalks. The city features over 250 miles of bike trails. The city encourages alternative transportation modes. Public transit options include the cities' buses, streetcars, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express, all of which use the latest clean energy technologies. Vancouver requires all new single family residences to have electric car plug-ins, focusing on this technology in order to encourage zero emission vehicles."

Paris: Curbing Auto Emissions for Cleaner Air

Paris Curbs Diesel Emissions

Paris, the City of Light, is fast turning into the City of Smog, with high levels of pollution fuelled by car emissions. According to a WHO study, Paris has some of the highest levels of air pollution in Europe. France conducted analyses of air quality in several major cities. These showed a high level of pollution from car emissions. The analyses registered a concentrated amount of ultrafine particles, the type emitted by vehicles in use on the streets. The highest levels of these came from the older model diesel vehicles, especially those built to the Euro 4 standard. In light of this finding, all cars produced prior to 1997 are banned from the city of Paris on weekdays.

Drivers on the streets of Paris will have to put color coded stickers on the windshields of their vehicles. This will enable easy identification by the police of those vehicles with the highest levels of diesel emissions. The system is called Crit’Air. Prior to the sticker system officials had introduced the rather impractical system that saw vehicles with odd or even numbered plates banned from the streets on alternate days.

How does the Crit’Air system work?

All vehicles will be issued color-coded stickers. There are six colors, based on the type of vehicle, the date of registration, its energy efficiency and level of emission. Green is the cleanest category and grey the worst. Green is for electric hybrid, and hydrogen cars. Low emission cars also might get special access to certain parts of the city that more polluting cars won't have.

Under the Crit’Air system, vehicles registered before 1997 and trucks and buses registered before 2001will get a grey sticker. These will be banned from the streets in Paris. France has around 32 million vehicles on its streets, and approximately 6% fall into this category. Some have criticized the Crit’Air system, saying that it targets those who are unable to afford newer vehicles.

The next category is brown. Vehicles registered between 2001 and 2005 will fall into this category. These account for 14% of vehicles. The authorities plan on extending the ban to these as well. The only vehicles that will be legally allowed on the capital’s streets will be those conforming to the Euro 5 emission standards, and a small number that come into the category of antique cars and collectable vehicles.

The Crit’Air system will also apply to all vehicles registered in other countries. These will have time till March 2017 to get their stickers. Meanwhile, the authorities in Paris are also encouraging people to use public transport wherever possible, and are issuing special ‘pollution tickets,’ valid for a full day’s travel within the capital, for €3.60.

Approximately 600,000 vehicles per day use the city’s road network. Those found without stickers will get a hefty fine. Cars will be fined €69 and lorries €168.

Other French cities are using the sticker system. Paris, however, plans to make their system permanent. The authorities are introducing other measures to reduce traffic. Some roads could be closed to traffic; other areas may be ‘pedestrian only’ zones. Residents in Paris support the new system and are hopeful that it will go a long way towards clearing the city’s pollution problem.


For more information, see:


and: green city: London (a sustainable metropolis)

The Biggest Solar Plant on the Globe: In India?

    In September of 2016, the Kamuthi solar plant in Tamil Nadu, India was revealed. As a result, India is now number three in the world for solar utility systems, behind only the United States and China. To reach the third spot, India had to gain on the United Kingdom, and this solar farm gave them just enough edge.

This plant was built and funded by Adani power, which was founded on August 22, 1996, as an energy trading company. They took their first step into power generation with a massive coal power project in Mundra. On October 2, 2011, it became the largest thermal power generating company.This huge solar energy plant appears to be Adani’s first venture into massive solar projects.

Who Had the Record Prior?

    The previous record for largest solar plant belonged to The Topaz Solar Plant in California, which has a total capacity of 550 megawatts. The Kamuthi plant, by comparison, has a capacity of 648 megawatts. The facility occupies 2,500 acres and can supply energy for hundreds of thousands of homes.

How Green is India?

    The first country to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, India has been working towards more sustainable energy sources since the early 1980s. Taking into account this new solar power plant, India has a total of 44.34 gigawatts of capacity attached to renewable sources of energy. The Ministry of Renewable Energy, whose mission statement is to “increase the share of clean power, increase the availability of energy and improve its access, improve energy affordability, and maximize energy equity,” plans to increase this number to 175 gigawatts by the year 2022, and to generate 40% of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030, and this solar power plant shows just how dedicated they are.

How Long Did it Take to Build?

    This massive structure was built in only eight months. This feat was accomplished through the dedication of 8,500 team members, who worked 24 hours a day to complete the project. Perhaps as a result of the quick and efficient build, this project cost only $679 million, which dwarfs the smaller Topaz Farm budget, which was around $2.5 billion.

What Plans Does India Have for More Plants?

    India has plans to build approximately 25 more large solar power stations, with capacities between 500 and 1000 megawatts. India is also focusing on bringing clean electricity to remote villages and is taking on many other environmental initiatives. If they are successful in this goal, it would mean the world’s new largest solar power plant will soon be replaced by another super capacity power plant in the same country. India, along with China, has an incredible population, and for both of these countries to be working to decrease their impact on the environment so rigorously will have a substantial, positive impact on environmental health.

Please also see: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating SystemThe 550 megawatt Topaz Solar Plant

European green building is leading the way forward




It often seems like smaller countries are doing the most to tackle climate change; nations like Switzerland and Austria have some of the best recycling systems in the world, while the likes of Bhutan and Costa Rica are doing more than anyone to become carbon neutral nations. However, there are some major Western European nations that are making interesting attempts to improve their carbon footprints.


In 2015, France made it a legal requirement for all new buildings in commercial zones to cover part of their rooftops in plants or solar panels. This helps reduce the amount of energy it takes for these buildings to be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. The law could have gone further, and was watered down from original plans to cover the whole roofs of every new buildings in such a fashion, but this is still an inventive and hugely productive way to make buildings more energy efficient


The United Kingdom has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% come 2050. Currently, the UK Green Building Council is running an exciting project to refurbish its office in a creative, clever, and environmentally friendly fashion. 


It hopes this office will have the lowest measured fit-out carbon footprint in the UK, as well as to use 98% recycled materials over the course of the redesign. They have also worked to encourage major cities in the UK to take on environmental challenges, helping places like Manchester and Birmingham embrace innovative, refreshing green design. 


Some of the most impressive green buildings in the world are to be found in Germany. The city of Freiburg boasts several of them, including the Solarsiedlung (Solar Settlement) and the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship), which is a small, vibrant community powered entirely by solar energy in the city district of Vauban.  


What's particularly impressive is just how energy efficient the Reichstag (Germany's parliament) is- the building generates 80% of the energy it uses itself, and there is a special insulation system to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It all comes together to make the Reichstag one of the world's most energy efficient major buildings. 


The Reichstag Dome



Stefano Boeri's jaw dropping 'Bosco Verticale,' or 'Vertical Forest,' consists of two skyscrapers with trees planted on special platforms. These skyscrapers are tall enough to sustain more trees than an entire hectare of forest could. On a bright, sunny day, the Bosco Verticale really is one of the most stunning things in Milan, as lush vegetation springs confidently forth from the skyscrapers, turning the skyline a delightfully vivid green. 


Of course, there is a practical purpose to this as well, as the extra trees guzzle up CO2 and dust particles and emit clean oxygen, as well as bringing natural warmth to the building, and protecting people and houses from sustained exposure to harmful sun rays. Gutsy projects like this may make all the difference in the future in ensuring our cities remain appealing places to live.


Bosco Verticale


 Please also see: green building

Recycling: How We Are Doing As A Global Community




 Individuals and governments the world over are beginning to understand that if we don’t act now, as a global community, the environment is in grave peril. One major step many communities of the world have taken is educating about, and enforcing, recycling standards. Increased wealth and population, extreme consumerism, and lifestyle changes, have led to increased waste. Recycling reduces toxins released into the atmosphere from landfills and reduces the pollution generated in manufacturing more (fully recyclable) packaging of products.

Which countries recycle the most?



        The top five countries for recycling are Germany, South Korea, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. Germany gained number one status by implementing what is called the green dot initiative. In order to get a green dot on the package, manufacturers have to pay a fee based on the size of the packaging, which is used for recycling. Manufacturers have thereby been encouraged to reduce the volume of packaging, and to make packaging more easily recyclable. This encourages companies to produce more minimalistic and innovative packaging. They also came up with an intricate system of domestic and commercial sorting to make sure every material is able to be recycled properly.  The Green Dot system started in Germany in 1991, and now has spread to 26 countries on the European continent. The following European (and 1 Asian) nations are the best at recycling in the world today:



5) SWITZERLAND: The Swiss national character places a high value on order and cleanliness- you can spend a couple of nights in jail simply for taking the recycling out on the wrong day- so it's no surprise they are among the best recyclers in the world. It actually costs a Euro to simply throw your trash away rather than recycle it. The government don't just bribe and coerce people to recycle though; there are also bottle banks at every supermarket, and free paper collections once a month. Switzerland are busy creating a culture where it is actively unusual not to recycle.

4) AUSTRIA: Austria has taken a comprehensive approach to encouraging its citizens to recycle. The combination of economic incentives, the successful implementation of education and training programs, and memorable advertising campaigns have thoroughly convinced Austrian citizens of the value recycling, and helped turn Austria into the fourth biggest recycler in the world.

Some people consider Belgium's recycling program to be the best in Europe. The Flemish part of Belgium has the highest waste diversion rate on the continent, with nearly three-quarters of its waste getting recycled or composted. What's more, the Flemish economy has grown significantly since 2000, yet the level of waste generation has remained consistently low; usually economic growth goes hand in hand with a rise in the production of waste. Switzerland, Austria and Belgium are three relatively small central European nations who continuously outperform much larger nations when it comes to recycling.

South Korea spends 2% of its GDP on a Green Growth Plan, hoping to deliver environmentally friendly economic prosperity. Its recycling industry is booming, and major companies are on board. Each apartment block has a fastidious recycling system similar to the Swiss model, where recycling is free but merely throwing items in the trash costs you a small amount of money. Wherever you are in the world, it seems economic incentives are an effective way of convincing people to care about recycling. 


The #1 country in the world for recycling is Germany!

Who Recycles the Worst?

        The worst countries worldwide for recycling are Turkey and Chile. Turkey recycles a mere 1% of its total waste. The government places little to no importance on the recycling issue. Chile is known for having bad infrastructure for waste management, and so a lot of illegal dumping occurs.

How Can We Improve Recycling Rates?


Recycling By Epsosde 640x245


        In order to improve recycling rates, it is important to make recycling receptacles ubiquitously available. This means both installing public receptacles, and providing recycling services free of charge to residential areas. Most people will choose to recycle when it presents no apparent added effort.

        When people have to think too hard about which item goes in which bin, they tend to give up and either throw it in a random bin, or just throw it in the trash. Unless zero-sort recycling infrastructure is already in place, incorrectly recycled items create increased cost in the recycling process. In fact, zero-sort facilities are a great way to avoid the apparent added effort of having to think. Most people know that, in general, glass, paper, and plastic are recyclable, and everything else is landfill material. With zero-sort receptacles, there is no added thought required.

         Creating a penalty for not recycling is also a tool that can be implemented for increased community recycling. It actually costs you to not recycle, and throw out your trash is a special plastic bag, in Switzerland. In Denmark, trash disposal is closely monitored and regulated in order to ensure the maximal recycling is done correctly.Germany issues each household 5 different colors/ categories of recycling bins. Examples of cities where you can be fined if you don't recycle, include Burlington, VT; Dayton, OH; San Francisco, CA and Cardiff, Wales.

          Most importantly, city officials need to evaluate the needs of their city. If it is particularly windy, they may need to provide covered bins for residence; if there is constant illegal dumping, they may need to provide more accessible recycling and trash centers. The needs of each community vary so widely that it is impossible to prescribe one generic solution. The important take away is that we all need to be doing something as a global community, to increase environmental welfare.

For information on an innovative recycling program starting now in the UK, please see:


Smart Grid explained