22 May 2012

Earth's inside for better air

Wai-O-Tapu thermal area, Rotorua region.                  The active fault lines along the length 
of New Zealand (green colour), 
where the Pacific and Australian plates meet.
(Picture: NZ Waikato Regional Council)

New Zealand is a volcanic and seismic area. The tragic earthquake of 2010 in the Canterbury region, South Island of the country, was a sad reminder of this. Such an area is also a place where the earth’s interior shows itself at the surface, offering a unique experience of nature…

A natural source of energy

Hot water and steam from deep soils sometimes naturally gather in what is called a geothermal reservoir. A natural reservoir… of energy. Properly processed, this water and steam can be transformed to electricity for instance. These are the basis of geothermal energy.

As the energy is available naturally, it does not require any fuel to process it. This is why very low emissions of greenhouse gases result from the transformation. And this is why geothermal energy is considered as a low-carbon technology, among the low-carbon solutions that humankind must promote.

The Nga-Awa-Purua geothermal
station provides enough
electricity for about 140 000 homes.
“Although few regions in the world are currently undertaking geothermal projects, the potential is huge”, says Jonathon Clearwater. Jonathon works as an engineer at Mighty River Power. The company is a specialist in geothermal development, operating several stations in the North Island of New Zealand.

“Indonesia, Philippines, USA, or Iceland for instance take benefit of their geothermal capacities. Japan also has a lot of potential”, adds Jonathon. In the Philippines, 27% of the electricity comes from geothermal energy.

New Zealand takes advantage of the chance

A geothermal power station.
The extracted water can be
up to 300°C.
(Picture : Mighty River Power)
Jonathon explains : “geothermal electricity generation commenced in 1958 at Wairakei station. At that time, the plant was only the second geothermal plant in the world producing electricity. New Zealand was world leading! Development was slow in the following decades, mainly due to cheap petrol during the 1990s and the early 2000s. But now the technology is back. Expensive oil and global warming have changed the deal.”

“Mighty River Power has the exciting mission to promote this reliable and renewable energy”, Jonathon adds. “Any project is very specific as the technology must adapt to a site which is always unique. It is a case by case task.”

At Kawerau power station, the geothermal energy is not transformed to electricity but is directly used as heat for the nearby paper factory.

The carbon footprint of the electricity production

All electricity generation technologies emit greenhouse gases at some point in their life cycle but some are more environmentally friendly.

Geothermal electricity emits low quantities of greenhouse gases. It means that in order to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity, few quantities of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. By greenhouse gases we mean the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases. The quantity of these other gases is usually measured as gram of equivalent CO2 (g CO2-equivalent).

The unit “g CO2-equivalent per kilowatt-hour” is often used to compare the different technologies. The following comparison chart helps to identify what are the solutions for humankind to produce low-carbon electricity.
In this chart, the emissions of greenhouse gases concern the whole life cycle of the technology:
operation but also construction and maintenance;
the extraction, processing and transport of their fuel (when applicable);
and their decommissioning and disposal.
(Source: UK Parliament 2011 – Compiled by F. Gheung) 

Unfortunately not all regions of the planet allow developing geothermal or hydro-electric energies. Wind and solar solutions, which are subject to climate variations, have lots of potential. It is certain that new solar technologies will be a big part of our future energetic system. Sun sends a huge quantity of energy to Earth and today only a very low percentage of it is used by man. A star for a better air…

We had the chance to meet Jonathon on the 18th of April, at the office of Mighty River Power in Rotorua, located in the middle of New Zealand North Island.

About marine technologies...
At the end of 2011, the French electricity company Electricité de France installed their first marine turbines in the North of France. The installation will bring electricity to around 2000 homes.

Presentation video - in French language


12 May 2012

Volunteer for change

Wairau River winery,
in Marlborough region.
   "- They say that in some decades the climate in Finland will be suitable for producing wine!
    - Well, we will see. On the other side, I really hope the weather in France will still be suitable for cultivating grapes!"

France sees its wine production changing slowly. Today the grape-picking is performed three weeks earlier compared to 1945. Climate change definitely has something to do with it. New Zealand is also one of these places where excellent wines are produced…

The carbon footprint of the industry

The winery Wairau River, in New Zealand South Island, is a family run business. Since 2007 the winery has been carbon neutral. What does this mean? The activity of any company generates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to climate change. To be carbon neutral means to cancel (or offset) these emissions, by avoiding other emissions somewhere else on the planet. For instance saving trees or using renewable energies avoiding GHG emissions.
Wairau River has implemented
several actions to reduce their
emissions: producing lighter
and smaller glass bottles
which use smaller cardboard
cartons, allowing the shipping of
more cases per container;
acquiring new fuel efficient
tractors; replacing helicopters,
used for frost prevention,
with wind machines.
On a voluntary basis, companies can decide to offset their emissions. Doing this, they can declare that they do not contribute to the on-going global warming.

In 2007 Wairau River winery decided to measure, reduce and offset its unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases. This initiative allowed them to obtain the carboNZero certification. The offsetting is done through the investment in wind energy projects. Each ton of carbon costs around 25 US dollars.

Certified… concerned

In order to know about carboNZero certification we went to the office of the company. Ann Smith, General Manager, and Chris Thurston, Sales Executive, explained to us a bit more.

Ann has been working on the certification programme from its very beginning. She explains : “the carboNZero programme results from a research initiative by the New Zealand government, initiated in the early 2000’s. Initially the research programme was interested in restoring biodiversity in New Zealand. To achieve this goal they used unproductive land to regenerate forest. Later on it went further and the programme started to offer financial compensation to farmers so that they would stop using the land for cattle grazing, and continue to regenerate forest. This was the beginning of a carbon trade system in New Zealand.”

Together with Alan Carnaby, Marketing Advisor,
and Chris Thurston,
in the office of carboNZero, in Auckland.
Since then, and with the support of the private sector, it has evolved to become an internationally accredited greenhouse gas certification programme, offering two certification options for businesses.

“In 2009 the carboNZero certification was complemented with the CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) certification with the objective of covering larger companies”, says Chris. “CEMARS certification does not include the offset step of carboNZero certification, but still requires companies to measure and reduce their emissions the same as carboNZero certification. CEMARS certification is suited to larger organisations where offsetting is not really financially viable, but allows companies to understand their impact on the environment and help them work to reduce that impact.”

carboNZero certification:
Businesses must measure, manage and reduce,
and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
CEMARS certification:
Businesses must measure, manage and
reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
The path to the low-carbon economy

Besides wineries, many other organisations are finding benefits from achieving certification. When we were at Christchurch airport, we could also see the carboNZero certified organisation logo : in January 2008, the airport became the first airport in the Southern Hemisphere to obtain certified carbon neutral status. To help decrease their GHG emissions, the airport implemented innovative paving techniques and used solar energy.

In Wellington, the carboNZero certified service logo can be found on the city’s taxis. The taxi company reduced their emissions by turning from petrol to more eco-friendly fuel options, by ensuring low emission vehicles to enter the fleet and by promoting fuel-efficient driving practices to the drivers.

Other companies that are carboNZero certified include Toyota New Zealand, Bridgestone NZ, Antipodes (a water company) and Ricoh NZ. Westpac NZ Bank, BMW NZ, New Zealand Rugby Union, Auckland Museum and the University of Canterbury are CEMARS certified.

Besides the potential economic benefits - for instance by being more energy efficient - these companies acquire a better image for consumers who demand eco-friendly products and services. 

New Zealand provides a good example of how the private sector can go faster than legislation. United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have established themselves as leaders to promote carbon policies in private sector.

Nowadays more and more airlines, like Qantas, Air France or Easy Jet, offer their customers the opportunity to offset the GHG emissions from their flights at a reasonable cost. Another way to offset is by buying the service of a specialized company. One Climate One Challenge project has offset the emissions resulting from the flights with EMCO2 Solution.