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Global survey: Climate change now a mainstream part of city planning

May 30, 2014 in Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Pollution

Survey reveals cities are planning for climate change, but still searching for links to economic growth.

Infographic courtesy of NOAA

Infographic courtesy of NOAA

By Peter Dizikes, MIT 

An increasing number of cities around the world now include preparations for climate change in their basic urban planning — but only a small portion of them have been able to make such plans part of their economic development priorities, according to a unique global survey of cities released today (5-29-14).

The Urban Climate Change Governance Survey (UCGS), based on responses from 350 cities worldwide, underscores the extent to which city leaders recognize climate change as a major challenge — even as they are trying to figure out how their responses can create jobs, growth, and cost savings in areas ranging from cities’ transportation networks to their distribution of businesses.

“Climate change isn’t an isolated issue,” says Alexander Aylett, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), and the lead author of today’s report. “It has large implications for all other aspects of urban life. What we are seeing is cities starting to build it into the DNA of how they approach urban planning.”

According to the findings, 75 percent of cities worldwide now tackle climate-change issues as a mainstream part of their planning, and 73 percent of cities are attempting both climate mitigation and climate adaptation — that is, they are trying both to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to adapt to long-term changes that are already in motion. But only 21 percent of cities report tangible connections between the response to climate change and achieving other local development goals.

Aylett calls it a “cliché” that environmental and economic progress cannot coexist, citing a number of cities where jobs and growth have derived from climate-change efforts. Portland, Ore., he observes, developed incentives, training, and regulations to help sustainable construction firms grow, while a pilot program called Clean Energy Works Portland employed 400 workers to reduce home energy use, reducing carbon emissions by 1,400 metric tons annually.

Urban planners in Alberta, as Aylett notes, have studied the cost savings associated with limiting metropolitan sprawl and concluded that denser development could save $11 billion in capital costs over the next 60 years, and $130 million in annual maintenance. But most cities, he suggests, have simply not yet identified ways to link climate planning and economic development in the first place.

“It isn’t so much that it’s hard to reconcile economic and environmental priorities,” Aylett says. “It’s that we’re not trying.”

Regional differences remain

The new report is a companion to a survey conducted in 2012. This year’s results revealed continuing regional disparities in urban climate planning. Compared with the global average of 75 percent, U.S. cities lag in planning for both mitigation and adaptation, with just 58 percent of cities addressing both. This echoes the 2012 survey, which revealed that a smaller portion of U.S. cities were doing basic climate-change planning, compared with those in other regions — 59 percent in the U.S., for instance, compared with 95 percent in Latin America.

Globally, 63 percent of cities say they have between one and five employees dedicated to climate-change planning; North American cities are most likely to have just one staff member focused on the topic. As the report’s executive summary notes, “A lack of funding to hire sufficient staff to work on climate change is a significant challenge for 67 percent of cities.”

On a different note, about 85 percent of cities have conducted an inventory of local greenhouse-gas emissions, and 15 percent, as part of that effort, have tried to track the emissions that stem from goods and services consumed within that city. As Aylett points out, “Beginning to address these upstream emissions is crucial if cities are really going to help bring down global emissions.”

The results also reveal that local industries and businesses are relatively disengaged with urban responses to climate change: About 25 percent of cities say that local businesses have been crucial to creating and implementing their climate mitigation plans, whereas 48 percent of cities report that local civil-society groups, such as nonprofits or other organizations, have been involved in climate planning.

The survey is a collaboration between DUSP and ICLEI, the world’s largest association of cities. Today’s report is being released in conjunction with an ICLEI-backed conference on urban planning, being held in Bonn, Germany. To conduct the survey, questionnaires were sent to officials in more than 700 cities worldwide, with 48 percent of them responding to a set of 69 queries.

Other scholars believe the UCGS results are valuable. John Robinson, a professor of geography at the University of British Columbia, calls the survey “extremely important and extremely useful.” In particular, Robinson says, an “important issue raised by this work is what the connection is between framing these responses in terms of climate change and framing them in terms of broader conceptual frameworks, such as sustainability.” Promoting the general idea of sustainable development in urban areas, he adds, may be “most helpful in mainstreaming climate policy.”

This article is a repost (5-29-14), credit: MIT.

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Japan automakers advance electric charging infrastructure with new company, Nippon Charge Service

May 30, 2014 in Electric Vehicles, EV charging, EV News, Honda, LEAF, Nissan, Toyota

Established to help build charging infrastructure for electric-powered vehicles (PHVs, PHEVs and EVs)

Image courtesy of Nissan

Image courtesy of Nissan

TOKYO, Japan – Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation jointly established a new company, Nippon Charge Service, LLC, on May 26 to promote the installation of chargers for electric-powered vehicles (PHVs, PHEVs, EVs). The goal is to help build a charging network that offers more convenience to drivers in Japan.

The new company will promote the installation of chargers, for the good of society and to expand the use of electric-powered vehicles. Related industries are also expected to benefit. Development Bank of Japan Inc. (DBJ) will support the joint effort of the four automakers by investing in the new company with its “Fund for Japanese Industrial Competitiveness.” *

Electric-powered vehicles are playing a major role in driving next-generation energy policy. On November 12, 2013, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi jointly announced a plan to financially assist installers of charging stations and began taking applications from prospective charging station installers. Together with Government subsidies the grants will cover the entire cost of installation for successful applicants.

Infographic courtesy of Nissan

Infographic courtesy of Nissan

This program targets charging facilities recognized to have high public value under the next-generation vehicle charging infrastructure plans drawn up by local governments and authorities. Financial assistance will be made available to businesses and operations to establish charging spots in key locations, such as at commercial facilities and lodging facilities, as well as en-route charging spots at highway service and parking areas, and convenience stores and service stations on regular roads. Under the program, a number of commercial facilities, hotels, convenience stores and highways have started installing charging stations. Nippon Charge Service will manage the chargers, and the installers of charging stations will be asked to participate in the charging infrastructure network operated by Nippon Charge Service.

Through the new company, the four automakers will also provide car owners with a universally accepted charging card. The system will be up and running by the end of the year and will enable convenient access to the chargers operated by the new company.

In the current favorable environment of government subsidies for charger installation, the four automakers are actively encouraging the installation of chargers by founding Nippon Charge Service. The companies are aiming for broader acceptance of electric vehicles by building a user-friendly infrastructure that will help society maximize the possibilities of electric vehicles.

Overview of Nippon Charge Service

  • Name of company: Nippon Charge Service, LLC
  • Headquarters: Room No. 2, 6F, Mita Nitto Dai Bldg., 3-11-36 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo
  • Founded: May 26, 2014
  • Stakeholders: Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
  • Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Motors Corporation Development Bank of Japan Inc. (TBD)
  • Capitalization: 80 million yen (excluding DBJ’s planned investment amount)
  • Websites: Company overview: (to be available in mid-June) Assistance program:

* DBJ has established the “Fund for Japanese Industrial Competitiveness” to enhance Japan’s competitiveness through the supply of risk money to the nation’s industries. The fund will encourage firms to turn their latent capabilities into new businesses by extending business frontiers and promoting strategic alliances with other firms. DBJ’s support for such activity will foster firms’ corporate growth.

This article is a repost, credit: Nissan.

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U.S. Residential Solar PV Installations Exceeded Commercial Installations for the First Time in Q1 2014

May 29, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Solar

BOSTON, MA AND WASHINGTON, D.C. – Driven by strong year-over-year growth in the utility and residential markets, the United States installed 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2014. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association’s (SEIA)Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 232 megawatts of residential PV, exceeding the non-residential (commercial) market’s 225 megawatts for the first time in the history of the report.

Ongoing strength in the residential sector and volatility in the non-residential market spurred this historic milestone. Despite the dip in non-residential installations, GTM Research and SEIA expect the market to rebound and exceed the residential market in 2014 annual PV installations.

In another significant development, Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power (CSP) due to the completion of the 392 megawatt (AC) Ivanpah project and the Genesis Solar project’s second 125 megawatt (AC) phase. With a total of 857 megawatts expected to be completed by year’s end, 2014 is on pace to be the largest year for CSP in history.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q1 2014 Courtesy of SEIA

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q1 2014
Courtesy of SEIA

“Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth, throughout the rest of this year.”

Not to be outshone by the success of the residential sector, the utility PV market continued its dominance, growing 171% between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014. With 873 megawatts installed, it accounted for two-thirds of total installations during the quarter. Large-scale projects that were under contracts and negotiations between 2010 and 2012 are now becoming a reality.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q1 2014 Courtesy of SEIA

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight, Q1 2014
Courtesy of SEIA

The United States’ solar market is off to a strong start in 2014. GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.6 gigawatts of PV will be installed in the U.S. by the end of the year, up 39% over 2013.

“Solar energy is now generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to effectively power 3 million American homes, while creating thousands of new jobs nationwide and pumping nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.  “Solar is also providing a big boost for our environment. The 14,800 megawatts of solar currently installed in the U.S. can generate enough pollution-free electricity to displace 18 billion pounds of coal or 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s the equivalent of removing 3.5 million passenger cars off our roads and highways. For states trying to meet new, enhanced air quality standards, solar can be a real game changer.”

Key Findings:

  • The U.S. installed 1,330 megawatts of solar PV in Q1 2014, up 79% over Q1 2013 and the second-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity stood at 13,395 megawatts (DC) with 482,000 individual systems online as of the end of Q1 2014.
  • PV growth was driven primarily by the utility solar market, which installed over 800 megawatts in Q1 2014, up from 322 megawatts in Q1 2013
  • Q1 2014 was the first quarter in which residential PV installations exceeded non-residential (commercial) installations nationally
  • More than one third of residential PV installations came online without any state incentive for the first time ever in Q1 2014
  • Q1 2014 saw school, government, and non-profit PV installations add more than 100 megawatts for the second straight quarter
  • 74% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in Q1 2014 came from solar
  • GTM Research and SEIA forecast that PV installations will reach 6.6 gigawatts in 2014, up 39 percent over 2013 and nearly double the market size in 2012
  • Cumulative operating CSP capacity was 1,435 megawatts (AC) as of the end of Q1 2014.

About U.S. Solar Market Insight: The U.S. Solar Market Insight report is the most detailed and timely research available on the continuing growth and opportunity in the U.S. The report includes deep analysis of solar markets, technologies and pricing, identifying the key metrics that will help solar decision-makers navigate the market’s current and forecasted trajectory. For more information, visit

About GTM Research: GTM Research, a division of Greentech Media, provides critical and timely market analysis in the form of research reports, data services, advisory services and strategic consulting. GTM Research’s analysis also underpins Greentech Media’s webinars and live events. Our coverage spans the green energy industry including solar power, grid modernization, energy storage, energy efficiency and wind power sectors.

About SEIA®: Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to champion the use of clean, affordable solar in America by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at

This article is a repost (5-28-14), credit: SEIA.

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NRG Energy Expands Portfolio of Professional Football Stadiums Equipped with Sustainable Energy Solutions

May 29, 2014 in Electric Vehicles, Environment, EV charging, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Houston’s NRG Stadium™ to Become First Professional Football Stadium with Energy-Efficient LED Field Lights, part of NRG Proposed Sustainability Master Plan for NRG Park™

Image courtesy of NRG

Image courtesy of NRG

HOUSTON — NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG) has received approval from the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation’s board for a proposal to create a high-level sustainability master plan for the future of NRG Park as well as the installation of solar panels, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and energy-efficient LED lighting. These updates will make the newly rebranded NRG Stadium the first professional football stadium in the country to be equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting on the field and the first professional football stadium in Texas with a solar installation.

The NRG Park sustainability improvements are part of a larger effort by NRG to help demonstrate to consumers the benefits of sustainable, reliable power by showcasing the innovative technologies available at professional football stadiums throughout the country. With the completion of theNRG Park project, the company will have installed sustainable energy solutions at six stadiums throughout the country.

“With our efforts at NRG Park and other professional football stadiums across the country, we’re doing more than generating clean power,” said NRG President and CEO David Crane. “We’re creating awareness of the possibilities sustainable energy can bring here and now, and in doing so, we hope to inspire people to embrace new clean energy solutions.”

The master plan along with the proposed improvements will enable visitors to experience sustainable energy in new ways. The NRG Park improvements will include LED field lighting for NRG Stadium and four NRG Haven Solar Canopies. Solar canopies will be located on top of the bridges that span Kirby Drive, one will be located at the ticket booths on the south side of NRG Stadium, and one will be located in the new NRG eVgo electric vehicle charging station lot.

NRG will also install six eVgo electric vehicle charging stations at the park, which will become part of the NRG eVgo® network that supports charging needs for electric vehicle drivers at home, at work, on the road, at their apartment community or even at the airport.

NRG will continue to work closely with its partners to develop a high-level sustainability master plan for the future of NRG Park and its related facilities including NRG Stadium. NRG will use its knowledge, partnerships and resources to help develop a sustainability plan that creates real change for the Park and enhances NRG Stadium’s position as a cutting-edge sports venue. Four NRG PivitPoints™ kiosk stations were placed in NRG Center earlier this year giving visitors a convenient way to rent portable power packs to charge their mobile devices while on the go.

“Working together with our partners at the Houston Texans, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, SMG Management and the Harris County Sports & Conventions Corporation, we’re excited to demonstrate technological advancements in on-site power generation,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Energy Texas Retail and Reliant. “The enhancements we are making at NRG Park represent exciting progress toward a new era of personal power for Houstonians and people from around the world who visit our great city. The Park will provide the opportunity for folks to see firsthand what is possible in their homes and businesses and ultimately make choices about solutions that are right for them.”

NRG has installed various sustainable solutions such as solar panels, micro-wind turbines and EV charging stations at professional football stadiums in Foxboro, Mass; East Rutherford, NJ; Washington, DC; Philadelphia, PA and San Francisco, CA. Aside from professional football stadiums, through its family of companies, NRG has become one of the nation’s largest solar developers. As of April 2014, it owned and operated more than 1,200 megawatts of solar capacity, and its recent acquisitions have made it the third largest US-based renewable energy generator with its multi-state wind and solar portfolio and a leading provider of residential solar solutions as well.

In Texas, NRG has been the parent company of Reliant since 2009 and has helped introduce multiple innovative energy solutions to Reliant customers, from portable power charging stations (NRG PivitPoints) to enabling energy conservation and choice through an array of retail electricity plans, thermostats, solar installations for the home and more.

For more information about the project, visit

About NRG

NRG is leading customer-driven change in the U.S. energy industry by delivering cleaner and smarter energy choices, while building on the strength of the nation’s largest and most diverse competitive power portfolio. A Fortune 500 company, we create value through reliable and efficient conventional generation, while driving innovation in solar and renewable power, electric vehicle ecosystems, carbon capture technology and customer-centric energy solutions. Our retail electricity providers serve almost 3 million residential and commercial customers throughout the country. More information is available at Connect with NRG Energy on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @nrgenergy.

This article is a repost (5-23-14), credit: NRG.

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Just press go: designing a self-driving vehicle (Google)

May 28, 2014 in Electric Vehicles, Environment, EV News, Neighborhood EV

By Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project

A very early version of our prototype vehicle, and an artistic rendering of our vehicle Images courtesy of Google

A very early version of our prototype vehicle, and an artistic rendering of our vehicle
Images courtesy of Google

Ever since we started the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving. Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.

We’re now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes; they’ll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention. They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work. The vehicles will be very basic—we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible—but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.

It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, “What should be different about this kind of vehicle?” We started with the most important thing: safety. They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections. And we’ve capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25 mph. On the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route—and that’s about it.

We’re planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls. If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years. We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.

If you’d like to follow updates about the project and share your thoughts, please join us on our new Google+ page. We’re looking forward to learning more about what passengers want in a vehicle where their number one job is to kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

This article is a repost, credit: Google. Video courtesy of Google.