Electronics Industry Urges Real Time Access to Energy Consumption Data

The Consumer Electronics Association, a US industry association representing more than 2000 companies, manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the electronics industry, has released a whitepaper entitled Unlocking the Potential of the Smart Grid – A Regulatory Framework for the Consumer Domain of Smart Grid.

The paper has many recommendations that suggest that smart meter programs introduced by the Ontario government and other jurisdictions have headed in the wrong direction. The major recommendations relate to providing consumers with real time access to energy use information so that the consumer can make meaningful choices about whether or not to use the energy at this point in time. High quality smart meter programs can do this – a monitor located in the kitchen or some other location in the house provides the consumer with the amount of electricity currently being used and the current price of that electricity.  With that information the consumer can choose to turn on another appliance, delay use of the additional appliance until prices are lower, or even to turn off an appliance to reduce current consumption. For reasons unknown, the Ontario government decided on a smart meter program that is based only on time of day – about as dumb a smart meter program as you can get.

CEA says, in effect, that jurisdictions that base smart metering only on time of use have blown it:
“CEA believes that in order for demand response to succeed, policymakers need to address at least two issues:
1. Consumers must be provided the economic incentive to reduce peak demand through dynamic pricing programs, and
2. Consumers and their third party smart grid providers must have access to real time consumption and pricing information in a format they can use.”

The CEA policy paper contains much more in the way of detailed policy proposals that are relevant not only to electricity smart metering but also, in Gallon Letter’s opinion, to all kinds of environmental social change initiatives. The 13 page document is well presented and referenced and can be downloaded at http://www.ce.org/RSS/default.asp#8026
Scroll down to CEA Calls for New Energy Policies to Reduce Consumption.

Carbon Credits from Forestry Initiative

Congratulations to the Nature Conservancy of Canada on its deal to sell carbon credits in return for preserving a 55,000 hectare tract of forest in southern British Columbia. Initiatives like this will probably do more to advance carbon trading in Canada than all the jawboning of all governments combined.

Gallon Letter has just one concern and that is that NCC may have sold the carbon credits too cheaply. According to a report in the BC edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper, and at least partially confirmed by NCC’s own press releases, NCC sold the credits associated with 700,000 tonnes of carbon on 55,000 hectares for more than $4 million (let’s assume USD).

The $5.71 per tonne, or a little more, is not a bad price for a wholesale deal in which the brokers have most likely paid for the verification, but Gallon Letter is somewhat concerned about the 12 tonnes per hectare which is an extremely low carbon intensity for forested land. Even if NCC were seeking the highest quality carbon credits, as they have said they did, there is a significant risk to the future of carbon credit trading from setting the generation of credits and the price of credits too low. If our analysis is correct, NCC has given up the rights to harvest the trees on this land for 100 years for the princely sum of $72 per hectare, give or take.

If, as the NCC states, this land would have been subject to aggressive logging by industry had NCC not purchased and preserved it, then industry would have been earning many hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per hectare, far more than a paltry $72.

There is a major risk in making carbon credits available at too low a price, as many airlines are doing for their ticket buyers. The risk is that society becomes used to cheap carbon credits and easy availability of credits, undervaluing the real value of sequestered carbon to humans and to the ecosystem. Just as government provides subsidies to the oil and gas industry, so it appears that the Nature Conservancy of Canada has, perhaps inadvertently, provided the market with subsidized carbon credits from Canadian forests.

Gallon Daily invites responses.

The NCC announcement of its Darkwoods Forest Carbon Pilot Project can be viewed at http://www.natureconservancy.ca/site/PageServer?pagename=bc_ncc_projects_dw_carbon

Electrically powered aircraft

A few years ago most experts would have considered electrically powered aircraft to be an impossible dream. Airbus, the major European manufacturer of many of the large commercial aircraft flown by the world’s airlines, has announced an electrically powered concept aircraft that is not just on the drawing board but actually flying today.

The electrically-powered aircraft is reported to be able to operate over a distance of 400 km. at cruise speeds of up to 235 km. per hour.  With a wingspan of 16.86 metres, the aircraft accommodates two people seated side-by-side.  The aircraft is propelled by a tail-mounted rotor driven by a 60kW power plant, equivalent to 60 typical North American toasters.

Gallon Letter is impressed not just by the reported performance of this aeroplane but also to the commitment to innovation being demonstrated by Airbus. If more companies would challenge the ‘impossible’, instead of using imagined impossibility as an excuse for inaction, we would be making much faster progress towards addressing some of the world’s major environmental challenges.

The Airbus announcement of this unique aeroplane, along with a photograph, can be viewed at http://www.airbus.com/newsevents/news-events-single/detail/the-egenius-concept-aircraft-takes-to-the-skies-for-the-first-time/all-news/

Canada Federal Budget 2011

The following are key environment-related aspects of the June 2011 Canada Federal Government Budget that may be of interest to readers. The bullet points below are sentences drawn from budget documents but may be abbreviated to conserve space. Additional details may be provided in a future monthly issue of Gallon Environment Letter:

  • Supporting the manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for two years.
  • Extending the temporary 15-per-cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (for flow-through share investors) for an additional year (until March 31, 2012) to continue to help companies raise capital for mineral exploration.
  • Renewed funding of almost $100 million over two years for research, development and demonstrations of clean energy and energy efficiency.
  • Expanding eligibility for the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment.
  • Expand eligibility for accelerated CCA under Class 43.2 to include equipment that generates electricity using waste heat from sources such as industrial processes. Systems will not be eligible if they use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), due to their negative environmental impacts.
  • $8 million over two years to promote the deployment of clean energy technologies in Aboriginal and Northern communities.
  • $870 million over two years to address climate change and air quality: $252 million to support regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality; $86 million to support clean energy regulatory actions, focusing on energy efficiency; $48 million to develop transportation sector regulations and next-generation clean transportation initiatives; $58 million for projects to improve our understanding of climate change impacts; $25 million to advance Canada’s engagement in international negotiations and support the Canada-United States Clean Energy Dialogue; and $400 million in 2011–12 for the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program to help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and reduce the burden of high energy costs. Further details regarding this program will be announced in the near future.
  • $68 million over the next two years to renew support for the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan. Departments will undertake remediation work that is expected to reduce the federal liability by close to $550 million, focusing on the highest priority sites such as the Giant and Faro Mines in Northern Canada.
  • Renewing the Chemicals Management Plan with almost $200 million over two years to assess and manage the risk of harmful chemicals.
  • $80 million in new funding over three years through the Industrial Research Assistance Program to help small and medium-sized businesses accelerate their adoption of key information and communications technologies through collaborative projects with colleges.
  • Improving commercialization and supporting demonstration of new technologies in the marketplace by supporting research links between colleges, universities and businesses.
  • Identifying savings that reach over $500 million annually from the 2010 round of strategic reviews. Together with measures to restrain the growth of National Defence spending, the first cycle of strategic reviews has resulted in $11 billion in savings over seven years and more than $2.8 billion in ongoing savings.
  • A two-year, $50-million Agricultural Innovation Initiative to support knowledge creation and transfer and increased commercialization of agricultural innovations.
  • Supporting the transformation of the forestry sector by providing $60 million in 2011–12 to help forestry companies innovate and tap into new opportunities abroad.
  • Improving the regulatory framework of the charitable sector to give confidence to Canadians who make donations.
  • Investing $22 million over two years to help First Nations ensure that the fuel tanks that power their essential community services meet environmental safety standards.
  • $35 million over five years to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to support excellence in climate and atmospheric research at Canadian post-secondary institutions.
  • 30 new Industrial Research Chairs at colleges with $3 million in 2011–12 and $5 million a year on a permanent basis starting in 2012–13.
  • $12 million over five years, starting in 2011–12, through the Idea to Innovation program to support joint college-university commercialization projects.
  • $40 million over two years for grants to Sustainable Development Technology Canada to continue to support the development and demonstration of new clean technology projects under the clean air and climate change component of the SD Tech Fund.
  • An additional $5 million over two years to improve nearshore water and ecosystem health, and better address the presence of phosphorous in the Great Lakes.

Full budget documents are available at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2011/home-accueil-eng.html

Airline spat may presage Canada – EU conflict over carbon

At it annual meeting this weekend, the International Air Transport Association launched a blistering attack on the European Union’s plan to require all airlines which land in Europe to surrender greenhouse gas offsets (“carbon credits”) to cover the emissions from their flights. The EU directive was adopted in 2008 and initially welcomed by the European airline industry but now international airlines have taken a strong position against the plan, calling it an illegal barrier to trade and extraterritorial application of European law.

In his speech to the IATA annual meeting, Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of IATA, demanded that Europe abandon its plans to include international aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2012. He said “Uncoordinated and punitive regional measures distort markets and undermine global efforts to reduce emissions. The EU ETS is a $1.5 billion cash grab that will do nothing to reduce emissions. BASTA! (Enough!) to Europe’s short-sighted actions. It’s time to be serious about climate change and honest in developing global solutions.” IATA believes that it is already a global leader in reducing carbon emissions, having led industry consensus to address climate change by improving fuel efficiency an average of 1.5% annually to 2020, capping net emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and halving net emissions by 2050 compared to 2005.

So far EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has indicated that the EU has no intention of backing down on the plan to require airlines to submit allowances to cover the carbon emissions of their flights into and around Europe, though there are media reports that she has offered to exempt Chinese airlines from the program as long as they take “equivalent measures” to reduce and offset their carbon emissions. Various airlines are fighting the EU initiative in the courts and through EU lobbying. Air Canada and Air Transat, the two Canadian carriers with regular flights to Europe, have not yet had much to say to the public on this issue.

With the airline battle becoming even more intense, it is difficult to see how European negotiators would allow a Canada – EU Free Trade Agreement to move forward without some mention of how the carbon emissions playing field will be leveled between European industry that must comply with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and Canadian exporters to Europe who are faced with no similar regulations. Europe has already been studying the matter of increased carbon emissions from the Canadian oil sands even though  very little oil is exported from Canada to the EU.

Details of the EU program for airlines can be found on the IATA website at http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/environment/pages/emissions-europe.aspx

A summary of Giovanni Bisignani’s speech to the IATA AGM can be found at http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2011-06-06-02.aspx

Speech from the Throne: no energy, not much environment

Gallon Letter can only comment that today’s Speech from the Throne promised very little for the environment, nothing for a national energy policy, no mention of the oil ands, and no mention whatsoever of climate change.

Relevant references included:

  • In this, the 100th anniversary year of our national parks system, our Government will create significant new protected areas.
  • Looking to the future, our Government will engage a broad range of stakeholders on the development of a National Conservation Plan, to move our conservation objectives forward and better connect all Canadians with nature.
  • Our Government is committed to developing Canada’s extraordinary resource wealth in a way that protects the environment. It will support major new clean energy projects of national or regional significance, such as the planned Lower Churchill hydroelectricity project in Atlantic Canada.
  • It will engage the provinces, territories and industry on ways to improve the regulatory and environmental assessment process for resource projects.
  • It will help open the door to greater economic development by providing new investments in First Nations Land Management. It will promote access to clean water and the deployment of clean energy technology in Aboriginal and northern communities.

Another element relevant to Canada’s Sustainable Development may be:

  • Our Government will aim to complete negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union by 2012. It will also seek to complete negotiations on a free trade agreement with India in 2013.

That’s it!  We hope you want to be “connected to nature”. If that is not enough, this Throne Speech leaves environmentally concerned Canadians pretty much out of luck!

For the full text of the Speech from the Throne visit http://www.sft.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1390

A Better Way for Encouraging Home Energy Retrofits

Canada seems locked into the idea that very little happens to improve energy efficiency unless the government provides funding. In Gallon Letter’s view, an activity that requires perpetual government funding is inherently an unsustainable activity.

One example is in the area of home energy retrofits. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has already announced that next week’s Federal budget, the first from the majority government, will resurrect the home energy retrofit program, presumably providing yet more grants to home owners who upgrade the energy efficiency of their buildings.

Bank of America in the US has embarked on what Gallon Letter sees as a better way. Last week the Bank  announced a $55 million program to encourage energy efficiency improvements to older buildings. The new competitive program will provide low-cost loans and grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) specializing in financing energy efficiency improvements. Once CDFIs have made loans to property owners, Bank of America will work with them to collect pre- and post-retrofit data in order to measure program outcomes, including impacts on energy and water usage and associated financial savings. EnergyScoreCards, a subsidiary of Bright Power, Inc., will be the third party consultant for data collection and analysis.

Critics might well point out that $55 million is not much for the estimated 115 million homes in the United States. That’s true but one has to start somewhere and Bank of America is only one of many banks in the US, albeit reportedly the largest. The good news, from Gallon Letter’s perspective, is that Bank of America is taking a lead in weaning home energy retrofits from the public trough, taking initial steps to turn them from an unsustainable government funded activity to a sustainable commercial banking activity.

Bank of America has also been one of America’s leaders in climate change initiatives in the financial services sector. For more information http://mediaroom.bankofamerica.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=234503&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1567738

US DOE understands benefits of engaging youth

Recycling programs grew from almost nothing to a major environmental achievement in not much more than a decade due in major part to the engagement of young people. Kids learned about recycling, the benefits and the tools, in school and took their learning home to their parents. In many Canadian communities more than 80% of homes with street level garbage collection are now involved in separating recyclables and putting them out for separate collection.

Now the US Department of Energy is hoping to achieve the same kind of success with home energy efficiency. In launching America’s Home Energy Education Challenge last week, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said “Energy efficiency is all about helping families save money by saving energy. America’s Home Energy Education Challenge leverages the passion and curiosity of students to encourage families across the country to reduce energy waste in their homes while inspiring the next generation of America’s energy leaders.”

The Challenge is not the only way DOE encourages schools to educate students about energy efficiency but it certainly seems to be a very worthwhile addition to other programs through which DOE supports schools in energy and energy efficiency education.

For more information: http://www.energy.gov/news/10343.htm

USDA Pesticide Testing Results for 2009

Last week the US Department of Agriculture released 2009 results from its program of testing for pesticide residues on food. The results show that the vast majority of food samples tested were well below acceptable pesticide residue levels and a tiny number had excessive levels or levels of unapproved pesticides. Residues exceeding the tolerance were found in 0.3% of samples and residues for which a tolerance has not been established were found in 2.7% of samples.

The biggest exceedances were found in cilantro, a crop with low Canadian consumption. Tests found more than 30 unapproved pesticides on cilantro and the Environmental Working Group, an environmental ngo, reported that 44% of all cilantro samples carried residue of at least one unapproved pesticide. EPA has explained that a relatively small number of pesticides are approved for use on cilantro and that many of the pesticides not approved for use on cilantro are acceptable for use on other herbs and vegetables.

Given the quantity of US produced food marketed in Canada, the results are likely to be of interest to Canadian consumers. A more detailed analysis of the exceedances reported by the USDA Pesticide Data Program will be presented in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter monthly edition.

The USDA results are available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateC&navID=PesticideDataProgram&rightNav1=PesticideDataProgram&topNav=&leftNav=ScienceandLaboratories&page=PesticideDataProgram&resultType=