In these pages you will find blogs, articles and book reviews about the real-life challenges of sustainability and resource efficiency. I hope that, in some small way, that these will help al those involved in the huge tasks we face to transform our relationship with nature while delivering value to our organisations and stakeholders. Please do feel free to comment and offer you own thoughts! You can comment in the space below any article, or you can contact me using the details to the right. I look forward to your inputs!.
In this long format article I will explore why a knee-jerk response to the climate emergency can lead to well intentioned but counterproductive consequences. I have heard it said that we are living in a time where political reality is approximating scientific reality – at last policymakers are beginning to grasp what science has been saying for many years. This article explores another critical dimension, which I will call engineering reality, where I believe that much of the hard work and tough choices around climate change will be focused. The broader themes in this article are absolutely central to our success or failure and are offered not as a criticism of one specific response, but as a broader lesson to all those who can influence our responses to climate change.
The climate emergency is real and requires a rapid and effective response. Our success in delivering fast decarbonisation of our economy depends on myriad decisions taken in every sector based on our knowledge of the technologies, skills and finance available. These decisions are intricate and complex, not helped by a large number of uncertainties about the future, inconsistent data and conflicting visions of how to achieve Net Zero emissions.The climate emergency is real and requires a rapid and effective response. Our success in delivering fast decarbonisation of our economy depends on myriad decisions taken in every sector based on our knowledge of the technologies, skills and finance available. These decisions are intricate and complex, not helped by a large number of uncertainties about the future, inconsistent data and conflicting visions of how to achieve Net Zero emissions.
Those of us who have been in the business of sustainability for a long time crave a John F. Kennedy moment: “we will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade”. We fancy the notion of a mobilisation of all resources available to limit climate change, to adopt a state of war where combating climate change become the overwhelming priority in everything we do. We can’t wait to see the many barriers we have faced in the past come tumbling down.(more…)
Simple payback, often referred to just as payback, describes the length of time needed for the savings generated by a resource efficiency project to return the initial investment made. It is calculated using the formula:
Thus, an investment of US$1,000 that yields regular annual savings of US$500 has a payback of two years. The annualized saving could be determined by a number of uneven cash flows, e.g. US$250 in year 1 and US$750 in year 2; here, the payback period is determined by adding up successive savings in the cash flow until they match the investment. If we are interested in the payback in months, then we would multiply the annual payback by 12.(more…)
I am writing this post from Goa, on the West coast of India. I flew here from Manchester, in the premium economy section of a Tui Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
According to the ICAO carbon calculator  the aircraft will have burned 54 tonnes of fuel on each leg of the journey, which equates to 654kg of CO2 per passenger (2x the standard economy emissions due to the “premium” cabin seating). The plane was full, so I think the calculations are reasonable and, while I could argue that “premium economy” is not really twice the space or mass of standard economy, I don’t quibble with the figures.(more…)
For change to happen, people and teams need two things: the capability to carry out the required action and the desire to do so. Capability reflects many aspects such as knowledge and skills, as well as resources like time and money. Motivation can be intrinsic due to beliefs and attitudes or extrinsic due to instructions, incentives, penalties or social norms.
Capability and motivation are related. An easy-to-implement behaviour change (i.e. one for where the existing capability to act is high) will need much less motivation than a challenging behaviour change (i.e. one which requires lots of resources, time, effort, risk-taking, knowledge, etc).
Understanding the interrelationship between capability and motivation can dramatically increase the chance of success of our change programme.(more…)
I started my book on energy and resource efficiency (available free as a pdf) with a traditional saying:
“How do you eat an elephant? Why, one bite at a time, of course”.
In the section on availability barriers to resource efficiency, I argued that we can drive a successful efficiency programme by getting a lot of people to regularly dedicate a little time rather than by getting a few people to commit a lot of time. Clearly, we need to start with where people are at and it is often unrealistic to ask someone to make a large change in their behaviour from the outset. Indeed, asking for too much or holding back for “perfection” are the root causes of many programme failures I have observed with my own eyes. So starting small is a reasonable strategy.
Is that true, though? Some argue that if all that we request in terms of change is a minor action, then this will result in – surprise, surprise – a small result! Folks like Donella Meadows, Bob Doppelt and many others have reasoned eloquently that no less than a fundamental change to our underlying systems will deliver the scale of change needed to address the magnitude of the problems we face. Similarly, Cambridge Professor David MacKay, in his fantastic book Sustainable Energy — without the hot air asserts: (more…)
The reason for this is that Google Maps has started charging for geolocation requests used in our “mashup”, and so SustainSuccess has now opened an account with Google to cover the costs of these requests.
To protect our budget, we have limited the number requests per day, so if you get this message in version 1.3, please try again the following day or enter a Latitude and Longitude manually.
To upload the new version, please follow the link, right.
I would probably have taken little interest in yesterday’s announcement that a relatively small regional airline, flybmi, has ceased trading, if it was not for the fact they were placing the blame, in part, on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). According to the statement on the airline’s website :
The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme.
So, I wanted to find out if this was really the case.
First of all, the background. You may recall from my earlier post that the EU is facing a real challenge for its flagship ETS as a result of BREXIT. The problem is that allowances in the scheme can be traded freely between member states of the EU but if the UK leaves the scheme ahead of the current Phase (running to 2020), there is a very real risk that the now redundant UK allowances, would flood the market and so render the ETS ineffective at capping carbon emissions. (more…)
The UK’s Green Building Council is consulting on what is meant by “Net Zero Carbon”. We need to make sure that the definition is effective.
Hopefully, the definition will be a rigorous tool to help building developers and operators to achieve the maximum affordable onsite improvements in the building’s emissions. Once these onsite improvements are achieved, the definition will further set out how the residual emissions can be genuinely reduced through credible, independently verified offsite activities, leading to “net zero” or event “net negative”.
Alternatively, the definition could be a cheap and nasty fig leaf facilitating another decade of flat-line performance on emissions in the property sector.
In order to avoid the latter it is important that folks respond to the consultation on the meaning on “net zero” in buildings, which closes on the 1st March. Looking at the consultation, I would say that the outcome is finely balanced – so please do make the effort to understand the issues and make your voice heard in the consultation. Filling in a response will take around ½ hour – what better use of your time? (more…)
Just before Christmas I took part in two very different conferences, which brought into to stark relief the challenges facing those of us promoting a substantial and rapid reduction in global emissions.
The first event was the prestigious “EngTalk – Excellence in Engineering & Factory Management” event in Berlin, which was attended by over 50 very senior global executives in leading manufacturing firms with roles such as “Director of Innovation”, “VP Manufacturing”, “Industrial Director”, “Head of Engineering” from organisations as diverse as Airbus, Bayer, GE, Philip Morris International, Philips, Pirelli, Magna, Novartis, Siemens and Volvo. Although there were presentations, it was less of a conference and more of a networking and idea-sharing event taking place over two days with a strong emphasis on one-to-one meetings and discussions.
My role in the conference was to support Arne Springorun the MD of HE Consulting, an efficiency consultancy based in Prague with which I have had a long and enjoyable collaboration on successful projects such as an energy efficiency programme at SKODA CARS Mlada Boleslav Plant in the Czech Republic. I shared a presentation with Arne and it fell to me, as you can see below, to communicate the urgency of our response to climate change.
For a conference that was focusing on the major technical challenges facing manufacturing, the critical – dare I say it, existential – topic of “how to do more with less” was conspicuously absent. The big themes were Automation 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Enhanced Reality, Digitilazation and Big Data. With the exception of the pitch from some innovative compressed air systems manufacturers, energy efficiency was not mentioned by other presenters.
In the 20+ one-to-one conversations I held with these senior executives, there was acknowledgement that climate change is part of the manufacturing agenda. But I got the impression that this was very much taken for granted, placed in the “problem solved” or “in hand” category; an issue to be dealt with in due course, but considerably lower priority than responding to the rapid changes coming about due to technological innovation. And yet it is these folks – the people who help shape the strategic and investment decisions for their organisations – who have a commanding role in solving the climate change challenge in industry. (more…)
We are delighted to have been selected as one of the 10 finalists in the edie 2019 sustainability awards in the category of “Consultancy of the Year”.
Our submission spoke passionately about the “need to do more with less” and our belief that our profession – as sustainability practitioners – has a unique and privileged role in solving some the most pressing challenges of our times.
It is a huge honour to have been shortlisted. Being invited to celebrate the enormous contribution of the other finalists is both humbling and inspiring – the calibre of work, outcomes and people involved are truly astonishing.
The main motive behind our entry was to make colleagues aware of the helpful tools we have made available to support energy and resource efficiency. If you are unfamiliar with us, I would invite you to explore our website and take advantage of these resources. These include Niall Enright’s free 840-page textbook on energy and resource efficiency and the lighting hours tool which fills an important data gap for driving better operation of lighting systems.
The award winners will be announced on the 6th of February 2019.