NYC’s Agora gallery is showing the marvellous junk-tech sculptures of Italy’s Franco Recchia: ” he approaches each subject with that sense of innocent amazement, instinctively following a compositive and rigorous logic until each piece is laid in its correct place. What results are wonderfully distinctive pieces rich in detail, marked by crisp, clean lines and colors that work to delineate the overall composition.”
Oil imports: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2010
Click on image for a larger view.
Even if you regard energy independence as absurd and global warming a hoax, you can be sure that reducing fossil fuel imports and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions will long be twin guideposts to policy and investment decisions. So it seems sensible to take stock of how the advanced industrial countries have been doing. Here’s what the latest available numbers show:
Japan's dependence on insecure OPEC and Russian-region oil has decreased, while Europe's dependence has increased even more markedly.
The countries most supportive of the Kyoto Protocol—Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom—have gone a long way toward keeping their commitments. But the United States has not kept pace, and there has been a sharp rise in the emissions of the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries, especially China.
U.S. emissions decreased just 1.2 percent from 2000 to 2008, while Germany’s and the United Kingdom’s dropped 6.5 percent and Japan’s 4.6 percent.
The 15 European countries that originally signed the Kyoto Protocol targets have cut their emissions by 3.5 percent since 2000, and the 27-member European Union of today by 2.4 percent .
7 things to mull when writing corporate sustainability reports
Ernst & Young figures that something like two-thirds of major global enterprise businesses (the so-called Fortune 500) are now publishing a corporate sustainability or corporate responsibility report of some type. But what information should be included or excluded from these disclosures? How often should they published? Who should contribute information? Should financial analysts be explicitly briefed, especially since more of them apparently include these considerations in company valuations?
The thing is, even though the Securities and Exchange Commissions is asking public companies to be more forthcoming about environmental-related risks and the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on greenwashing, most of these reports are released voluntarily.
According to the report, here’s the risk of keeping triple bottom line reporting — information about a company’s environmental and social activities impact the planet, people and profits — to yourself:
“Companies that do not release sustainability information may appear less transparent than competitors that do, coming across as laggards even if they aren’t. And those that report incompletely, or which insufficient rigor may find that if reporting becomes mandatory and standards are tightened, glaring discrepancies may appear between past reports and newer ones. All of these factors have created momentum in the direction of more openness and more reporting.”
After reading the report and the questions it poses, I have these seven observations on best practices for crafting corporate sustainability or responsibility reports. I encourage you to download the entire Ernst & Young analysis, though, because it will really help your team start asking the right questions — regardless of whether or not you are already disclosing this information.
Study your industry sector to understand which of your competitors are doing this.
Format. Probably the most widely used framework for triple bottom line reporting today is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Reporting Framework, which suggests information that should be included and how it should be presented. The GRI reporting framework is relatively mature: it currently is undergoing its third revision, and some of the latest updates are expected in early 2011.
Make the collection of information you need for corporate sustainability reporting a part of core processes — and job mandates. Otherwise the data could be cumbersome to gather or it simply will not be a priority for your executive team.
Consider getting a third party to verify the information you are reporting. Even though this isn’t necessarily required today, it will demonstrate a higher level of transparency plus you may get some valuable feedback on things your company can do better.
Be careful about how you disclose data from division to division or business unit to business unit. The people reading this report will naturally be inclined to make comparisons and if the information is reported differently, your message could appear disjointed. This also harkens back to the first point on this list: You need to understand how your competitors are talking about similar information — otherwise the wrong conclusions could be drawn.
Don’t forget to use the information you gather for this reporting exercise as real key performance indicators that can help your company become more efficient overall. Period.
Finally, here are four reports that Ernst & Young suggests consulting for great ideas in corporate sustainability reporting:
BHP Billiton, the world’s largest multi-national mining company
SUNROOF:Clif Bar & Co.’s rooftop solar array is smarter than average.
More than a dozen venture-capital-backed start-ups are vying to bring some smarts to solar farms in the hope of boosting photovoltaic arrays' ability to deliver carbon-free energy. The offering by Tigo Energy, based in Los Gatos, Calif., may be the simplest and most cost-effective of these distributed intelligence schemes. The three-year-old firm is exploiting wireless communications to minimize the added cost and complexity of PV arrays’ energy-harvesting electronics, an approach that could quickly win over risk-averse system installers.
Tigo’s strategy is getting its highest-profile test at the El Cerrito, Calif., headquarters of sports foods producer Clif Bar & Co. Solar installer Sun Light & Power, of Berkeley, Calif., is festooning Clif Bar’s carport and rooftops with nearly 2000 silicon solar panels. Sun Light & Power is betting that by individually monitoring, controlling, and optimizing each panel, Tigo’s system will squeeze 6 to 8 percent more energy from the 530-kilowatt array.
Such potential exists thanks to the inherent inefficiencies in the way PV arrays are designed today: The panels blindly feed their direct current to a centralized inverter. The inverter turns the array’s DC into AC in sync with the power grid, but it must also maximize the DC flow coming in by controlling the entire array’s impedance.
Centralized impedance control wastes energy, because a PV array’s panels are rarely uniform. Variable shading from trees, buildings, or shifting clouds turns PV arrays into an electrical mosaic. The problem only gets worse with age as panels degrade at varying rates from their factory-shipped specs. The centralized inverter must pander to its array’s lowest common denominator, setting an impedance that maximizes the panel’s harvest of charges generated on the lowest-performing panels. Extra charge generated by overachieving panels is left to recombine and dissipate as heat.
The early market leader among the firms addressing PV’s “module mismatch” problem, Enphase Energy, proposes to replace the big centralized inverter with microinverters attached to each panel. But in doing so, it may have limited its potential market. Electronics market consultancy IMS Research concluded this August that the microinverters’ higher cost would preclude their use in utility-scale solar plants.
Gary Gerber, Sun Light & Power’s president, says he is concerned about failure-prone components in microinverters such as liquid-filled capacitors, which add reliability risk to rooftop installations. “You put thousands of those out on roofs and they start failing, and you have a lot of work to do to repair and replace units, especially in residential installations where the panels are generally flush to a roof,” says Gerber, a past president of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents many installers.
Tigo’s approach should be fairly fail-safe because its distributed electronic devices are comparatively simple. The modules attached to each solar panel contain a basic circuit that modifies impedance and a 2.4-gigahertz wireless interface; all processing capabilities reside in a centralized management unit. In operation, Tigo’s modules transmit a power reading every 3 seconds, the central unit crunches the data to calculate the optimum impedance for each panel, and those marching orders are transmitted back to the modules.
The result is that each panel is assured to generate maximum DC power, leaving the centralized inverter to concentrate on its forte: efficiently churning out synchronous AC. Gerber says Tigo’s hardware is edging up Clif Bar’s PV price tag by roughly 4.5 percent, but he predicts that increased energy flow when the array starts up later this winter will more than pay back the added costs, boosting Clif Bar’s overall return on investment.
Profit margins should increase as Tigo works with PV manufacturers to build its system into PV panel junction boxes at the factory. Several leading PV manufacturers have announced plans to integrate Tigo’s circuitry, including SchottSolar, Solyndra, and Suntech Power. Tigo vice president Jeff Krisa says those partnerships should beget several Tigo-optimized solar projects at the 10- to 20-megawatt scale by the end of 2011. Gerber says it could become mainstream practice within three to four years.
Gerber points to one more benefit that has less to do with dollars and cents and more with organizations like Clif Bar wearing their green credentials: The data flowing into Tigo’s central management units is easily output to the Internet, to be incorporated in Web sites or in-building displays that lay open an array’s output in real time. “I can’t overemphasize the value of the display technology,” says Gerber. “That’s a huge PR benefit.”
Conheça, agora, de que modo o transporte de pessoas pode ser repensado, sob uma visão que propõe eficiência energética, redução de poluentes e alternativas sustentáveis para o deslocamento de pessoas em grandes capitais.
Conhecido por BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), o sistema de Ônibus de Trânsito Rápido tem ocupado cada vez maior espaço na mídia, sendo citado como um eficiente modelo de transporte coletivo para cidades com população a partir de 500 mil habitantes.
Criado em Curitiba, sob a gestão de Jaime Lerner em 1974, o sistema veio se aprimorando e tem sido replicado em diversas cidades do mundo, como Los Angeles, Nova Iorque, Cleveland, Bogotá, Quito, São Paulo e, brevemente, no Rio de Janeiro e Belo Horizonte.
O sistema funciona em corredores segregados, com paradas pré-determinadas ou em operação como linha expressa. Livre dos automóveis, o ônibus realiza uma velocidade média de 20 a 25 km/hora, tornando o deslocamento mais eficaz para o usuário e apresentando, inclusive, maior eficiência energética, quando comparado ao transporte realizado por automóvel ou moto, já que desloca mais passageiros utilizando menos combustível (energia).
Outra grande vantagem são os equipamentos modernos que vem sendo aplicados pela indústria automobilística que viabiliza o uso de combustível renovável como etanol, energia elétrica (trólebus), biodiesel (b100 em fase de testes) ou modelos híbridos, que conjugam eletricidade e etanol. E ainda está em fase de testes o ônibus movido a hidrogênio. Todos eles possuem baixíssima emissão de gases que provocam o efeito estufa e outros poluentes.
Eficácia do Sistema
Quando comparados aos modais VLT – Veículo Leve sobre Trilho e Metrô, demonstra melhores resultados, tanto pelo investimento realizado quanto ao tempo de deslocamento para o usuário ou, ainda, à eficiência energética proporcionada.
Veja o estudo preparado por Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados. O cenário das projeções é a cidade de Curitiba.
O quadro abaixo apresenta o tempo necessário para se percorrer uma distancia de 10 km, pelos modais METRÔ, BRT, VLT e o sistema de ônibus convencional.
No quadro a seguir são apresentados os custos e prazos de implantação por km entre os diferentes modais.
Em seguida, uma análise comparativa referente à eficiência energética entre os três modais: ônibus, moto e automóvel.
“Neste caso, observa-se que as motocicletas poluem 32 vezes mais e consomem cinco vezes mais energia por pessoa transportada do que os ônibus. No caso de automóveis, poluem 17 vezes mais e consomem 13 vezes mais energia por pessoa transportada do que os ônibus” relata o estudo.
Sustentabilidade como premissa
Tendo em vista os eventos Copa de 2014 e Olimpíadas, o governo tem dedicado muita atenção à questão da mobilidade urbana e ao transporte de pessoas destinando por meio da Caixa Econômica Federal e BNDES na provisão de recursos da ordem de 6,5 bilhões de reais, para a construção de sistemas BRT nas principais capitais. Também o BID e o Banco Mundial oferecem linhas de crédito com custos similares.
Algumas cidades-sede já estão se capacitando para acessar estes recursos. É o caso do Rio de Janeiro e Belo Horizonte, Manaus, Recife, Salvador entre outras.
Os projetos que contemplem o desenvolvimento sustentável nas áreas impactadas pela implantação serão, sem dúvida alguma, uma das principais exigências nas licitações. Entretanto, sem um amplo e bem estruturado programa de gestão que dê forma às políticas de sustentabilidade exigidas nos editais, será inviável a captação destes recursos por parte das prefeituras, empresas ou consórcios interessados.
Hospital tech: robots in the pharmacy and barcodes on the patients
After more than a year in the works, NYU Langone Medical Center launched last month a new, robot-assisted pharmacy. One of about two dozen in the nation, the pharmacy provides a glimpse into the hospital of the future.
I spoke recently with Dr.Thomas O’Brien, senior director of pharmacy, about the inner workings of the pharmacy — and about what further advances are in the works.
What does the robot equipment in the pharmacy look like? How does it work?
It looks like a big behemoth in the middle of the main pharmacy area. It has advantages over the earlier robots, primarily in the ability to do its own packaging. With [a previous generation robot], we had to have two technicians manually preparing these medications everyday. Here, that’s entirely eliminated. The device does it by itself. It holds about 54,000 doses, which represents about a four to five day supply here.
Is the robot’s work checked by a human?
Yes. The checks are up front. There are a series of steps the staff have to go through before the medication actually reaches the robot. It involves three major checks, the majority of which utilize bar code technology. When a bulk container comes in, it’s scanned. It then goes through a series of checks. It’s placed into a sealed container that can be opened with a special device to hopefully prevent any accidents. It then is placed on a turntable device and the robot literally goes in the canister, takes out the tablet or capsule and packages it and affixes three barcodes onto it.
When I came here, the vision that our senior leadership had was: We’re not using this to reduce workforce. We’re using this to re-deploy our staff, to get our pharmacists more intimately involved with our patients, with our physicians and with our nurses. [When you’re a patient being discharged from the hospital] you’re usually in a state of confusion and someone hands you six prescriptions. We want to make sure that we actually monitor patients’ medications from the day they’re admitted to the day they’re discharged and follow up. It’s really meant to make better use of the pharmacists’ clinical abilities rather than their skills with the pill count.
Do patients notice any change?
Hopefully they’ll notice a difference when they start seeing more of a pharmacist, when they’re able to contact a pharmacist with a question regarding their medication. Probably the greatest impact occurs within the pharmacy.
What this technology really enables us to do — our next step at NYU — is to go toward barcoded bedside medication.
We’re going to barcode our patients. Their wristbands at some point will have their identification and all the information relevant to that individual patient. About 85 to 90 percent of all the medication that will come out of the pharmacy [will be barcoded]. When a nurse goes to administer a drug to a patient, he or she will scan the patient wristband, then they will scan the medication. Not only will the two scans tell the nurse whether he or she has the right patient and the right drug, but it will also develop a real-time medication administration record. We’ll know exactly when that medication was administered to the patient. It’s also far safer for our patients. Even though we do use three points of identification, this will help a great deal in terms of ensuring accuracy.
In what other ways are you using robotics in the pharmacy?
We have an automated stock room. It’s a device that runs along a lengthy track and it goes to containers that are holding bulk medication. This is the largest one in the country here at NYU. It holds some 1,200 of these containers. The device is predicated on using barcode technology. It will select the correct container and bring it to one of three stations so the pharmacist can withdraw the bulk medication from the device and then scan it. We expect this will allow us to turn over our drug inventory. We’ll be able to keep less medication on hand and be able to do a better job of doing just-in-time ordering. It uses barcode technology, so once data is entered into this robotic device, a label will be generated specifically for that patient.
[That’s] another project NYU is undertaking. The Board of Pharmacy about six months ago gave hospitals permission to send patients home on chronic medications they’re on during their hospital stay, like an inhaler or an insulin medication. Instead of [having to] discard these medications, which added to the pollution factor, we’re now able to tell the patient: You have six more doses of your inhaler and we’re giving it to you with instructions. You don’t have to rush out to the local pharmacy to get a prescription filled. The device assists us with that.