Unreliable data is responsible for variances of up to 2000% in forecasting carbon usage, prompting an urgent call for common data standards, reporting structures and changes in asset design.
The new report by the Net Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition (NZIIC) at Teeside University has seemingly uncovered huge variances in the way that carbon data is measured, managed, and assessed for planning needs across the infrastructure sector. The authors say the result is a lack of understanding, obscuring the true impact of infrastructure projects on carbon emissions.
The coalition believes a common industry-wide approach is essential to the availability, quality and transparency of data, underpinning initiatives to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050. It is also calling for significant change in how new assets are designed at feasibility stage.
The report, titled ‘Is Our Carbon Wallet Empty?’, states that the infrastructure sector will miss legally binding carbon budgets that place restrictions on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit. The report makes four key recommendations:
- The adoption of an agreed carbon zero definition that can be clearly assessed
- The industry must create a single, universally recognised, managed and constantly improving source of carbon emission factors, for the full range of construction products and building materials that are used in infrastructure projects.
- Planning framework guidance for carbon assessment to be adjusted to be in line with the Paris Agreement
- We need agreed carbon data measuring if we are to break the cycle of short-term solutions resulting from short timescales, short political cycles, and reactive solutions.
- Developing a shared understanding of the sector’s share of the UK carbon budget
- The development of common, long-term sector targets and trajectories, from which individual companies and projects can be measured against.
- Ensure the availability of a carbon neutral design option for every asset
- If we are to achieve carbon neutral infrastructure, we must ensure that every asset solution has a carbon neutral outline design option, prior to planning and tender, by the asset owners.
“We need to create a common carbon currency that works for everyone, from government and planning authorities to customers, contractors and the supply chain,” said Chris Hayes, NZIIC board member and Sustainability Operations Director with Swedish construction and development firm Skanska.
“While there is plenty of political and industry commitment to driving down carbon consumption, we lack consistent methods to achieving it. Put simply, the will is there but the tools are not.”
Ruth Finlayson, Carbon Manager for Skanska and Project Manager for this coalition report added: “If we cannot quantify our carbon usage, we cannot know the impact on the UK carbon budget. How can individual projects and the wider infrastructure sector plan their journey to net-zero without knowing the proportion of the UK’s budget they should be working to?”
The NZIIC harnesses the collective expertise of those who commission, deliver and operate infrastructure at scale, to influence the industry and UK Government on how infrastructure can achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
Its latest report is said to be the result of a thorough audit of the existing embodied carbon measurement in the infrastructure pipeline. This project-by-project approach was necessary in order to obtain a true picture, where supply chains are long and complex. The analysis and recommendations carry extra weight because they source data and represent views from across industry and academia, says a statement from the group.
Dominic Burbridge, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust, said: “Good data underpins good decision making, and good carbon data is essential in understanding how to plan, design, deliver, and operate infrastructure.
“With infrastructure accounting for over 13% of the UK Carbon footprint and directly influencing a further 41%, we must get to a point where we can consistently measure it! Decisions need to be based on common understanding of the carbon impact, and these recommendations point the way. The time for action is now.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom Expands Drought Declaration to 41 Counties
California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded an emergency drought declaration from two to 41 of the state’s 58 counties on Monday. Of California’s nearly 40 million people, around 30% now live under a drought emergency that Newsom said is likely to expand.
“We’re staring down at what could be disastrous summer and fall, with the potential of communities running out [of] water, and fires,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, who was with Newsom at the announcement.
Climate change is making droughts more likely to occur, and more severe when they do, and thus makes wildfires more extreme as forests and other fuels sources are turned into proverbial tinder boxes.
“The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier,” Newsom said. “We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”
Originally published by Nexus Media.
Featured image: Drought Conditions Continue in Spring 2021, via NASA Earth Observatory.
How I Electrified My Home
By Anne Kramer
Sustainability is my passion. I work in corporate sustainability and try to live as sustainably as possible. Until a year ago, this largely meant recycling, minimizing waste, and using reusable bags. Yet, my eyes were recently opened by the nonprofit Electrify Now to the biggest culprit of my carbon footprint: burning fossil fuels for energy. Along with learning about this overwhelming problem, I feel fortunate to have learned about one of the primary solutions: Electrify Everything. Like seeing the FedEx arrow, once I knew that fact, I couldn’t unknow it. Until I eliminated my reliance on fossil fuels, I felt like a hypocrite: how could I advocate for others to make low-carbon products when there was more I could do to reduce my personal carbon footprint? Luckily, this knowledge came at the same time I bought my first house — an 1896 Victorian with lots of charm that needed some serious remodeling. I vowed that my house would be all electric, and ASAP.
Fortunately for me, my real estate agent used to work in energy efficiency and had multiple energy conscious connections, including to my contractor, Andrew. As soon as I hired Andrew, I told him about my whole house electrification goals. Andrew used my Home Energy Score (a requirement for all homes sold in Portland which gives a buyer an idea on how efficiently the home uses energy) as a starting place. Unlike most old homes that score 3/10 (!), my house was already 6/10 due to a recently installed electric water heater and wall insulation. Andrew and I worked together to determine our plan and priority for our new home: floor insulation, electric heat pump heating & cooling, and, finally, an induction stove.
Now, to cost. I set an overall budget for my home remodel. When I shared it with Andrew, I told him that this amount had to include the full cost of electrification. He estimated our three priorities would cost a total of $18,000: $3,000 for insulation, $10,000 for electric heat pump heating & cooling, $3,000 for the electric stove, and $2,000 as a buffer. Having this early estimate helped me make different decisions down the road to lower the cost of other parts of my remodeling (i.e., selecting cheaper bathroom fixtures and countertop). With a budget and a plan, our electrification project began.
Insulation: this was the easiest because Andrew handled everything. My hardwood floors are old and given how much the boards gap, Andrew recommended foam insulation. While foam is more expensive ($3,000) than a fiberglass option alone ($1,500), Andrew assured me it would provide more effective air seal as well as insulation. He added that a better air seal meant better comfort and would lower my utility bills. I went for the foam option.
Heating & Cooling: I called two local companies and scheduled an initial home consultation from The Heat Pump Store named Todd. Todd and I talked through what kind of system to get (ducted vs. ductless), how many splits/machines to get, where to place them, what additional electric work would be needed, and cost. I went with a ductless mini-split system because my existing ducts were full of dust — gross and no thank you to the extra work needed to clean! I hated the ugly ducts that my gas furnace required and this was my excuse to permanently remove them! As I was already planning to refinish the floors, I worked with Andrew to ensure all the ducts were removed and the floor patched, which included some additional tile work in the kitchen. With a 10% discount, the total cost came to $9,075, including install. Exactly what Andrew had predicted. I put Todd directly in touch with Andrew who coordinated the electric wiring in tandem with my remodeling. Two months later, and just in time for the hottest days of the summer, I had efficient electric heat pumps for heating and cooling.
Stove: my parents switched to electric induction a few years ago, so I already knew the wonder of boiling water in under a minute. My pots are All-Clad or cast iron, so I had no concerns about cookware compatibility (with induction stoves, you need magnetic cookware). I shopped online prioritizing: the number of burners (5), low profile (i.e., completely level with the counter-top), and the same size as my gas stove. I went with the GE Profile 30’’ Induction for $2,700. Frustratingly, the stove could not be installed at the time of delivery since, according to the delivery guys, “they can’t touch the gas line.” Well done on that lobbying, gas industry. After a quick call to Andrew and a visit from the electrician, I had my new induction stove hooked up.
All told, this came almost exactly to the $18,000 Andrew estimated, given additional work needed to replace the floor ducts and electrician visits.
Now came the most satisfying part: removing gas forever. I called my local gas utility NW Natural and asked for my gas line not just to be capped but asked for the line to be entirely removed from my property. They calmly said that would take a visit from a few engineers, but that they would send a team in a few weeks. I was out of town when this ultimately happened, but I still savored knowing that (not without serious effort) gas was unlikely to flow to my house ever again. Better for the planet, better for reducing indoor pollution and for my health.
As an EV owner, I will eventually add an electric charger to my house. Andrew and my electrician helped me understand that this will require a significant breaker box upgrade. This upgrade is expensive (~$6,000) as is the charger install (~$3,000). I’m crossing my fingers that our government, utilities, and/or car manufacturers will soon offer incentives for these upgrades that will help lessen the cost burden.
In summary, here are my 4 lessons learned in my whole home electrification:
1. Your contractor is key. They need to have a working understanding of how upgrading your gas home to electric will come together. It’s important that they know your goals from the start of the project.
2. Set a budget at the beginning, remembering to give yourself a buffer. Electrification means removing and adding machines and potentially wiring to your house that may require additional work to complete. Budget that in!
3. There’s lots of variety out there for all these electrification upgrades. Pick what matters most to you. I went with more expensive insulation because full air sealing mattered to me.
4. Once you’re done, call your gas company and ask for your line to be removed. They have to do this by law and it feels great.
Anne Kramer has worked in Sustainable Innovation at Nike for 3 years and is currently an Integration Manager where she supports the footwear innovation team to minimize the environmental impact of all new products. Prior to Nike, Anne spent 5 years in strategy consulting in the healthcare industry, including at the Gates Foundation, graduated with her MBA from Berkeley–Haas in 2018, and graduated with a degree in Biology from Columbia University in 2011. For the past year she volunteered with Electrify Now and helped fundraise and strategize for Electrify Everyone, a partnership with the Community Energy Project that replaces inefficient gas water heaters with electric heat-pumps for low-income Portland families.
Tesla Transitions To LFP Battery Cells For Megapack Installations
Multiple news sources are reporting that Tesla has begun using lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells in its Megapack grid-scale storage systems. LFP has some advantage and disadvantages when compared to the traditional nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) or nickel, manganese, cobalt (NMC) batteries typically used to power electric cars. The advantages include not using nickel or cobalt, both of which are going up in price as the demand for electric cars accelerates. In addition, mining cobalt has significant environmental and humanitarian issues. Leaving those elements out helps lower the cost of manufacturing battery cells.
The downside is that LFP batteries are less energy dense than traditional battery cells, which is why they are a perfect fit for the entry level Tesla Model 3 Standard Range + in China but not for the mighty Model S P100D with Plaid+ Mode. The change in battery chemistry was alluded to by Elon Musk in the most recent conference call with investors. “However, stationary storage, the energy density is not as important because it’s just staying on the ground, and so I think the vast majority of stationary storage will be iron-based lithium-ion cells with an iron phosphate cathode, technically. But the phosphate part is unnecessary. It’s really just the iron or nickel.”
Teslarati is referencing a research note [pay wall] by Canaccord Genuity analyst Jed Dorsheimer that says, “Tesla announced that Megapack will be using LFP cathode batteries, similar to the entry-level Made-in-China Model 3/Ys. This is significant, as Tesla ramps up their grid-scale energy storage product without drawing further on an already supply-constrained nickel-based battery production capacity used in 2170s.”
Each Megapack has a maximum energy capacity of 3 MWh, making it one of the largest energy storage systems on the market. With its shipping container size enclosure, it can be installed quickly and scaled easily to meet the needs of individual customers. Tesla says the Megapack requires 40% less space and 10× fewer parts than storage battery systems available today from its competitors.
During that earnings call, Musk responded to a question from New Street Research analyst Pierre Ferragu about Tesla’s expectations for its energy business. “We’re aiming for comparable margins in storage as in vehicle. But it is important to bear in mind that vehicle is more mature than the storage. So, we already are at margins with the Powerwall. But some additional work is needed for the Megapack to achieve good margins. We have a clear runway for improving the cost per the megawatt-hour of the Megapack.”
LFP battery cells also require less complex cooling strategies than NCA and NMC batteries, lowering costs even more. As Teslarati’s Simon Alvarez notes, “A more affordable Megapack is a formidable product, as it would make it far more reasonable than less sustainable alternatives. It could effectively accelerate the inevitable obsolescence of dirty peaker plants.” That, of course, is the raison d’être for battery storage — to eliminate climate-killing emissions from coal- and gas-fired generating plants.
Lower battery storage prices will only move the renewable energy revolution forward faster, something that will be essential if we wish to keep the Earth suitable for human habitation. Free market types are always screaming about letting the market decide. Here’s a caveat for those people who are opponents of renewable energy: Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it!
EV-Only Lease Firm WeVee Scaling Up Operations In The UK
The UK plugin electric vehicle market share, at 13.25% in April 2021, was quite impressive again despite significant cuts in government incentives. Vehicles that qualify for the incentives have now also been restricted to vehicles that cost less than £35,000. There are, however, quite a number of other benefits still available for people and businesses looking to get into the age of electric mobility. These include a benefit in kind tax (BIK) and a Salary Sacrifice scheme.
Under the BIK, if one uses a company car privately, including for commuting, one has to pay tax on the value of the company car, which depends on how much it would cost to buy the car and the type of fuel it uses. The value of the car is reduced if one has the car on a part-time basis, pays something towards its cost, or it has low CO2 emissions. For EVs, this tax is actually 1% until April 2022 and then it’s increased to only 2%. Under the salary sacrifice scheme, an employee can pay for an electric car each month using their gross salary, before tax and other contributions are deducted.
In the UK, just like probably everywhere else, traditional automobile dealerships are still keen to push sales of ICE vehicles over EVs, so a lot of them don’t go out of their way to sell the benefits of EVs to prospective customers despite all the progress made over the last 10 years with regards to the number of EV models available on the market. The Nissan Leaf, alongside a few other models, was pretty much all that was available back then. Now in 2021 there are well over 70 models available and it is difficult to browse every EV available on the multiple OEM platforms and associated dealerships.
WeVee, a next-generation leasing broker focusing only on electric cars, wants to improve the customer experience for EV shoppers by proving a platform where one can see every electric car available in the UK in one place. This will allow consumers to make an informed decision backed by support from EV experts at the EV-only focused firm. WeVee says it wants its customers to get the perfect EV lease deal with the best prices, helping communities speed up the switch to zero-emission cars.
90% of new UK cars are financed, and WeVee is going to focus on 3 leasing verticals, Personal, BIK, and Salary Sacrifice leasing options to tailor the best value proposition to individuals and businesses looking to go EV. Business leases will be its anchor segment and WeVee will ride on the strong partnerships across the industry as a competitive advantage. WeVee has already helped over 800 people switch to electric and is now scaling up its platform and business to help more families and businesses make the switch.
All images courtesy of WeVee
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