Top Stories

February 02, 2017


Tesla gives the California power grid a battery boost

Just off a freeway in Southern California, 396 refrigerator-size stacks of Tesla batteries are to suck up electricity from the grid during the day and feed it back into the system as needed. The installation, capable of powering roughly 15,000 homes over four hours, is part of an emergency response to projected energy shortages stemming from a huge leak at a natural gas storage facility. It’s an indication of how rapidly Tesla is moving to transform itself from a maker of luxury electric cars into a multifaceted clean-energy company. Given the cost of land and the air quality requirements, Mr. Nichols of Southern California Edison said, building natural gas plants can be expensive. Batteries are more flexible and do not require the same infrastructure as conventional generators, avoiding the need for long environmental reviews and permitting processes. As a result, energy analysts say, battery installations are likely to become more common, whether to vary the number of power supply options to enhance reliability or as part of a move away from fossil fuels to meet climate and other environmental goals. (The New York Times)


UK businesses to accelerate bioenergy opportunities through EU grant

The £1.37m three-year programme developed by the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University will help participants to maximise new technical and commercial opportunities from various innovative low-carbon sources. EBRI will run a series of workshops and seminars across the Midlands to provide businesses with specialist expertise about advanced thermal technologies and biological conversion processes.  Aston University vice chancellor professor Alec Cameron said: “We can help businesses take advantage of our expertise on how, for instance, to turn waste products into energy, to produce new high-value materials from waste which can then be commericialised, as well as to manage their own energy use and generation better.” Aston’s energy, environment and sustainability manager Andrew Bryers said that this had iginited a behavioural shift in how both staff and students view ‘sustainability’. This was highlighted at the launch of Aston University’s Carbon Week, attracting around 2,000 second-year students. (Edie)

Responsible Investment

Leading asset owners sign long-term stewardship agreement

A group including some of the largest US-based asset owners and manager have established a common agenda of standards of stewardship and corporate governance for institutional investors and boardroom conduct. Its main goal is to promote long-term value creation for US companies and the broader US economy. The group of the framework’s founding members, called The Investor Stewardship Group, comprises some of the largest institutional investors and asset managers. Among its founding members we can find companies such as: CalSTRS, GIC Private Limited and Washington State Investment Board. BlackRock and Legal and General Investment Management have also endorsed the framework. As director of corporate governance at CalSTRS, Anne Sheehan points out: “The Investor Stewardship Group’s goal is to codify the fundamentals of good corporate governance and establish baseline expectations for US corporations and their institutional shareholders.” (Modern Investor)

Supply Chain

Supply Chain Slavery Index identifies high-risk countries in fashion Supply Chains

Despite the best efforts of companies such as Kering and H&M, who have widely publicised their commitments to sustainability,  the fashion industry is still plagued by environmental and ethical issues due to long and complex supply chains. However, the recently released BSI Group’s Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index offer a new way for businesses and organizations to identify and address human rights abuses in their supply chains. BSI’s Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index shines a critical light for business, government, and civil society to understand the risk associated with the movement and exploitation of people between 191 source countries and 193 destination countries. Russia, Slovakia, India and Pakistan have been identified as ‘severe risk’ source countries of ‘modern day slaves’ to the UK. Of the G7 nations, Italy, Greece and Turkey are additionally categorized as ‘high risk’ countries. The Index, empowers organizations to focus their efforts on identifying and assessing ‘at risk’ suppliers and to manage the risks proactively”: said Chris McCann, principal consultant, Supply Chain Services and Solutions at BSI. (Sustainable Brands)


M&S and Unilever promise plastic redesign to cut waste

According to a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “Without fundamental redesign, about 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled.” And that means ever more plastic into landfill, and into our oceans. “By 2050 our oceans could contain more plastics than fish, by weight,” says Rob Opsomer, lead of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new plastics economy initiative. Consumer goods giant Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Magnum and Surf, has pledged to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. At present the company estimates that 70% of its plastic packaging is recyclable. Until now, Unilever has focused on so-called lightweighting, or reducing the overall amount of plastic used in specific pieces of packaging. By inserting a foamed layer into Dove body wash bottles, for example, it claims to have cut plastic content by 15%. UK supermarket M&S, like other retailers, uses a lot of plastic packaging. But it now says it plans to develop one recyclable, plastic polymer for use across all its plastic packaging. (Guardian)

Image source: Electric Tesla Eco Battery Supercharger at Max Pixel CC0 Public Domain. Free for commercial use.