Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Green party calls for end to mobile network energy wastage

The party wants operators to create one 'super-network', which it estimates could save 300 gigawatt hours a year

Matthew Sparkes
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 13.16 BST

Unnecessary duplication in mobile phone networks is wasting an "enormous" amount of energy, the Green party has claimed.
In a report released last week, the party said there are at least 50,000 base stations across the UK, many of which belong to rival companies and serve the same areas. The party is calling for government regulation to force operators to create one "super-network", which it estimates could save 300 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year, the equivalent of the annual electricity use of nearly 70,000 homes.
The UK is covered by five virtually independent networks due to the government's early attempts to ensure competition in the industry. James Page, industry policy adviser to the Green party, said: "The government wanted competition, but you can achieve competition without necessarily having a separate network each. The best hope is in government requiring Ofcom to begin considering environmental and energy issues, because at the moment it doesn't."
The time is ideal for the government to step in, said the party, because of the impending digital television switchover. Ofcom will auction off the frequency currently used by analogue television broadcasts in 2010, handing it over for use by mobile operators. When new masts are built to take advantage of the extra spectrum, they could be built in a partnership, suggests the report.
However, the watchdog explained that legislation would be needed before it could take on an environmental role and demand such a move.
"They claim they need a change in the Communications Act, but it already says that Ofcom has to secure optimal use of the spectrum," said Page. "If taking on board the carbon impact isn't making optimal use of the spectrum, I don't know what is."
Ofcom admits that without new powers a shared network across the entire country is improbable, although some companies are already taking voluntarily steps to merge networks.
"The general rule is that they should consider sharing masts where it's feasible," said an Ofcom spokesperson. "There are commercial and cost reasons that they have to take into consideration, so sharing across the whole country is fairly unlikely."
Although several networks already have mast-sharing strategies in place, no programme has yet seen all five networks working together.
T-Mobile and 3 have begun merging base stations in a joint venture that will see the number of T-Mobile's masts reduced from 18,000 to 15,000 by the end of this year – a move that will actually result in better coverage. Orange and Vodafone are engaged in a similar arrangement.
Verified figures have yet to be released for the project, but T-Mobile estimate that between the two companies there will be a reduction of 20% in energy requirements.
"There are similar initiatives in Sweden and Finland. I expect that to be the way of the future," said Emin Gurdenli, chief technology officer for T-Mobile UK. "Does this mean that there will only be one shared infrastructure? Probably not soon. I think we will maybe end up with two shared networks in the UK. Other people will join in due course, and they're welcome to do that."
"We have already demonstrated that this can be done, we've done it between two companies and we've continued to be competitive. In fact I would go as far as to say that those companies that can create such partnerships will be the successful ones."
The Green party argued that government regulation could be the only way to forge partnerships in time for the 2010 spectrum auction. "The government should direct Ofcom to ensure that the sharing of the new 800 MHz frequency band is done in a way that is energy efficient," said Darren Johnson, a London assembly member for the Green party. "Ultimately they could build new shared infrastructure, a 'super-network'. With the climate crisis deepening, Britain can't afford this amount of gratuitous waste."

fast track for green patents

The Times
May 12, 2009
Management news in brief: Carol Lewis
Fast track for green patents
Businesses and entrepreneurs can apply from tomorrow to have patent applications fast-tracked through a “green channel” for innovations which benefit the environment, it was announced yesterday at the China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue.
Sean Dennehey, the director of patents at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), said that the initiative aims to reduce patent times for green technologies from up to three years to less than nine months. “There are critics of the patent system who say that it takes too long to get a patent, making it difficult to exploit important technologies quickly enough. We wanted something we could do quickly and now, because climate change won’t wait,” he said. In the past ten years the number of green technology patent applications has increased by 500 per cent.
The IPO receives about 23,500 patent applications a week – about 150 to 200 of these are thought to be for green technologies. The IPO hopes that other countries, including China, will adopt the scheme.

Car emissions exceed forecasts

By Jim Pickard, Political Correspondent
Published: May 12 2009 03:00

New roads built in the UK since 2002 have led to double the increase in carbon emissions originally forecast by the government.
The data, which have not been publicised, could raise questions about official assumptions on road traffic emissions resulting from Heathrow's expansion.
Norman Baker - transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, who obtained the data - said the figures showed government concern for climate change was "little more than greenwash".
The figures come from the Highways Agency, part of the transport department, and apply to 27 big road schemes. They show that these produced an extra 21,870 tonnes of carbon - almost twice the 11,240 predicted by the government.
Mr Baker said: "This government continues to push ahead with massive road-building schemes that cost millions more than predicted, as well as increase traffic and carbon emissions. These huge schemes are responsible for thousands of tonnes of extra carbon emissions every year."
Richard George of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the figures showed that the government was not only underestimating carbon emissions but had "no workable method" of making such forecasts. "The estimates were nowhere near what actually happened, it seems they don't know how to work out what carbon emissions will be," he said.
"There were some projects where they expected an increase and there was a decrease, or vice versa.
"Overall it was a massive underestimate."
The Highways Agency said the figures should be put in perspective - they only showed net changes rather than total emissions produced.
However, the data might raise concerns about the prospect of enlarging Heathrow without breaching European guidelines. There were already fears about the high level of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, in the air around the airport - much of which comes from cars rather than aircraft. Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, has told the Financial Times that nitrogen oxide in places near Heathrow already broke limits which were about to become statutory.
A report by BAA, which owns the airport, has estimated that a third runway would generate more than 10m extra car and taxi journeys each year.
Mr George did not know whether the DfT was using similar modelling for its Heathrow pollution forecasts. But he said: "It is worrying . . . I would also want to know the difference between modelling for this and for aviation work."
Geoff Hoon, transport secretary, has pledged to prevent Heathrow's expansion if air quality conditions are not met.
A DfT spokesman said: "We published our decision on the third runway in January this year and at the time we highlighted the measures we would take to mitigate the environmental impact of the runway."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Honda hybrid outsells in Japan

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo
Published: May 11 2009 17:40

In a milestone for the spread of low-emission “green” cars, Honda’s newly introduced Insight petrol-electric hybrid outsold all other full-size passenger vehicles in Japan in April, the first time a hybrid model has topped national sales rankings.
Hybrids were pioneered a decade ago by Toyota which introduced the Prius, the top-selling hybrid globally.

Now Toyota and Honda are hoping the increasing popularity of green vehicles will reverse a two-decade slide in Japanese car sales, which has worsened sharply with the current global recession, pushing both carmakers into unprecedented losses in the January-March quarter.
Overall car sales in Japan were down 28 per cent in April compared with a year earlier.
Honda, Japan’s second-biggest carmaker behind Toyota, has been inundated with orders for the 41-mile-per-gallon, five-door hatchback since it launched the car in Japan in February.
It sold 10,481 Insights in April, more than double the number in March and about 1,000 more cars than the next best-selling model, the Fit subcompact, also manufactured by Honda.
Tax breaks on low-emission vehicles introduced at the start of April propelled the Insight to the top of the rankings, which are compiled by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (Jada) and exclude sales of small-engine mini-cars.
Honda has also sped up production and diverted some vehicles originally intended for export to cope with demand.
The success of the Insight – a redesigned version of Honda’s first hybrid offering, scrapped in 2006 because of poor sales – is helping to push once-marginal hybrids further into the mainstream.
At Y1.89m ($19,000) for the most basic model, the new Insight is the cheapest hybrid available.
Toyota will this month launch a new version of the Prius in Japan, setting up the first head-to-head competition between new hybrid models since the technology became widely available.
With a fuel-efficiency rating of 50 miles per gallon, the new Prius produces significantly less carbon dioxide than the Insight, although its more complex petrol-electric drive also makes it more expensive.
Toyota sold 1,952 units of the existing version of the Prius in April, putting it in 21st place in the Jada ranking. The car’s best showing to date was in December last year, when it placed third.
In addition to tax breaks, Japan in April began offering Y100,000 ($1,025) to drivers who buy new vehicles that beat 2010 emissions standards by 15 per cent or more, a category that includes hybrids as well as about 40 per cent of new petrol-powered cars.
Separately, Suzuki, the mini-car specialist – which owns 54 per cent of Maruti Suzuki, India’s biggest car producer – on Monday reported an 18 per cent fall in net profits for the three months to March. In spite of the decline, it was the only Japanese carmaker to make a profit for the quarter.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Turkey windfarm project to receive €130m loan

By Delphine Strauss in Ankara
Published: May 12 2009 02:28

Multilateral lenders are stepping into the gap left by crisis-hit banks to kickstart investment in Turkey’s renewable energy sector, on Monday announcing a €130m loan to a subsidiary of Zorlu energy group to build the country’s biggest windfarm.
It will be the first transaction in Turkey by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is providing €45m of the total in a package led by the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank unit for private sector lending.

The IFC is investing €55m and the European Investment Bank €30m, with the EBRD and EIB contributions backed by guarantees from HSBC and Denizbank.
“In a normal market, we’d have taken the lead and syndicated from commercial banks,” said Shahbaz Mavaddat, the IFC’s director for southern Europe. Instead, the IFC, which aims to make new loans of around $300m in Turkey this year, has facilitated a package financed almost entirely by multilaterals.
This kind of partnership is growing more common as the drop in global capital flows forces a bigger role on multilateral lenders.
The EBRD may step up plans to invest €450m in Turkey by the end of 2010 as it considers expanding to help mitigate the financial crisis, a spokesman said, adding it was also looking at loans to Turkish banks to support small business finance.
Turkey, which urgently needs to increase power generation to avert shortages, is keen to attract investment in wind and solar power, but projects have been plagued by delays and many groups planning to invest have yet to find financing.
Wind power accounts for a minimal part of Turkey’s energy use at present and the 135 megawatt plant being built by Zorlu’s subsidiary, Rotor Elektrik, will boost output by 35 per cent when it begins operating at the end of 2009, the IFC said.
“We are very ambitious in renewable energy projects, which will play an extremely important role in our country’s future,” said Murat Sungur Bursa, chief executive of Zorlu Energy Group.
The World Bank said last year it planned “substantial” financing for the Turkish energy sector, and Mr Mavaddat, who has just finalised two similar energy sector deals in Albania, said the package could help mobilise other investors.
But Mehmet Sami, a director at Ata Invest in Istanbul, said there was little sign of commercial lending for infrastructure unfreezing. “Increasingly people are turning to multilaterals. For the time being, these institutions are going to be an independent lifeline to industry,” he said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

UK homes to have smart energy meters by 2020

The Times
May 12, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Every home in Britain will have a new “smart meter” installed by 2020 under plans unveiled by the Government, which hopes to reduce the country's carbon emissions by more than a third.
In potentially the biggest shake-up of Britain's energy industry since the introduction of North Sea gas in the 1970s, it is hoped that the new meters, which will be installed in all 26 million UK households, will boost energy efficiency by allowing consumers to track exactly how much gas and electricity they are using.
The installation of the meters in 2.6 million homes every year over the next decade will be a huge logistical challenge that will cost an estimated £7 billion to £9 billion — or between £269 and £346 per household.
The Energy Retail Association said yesterday that the cost of the meters would be spread across ten years and would also permit big cost savings for the industry, meaning that the overall impact on consumer bills would be “cost-neutral”.

Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, said: “The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change. Now we need to get smarter with our energy.”
Smart meters, which will eliminate the need for estimated energy bills and also allow utilities to lay off thousands of meter-reading staff, are designed to encourage consumers to use electricity and gas more frugally.
As well as helping consumers to identify ways to reduce their bills and emissions by turning off electrical equipment and using devices that are less energy intensive, the meters will enable power companies to manage demand better by offering off-peak deals similar to those offered at present by telephone operators.
Consumers will be rewarded for using energy-hungry appliances such as dishwashers during off-peak hours, such as between 1am and 5am. This will allow power companies to even out big fluctuations in current during daily energy demand, allowing for a reduction in the total generating capacity necessary to power the UK.
Ofgem, the industry regulator, welcomed the announcement. Alistair Buchanan, its chief executive, said that smart meters “have great potential to encourage both domestic and business customers to reduce their energy use. They will also improve the accuracy of bills by eliminating the need for estimates.”
The Government also wants the meters to enable homeowners to sell electricity from roof-top wind turbines or solar panels back to the grid, while improving energy demand forecasts and network management. “Smart meters will become a cornerstone of our efficient management of energy resources as a nation and as individuals in the future,” the Government said.
Some experts warned that the new devices raised concerns about information security. Matthew Lockwood, senior research fellow in climate change at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “People also need to be confident that their data will remain private, and workable measures need to be in place to ensure that is the case.”
To help to oversee the rollout, the Government has approved the creation of a new agency to manage the meters and relay the information to energy suppliers.
The decision will offer a significant boost for manufacturers of smart metering technology, including General Electric, IBM and Itron, of the United States, and Landis & Gyr, the privately owned Swiss group.
The information from the meters can be displayed on a handheld unit, mobile phone, television or computer. Power suppliers can also view the same information remotely.
The Government has invited public comments on its recommendations until July 24.

British businesses seek to cash in on carbon capture

UK firms in strong position to run CCS projects around the world

Alok JhaGreen technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 13.27 BST

Britain could take a leading role in developing and managing the nascent market for carbon capture and storage projects around the world, after the government's recent announcement that all new coal plants must be fitted with the green technology. Industry experts believe the UK is in a strong position to run the financial, legal and consulting aspects of the projects for international utility companies.
"Out of a major CCS capital project, the biggest added value is in the management and services – and we have that in abundance," said Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the CCS Association, which lobbies on behalf of companies in the field. "You're talking about project management and engineering. The money gets processed through the UK, for example, and we have legal, management and environmental consultancies. All of which is much higher added-value than making widgets."
After years of wrangling over carbon capture, governments have started to back the technology with policy and money, sparking a potential gold rush of contracts for well-placed suppliers.
The international market for CCS in 2007-08 was £13.28bn, of which the UK's share was £468m, according to a recent report for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. This accounts for less than 1% of the international low-carbon technology sector, but there is huge potential for expansion, particularly as governments announce funding mechanisms for the first generation of demonstration plants. The sector is predicted to grow by around 4% a year between now and 2015.
The International Energy Agency predicts the world's use of power will increase by 50% by 2030, with 77% of that coming from fossil fuels. At its best, CCS could trap up to 90% of a power plant's carbon emissions, but only two small-scale demonstration projects are anywhere near operation – one at Schwarze Pumpe in east Germany and the other at Lacq in the French Pyrenees.
Building bigger CCS plants is crucial if the technology is to become commercial – but it is expensive and risky, owing particularly to a lack of clear direction from governments.
In Britain, that direction began to emerge with energy and climate secretary Ed Miliband's recent announcement that no new coal power stations would be built in the UK unless they captured and stored at least a quarter of their greenhouse gases immediately and 100% of them by 2025.
Four "clusters" of CCS-enabled power stations on the east coast of Britain will eventually generate a total of 2.5GW, a marked change from previous policy in this area, which was to fund a single CCS demonstration plant through a competition.
"What we're beginning to see at long last from governments are the beginnings of an ongoing policy," said Chapman. "There's a sense among all the companies that CCS is absolutely inevitable. It's not a question of 'will it happen?', it's 'when does it happen?'"
The interest and commitment from government has been important in stoking up interest in industry. "Quite a lot of people have bought into the information stream on CCS," says Alistair Rennie, a project director at AMEC. "I think companies will convert their knowledge to actually doing work quite quickly when the financial incentives are in place."
Established engineering companies were the first to enter the CCS field. Those that already build complex power plants for electricity utility companies spotted the potential early and virtually all are working on one or more of the three basic approaches to the technology.
Alstom, Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Fluor and BASF have designs for post-combustion technology, where the CO2 is extracted from the exhaust gas of a standard coal station and then piped away to be buried. Alstom in particular leads the field with Schwarze Pumpe and Lacq both based on its technology.
Siemens, along with GE and Shell, also has advanced designs for a pre-combustion power plant where coal is gasified to produce hydrogen that can be burned to make electricity. During gasification, the CO2 produced can be easily separated and taken off for burial.
The third type of CCS is called oxyfuel, where the fuel is burned in an atmosphere of almost pure oxygen, producing an exhaust gas that is almost entirely CO2. Alstom and Doosan Babcock Energy are among the leaders in the proprietary boiler designs required for this method.
Mike Farley, director of technology policy at Doosan Babcock Energy, said the race was already on to scale up CCS activities. His company has about 65 people working in its R&D department at Renfrew but Farley says there are already plans to increase that to 200 and, if bids for large-scale demonstration projects across Europe, US and Australia are successful in the coming years, that figure could easily rise to 500.
Philippe Paelinck of Alstom said his company was already working on more than 10 demonstration CCS projects between 10-30MW. "The next step has already started with the funding announced at the EU level. That's for large-scale demonstrations and that's where we'll see the first pre-commercial deployment of the technology. We still think we will be ready with a commercial offering by 2015 provided we gain the necessary experience on the large-scale demonstration."
Perfecting capture technology is just the start of the global opportunity on CCS – as implementation ramps up and regulation of new power stations increases, Paelinck says many other industrial sectors will get involved. This includes gas suppliers such as BOC and Air Products to provide the oxygen for oxyfuel boilers; compressor and pipeline companies to transport CO2 and make it more manageable for storage; and geological consultancies such as Schlumberger that have, until now, been big players in the fossil fuels industry, in prospecting for suitable storage sites.
Though there is much basic scientific research on identifying the geological storage sites for CO2 and also industrial experience in transporting the gas in the UK, those most likely to take advantage of any CCS boom are the services industries.
Relatively small-scale start-ups such as Progressive Energy, a project developer that focuses on emerging technologies and is planning a 800MW CCS-enabled power plant at Teesside, are already starting to take advantage of the coming CCS opportunities.
"What we do and what a lot of these projects will be is bolting together existing equipment that works, so it's a process engineering job," says Peter Whitton, Progressive's managing director. Fortunately for British businesses, he says it is a "very exportable" skill – British companies are already receiving approaches from international partners.
But though the opportunity is clear, Whitton says it will not be plain sailing. "Three years ago we were ahead of the game but, sadly, we've marked time for three years and I think the US, with Barack Obama there, is going to be a major player and I'm not sure how we'll manage to compete with them. The UK is in a reasonably good position, but only if we get on and do it."

CCS: Energy firms seek opt-outs over 2025 carbon capture deadline

Power companies to ask the government not to force coal-fired plant closures in 2025 if carbon capture technology is not ready
Tim Webb
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 16.25 BST

Energy companies will lobby the government for a get-out clause from the deadline to fully fit carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to new coal plants by 2025 because they are worried it might not work in time.
Companies, including German-owned groups E.ON and RWE npower, want guarantees that they will not be forced to close their coal-fired plants in 2025 if the technology has not been proven by then.
They will call on energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, to draw up provisions which would allow them to keep the plants open until 2030, or for an additional number of operating hours. The utilities are warning that without firm guarantees, they will not invest in a new generation of cleaner coal plants which are crucial to keeping the lights on in Britain over the next decade.
Environmental groups warned Miliband against watering down his radical policy on coal power, which proposed far tougher measures to curb carbon emissions than many expected.
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said: "CCS technology is still fraught with uncertainties. If Miliband doesn't show the necessary leadership to completely rule out unabated coal, then all the evidence suggests that's what we'll get.
"Ed Miliband must stand firm against the big power companies lobbying for loopholes and get-out clauses."
Last month, Miliband announced that any new coal plant would have to have CCS technology fitted to about a quarter of the plant from the outset.
All new coal plants would be required to have the technology fully fitted within five years of it being proven.
Miliband said in a statement to the Commons: "We will plan on the basis that CCS will be technically and economically proven by 2020."
In public, energy companies welcomed Miliband's proposals. While they are confident the technology can be made to work, in private some harbour doubts about how feasible it is to fully fit by 2025 and are concerned that they will have to foot the bill if they cannot.
One executive said: "If you are going to spend billions of pounds building a new power station which could be online in 2015 – if you are only going to get 10 years out of it, it's not going to be worth it."
Companies are also warning that switching off up to 6GW of coal plants in 2025 – enough to power 6m homes – if CCS is unworkable by then, would threaten the UK's security of supply.
There is also disquiet within the ienergy ndustry about the role of the Environment Agency, headed by Lord Smith (the former Labour minister Chris Smith). Miliband said the agency would judge whether CCS technology was technically and commercially feasible.
Some companies believe the EA does not have the relevant expertise or business know-how to make that decision and would prefer a body, like energy regulator Ofgem, to act as an independent judge. One executive said: "Imagine a company saying to investors, "let's spend billions building a coal plant, but don't worry, the EA will tell us whether we can get a return on our investment or not".
When Miliband announced the proposals, he said he would "seek views on whether we need a safety net in the eventuality that it [CCS] does not become proven as quickly as we expect".
The consultation – where both environmental groups and energy companies will rigorously press their cases – will be launched in the next few weeks.
The requirement to fit carbon-capture technology does not cover existing coal plants which will remain open into the 2020s and beyond.
This includes Drax, the Yorkshire coal plant which provides about 7% of Britain's electricity and is the single biggest source of carbon emissions in Britain.

We must cut our emissions without cutting energy supply

Chief executive of Britain's single biggest source of electricity – and carbon – calls for safety net in energy policy
Dorothy Thompson, chief executive, Drax Group
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 17.46 BST

How Britain meets its ambitious carbon reduction targets while ensuring the lights do not go out is one of the biggest policy challenges for this government and the next. We do not want the credit crunch to be succeeded by an energy crunch, with equally destructive consequences for individuals and the economy.
For the near future, coal will play an important role in escaping an energy crunch, and now we have a better understanding of how the government plans to achieve this without compromising its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.
Drax is Britain's biggest carbon emitter because it is Britain's biggest single source of electricity, meeting about 7% of total demand. But it will not become a demonstration plant for carbon capture and storage (CCS).
This is not to say that we are not supportive of CCS, or indeed that this technology is not potentially the long-term solution to carbon emissions from fossil-fuel electricity generation. The reality is that CCS may not prove to be the answer we are all looking for and, even if it does, it remains a long way off. CCS is unlikely to make much contribution to the UK's target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020, and it will be expensive. A modern coal-fired station fitted with CCS today would need to generate 25% more electricity just to power the equipment that will remove the increased carbon it is emitting. Additional costs will be incurred in CO2 transportation and then its storage in the UK's offshore depleted gas fields.
So we need a safety net if CCS turns out not to be a panacea, and we need one that works now. If we, as a nation, are serious about abating carbon from coal and ensuring security of supply, then we need to do two things. First, look hard at what can be done today to cut emissions through strategies such as co-firing (burning renewable biomass alongside coal). Second, we need to raise generating capacity in this decade, as well as in decades to come.
That is why our focus, and our investment, is on the here and now, and why Drax has the most developed biomass strategy of any energy producer in this country. As with CCS, there are challenges. Having carried out trials with more than 60 types of biomass, we are confident that we can scale up to that level of output, and that we can get sufficient, sustainable supplies of raw material. But we also need to be sure the economics stack up.
The same, of course, applies to any low- or zero-carbon technology – be it CCS, wind, tidal power or nuclear. There is a trade-off between how much carbon we want to remove from the atmosphere, how much capacity we want to retain to safeguard security of supply, and how much we are prepared to pay to achieve those two goals.
A sustainable energy policy has to marry the short-term imperative of keeping the lights on with the long-term objective of achieving our climate change targets. No one will thank us if, in planning for the future, we neglect the present.

Europe's largest software company cashes in on greening of global business

SAP snaps up US start-up that helps firms reduce carbon footprint

Richard Wray
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 19.14 BST

SAP, Europe's largest software company, is looking to capitalise on the "greening" of global business by snapping up a US start-up that enables companies to measure their carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The German company's acquisition of Clear Standards, which only started selling its software a few months ago, comes as regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for companies to monitor their environmental impact more closely.
SAP, which counts some of the biggest names in business among users of its enterprise software, reckons its 86,000 global customers are responsible for about five gigatonnes – or 5m tonnes – of the estimated global human greenhouse gas footprint of 30Gt a year.
"Our customers, combined, have a carbon footprint that is about one-sixth of the world's total man-made carbon emissions," explained Peter Graf, SAP's chief sustainability officer and executive vice president of sustainability solutions. "That shows you what an incredible lever SAP holds. Even if we can only improve the emissions of our customers by a percentage or two... we can have a huge impact."
Privately-owned Clear Standards, which only employs 30 people, has developed software that allows companies to measure their environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and waste.
Some of its customers – such as Coca-Cola, solar energy group Sunpower and Starwood Hotels – are concerned about their brand image and use the software to improve their environmental record, while others are increasingly having to measure their impact because of tightening regulation.
Many businesses in Europe, such as those involved in heavy industry or power generation, already have to track their impact because they fall under the EU's emissions trading rules. In the US, meanwhile, companies in the utility, oil and gas and some manufacturing sectors will be mandated to measure and report their carbon footprint from January next year.
"We have been amazed by the activity of major corporations who are very eager to have a product that works and allows them to measure their energy," said Clear Standards' chairman and chief executive Betsy Atkins. "We have an enormous amount of expertise in how you measure all of your energy, how that computes to a carbon footprint, and how you can be more efficient and save money by finding energy wastage as well as use more sustainable types of energy such as solar."
As well as improving SAP's green image, the acquisition of Clear Standards gives it a foothold in a potentially highly lucrative market. Independent IT expert AMR Research estimates that the US market for measurement and reporting of carbon footprints is worth about $3.6bn and growing at 30% a year.
The price tag for Clear Standards, which is backed by American venture capitalists Kinetic Ventures and Novak Biddle Venture Partners, was not revealed.

Regeneration report calls for improvements

By Edwin Heathcote, Architecture Critic
Published: May 12 2009 01:20

All new public projects including housing, schools, and hospitals will be subject to new design standards, the government will say on Tuesday as it publishes the first big report on urban regeneration in a decade.
Ten years after Richard Rogers launched his report, Towards an Urban Renaissance, Hazel Blears, communities secretary, and Andy Burnham, culture secretary will publish new objectives to improve the public realm.
The report will also try to impose similar quality demands on the private sector and involve the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the government’s architecture watchdog, in the process.
There have been improvements in the quality of public space in the UK but the report stresses that it remains inadequate in socially deprived areas.
Poor public space can lead to crime, fear and social and economic exclusion. The old, poor, children and disabled are particularly at the mercy of ill-considered public space.
Ms Blears told the Financial Times on Monday: “Badly designed housing estates and low-quality neighbourhoods encourage crime, undermine communities, deter investment, spoil the environment and cost a fortune in the long-term.”
The report begins to acknowledge some big problems in the nation’s built environment. Decades of planning for traffic first and pedestrians second will take many years to redress. The penchant of the big housebuilders for closes and cul-de-sacs arranged in dormitory suburbs accessible only by car has led to low density, unsustainable development in which walkability is barely an option while the new wave of private finance initiative hospitals has not properly engaged with public space, invariably offering only a bleak car park facing the town.
However, there are also deep concerns that the report may struggle to confront. Chief among these is the decline in the country’s high streets. Fuelled by the domination of national chain stores and the decline of traditional social hubs including pubs and post offices, public space and space for social engagement face the harshest challenge for centuries.
The report also addresses climate change with an increased emphasis on green spaces and green roofs, using the urban fabric to soak up CO2. It remains to be seen whether the mooted improvements will address some thornier issues: the increasing predominance of surveillance in what is now the world capital of closed-circuit television; and the blurring of public and private space in new commercial developments as malls and streets become closer in nature and ownership.
The guidelines urge councils and developers to put good planning, local character and high-quality design at the heart of new development.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

GE, New York Plan Green Project

General Electric Co. and New York Governor David Paterson plan an announcement Tuesday morning related to green jobs and GE's transportation business.
Gov. Paterson and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt will make the announcement from GE's main research lab in Niskayuna, N.Y., near Albany. GE describes the move as "a major economic development project" for upstate New York.
GE has cut its workforce by nearly 9% this year to 300,000 globally from 330,000. Its research and development budget is flat for 2009 compared to 2008. But GE has been redirecting some spending into potential growth areas such as health care.
Write to Paul Glader at paul.glader@wsj.com

EDF sells 20% of British Energy to Centrica

By Peggy Hollinger in Paris and Ed Crooks in London
Published: May 10 2009 19:36

EDF on Monday announced the sale of a 20 per cent stake in British Energy to Centrica of the UK, in a deal that would value the French group’s recently acquired nuclear operator at close to 6 per cent less than the £12.4bn it paid last year.
Centrica will pay £2.3bn ($3bn) for a smaller stake in British Energy than expected. It had agreed to take a stake of up to 25 per cent, but came under fire from some shareholders concerned that it could be over-paying.

Electricity prices have plunged since last summer, hitting British Energy’s profits.
The UK gas group will pay about half in cash. The balance will be accounted for with the transfer of Centrica’s 51 per cent stake in SPE, Belgium’s second-largest power producer, to EDF.
Centrica and EDF had been struggling to conclude a deal for several months amid strong disagreements over valuation.
Last summer the two sides announced a non-binding agreement whereby Centrica would buy 25 per cent of British Energy for £3.1bn, putting the same valuation on British Energy as was paid by EDF.
But the sharp fall in energy prices since then has called into doubt future earnings for British Energy and raised doubts among Centrica shareholders about the wisdom of a deal at that price.
Neil Woodford, head of investment at Invesco Perpetual, which is a significant investor in both Centrica and British Energy, said on Monday: “Centrica has negotiated a good price for the deal package which will create a more vertically integrated and more balanced business in an environment of volatile international energy prices.”
Sam Laidlaw, Centrica’s chief executive, said the deal with EDF had been agreed on “very different terms” from the memorandum of understanding signed last summer.
Centrica is paying only £1.1bn of the price in cash, leaving it with sufficient financial firepower for other deals, including a possible bid for Venture Production, the North Sea oil and gas producer in which it has a 23.6 per cent stake. The group last year raised raised £2.2bn in a rights issue, and buying Venture would cost it about £1.3bn.
Centrica was intent on pursuing the British Energy deal as part of its strategy of increasing its electricity and gas production to reduce its exposure to prices in wholesale energy markets.
The deal marks Centrica's debut in the nuclear market, to offset stagnant demand and falling gas production at home. It takes the proportion of the company’s gas and electricity needs that it produces itself from 35 to 45 per cent.
Mr Laidlaw said his target was to increase it further to 50-55 per cent, in line with Centrica’s competitors, although that could also include long-term gas contracts.
Some investors were supportive of that strategy, but concerned that Centrica did not pay too much to pursue it.
The final price agreed with EDF should ease those fears. The notional valuation of £2.3bn represents a 6 per cent discount to the price paid by EDF, according to Centrica.
However, that is made up of just £1.1bn in cash and a £1.2bn value put on Centrica’s 51 per cent stake in SPE. That valuation represents a multiple of 14 times the Belgian utility’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – well above those paid in similar deals in the sector. Centrica paid just €585m for 25.5 per cent of SPE last summer, when energy prices were at their peak.
Shares in Centrica gained 5.8 per cent to 240¾p in afternoon London trading, while in Paris EDF was 5.7 per cent lower at €34.37.
EDF is coming under strong pressure to cut its debt, already close to record highs after buying British Energy and 50 per cent of the nuclear assets of its US partner Constellation Energy for $4.5bn.
The group faces a substantial investment programme both in France and abroad. The costs of its new generation EPR reactor has skyrocketed and the nuclear revival has opened markets more quickly than expected.
EDF had said it would not accept less than what it paid for British Energy at 765p a share.
But the deal puts a value of just over 700p a share on British Energy, including a £1.2bn valuation for the SPE stake, which does not appear to have been affected by falling energy prices.
The lower-than-expected price will raise pressure on EDF to accelerate disposals to cut debt, which is set this year to increase significantly beyond last year’s €25bn ($33.5bn).
EDF has said it will sell about €5bn of assets to reduce borrowing and, as reported in the Financial Times last week, is considering whether to pull out of the regulated distribution business in Britain.
Centrica said in a trading statement on Monday that it expected post-tax profits for 2009 to be higher than in 2008, although it reported a sharp drop in production from its gas fields.
It welcomed the British government’s plans to compel energy suppliers to fit every household in the country with a “smart meter”, an intelligent device that monitors electricity and gas use minute by minute, and can send and receive information.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009