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SnippETS for 3 May 2018

This week in SnippETS we examine just what is in the recently released draft report from the Productivity Commission, how having access to more detailed data is driving efficiencies and how Blockchain could be used to verify sustainability initiatives. We also examine some other encouraging trends in renewable energy and how cities and organisations are key to delivering sustainability goals.

The Productivity Commission has released their draft report outlining five major recommendations to regulators regarding climate change. The report recognizes that the climate change policies already in place have not been effective in reducing our domestic emissions, which the latest figures show have climbed by 20 percent from 1990 levels. The draft report is open for feedback until June 8, when the Government is due to consult on its zero carbon legislation.

The results of a new survey from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) suggest that in the private sector, business and environmental goals are more closely aligned today than they were five years ago. The gap is being closed by innovative technologies that help business processes become more efficient and additionally reduce their environmental impact. It's encouraging to hear from these executives that sustainability pays!

Although Bitcoin is probably a long way from becoming the money of the future, we may be closer to using the technology behind it - Blockchain, for sustainability reporting. Blockchain is a network secured ledger system which is in many ways superior to traditional centralised systems. With no central authority controlling the Blockchain, and with all transactions being immutable, it could be used to provide a truly transparent sustainability reporting platform.

Movement towards lowering carbon emissions, thus lowering the predicted global temperature rise needs to happen faster than it is currently. The Paris Accord is great, but what is needed is for local governments and businesses to take a lead role in getting us there. This is fundamentally what the Productivity Commission wants to happen, and this article looks at options that may deliver on this.

An example of a business that is taking this into its own hands, leading by example, is Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy). A previously fully fossil fuel focused business, Ørsted is now a leading renewable-focused power utility. It has reduced CO2 emissions, increased offshore wind generation and scaled up renewable capacity, installing many more offshore wind turbines than any other company in world, making it well ahead of schedule on its climate change goals.

Australia is on the cusp of a renewable energy boom, with aging power stations and electricity grids. A good time therefore to look at renewable energy and battery storage systems, with a number of states investing in grid scale battery storage and others looking at pumped hydro projects. Smaller battery storage is also being quickly added, largely due to the cost of lithium-ion batteries decreasing by 80% over the past 8 years.

And it is not just States with large projects, it is also smaller residential photovoltaic installations; with all of these systems requiring integration to optimally work together. This is where the internet of things comes in. With the ability to ‘talk’ to one another, the internet can be used to coordinate and balance supply with demand, providing a more robust and localised source of generation. Without it, we only face the prospect of increasingly destabilised grids.

In a world’s first, a tidal power project has just been completed and connected to the UK’s mainland national grid. Four 1.5 megawatt (MW) turbines have been placed on the seabed, 1.2 miles off Scotland’s north-east tip. With strong tidal currents, the project should provide year-round power for 2,600 homes and with plans for expansion to 296 turbines, could prove to be another substantive source of renewable generation. For those of us that live in Wellington, the Cook Strait springs to mind.

Recycling makes good sense in many ways, and not just for environmental reasons.A new study has shown that precious metals reclaimed from end of life electronics, cost thirteen times less to extract than traditional mining.And there are some large sums involved, for example Apple recycled $43 million in gold from used iPhones in 2017.Overall it is a win-win for both environment and financial concerns.

This week in Innovation, we discover a new "Nano Membrane Toilet" that can treat human waste onsite without the use of external water or energy.

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