Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Fast trains – a quantum leap in public transport

July 14th, 2010

I’m starting this blog posting at 277 km/hr on a very fast train with 16 carriages and 100 seats per carriage. The train is full. Where am I? Not in Japan or France. I’m somewhere between Wuxi and Shuzhou in China, where public transport operates at a speed and efficiency that is a quantum leap above the XPT train from Melbourne to City that I’ve caught a few times. And these trains don’t just go short distances. In a couple of weeks I’ll be travelling 1200 kms in less than four hours from Wuhan to Guangzhou.

Where land is at a premium the solution has been simple – build an elevated railway over the top of the existing tracks. 20th century trains below. 21st century very fast trains above.

The fast train service is operated like an airline. Passengers go through a security check at the station. There is a large waiting hall, and train access through a boarding gate. Passengers are only let onto the platform 5 to 10 minutes before their train is due. To speed up access to the train, the platform is marked with numbers, each number corresponding to a carriage. The train pulls up so that the carriage doors line up exactly with numbers. Unlike in a plane, the leg room is sensational. A woman across from me is straining to reach the keys of her laptop perched on the tray table. My laptop is on my lap, the screen pushed back, and its still ten cm away from the seat in front. Try that in a plane!

This is the sort of public transport that can take planes out of the sky. The emissions per km are much lower. They are more convenient, operating from city centres, not on the outskirts of town. Taking into account the trip to and from the airport, my 1200 km trip in a couple of weeks will probably take no more time than if I was flying.

Signing off at 335 km/hr.

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Victoria’s brown coal emissions rise 10% in a decade

June 29th, 2010

Victoria’s Energy Mix 2009-2010 report was recently released by Environment Victoria ( showing that little progress has been made to reduce Victoria’s reliance on polluting coal-fired electricity over the past decade. Our energy mix remains dangerously unbalanced. To make things worse the Victorian government (with the obvious support of the federal government) is now going to export 20 million tonnes of coal to Vietnam from the La Trobe Valley. So not only do we burn coal here to pollute our environment but now our coal will be used to produce greenhouse emissions in another country as well. Well done!

However, the report commissioned by Environment Victoria found that in 2009 coal-fired generation provided 91.5% of the state’s electricity, only slightly lower than the 93.3% coal provided in 2000. The report also found that in absolute terms, Victoria’s reliance on coal has increased over the past decade, with both electricity generation and greenhouse emissions increasing nearly by 10% since 2000! At the same time, energy from clean renewable source remain at just 5% (the same proportion as what it was in 2000), despite the Victorian Government’s Renewable Energy Target.

The state’s experience over the past decade shows that the only way we will be able to make real progress in reducing Victoria’s greenhouse pollution and dependence on brown coal is if we start replacing the large coal-fired power stations with clean energy; beginning with the dirtiest power station in Australia – Hazelwood power station.

As for selling coal to other countries; it just shows how serious our government is about reducing greenhouse emissions. In this sort of climate when the Australian community wants to see us reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and to set a good example to developing countries a decision to export coal is a worrying sign which path we are heading down on.

(Mostly reproduced from Environment Victoria’s Safe Climate Bulletin on 30th March 2010).

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DHL express Asia Pacific cuts emissions by 19% in 12 months

May 26th, 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Ong, Vice President Business Development, First Choice & GoGreen for DHL Asia Pacific , Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. The express division has cut its emissions by 19%, an impressive achievement given the large size of DHL. Globally DHL employs around half a million people.

How has it achieved these savings?

Firstly the chairman identified that it was important for the company to reduce its emissions, as part of being a good corporate citizen.
Secondly, it set a carbon reduction target, of globally reducing emissions by 30% per kg delivered, by 2015.

Third it put in place a measurement and tracking system. Unlike many organisations which centralise their data collection for the purpose of tracking emissions, DHL developed a system where the data entry is decentralised system.

Fourth it got staff using the system. Initially it was hard to motivate staff to do this. However with strong management support, monthly data entry into the system is now the norm. Each month each facility fills in a on-line questionnaire, entering in information such as the litres of diesel used. This only takes a few minutes.

Fifth, graphs and reports from the system are printed out at each facility, and put on the facility noticeboard where they are prominent to staff and drivers.

Sixth, it has fostered competition, encouraged ideas that reduced energy consumption, and empowered staff to take actions to reduce their energy use. For example, in their facilities in Singapore DHL now practices “lights off at lunchtime”, an idea suggested by a staff member.

Chris highlighted the fact that saving energy saves money, and that the Global Financial Crisis has actually accelerated their savings.  He said that their total savings to date of 19,000,000 kgs have come from lots of people each saving a few kgs each day. Financial savings so far total ten million euros. His advice to other organisations:

  1. Be able to measure your emissions accurately.
  2. Give power to the people on the ground. Give them the information they need – what their emissions are now, what they were, how much they have saved. The results can be very immediate, and this reinforces what more can be done.

DHL provide a inspiring example for other organisations to follow. This good news interview with Christopher Ong can be found at

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Linfox climate change leadership - cutting its emissions by 50% by 2015

May 6th, 2010

I caught up again today with David McInnes, Group Manager Environment for Linfox - you can find the interview here. Linfox have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 28% per km since 2006/07. They are aiming to cut their emissions by 50% by 2015. I find this tremendously refreshing and a great example for other companies to follow. 

The 28% reduction has cut fuel costs by $18 million annually compared with what they would have been with no action. Most of the savings have come from what David calls cultural change, the process of engaging with staff and getting them committed to minimising their environmental impact at work. The company is putting all its drivers through its Eco-Drive program, the single largest source of its savings. The Eco-Drive program has now been translated into six languages by Linfox.

When Linfox started on its greenhouse gas saving program back in 2006/07 it didn’t do a dry cost-benefit feasibility study, rather its board took the attitude that as a large contributor to transport emissions it had a responsibility to act. It set a target of a 15% reduction by 2010, not knowing how to achieve that, but putting faith that by going through a structured process of cultural change the results would be achieved. Their faith in this process has certainly paid off.

Its modelled its change process on the eight step change model developed by Harvard University academic John Kotter, who has written several books on the process of organisational change.

The first step of Kotter’s process is to create a sense of urgency. Linfox created this by focussing on the climate change science. Part of this involved commissioning a series of mindmaps by West Australian artist Jane Genovese, one of which which can be viewed by clicking on the link below.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that greenhouse emissions need to be reduced globally by between 25% and 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees.  David believes that this target can be achieved, and Linfox is a great example of how business can lead the way.

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Energy Saving Measures in Government Buildings gone too far?

May 3rd, 2010

A British government office has taken a radical step to reduce energy usage by installing timing switches in their toilets. In itself there is nothing unusual about this but staff in the West Midland reported that they have been often left in the dark after ten minutes when all the lights are switched off automatically in the cubicles.

The government workers explained that they feel humiliated and degraded as they often have to fumble and stumble in the dark struggling to make themselves decent before they can make their way back to the switch located near the entrance. The government employees complained that this is going too far since they were already complying with requests to switch the lights off in the toilets as they were leaving. The government bureaucrats believe that this is an undignified and possibly unsafe practice implemented in a misguided attempt to reduce energy use.

In response to their concerns a government spokesperson defended the timed toilet light switches; stating that they save both money and energy. She asserted that the government has introduced a range of measures across government buildings in order to reduce avoidable energy consumption and are continuing with similar works elsewhere. It is expected that these energy saving measures will be applied to all health, justice and education buildings in the Midlands. (Reported in the Daily Telegraph and reproduced in MX 31st March 2010).

Is this going a little too far? We will let you make up your own mind. However, we would probably recommend occupancy sensors in similar situations that could detect people’s movement or sensors that combine sound detection as well to avoid unexpected surprises. Toilet lights are one of the most pointless energy wasters in many buildings as the lights remain on all day or even 24/7 if forgotten. Numerous sites -especially government buildings- that we have audited implemented this strategy without complaints.

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