How to build sustainable cities

How to build sustainable cities

Construction Kenya’s INSIGHTS advises as to how to build sustainable cities for the good of all. Still, in an era of rapid urbanisation, we witness increasing demand for additional housing, infrastructure, transport and green spaces. We can only agree on how all around the world thinkers can help tackle these challenges.

How to build sustainable cities

More than 66% of humanity projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

By Jane Mwangasha

In the next thirty years, more than two thirds of humanity is projected to live in urban areas with most of the urban population growth expected to happen in lower income nations.

With that in mind, there is an urgent need for planners to ensure that urban areas are inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient enough to meet the anticipated population growth.

But what makes a city liveable? While there is no single magical bullet, cities can make themselves more habitable by adopting a range of social and technological measures.

Here are 10 ways to build more sustainable cities:

1. Clean energy

Although most cities can generate clean energy, their high level of power consumption means the metropolises are unlikely to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production. 

However, cities can lower their carbon footprints by, among other things, converting sunshine into electricity; using timber from local forests to produce low-carbon energy for heating and electricity generation; and using solar to heat buildings and water.

Converting waste into energy is also a great step towards improving a city. The Indonesian city of Sodong, for example, has implemented an air-filled waste disposal system that uses pipes to suck trash from homes into processing centres that automatically sort the material to recycle and turn it into renewable energy.

London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, uses “springy” tiles to harness the kinetic energy in foot traffic and convert it into electricity.

Such innovations can help cities to become more sustainable.

2. Efficient buildings

Buildings consume most of a city’s energy intake while emitting large quantities of carbon. Cities should encourage the design and construction of efficient buildings – which are often more cost-effective and functional compared to installation of costly devices for clean energy production.

Creating efficient buildings involves the insulation of walls, windows, and roofs, and operating energy-efficient lighting and heating systems.

Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great example of energy efficient building. The ultra-low energy house is so highly insulated that it requires no heating or cooling.

Singapore and New York have shown the world how small initiatives such as painting roofs white and planting trees can reduce city temperatures by up to 2°C – thereby cutting a city’s energy consumption.

In Scandinavian and eastern European countries, hot water for heating is distributed to buildings through insulated pipes underneath the streets. The water is heated using energy generated from extremely efficient power stations that generate both heat and electricity.

3. Efficient transportation

While vehicles, trains and aeroplanes facilitate the smooth running of a city, the transport systems can cause traffic congestion, poor air quality and gas emissions. 

To minimise the number of cars on the road, some cities have formulated ideas that can be adopted in other parts of the world.

The Scottish city of Edinburgh, for example, has developed one of the largest car-sharing clubs in the UK, which allows members to use cars only when they need to.

Singapore and London have designed high-quality bus and underground rail systems, as well as low-emission areas where only electric vehicles are permitted.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, cycle commuting is highly encouraged with cyclists given priority at traffic lights throughout the city.

4. Urban agriculture

The food we eat comes with a carbon footprint, which is worse if the produce travels hundreds of miles to reach us. It is therefore a great idea to encourage urban farming to ensure local sourcing of foodstuffs.

Urban farmers such as US-based Aero Farms are already embracing vertical farming solutions to produce food in cities. Vertical farming produces crops on stacked layers, often on skyscrapers, instead of on a single layer in either an open field or a greenhouse.

Advances in lighting and automation, as well as other factors such as reduced use of pesticides, enable vertical farmers to make higher profits than traditional farmers.

5. Sharing spaces

City residents around the world are reducing the carbon footprint of consumption through sharing of resources. It is increasingly common to find inhabitants engaging in carpooling, lodging rental and shared ownership of facilities such as gyms and lounges.

6. Design for social integration

Once considered the world’s most dangerous city, Colombian city of Medellin has transformed itself by focusing on architecture and design.

The city has adopted the use of shared spaces and improved public transport to blur economic boundaries and create a sense of connection among its residents.

7. Mobility on demand

Smartphone-assisted traffic management and car routing can reduce time and fuel wasted trying to navigate through congested cities.

Likewise, self-driving vehicles and carpooling can increase efficiency by maximising use of vehicles and reducing the need for space to park idle cars.

8. Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions to urban problems can help cities to tackle climate change while reducing disaster risks.

New York City’s greened rooftops and streets that can better manage storm water runoff and improve urban climate are a great example of natured-based solutions.

Another great example is China’s introduction of the concept of ‘sponge cities’, cities with open spaces that can soak up floodwater and prevent disaster in ecologically friendly ways.

9. Pocket parks

In densely populated cities such as San Francisco, local authorities have put in place small green spaces that help to increase green cover while providing recreation space to residents.

Most pocket parks re-use spaces that previously served other purposes — for example, rehabilitated street parking spaces or a public right-of-way that was earlier used for transportation.

10. Pervious concrete

Pervious concrete is a mixture of cement, coarse aggregate, water and admixture, with little or no fine aggregates. It is designed to allow water to penetrate the asphalt for absorption by the earth. This can help cities to tackle flash floods and worsening quality of water in river courses and so on.

Hailed as one of the most promising sustainable material today, pervious concrete has outstanding potential to counteract these adverse impacts while providing necessary structural integrity, thus supporting continued urbanization.

Saudi Arabia says focus on renewable energy will save them $200 billion

Saudi Arabia says focus on renewable energy will save them $200 billion

Industry Leaders published a point of view narrated by Anna Domanska that Saudi Arabia says focus on renewable energy will save them $200 billion. Do you believe it?

Saudi Arabia says focus on renewable energy will save them $200 billion

Saudi Arabia, which is actively looking to expand its economy beyond its dependence on fossil fuels, believes it can save over $200 billion over the next decade by replacing liquid fuel used for domestic consumption with gas and renewable energy sources, according to its finance minister.

The top oil exporter is modernizing its economy and create new jobs for its citizenry by venturing into new modern industries beyond oil. Hit by the volatile oil prices and the economic downturn due to the pandemic, the desert kingdom has ventured into a multi-trillion-dollar spending push led by state oil company Aramco and the powerful $400 billion sovereign fund, Public Investment Fund.

“One initiative we’re about to finalize is the displacement of liquids,” said Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan. “This program would represent savings for the government of about 800 billion riyals ($213.34 billion) over the next 10 years which can be utilized for investment.”

Earlier this month, the government signed seven new solar power purchase agreements to optimize the energy mix used for electricity production. “Instead of buying fuel from the international markets at $60 and then selling it at $6 for Saudi utilities, or using some of our quota in OPEC to sell at $6, we’re going to actually displace at least 1 million barrels a day of oil equivalent in the next 10 years and replace it with gas and renewables,” said Jadaan.

“Between now and 2025, and possibly until 2030, fiscal sustainability is a priority for us. We believe that until we achieve all the targets that Vision 2030 has set, we need to maintain fiscal sustainability and control government expenditure,” said Jadaan.

The whole shift in outlook in Saudi Arabia is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, envisaged as a mega plan to wean the economy off oil and invest in other industries such as infrastructure and technology, all with private participation and create jobs for the people.

The Kingdom is facing unprecedented unemployment, with figures running up to 15 percent last year. It has been pushed down to 12.3 percent this year. The aim is to bring it down to 7 percent by 2030. ”We are maintaining our unemployment target for 2030 but because we are not out of the woods yet it is very difficult to say what the unemployment rate is going to be for 2021,” said Jadaan.

“Our aim is to reduce the number so we will end up the year below where we ended up in 2019, pre-COVID, but I can’t tell you this is going to happen for certain.”

The Vision 2030 launch has seen renewed interest in the country from foreign investors. Foreign investment in Saudi Arabia passed the SR2 trillion ($0.53 trillion) mark for the first time at the end of 2020, despite the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total value of investments from overseas rose 9 percent year-on-year, or SR173.3 billion, in 2020, from SR1.833 trillion at the end of 2019, according to the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

According to an analyst, the increase in capital flowing into the country was due to an improvement in the investment environment and some relaxation in investment laws in the Kingdom.

Anna Domanska is an Industry Leaders Magazine author possessing a wide range of knowledge for Business News. She is an avid reader and writer of Business and CEO Magazines and a rigorous follower of Business Leaders.

What to Consider When Comparing Energy Prices?

What to Consider When Comparing Energy Prices?

This is a good question that one should ask oneself before making any switch.  Needless to say, when comparing energy prices, the lower you can get your energy costs, the better. But is there anything else that consumers need to consider? What to consider when comparing Energy prices? 

Many in the MENA region, and all over the world, are looking for ways to save money on their energy bills. Indeed, many readers may have already invested in the means to develop their own clean energy to reduce their reliance on energy from the grid. But even if you’ve invested in solar panels or domestic wind turbines, you can still make substantial savings by switching energy suppliers regularly.

Here, we’ll look at some of the things you should keep in mind when comparing energy prices.

How often should I compare energy prices?

The good folks at Switch-Plan know a thing or two about helping consumers to compare energy prices. They help energy consumers in the UK and throughout Europe to save a small fortune on their energy bills every year. The Switch-Plan team recommends comparing energy prices and getting a new tariff every 12-18 months. This ensures that you get great value for money, while also helping to keep the energy market competitive.

Of course, when comparing energy prices, the cheaper a plan you can get, the better. But be wary of false economies.

As well as keeping an eye out for low prices, you should also consider…

How renewable is your energy?

Many eco-conscious energy consumers today prefer to get their energy from 100% renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydropower. The good news is that these green energy plans are often just as cheap (or cheaper) than plans that use fossil fuels. There are even energy tariffs that use 100% carbon-neutral gas. This may be carbon-offset or sourced from farm or animal waste (biomethane).

How flexible is your contract?

There are lots of different types of energy plans. Broadly speaking, however, they fall into two categories: fixed-rate and variable. Fixed-rate energy plans keep your energy spending rates locked in for a fixed period (usually 12-24 months). Variable-rate plans rise and fall along with the wholesale cost of energy. So your bills could go up or down at any time (although your supplier will need to provide at least 30 days’ notice).

It’s up to you to decide whether you value predictability or flexibility more.

How good is your prospective supplier’s customer service?

We all want great energy prices. But they can be poor compensation if we have to deal with substandard customer service. Make sure that you use relevant local resources to see how energy suppliers measure up in terms of their customer service. There’s more to a supplier than low prices. Make sure the lived experiences of real customers match the bold claims made on the supplier’s website!

Will you be charged a fee if you switch?

Finally, most (but not all) fixed-term energy contracts require customers to pay an early exit fee if they switch suppliers before their contract has ended. This may be offset by the savings you make from switching. However, it’s a good idea to check for early exit fees so that you can make a better-informed decision.

Solar, wind power to drive renewable energy growth this year

Solar, wind power to drive renewable energy growth this year

SUNBIZ informs that solar, wind power to drive renewable energy growth this year, as everyone the world over is finding out. The highly spoken of Energy Transition is happening before our very eyes. The highly expressed Energy Transition is happening before our very eyes, and this story is an illustration of it happening.

PETALING JAYA: Renewable installations in solar, wind and storage facilities are set to rise by 40% year on year to another record 190GW globally this year, accelerating from a 30% on-year expansion in 2020 despite project delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, predominantly driven by solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions, followed by offshore wind installations, according to Rystad Energy’s “Renewable Energy Trends” presentation.

In a note, AmInvestment Bank Research (AmResearch) said Asia is expected to be the main driver of renewable capacity increase with an addition of 80GW this year, followed by the United States at 55GW and Europe at 25GW. Asia, represented by China, will account for the largest cumulative renewable capacity of 630MW in 2021, twice Europe’s 320MW and 2.3 times North America’s 280MW.

Zooming in on the local scene, the research house pointed out that the shift towards renewable energy (RE) in Malaysia has been in progress over the past three years with Petronas’ investment in AmPlus, which operates over 600MW of solar capacity in India and Southeast Asia.

“Amongst local service providers, only Yinson has an operational RE division from its US$30 million investment for a 95% equity stake in Rising Son Energy, which has a 140MW solar farm in Bhadla Solar Park Phase II, Rajasthan, India. Yinson also recently signed an agreement with listed NTPC to develop a 190MW plant in nearby nearby Nokh Solar Park.

“As Uzma has just secured a 50MW solar project which will only be operational by end-2023, we expect the momentum to gather steam for renewable projects by local O&G providers as gearing concerns are being alleviated by an improving oil price environment,” it said.

Overall, AmResearch still holds an “overweight” call on the oil & gas sector, recommending Yinson for its strong earnings growth momentum from the full-year contributions of FPSO vessels Helang, off Sarawak, Abigail-Joseph in Nigeria and Anna Nery in Brazil, together with multiple charter opportunities in Brazil and Africa.

“We also like Dialog Group and Serba Dinamik Holdings due to their resilient non-cyclical tank terminal and maintenance-based operations.

“Our other ‘buy’ calls are Sapura Energy, which will complete its RM10 billion debt restructuring package soon and position the formidable EPCIC group to secure fresh global orders; and Petronas Gas, which offers highly compelling dividend yields from its optimal capital structure strategy and resilient earnings base.”

Meanwhile, AmResearch noted that the tariffs of power purchase agreements (PPA) for PV facilities are projected to drop in Asia Pacific (Apac), Middle East North Africa, Americas and Europe due to open bidding competition, falling material prices, increasing project sizes and economies of scale.

Apac’s solar PPA prices, currently above US$50/MWh, are the highest globally, compared with below US$50/MWh and US$30/MWh in Europe and Americas respectively. Over the longer term, Apac’s tariffs may be squeezed due to rising competition amid rising interest in India’s multiple plants.

However, the PPA prices for Apac wind utilities, currently below US$50/MWh, are expected to rise to US$75/MWh in 2022, driven by the extension of Vietnam’s feed-in tariff mechanism to 2023. Additionally, utility wind capex has remained steady over the past three years at US$1.5/W in 2020.

Together with the growth in renewable energy, global utility scale battery operations are expected to expand in tandem given the periods of unavailability in solar and wind electricity generation.

For 2021, global utility scale battery installations are projected to double to 12.5GW, then grow by 60% to 20GW in 2022 and 50% to 30GW in 2023.

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Despite the high oil revenues reaped from hydrocarbon resources and their spillover effects on all oil and non-oil producing countries, most MENA region economies suffer from structural problems and fragile political systems, preventing them from adopting effective politico-economic transformations.

The capital was available, but investments were typically misdirected to form in all cases ‘rentier’ economies, with Arab countries economies remaining very undiversified.  They primarily rely on oil and low value-added commodity products such as cement, alumina, fertilisers, and phosphates. 

Demographic transitions present a significant challenge: the population increased from 100 million in 1960 to about 400 million in 2011.  Sixty per cent are under 25 years old.

Urbanisation had increased from 38 per cent in 1970 to 65 per cent in 2010.

Rural development being not a priority; the increasing rural migration into the cities searching for jobs will put even more strain on all existing undeveloped infrastructures. 

Current economic development patterns will increasingly strain the ability of Arab governments to provide decent-paying jobs.  For instance, youth unemployment in the region is currently double the world average.

The demand for food, water, housing, education, transportation, electricity, and other municipal services will rise with higher learning institutions proliferating; the quality of education below average does not lead to employment. 

Power demand in Saudi Arabia, for example, is rising at a fast rate of over 7 per cent per year.

Amman, Cairo, and other Arab cities gradually lose their agriculture space because of the suburbs’ expansion.  Gated communities and high-rise office buildings are sprawling while ignoring low-income housing. 

In the meantime, the real world feels the planet is in danger of an environmental collapse; economists increasingly advise putting the planet on its balance sheets. For over a Century of Burning Fossil Fuels, to propel our cars, power our businesses, and keep the lights on in our homes, we never envisioned that we will paying this price.

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

In effect, a recent economic report on biodiversity indicates that economic practice will have to change because the world is finite.

For decades many have been aware of this reality. However, it is a giant leap forward for current economic thinking to acknowledge that Climate change is a symptom of a larger issue. The threat to life support systems from the plunder and demise of the natural environment is a reality.

Society, some governments, and industry are recognising that climate change can be controlled by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, electric cars and reducing emissions from every means of production.

Talking about replacing fossil fuels would mean a potential reduction of the abovementioned revenues.

However, would the spreading of solar farms all over the Sahara desert constitute compensation for the losses?

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