Rod Oram notes a growing mood among New Zealand business leaders for any new Government to create a climate commission. Those calling for change include Air New Zealand's Christopher Luxon and Sir Rob Fenwick.
Last Wednesday week, Air New Zealand laid on a big breakfast for 400 business people – enough to fill more than one of its Dreamliners – at the cavernous Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland.
The event – longer than a flight to Wellington and back – was not to celebrate a new aircraft, bumper profits or other conventional business milestone. It was for the launch of the airline’s 2017 sustainability report.
Christopher Luxon, its chief executive, told the audience the company had its priorities right.
“Two years ago, I launched Air New Zealand’s sustainability framework to supercharge Air New Zealand’s success -- socially, economically and environmentally.”
Given aircraft burn prodigious quantities of climate-changing fossil fuels, that could seem an oxymoron. Yet, member nations of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN body, committed last year to phasing in carbon neutral growth of their activities from 2020.
That means their airlines will continue to grow, but net emissions from aircraft will be flat, thanks to fuel efficiencies, carbon offsets from the likes of forest plantings and, ultimately, technology breakthroughs such as synthetic fuels and hybrid and electric planes.
This is the sort of radical change that our Productivity Commission is investigating in its inquiry into New Zealand’s transformation to a low-emissions economy. In its issues paper released in August it says:
“…the shift from the old economy to a new, low-emissions economy will be profound and widespread, transforming land use, the energy system, production methods and technology, regulatory frameworks and institutions, and business and political culture.”
So far, the Commission has received more than 120 submissions from interested parties. Many from mainstream businesses call for bold and co-ordinated policies from government to help them play their part in a more sustainable economy over the next couple of decades.
New Zealand software innovator CS-VUE has enhanced an environmental compliance management system for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects – the NZ Transport Agency’s $709.5m motorway from Pūhoi to Warkworth. It is the first stage of the Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance.
It’s a long way from where it all began. In 2004 the software start-up business was created to help the former Auckland City Council better manage its stormwater consents.
CS-VUE has since grown in staff, clients and turnover. In recent years, work includes providing software to manage the New Zealand Transport Agency’s operational network and capital project consents. Roads of National Significance projects can involve hundreds of consents across multiple teams and construction areas, with work often staged.
The Transport Agency says prior to using CS-VUE’s software to help manage their consent conditions and compliance, they relied on a range of spreadsheet-type systems that differed from contract to contract.
When the Transport Agency’s second Public Private Partnership (PPP) Pūhoi to Warkworth was in the procurement phase, CS-VUE General Manager Wayne Fisher got a phone call.
“I recall they wanted us to design some enhancements to the software and quickly,” he laughs. “We were thrilled for the call up. It was scoped, designed and built in time for the award of the contract to Northern Express Group (NX2).”
Mr Fisher says with construction underway, their software module is now doing its job and will continue to well after the four-lane motorway opens because many of the consents are ongoing, as is monitoring and compliance.
Known as their ‘Two Step Sign Off’ module, CS-VUE has built in extra capability and better data exchange to effectively allow “two-way conversations” between the consent holder and its contractors and the regulator, Auckland Council.
“Normally a consent holder would rely solely on its contractors to ensure every consent was being monitored and complied with. Our module gives the Transport Agency direct oversight and Auckland Council instant access to the status of consents with the ability to directly sign them off.”
Graham Jones, Senior Monitoring Officer at Auckland Council’s Resource Consents department says: “To the best of my knowledge this is the first time the regulator has shared a common platform with both the consent holder, the NZ Transport Agency and the contractor, NX2. All parties having access to common software allows us all to be on the same page at any instant in time on the status of conditions. As a project team, it allows us to work in a more collaborative manner.”
Tom Newson, NZTA’s Principal Project Manager, says: “As a PPP, the Pūhoi to Warkworth conditions require input and oversight from the three key parties during construction and once in service to ensure compliance and management of the outcomes-based consents set by the Board of Inquiry in 2014. CS-VUE’s new system provides all parties with quick access and a single source of truth via a two-step validation process with Auckland Council. We’re using it as a pilot with a view to using the same CS-VUE application on other large roading infrastructure projects, such as East West Link and the Northern Corridor improvements.”
Mr Fisher says with the 18.5km motorway scheduled to open by 2022, having a cloud-based environmental compliance management system that each party can access 24/7 not only means greater transparency, which helps to avoid any breaches and saves time.”
CS-VUE is proud of its role with the Pūhoi to Warkworth PPP, which will ultimately help in the Northern Express Group’s construction, management and maintenance of the motorway for the five-year construction and its further 25-year operational period.
“The Transport Agency is a massive government agency with a huge work programme. They’re also champions of innovation. As a New Zealand-owned and operated software business, we’re delighted to be working alongside them on a daily basis. It just goes to show there is room for local products and suppliers if they can deliver and keep up.”
Mr Newson says the Pūhoi to Warkworth outcome-based RMA conditions provide greater flexibility to the contractor in both design and construction than most other Transport Agency projects. It also requires vigilance from a compliance standpoint.
CS-VUE is also working with about 20 percent of the country’s district and city councils ensuring they keep on top of their often complex and lengthy consents granted by regional councils. For Auckland Council, CS-VUE manages its stormwater and contaminated land sites.
“Our clients have achieved great results around improving information accuracy and auditability. We provide tools to achieve better business analytics and we can reduce an organisation’s annual operating costs.
Board directors prick up their ears when we talk about improvements to governance, risk and compliance. While helping to keep the rates down seems to resonate with council procurement managers. Our products actually offer many tangible advantages.”
He says public and private entities also respond positively to the concept of resilience and keeping critical information safe from the likes of earthquakes, floods or fires. CS-VUE achieves this as its software is entirely cloud-based, putting everything in one place for easy management, and no capital expenditure on hardware is required.
CS-VUE also manages and tracks resource consents for big infrastructure players and heavy industry. Most consents being managed are around air discharge, water, land use, and trade waste, or consents issued by NZ Petroleum & Minerals for extraction. Sectors include oil and gas, quarrying, mining, and some of the country’s key ports. While clients include GBC Winstone, Bathurst Resources, Fulton Hogan, Landcorp, NZ Defence Force, KiwiRail, BP and Shell. Large packaging company, PACT, is among its Australian clients.
And it’s not just about delivering up-to-the-minute environmental balance sheets. Since the Health and Safety At Work Act came into force in April last year, CS-VUE has designed and implemented software to help businesses and organisations better manage and mitigate risks in the workplace.
“Over the past 13 years in software we’ve learnt you can have all the marketing, management and techno speak you want, but what really defines whether you succeed or not is the quality of your software developers and CS-VUE has an exceptional team.
“We work really hard to keep ahead of change and continuously improve. That is how we’ve secured great clients and big projects,” says Wayne Fisher.
On Thursday 5 October at 12.30pm, ambassadors and high commissioners from nine of the countries involved in Antarctica will visit the Antarctic Ecobots programme at Ara. Their visit is being hosted by Antarctica NZ.
Antarctic Ecobots is a free interactive workshop for year 9 and 10 students on 4 and 5 October. The focus in this workshop is to build a robot that can tackle dangerous environmental tasks using maths, physics and computer skills, utilising VEX IQ Robots and MBots that then compete to win the ‘Antarctic Mission’.
After learning about Antarctic science, including microbiology, glaciation, the effects of global warming and the damage it does to the environment, participants learn what robots can contribute in this environment and then build an ecobot robot.
Earlier in the week was Mission to Antarctica, a free engineering programme on 2 and 3 October for Years 9-11, exploring solutions for living in an inhospitable place.
Participants use engineering and architectural design principles and 3D printing to build geodesic habitats and energy systems for survival, and learn how to live in harmony with this unique and fragile environment.
The habitat created would also harness solar and wind energy and protect humans from radiation, cold, wind and extreme isolation – no small challenge, says Ara STEM Coordinator Miranda Sattherthwaite.
“Providing a substantial challenge raises the engagement of the participants as they strive to use design thinking, learning and resources to create solutions. There are many inhospitable places on the planet, each with their own challenges. This programme, run in collaboration with Fablab, gets participants thinking about how humans can exist in such places. Using the tools of engineering and broadens their understanding of what can be accomplished,” she said.
Engineering comes into many aspects of life near the south pole such as navigation, wearable technology and the science of Antarctic glaciology.
Miranda is seeing more and more robotics in learning in New Zealand and this is coming through to competitions as well.
Later in the year, she will help to judge the biggest robotics competition ever held in the Southern Hemisphere in Rotorua in December - the Asia Pacific VEX Robotics Competition 2017 .
Ara uses innovative technology such as robotics, modelling and 3D printing to engage students in science, technology, engineering and science.
School holiday programmes in these areas help students to broaden their awareness, start thinking about possible careers and check out study options and pathways - plus they are a lot of fun and free.
When it comes to solar panels, the future is flexible. Vanessa Young discovers how a MacDiarmid project is unlocking the possibilities of a new generation of solar cell technology.
When we imagine solar panels, we think of hard rectangle frames, sitting upright on roofs, or spread out across expanses of deserts.
But imagine flexible, bendy solar panels, supple enough to skin a curved roof, pliable enough to be rolled up and transported easily. Lightweight enough to be a thin film for the roof of a tent. And portable enough to be rolled out to generate power for emergency relief operations, or taken into remote areas.
Printable solar materials that will allow all of this is closer than we think. Victoria University associate professor Justin Hodgkiss, lead researcher in a MacDiarmid Institute project investigating the possibilities presented by ‘printable photovoltaics’, says they will be low cost and could replace silicon as the next generation of photovoltaic (solar energy) materials.
“Silicon cells are getting cheaper but still require a high-temperature, high vacuum manufacturing process. For solar energy to be really accessible it needs to be much cheaper and faster to manufacture.”
He says these printable semiconductors, including polymers and nanoparticles, can potentially be manufactured on a roll, cutting production costs.
“Their ease of transport and light weight also mean it is feasible for these to be manufactured in New Zealand and shipped anywhere in the world.”
New generation flexible solar cell material. Photo: Eight19 Ltd
Shiny is the enemy of good
When we see photos of those bright shiny swathes of solar farms, we don’t automatically think of their shininess as a problem. But Hodgkiss says an ideal solar panel would look black.
“Every bit of light that reflects off a solar panel is light not transformed into energy. When no light bounces off it means all visible light is getting in.”
This is where nanotechnology comes in. He compares the idea to radio antennae on the roof of a building.
“When you see large antennae on the top of buildings, their size is related to the radio frequencies they’re tracking. Radio waves are of the order of metres, so the antenna discs are this size. But optical wavelengths are in the order of hundreds of nanometres.”
He says the MacDiarmid teams working on this are effectively creating tiny antennae that capture light and can direct it inside the solar panels.
“We’re making nano-patterns that make sure that light gets in and is not bounced away, and that capture and focus the light waves directly where it is needed in the solar panels.”
Dennis Barnes, Chief Executive of Contact Energy is urging New Zealand Inc to move past debates on technicalities and act on the climate change challenge.
“As a country I firmly believe there’s a real opportunity for us to innovate, to work together and do more to tackle climate change and Contact is keen to play a key role”, says Dennis Barnes.
Contact agrees with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recommendations that depoliticising New Zealand’s response to climate change is a key step to be taken. Decisions on how we move to a lower carbon economy need to be made, with emissions targets and budgets, policy developed to help us get there and a Climate Change Commission set up to provide expert, independent and objective analysis and advice.
“Hope won’t help us deliver a low carbon economy, but a plan that ensures government agencies and businesses can work together on how to achieve targets would be a great step.”
Contact believes having a truly market-priced Emissions Trading Scheme, covering all sectors, all gasses and with the removal of existing caps and transition periods, will help spur the transition to a lower carbon economy.
“New Zealand is blessed with abundant renewable energy and we can use this to decarbonise the transport and manufacturing sectors, by increasing the use of electric vehicles and converting fossil fuel fired processes to low carbon electricity.”
“We are actively working with our energy-intensive business customers to help them identify opportunities to transition to flexible, efficient, low carbon energy solutions and welcome conversations with other organisations who are keen to be involved.”
Contact produces roughly the same amount of electricity as six years ago, but has reduced its emissions by 53% and its gas purchases by nearly 80%, by closing gas-fired generation, investing in new renewable energy production and innovating to deliver lower cost and more efficient electricity generation.
Contact is a strong supporter of electric vehicles and initiatives designed to increase their use in New Zealand and 25% of Contact’s own vehicle fleet is electric. Through technology trials across the country Contact is working with customers to truly understand the opportunities for customers in pairing solar energy, battery storage, smart hot water control technology with app-based real-time control.
Contact’s market-leading Green Borrowing Programme was introduced in August 2017 allowing investors, for the first time ever, to have the opportunity to invest in certified Green Debt Instruments issued by a New Zealand company.
Contact has outlined its thinking on climate change opportunities in its submission today to the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s Low Emissions Economy Inquiry and in a short video featuring Contact Chief Executive, Dennis Barnes. A copy of Contact’s full submission can viewed on Contact’s website (www.contact.co.nz/aboutus/media-centre) and the video viewed via Contact’s YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/F8Z0v-8Te4w)
| A Contact Enerrgy release || October 2, 2017 |||
GreenSky London arrived on the scene a few years ago, an ambitious project led by British Airways to produce renewable aviation jet fuel from East London’s garbage.
Now, a group of four companies established a new partnership to prepare the business case for a commercial scale waste-to-renewable-jet-fuel plant in the UK. Subject to the successful completion of all development stages, the aim is to achieve a final investment decision in 2019.
British Airways spokesperson Cathy West said: “The government needs to support innovative aviation biofuels projects such as this if they are to progress. Aviation fuels are not eligible for incentives that road transport fuels receive, making it difficult to build a business case to invest in UK aviation fuels projects. This affects investor confidence.”
This week, the Department for Transport published changes to the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), and for the first time, sustainable jet fuel is to be included in its incentive scheme. These changes to the RTFO are designed to promote sustainable aviation. Once implemented, they are expected to provide long-term policy support for this market.
Ultimately, BA speculated that the UK policy shift could stimulate as many as a dozen advanced biofuels plants in the UK by 2030.
The technology involved was a gasification system by Solena that would convert municipal solid waste to syngas, and it planned to convert that syngas to liquid transport fuels using Velocys’ micro-channel Fischer-Tropsh technology.
The plant would take hundreds of thousands of tonnes per year of post-recycled waste, destined for landfill or incineration, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels. The jet fuel produced is expected to deliver over 60% greenhouse gas reduction and 90% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared with conventional jet fuel, thereby contributing to both carbon emissions reductions and local air quality improvements around major airports.
The UK still sends more than 15 million tonnes of waste per year to landfill sites, which not only damages the natural environment but also releases further greenhouse gases affecting climate change.
The planned plant will produce enough fuel to power all British Airways’ 787 Dreamliner operated flights from London to San Jose, California and New Orleans, Louisiana for a whole year. It would be the first plant of this scale.
The jet fuel produced at the plant will deliver more than 60 per cent greenhouse gas reduction, compared with conventional fossil fuel, delivering 60,000 tonnes of CO2 savings every year. This will contribute to both global carbon emissions reductions and local air quality improvements around major airports.
Capacity is not entirely clear, since the business plan is under development, but there are three keys. First, a 60 per cent GHG savings, and 60,000 tonnes of CO2 savings budget. And, conventional jet fuel produces roughly 19 pounds of CO2 per gallon burned.
Back of the envelope math suggests a project of around 11.5 million gallons (42m litres) per year.
| A Biofuel digest release || September 28, 2017 |||
The roll-out of a soft plastics recycling scheme in Nelson today means New World, Countdown and Pak’nSave supermarkets in the South Island will offer the service, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.
“The Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling Programme is the next logical step for households in reducing waste. It means people can take the likes of bread bags, shopping bags and frozen vege bags to these supermarkets for collection, re-manufacture and re-use,” Dr Smith says.
“Most households now recycle paper, cardboard, glass, metal cans and hard plastic containers, and the extra challenge with soft plastics was finding a practical way of collecting them and keeping them clean enough for re-use. The programme is already running in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Canterbury and will now roll out to stores from Nelson to Invercargill.
“These additional South Island locations mean the programme reaches its goal of 70 per cent of New Zealanders having access to a drop-off facility within 20km of their home.
“A Government Waste Minimisation Fund grant of $700,930 supports this joint initiative between the retail sector, the packaging industry and the Government to enable the recycling of soft plastics.
“The soft plastic collected is turned into useful products such as benches and bollards, extending the life of this valuable resource. The programme will now be available at more than 350 stores nationwide, and includes South Island New World, Countdown and Pak’nSave supermarkets.
“This initiative builds on the work we have done with hard plastics, like the opening last month of the Flight Plastics processing facility in Lower Hutt, which received a $4 million Government grant. This facility has the capacity to turn more than 200 million plastic drink bottles a year into high grade food-safe packaging.
“The soft plastics programme is a great example of how businesses can make positive changes that enable every-day New Zealanders to divert plastic waste from ending up as litter or landfill. Its North Island roll-out will continue next year, with Rotorua, Tauranga and Palmerston North.
“The success of the programme to date clearly shows New Zealanders’ enthusiasm for reducing waste to landfill. This year more than 200 tonnes of soft plastics have already been collected for recycling.
“It is needed regardless of the debate on single use shopping bags. I welcome the announcement yesterday by Foodstuffs that they are exploring a charge on single use supermarket bags but the soft plastics problem is far larger than just the single use supermarket bags.
“This innovative and collaborative approach has proved successful in other locations and I’m looking forward to seeing Nelsonians embrace it,” Dr Smith concluded.
New studies find microplastics in salt from the US, Europe and China, adding to evidence that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment
Sea salt around the world has been contaminated by plastic pollution, adding to experts’ fears that microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in the environment and finding their way into the food chain via the salt in our diets.
Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste. Up to 12.7m tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute into the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations.
“Not only are plastics pervasive in our society in terms of daily use, but they are pervasive in the environment,” said Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the latest research into plastic contamination in salt. Plastics are “ubiquitous, in the air, water, the seafood we eat, the beer we drink, the salt we use – plastics are just everywhere”.
Fonterra’s Maungaturoto manufacturing site in Northland, New Zealand has recently become home to a rare Australasian Bittern.
The Australasian Bittern, or Matuku as they are known, is a large, heron sized bird. They are rarely sighted because of their secretive behaviour and camouflage technique and are usually most active at dawn, dusk and through the night.
Long serving utilities operator at the site Gary Sosich said he had seen the rare bird while doing routine checks on the site’s stormwater diversion system. He then realised that there was two of them, indicating that there may be a breeding pair living in the wetland. Maungaturoto Environmental Manager Steve Gale says, “It’s positive to see our stormwater treatment wetland is supporting biodiversity. It’s a credit to the stormwater management system we have in place.”
“The bittern population in New Zealand used to be abundant, but there is now thought to be less than 1,000 left due to habitat loss. It’s encouraging to see that our constructed wetland is a comfortable home for them and somewhere that they feel safe.” The bird is an indicator of wetland health, due to their dependence on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats with a rich food supply
A business initiative that safely disposes of hazardous unwanted refrigerants has had its accreditation as a ‘product stewardship scheme’ extended by the Government, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today.
Mr Simpson met with representatives of the Trust for the Destruction of Synthetic Refrigerants to congratulate them on the success their initiative, Refrigerant Recovery, has achieved in safely disposing of hazardous unwanted refrigerants.
Refrigerant Recovery collects unwanted man-made refrigerants from New Zealand’s refrigeration and air conditioning industries. Refrigerants from around the country are shipped to Australia where they are safely destroyed at high temperatures through a process of plasma conversion. The process is highly efficient and produces virtually no emissions.
“Refrigerant Recovery helps to reduce the risk of hazardous compounds such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) entering the environment. If these chemicals get into the environment they damage the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to global warming. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that may be tens of thousands of times more harmful than carbon dioxide,” Mr Simpson says.
“By safely and sustainably disposing of hazardous chemicals, Refrigerant Recovery is helping to mitigate climate change and restore the ozone layer.”
Refrigerant Recovery is also helping New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Under the Climate Change Response Act 1996, New Zealand has been phasing out the import of CFCs and HCFCs into the country. HFCs will be next on the agenda, and the Ministry for the Environment recently closed a consultation round on how to phase down HFCs in a response to the recently agreed Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
In 2010, the Government accredited Refrigerant Recovery for seven years as a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. Refrigerant Recovery’s reaccreditation for the next seven years means that the Minister has recognised the scheme’s important contribution to reducing the environmental harms associated with disposing of man-made refrigerants.
Product stewardship describes the process by which producers and suppliers take responsibility for their products throughout their entire lifecycle, such as by reusing and recycling products.