This 8 minute video shows how Linfox is going about reducing its carbon emissions. What stands out for me in this video is the broad commitment across the organisation to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to help inspire a similar commitment in your organisation.
Research recently undertaken by Siemens says that the lifecycle efficiency of LED lights is equal to that of compact fluorescents.
Measuring the lifecycle efficiency involves looking at the energy to manufacture and dispose of the product, in addition to the energy it uses whilst in operation.
The report was released by Osram, which is owned by Siemans, with the testing taking place by the Siemens Corporate Technology Centre for Eco Innovation, and reported on in the New York Times.
There aren’t many details yet though as to how the research was undertaken or the numbers behind the claims. For example, was the LED light used in the comparison of equivalent brightness to the CFL.
But it does show that LEDs are getting closer to being the light of the future.
The Climate Savers Computing initiative aims to reduce computer energy consumption by 50% by 2010. Organisations on its board of directors include Dell, Google, Intel, HP, Microsoft, CSC and WWF. It has hundreds of members, all committed to purchasing energy-efficient PCs and servers for new IT purchases, and to broadly deploying power management.
The CSC website includes case studies on deployment of aggressive power management across entire organisations, and a range of guides for activating power management settings. It has a large FAQ section, and if you want to learn about power management the chances are you will find an answer on this site.
Use this site to help you promote and roll out effective power management of your existing computers.
If upgrading your computers seriously consider a thin client or virtual desktop solution for maximum power savings, unfortunately the Climate Savers Computing Initiative doesn’t yet have much information on these solutions.
A new report has identified that the USA could reduce its energy consumption by 23% by 2020 through energy efficiency.
The report has been prepared by McKinsey and Company, who are well known for their studies on the economics of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
McKinsey however says that this sort of saving is not easily achieved. Three types of barriers to the uptake of energy efficiency are identified in their report – structural, behavioural and availability. They say that these barriers need to be overcome to realise the full potential of energy efficiency across the economy.
Structural barriers are those that prevent an end user of energy from saving energy. For example a tenant typically has no control over the type of heating and cooling system in the building.
Behavioural barriers are those where ignorance or unwillingness to act mean energy efficient solutions aren’t implemented. An example that we see quite often in commercial buildings is ignorance about the time the air conditioning starts in the morning. Often it will be starting two hours or more before the building is occupied in the morning – which is wasteful if it only takes half an hour to get the building to a comfortable temperature.
Availability barriers are those where the user wants to reduce energy, but can’t access the solution or technology, often for cash-flow or cost reasons. For example, a business with tight cash flow that knows its HVAC system is a clunker, but doesn’t have the cash for an upgrade.
The report proposes various solutions to these barriers, mostly showing what government could do. The prescriptions appear valid for any government, not just the US. If you are in government, or have some influence in government circles, this report is worthwhile looking at.
Whilst these sorts of reports can be useful, they come with the implicit message “Think climate change – think government.” Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because another report is recommending the government do more, that it’s the sole responsibility of government to cut greenhouse gas emissions. There is a lot you can do yourself, and with focus and creativity these barriers can be overcome. Your organisation could probably cost effectively achieve a 23% saving from energy efficiency within a couple of years if you make this a priority. And the greater the number of individuals and organisations who make this a priority, the greater the impact.
Go to the department of climate change’s website and you’ll see the slogan “think climate, think change”.
Here in Melbourne the department of climate change’s slogan could be rephrased as “Think climate - watch change”.
In the 1980s vehicle number plates here in Melbourne proudly bore the slogan “Victoria – the garden state”. Fast forward twenty years to 2009 and Melbourne is now the driest capital city in Australia. Six months ago we had our worst ever bush fires. The newspapers this week have been saying that fire danger is going to be even worse next summer.
This is precisely what most governments have been doing for a long time now – thinking climate – watching change - and not doing enough. The Australian Government ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, along with most of the rest of the world, back in 1992 (yes, SEVENTEEN years ago!). Back in 1992 this is what Australia and many other countries agreed to:
“Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage,lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures [to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change]”, UNFCCC, 1992
“Think climate, think change” is a start – yes we need to think about this issue – but we need to go beyond thinking to action – all of us, not just the government. I much prefer the message developed by Darebin City Council – “think climate, make change”. Now.
You can reduce your own carbon footprint significantly if you want to. You can encourage those you know to do the same. And if you are an entrepreneur – think up solutions that cut carbon emissions then make them a reality, like Shai Agassi at Better Place. “I’m an imagineer. I imagine the future and engineer towards it.”
Reflecting on my interviews with various leaders in the energy efficiency space there are five things you must have to successfully reduce energy use and carbon emissions.
First you need leadership commitment.
Second you need a measurement and monitoring system. Whether you are a school (listen to Hannah Lewis, Westernport Secondary College, which has halved its energy use in the last four years) or a major corporation such as Wesfarmers, you must be able to track your progress.
Third you need more than one person active and driving the program. Witness Linfox, where a few programmers voluntarily took on the extra project of building a carbon tracking tool.
Fourth you need a well informed plan as to what you need to do. An energy audit by experienced energy efficiency engineers will provide this.
Fifth, you need investment. Money is needed to get the savings. The money could be spent on people (eg the driver training undertaken by LinfoX) or technology (eg lighting upgrades at Darebin City Council and Newcastle City Council, or the new paint plant at Toyota).
Do this and with time you’ll have a self-funding system that will continue to reduce your energy use and carbon footprint.
If you’ve bought a new home in Victoria in the last few years the builder would have impressed you by saying its an “energy efficient” 5 star home (or maybe even 6 stars).
Unfortunately even if all existing homes were converted to 5 star homes this won’t get us to the low carbon future we need. And in fact many new 5 star homes use more energy than forty year old 2 star homes. The 5 star standard is misleading, and needs to change if we are to have truly low energy homes.
The major flaw with the 5 star standard is that its focus is solely on the theoretical heating and cooling performance of the home. A 5 star home should use less energy to heat or cool per square meter than a homes with a lower rating. However the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in most Victorian homes now is not heating and cooling – its appliances! Additionally most new homes feature halogen downlights – one of the most inefficient forms of lighting on the market. Finally, there is no validation that the specified insulation and sealing of the building – key to minimising heat loss and gain – is done properly.
Homes now have more appliances in them than ever before. And I’m not talking electric can openers. In particular large screen plasma and LCD TV’s use several times more power than the modestly sized CRT screens they replaced. A large plasma TV will draw 400 watts. To put that in context, if the TV runs 12 hours a day, it will produce more than half the greenhouse gas a car produces in a year. But the Victorian home energy standard doesn’t take appliances into consideration.
Walk into any display home, and it will be filled with bright halogen downlights. For some reason these are still often linked with low power consumption because they are “low voltage”. To the contrary, to produce a given amount of light halogen downlights use five times as much power as an energy efficient fluorescent light. I’ve heard of new homes that have over 50 halogen downlights in them. If all these lights were on you would require a $40,000 solar PV system to keep them illuminated . But the Victorian home energy standard doesn’t take lighting into consideration.
The Victorian home energy standard does take heating and cooling into consideration. But only on a theoretical basis. Two fundamentals of high performance passive solar design are high levels of insulation and good sealing. The home energy rating specifies the level of insulation and sealing that a building must install in a given home. But unfortunately there is no inspection in place to verify that this level of insulation and sealing is actually installed. I recently undertook a major home extension, which required that the entire house, including the original part of the home and the extension, was a 5 star standard. I spent a lot of effort and time getting the insulation and sealing right. However, had I been lazy and not bothered to spend dozens of hours with a caulking gun and gap sealant, my house would still be classified as 5 stars because the design was certified as a 5 star design. The problem is that there is no mandated inspection to verify the quality of sealing and insulation. There are inspections for the footings and the framing, but not for the insulation and sealing. My building inspector didn’t even notice the effort I had gone to properly seal the sisalation around the windows. The home is certified as 5 star as designed but not as built. In effect its up to the builder as to whether they do the job properly or not. And considering that making sure that batts are not compressed and there are no gaps, and that all penetrations to outside must be well sealed is time consuming and costs money, why would a builder bother if there is no inspection to validate the quality of the work?
On the other hand the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating Scheme (ABGR) for commercial buildings is actually effective in reducing building energy use. The reason for this is that it is based on the actual performance of the building, based on one year’s worth of billing data. It cuts straight to the bottom line – the actual amount of greenhouse gas produced when operating the building. So the type of appliance (eg computers), the lighting, and the actual heating and cooling performance are all important to achieve a 5 star whole of building ABGR rating. These building genuinely use less energy, and produce less greenhouse gas emissions, than lower star buildings.
The bottom line when it comes to averting dangerous climate change is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The residential 5 star standard isn’t achieving this, because it doesn’t focus on the bottom line – the actual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of the home when occupied and in use.
Linfox is well known for the “You are passing another Fox” sign on the back of its vehicles. But the company has also cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 9% in the last eighteen months, and is on track to cut its emissions by 15% by December 2010.
I had the privilege of interviewing David McInnes, Group Manager Environment and Climate Change yesterday and being inspired about Linfox’s approach to the climate change challenge. It was refreshing not to hear the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme mentioned once in the interview. Linfox is reducing its carbon emissions because it wants to, not because its being forced to, and is quietly getting on with it.
So how does a organisation with 15,000 staff, whose carbon emissions mostly come from diesel consumed in trucks, reduce its per km emission by 9% in eighteen months? You can find the interview on our “Good News Interviews” page.
For me a couple of the standouts from the interview were:
- Their staff engagement program. Almost all of their savings have come about by making better use of what they already have, rather than investing in new technology. This has been achieved by getting their staff involved in changing the way things are done and in how trucks and buildings are operated, and making hundreds of small changes.
- Their carbon accounting system – developed in-house. Linfox programmers set up their SAP system such that now monthly carbon reports can be generated, down to the level of individual trucks if necessary. A consistent theme of all organisations cutting their carbon footprints is their focus on accurately and frequently tracking their emissions
- David’s recommendation to any organisation wishing to cut their carbon footprint to undertake an energy audit, which provides the business case for action. Thanks for the plug for my profession David!
After the interview we discussed Linfox’s Greenfox program, and I wish I had left the voice recorder on. This is a fantastic program. Staff can become a Greenfox by passing five training modules. Everyone who completes the training gets a framed certificate, and drivers who complete the training get a Greenfox badge on the shoulder of their uniform. David mentioned that Greenfox’s often become ambassadors, with truck drivers going to their kid’s schools and talking about climate change.
Also not covered in the interview was the great help David got from Linfox’s IT department in modifying SAP. Normally there is a long queue in the organisation for projects requiring SAP changes. The carbon accounting adjustments though were undertaken by the SAP programmers on top of their normal requirements, such was their commitmen to the company reducing its carbon footprint.
Finally David also spoke off the record about the need to focus less on the science and more on the community and the emotional response that when sparked can result in great change.
As one of Australia’s larger businesses Linfox is taking a leadership role by getting on with reducing its corporate carbon footprint. David McInnes is providing inspirational leadership. Take half an hour to listen to David McInnes and I guarantee you’ll come away motivated and hopeful about what is possible if we focus on cutting carbon emission.
Virtual desktops provides large computer energy savings and are becoming easier to deploy. Great for schools, universities and offices!
Most of the time only a small fraction of a computer’s power is being used. If you took a office or school with say 100 PCs, with an average load of say 15%, in effect 85 of the PCs would be redundant if it was possible to take advantage of the full power of 15 PCs across 100 work stations.
By employing “thin client” or “virtual desktops” this is made possible. With virtual desktops one PC “box” can then be used to power multiple workstations. This leads to very large energy savings. Additionally by reducing the number of “boxes” there is a resource saving. Maintenance costs are reduced and total lifecycle cost is lower.
There are some impressive examples of where this technology is now being used. Ncomputing is a vendor of virtual desktops, with 180,000 units deployed in schools in Macedonia. Canon in Thailand are using virtual PCs, as is DHL in Peru. In the USA virtual desktops are being used in schools in California and Wisconsin. In Australia its customers include schools such as Wondonga South Primary (Vic), Brighton Public School (SA), MacGregor State High (Qld).
In Australia Gold Creek and Parlmerston district schools in the ACT are using thing client computers supplied by Dycom. RMIT University in Melbourne is also using thin clients.
Take up of thin clients could however be much stronger. Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has reported weak demand from schools inquiring about the National Secondary School Computer Fund which is part of the Commonwealth Government’s Digital Education Revolution.
The flexibility of notebook computers is certainly an advantage over thin clients. However for total minimum power use and minimum life cycle cost and resource use its hard to beat a thin client or virtual desktop system. Thin clients should certainly be seriously considered by anyone involved in computer purchasing and network administration.
A few months ago I wrote a blog posting about how tighter regulation of electricity supply voltages could save Australia 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.
However a comment on that posting suggested that voltage reduction may not result in any useful savings.
Below I report on the results of an experiment we undertook to identify how much power can be saved, if any, by operating equipment at a lower voltage.
We measured a variety of single phase loads at different voltages. A variable transformer was used to vary the voltage. A German made Power Tech plus plug in power meter was used to measure voltage, current, power and power factor at the different loads. Loads experimented with included typical single phase lights, computer equipment and a fan.
The experimental set up is shown above. Below is a graph showing the results of the testing.
This graph clearly shows that for common lighting loads power consumption decreases with decreased voltage
- Incandescent lamp (resistive load)
- T8 fluorescent (inductive load)
- T5 fluorescent (electronic ballast)
The reduction in power consumption with the T5 fluorescent (with an electronic ballast) was unexpected.
The fan, with a single phase (shaded pole?) motor, also used less power with lower voltage, interestingly the power factor improved as voltage was lowered, with the power factor the highest at 220 volts.
The PC computer and monitor both showed lowest power consumption at 230 and 240 volts, but power consumption generally did not decrease with voltage. Power factor improved a little at lower voltages.
This experiment shows that for a variety of loads power consumption is in fact less at lower voltage.
For heating or cooling loads equipment may need to run longer when at lowered voltage to reduce the same amount of heating or cooling, with no net energy savings.
Three phase synchronous motors are unlikely to use any more or less power (a theoretical assertion, we don’t have the equipment to test), having the motors run at 230 volts rather than 240 or 250 volts however is unlikely to cause motor damage due to excess current as the voltage difference is only small.
But with lighting and many single phase motors power consumption drops with lowered voltage.
My back of the envelope calculations still come up with a saving of around 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas if voltages were closer to the 230 volt standard rather than being at 240 to 250 volts.
If high voltage drops in distribution were a problem additional network infrastructure could be used to deliver a more consistent voltage across the network. 2009 is the year of the “smart grid.” A smart grid could mean multitap transformers that can be changed on the fly to deliver a more consistent 230 volts across the whole electrical network.
If LED lighting continues to develop as fast as it has over the last five years, within ten years it may well be the main form of lighting in use across the world. And lighting in new buildings may look radically different to what it does now.
The major advantage of LEDs is that they are a directional light source. Most other artificial light sources on the market radiate light in all directions. Incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps, fluorescent lamps and high intensity discharge lamps such as metal halide all radiate light in all directions.
For example in most fluorescent office light fittings typically only 60% of the light produced by the fluorescent tube is emitted as useful light. A great deal of the light is lost because it goes upwards or sideways rather than down. Using a reflector may increase the amount of useful light provided up to 80%. But even the most efficient fluorescent light fittings on the market rarely have a light output ratio of above 80%.
LED lights on the other hand produce all their light in a single direction. Light fitting designers can take advantage of this to efficiently direct light exactly where its needed, with very little lost or wasted light.
Go into a progressive hardware or electrical store and you can already see a variety of LED lights being sold.
Fluorescent lamps are the most commonly used lamp in the world. LEDs however are not yet competitive with fluorescents for three main reasons:
- Energy efficiency is similar but not yet better. A high performance fluorescent tube will produce 100 lumens per watt. Put it in an energy efficient fitting, with a light output ratio of 80%, and the overall lighting efficiency is 80 useful lumens per watt of electricity. The best white LEDs on the market (that we are aware of) produce 75 to 80 lumens per watt. This is good, but not yet better than, fluorescent.
- Reliability. Unlike fluorescent tubes, which are generally reliable no matter who makes them, LEDs are often unrealiable. We have purchased LEDs from many different manufacturers, and over half have failed within the first year of use.
- Price. LEDs are still expensive.
This, however, is changing. Energy efficiency is improving, the major lighting manufacturers are increasing their focus on LEDs, and prices are dropping.
Energy efficiency of LEDs has increased markedly in recent years, in 2006 the best LEDs were approaching 60 lumens per watt, by the end of 2008 they were up to 77 lumens per watt.
Reliability. The three main global light manufacturers – Osram, Philips and Sylvania – are all now selling LED lights. As major global brands they are unlikely to risk the cost and reputational damage of supplying unreliable products. As LED products become more main stream we can expect reliability to improve.
Costs are now starting to decrease as well. Whilst it is difficult to purchase a LED fluorescent substitute light for less than $80, only two years ago the price was $100.
When LED lights are achieving energy efficiencies in excess of 120 lumens per watt, lamp costs of less than $2 a watt, and low failure rates (less than say 1%) lighting as we now know it will be superseded. It will be possible to retrofit LEDs and cut lighting energy use by 50% or more in almost any building. New buildings, with lighting designs built around LEDs, may well be providing office – standard illumination for 2 watts of electricity use per square meter or less (current best practice is around 5 watts per square meter).
These new lights may look very different. Light fittings may become panels with hundreds of LEDs on them. Or ceilings may end up with stripes of LEDs across the ceiling. Or ceilings will end up with sockets into which panels of LEDs can be plugged in, so that its easy to move LEDs around in response to the lighting needs of a room (more above a desk, less in the corridors).
If control and sensing technologies can become sufficiently low cost buildings may well be set up to provide lighting whose intensity varies with occupancy and usage.
The rapid development of LEDs is exciting. It gives me hope that, when it comes to lighting, humanity will be able to greatly reduce its carbon footprint in the not too distant future.