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Microgrids spread across Africa

Microgrids – Energy Solution


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Developing Microgrids

Communities see tremendous benefits from microgrids, especially in developing countries and developing economies (e.g. countries in Africa, rural areas of countries – especially those in remote locations). More and more, as African nations push for rural electrification, they look to microgrids as a sustainable solution to the energy poverty problem. Microgrids are increasingly being invested in and developed throughout Africa, especially where utilities can’t reach, and/ or where local governments don’t want to invest in the utility infrastructure needed to deliver energy.

Over half of villages in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity at all, dependent instead on dangerous and costly kerosene and diesel. The Brookings Institute estimates that electricity is not accessible in over 50% of households throughout Africa (only ~43% of African households have electricity).

Much of this problem is focused in poorer African countries. This lack of electricity in rural Africa is because utilities and local governments with control over utilities often don’t even try to invest in the grid infrastructure needed for energy to be available in rural villages.

An energy solution for rural Africa are microgrids (this is also a solution for any remote area in the world – as described in GCT’s main microgrid article). Microgrids can supply renewable energy (RE) + battery energy storage, or generate energy from fossil fuel sources coupled with RE + batteries (known commonly as hybrid microgrid systems).


Benefits of RE in Microgrids

Of the multiple fuel types run in various types of microgrids, RE-based microgrids are more cost effective and safer compared to diesel generators, kerosene, and biomass – power sources that are widely used for electricity/ light/heat/ power in Africa today. Kerosene often uses up to 20% of an average African’s income, can cause fires, and unhealthy air quality. Burning various sources of organic matter (wood, waste, other biomass…) for everyday household needs also results in unhealthy air quality and leads to serious health problems. Kerosene is especially toxic – causing health problems, burning people, giving off poor light, and can be up to 3-4 times as expensive as electrical light.

In terms of generating electricity it must be noted that, although not emissions-free like RE sources, natural gas is less much polluting than diesel. Natural gas still creates polluting emissions, as the only way to avoid emissions in an energy fuel source is to use RE. Fossil fuel based generators, kerosene lamps, the burning of wood and other organic matter to heat homes and to cook – results in environmental and health problems. RE avoids these problems.

By using RE in microgrids, as well as other distributed RE such as solar PV + LED/ USB charging kits – all polluting GHG emissions and particulates are avoided – resulting in a clean, healthy environment while generating affordable energy.

A medium-sized solar power system with battery storage can be easily used by over 50 households, or even an entire village, in many rural regions in Africa. The power can be used for lighting, cell phone charging, cooking, etc… And the power is affordable, efficient, reliable, environmentally-friendly, and has no public health problems like kerosene.


Investing in Microgrids

This brief snippet describes the growth of microgrids and distributed RE in Africa, and the role financing systems like PAYGo plays in the expansion of African microgrids

“Rapidly falling prices of renewable energy equipment and the development of new business models, such as pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) companies that utilize mobile money systems available in many African countries, have recently begun to usher in a new era of energy access via the off-grid solar lighting market. This could be an important stepping-stone to a more robust electricity infrastructure provided by microgrids. Off-grid devices – such as small solar-powered lanterns and self-contained solar home systems – provide enough electricity for minimal amenities such as lighting, cell phone charging and small appliances. The PAYGo business model has been a huge factor in the growth of this market because it allows people to pay for service when they can, in the same way that they have always bought most products.

Lighting Africa reports that as of 2017, “the global off-grid solar sector is providing improved electricity access to an estimated 73 million households.” According to the Lighting Africa report, the transition from kerosene and/or other conventional fuels to off-grid solar devices has saved people at least USD $5.2 billion during this time period, and significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Microgrid developers are often asked why they would want to compete with the fast-growing off-grid lighting sector. The answer is that the two technologies aren’t competing but are in fact complementary. Off-grid solar electricity has immediate appeal to householders because of its relative simplicity.

But, it cannot be scaled up to adequately power commercial businesses, health clinics, schools and other resources required for rural economic development. For that transition to occur, it’s necessary to take the next step up the energy ladder to microgrids, which can handle more robust electricity generation. Solar lighting is a worthy first step, but it’s likely that its users are going to discover – and want – the other amenities that electricity can bring.”   FROM –    microgridnews.com/improving-energy-access-in-rural-africa-depends-on-renewable-energy-microgrids

In addition to PAYGO, microgrids can be financed by public investment or private organizations; and avoid infrastructure costs that country-wide or regional grids represent. Microgrids represent both a worthy investment in communities, and a wonderful means of helping those communities access a safer, cleaner, more sustainable way of life


Summation of the Need for Microgrids in Rural Africa

Microgrids are important for remote communities in Africa. Electrification of rural villages has been made possible through them. Power needed for water pumping, and purification, is done with the help of various microgrids in Africa and other parts of the world. Mobile communication has a wider reach in the continent through telecom towers that are powered with microgrids.

Microgrids are cheaper than building power lines into forests and mountains, especially in the most remote locations in Africa. Poor communities in other third world countries will also benefit from having microgrids installed, especially when the utility grids don’t want to build long power lines to connect them to the grid.

Many microgrids, at least those based on RE and battery storage, don’t emit GHGs. There are no issues with pollution, environmental hazards, or health hazards, with RE microgrid technologies.

Many African rural communities have already built microgrids as their primary energy source. Every time a new installation is made, the skill base of the locals is developed. Rural village community infrastructure is improved as well (water systems, cell phone charging systems, telecom systems, and, of course, electricity systems).

However, despite the recent momentum of microgrids, one of the reasons there are not enough microgrids in Africa is because of the prohibitive cost and lack of reasonable financing for microgrid technologies. Policy is needed to ensure that they are more affordable to the poor, remote villages in the continent.

“The use of microgrids in rural electrification projects based on renewable energy sources are mostly associated with bringing basic services to communities. Microgrids are however also increasingly being used to power small businesses in rural areas. The development and availability of RE and microgrid technology makes the viability of a system that not only provides domestic electricity but reliable and sustainable power for small industry and businesses much more achievable than in the past. There are numerous initiatives aimed at providing access to energy in Africa…”   FROM  –  energy4impact.org/productive-use-energy-african-micro-grids


Other articles on microgrids in Africa:

The Microgrid Knowledge Africa Channel

The Borgen Project: African Miccrogrids


Please also see:

Microgrids: Powering the Future

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EVs to be the main car on the world’s roads

EVs are IN, ICE vehicles are OUT


EV mandates

In the near future, there will be laws implemented mandating sales of electric vehicles (EVs), and the phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, in many countries, states, and cities throughout the world. Unfortunately, current global roads and fuel infrastructure are built for petrol; ICE vehicles that have historically relied on gasoline.

However, EVs, plug-in EVs, and hybrids have made their way successfully into the global market. EVs have dropped in price with lithium ion batteries getting cheaper and more efficient. Globally, EVs have developed a considerable market share of vehicle sales in many countries. Now sales of EVs are mandated in many countries, with the implementation of these mandates right around the corner. However, there is still no complete infrastructure developed for the continual charging of EVs that will completely rely upon electricity in most countries.


Seventeen countries have taken varying types of action, from soft targets to strong commitments, to phase out Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles and increase the number of Electric Vehicles (EVs).  FROM: theclimatecenter.org/actions-by-countries-phase-out-gas


The EU wants to phase out gas car sales by 2035, and many other countries have announced similar plans. Norway plans to ban sales of gasoline vehicles by 2025 (currently 60% of new car sales are electric). Germany‘s upper house of legislature passed resolution to only approve emission-free cars for use on the roads by 2030. France plans to ban sales of gasoline vehicles by 2040. [full list below]

Amsterdam: no ICE vehicles will be allowed in city center after 2030.

Brussels: planning to largely ban gasoline powered vehicles from operating in the city by 2035.

Bristol: may be the first city to ban diesel vehicles from entering the city center.

Hong Kong: plans to phase out all gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2030 or 2040.

FROM: coltura.org/world-gasoline-phaseout


France is a great example of a national government that incentivizes EV sales; and incentivizes EVs and efficient vehicles with lower emissions. Crit’Air in Paris is one of the largest pioneering programs in a major world city to mandate compliance with emission standards for vehicles (in this case, European emissions standards). After successful implementation in Paris, Crit’Air policies now cover about 28 permanent zones in France… FROM>>> Curbing Auto Emissions to Create Cleaner Air with Crit’Air


Please see this article on>>> the rise of EVs in Oslo, Norway. The share of fully electric vehicles on Oslo’s roads is over 15% (with hybrids included, the number is higher); and the majority new car sales in Oslo are hybrids, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), or 100% EVs. Over half of new car sales are EVs; and when hybrids are added in, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles account for only 15% of new vehicle sales in Oslo.


California is the first state in the [US] to commit to [EV only sales by 2035], but could serve as a spark for other states to follow, given its size and historic leadership on regulatory issues. Seventeen countries including France, the U.K. and Germany have adopted goals to phase out internal combustion passenger cars.   FROM:  wsj.com/california-to-ban-sales-of-new-gas-powered-cars-starting-in-2035


Develop electric vehicle infrastructure

What will be done to develop electric vehicle infrastructure that will be required on the road as early as 2030 in some countries and cities? There are many questions to be considered when the EV is required to be more present on city roads, even if it is simply within a certain length of city limits. With cars that will only run on electrical energy, there must be significantly additional EV charging stations developed in world cities.

EV charging stations must be developed to be ubiquitous in some cities, and plentiful in most vehicle-heavy cities worldwide. When ICE phase-out laws begin to be implemented in world cities, there will be a much greater need to have gas stations updated and/or replaced. There is definitely a question of what that will take.

While this question exists, even common vehicle manufacturers, like GM, VW, and Toyota, are drastically increasing their production of EVs. One improvement that is expected to come with the requirement of EVs or hybrid vehicles, is lower lithium ion battery cost. While the high cost of this item has for about the last ten years has made some drivers reluctant to purchase the most popular hybrids, this will likely help improve motivation to follow these coming regulations.

There is the potential for the rebates on EVs to increase significantly as the time limit for the new driving requirement approaches. While it may also be a bit of a challenge to receive financing on these often-expensive cars, there will now most likely be incredibly larger rebates for consumers, helping to draw more drivers to the side of environmentally friendly driving.


Map FROM: coltura.org/world-gasoline-phaseouts

Austria seeks to to phase out registrations of new gas vehicles by 2027.

British Columbia: legislation passed to ban sales of new gasoline cars by 2040

Denmark: plans to ban gasoline vehicles by 2030, and hybrids by 2035; has called on the European Union to expressly permit member states to enact 2030 bans.

Egypt: working on plan to have only electric vehicles by 2040

France: plans to ban sales of gasoline vehicles by 2040

Germany: Bundesrat (upper house of legislature) passed resolution to only approve emission-free cars for use on the roads by 2030.

Iceland: plans to ban registration of new fossil fuel vehicles starting 2030; Reykjavik is eliminating half its gas stations by 2025.

India: set a target of 100% electric vehicles by 2030, and is considering a ban on gas-powered 2- and 3-wheeled vehicles by 2025.

Ireland: legislation proposed to only allow sales of zero emissions vehicles starting 2030

Israel: plans to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles after 2030

Japan plans to ban sales of new gasoline-only vehicles by 2035.

Korea: contemplating banning sales of new gas vehicles by 2035

Netherlands: all new cars must be emissions-free by 2030; Amsterdam is banning all gasoline/diesel vehicles from its streets by 2030

Norway: The Norwegian Parliament has decided on a national goal that all new cars sold by 2025 should be zero-emission (electric or hydrogen).

Portugal: plans to stop selling new gasoline vehicles by 2040

Quebec: phasing out sales of new gas cars by 2035

Spain: plans to ban the sale of vehicles running on fossil fuels by 2040

Sweden: plans to ban sales of gasoline cars after 2030

UK: plans to ban sales of purely gasoline or diesel vehicles by 2030; Scotland: plans to phase out sales of new gasoline vehicles by 2032.

FROM: coltura.org/world-gasoline-phaseout


please also see:

Solutions to fossil fuels

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Putting a Price on Carbon

Pricing Carbon


Carbon Markets

Carbon cap and trade systems are regulatory policies in which countries, provinces, states, and even cities, set a limit (a cap) on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) industries/ power plants can emit. Carbon pricing plans incorporating an emission trading system (ETS) are commonly referred to as carbon cap & trade systems in the U.S, although the term also applies to similar systems in Europe, as well as elsewhere globally where an ETS is legislated for any administrative area. [In this article, we will treat cap and trade systems and ETS as synonymous].

Utilities and industries in areas where cap and trade legislation have been mandated are subject to an ETS; which is the regulatory system that details what limits for GHGs industries have, and the value of carbon permits. Carbon-intensive industries that are considered for inclusion in emission trading systems include fossil fuel power plants & oil/ gas refineries (always included in carbon pricing systems). Other possible inclusions in ETS legislated across the world include fossil fuel intensive product manufacturing companies, and/ or cement and steel manufacturing industries, and/or transportation sectors that rely on fossil fuel energy (such as long-haul shipping including heavy trucking, ocean freight shipping, & aviation).

Governments may either “grandfather in” GHG allowances (essentially give away permits based on past GHG production), or auction permits off. Carbon pricing has a few purposes that benefit people generally; it can be used for the public good through encouraging/ increasing sustainability measures such as renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects.

The primary function of carbon pricing is to lower GHGs, fight climate change, and therefore benefit all of humanity. An ETS, and/ or a carbon tax, makes using dirty fossil fuels more­ expensive, thereby encouraging utilities and industries to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency. An ETS and/ or a carbon tax also makes renewable energy a more attractive option than fossil fuels economically (adding economic benefits to the environmental benefits of renewable energy).

In an ETS that does use auctions, auctions for carbon permits (one carbon permit is usually = to 1 metric ton of CO2)  establish a price on carbon. ETS with auctions are much more effective than systems where carbon credits are just ‘grandfathered in”. The cost of carbon permits, or GHG emission permits, is essentially the price of carbon in these systems. As GHG emission permits are auctioned off, a price on carbon is established.

Companies can also keep carbon credits for future use in trading, or for their own allowances. For companies that run over their GHG emissions limits and don’t cover their allowances, a fine is often imposed. Carbon cap and trade systems are usually designed to adjust the cap annually and limit GHGs, gradually reducing the allowable limit of GHG pollution for those industries targeted by the cap and trade system.


Carbon Offsets

Carbon Offsets are a vital part of making ETS work; allowing companies to invest in international sustainability projects in order to fulfill their GHG reduction obligations. There are trades that offset GHG emissions in cap & trade systems; such as trades for credits with companies that have, or invest in – forestry projects, renewable energy, energy efficiencygreen building, and sustainable transit projects. Sanctioned GHG offsets also include investment in reforesting or projects that work to limit deforestation or trades with companies that have livestock projects that incorporate sustainable practices, or with companies that invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS) or other carbon sequestration measures.

To make cap and trade systems even more effective, there should be even more offset credits allowed in these systems for trades with companies that implement GHG emission saving renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies such as: solar and wind farms and other renewable energy projects, CCS, integrative gasification combined cycle (IGCC), anaerobic digestion (AD), combined heat and power (CHP), etc…

Carbon offsets can be purchased by individuals, non-profit organizations, and private businesses of every size, from small businesses to large international companies, and even governments; in order to lower their net carbon footprint and/ or in order to support sustainability efforts worldwide. Carbon offsets help balance out global GHGs and other environmental degradation; for instance, damage to the environment wrought by companies that commit deforestation, and companies that are reliant on fossil fuels, are a partial solution to the deforestation problem.

Carbon offsets for reforestation, planting trees, and other conservation projects provide fossil fuel intensive companies with “nature-based” offsetting solutions. Trees, plants, and wilderness ecosystems sequester carbon. Ideally, carbon offsets should be valued and calibrated to truly offset the company’s emissions, as reflected in the company’s investment in the offsets.

“Nature-based” carbon offsets act as land sinks, optimally sequestering carbon to the degree the company purchasing the offsets is emitting carbon – but, this depends on how the “nature-based” offsets are valued. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects have the potential to directly lower emissions of the company if the investments are made for the company itself. Otherwise, the carbon offsets are valued as creating “avoided emissions” by investing in a 3rd party company’s renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

In many cases, carbon offsets are purchased by international companies in industries running polluting factories, using carbon-intensive fuel for energy, and manufacturing fossil fuel intensive products; and this often includes companies involved in deforestation. Some offsets often formally offered in emission trading schemes globally include forestry projects (like planting and caring for trees; restoring, maintaining, and protecting forests and their ecosystems), as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects worldwide.

The amount of carbon offsets required for a company to purchase in an emission trading system (ETS) is proportional to the amount of pollution, GHGs, released by the company involved in the ETS; and should also be measured by the deforestation that a company commits, and the subsequent effect of that behavior by the company on the environment. However, as of now, most ETS around the world only use the amount GHGs released by companies, not deforestation, as a metric to assess a companies’ responsibility for purchasing carbon offsets. ETS, and other carbon pricing mechanisms (such as a carbon tax), can be mandated by states, provinces, and entire countries.

For some companies, it might make more financial sense and be more cost-effective to make the effort to reduce emissions through emission saving and energy efficiency technologies and/ or expanded use of renewable energy; and then sell their permits to companies that are over their GHG limit. However, usually, most companies tend to buy carbon permits if it’s cheaper to buy them than to try to lower emissions. Carbon permits can be invested in by businesses, industries, or even the public in some regions, via a carbon futures market.


Global carbon pricing markets

Carbon pricing, either as carbon cap and trade systems or a carbon tax, are in effect in over 40 countries and 25 states/ provinces/ cities globally. The largest market for cap and trade is in the EU with the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The EU ETS covers more than 11,000 power plants and industrial stations in over 30 countries, as well as airlines. The primary focus of the EU ETS is to fight climate change by lowering GHG emissions.

The EU ETS remains the largest international trading organization for trading GHG emission allowances. The EU ETS has successfully put a price on carbon, with its system of trading allowances of GHG emissions, and has also watched GHG emissions fall by a few percentage points annually since it began in 2005. The cap, or limit, set on GHG emissions will be, on average, over 20% lower on all power plants and industries by 2020 from 2005 levels (when the program started), as the EU continues to make efforts to reduce pollution.

Clean, energy efficient, low-carbon technologies like CCS, IGCC, CHP, and AD, as well as renewable energy, have grown in popularity throughout Europe, in part, because of the rising price of carbon resulting from the EU ETS. Here’s a helpful chart of carbon pricing for various ETS and carbon tax systems around the globe (carbon pricing is usually based on the basic per unit price of 1 metric ton CO2):

Ranges of carbon pricing worldwide

All countries deal with cap and trade differently. Most have cap and trade for industry and power sectors. For example, South Korea has cap and trade for heavy industry, power, waste, transportation, and building sectors. China has six provinces testing out cap and trade, and along with South Korea, represents a very large carbon market (with just those 6 provinces China is a large market, the entire country represents the single largest carbon market, by far).

The U.K., France, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden, and Finland, have legislated both carbon tax and cap and trade programs that regulate a broad swath of carbon-intensive industries. Finland and Sweden’s carbon pricing systems represent a high enough price per metric ton of CO2 to make a significant difference.

Finland’s carbon tax represents the type of carbon pricing needed to make a substantial impact on industries in order to stabilize GHGs, as represented in the global carbon pricing chart seen above of select countries’ price of a metric ton of carbon in their ETS or carbon tax. Over 40 governments worldwide have mandated a price on carbon. Here’s another map of carbon pricing systems around the globe:



carbon markets worldwide

 



The nine-state agreement in the U.S. northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is another major carbon cap and trade trading pact, and is, at least partially, based on the pioneering EU program. These states have auctioned off carbon allowances to industries in RGGI states, and have thereby collected well over $1 billion from carbon cap and trade programs, much of which has been reinvested in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean energy programs.

Since carbon cap and trade has started in the U.S. northeast, GHG emissions have steadily dropped. Like the EU, this in part due to investment in clean energy technologies, but also because some companies in the U.S. northeast have switched from dirtier fossil fuels like coal to cleaner natural gas generators in power plants, or to renewable energy.



A few current carbon cap and trade markets are:

EU ETS:

ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets


California cap & trade, linked with Quebec – Western Climate Initiative:


The U.S. Northeast region (RGGI):

bostonglobe.com/business/carbon-caps-help-northeast-economy-report-says

STORY – Cap & Trade Shows Its Economic Muscle in the Northeast, $1.3B in 3 Years (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative offers blueprint to all states) – By Naveena Sadasivam, InsideClimate News– insideclimatenews.org/cap-trade-shows-economic-muscle-northeast-13-billion-RGGI-clean-power-plan



 

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A Close Look at San Diego’s HERO Program

San Diego: GREEN Buildings


San Diego, Green Buildings, HERO Program

The importance of green energy for use in homes and businesses is becoming more and more widespread. Families, businesses, and whole communities are making the proactive effort to renovate their energy systems in order to pursue more cost-efficient and energy-efficient methods. San Diego is a U.S. west coast city that is a global leader in green buildings.

The HERO program in San Diego is an extension of the California Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program as applied to San Diego. The PACE program is also available throughout several states [for more information on the CA HERO program, please see: renovateamerica.com]. With the implementation of San Diego’s Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) program, building owners throughout San Diego (as well as the greater Southern California area; and throughout several states) are renovating their properties with efficiency upgrades.

One example of a building upgrade popular with HERO customers, is installing solar PV on rooftops or on a building’s property, along with the necessary technologies to make solar energy their main energy source. Solar upgrades are among a variety of renovations offered by HERO programs to improve buildings’ energy efficiency.

PACE, HERO, and Renovate America programs

It might come as no surprise that solar energy systems are expensive to implement, thus potentially preventing homeowners from pursuing this more efficient clean energy system. It’s for this reason that many areas across the nation have introduced the concept of PACE.

In San Diego, the PACE concept takes the form of the HERO program. HERO and similar programs have the potential to cover 100% of the cost of solar energy system implementation and building efficiency upgrades; from solar panels and energy-saving windows, to water saving upgrades. This financial assistance makes access to clean energy and a renovated building with energy efficiency upgrades much more feasible.

Clean energy upgrade financing through HERO programs offer low-interest options; and can even be repaid through property taxes. With a simple application process and options for even those with unfavorable credit scores, the HERO program provides homeowners committed to making the transition to clean and efficient energy with manageable rates and fees.

Since 2011, a clean energy focused organization called Renovate America has offered this HERO program to fund billions of dollars in home improvements for tens of thousands homes and buildings throughout the country. Starting in Riverside, California, this program was developed in order to allow homeowners to bring their clean energy desires to reality. In Riverside County alone, over 20,000 homes have utilized the program in order to make clean energy modifications to their homes.

Since expanding to San Diego County, the same program has provided financial assistance for thousands more local projects. Thus far for San Diego county, this program has facilitated a substantial increase in jobs, provided millions of dollars in funding for sustainable options, conserved over 1,000 million kilowatts of energy, and saved more than 1000 million gallons of water.

These benefits go hand in hand with what the HERO program is doing for homeowners as well. The amount saved on energy bills and reduction in their personal carbon footprint are other advantages to consider when making the decision to apply for this clean energy financing.

Overall, though, when taking a look at the positive reception from homeowners and the effectiveness of the program, it is easy to see that individuals are ready and willing to take advantage of a program such as this in order to go above and beyond to make a change for the better. Moving in the right direction in regards to clean energy changes is made that much more possible with the help of the HERO program and others like it.



Please also see:

Profiles in Sustainable Cities – San Diego, California

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Recycling – how we are doing as a global community; waste-to-energy

Recycle to GO GREEN


Effective waste management strategies for cities include citywide recycling programs, circular economy strategies, as well as waste-to-energy programs (discussed below). A simple, straightforward action that benefits the environment positively is recycling, as well as actions such as responsibly treating food waste (as seen in The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan in the UK, described at the bottom of this article). Globally, the scientific community and most governments agree that citizens worldwide must make vigilant, concerted efforts NOW on actionable climate priorities as simple as recycling.

One major step forward many communities of the world have taken is educating the public about, and enforcing, recycling standards. Increased world population, mass production, and mass consumption have led to increased waste. Recycling reduces the global waste problem. Recycling reduces GHGs released into the atmosphere from landfills (due to less waste being sent to landfills), and reduces pollution generated in manufacturing packaging of products. 


Which nations recycle the most globally?

the symbol for the Green Dot recycling program

The top five nations globally for recycling are Germany, South Korea, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland (as well as the country of Wales, in the United Kingdom. UK recycling and waste management efforts are discussed at the bottom of this article). All of these countries listed above have recycling rates of over 50%, while Germany now has a rate of over 65%.

Germany gained number one status by implementing what is called the Green Dot initiative; a nationwide waste management strategy that mandated packaging standards in order to increase recycling. The German Packaging Ordinance under the Waste Act led to the nationwide passing of Der Grüne Punkt (The Green Dot) recycling system for labeling recyclable packages that meet the requirements. A Green Dot recycling symbol on packaged goods is now standard for many products in Germany.

France also has legislated recycling into national laws, known as circular economy laws – which are being enacted throughout Europe and Asia. In France, 100% of all plastics and 55% of all waste must be recycled by 2025. The EU has legislated similar recycling laws, and banned some types of single-use plastics. Colored recycling bins designating specific recyclable waste types are ubiquitous throughout European countries – for residences, at businesses, and in public spaces.

Recycling in Europe is generally considered mandatory, or at least common practice (read below for specific examples of mandatory national recycling measures). Although recycling is ubiquitous throughout Europe, most European nations have yet to reach the 50% threshold. The below list is of nations nearing, or exceeding, the 55% rate for recycling nationwide.

The Green Dot

In order to get a Green Dot recycling symbol on a package, German manufacturers are required to pay a fee based on the size of the packaging, and the level to which the packaging is recycling-compliant. The fee is then used for the Green Dot recycling process itself. German manufacturers (now also many European manufacturers, as the Green Dot system has spread throughout Europe) have thereby been effectively incentivized to reduce the volume of packaging and to make packaging more easily recyclable.

The Green Dot program encourages companies to produce more minimalistic, innovative packaging; as well as more packaging from recycled materials (that can easily be recycled yet again). Germany also has an effective system of sorting domestic and commercial waste, going hand-in-hand with colored recycling bins for separate types of recyclable waste; to make sure materials are able to be recycled properly throughout the country.

The Green Dot system started operating nationwide in Germany in 1991, and has since been exported, and replicated in one form or another, to 28 European countries and Israel, as well as the creation of a Green Dot partnership with countries in North America. The following European (and 1 Asian) nations are the best at recycling in the world today:

World’s Best Recycling Nations

Zurich, Switzerland

5) SWITZERLAND The Swiss national character places a high value on order and cleanliness – you can pay a fine simply for tossing recyclable garbage in regular trash bins, or even for taking the recycling out on the wrong day – so it’s no surprise they are among the best recyclers in the world.

Switzerland is known globally for sending very little of its waste to landfills; instead incinerating waste in waste-to-energy waste streams to produce renewable biogas, or recycling it. Switzerland is busy creating a culture where it is unusual not to recycle throughout the country.

Fines are routinely  issued in Switzerland for companies, or even individuals, who don’t recycle, and instead, choose to just throw out recyclable waste with non-recyclable waste. The Swiss people place recyclable waste into free, specially designated bags before disposing of garbage; and whatever non-recyclable trash there is leftover goes into separate bags available at a small cost; this strategy has dramatically increased recycling rates throughout Switzerland.

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

3) BELGIUM – Belgium’s recycling program is considered to be the best in Europe besides Germany (and possibly Austria). Belgium is known for the Flemish commitment to zero waste. The densely-populated Brussels-Capitol Region of Belgium (the nation’s capital, and also the de facto capital city of the European Union), with plenty of Flemish influence, recycles well over half its garbage.

The Flemish part of Belgium (the equally densely-populated region of the country north of Brussels) has the highest waste diversion rate in Europe, with over 70% of the region’s waste being 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 manufactured goods.

With this kind of nationwide manufacturing efficiency and dedication to waste management, Belgium is on its way to a successful circular economy. Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria are three relatively small central European nations, with small economies (especially compared to the #1 recycling country globally – Germany), who continuously outperform many much larger nations when it comes to recycling.

2) SOUTH KOREA – 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 in South Korea are behind the recycling boom; as a transition to a circular economy in South Korea is underway. Residential and business city blocks have 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, now recycling over 65% of its recyclable waste!


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 of Turkey places little to no importance on the recycling issue. Chile is known for having a bad infrastructure for waste management, and so a lot of illegal dumping occurs.


How Can Recycling Rates Be Improved Globally?

In order to improve recycling rates, it is important policymakers and local decision-makers prioritize citywide systems of ubiquitously available standardized colored recycling bins. This means both installing public recycling receptacles throughout cities, and providing recycling services free of charge to residential areas.

Most people will choose to recycle when it presents no apparent added effort, in order to participate in helping the environment, and help lower municipal waste management costs. The most effective recycling systems use colored bins which designate separate types of recyclable waste.

The more that these types of recycling bins are implemented and used throughout a country, the more successful a country’s recycling effort will become. This includes deploying colored recycling bins at residences, buildings, as well as public spaces, and green spaces.

Unless single stream recycling infrastructure is already in place, incorrectly recycled items create increased cost in the recycling process. In most cases, the multi-waste stream approach to recycling is effective; especially when a colored recycling bin system is consistently used, as seen in cities with a high recycling rate like Curitiba, Brazil.

Creating a penalty for not recycling is also a tool that can be implemented for increased community recycling. For example, it actually costs individuals and businesses in Switzerland to not recycle or have trash tossed in a waste stream not designated for recycling or incineration/ waste-to-energy, and to throw out your trash in a special plastic bag for non-recyclable waste instead.

Additionally, fines are levied for just disposing of recyclable waste instead of recycling in Switzerland. As a result of these policies, recycling rates in the country have skyrocketed. In Denmark, trash disposal is closely monitored and regulated in order to ensure the maximal recycling is done correctly. Germany issues each household and business in the country 5 different colors/ categories of recycling bins. Wales, UK, is an example of a region where fines for not recycling has been an effective measure to increase recycling rates.

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 takeaway is that we all need to be doing something as a global community, to increase environmental welfare; and one of the simplest steps an individual can take for a cleaner environment is recycling.


Information on an innovative recycling program developed in the UK by Wrap.org.uk:

The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan

Working together to improve the capture, supply, and quality of household and commercial food waste, this comprehensive Action Plan sets out a series of actions to

  • Increase the amount of food waste collected;
  • Provide long term sustainable feedstocks for AD – anaerobic digestion [to generate renewable biogas];
  • Share the costs and benefits of collecting and recycling food waste.

Despite the estimated 10 million tonnes of post-farm gate food waste thrown out across the UK every year, only 1.8 million tonnes is currently recycled. Food waste prevention and minimisation will remain a priority but, by working together, all of those involved in recycling food waste, from producers to collectors and processors, have an important role to play in making sure that the maximum value possible is extracted from food that would otherwise be wasted.

The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan is the industry’s response to this challenge. The Action Plan has been designed to help increase both the supply and quality of household and commercial food waste available for recycling.

This collaborative, industry-led approach will help operators of food waste processing plants secure the future growth of feedstock. What’s more, it will enable food waste collectors to maximise the amount of food waste collected, so that collections can be delivered as cost-effectively as possible.”   FROM –  wrap.org.uk/content/food-waste-recycling-action-plan


Waste-to-energy

The above example from the UK is an excellent example of how waste can be used productively to generate renewable energy; in biogas produced from waste with AD technologies. Using AD to produce energy is known as waste-to-energy; along with capturing methane from landfills to use for energy. Renewable biogas can be generated from waste, and this is an especially productive use of food waste.

Waste-to-energy (W2E) through AD is prevalent throughout many European countries; and is common practice in countries such as Sweden and Denmark (for district heating, gas for sustainable public transit, energy for municipal grids, as well as local energy generation for farms and homes) – and especially in European cities such as Copenhagen. Using waste to produce energy is an effective waste management strategy, reducing the quantity of waste the ends up in landfills; and is a particularly great way to make otherwise polluting food waste into a productive source of renewable energy.


Please also see:

Recycling in Curitiba


  1. Which countries recycle the best?

    Germany, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland

  2. What is the #1 measure a country can take to improve recycling rates?

    In order to improve recycling rates, it is important to make recycling receptacles ubiquitously available.

  3. What additional measures can a country take to improve recycling rates?

    Creating a penalty for not recycling is a tool that can be implemented to increase community recycling.

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Ride-sharing our way to saving the planet

Can carsharing help save the planet?


Sustainable Commuting

Carsharing (a.k.a. ride-sharing) services provide an opportunity to reduce emissions from cars, reduce congestion on roads, and provide economic savings. With customers’ access to low rates on fuel and insurance, as well as the ability to use cars only when they are needed, driving becomes both a minimal cost in a monthly budget; as well as minimal as far as the emissions that take place when driving a car as necessary.

By sharing travel in cars with sharing services, the carbon footprint of the travel is essentially reduced by the number of passengers included in the trip – vs. each individual needing a separate drive. Additionally, many ride-sharing fleets are converting to electric cars.

Two leading carsharing companies include ZipCar and Car2Go (with locations both in the U.S. & around the world), where drivers, sometimes millions of members, work together to access cars as they are needed.

Services like these provide customers the ability to reserve cars, to which they get automated access; until the end of the reservation period, then the car is cleaned and given to the next customer reservation. This works especially well for those who need occasional transportation on business travel and other occasions. For some, it serves as a replacement for rental cars, and for others, it is a transportation source when driving is only an occasional need.

Carsharing involves filling empty seats in cars by pairing drivers and riders with common origins, destinations, and/ or stops. Traffic congestion is lightened, the costs of driving cars are reduced, and the carbon footprint of car travel is reduced with all ride-sharing activities (carsharing, carpooling, ride-hailing).


Ride-Hailing

Ride-hailing services that use mobile apps like Uber and Lyft (also commonly referred to as ‘ride-sharing services‘; and that also offer food delivery & other services) offer much lower fares than standard taxi cabs, mobile apps for ease of payment, and the inclusion of more passengers than in the usual space of a taxi.

People in need of occasional transportation assistance can use these services as well. The use of hybrid and electric cars in carsharing fleets continues to grow, in the millions of cars that are shared in these programs worldwide.


The benefits of car sharing, for society

Less traffic and congestion.
You’re going to spend less time stuck in traffic. You’re going to get to where you want to go, with less risk of a delay.

Lower wear for roads.
Fewer vehicles partially correlates to lower road wear. So we can spend tax money on something else. This might be taking better care of the roads we already have, or improving other public transport services. Or it could be something else entirely.

Less air pollution.
This is a fundamental environmental benefit of car sharing. Fewer vehicles and more modern vehicles will improve local air quality. Cleaner air means a better time for those with certain health conditions. So less tax money would be spent on those suffering from the effects of air pollution, as well as conditions resulting from air pollution.

Less need for parking.
If the volume of traffic reduces, current parking will be more easily accessible. We may want to convert urban spaces from car parks into residences or other businesses.

Development of other transport and mobility infrastructure.
Car share members tend to do walk, cycle and use other modes of transportation more often. This can increase public support for developing infrastructure for these modes of transport. Think bigger pavements and sidewalks, more dedicated cycling paths, more bus lanes.

More fleets of newer vehicles.
Car share vehicles are used more than private cars, so the car share vehicles are replaced more frequently. Newer cars tend to be more efficient, cleaner, and quieter. So more cars on our roads will be more efficient, cleaner, and quieter, than if we had more private cars.

New technology is adopted faster.
As explained above, car share vehicles are replaced more frequently than private vehicles. So if there’s been a technological shift, this can be more quickly integrated into society. The adoption of electric vehicles (and retiring of fossil fuel vehicles) could happen much faster with widespread use of car sharing services.

Better acceptance of mobility as a service.
Car share members feel less need to own vehicles, and are more accepting of mobility services. When automated cars and more efficient transport solutions arrive, car share members are likely to be more accepting.


The benefits of car sharing, for the individual

Reduced cost.
Car sharing enables you to avoid the fixed overheads of car ownership:

  • Monthly payment or capital purchase
  • Depreciation
  • Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Repairs
  • Annual testing and certification
  • Roadside assistance
  • Fuel
  • Parking

Owning a car requires upfront costs.

You may use the car because you’ve already paid some costs – you’re motivated to use your investment. Aside from fuel, or environmental concerns, there is little incentive to limit your use. But with a car share service, there is often zero or a very small overhead, and you pay per journey. So there is a clear additional cost for every trip, which may motivate you to question its necessity.

Less stressful to manage.
Buying and maintaining a vehicle can be stressful. At best it’s time consuming, and at worst you might get ripped off. You want to get a good deal on your car insurance. And you need to find a trustworthy mechanic. Well, car sharing eliminates all of those risks and hassles.

Health benefits.Car share members typically use other modes of transport more, including walking and cycling. This increases the amount of exercise that someone undertakes, which is great for your health.

Privacy.
It’s not always required, but having the choice to sometimes use a private mode is transport is good. Car sharing provides a method of private transport without the inefficient burden owning a car.

Personal freedom.
Sometimes you just need to rebel, right? Screw the bus timetable, I’ve got plans! Well car sharing gives the option of personal freedom to go where and when you like, without needing to own a car.

Improves access for all income levels.
Not everyone can afford to own a vehicle. The monthly payments may be too high, or the lump sum too much. But car sharing services only require small payments in accordance with how much you use it. This enables access to car mobility for all income tiers.”      FROM   –    brightaroundthecorner.com/mobility/benefits-car-sharing


Project Drawdown offers this summation for the recent rise in popularity of ride-sharing services-

“A wave of technologies has accelerated ridesharing’s popularity:

  • Smartphones allow people to share real-time information about where they are and where they are going.
  • The algorithms that match them with others and map the best routes are improving daily.
  • Social networks are buoying trust, so individuals are more likely to hop in with someone they have not met.”   FROM   –  drawdown.org/solutions
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The UNFCCC

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – Conference of the Parties

World leaders, dignitaries, and diplomats, from almost 200 nations, assemble every year for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. UNFCCC members assess international progress in mitigating global anthropogenic climate change.

Members also negotiate protocols and treaties between countries, further addressing the plethora of climate-related issues. The annual UNFCCC meetings are called Conference of the Parties (COP). Since 1994, the COP has convened annually at a different international city for the meetings (the most famous COP being COP21 in Paris in 2015, commonly known as the Paris Climate Accord).

The COPs include the following international discussions:

All of these discussions (among other global sustainability issues), discussed by UNFCC members at the COPs, are intended to produce viable solutions to meet the goal of dramatically reducing global GHGs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that to avoid potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, world governments need to reduce GHGs substantially in order to keep global warming to “well below 2°C”; and ideally to no more than 1.5°C, this century.


COP21 – the Paris Climate Accord

Almost every nation in the world has now signed the initial Paris Climate Accord (all 197 member nations to the UNFCC have signed the Accord; 190 of the 197 nations have ratified the Accord and have also pledged NDCs).

Even a few nation-states that aren’t in the UN, like the State of Palestine and the Cook Islands, signed as member nations to the Paris Climate Accord. The United States was the only nation to announce a pull-out from the Paris Accord, though this never really took effect; and President Biden brought the US back into the Paris Climate Accord.

NDCs have progressed to the point where many nations have taken the step of pledging net zero GHG emissions (carbon neutrality). China has set their net zero target for 2060; and soon after, the US committed to net zero by 2050; and both of these net zero commitments followed earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. The EU has a net zero target of 2050, and a few European nations independently have the same, or even more ambitious, targets.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C, this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. In future COPs, such as the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, expect international net zero pledges to expand, and become a regular part of UNFCCC language; along with the term – ambitious climate targets.


For more details on NDCs, please see:

The Fight Against Climate Change – National Carbon Reduction Goals


Putting a Price on Carbon – Establishing Carbon Markets

Perhaps the most contentious topic to be discussed at the COPs is carbon pricing; systems in which governments can incentivize carbon-intensive industries, entire countries, and regions, to lower their GHG emissions by pricing carbon dioxide emissions.

Experts on climate mitigation policies believe that international carbon pricing systems may ensure the quickest path to net zero emissions (carbon neutrality). Individual nations, states, and provinces, continue to ultimately decide on carbon pricing legislation; as well as the inner-workings of any carbon pricing system, including whether any potential national or regional carbon pricing system is to function as a carbon tax, or  cap-and-trade/ emissions trading system (ETS).

This process of high-level intergovernmental discussions of potentially mandating national prices on carbon could be encouraged by the UNFCCC in the future. If the UNFCCC took the step of directing nations to adopt carbon pricing, global warming would almost certainly be abated sooner than without prices on carbon emissions worldwide.

The European Union already does have carbon pricing – the EU ETS. Launched in 2005, the EU ETS has gradually evolved from a very low price on carbon, to a slightly higher one; and it’s expected that the European Commission will continue to increase the EU ETS carbon price with the continued evolution of climate ambition. Other European nations have independently developed an ETS and/ or a carbon tax; and many other countries, states, provinces, and regions worldwide, have also developed carbon pricing.

For more on carbon pricing around the world, please see: Putting a Price on Carbon. There has been significant progress made through recent COPs on the topic of carbon pricing, as described in this quote- “Leaders across the Americas have pledged to step up the use of carbon pricing as a key instrument of economic and environmental policy to reduce carbon emissions.” FROM- unfccc.int/news/leaders-across-the-americas-step-up-carbon-pricing.



There is currently a significant gap in the commitments that nations worldwide have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and the reality of global warming still accelerating at a perilous pace. Green City Times has written about the–

Shortfall in International GHG Pledges

This following quote is by António Guterres, the current United Nations Secretary-General-

“In 2015, the world’s nations recognized the urgency and magnitude of the [global climate change] challenge when they adopted the historic Paris Agreement on climate change with a goal of limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2 °C; while aiming for a safe 1.5 °C target. The unity forged in Paris was laudable – and overdue. But, for all its significance, Paris was a beginning, not an end. The world is currently not on track to achieve the Paris targets. We need urgent climate action and greatly increased ambition – in emissions reductions and in promoting adaptation to current and future impacts of climate change.” FROM- unfccc.int/resource/annualreport



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Carbon tax – a levy on pollution whose time has come

Defining effective carbon taxes

A carbon tax is a levy in countries and regions on: fossil fuel power plants, oil refineries, and/or industries, and/or companies; that use fossil fuels (tax applies directly), or on those that consume energy-intensive goods and services that depend on fossil fuel energy generation (the tax applies indirectly); and emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the process. An indirect consequence of carbon taxes may ultimately be higher prices for energy and gasoline/ diesel. The relationship between a carbon tax and higher energy prices is arbitrary, as it’s up the the fossil fuel company whether to raise prices for the end-use consumer, take financial losses as a result of the tax, or use more renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to lower CO2 output and thus lower the applicable carbon tax. A carbon tax puts a price on carbon for (at least some of) the cost to humanity and the planet of the use of fossil fuels. The cost of carbon dioxide emissions produced with the burning of fossil fuels is also known as the social cost of carbon. Carbon-intensive industries that could be in carbon tax systems include: fossil fuel power plants (always in carbon tax systems), and/ or industries and companies such as fossil fuel intensive product manufacturing companies, and/ or cement and steel manufacturing, and/or transportation sectors that rely on fossil fuel energy.

This cost cannot be tabulated in exact terms, for it’s the accumulated cost of the damages of the burning of fossil fuels to the environment, damages from climate change, damages to human health, and related costs (negative externalities) of the use of fossil fuels that can only be estimated. The carbon tax itself can be seen as an added fee on the production and distribution of fossil fuels,. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, and then that translates into a tax on oil, coal, and natural gas. This does usually mean higher prices for the end-use consumer for things like gas and electricity, due to higher costs for production and distribution of fossil fuels, and fossil fuel-intensive products and services; in the case of top-down industry carbon taxes.

Businesses and utilities who face a carbon tax then have the incentive to invest more in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other GHG reducing technologies (such as carbon capture); to try and lower their applicable carbon taxes. Another option would be for companies facing a carbon tax to maintain the market price for their goods and services set prior to implementation of the tax, and absorb the cost of the tax. Yet another option, and along with companies’ making an effort to produce cleaner energy, this is a commonly implemented option; higher prices due to carbon taxes may result in higher prices to end-consumers (the carbon tax simply gets passed on to the consumer, allowing the company to keep profits from lowering). Individual consumers then have the incentive to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and fossil fuel-intensive products subject to carbon taxes, switch to electric vehicles and renewable energy (thus avoiding higher prices stemming from the carbon tax), and increase their energy efficiency habits. Revenue from carbon taxes can, in some cases, go to energy efficiency measures, sustainable transportation, renewable energy, and other clean energy projects.

The revenue from carbon taxes can also simply be distributed or refunded to the public through tax rebates or payroll tax reductions (revenue-neutral carbon taxes). With revenue-neutral carbon taxes, higher energy prices may be offset by tax dividend refunds, or tax cuts, of roughly similar value. Carbon tax revenue can be distributed, at least in part (if not completely), as: personal income or business income tax cuts, rebates, tax credits, payroll tax cuts, a “carbon dividend” in the form of a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual refund; or carbon tax revenue can be used to reduce taxes for the public and businesses in other sectors of the national economy. Carbon tax revenue is sometimes both invested in clean energy projects and given back to the public as refunds.

The principle of mitigating negative externalities (the damage caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the primary purpose of the carbon tax. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers. Unless the carbon tax is specifically aimed at consumers, businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should at least consider bearing the brunt of the tax. However, in practice, individuals may ultimately end up paying more for gas and on the utility bill, among other fossil fuel related goods and services; instead of the fossil fuel-intensive companies in industries subject to carbon taxes, that haven’t already fully embraced renewable energy and/ or energy efficiency.

A carbon tax is enacted with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable public transit, energy efficiency products, renewable energy, and GHG reduction technologies such as carbon capture and storage, become even greater alternatives as fossil fuel use is penalized; and clean energy is made relatively cheaper. One other benefit of carbon taxes, besides the revenue generated for the public good, and the incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase clean energy efforts; is the increased attractiveness of the cost of renewable energy, which is made cheaper than fossil fuels.

Carbon taxes worldwide

Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, British Colombia, Canada, and the UK (among other countries and localities) have all successfully implemented a partial carbon tax on some industries, as well as some fossil-fuel-intensive goods and services. Thus far, these countries have not being able to implement a broad, universal carbon tax. Generally, reports of lower greenhouse gas emissions follow the passage of a carbon tax (to the tune of 2-3% annually in most cases). The province of British Columbia, Canada, has reported drops of around 5% annually of greenhouse gas emissions due to its aggressive carbon tax policies.

This is a global map of carbon tax and cap-and-trade systems that are existing and planned for implementation:


carbon markets worldwide


Please also see:

Putting a price on carbon



 

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12 Ways You Can Help the Environment

It’s not hard to lower your carbon footprint, combat climate change, and help the environment. By doing just a few things differently every day, you can be kind to the planet.


Here are 12 things you can do to help the environment:


Reuse Water Bottles & Mugs

Reuse Water Bottles

Every time you throw a cup away, you create waste; disposable water bottles are made of plastic, the majority of beverage cups are plastic, styrofoam, or paper – and these products just end up in landfills (unless they are recycled). Cutting down on the number of cups you throw away is a great way to conserve resources. Get in the habit of only using one or two reusable mugs, thermoses/ sports bottles, etc… each day. If you’re refilling it with water, tea, coffee or juice, over and over again, just wash it out & reuse it.

Use Energy Star and Smart Appliances

Appliances that require less energy when compared to their traditional counterparts, are more energy efficient, and/ or have the ability to shift into a smart energy saving mode when needed; receive an Energy Star mark. The Energy Star label is used on a wide range of appliances and products; indicating to the consumer that the item in question will reduce energy consumption when compared to items not carrying the label. Many products have additional sustainable requirements that must be met in order to receive the Energy Star mark. Additionally, consider a smart thermostat, smart HVAC, and other smart, wi-fi enabled appliances that help you conserve energy in the home.

Conserve Water

Save water by running faucets only when you really use water. Install low flow toilets and faucets where you can in your residence. Consider a smart irrigation system for your garden.

Stamp Out Energy Vampires

Unplug any appliances that you’re not using; including electronic devices like computers. Don’t keep chargers plugged in, either. These all suck up energy even when they’re not in use. An eco-friendly option for plugging in electronics is using smart power strips.

Stay In For Dinner

From the gas your car uses to bring you to the restaurant to the trucks needed to deliver the food to the kitchen, dining out is a significant cause of environmental distress. This is true even if the restaurant only serves environmentally sustainable food; better to just cook at home more.

Buy Local

Go to a farmer’s market rather than the grocery store for your produce. It will taste fresher; and you’ll be supporting local farms rather than fossil fuel-intensive national ones.

Turn Out the Lights/ Use Eco-friendly Lights

Use energy efficient LED or CFL lights when you can. Turn off lights in rooms/ on patios when not needed. Once a month, perhaps try a controlled brownout where you pretend that the electricity has gone out and you must make do in the dark; light candles and use flashlights while you save money and energy. 

Natural fiber shopping tote

BYOB

Not bring your own beer, but rather bring your own bags to the grocery store to reduce the number of plastic bags floating around. If you do use those free bags at the grocery, recycle the plastic or brown grocery bags in designated bins at your grocery store, or save them up at home and recycle them at the appropriate mixed paper/ mixed plastic dumpsters at your local recycling center; do the same with phone books and junk mail. Ideally, use reusable shopping totes made of natural fibers or bamboo whenever possible.

Recycle

Order as many multicolored, separate recycle bins as available from your municipality. Also, locate your local recycling center, and visit it to see how many different categories of goods you can recycle. Yes, you’ve probably been recycling your soda cans and milk jugs for decades, but did you know (in many areas) you can recycle batteries, TVs and computers, cardboard, and even many metal goods?

Grow a Garden

The planet likes it when you grow things. It helps filter out bad air and is a great sustainable practice. Plus, you can’t beat home-grown tomatoes or herbs.

Start a Compost Pile or Donate Food

We create an incredible amount of natural waste through peels, shells, grounds, leftovers etc… Instead of tossing all of that potential useful food waste in the trash, start a compost pile and recycle it through you municipal compost facility, or separate compost trash bin (if available in your city), or in your own yard/ garden. Another good thing to do with potentially wasted food is to donate food to a local food bank, homeless shelter, non-profit, or church.

Go Solar

If you’re not ready for solar panels on your roof, try solar garden/ patio lights to get your feet wet. Also, depending on your location, you might have community solar available in your neighborhood or clean energy/ renewable power option available from your utility.

  • Please see the “Energy Saving Ideas” & “Ideas for a Greener Lifestyle” in the bottom section of this website>>> Other sustainable living ideas include buying food from local, organic markets, weatherizing your residence (where available), and using smart thermostats and home energy management systems (where available).

#13 (Honorary Mention) – For information on how switching from using toilet paper to bidets can help the environment, please see: bidetmate.com/how-eliminating-toilet-paper-helps-save-the-earth


Here is an infographic with some simple, effective, cost-efficient energy efficiency solutions:

FROM – rocketmortgage.com/green-smart-homes


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Improving energy efficiency

The Pillars of Energy Efficiency


Energy Efficiency Foundations for Green Building: Energy Star, LED and CFL Lights, LEED technologies


When it comes to saving on your electricity bill, improving the energy efficiency in your home or building is certainly the way to do it. There are a few ways of achieving this through the various kinds of Energy Star major home appliances and Energy Star home water heatersenergy efficient HVAC systems, and LED & CFL lights that are available today. 

LEED standards in residences and buildings, when adopted and implemented by building developers, increase the energy efficiency of properties, lowering the carbon footprint of buildings. Energy Star appliances, and other smart appliances, save buildings on energy, and other resources. Energy efficiency technologies are saving property owners on their energy bills. Smart appliances also are beneficial for behavioral demand response and home energy management programs (see below).


Demand Response, Smart Meters, and Home Energy Management

One kind of system to improve the energy efficiency of a home or building is known as a demand response (DR) program, and is sometimes a part of today’s smart grid. Demand response is where utility companies are given (remote) control over the major electrical appliances (HVAC, water heaters, etc…) that are in energy customers’ properties.

A utility-operated smart meter helps the utility automatically reduce the power settings and temperature of the property (through an automated, digital response from the utility to the home or building where energy is monitored by a smart meter; with the major appliance, a smart meter, and the utility engaged in a digital sharing of energy statistics and optimal energy settings to maximize efficiency) during the day when there is less need for energy (i.e. when people are not at home).

Alternatively, there are behavioral demand response programs, which leave control in the hands of the homeowner/ building owner. A smart wi-fi energy monitoring device with the ability to be remotely managed and “told” what to do by the customer (a smart meter) is set up in the home, reads and records data from the home or building,. Examples of such data include power usage by various home appliances, external and internal temperature readings, and may also include recording the time people get home and wake up in the morning.

This data is then used in an app on a smart phone or smart tablet to tell consumers how much energy was saved and how this amount can be increased in the future by altering the settings of the smart appliance (such as a smart thermostat), HVAC system, or other smart electrical appliance. The settings of a smart appliance can also be optimized remotely, via an app on a smart tablet/ phone, based on the data provided by the behavioral demand response program. This is especially true with regard to home energy management systems (see below).

Communications from the smart meter are organized for the consumer in displays and read-outs that are including in mailings and apps. Charts in the read-outs show how much money for the electricity bill in that cycle was saved, other benefits of energy efficiency, and how the customer can better manage their energy use in the future. Data is also sent to, and recorded by, the utility, in order for the utility to better manage future energy production distributed to buildings via the power grid. So, energy customers and utilities can both optimally manage their respective energy outputs and uses.

The smart meter demand response method makes it much easier for the homeowner to determine how much energy to save, and the utility can also easily make optimal adjustments to their energy production and distribution in demand response programs. The use of the smart meter in behavioral demand response allows people access to the device from home, so changes can be made over one’s smartphone or tablet device.

Demand response programs often work hand-in hand with home energy management (HEM) systems, smart thermostats, smart wi-fi enabled LED and/ or CFL energy efficient lighting, and other smart electrical appliances that have been looped in to work with the HEM system.



Buildings represent a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions globally, in addition to the industry/ energy generation sectors, agriculture/ land-use/ food production sectors, and transportation/ shipping sectors. In order to lower the carbon footprint of buildings, property owners can increase the energy efficiency of their properties. Here are a few major items that are normally associated with increasing the energy efficiency of a home or commercial building, and a municipal energy grid, as well as general guides on increasing energy efficiency for a home or building:




Please also see Green City Times’

Plan for the Deployment of Smart Meters in all 50 States



To learn more about increasing the energy efficiency of the transportation sector specifically, please see:

Renewable energy in mass transit

Solutions to Fossil Fuels


To learn more about increasing the energy efficiency of the power generation sector specifically, please see:

CCS and IGCC

Gasification

and

Renewable Energy Overview

Energy Storage