Carbon Capture & Storage and its role in climate change mitigation

The International Energy Agency (IEA) hosted a webinar on the 11th September, focusing on the findings of their Energy Technology Perspectives report for 2015.  One of the topics covered was around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).  This topic had come up in the IGB Conference held in Singapore recently, and it seems to be more topical as Paris’ COP21 approaches.

CCS is the separation of CO2 from power generation or industrial processes.   This CO2 is then transported and permanently stored, possibly underground, or as part of a new chemical or substance.  The aim is to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere, or avoid allowing the CO2 to reach the atmosphere in the first place.



[Source – IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 presentation]


In their scenario where global warming is kept beneath a 2 degree increase threshold, the IEA’s model has CCS contributing 1/6 of CO2 emission reductions in 2050, and totalling 14% of cumulative reductions between 2015 and 2050.  Its role is therefore not insignificant.  The IEA has found that the inclusion of CCS is economically justifiable, given that the 2deg scenario would be approximately 40% more expensive to achieve if CCS is not included.

Most of the savings are expected to come from the power sector, but they also note that 45% of savings will come from industry.  Furthermore, it is expected that most of the focus will need to be in non-OECD countries.  70% of the total mass captured is expected to come from non-OECD countries, with China accounting for 1/3 of all CO2 captured between 2015 and 2050.

Total CO2 savings required for 2 degree scenario by region:


But with such a key role to play in mitigating climate change, the progress on projects, amounts spent, incorporation of CCS into industrial sectors has not been as advanced as expected by the IEA in their 2013 Roadmap.

In this they laid out seven actions in order to achieve the widespread application of CCS technologies.  These are below.  The IEA indicate that these are critical, particularly as many of their targets are aimed at 2020.

  • “Introduce financial support mechanisms for demonstration and early deployment of CCS to drive private financing of projects.
  • Implement policies that encourage storage exploration, characterisation and development for CCS projects.
  • Develop national laws and regulations as well as provisions for multilateral finance that effectively require new-build, base-load, fossil-fuel power generation capacity to be CCS-ready.
  • Prove capture systems at pilot scale in industrial applications where CO2 capture has not yet been demonstrated.
  • Significantly increase efforts to improve understanding among the public and stakeholders of CCS technology and the importance of its deployment.
  • Reduce the cost of electricity from power plants equipped with capture through continued technology development and use of highest possible efficiency power generation cycles.
  • Encourage efficient development of CO2 transport infrastructure by anticipating locations of future demand centres and future volumes of CO2.”

Over the next week, Energy Ramblings will be looking into some of the technologies that exist, some of the projects that have been built, the progress made against targets, and some of the challenges that are being experienced along the way.

Food wastage and the role it plays in climate change


John Mandyck, from United Technologies, gave a very moving talk on the morning of the second day at the International Green Building Conference in Singapore last week.  His focus was on the impact that the food and farming sector has on climate change, and how this never seems to be part of the mitigation discussion.

The topic of farming of farming also came up in Charlie Ang’s talk on future innovation.  He mentioned how we have experienced agricultural, industrial and now digital revolutions.  Farming revolutionised how we live.  A book called Guns, Germs and Steels by Jared Diamond highlights the impact that farming has had on civilisation.  The ability to generate extra food has allowed for time to explore concepts like mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, democracy, and (unfortunately) warfare.

This is not saying that we all have access to adequate food, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN puts current estimates of undernourished people at nearly 13%.  That is, 1 in 8 people on the planet are hungry or undernourished.  It’s also estimated that 2 billion people are malnourished, lacking in the vitamins and minerals that they need to be healthy and productive.

John Mandyck and Eric Schultz have distilled some facts and figures about food in their book Food Foolish.   He pulled some stats out at the conference, which justifies a moment of pause for thought.

Farming makes up the majority of human usage of land area; 38% of ice free land is used for farming.  This is in comparison to cities which take up 2% of ice free land.  Here is the really scary statistic: of all the food produced across this vast expanse of land, 40% of it is wasted.  1.3 billion metric tonnes of food is wasted every year.  His way of demonstrating the scale of this was to imagine 1.3 billion elephants all stacked on top of each other.  This is how much food is wasted.

The nature of wastage differs by region, but he mentioned that in general 1/3 of the wastage is at a consumer level (throwing away food we’ve bought but have not eaten) while 2/3 is wasted during production or distribution.

In terms of carbon emissions, the wasted food alone accounts for 3.3 billion metric tonnes of CO2 every year.  This is the embodied carbon associated with the production of the food.  If food wastage was a country it would be the third largest emitter behind China and the USA.

If you took all the water used to grow this wasted food, it would be more water than any used in any single country in the world.

The land used to grow wasted food would be around 15% of the ice free land.  We have disturbed natural habitats of some of the best land in the world just to throw food away.

This talk really made me stop and think.  So much food wasted and 1 in 8 people is hungry.


Agreeing and implementing Best Practice/Green Leases

Susannah West IGBCSgThe City of Cape Town has been running an Energy Efficiency Forum for Commercial Buildings for a number of years.  I used to go to each one when I worked there, and a common message that came up was that often energy efficiency interventions were only really feasible where the owner was also the occupant.  The cost of retrofits were for the owner to bear, while the benefits were for the tenant to realise.  This uneven relationship is a sticking point, and both parties are to benefit in order for there to be any real sector change.

Susannah West, the Sustainability Director from Jones Lang LaSalle in Singapore, spoke about her experiences in ‘green leasing’ or best practice leasing in Australia.  These leases are increasing in popularity, as more people become comfortable with the concept, and the roles and responsibilities set out in the leases become more standardised and accepted practice.  In Sydney, she says, around 62% of all leases have some form of green clauses written in.

Typical clauses focus on:

  • Environmental initiatives
  • Sharing of information
  • Energy, water and waste considerations, with an increasing focus on indoor air quality
  • Building certification (including NABERS or Green Star)

The trend for the inclusion of green considerations has been further driven by the obligation for building owner’s to declare energy consumption values whenever a building is sold, or the tenant changes, under the Mandatory Building Disclosure programme.  Green Lease Schedules have also been developed, by the Australian government, who are the largest individual tenant, and who are thus helping to drive change.

How to get a green lease?  Susannah recommends:

  • Use available best practice and open source leases
  • Understand the building type, and interventions that would be appropriate
  • Start discussions early
  • Undertake an energy audit, and identify improvements that need to be made – this forms the basis of the energy management plan

And once you have a green lease – how do you get the most of it?

  • Active management is vital – establish a committee and meet often or get sustainability on the agenda of existing building management committee meetings
  • Have a plan, and report frequently on progress
  • Establish a baseline and identify targets
  • Empower individuals to act on sustainability improvements and plans.  Building, asset and portfolio managers all have a role to play
  • Encourage IT improvements from tenants
  • Provide training to tenants

It’s also important to recognise that the split of costs and benefit needs to be mutually beneficial.  With increasing pressure for green leases, there will be a natural movement towards the normalisation of green considerations in standard leases, however, any modifications to the building may need to be reflected in the agreed rental rates, which may be offset by lower utility costs.  These leases require collaboration.

I asked Susannah if she’s seen a trend towards most of these leases being implemented where the tenant is a large organisation, with a lot of push, and she said it was, but that smaller tenants are also starting to request green targets or commitments in a lease.  The main thing is to ask upfront and as markets mature, getting green clauses into a lease should become easier and easier.


COP21 – Buildings Day – 3rd December 2015

Regional Buildings discussion IGBCSgYves-Laurent Sapoval announced, at the International Green Building Conference in Singapore this week, that there will be a day dedicated to addressing the impact that buildings have on climate change at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.  On the 3rd December the focus will be on the contribution that buildings play in the generation of green house gases, and how to address this.

One of the talks, I forget which but think it may have been Terri Wills, indicated that current forecasts are that another five USA’s worth of buildings are yet to be built, and that the majority of buildings that will be built in India by 2050 are not yet in existence.  Similar stats would exist for other developing countries.  China is reportedly building 50+ storey buildings in 19 days.  The emissions resulting from buildings are therefore only going up, and the role of greening how buildings are designed, built and operated is naturally of enormous importance.

One of the questions that was raised in a session focusing on regional green buildings related to the real impact that greening of buildings could possibly be having, considering that any savings of 10 or even 20% would be negated by building multiple more buildings.  The answer from Sean Quinn of 10 Design was that if anyone had figured out the answer to that question, they’d be a multi-millionaire.  It speaks to the real challenge that exists.  The greening of buildings can only do so much in the face of mass-developments.

Hopefully the buildings day to be held at COP21 will help to identify some actions to mitigate the impact that buildings have.  Another ‘watch this space’ point.


The impact of green buildings on employee wellness and productivity

Opening plenary IGBC_Sg

This week I attended the International Green Building Conference in Singapore. I’d attended sessions at the South African version before, and in my previous role at Arup I had been exposed to the ins and outs of the Green Star rating system used in South Africa. Much of the focus that I have seen has been on the material selection, building design to minimise resource consumption (energy, water, waste), the inclusion of the community in the facility, non-motorised transport access, and greening of the facility, through rooftop gardens, or general landscaping. Facades and their role in letting sunlight in and in minimising cooling loads on the HVAC system have also come through clearly.

What came up in this week’s conference, over and over again, is an increased focus on the impact of green interventions on the occupants of the buildings. Many of the speakers referenced studies which had looked into the impact that indoor air quality has on the performance of those working within the building, and, while there are not as many studies having been completed, further research is being done on the impact of other environmental conditions, including lighting, noise, and access to greenery.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, raised this in her presentation, opening the conference, and she showed some statistics coming out of research being conducted as part of the

Here are some that were mentioned, or that I’ve found in the WGBC reports, where they’ve researched the difference in employee performance between green rated buildings (LEED or similar) and non-rated buildings:

Where there is better lighting:

  • Workers with windows sleep an average of 46 minutes more every night
  • Productivity increases by 23%

Where there is access to daylight:

  • Workers are 18% more productive
  • There’s a 15-40% increase in retail sales
  • Students achieve 5-14% higher test scores and learn 20-26% faster
    Alex Herceg from Lux Research reiterated this in his talk saying “daylighting is often one of the most overlooked design features

Where occupants have an outside view

  • Mental function and memory improves by 10-25%
  • Call processing (in a call centre) is 6-12% faster
  • Hospital stays are 8.5% shorter


  • Office workers’ performance drops by 66% when exposed to distracting noise


  • Employee productivity increases by 8-11% with improved ventilation

Thermal comfort

  • Performance decreases by 4% when it’s too cold and by 6% when it’s too warm

There are also impacts on absenteeism and staff turnover.

Sources: WGBC 2013 report and Health, Wellbeing and Productivity: Statistics

There were a number of stats and figures that were quoted during the conference, given that this seems to be an increasing focus of the green building sector. For instance, Jorge Chapa from the GBC of Australia indicated that green buildings in Australia have, on average, 2.88 less sick days than non-green buildings, and green hospitals have a 15% faster recovery rate.

The consensus was that improvements in the overall ‘green-ness’ of the building had additional benefits relating to performance, and staff health and retention. What also came out clearly though was that the stats are not based on adequate research, and there are not adequate metrics to measure productivity, particularly due to the subjectivity of what productivity actually is.

John Mandyck, from United Technologies, spoke on a research project being undertaken jointly with Harvard University, which aimed to quantify the impact of air quality on cognitive function, health and productivity. The report has not yet been published, and this should be out shortly, but he did mention that the correlation between ventilation and productivity was ‘strong and surprising’ and he expects that the results will change everything about how we view green buildings, and their associated value to building owners and occupants. Watch this space.

Alex Herceg from Lux Research, spoke about companies attempting to quantify human gains, one of which is Building Robotics ( They have developed an app called Comfy, which allows occupants to comment and control the localised temperature in their working environment. It connects to the HVAC system, and, using your location, can adjust the temperature, if requested. It also learns from previous requests and so can preempt the temperature requirements beforehand.

Perhaps less positive, but interesting nevertheless, is that I spoke to someone in the tea break who was of the opinion that the whole discussion was ‘propaganda’ by the green building sector, who clearly needed to be able to sell the concept further. You need the cynics, as you need the research. One should help to combat the other. Let’s hope it continues to be in the favour of green buildings.

Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance’s Liebreich talks on energy sector reformation

If you read one article today, read Liebreich’s post on the energy sector’s transformation.  You can find this here.

Things that jumped out in this article for me:

The Chairman of the Advisory Board Bloomberg New Energy Finance is not holding any punches on what the traditional energy sector looks like, who it represents and who represents it and it was a refreshing read for me.

The face of energy needs to be more inclusive, with representation from more than just straight, white males and this needs to be actively and consciously pursued.

Traditional, centralised power systems are being fundamentally challenged as individuals and organisations start to access more information on their consumption, and start to become more autonomous in power generation.  Accountability, transparency, and integrity are the words ending with ‘y’ that need to start becoming the realit’y’.

Arup – five minute guide – rooftop and building integrated PV

Arup five minute guide rooftop PV

One of the last things that I did during my time at Arup was put together a five minute guide on rooftop and building integrated PV installations.  This has been uploaded to their website and can be found here.

When putting this together I got input from Arup folk around the world, pulling from an enormous pool of very competent people.

It’s free for use and distribution.