Smart Grid Overview

Climate Goals: Is Oslo Leading the Way?

Norway is deadly serious in its bid to become the most climate-friendly country in Europe and has aggressively set about managing its emissions levels.
In January 2017 Oslo issued a temporary ban on all diesel cars entering the capital from 6am to 10pm, a move indicative of the increasing worldwide hostile attitudes towards diesel cars. While some applauded the ban others were highly critical, especially as only 10 years ago Norwegians were being actively encouraged and even incentivised to buy “environmentally friendly” diesel cars.
A permanent ban?
There is already a congestion charge for entering Oslo city during the daytime. But in 2015 the city council announced its intention to make Oslo city centre a completely car-free zone by 2019 - that’s only two years away and six years in advance of a country-wide ban. If it does happen it will be the first permanent car-free zone in Europe and the largest of its kind.
The ‘carrot’ in this scenario is the planned boost to public transport and addition of 40 miles of bicycle lanes. The ‘stick’ however is the idea of new tax levies on heavy vehicles registered before 2014 and increased tax on passenger cars, though at the moment there is no indication of whether electric or hybrid cars would be exempt. The city is nonetheless putting its money where its mouth is: it has reportedly begun to remove parking spaces in preparation and is divesting fossil fuels from its pension funds.
Tackling pollution from cars head-on
Looking at the wider picture, the Norwegian government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and eventually only allow zero emission new cars to be registered. It already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy plug-in electric cars. In 2016 29% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric, and in January 2017 that number was 37.5%. Over the last few years Norway has been the only country in the world where all-electric vehicles have regularly topped the monthly rankings for new car sales.
The rest of Europe is watching
It’s easy to see the attractions of a car free zone. Apart from obvious improvements in air quality, newly emptied roads can be rededicated as sidewalks, cafes and public parks. After all a car is the most inefficient way to get around a city. Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist and commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.
Of course, the total car ban in Oslo has its critics. The council point out the proposed car-free zone is home to only about 1,000 residents but 90,000 workers. Commercial organizations, however, complain that area includes 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centers, so trade would be drastically affected. Not just from a possible drop in shopper numbers, but difficulties in getting deliveries if lorries have to meet stricter emissions levels. 
Other European capitals are watching Oslo closely. If successful, then the car-free zone could provide the blueprint for others to follow suit, making city centres a better place for everyone.
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Global consumption of fossil fuels are on the rise at an alarming rate. Much of this usage comes from transportation. While fuel efficiency continues to improve, the combustion that occurs during driving, even with recent improvements to vehicle efficiency, still release large amounts of CO2 & other GHG's, which are responsible for trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming. Individuals are, in greater and greater numbers, opting for more environmentally responsible solutions to this global problem by carpooling, buying hybrid vehicles, and walking or cycling when convenient.

Many major cities don’t have appropriate infrastructure for safe cycling or walking, or don’t have reliable mass transit systems. These problems continue to turn people off of to ditching their cars for more sustainable options. Infrastructure is an important investment for cities that wish to be more environmentally friendly. Cities could learn a lot from Vancouver, the alternative transit capital of North America

In Vancouver, 10% of work commutes are done on bicycle, which is more than other North American cities of similar size. Even more trips are taken by foot within city limits. Vancouver has a goal of increasing walking as a major form of transportation for trips within city limits. Vancouver took steps to ensure they didn’t fall victim to city planning pitfalls, that frequently result when attempting to move towards more “active transportation” (i.e. walking and cycling).

Vancouver is the only major North American city without a freeway running through it. In the late 1960s, residents first rejected a plan that would separate the city from the iconic waterfront with a freeway, and no such freeway plan has passed in Vancouver since then. This transit dilemma led to the development of the SkyTrain, the world’s longest fully automated metropolitan train system, the West Coast Express, SeaBus, and the development of streetcars.There are SkyTrain lines connecting downtown Vancouver with other major nearby Canadian cities and connecting to the Vancouver International airport, as well as new lines, running to such places as the Waterfront. Vancouver also has the West Coast Express, a commuter rail service, for travel within the city.

In addition to the SkyTrain & West Coast Express, Vancouver offers the SeaBus. There are 3 double-decker ferries in the SeaBus fleet, each holding up to 400 passengers. Each ferry does 2-4 trips an hour, and runs over 100 hours per week. The trips run under 15 minutes most of the time, and connect Waterfront Station (SkyTrain terminals) and downtown Vancouver, with North Vancouver's markets and Transit Exchange. 

The 2010 Winter Olympics were also a source of increased solutions for greater cycling and pedestrian ease of transit, and less automotive traffic. One major change was the creation of large, safe, and expansive bike lanes. Vancouver has also invested a lot of money and time into expanding their mass transportation network. While initially, an expensive investment, at around $2 billion, plans like these can actually be sourced with freed up funds from areas like road repair, which are not as needed, as there are fewer cars on the road. Vancouver today has a vast network of buses, trollies, Commuter Shuttles and even NightBus routes. 

Vancouver’s next goal is to have 66% of all trips made by walking, cycling, or public transit by 2040. To do this, the city will continue to make investments in large, protected bike lanes, better sidestreet lighting, and improved crosswalks. These safety measures, in combination with increased proliferation of educational materials about why using these modes of transportation is important for the environment, and about how to use these modes of transportation safely and efficiently, are the best ways to increase alternative transportation and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.


For more information on Vancouver's alternative transit, please see: green city: Vancouver


Snippet from the 'green city - Vancouver article'-

"Pedestrians are a priority in Vancouver, as walking is encouraged by citywide programs that maintain the city's natural beauty. Vancouver has land-use patterns that encourage walking and biking through creating high-density city centers and even widening sidewalks. The city features over 250 miles of bike trails. The city encourages alternative transportation modes. Public transit options include the cities' buses, streetcars, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express, all of which use the latest clean energy technologies. Vancouver requires all new single family residences to have electric car plug-ins, focusing on this technology in order to encourage zero emission vehicles."

European green building is leading the way forward




It often seems like smaller countries are doing the most to tackle climate change; nations like Switzerland and Austria have some of the best recycling systems in the world, while the likes of Bhutan and Costa Rica are doing more than anyone to become carbon neutral nations. However, there are some major Western European nations that are making interesting attempts to improve their carbon footprints.


In 2015, France made it a legal requirement for all new buildings in commercial zones to cover part of their rooftops in plants or solar panels. This helps reduce the amount of energy it takes for these buildings to be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. The law could have gone further, and was watered down from original plans to cover the whole roofs of every new buildings in such a fashion, but this is still an inventive and hugely productive way to make buildings more energy efficient


The United Kingdom has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% come 2050. Currently, the UK Green Building Council is running an exciting project to refurbish its office in a creative, clever, and environmentally friendly fashion. 


It hopes this office will have the lowest measured fit-out carbon footprint in the UK, as well as to use 98% recycled materials over the course of the redesign. They have also worked to encourage major cities in the UK to take on environmental challenges, helping places like Manchester and Birmingham embrace innovative, refreshing green design. 


Some of the most impressive green buildings in the world are to be found in Germany. The city of Freiburg boasts several of them, including the Solarsiedlung (Solar Settlement) and the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship), which is a small, vibrant community powered entirely by solar energy in the city district of Vauban.  


What's particularly impressive is just how energy efficient the Reichstag (Germany's parliament) is- the building generates 80% of the energy it uses itself, and there is a special insulation system to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It all comes together to make the Reichstag one of the world's most energy efficient major buildings. 


The Reichstag Dome



Stefano Boeri's jaw dropping 'Bosco Verticale,' or 'Vertical Forest,' consists of two skyscrapers with trees planted on special platforms. These skyscrapers are tall enough to sustain more trees than an entire hectare of forest could. On a bright, sunny day, the Bosco Verticale really is one of the most stunning things in Milan, as lush vegetation springs confidently forth from the skyscrapers, turning the skyline a delightfully vivid green. 


Of course, there is a practical purpose to this as well, as the extra trees guzzle up CO2 and dust particles and emit clean oxygen, as well as bringing natural warmth to the building, and protecting people and houses from sustained exposure to harmful sun rays. Gutsy projects like this may make all the difference in the future in ensuring our cities remain appealing places to live.


Bosco Verticale


 Please also see: green building

Paris: Curbing Auto Emissions for Cleaner Air

Paris Curbs Diesel Emissions

Paris, the City of Light, is fast turning into the City of Smog, with high levels of pollution fuelled by car emissions. According to a WHO study, Paris has some of the highest levels of air pollution in Europe. France conducted analyses of air quality in several major cities. These showed a high level of pollution from car emissions. The analyses registered a concentrated amount of ultrafine particles, the type emitted by vehicles in use on the streets. The highest levels of these came from the older model diesel vehicles, especially those built to the Euro 4 standard. In light of this finding, all cars produced prior to 1997 are banned from the city of Paris on weekdays.

Drivers on the streets of Paris will have to put color coded stickers on the windshields of their vehicles. This will enable easy identification by the police of those vehicles with the highest levels of diesel emissions. The system is called Crit’Air. Prior to the sticker system officials had introduced the rather impractical system that saw vehicles with odd or even numbered plates banned from the streets on alternate days.

How does the Crit’Air system work?

All vehicles will be issued color-coded stickers. There are six colors, based on the type of vehicle, the date of registration, its energy efficiency and level of emission. Green is the cleanest category and grey the worst. Green is for electric hybrid, and hydrogen cars. Low emission cars also might get special access to certain parts of the city that more polluting cars won't have.

Under the Crit’Air system, vehicles registered before 1997 and trucks and buses registered before 2001will get a grey sticker. These will be banned from the streets in Paris. France has around 32 million vehicles on its streets, and approximately 6% fall into this category. Some have criticized the Crit’Air system, saying that it targets those who are unable to afford newer vehicles.

The next category is brown. Vehicles registered between 2001 and 2005 will fall into this category. These account for 14% of vehicles. The authorities plan on extending the ban to these as well. The only vehicles that will be legally allowed on the capital’s streets will be those conforming to the Euro 5 emission standards, and a small number that come into the category of antique cars and collectable vehicles.

The Crit’Air system will also apply to all vehicles registered in other countries. These will have time till March 2017 to get their stickers. Meanwhile, the authorities in Paris are also encouraging people to use public transport wherever possible, and are issuing special ‘pollution tickets,’ valid for a full day’s travel within the capital, for €3.60.

Approximately 600,000 vehicles per day use the city’s road network. Those found without stickers will get a hefty fine. Cars will be fined €69 and lorries €168.

Other French cities are using the sticker system. Paris, however, plans to make their system permanent. The authorities are introducing other measures to reduce traffic. Some roads could be closed to traffic; other areas may be ‘pedestrian only’ zones. Residents in Paris support the new system and are hopeful that it will go a long way towards clearing the city’s pollution problem.


For more information, see:


and: green city: London (a sustainable metropolis)

The Biggest Solar Plant on the Globe: In India?

    In September of 2016, the Kamuthi solar plant in Tamil Nadu, India was revealed. As a result, India is now number three in the world for solar utility systems, behind only the United States and China. To reach the third spot, India had to gain on the United Kingdom, and this solar farm gave them just enough edge.

This plant was built and funded by Adani power, which was founded on August 22, 1996, as an energy trading company. They took their first step into power generation with a massive coal power project in Mundra. On October 2, 2011, it became the largest thermal power generating company.This huge solar energy plant appears to be Adani’s first venture into massive solar projects.

Who Had the Record Prior?

    The previous record for largest solar plant belonged to The Topaz Solar Plant in California, which has a total capacity of 550 megawatts. The Kamuthi plant, by comparison, has a capacity of 648 megawatts. The facility occupies 2,500 acres and can supply energy for hundreds of thousands of homes.

How Green is India?

    The first country to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, India has been working towards more sustainable energy sources since the early 1980s. Taking into account this new solar power plant, India has a total of 44.34 gigawatts of capacity attached to renewable sources of energy. The Ministry of Renewable Energy, whose mission statement is to “increase the share of clean power, increase the availability of energy and improve its access, improve energy affordability, and maximize energy equity,” plans to increase this number to 175 gigawatts by the year 2022, and to generate 40% of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030, and this solar power plant shows just how dedicated they are.

How Long Did it Take to Build?

    This massive structure was built in only eight months. This feat was accomplished through the dedication of 8,500 team members, who worked 24 hours a day to complete the project. Perhaps as a result of the quick and efficient build, this project cost only $679 million, which dwarfs the smaller Topaz Farm budget, which was around $2.5 billion.

What Plans Does India Have for More Plants?

    India has plans to build approximately 25 more large solar power stations, with capacities between 500 and 1000 megawatts. India is also focusing on bringing clean electricity to remote villages and is taking on many other environmental initiatives. If they are successful in this goal, it would mean the world’s new largest solar power plant will soon be replaced by another super capacity power plant in the same country. India, along with China, has an incredible population, and for both of these countries to be working to decrease their impact on the environment so rigorously will have a substantial, positive impact on environmental health.

Please also see: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating SystemThe 550 megawatt Topaz Solar Plant

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