Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution is considered as one of the top environmental risks to public health worldwide due to increasing number of building-related illnesses. Studies have found that concentration of indoor pollutants is significantly higher indoors than they are in outdoor environment, which is two to five times and sometimes hundred times higher than outdoor levels. As most of the people spend 80% to 90% of their lives indoor, indoor air quality has significant implication on sustainability.

Decreased indoor air quality can affect quality of life of the building occupant, increase health risks and increase the liability for building owner, decrease the productivity of occupants and reduce the resale value of the building. Poor indoor air quality can cause “sick building syndrome”, which is a medical condition linked to poor health and absenteeism.

Poor indoor air quality is due to many factors including but not limited to improper building design, inadequate ventilation, off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from furniture, carpets, paints and coatings, cleaning products, and from human respiration. Airborne particles such as lints, dust, dust mites, mold, bacteria, pollen and animal dander also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Indicators that are used to measure the indoor air quality include total particulate matter, total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), formaldehyde, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), air temperature, relative humidity (RH). Concentration of CO2 in the indoor environment indicates whether ventilation is sufficient or not.

In the Middle East region, most of the people live in enclosed air-conditioned indoor environments. With rapidly growing population, increase in number of vehicles on the road, high temperature level, ever increasing construction activities, regular sandstorm, concentration of air contaminants in the region is among the highest worldwide. Indoor environment also reflects outdoor air quality and pollution. Transport of outdoor contaminants to the indoor environment can result in occupant exposure to outdoor pollutants that have serious health impacts. In addition, there are many sources of indoor pollutants present in building materials, cleaning products, indoor mold and legionella growth, and emission from interior furnishings, finishing and equipments.

Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is influenced by concentration of outdoor air pollutants as well as indoor source of pollution, characteristic of building and habits of occupants. Appropriate building design and mechanical system and control strategies as well as changing occupant behaviour can improve indoor air quality and health and comfort, performance and productivity of building occupants. There are a host of strategies to improve the indoor air quality.

Appropriate design: Building envelop, orientation, and location of air intake, location of mechanical ventilation systems can contribute to indoor air quality. Hence, these factors should be considered during the design stage of projects to control the main source of pollutants for the whole building.

Whole house mechanical ventilation: Properly designed and sized ventilation system can supply adequate outdoor air to indoor. In most of the green building rating systems, industry standards such as ASHRAE Standard 62 or Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality are commonly followed.

Mixed mode ventilation: Use of combination of mechanical and natural ventilation systems in buildings, such as automated window controlling systems and operable windows, can help in maintaining healthy indoor air quality.

Air quality management during construction: During the construction phase, molds can develop due to exposure of building materials with moisture. Dust and particulates can easily accumulate on building materials if they are not protected. The air quality during the construction period can be protected by protecting the building materials from dust and particles and moistures.

High efficiency air filters: Filters prevent transports of outdoor VOCs, dusts, particulates and ozone indoors. Use of good particle filter such as high MERV rated filters in ventilation equipment are found to be the most effective filters in filtering outdoor dust and particulates out.

Maintenance schedule for HVAC filters: Dirty filter can cause sensory irritation. Hence, appropriate maintenance schedule can prevent this to happen.

Use of low emitting materials: Use of materials that have low VOC content for products such as indoor carpets, rubber flooring, sub-floor materials, ceramics and ties, plasterboards, or other sealants and adhesives.  Also internal construction materials with low formaldehyde content can be helpful.

Conduct building flush out: Flushing out of indoor contaminants thoroughly in buildings before occupancy will help replacing dirty indoor air with fresh outdoor air.

Green cleaning program: Select cleaning materials that are made of low emitting materials and employ a green cleaning program to reduce contaminant exposure.

Carbon dioxide monitors: Install CO2 monitors in ventilation system and integrate them to regulate the supply of fresh air according to the building occupants demand. By doing so, if the CO2 concentration increases beyond a set point, then the airflow automatically increases. 

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Green SMEs in Middle East: Obstacles and Challenges

green-smes-middle-eastWith ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance all over the world, and Middle East is no exception. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. Green SME sector in the Middle East has been growing steadily, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated. 

Regulations

One of the major obstacles in the progress of green SMEs in the Middle East the has been poorly-designed regulation. According to Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi, a renowned sustainable development consultant in MENA, “SMEs should be the drivers of transformation towards green economy in the Middle East. Lack of clear policy direction and enablers are hindering growth and competitiveness of green SMEs”. Product market regulations which stifle competition pose a big hurdle to SMEs operating in renewables, energy, environment and sustainability sectors.  For example, state-owned companies in GCC have almost complete monopoly in network industries which have large environmental impacts (electricity/energy sector) or control strategic environmental services (water and waste management sector).

Restructuring

Restructuring of the SME sector in the Middle East is essential to allow small businesses to grow and prosper, thus catalyzing region’s transition to a green economy. SMEs account for vast majority of production units and employment across the Middle East, for example SMEs are responsible for around 60% of UAE’s GDP. Needless to say, participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus paving the way for greening the business sector and development of green skills across all industrial segments.

Green SMEs require strong government support for growth, which is unfortunately lacking in several GCC countries. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “Despite the humongous opportunity for green growth in the Middle East, magnified by climate change, water scarcity, oil dependency and environmental footprint, green SMEs are plagued by severe challenges and competition.”

Pressing Challenges

The Middle East region is facing multiple challenges in the growth of green SME sector. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “The most pressing challenges are (1) increasing disconnect between education and market needs and (2) the disorientation of research and development from industry priorities and trends. Government agencies, business associations and NGOs need to play a bigger role in advocating more streamlined priorities for green growth across all industrial sectors.” Green SMEs in the region are facing significant barriers to entry despite their key role in developing locally appropriate technologies and eco-friendly business models.

Promising Initiatives

Abu Dhabi has taken a great step towards consolidation of green SME sector by creating the Masdar Free Zone. As a business cluster, Masdar Free Zone endeavors to provide SMEs and startups with an environment that inspires innovation, offers business development opportunities and provides a living lab and test bed for new technologies. However office rents has been a hurdle to overcome for green SMEs with limited financial capabilities.  “High office rents in Masdar Free Zone have been a major deterrent for small businesses desirous of setting shop in the business cluster”, says Dubai-based sustainability consultant Sunanda Swain.

In 2007, Qatar also launched a promising initiative to promote green growth in the form of Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) with core areas of focus being energy, environment, health sciences and information and communication technologies. During the initial phase, QSTP has been heavily focused on establishing infrastructure and attracting large companies. During the second phase, QSTP intends to target SMEs and provide them support on legal matters, finance, mentoring and business planning.

Future Perspectives

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs in the Middle East are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation. In recent decades, entrepreneurship in the Middle East has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

EcoMENA – Vision and Mission

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to masses in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world.

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to the Florentine Association of International Relations (FAIR) about the vision, aims, objectives and rationale behind the creation of EcoMENA. The original version of the interview can be viewed at http://goo.gl/dnfa4K

 

FAIR: What is EcoMENA and what is its primary mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness in the MENA region and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability and related areas.

EcoMENA has made remarkable progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base in English as well as Arabic catering to all aspects of sustainability sector, including renewable energy, resource conservation, waste management, environment protection and water management.

FAIR: How did the idea of such an activity come from?

Salman Zafar: While doing research sometimes back, I noticed lack of easily-accessible information on Middle East environmental sector. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East sustainability sector and latest developments taking place worldwide.

EcoMENA is an online information powerhouse freely accessible to anyone having an interest in sustainable development. Our articles, reports and analyses are well-researched, well-written and of the highest professional standards.

FAIR: What is the “state of the art” in the field of sustainability and environment protection in the MENA countries?

Salman Zafar: Unfortunately environment protection is not given due importance by regional countries, though there has been some high-profile initiatives like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Sustainability is, no doubt, making its way in the Middle East but the progress has been slow and unsatisfactory.

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. A regional initiative with a multi-pronged strategy is urgently required to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources.

FAIR: What are EcoMENA aims and initiatives for the future?

Salman Zafar: One of the major objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a strong platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.

Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.

We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of volunteers from across the MENA region. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, students and general public.

FAIR: Do you think there is enough attention and sensitiveness in the sustainable development?

Salman Zafar: Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.

A green MENA requires proactive approach from all stakeholders including governments, corporates and general public. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region.

FAIR: In your opinion, what is the “added value” of your mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA endeavor to create mass awareness about the need for clean and green environment in the Middle East through articles, projects, events and campaigns. EcoMENA is counted among the best and most popular Middle East sustainability initiatives with wide following across the world.

Our goal is to transform EcoMENA into a regional cleantech and environmental hub by providing quality information, professional solutions and high level of motivation to people from all walks of life.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Connected Vehicles – Enabling Green Transport

Connected vehicles technology is a wireless-based technology which enables vehicles (light as well as heavy) to instantly communicate with each other, through an onboard installed device that receives warning signals ahead of time about road closures, pile-ups and other potential hazards related to weather conditions. Connected vehicle aims to enable safe, inter-operable networked wireless communications among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communications devices.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines this revolutionary technology as achieving “cleaner air through smarter transportation.” DOT, in coordination with major automakers and other public and private sector innovators, has been working to advance vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technology to help prevent traffic crashes before they happen. 

The network captures real-time data from equipment located on-board vehicles (automobiles, trucks, and buses) and within the infrastructure. The data are transmitted wirelessly and are used by transportation managers in a wide range of dynamic, multi-modal applications to manage the transportation system for optimum performance.

Multiple Advantages

An important role of this system is to mitigate environmental impacts of using roads and highways as it generate as well as capture environmentally relevant real-time transportation data and use this data to create actionable information to support and facilitate "green" transportation choices. The system focuses on improving air quality, reducing GHG emissions and decreasing fuel consumption. Connected vehicles technology is a good tool to mitigate climate change and achieve emissions reduction targets.

Through connected vehicles, drivers will have advance information about traffic congestion etc which will enable people to reschedule, postpone, cancel or carpool their trip. Informed travelers may decide to avoid congested routes, take alternate routes, public transit, or reschedule their trip — all of which can make their trip more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly.

People can also shift to public transportation which will result in fewer GHG emissions caused by significant reduction in fuel consumption and less traffic congestion thus enhancing the air quality. The traffic agency can also introduce a fine “pricing policy” in heavy traffic areas. Connected vehicles technologies promote eco-driving by advising drivers to minimize fuel consumption or directly control engine brakes without requiring the driver’s intervention.

Potential in the Middle East

Connected vehicles have the potential to solve transportation woes and ease traffic mobility in major Middle East cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai which are plagued by heavy traffic volumes. Moreover, deployment of this technology will enable people to take a real-time situation decision and maintain sustainable traffic practices. In addition, connected vehicles will be a handy and efficient tool to mitigate environmental impacts of the rapidly growing transport sector. Moreover, connected vehicles, ranging from cars to trucks can relay important safety and mobility information to one another which may help in saving lives, preventing injuries and easing traffic congestion.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Green Buildings Certification in MENA – Issues and Challenges

Green building rating systems are increasingly gaining attention in the building industry in the MENA region. During the last 15 years, there has been a regional trend in developing and applying green building ratings systems. In several countries such systems have been developed in an attempt to follow the international green movement. For example, the Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS) was founded in UAE in 2007, the Green Pyramid (GPRS) and ARZ Building Rating System in Egypt and Lebanon respectively were founded in 2008, the Edama was proposed in Jordan in 2009 and Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) was founded in 2010. 

A new study compared four regional rating systems in the Middle East, in addition to LEED and BREEAM. The study found that the problem with most emerging rating systems is that they imitate the LEED or BREEAM rating systems and are not enough adapted to local environmental, cultural, historical, societal and economic context. Thus certification systems must be adapted to meet the needs of the Middle East regional climate, social, environmental and economic conditions.

The study, conducted in 2013, compared four rating systems (GPRS, SI 5281, QSAS and PBRS) and a cross analysis study was used to answer questions about the strength and weakness of the systems. The four systems use score point system for assessment. The four tools provide programs involving the building life cycle process – pre-design, design and post-design (occupation). There are many common criteria and categories between the four examined rating systems; such as limiting the consumption of energy and water in the building, improving the environmental quality in both indoor and outdoor, resources and material conservation, service quality, and site strategies. The four rating systems operate from an ecological foot print minimisation paradigm. At the same time, each rating system focuses on certain aspects more than the other ones according to the country’s local context. Surprisingly, there is no agreement on weighing the different environmental criteria.

Problems of Rating Systems

The study found that the examined rating systems are proposing theoretical models that needs to move to effective market implementation politically (government) and economically (NGOs & private sector). The rating systems require more adaptation to local and regional context. Rating systems should differentiate themselves from well-established rating systems.  For example, the study believes that water scarcity should be the most important category together with human wellbeing. Already LEED and BREEAM programs are considered the most fairly comprehensive in scope – from registration to calculation to building certification. In the case of the four rating systems, the initiation approaches were bottom down and not bottom up approaches.

Therefore, the uptake and market penetration is slow compared to LEED or BREEAM. In the four countries, there is no encouragement/engagement in the form of working out incentives or law enforcement to apply the four rating systems except for PBRS. In fact, each country in the region is looking to achieve those criteria individually. The entry of the LEED and BREEAM rating system into the Middle East property market coincided with increasing demand for regional and local ratings systems. As a result, different systems were developed under serious time pressure in the last ten years. The four compared systems are based on American and British standard. In the same time, there are currently no standardisation efforts working at local level to quantify and assess sustainability.

Towards Harmonised Systems

Green Building Councils in the Middle East will have a long way; they have to manage to position themselves as leaders promoting green buildings in the countries where they operate. By comparing and evaluating the four rating systems lesson could be learned and problem could be avoided. Therefore, the study author believes that a harmonised system within the Middle East would have distinctly better chances if the following issues are addressed:

Institutional Setting

Since the oil embargo of 1973, Western countries developed local codes and standards, which are revised annually, for the built environment. Those codes correspond to their context and are strongly linked to practice and buildings industry. However, in the four examined countries, the (b) local codes and standards are still not mature when compared to American or British ones. So there is a regulation problem on the institutional level. More importantly, (b) energy and water are heavily subsidized in most of the four countries.The comparison revealed that the certification rates are low and the feesstructure is very high (registration, certification, auditing).

Thus the whole political regulation landscape regarding resources efficiency is contradicting with the rating systems scope and objective. Therefore, it is important to address the (a) efficiency regulations and (b) subsidies policies on the institutional level and avoid the dependence on Western standards, codes and rating systems. This should be done through facilitating the adjustment and upgrading for the specification of environmental assessment factors in a dynamic, flexible and simple way.

Scientific Rigour and Priorities

Developing an assessment framework should be based on in-situ building performance research and technical knowledge. Technical rigour is very important in this case, for example setting benchmarks and measuring the performance. Furthermore, the investigated rating systems are located in hot climates, with scarce water resources which require a different approach and credits focus. Issues like solar protection, water conservation, life style, solar cooling and urban planning should be more strongly addressed in future developments. This includes advancing environmental footprint issues, like climate change.

Regionalisation

The assessment framework should suite the local context of each country in the Middle East, depending on its culture, issues, stakeholders, practices and institutions. Surprisingly, SI 5281 is the only rating system that was written in a native language, thus it is essential for each country, to design its own indicators to serve its goals in local language. This includes the development of local criteria to quantify the social part of sustainability that includes tradition and culture.

Providing a Platform

Multi-stakeholders should participate in developing rating systems, since they require participative and collaborative work process. Experts, designers, elected officials, working group, agency players, and others should be introduced as key participants in this process. The building industry should be encouraged to get into sustainable track to achieve a real transformation, regarding water and energy. There is a need to link those rating systems to grass root initiatives rather than developing them within academia or elite practicing companies.

According to the study, the examined certification systems need strong adaptation to meet the needs of the Middle East regional climate, social, cultural, environmental and economic conditions. Also there must be a harmonisation effort between regional rating systems aiming to develop and implement a common, transparent regional building assessment methodology. Otherwise, there will be a proliferation of immature systems without accumulated and unifying experience. 

Conclusion

There is still a long way before those examined systems examined become mature and widely usable.  Despite that the development of the examined rating systems is intended to facilitate the assessment of sustainable design in MENA; they fail to suit the local context culture issues, resources, priorities, practices and economic challenges. The GPRS, QSAS and PBRS systems neglect the interpretation of essential local sustainability measurements in their assessment set and normative standards. The study concludes that the existing rating system needs to increase the technical rigor and to put more weight on the most important categories, mainly water, IEQ, pollution and energy. The study suggests a number of recommendations to develop a harmonised green building assessment system in the MENA region. The usefulness of rating systems in the future depends on their flexibility and ability to measure the merits of buildings.

Note: The original version of the article can be viewed at this link.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Environmental Conservation and International Solidarity

international-solidarityEnvironment is a global public good and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights. Environment has no respect for international boundaries and borders, and belongs to all countries and peoples. However the capacity of environment is limited and a common issue for the entire mankind is to conserve this limited global environment so that all people on earth (and coming generations) can enjoy a healthy life.

Right to Healthy Environment

The right to a healthy and sustainable environment is getting increasing importance in the light of climate change concerns. With fast-changing geo-political situations and ever-increasing conflicts, conservation of the environment has become a critical factor for building and maintaining peace, reducing poverty, maintaining and improving health, and fostering sustainable development.

Environmental problems, in developed as well as developing countries, have become more complicated and serious in recent years. Industrial pollution, rise in temperature, changing weather patterns, acid rain, depletion of ozone layer, rise in sea level, outbreak of diseases, species extinction are good examples to prove that environmental health is a global issue that concerns all nations of the world.

Significance of International Solidarity

International solidarity in environmental conservation has assumed greater importance in recent years as relationships between various countries, economies and societies have become more interdependent and symbiotic. International solidarity is essential for solving environmental issues afflicting the developed countries as well as developing world. The international environmental agreements and treaties negotiated in the last few decades reflect international solidarity in protecting and maintaining global environmental, however there is still a long way to go. 

Contemporary environmental challenges demand a visionary approach to achieve sustainable development, strengthen international solidarity and preserve peace and stability. Infact, international initiatives to conserve natural resources will foster peace-building efforts between warring parties and may also encourage positive interaction and strong bonding among nations.

A good example of international solidarity in environmental conflict resolution is sharing of water resources which engage disputing parties in a meaningful dialogue, as in the Nile river case. Another important area is conservation of biodiversity in disputed areas which may assist in peace-building, thereby fostering closer cooperation between local communities.

International solidarity in environment protection has the potential to unite community-based groups in different countries, fighting similar environmental problems, in order to streamline their efforts. Civil society groups, due to their effectiveness and efficiency, play a key role in environmental conservation in any nation. For example, NGOs can enhance the chances of sustainable peace by increasing environmental awareness and motivating local communities to participate in environmental cooperation programs.

Conclusion

To sum up, if environmental degradation can trigger conflict and violence, then international environmental cooperation can be a handy tool for sustainable development and peace-building. However, it would require active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people including workers, corporates, law-makers, farmers, students, teachers, researchers, social activists and indigenous communities.

Smart Grid – Key to Managing Energy Demand in Saudi Arabia

Electricity consumption in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been climbing steadily for the past few decades. Saudi electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. Current domestic energy consuming behaviors pose unescapable fatal consequences that affect both the Kingdom’s production and export levels. Therefore, an urgent action is needed to curb the increasing electricity demand and promote energy conservation. Smart grid is a dynamic solution which can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand in Saudi Arabia.

What is Smart Grid?

A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure. Smart grid is a computerized technology, based on remote control network, aiming to completely alter the existing electric infrastructure and modernize the national power grid. This is through empowering the demand response which alerts consumers to reduce energy use at peak times. Moreover, demand response prevents blackouts, increases energy efficiency measures and contributes to resource conservation and help consumers to save money on their energy bills. Smart grid technology represents an advanced system enabling two way communications between energy provider and end users to reduce cost save energy and increase efficiency and reliability.

Advantages of Smart Grid

The beauty of adapting this technology will spread to not only utility but to all utility users including consumers and government.

Active Role of Consumers

The beauty of smart grid is that it provides consumers with the ability to play an active role in the country’s electricity grid. This is through a regulated price system where the electricity rate differsaccording to peak hours and consequently consumers cut down their energy use at those high stress times on the grid. Thus, smart grid offers consumers more choices over their energy use needs. 

Upgrading the Existing Grid

Utilities benefit from improving the grid’s power quality and reliability as mentioned through an integrated communication system with end users with more control over energy use. This is through decreasing services rates and eliminating any unnecessary energy loss in the network. Thus, all these positive advantages will make smart grid technology a smart and efficient tool for utilities.

Contributing to Energy Efficiency

The government of Saudi Arabia is already taking bold steps to adapt new energy efficiency standards as a national plan to reduce domestic energy consumption. For that, adapting and deploying smart grid will enable the kingdom to modernize the national grid. With the time the government will build efficient and informed consumers as a backbone in its current energy policy. Moreover, this advanced technology will help with electricity reduction targets and contribute to lowering the carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, this is a great opportunity for the kingdom to mitigate with the climate change measures.

A Dynamic Approach

Adoption of smart grid systems will help Saudi Arabia in increasing the efficiency of utilities as well as improving the ability of consumers to control their daily energy use. Smart grid technology offers a unique engagement that benefits consumers, utilities and government to become part of the solution. In addition, a smart grid technology is a viable option to enhance the value people receive from the national grid system. This smart transition will give the Saudi government a policy option to reduce drastically its domestic energy use, leveraging new technology through empowering the role of consumers’ active participants on the country’s grid.

As peak electricity demand grows across the country, it is important for KSA to make large-scale investment in smart grid solutions to improve energy efficiency and manage increasing energy demand. Undoubtedly, smart grid is more intelligent, versatile, decentralized, secure, resilient and controllable than conventional grid. However, to reap the benefits of smart grid systems, utilities in Saudi Arabia need to make major changes in their infrastructure and revolutionize the manner in which business is conducted.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Polylactic Acid – An Emerging Bioplastic

During the last decade, the movement towards biobased products has increased dramatically as a result of increasing environment awareness and high increase in fossil fuel prices. Polylactic Acid (PLA) is an eco-friendly polymer derived from lactic acid which can be produced by fermentation of renewable resources. It is a new type of biocompatible material produced from utilizing lactic acid as monomer. Since lactic acid is a non-toxic component, which exists in human metabolism, PLA is safe polyester for human-related applications.

In comparison to traditional plastics, PLA has great potential in the plastic market. Petroleum-based plastic takes hundreds of year to biologically degrade and is manufactured from non-renewable resources. PLA, on the other hand, is recyclable, produced by less energy-intensive process and compostable. Infact, it is a polymer which can be naturally converted to carbon dioxide and water within few years.

Feedstock Selection

Many raw materials could be utilised to produce lactic acid such as, starch, lignocellulosic biomass, agro-industrial wastes, glycerol and microalgae. In order to choose the most suitable biomass for an efficient process, the raw material should have the following characteristic.

  • As cheap as possible to make the maximum profit from the project
  • Low level of contaminants which means less cost on pre-treatment of the biomass to purify the main substrate. 
  • Rapid production rate, more harvested product should be obtained per annum.
  • High yield with less by-products formation.
  • Continuous production rate along the year to minimise the raw material storage.

It seems impossible to have 100% ideal raw material so a trade-off decision must be made. Moreover, the combination of more than one raw material is even possible if the second one is given for free, for example, provided that the chosen microorganism can convert both raw materials to lactic acid without an extra cost. Production of lactic acid from waste has been studied by many researchers. However, the two promising materials are paper waste and glycerol. Moreover, potato and corn starch effluent have been used as a free raw materials for lactic acid production.

Glycerol is the main by-product of the biodiesel process therefore it would be a really cheap feedstock to be used in the production of fuel and chemicals. Ten percent of the total biodiesel production is by-product crude glycerol which could have a negative effect on the environment to be disposed. Production of chemical from this by product could minimise the price of the biodiesel as it is produced at a relatively large quantity.

Office automation paper could be pre-treated and then converted to lactic acid by a specific microorganism. Different types of pulp, hemicellulose, and toner or ink-related compounds can reduce the production rate of lactic acid.

Undoubtedly, the best carbon source for most microorganisms is glucose which could be easily utilized in large scale lactic acid production. The second preferred carbon sources are starch and lignocellulose materials which have been recognized as a cost effective raw material. However, it is more difficult to ferment lignocellulosic biomass than starchy ones to lactic acid. This is because lignocellulosic biomass has cellulose as the polymer which requires physic-chemical pretreatment and multi-enzymatic reactions.

Microorganism Selection

In general, microbial lactic acid is mainly produced by two types of microorganisms which are bacteria and fungi. The enantiomers, yields and concentration of lactic acid depend on the type and the strain of microorganism. Each microorganism requires specific raw material to be utilised to give specific productivity in the optimum culture conditions.

Applications

PLA finds wide applications due to its unique properties. PLA is being used for food packaging, automobiles, textiles, foams, films etc in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific. Europe is the dominant market for biodegradable polymers, accounting for more than half of the world consumption.  The key market drivers in Europe include a packaging waste directive to set recovering and recycling targets, a number of plastic bag bans, and other collection and waste disposal laws to avoid landfill. As far as Middle East is concerned, use of PLA or other bioplastics is in nascent stages and its current penetration is very negligible.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cleantech Investment by AfDB

The African Development Bank, through its public and private sector departments, is currently implementing several clean energy projects and programs to address these priorities particularly in the energy and forestry sectors. The Bank's energy portfolio currently stands at about USD2 billion. The AfDB provides two lending windows. The first is a public window, with mostly concessional funds available to governments. The second is a private window, which offers debt and equity on commercial terms. 

The World Bank Group and the African Development Bank are in the process of applying to the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) Trust Fund Committee for use of $750 million of concessional funds for the MENA CSP Scale-up. For example, over the first half of 2012, AfDB approved USD800 million in loans to spur private investments in Morocco's renewable energy sector. The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), financially supported by Denmark, aims to support the implementation of AfDB's strategy to provide grants and equity to small-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency project. 

The World Bank Group and the African Development Bank, in collaboration with other donors, are launching an initiative to scale-up Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) up to 1GW over 6-8 years by means of around ten large projects in Africa. Hydroelectric power generation represent an attractive investment opportunity for AfDB as Africa has tremendous hydropower generation potential, 60% of which is locked within Guinea, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The AfDB has committed its support to developing the Gibe III hydroelectric dam, in Ethiopia. Wind farms are another lucrative investment arena for AfDB, as shown by AfDB’s commitment for 300MW Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya. 

Evolution One Fund

In 2009, the African Development Bank has approved a Rand100 million investment in Evolution One Fund, the first specialized private equity fund focused on the acceleration and deployment of clean energy and sustainable technologies across southern Africa. The 10-year private equity fund, managed by Cape Town-based Inspired Evolution Investment Management, will seek to invest predominantly in growth-phase businesses, particularly in eight high-growth sectors, namely clean energy/energy efficiency (up to 50% of its investments), efficient and clean manufacturing processes and technologies, air quality and emissions control. South Africa will account for 60-75% of the fund's overall investments, while up to 25-40% will be earmarked for other Southern African Development Community countries. 

Ain Beni Mathar Solar Project

The Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station is the Bank's first experience in solar power. It is working in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and Morocco's National Electric Authority. The African Development Bank is financing approximately two-thirds of the cost of the plant, or about 187.85 million Euros. The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and is expected to reach production capacity of 250MW soon. 

Lake Turkana Wind Project

Lake Turkana Wind Power (LWTP) consortium is constructing a wind farm consisting of 353 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850 kW, in Northwest Kenya near Lake Turkana. The wind power project has full production of 300 MW.  LTWP can provide reliable and continuous clean power to satisfy up to about 30% of Kenya’s current total installed power. The AfDB Group is facilitating the entire project cost of US$405 million, out of which, the institution intends to provide US$135 million. The AfDB has also agreed to invest US$19 million in a wind power project in the Republic of Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa. This total cost of the project, consisting of four wind farms with more than 120 wind turbines, is US$84 million.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter

#InspireMENA – Storytelling on Sustainable Development in MENA

Over 350 million people live in MENA and share Arabic as a common language. To date, there is very little literature in Arabic about sustainable development in general and specifically on the United Nation’s new global goals and the associated agencies and initiatives. More than half of that population is below 25 and is currently going through a lot in terms of political, economic, and social change. Despite all of this, those young people are innovating and making positive change in their communities. It is of utmost importance to support such impact with credible information, more visibility for success stories, and better communication tools.

Today we are excited to announce a special partnership between EcoMENA, a volunteer-driven organization working to raise environmental awareness and foster sustainable development in MENA, and +SocialGood, an international community where digital innovators, thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, change makers, and global citizens come together to share world-changing ideas and catalyze action.

The #InspireMENA Initiative will work to raise awareness and magnify impact on sustainable development issues and projects throughout the MENA region. Each #InspireMENA story will be shared in both English and Arabic on both platforms. Professionals, volunteers and writers are invited through both networks to contribute to identifying stories, writing and translating articles.

What we're looking for in an #InspireMENA Story

  • Describe the outputs/outcomes from your story (qualitative and quantitative).
  • What makes this a real success story? What change have you contributed to?
  • To which Global Goal(s) would you link the impact(s) of this story?
  • What resources did you use and where did they come from?
  • Who were your partners in implementation? Who was the Champion?
  • What would you do differently if you can go back in time (lessons learned)?
  • Does your story trigger similar stories within your community/country/globe?
  • Sustainable Development is about justice and inclusiveness. How do you tell your story in light of this?
  • How do you measure your impact now and in the future?
  • Give us a 'Call for Action' statement to show how relevant this is to the reader.

Guidelines for Submission

  1. Stories should be focused on these core areas – sustainable development, environment protection, green and social entrepreneurship, capacity-building, social inclusiveness, youth empowerment, environmental education, renewable energy, waste management, resource conservation management and related areas. It is advised to refer to Sustainable Development Global Goals for guidance on topics. Please visit this link www.globalgoals.org
  2. Entries can be submitted by project stakeholders, co-workers, industry professionals, domain experts etc.
  3. Preferred length of the story is around 800 to 1500 words.
  4. Entries can be submitted in Arabic or English or both.
  5. Stories should be concise, upto-the-point and meant for a general reader
  6. Stories should be non-commercial and non-promotional
  7. Contributors should be ready to respond to queries/comments by readers
  8. All entries will be cross-verified and reviewed by domain experts. We reserve the right to accept or reject any story.

How #Inspire MENA started

As two entities committed to supporting sustainable development, empowering youth, sharing knowledge and promoting success stories and role models; EcoMENA and +SocialGood are coming together to collaborate on 'Story Telling for Sustainable Development'. This was initiated by the +SocialGood Connector in Jordan, Ruba Al-Zu'bi, after her participation in the +SocialGood Connectors and Advisors gathering in Washington D.C. – July 2015. Through this partnership, Ruba and Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, hope to mobilize a story telling campaign in Jordan and the MENA region around impactful and innovative projects and initiatives that advance sustainable development.

To get engaged and share a story, please contact:

Salman Zafar: salman@ecomena.org /salman@cleantechloops.com or

Ruba Al-Zu'bi: rubaalzoubi@gmail.com

سيارات تتحدث مع بعضها

تعد تقنية السيارة "المتواصلة لاسلكيًا" إحدى التقنيات الحديثة اللاسلكية، التي تمنح السيارة (الصغيرة والكبيرة) بأن تتواصل لاسلكيًا مع بعضها بعضا بواسطة تقنية (كمبيوترية) متصلة بها، بإستطاعتها أن يستطلع (أوضاع) الطريق للسائق (لاسلكيا) قبل الوصول إلى الوجهة المطلوبة، مثال ذلك الطرق المغلقة أو المكتظة، وكذلك تقليل الأخطار المترتبة من تقلبات الظروف المناخية.  كما تهدف السيارات المتواصلة لاسلكيا؛ للاستفادة من الاتصالات اللاسلكية بين المركبات أثناء عملها، وكذلك البنية التحتية وأجهزة اتصال الركاب.

هذا و تُعرّف إدارة النقل الأمريكية هذه التقنية الحديثة " بأنها الحصول على جودة هواء أفضل عبر تقنية وسائل النقل الذكية" ويكون ذلك بالتنسيق مع مصانع السيارات وغيرها من القطاعات المبتكرة العامة والخاصة، وجميعها تتكاتف لتطوير البنية التحتية للاتصالات التقنية بين المركبة والأخرى، من جهة وبين المركبة والبنية التحتية من جهة أخرى، وتلك الجهود"المشتركة" تهدف إلى منع الحوادث المرورية قبل حدوثها. حيث يتم إرسال تلك المعلومات لاسلكيا لضبط حركة السيارات، وتجنب الاختناقات المرورية، وتحسين البيئة، وفي النهاية تمكن هذه التقنية من الحصول على معلومات وقتية عن طريق نظام الكميوتر المحمول داخل المركبات (كالسيارات، والشاحنات، والحافلات) والذي بدوره يقوم بتحليل المعلومات المتوفرة عن أحوال الطريق، وأيضاً التواصل مع أجهزة الشرطة عن طريق البنية التحتية.

المزايا المتعددة للنظام

ويعد الأثر البيئي أحد مزايا هذا النظام، حيث يحد من التلوث البيئي الناجم عن اكتظاظ الشوارع السريعة والفرعية، وكذلك التحكم في معلومات النقل البيئية الوقتية، واستخدامها لاستصدار معلومات ذات أثر نفعي لمساعدة وتسهيل الخيارات النقلية، ويظهر أن هذا النظام المبتكر يتمركز حول تحسين نوعية الهواء بتقليل إنبعاثات الغازات الدفيئة، وكذلك يتمتع بميزة التقليل من إستهلاك الوقود. هذا، وتسهم تقنية المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا في تلطيف "هجمة" المناخ المتقلب، والحصول على أهداف خفض انبعاثات الغازات الدفيئة.

ومن مزايا تقنية المركبات المتواصلة -أيضاً- سيحظى السائقون بمعلومات دقيقة عن الاختناقات المرورية وخلافها، والتي ستمكنهم من إعادة جدولة، أوتأخير، أو الغاء، أو تنظيم الرحلات الجماعية. وبهذا التنظيم المسبق يتفادى السائقون خطوط الاختناقات المرورية، واستخدام البدائل المتوفرة، وكذلك استخدام الممرات العامة، وإعادة جدولة رحلاتهم، بهدف حماية البيئة، وتقليل استهلاك الوقود.

هذه التقنية "الثورية" تسعى إلى تطوير القيادة "الصديقة للبيئة" والمدعمة بحزمة من التوصيات المرورية للسائقين؛ للتقليل من استهلاك الوقود، وكذلك ضبط مكابح المكائن مستقبلاُ، بدون تدخل السائقين.

قابلية إستخدام النظام في المملكة العربية السعودية

سيكون لنظام المركبات المتصلة دور في حل مشاكل النقل وتسهيل الحركة المرورية في مدن المملكة الرئيسة: مثل الرياض والدمام وجدة المكتظة بالحركة المرورية؛ وستمكن تطبيق هذه التقنية مستخدمي الطريق من اتخاذ القرارات الصائبة، والتمتع بممارسات مرورية متجانسة. إضافة الى ماتقدم فإن نظام المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا سيكون في متناول أيدي الناس عامة، وأداة مثالية للتخفيف من التأثيرات البيئية المتنامية في قطاع النقل. يضاف إلى ذلك، فإن نظام المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا يستند إلى معلومات تهتم بالسلامة والحركة، والتي بدورها ستسهم في إنقاذ حياة البشر؛ وتمنع الأضرار الناجمة عن الاختناقات المرورية أينما كانت!

Green Career Tips by Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to Bhavani Prakash of Green Collar Asia about cleantech industry trends, and offers tips for professionals trying to enter renewable energy and waste management sectors.

This interview was originally published on www.greencollarasia.com and is being republished with the kind permission of Bhavani Prakash. 

Green Collar AsiaHow did you become so interested in renewable energy and waste management technologies?

Salman Zafar: I am a chemical engineer by education. After completing my Master’s degree program in 2004, I got the opportunity to work as a Research Fellow on large-scale biogas power projects which initiated me into waste management/bioenergy sector.

During the course of my fellowship, I was involved in the design, operation and troubleshooting of waste-to-energy plants and other biomass energy projects. The idea of converting wastes into clean and useful energy appealed to me in a big way, and after completing my education in 2006 I started writing articles and blogs on biomass energy and waste management which were well-received around the world. A Swedish gentleman read one of my articles and was so impressed that he asked me to prepare a comprehensive report on biomass energy situation in Southeast Asia and there was no looking back from that day onwards.

Green Collar AsiaAs a leading authority in Asia and the Middle East in this realm, can you give an overview of waste management trends in the region?

Salman Zafar: The rapid increase in population, rising standards of living and scarcity of waste disposal sites has precipitated a major environmental crisis in Asia and the Middle East. Municipalities are finding it extremely hard to deal with mountains of garbage accumulating in and around urban centres. Reduction in the volume and mass of municipal waste is a crucial issue especially in the light of limited availability of final disposal sites in many parts of the world.

The global market for solid waste management technologies has shown substantial growth over the last few years and has touched USD 150billion with continued market growth through the global economic downturn. Over the coming decade, growth trends are expected to continue, led by expansion in the US, European, Chinese, Asia-Pacific and Indian markets. Asian and Middle Eastern countries are also modernising their waste management infrasructure and have seriously begun to view waste-to-energy technology as a sustainable alternative to landfills for disposing waste while generating clean energy.

Green Collar Asia: What are the drivers that are required for waste-to-energy technologies to scale up? What kind of policy support would be conducive?

Salman Zafar: Waste-to-energy technologies cannot prosper without political, legislative and financial support from different stakeholders. Close and long-term cooperation between municipalities, planners, project developers, technology companies, utilities, investors and general public is indispensable for the success of any waste-to-energy project.

Energy recovery from wastes should be universally accepted as the fourth ‘R’ in a sustainable waste management program involving Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. An interesting fact is that countries (like Sweden, Denmark and Germany) which have reduced dependence on landfills have the highest recycling rates, and they have achieved this in combination with waste-to-energy.

Green Collar AsiaWhich areas/regions are investing most in renewable energy, or rather where do you see a lot of activity?

Salman Zafar: China, United States, Germany, India and Brazil are witnessing a good deal of activity in the cleantech sector. China has made rapid progress in renewable energy sector, particular in wind energy, and invested more than USD 6 bi7llion in different renewable energy resources in 2012. India is among top destinations for renewable energy investments with more than USD 6.85 billion pouring in for solar, wind and biomass projects in 2012. Brazil has also made strong investment in clean energy and is the market leader in Latin America.

Green Collar AsiaAs a keynote speaker and panelist for several events, do you see a growth in the number of conferences in renewable energy and waste management, and new locations for these?

Salman Zafar: Yes, there has been significant proliferation in academic as well as industrial conferences in recent years. Renewable energy has caught the attention of the policy-makers, academic institutions, corporates, entrepreneurs and masses because of concerns related to global warming, industrial pollution and dwindling fossil fuel reserves. Infact, oil-rich countries like UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are working on large clean energy projects to mitigate the harmful environmental effects of the oil and gas industry and to augment their fossil fuel reserves.

As far as new venues for cleantech conferences are concerned, countries like United Arab Emirates, India, China and Singapore are in the limelight. Worldwide enthusiasm for renewable energy and green technologies has increased dramatically in recent years, and hundreds of conferences and exhibitions are being organized each year at hitherto unknown destinations which is surely helping in raising environmental awareness and career development.

Green Collar Asia: What skills and competencies are required for this field?

Salman Zafar: Skills for cleantech jobs are more or less the same as that required for traditional jobs. The capability to transfer traditional skills to a green energy project is a crucial factor for any industry professional. Renewable energy jobs are heavily based on core knowledge areas like math, science, engineering and technology.

To get an edge, it would be beneficial to get specialized knowledge and experience in the areas of energy efficiency, waste management, environmental policies, natural resource management, sustainability, computer modeling tools etc. A wide variety of jobs are on offer in the cleantech sector, such as managers, process operators, analysts, engineers, IT professionals, systems engineers, designers, technicians etc.

Green Collar Asia: What advice would you give to professionals entering this sector?

Salman Zafar:  Being a relatively new industrial segment, it is advisable not to rush things while entering the cleantech sector. Focusing your education on core knowledge areas is the first step towards a green energy career. There is an avalanche of jobs in this sector, and key to success is to use your transferable skills to get a dream job.