Archive for December, 2008

Better efficiency

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

A new notion is entering peoples minds: using natural resources much more productively — efficiently — is profitable and better for the environment. By integrating design factors we can achieve large resource savings in solutions that work better and cost less.

We now use natural resources extremely inefficiently. Many resources are non-renewable and renewable resources — ex. trees and fish – are being used faster than they’re being renewed. Depleting resources in this way is an unsustainable proposition

But most importantly inefficiency wastes money for all: families, corporations and reduces the funds available to achieve worthy social goals.

Using resources more productively creates wealth, spurring new industries, products and economic activity. It postpones depletion of non-renewable resources and enables sustainable use of renewable resources. It buys time to solve problems caused by growth.

Efficiency, or productivity, is doing services with fewer resources – often with better performance.

Whole-system design means optimizing the entire system. Do not define problems to narrowly, but identify their causes or connections. Systems thinking may reveal lasting, elegantly frugal solutions with multiple benefits. Sometimes it can enable us to transcend ideological battles and unite all parties around shared goals.

We are embedded in systems: families, communities, industries, economies, ecosystems. The machines we rely on are also systems, having profound effects on the human and biotic systems around them. Leveraging, artful integration is made possible.

Environmental damage arises from an effort to meet human needs. Goals and means must be found in a positive approach in the transition to a sustainable society.

We must work with markets to achieve high leverage by harnessing competitive forces and the economic self-interest of firms and individuals. The intention is to turn environmental problems into profitable opportunities: develop new technological and design concepts that work better, cost less, enhance efficiency, and substitute plentiful for scarce resources.

It is important to pay attention to demand. Try to find the best and cheapest way to do each desired task— do not simply expand supply without regard to the right amount, quality, and scale. We must reframe the question as, “What are we trying to do, and what’s the best and cheapest way to do it?” We also shift from producing goods to providing services.

Nature offers extraordinary design solutions. Natural systems operate in closed loops with no waste. Every output is either returned harmlessly to the ecosystem as a nutrient, like compost, or becomes an input for another process.

The standard industrial model of our age is a linear sequence of “take, make, and waste” — extract resources, use them, and throw them away. This erodes our stock of natural capital by depleting resources and replacing them with wastes.

Reducing the wasteful throughput of materials — eliminating the idea of waste — can be accomplished by redesigning industrial systems on biological lines that change the nature of industrial processes and materials, enabling the constant reuse of materials in continuous closed cycles, and often the elimination of toxicity.

Shift the business model away from the making and selling of “things” to providing the service that the “thing” delivers. Natural and human capital becomes essential.

The corporate world is a necessary part of the solution. Corporations possess the combination of skills, resources, agility, and motivation — profit — to address humanity’s most pressing challenges.

Keep up a search for interconnections between issues normally viewed as unrelated.

We face a new pattern of scarcity: abundant people and labor-saving machines and diminishing natural capital. 
Natural capital is the earth’s natural resources and the ecological systems that provide vital life-support services to society and all living things.

These services are priceless, since they have no known substitutes. Yet current business practices typically fail to take into account the rising value of these assets. Natural capital is now being liquidated by wasteful use of resources such as energy, materials, water, fiber, topsoil. 

The next industrial revolution, will be a response to changing patterns of scarcity. It will force changes and create opportunities.

We must try to develop ways – through natural capitalism – to make natural resources — energy, minerals, water, forests — stretch five, ten, even 100 times further than they do today. Biologically inspired production models seeks to reduce waste and eliminate the concept of waste.

In closed-loop production systems, modeled on nature’s designs, every output either is returned harmlessly to the ecosystem as a nutrient, like compost, or becomes an input for another manufacturing process. Industrial processes that emulate the benign chemistry of nature reduce dependence on nonrenewable inputs, make possible often phenomenally more efficient production, and can result in elegantly simple products that rival anything man-made. 

The present business models rests mainly on the sale of goods. In new models value is delivered as a continuous flow of services — ex. providing illumination rather than selling light bulbs. This aligns the interests of providers and customers in ways that reward them for resource productivity. 

The next industrial revolution will make it possible to downsize companies’ unproductive resources -  tons, gallons, kilowatt-hours – to allow people to foster the innovation that drives future success.

Source: RMI web

Example: China produces 50% of the world´s cement, and in this production emits 26 times the CO2 of the whole of Norway. In this production the Chinese are now changíng from burning coal to burning waste. This reduces the CO2 emissions a lot and at the same time removes mountains of waste. The burning process introduces new high temperature technology that also removes environmentally dangerous metals. The process involved is complex with monitoring of various substances so that they can be destroyed or utilized. DDT is practically completely destroyed by the incineration.

New climate technology must be economically viable.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Green technology must become competitive! Direct research and development should be encouraged! The use of techno/economic calculations – cost benefit analysis – must be encouraged.

New environmental technology must be efficient so that in the long run it is economically viable. Windmills are now being heavily subsidized, and so are solar cell panels in many countries. This subsidized activity can be seen as a research and development activity, but it must eventually lead to new efficient solutions.

To make new technology economically acceptable we can tax the old solutions so that the solutions are economically comparable. Studies have shown that a small tax on petrol – about 0,012 Euro pr. liter in addition to present taxes – will make up for it´s climatic influences. This is not much!

But this kind of thinking will not lead to changes in what we do! It will just make it possible to buy more inefficient windmills and solar panels. 

The solution is to use more money for research and development directly in the development of efficient green technology. Research budget should be increased, not subsidies. This is the only way we can make progress!

Initially the power produced will be too expensive to compete, so who is paying? This question must find a solution as part of the financing of projects.

Who is willing to pay for expensive energy like wind-power? Maybe we have to develop not-so-cheap power because the environmental challenges are so overwhelming? Who is analysing and making a coherent policy?

Climate quotas system used to enhance profit?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

The Norwegian state-owned company SN Power are building electric power installations in many developing countries. The company has been given quotas by the UN for projects, so far about 1 mill. CER (Certified Emissions Reductions). Other projects can yield 1.3 mill. CER. The price of the quotas vary, but will give SN Power income of 1-1,5 billion NOK.

This means that in practice CER are used to increase the profit of building ordinary power installations. Is the Norwegian company using a loophole in the rules? Should the quota money go to smaller and less profitable projects that need the quota money to be built?

The CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) was established in Kyoto in 1997 for the time up to 20012. A new agreement will be discussed in Copenhagen 2009.

Laws are needed to get results in climate change processes.

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Britain will pass a climate change bill containing carbon reduction goals, the first country to do so. This will take the matter out of the hands of politicians and leave it to a committee to set five year goals. There will be goals for different sectors like transport, power generation and manufacturing. The ultimate goal is to cut emissions by 80% from their 1990 levels by 2050. The first budget to 2022 will be published soon. Energy and planning bills with climate change ambitions will follow. The process of enforcement of these laws are not fully clear – what do you do with the lawbreakers?


True mobile internet – the future of “handsets”

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

The competition for mobile internet is getting hotter. It is now more about software, services, content than hardware. Competition fosters innovation!

Microsoft, Apple, Google (Android, Open Handset Alliance), Linux Mobile – LiMo (Linuxbased open source), Nokia (open source Symbian) are the main actors.

Open source companies will let you do your own thing, proprietary solutions will lock you in?

“The mission of the LiMo Foundation is to create an open, Linux-based software platform for use by the whole global industry to produce mobile devices through a balanced and transparent contribution process enabling a rich ecosystem of differentiated products, applications, and services from device manufacturers, operators, ISVs and integrators.”

Telephone, SMS, Camera, MP3 Player, Mobile Internet, Video calling, Operating System, Bluetooth, MMS, GPS, SD Card, Mobile TV, Applications, …….

Water policy, economics and technology

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The lack of water will make trouble for us in the near future. The increasing urbanization will contribute to this trouble in a major way, and large cities with many millions will fare the worst.

2,5% of the earth´s water is fresh, with 0,3% in rivers and lakes, 30.8% in the ground and 68,9% in ice and permanent snow. Most water is saline. 

Infrastructure is not being built fast enough – organizing this will be a huge challenge.

 Water can be desalinated, transported from away, or reused with the help of various technological solutions. Both mechanical and biological solutions are being developed. Many large schemes for transport of water are found, and new ones will be built.

Climatic changes will play a part via floods and droughts that will make unstable conditions.

10-20% of water needs to be clean for food and personal hygiene, 80 % can be of lower quality. We are now piping only clean water in to the house. In the near future we will perhaps pipe in 2 or 3 quality classes and releasing the “grey”, the “black” and rainwater in separate pipes. The toilet system becomes separate with hygienic treatment so that the waste is used as fertilizer and water is rinsed and reused.

A person uses 200 liters of water pr. day; 20 liters are for drinking, food and personal hygiene. We can rinse and reuse most of the water. Water from the 2 best quality classes can be collected in a dam together with rainwater and used for watering the garden or washing the car.

The ownership of water will be a source of conflict – examples are Spain, Egypt and also water from China ending up in the Mekong delta. The control of water gives power!

Food production is water intensive – between 80 and 90 % of the worlds water is used there – and could in principle be moved to the most water-rich areas. This is not easily done.

Universities need to offer education in this interesting and complex field, so that we can solve the political, economic and technical challenges arising.



Broadband networks of the future – fiber-optic networks as drivers for competition.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Now that fiber-optic cables have been laid to neighbourhoods (fiber to the node) and to large companies (fiber to the office), residential customers and SMBs are next in line (FTTH).

To be clear about roles we have to differentiate between network operators and content delivery operators. Not all, may be none at all, content delivery operators need to have their own network.

The national backbone for telecommunications now consists of copper lines, coax cables, 3G/4G, GSM and other nets, fiber optic cables, radio lines, radio/TV transmitters – this will be the Norwegian telecommunications and IT infrastructure for many years to come. Copper lines and coax cables will most likely decline in importance, fiber-optics will increase for most day-to-day purposes. Portable devices will have faster 4G-nets than we see today.

Demand for new business applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP), Unified Communications and video conferencing is driving the need for increasingly higher network capacities, prompting more and more large enterprises to switch from copper to an efficient fiber-optic network. Private net based use including high density streaming, HDTV is increasing fast.

Customers will benefit from competition between different networks. At the same time some sort of cooperation should be involved. Potential cooperation partners from the telecommunications, cable and utilities industries should work together on building the fiber-optic network. The network could thus be implemented quicker and more cost-effectively. This collaboration will generate competition among different types of networks, boosting investment and innovation and maximizing the benefits for businesses and homeowners.

Different cooperation models should be used in the interests of preventing duplication, saving costs and accelerating the introduction of broadband networks in Norway. All households should have several fiber-optic cables and the cables should be divided between the cooperation partners. Network operators can use a range of different technologies for their own infrastructure, and use this as a platform on which to build up and offer their services. The services and network quality they will be able to offer depends heavily on the choice of technology.

When it comes to service, quality and technological innovation, network operators can only differentiate themselves effectively on the market if they are able to monitor and manage the entire network, from the exchange to the end customer device.

Construction partnerships can be aimed in particular at partners with their own ducts or masts, such as electrical utilities or cable network providers. One of the partners takes on responsibility for building the fiber-optic network in a defined region – for example a specific district or an entire city. Several fibers are laid, and when the network is completed each of the other cooperation partners is assigned some fiber. Compensatory payments may be required to ensure equality among partners.

Examples of cooperation models:

· Investment partnership: Partners without their own cable ducts. All the partners jointly finance network expansion. One partner builds the entire network and grants the investor usage rights to the fibers laid.

· Rental of individual fibers: Individual fibers are rented by partners who do not wish to invest in network expansion but want to decide themselves on the preferred technical level for controlling the optic-optic network.

· Leasing of transmission services: As with DSL broadband technology, which has long been established on the market, The partners also provide reseller offerings for Internet service providers who do not wish to invest in their own infrastructure. These providers can use the cooperation partner’s optical fibers and higher-level network technology.

Non-discriminatory and fair offerings will cover all bandwidths.

(Based on article about Swisscom and Swiss cooperation)

And the speed on the internet is going up all the time – what about unlimited bandwidth anytime soon?

In the US debate about financing the optical networks is gaining ground: commercial or town/municipal? A good internet connection – optical fibre – in necessary for all business today. But who is paying? Many years ago it was water, electricity, roads … everybody must have it so “everbody” pays.