Renewable Energy Policy can Save the EU

Originally published at JohnBrianShannon.com by John Brian Shannon

An accelerated switch to renewable energy is the path to EU jobs and prosperity

Europe is on shaky ground. There is even talk in some quarters that the euro, and consequently the EU, may not last a year.

Critics of the European Union are predicting that continued austerity measures, the elections in Greece, petroleum price instability, and Russian moves in Ukraine will conspire to topple the European Union.

Of course, this is a subject of ongoing debate. EU backers say that the present economic morass will end and that the UK and other European nations will join as full European Union members in the coming months, resulting in a unified and complementary union ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Success Stories Throughout History

Throughout history, various leaders have ‘risen to the occasion’ to provide visionary leadership — seemingly ‘rising out of nowhere’ to inspire great love among the public for a cause, and on account of their great vision and leadership impossible feats occurred on their watch due to the combined willpower of millions of thereby-inspired people.

People are individuals, and no matter how many individuals there are in a country or in a larger economic union like the EU, at the end of the day every one of them are individuals living inside a larger society. Therefore, leaders must appeal to those things important to their citizens.

In Life; All a person really needs, is a person (or something) to love. If you can’t give them that, give them hope. If you can’t give them that, at least give them something to do.

Leaders who can inspire love for the country through their vision and charisma, have the effect of giving each individual in the country something to love. Or at the very least, give them hope.

Where would the United States have been without FDR?

The New Deal was a series of domestic programs enacted in the United States mainly between 1933 and 1938. They included laws passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders during the first term (1933–37) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The programs were in response to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the “3 Rs”: Relief, Recovery, and Reform.

That is Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. — Wikipedia

The success of the New Deal is beyond dispute. Without it, the United States would not be half the country that it is today.

Where would Great Britain have been without Winston S. Churchill?

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill), and an artist. Churchill is the only British Prime Minister to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since its inception in 1901, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. — Wikipedia

In between lecturing Hitler and Mussolini via his weekly radio broadcast, Winston Churchill painted a realistic picture of Great Britain for his citizens, and painted another realistic picture for them what life would be like under occupation.

Rather than be cowed by a more powerful aggressor, Churchill inspired his people to valour and sacrifice. And they responded powerfully.

What would our 21st century world have become had Mohandas K. Gandhi not perfected the art of non-violent protest?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Indians widely describe Gandhi as the father of the nation.

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India.

Gandhi attempted to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. Gandhi’s vision of a free India was based on religious pluralism.

His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence. — Wikipedia

Imagine if every protest movement since 1947 hadn’t been influenced by Gandhi. Almost certainly, the anti-Viet Nam protests and the civil rights movement in 1960’s America would have led to civil war.

Due to Gandhi’s example, individuals who were part of the anti-war movement or the civil rights movement protested — peacefully for the most part — and to great effect.

John F. Kennedy’s decision to not be cowed by the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev, led eventually, to the end of the Soviet Union

Had JFK not stood up to Soviet adventurism in Cuba and South America, the geopolitical world would have evolved very differently The USSR would have, in short order, controlled the Western democracies completely.

By utilizing the economic advantage, by ordering a Moon shot, and by not backing down against the communists in Viet Nam, JFK neatly avoided playing the Soviet gameplan — and instead played a gameplan that favoured the strengths of the democratic West.

All of these visionaries gave citizens reason to — love their country, to hope for a better future, to employ their good will and energies — towards solving the almost unsolvable problems of their time. (Love, Hope, Do)

Without that overarching vision promised by their political leaders, without that hope in their hearts, and without some means to express their goodwill and energy, citizens wouldn’t have united in large numbers to solve the near-insurmountable challenges of their time.

Now is the time for visionary EU renewable energy leadership

The case for the EU to adopt a ‘50% renewable energy by 2020’ portfolio and make it an ‘air quality and jobs mission’ for citizens and governments alike:

The vast majority of Europeans want a renewable energy future.

They know that the technological hurdles have been overcome, they know that many Pacific Ocean island nation-states and Indian Ocean islands now run on 100% renewable energy, they know that Norway is powered by 100% renewable energy and that Iceland has surpassed 76% renewable energy use.

They know that Sweden gets 51% of its energy from renewable energy, and that Latvia, Finland, Austria, and Denmark aren’t far behind. They see Estonia, Portugal, and Romania getting more than 25% of their electricity from renewable energy and they see Germany’s Energiewende setting stellar records for renewable energy output every month.

Other nations in Europe have surprisingly advanced renewable energy programs and some EU nations will surpass their renewable energy target before 2020.

Renewable Energy provides massive employment opportunities

And it is becoming apparent that when compared to the fossil fuel industry, the renewable energy industry provides thousands more jobs per million people. Always handy that, a job to go to.

Energy Price Parity and Subsidy Regimes

Not only has some renewable energy approached price parity with conventional energy, in some cases it has surpassed it. Especially when the massive global fossil fuel subsidies that topped $600 billion in 2014 ($550 billion in 2013) are factored in.

Meanwhile, global renewable energy subsidies barely hit $100 billion in 2014, the majority share of it spent in China.

Worried about fossil fuel subsidies? That’s nothing compared to fossil fuel externalities

Fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion (globally) are one thing. But it now appears that the economic totality of fossil fuel cost to healthcare systems, to livestock health, the agriculture sector, the global climate, regional climate (local drought or flooding) and damage to outdoor concrete and metal structures may now exceed $2 trillion dollars per year.

China reports 410,000 premature deaths per year are due to air pollution. The U.S. admits to 200,000 premature deaths by air pollution and as many as 400,000 premature deaths per year occur in Europe due to our overuse of fossil fuels.

If you add the global rising fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion to the global externality cost of fossil fuels, it equals approximately $2.6 trillion (globally).

How much renewable energy can we get for $2.6 trillion dollars, please?

It’s not that fossil fuels are intrinsically bad, or evil. It’s not that the people who run those companies are bad, or evil. It’s not the shareholder’s fault either.

It’s just that too many of us are using fossil fuel.

And nobody is forcing us to buy it. If there are reasonable alternatives to fossil fuel overuse, then citizens are making a conscious decision to pollute the air, rather than choose those alternative forms of energy.

But if no alternative exists for citizens to purchase (and yet consumer demand is there) that is primarily the fault of policymakers.

The solution to the fossil fuel subsidy and externality problem in the EU? Renewable energy

With the right vision and the right leadership, getting the EU to a 50% renewable energy minimum standard by 2020 is eminently possible.

There are no technological hurdles that haven’t been solved.

There simply exists no public outcry against renewable energy power plants.

Grid parity (with low subsidy) is now the norm — even against massively subsidized fossil fuel and nuclear power.

And several countries around the world already run on 100% renewable energy. One of them is in Europe. (Norway) So it can be done.

It’s not about; How much will switching to renewable energy cost us?

It’s now about; How much will renewable energy save us?

Each one euro spent on renewable energy installations (actual installations, not more endless research) could save two euros of fossil fuel subsidy and three euros of fossil fuel externality cost — although there is a time lag involved before healthcare systems, ranchers, farmers, and owners of infrastructure see declining costs.

Following the 1/2/3 fossil fuel subsidy and externality equation, we see that if the EU suddenly installed 10 billion euros worth of wind turbines and solar panels (displacing the equivalent amount of fossil electrical generation) the EU would save 20 billion euros of subsidy, and would over 25 years, save 30 billion euros in heathcare costs, costs to livestock health and agriculture, and outdoor concrete and metal infrastructure repair costs.

Spending 10 billion to save 50 billion — for a net save of 40 billion euros over 25 years. Not bad.

Spending 100 billion euros to save 500 billion — for a net save of 400 billion over 25 years, that works too.

So, denizens of Europe, how much fossil fuel electrical power production would you like to replace with renewable energy?

The EU should move to a 50% renewable energy portfolio by 2020 and make it a priority ‘mission’ for citizens and governments alike. An energy ‘New Deal’ for EU citizens

In order to plan for a clean EU energy future, we need to look at where the European Union is today and make a responsible plan, one that displaces fossil fuel electrical power production without placing undue economic hardship on existing electrical power producers.

A ‘can-do’ attitude that doesn’t ignore the many positives associated with an EU-wide 50% renewable energy standard will be required to meet the challenge

Present EU renewable energy targets by 2020 could easily be ramped-up across-the-board to 50%. NOTE: Sweden is already there, with Latvia, Finland and Austria not far behind.
EU 2020 renewable energy targets could easily be ramped-up across-the-board to 50% renewable energy usage. NOTE: Iceland and Sweden have surpassed the 50% renewable energy threshold, with Latvia, Finland, Austria and Denmark not far behind.

The best candidate for an EU-financed switch to renewable energy?

Malta is presently striving to meet its target of 10% of energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. However, Malta could easily convert to 100% renewable energy in as little as 24 months.

Malta is a tiny island nation and other tiny island nations have successfully transitioned to 100% renewable energy — and it took them only a few short months to accomplish that goal.

Malta’s electrical grid produces 571 MW at peak load and uses expensive imported fossil fuels.

Replacing Malta’s fossil fueled electrical grid with a combination of offshore / onshore wind turbines and solar panels is well within our present-day technical capabilities and would save the Malta government millions of dollars per year in fuel and healthcare costs.

A low-interest loan from the EU to cover the capital cost of wind and solar power plants and some basic technical support is what Malta needs. Nothing more complicated than that.

How would replacing Malta’s present electrical power generation with 100% renewable energy benefit the EU and the residents of Malta alike?

It’s a given that all of the wind turbines and solar panels / inverters, etc. would be sourced from the EU. In fact, European sourcing could be a requirement of obtaining the EU financing for the project.

All of the engineering, manufacturing and installation / grid connection would be performed by EU workers.

Malta’s residents and visitors would thereafter enjoy clean air, lower healthcare costs, better quality of life, and could say goodbye to toxic and expensive, imported oil.

From 10% to 100% renewable energy within 24 months — now that would demonstrate political and environmental leadership!

Granted, Malta has the smallest electrical grid in the EU. But it’s a place to start, a place to set a baseline for the learning curve to 100% renewable energy on a per country basis, and a place to test out the actual economic inputs vs. outputs, with minimal investment.

By starting with island nations and converting them to 100% renewable energy, solid standalone renewable energy power generation experience is gained, and once completed, can serve as models for standalone systems on the continent.

To get to 50% renewable energy in other EU states requires similar measures but on a larger scale than Malta. (Low interest loans from the EU, requirement to source all equipment, materials, and labour from EU nations, and some amount of renewable energy expertise)

Some European Union nations wouldn’t need all that much investment to make the step up from their planned 2020 targets. Some will already have attained at least 30% renewable energy, assuming they hit their planned targets. Other nations have small populations, and therefore, wouldn’t need all that much capital to hit the 100% mark, let alone a 50% renewable target by 2020.

The Next Step for the EU

During the darkest days of recession in early 1980’s America, newly-elected President Ronald Reagan didn’t appear and suddenly solve America’s economic problems.

He told Americans (very convincingly) that they had it in their power to solve their own economic problems and arranged some temporary loans to Chrysler and other companies — and cheered by his vision and leadership, they responded powerfully — ending America’s recession.

Someone in the EU needs to step up now, leading the charge to improve EU air quality, to lower the rate of illness and premature deaths due to air pollution, to lower the damage to livestock and agriculture, and to concrete and metal infrastructure — thereby creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs — by insisting on a minimum of 50% renewable energy standard by 2020 for all EU nations.

And that great, overarching vision in itself, will be the thing that EU residents will love, hope for, and willingly agree to do, for the next five years. Neatly ending the EU’s present recession.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, people. We’ve got work to do.

Related Article:

Air Pollution Cost Approaches $1 trillion in the West

by John Brian Shannon
(Originally published at JBSnews.com)

Air pollution has a very real cost to our civilization via increased healthcare costs, premature deaths, lowered productivity, environmental degradation with resultant lowered crop yields, increased water consumption and higher taxation.

However, air pollution is only one cost associated with fossil fuel use.

There are three main costs associated with energy

  1. The retail price that you pay at the gas pump or on your utility bill for example
    (which is paid by consumers)
  2. The subsidy cost that governments pay energy producers and utility companies
    (which is ultimately paid by taxpayers)
  3. The externality cost of each type of energy
    (which is paid by taxpayers, by increased prices for consumers, and the impact on, or the ‘cost to’ the environment)

Externality cost in Europe and the U.S.A.

A recent report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) states that high air pollution levels (one type of externality) in the EU cost society €189 billion every year and it’s a number that increases every year. (That’s $235 billion when converted to U.S. dollars)

To put that number in some kind of context, the cost of the air pollution externality in the EU annually, is equal to the GDP of Finland.

Let’s state that even more clearly. The amount of taxation paid by EU taxpayers every year to pay for airborne fossil fuel damage is equal to Finland’s entire annual economic output!

It’s getting worse, not better, notwithstanding recent renewable energy programs and incentives. Even the admirable German Energiewende program is barely making an impact when we look at the overall EU air quality index.

“Of the 30 biggest facilities it identified as causing the most damage, 26 were power plants, mainly fueled by coal in Germany and eastern Europe.” — Barbara Lewis (Reuters)

That’s just Europe. It’s even worse in the U.S., according to a landmark Harvard University report which says coal-fired power generation (externality cost alone) costs the U.S. taxpayer over $500 billion/yr.

“Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and thus are often considered as “externalities.”

We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.

Many of these so-called externalities are, moreover, cumulative.

Accounting for the damages conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated, making wind, solar, and other forms of non fossil fuel power generation, along with investments in efficiency and electricity conservation methods, economically competitive.

We focus on Appalachia, though coal is mined in other regions of the United States and is burned throughout the world.” — Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal by Dr. Paul Epstein, the Director of Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment, and eleven other co-authors

The report also notes that electricity costs would need to rise by another .09 to .27 cents per kilowatt hour in the U.S. to cover the externality cost of American coal-fired electricity production.

The externality cost for solar or wind power plants is zero, just for the record

Dr. Epstein and his team notes: “Coal burning produces one and a half times the CO2 emissions of oil combustion and twice that from burning natural gas (for an equal amount of energy produced).”

There’s the argument to switch from coal to natural gas right there

Also in the Harvard report in regards to the intrinsic inefficiency of coal: “Energy specialist Amory Lovins estimates that after mining, processing, transporting and burning coal, and transmitting the electricity, only about 3% of the energy in the coal is used in incandescent light bulbs.”

“…In the United States in 2005, coal produced 50% of the nation’s electricity but 81% of the CO2 emissions.

For 2030, coal is projected to produce 53% of U.S. power and 85% of the U.S. CO2 emissions from electricity generation.

None of these figures includes the additional life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from coal, including methane from coal mines, emissions from coal transport, other GHG emissions (e.g., particulates or black carbon), and carbon and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from land transformation in the case of MTR coal mining.” — Harvard University’s Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal report

It’s not like this information is secret. All European, American, and Asian policymakers now know about the externality costs of coal vs. renewable energy. It’s just that until recently everyone thought that the cost of switching to renewable energy, was higher than the cost of fossil externalities.

It’s not only an economic problem, it’s also a health problem

“Air pollution impacts human health, resulting in extra healthcare costs, lost productivity, and fewer work days. Other impacts are reduced crop yields and building damage.

Particulate matter and ground-level ozone are two of the main pollutants that come from coal.

90% or more of Europeans living in cities are exposed to harmful air pollution. Bulgaria and Poland have some of the worst pollution of the European countries.

An estimated 400,000 premature deaths in European cities were linked to air pollution in 2011.” — CleanTechnica

Externality cost in China

Remember the Beijing Olympics where the city’s industry and commercial business were shut down to allow visitors and athletes to breathe clean air during their stay (and Wow!) look at their clear blue sky for the first time in decades. Great for tourists! Bad for Beijing business and industry, with the exception of the tourism industry (for one month) of course.

The Common Language Project reported in 2008 that premature deaths in China resulting from fossil fuel air pollution were surpassing 400,000 per year.

“China faces a number of serious environmental issues caused by overpopulation and rapid industrial growth. Water pollution and a resulting shortage of drinking water is one such issue, as is air pollution caused by an over-reliance on coal as fuel. It has been estimated that 410,000 Chinese die as a result of pollution each year.” clpmag.org

The die is cast since it is becoming common knowledge that renewable energy merely requires a small subsidy to assist with power plant construction and grid harmonization — while fossil fuels continue to require truly massive and ongoing subsidies to continue operations.

Subsidy cost of fossil fuels

Already there is talk of ending fossil fuel producer subsidies, which in 2014 will top $600 billion worldwide

Want to add up the total costs (direct economic subsidy and externality cost subsidy) of fossil fuels?

Add the $600 billion global fossil fuel subsidy to the to the $2 trillion dollars of global externality cost and you arrive at (approx) $2.5 trillion dollars per year. Then there is the more than 1 million premature deaths globally caused by air pollution. All of that is subsidized by the world’s taxpayers.

Compare that to the total costs of renewable energy. Well, for starters, the economic subsidy dollar amount for renewable energy is much less (about $100 billion per year globally) and there are no externality costs.

No deaths. No illness. No direct or related productivity loss due to a host of fossil fuel related issues (oil spills, coal car derailment, river contamination, explosions in pipelines or factories) for just a very few examples.

The fossil fuel industry is a very mature industry, it has found ways to do more with ever-fewer employees, and it gets more subsidy dollars than any other economic segment on the planet.

By comparison, the renewable energy industry is a new segment, one that requires many thousands of workers and it gets only relative handfuls of subsidy dollars. And, no externalities.

It becomes clearer every day that high carbon fossil electricity power production must be displaced by renewable energy

No longer is it some arcane moral argument that we should switch to renewables for the good of the Earth; Fossil fuel is proving to be a major factor in human illness/premature deaths, it sends our money abroad to purchase energy instead of keeping our money in our own countries, and the wholly-taxpayer-funded subsidy cost of fossil is out of control and getting worse with each passing year.

The time for dithering is past. It’s time to make the switch to renewable energy, and to start, we need to remove the worst polluting power plants from the grid (and at the very least, replace them with natural gas powered plants) or even better, replace them with hybrid wind and solar power plants.

To accomplish this, governments need to begin diverting some of the tens of billions of dollars annually paid to the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy industry.

Germany’s Energiewende program was (and still is) an admirable first step. Once Germany has completed it’s energy transition away from oil, coal and nuclear — having replaced all of that generation capacity with renewable energy and natural gas, only then can it be hailed a complete success — and German leaders should go down in history as being instrumental in changing the world’s 21st century energy paradigm.

Dank an unsere deutschen Freunde! (With thanks to our German friends!)

If only every nation would sign-on to matching or exceeding the ongoing German example, we wouldn’t have 1 million premature deaths globally due to fossil fuel burning, we wouldn’t have almost 2 trillion dollars of externality cost, we wouldn’t need $600 billion dollars of direct subsidies for fossil fuel producers — and we would all live in a healthier environment, and our plant, animal, and aquatic life would return to their normally thriving state.

Taxes would reflect the global $2.5 trillion drop in combined fossil fuel subsidy and fossil fuel externality costs, employment stats would improve, productivity would increase, the tourism industry would receive a boost, and enjoyment of life for individuals would rebound.

It’s a truism in the energy industry that all energy is subsidized, of that there is no doubt. Even renewable energy receives tiny amounts of subsidy, relative to fossil.

But it is now apparent that over the past 100 years, getting ‘the best (energy) bang for the buck’ has been our nemesis. The energy world that we once knew, is about to change.

The world didn’t come to an end when air travel began to replace rail travel in the 1950’s. Now almost everyone travels by air, and only few travel by train.

And what about the railway investors didn’t they lose their money when the age of rail tapered-off? No, they simply moved their money to the new transportation mode and made as much or more money in the airline business.

Likewise, the world will not come to an end now that renewable energy is beginning to displace coal and oil. Investors will simply reallocate their money and make as much or more money in renewable energy.

Ubitricity streetlamp plug-in charges German EV’s

by John Brian Shannon
Originally published at JohnBrianShannon.com

One major impediment to the adoption of electric vehicles is the high cost of public charging stations for EV’s, as the charging units are very expensive.

Ubitricity.de has come up with a novel solution whereby ordinary streetlamps could be fitted with an electric vehicle charging point for the reasonable cost of 500 to 800 euros per streetlight, which is certainly more doable than the 10,000 euros of your typical EV public charging station in Europe.

Ubitricity.de - Reuters screenshot
Ubitricity.de – Reuters screenshot

>> Click here to see the Reuters Ubitricity video. <<

Streetlamps in selected cities within Germany are now being fitted with a charging point allowing electric vehicle drivers to recharge their car battery.

Drivers prepay the cost of the electricity via Ubitricity to charge at these locations. Ostensibly, every streetlamp post and parking meter in Europe could be fitted with one of these charging points.

Not only do German drivers have the option of charging their EV’s at home, now they can now pick up a charge while they shop, have coffee with friends, or while they spend the day at their workplace.

“We are convinced there is room for this technology to be applied everywhere it’s needed, but we think that in most places there is a pressing need for investment in a charging infrastructure to allow the installation of charging points, not only here on lamp posts, but also in the workplace, at home and in underground carparks.

Governments are keen to cut the number of gas guzzling cars on the roads to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many are offering cash incentives to drivers to buy electric. But take-up has been slow partly due to the lack of charging stations.

There are lots of lamp posts which are already very well connected to the electricity network. Equipping a lamp post costs between 300 and 500 euros, depending on the circumstances at that location. When you consider the production price of our charging sockets, it is a long way from the 10,000 euros which must typically be invested in a charging station.” Founder of Ubitricity, Frank Pawlitsche

All you need is an Electric Vehicle, your prepaid Ubitricity account and Ubitricity connector cable, and you’re set

Ubitricity portable, streetlight-attachable EV charging unit
Ubitricity portable, streetlight-attachable EV charging unit

The great thing about the Ubitricity parking spots with their electric vehicle recharging connector is that they’re normal parking spots with a charging port added. Your mobile phone app displays the Ubitricity locations.

You can park there all day and return to a car that is fully energized and ready to go! No more petrol stations for you.

It’s a wonderful idea. Streetlamps and parking meters are everywhere it seems and combining a parking spot with an EV charging port is a stroke of genius.

Boy those Germans are smart. Gut gemacht! (Well done!)

Driving electric is a cornerstone of Germany’s Energiewende energy policy

Only when driving on renewables will EV users avoid greenhouse gas emissions — not just locally but on a global scale. Renewable energies and EVs are natural partners of a sustainable energy and transportation sector. — From the Ubitricity website

Not only Ubitricity — but also BMW is getting into the act

BMW i3
BMW i3 receiving a charge at a Ubitricity charge point. Image courtesy of ubitricity.de

Drivers of the much-loved BMW i3 electric vehicle will soon have their own BMW charging network and software to guide you to nearby charge points.

Eventually, BMW will build their network across Europe to facilitate EV travel across the continent.

BMW has a vision to offer buyers their choice of petrol powered, or as an option, electric powered, or hybrid/electric powered cars across all model lines.

BMW is also famous for installing wind turbines, solar panels, and biomass power plants at it’s German factories, and going completely off-grid!

It also has plans to get into the consumer electricity business throughout Europe.

You’ll soon be able to buy a BMW car and a BMW motorcycle for your driveway and BMW electricity for your home and office. All produced by renewable energy and only renewable energy.

A note about TESLA Model S drivers and their unique charging situation/opportunities

TESLA Model S at a SuperCharger location.
A TESLA Model S receiving a charge at a typical TESLA SuperCharger location. Image courtesy of edmonds.com

All TESLA vehicles can access the Ubitricity chargers but don’t forget to bring your Ubitricity charging cable — unlike the TESLA SuperCharger stations where the cable is permanently attached to the SuperCharger unit.

A benefit of TESLA SuperCharger top-ups is that they usually take 10-15 minutes. Look, there’s a Starbucks!

Another benefit is that (TESLA Model S drivers only) enjoy free charging at TESLA SuperCharger stations for the life of the car because that’s what you get for 70,000 euros.

But once your TESLA is charged, you must return to move your car in order to let other TESLA drivers access the SuperCharger, much like gas-engined drivers can’t leave their car in front of the gas pump while they go shopping.

Only the Ubitricity solution gives all EV drivers a convenient parking spot — and a charge. The ability to simply ‘Park and Plug’ at one location in today’s crowded cities is a very big plus indeed.

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Can Switzerland export its amazing success story?

byJohn Brian Shannon (This article first appeared at JohnBrianShannon.com)

Subalpine lake in Switzerland
Sub-alpine lake in Switzerland

Let’s look at Switzerland today, a tiny nation of 8 million people. Historically a neutral country, Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU, nor of NATO, but it is a member of the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP) and it became a member of the UN on September 10, 2002.

Some other notable facts about Switzerland are that it is ruled by direct democracy where citizens can block any law or get a new proposal heard and voted on with only 50,000 signatures, and the country has proximity to the largest market in the world, the European Union.

It is also one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Switzerland makes the best of its opportunities

Switzerland ranks in the top 5 places to live in the world, personal income ranks in the top 5 in the world, it ranks in the top 5 education systems and in the top 5 health care systems in the world. In many other measures Switzerland ranks among the top 10 globally.

How did little Switzerland with only 8 million people, few resources, and buried under a blanket of cold and snow for 6 months of the year, manage all of that and so much more?

As is often the case, the answer is good management!

  • With less than 2% of the world’s population Switzerland has attained 19th place (nominal GDP) and 36th place (PPP) out of 191 countries
  • It boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world at $137,094 median (PPP)
  • The country has the highest average wealth per adult in the world, at $540,000 (PPP)
  • Switzerland has low unemployment rates at 3.2% (2014 and 2013) and 2.9% (2012)
  • The Federal government not only runs a balanced budget, it often runs a tidy budget surplus
  • The public debt-to-GDP is a low 46.7% (2012)
  • Inflation ranged between .7% and .2% over the last 5 years
  • It is one of the world’s most stable economies
  • Noted as one of the most politically stable nations in the world
  • All the major credit rating agencies give Switzerland a AAA credit rating
  • Switzerland is the world’s 20th largest exporter at $308.3 billion dollars (CIA Factbook)
  • The Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum ranks Switzerland’s economy as the world’s most competitive
Labour productivity Europe 2012
Productivity in Europe 2012

Image by Monsieur Fou (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

What time is it? It’s always Swiss Time.

Rolex.com
Rolex.com The world’s finest Swiss timepieces

Historically covered by a thick blanket of snow for six or more months of the year, the Swiss had plenty of time on their hands. So they decided long ago to make some ultra-high quality clocks to mark time until the return of spring.

The Swiss clock and wristwatch industry exported $20 billion dollars worth of timepieces in 2011, making the Swiss #1 exporters of timepieces in the world. Exports of watches and clocks from Switzerland have been ticking upwards, some years showing a 14% increase compared to the previous year.

If you’d like to buy a piece of art that also displays time, you’ll recall these Swiss brand names; Rolex, TAG-Heuer, Hublot, Zenith, Swatch and International.

Switzerland, where the world’s banks do their banking

Owing to long-standing Swiss neutrality and the careful management of Swiss national sovereignty, a stable environment for the banking sector evolved which was observed by many foreign nations and their central banks, hence most of the worlds central banks maintain offices and conduct business there.

The financial sector in Switzerland contributes approximately 12% of Switzerland’s GDP and employs 200,000 people. It is known internationally as the world’s banking capital and all banks cooperate with the Bank of International Settlements, based in Basel, Switzerland. The country’s banks processed a grand total of 5.4 trillion Swiss francs in 2009.

On top of that, foreign banks operating in the country manage almost another 1 trillion Swiss francs worth of assets per year.

Nothing but fresh air in all directions

Switzerland is #1 (2014) and #2 (2013) in the world when it comes to creating a progressively cleaner environment. And not only visionary policy, but tangible results too! As the Swiss work to cut total energy consumption levels in half by 2050, they are using cleaner fuels, more renewable energy, and in 2011 decided to begin the process of decommissioning all of their nuclear and coal power plants, a process which will be completed by 2045. (OECD Swiss environmental link here)

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne and Lucerne Lake, Switzerland. Image by Clare66 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Simple, but effective changes have showed promising results. The large amount of household waste set out for curbside collection was tackled via pre-paid stickers that must be placed on each bag to be picked up at the curb. This has dramatically reduced the amount of waste that must be processed.

A large number of complementary projects are underway in the country, which range from sustainable forestry practices (forests cover 31% of the country), to even more world-class transit systems (the spectacular views are complimentary), to the 2,000-Watt Society which aims to lower carbon footprints by cutting total energy consumption levels in half by 2050.

The 2000-watt society (2,000-Watt Society) is an environmental vision, first introduced in 1998 by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, which pictures the average First World citizen reducing their overall average continuous energy usage to no more than 2,000 watts (48 kilowatt-hours per day) by the year 2050 – without lowering their standard of living.

The concept addresses not only personal or household energy use, but the total for the whole society, divided by the population.

Two thousand watts is approximately the current world average rate of total energy use. This compares to averages of around 6,000 watts in western Europe, 12,000 watts in the United States, 1,500 watts in China, 1,000 watts in India, 500 watts in South Africa and only 300 watts in Bangladesh. Switzerland itself, currently using an average of around 5,000 watts, was last a 2000-watt society in the 1960s.

It is further envisaged that the use of carbon based fuels would be ultimately cut to no more than 500 watts per person within 50 to 100 years.

The vision was developed in response to concerns about climate change, energy security and energy supplies. It’s supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, the Association of Swiss Architects and Engineers, and other bodies. — Wikipedia

Swiss Army Knife stats

The UN DESA list says Swiss citizens have the second-highest life expectancy in the world. Switzerland is also ranked #1 (tied) on the Bribe Payers Index indicating very low levels of business corruption. For the last five years the country has been ranked #1 in economic and tourist competitiveness according to the Global Competitiveness Report and the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report respectively, both developed by the World Economic Forum.

Zürich and Geneva have been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world. Switzerland has very low tax rates as compared to other western nations. More Swiss citizens have won Nobel Prizes, than any other single country’s citizens.

Flag of the Red Cross
The monochromatically reversed Swiss flag became the symbol of the Red Cross Movement, founded in 1863 by Henri Dunant.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent, the United Nations (the UN Palace of Nations is the 2nd-largest UN facility in the world), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and about 200 other international organisations, including the World Trade Organization and the World Economic Forum in Davos all have their headquarters in Switzerland.

Furthermore, many sport federations and organisations are located throughout the country, such as the International Basketball Federation in Geneva, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in Nyon, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the International Ice Hockey Federation both in Zürich, the International Cycling Union in Aigle, and the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne.

There is a world-class scientific community that also thrives within the country, some of it centred around the CERN particle accelerator (the largest such device in the world) which is what recently confirmed the presence of the (up-till-then-theoretical) Higgs Bosun. Also, the World Wide Web began as a CERN project called ENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore, Gunvor, Nestlé, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, ABB, Mercuria Energy Group and Adecco.

Also, notable are UBS AG, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Barry Callebaut, Swiss Re, Tetra Pak, The Swatch Group and Swiss International Airlines. Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.– Wikipedia

Healthcare in Switzerland

All Swiss citizens are required by law to carry private health insurance and the healthcare insurance companies are required to accept every citizen-applicant. It is an expensive system, but with high wages and even high-minimum-wages in Switzerland it is an affordable system for the Swiss. As noted above, citizens enjoy the 2nd highest life expectancy in the world and even that statistic continues to improve.

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries has ranked Switzerland #2 in the world for overall healthcare outcomes.

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries
The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries

Swiss President about town

To give you the best idea of how relaxed and civilized Switzerland is, the President of Switzerland, Mr. Didier Burkhalter, takes the train to work just like other citizens and was photographed recently at the train station waiting for the train.

That’s the way it is in Switzerland. The President of the country goes to the train station to catch the train like everyone else. He stands on the platform waiting for the train and texting on his SmartPhone and nobody there thinks a thing about it… yet in North America this is seen as a novel act and it goes viral on Twitter in only 8 minutes.

Switzerland summary

With only a tiny land mass, no sea access, a small population, minimal natural resources (compared to the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Brazil or Argentina, for just a few examples) and long winters combined with fragile ecosystems, Switzerland has created a thriving and special society inside a very pure form of democracy — from little else than pure ingenuity. It’s no wonder the Swiss citizens have been awarded more Nobel Prizes than any other nation!

This doesn’t cover half of Switzerland’s achievements and all of this and much more is happening on only 15,940 square miles of land, and most of that is covered with Swiss Alps and glaciers.

If Norway can succeed like this, why can’t every nation?

by

Cruise ship navigates northern Norway coastline. Image courtesy of visitnorway com
Cruise ship navigates Norway coastline. Image courtesy of visitnorway.com

Let’s look at Norway, a tiny nation of 5.1 million people. Norway has a medium-sized undersea petroleum reserve, some timber resource and proximity to the largest market in the world. It also once boasted a booming fishing industry, however, with fish stocks in decline only a fraction of that former fishery remains.

On the bright side, Norway has more scenic views per kilometre than anywhere on the planet.

But other than that, the long and narrow, mostly empty country that exists along the North Sea spends most of the year under a blanket of snow, ice, and bitter cold.

Norway makes the best of its opportunities

And yet, Norway has made the most of its opportunities, ranking regularly in the top 5 places to live in the world, personal income ranks in the top 5 in the world, in the top 5 education systems in the world, and in the top 10 health care systems in the world. In many other measures Norway ranks among the top 10 globally.

How did little Norway, with only 5 million people, few resources, and buried under a blanket of cold and snow for 6 months of the year, manage all of that and so much more?

As is so often the case, the answer is found within the question itself. Good management!

Many nations have more generous helpings of natural resources and opportunities available to them compared to tiny Norway, and yet for some strange reason they can’t claim anywhere near Norway’s economic success and resultant quality-of-life for residents.

Norway overcame many obstacles to get where it is today, and chief among them was bad advice!

At Norway’s entry into the petroleum market after discovery of undersea oil and gas reserves in the 1969, the Norwegians were told that oil companies would leave if they weren’t granted exemption from the country’s high taxation, stalling any future development.

The Norwegians were also told that high personal tax rates would cause a flight of capital from the country and that executives and professionals would flee to greener pastures, leaving only a blue collar economy behind which would require Norway to thenceforth hire expensive foreign consultants to conduct the government’s business, high finance and corporate law.

Norway was also warned over-investing in its health care system and education systems could wreck their overall economy.

And the Norwegians were told that their country was too cold, too forbidding, and too isolated to have any kind of serious tourism business.

Well, lets look at how it all turned out, shall we?

  • With less than 1% of the world’s population, Norway’s economy has reached 22nd (nominal) / 46th (PPP) out of 191 countries, according to the CIA Factbook, with an average of 3.5% (2013) growth throughout the economy
  • Norwegian public debt is very low at 30.3% of GDP (2012)
  • Norway’s high productivity score, ranked #15 by the World Economic Forum in 2012 still puzzles economists worldwide
  • The WEF also scored Norway at #3 globally for its macroeconomic environment in 2012
  • Norway’s inflation rate is stable at 2.2% (2013)
  • Unemployment is stable at 3.3% (2013)
  • Norway maintains an AAA credit rating with the financial rating agencies (2012)
  • Norway’s entire economy produced $499.8 billion GDP with 3.1% growth in 2012
  • Out of that $500 billion dollar economy, Norway maintains one of the highest per capita incomes in the world at; 492,000 NOK / $79,104 (2013) (PPP) which places them at (3rd) position in the world
  • Monthly incomes for all employees, including male and female, full time and part time workers in the country rose 3.9% from 2012 to 2013, averaging 41,000 NOK / $6592, per month (2013)
  • Norway donates almost 1% of GDP each year to worthy causes around the world, amounting to slightly over $2 billion dollars of foreign aid annually.
Norway personal income chart 2013
Norway personal income chart 2013

Norway Healthcare

In 2000, healthcare in Norway was ranked by the WHO at 11th position in the world out of 191 countries, but in 2014 was ranked at 7th position by Commonwealth Fund Group in a comprehensive study of the top 11 healthcare systems in the world. See: The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries comparison charts here.

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries
The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries

Tourism in Norway

The official emblem of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway is a stylized aurora borealis (northern lights) and snow crystals.
The official emblem of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Although the incredibly scenic fjords are unavailable for tourism six months of the year, the picturesque cities dotting Norway’s far-flung fjords welcome thousands of cruise ship travelers all summer and are a vital contributor to the country’s economy. Inland, various scenic driving and hiking tours are available and a surprising number of homeowners advertise bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

Skiing and snowboarding facilities exist country-wide and the Norwegian’s have capitalized on all six months of snow and cold temperatures, bringing a combined tourism industry from almost nil, to a multi-billion dollar level with four decades of dedicated effort.

The Lillehammer Winter Olympics officially known as the XVII Olympic Winter Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994. Norway’s capital city of Oslo held the 1952 Winter Olympics.

Total tourism revenues at the height of the global financial crisis in 2009 were in the neighbourhood of $6.6 billion dollars (direct and indirect) and $319 million dollars (direct) annually.

Norway’s Oil and Gas industry

Norway extracts 1.92 million barrels per day from its North Sea crude oil reserves and also extracts some 200,000 Million square metresᶟ (oil equivalent) of natural gas.

Petroleum profits are taxed at 78%, which nets Norway significant annual revenue. Even with the highest oil and gas taxation on the planet, Norway has no shortage of oil companies willing to exploit the medium sized offshore reserves.

One of the companies involved in Norway’s oil and gas industry is (67% government-owned) Statoil, Norway’s state oil company. It is the 11th largest petroleum company in the world, reporting gross revenues of $723 billion dollars in 2012.

Norway Petroleum Directorate
Norway Petroleum Directorate. History and forecast for oil and gas extraction graphic in millions of square metresᶟ oil equivalent, per year.

Why does Norway have $700 billion dollars in the bank? And why did it pass legislation to never spend more than 4% of the total in any given year?

While there’s no question that Norway has done well from its oil and gas, unlike many resource-based nations, Norway has invested its petro dollars in such a way as to create and sustain other industries where it is also globally competitive. The second largest export of Norway is supplies for the petroleum industry, points out Ole Anders Lindseth, the director general of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in Norway.

“So the oil and gas activities have rendered more than just revenue for the benefit of the future generations, but has also rendered employment, workplaces and highly skilled industries,” Mr. Lindseth says.

Maximizing the resource is also very important. Because the government is highly invested, (oil profits are taxed at 78 per cent, and in 2011 tax revenues were $36-billion), it is as interested as oil companies, which want to maximize their profits, in extracting the maximum amount of hydrocarbons from the reservoirs. This has inspired technological advances such as parallel drilling, Mr. Lindseth says.

“The extraction rate in Norway is around 50 per cent, which is extremely high in the world average.”

In 1990, the precursor of the Government Pension Fund – Global (GPFG), a sovereign wealth fund, was established for surplus oil revenues. Today the GPFG is worth more than $700-billion.

The GPFG wealth fund is largely invested outside Norway by legislation, and the annual maximum withdrawal is 4 per cent. Through these two measures, Norway has avoided hyper-inflation, and has been able to sustain its traditional industries. — The Globe and Mail

Norway fishing and seafood industry

The wild and farmed fishery and non-fish seafood industry in Norway accounts for billions of dollars of economic activity. Exports totaled $7.1 billion dollars in 2009, $3.8 billion of that from aquaculture. In 2011, aquaculture alone had grown to $4.9 billion.

Guided by the Norwegian government, the fishery has grown into a sustainable industry that meets the needs of Norwegian’s and continued growth is expected for fish and other seafood exports.

Summary of ‘the little country that could’

Rather than complain about the cold weather most of the year, Norway took a long look at its assets and location and decided to make the best of it. A telling refrain you will hear in the Nordic countries is, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” That, in a nutshell, is the Nordic mindset.

Indeed, this speaks volumes about who they are as a people. If you want to go out, you dress appropriately. This worldview seems to have assisted the Norwegians to make the most of their opportunities by taking stock of prevailing situations, and responding appropriately.

Norway: Where ‘what matters most’ — actually matters!

Their guiding principles dictate that the well-being of its citizens must be first and foremost in economic decisions, with care being taken to create a sustainable long-term model.

Ergo, a country of 5 million with limited arable land and harsh winter, simply adapted to their environment and their economic environment. Citizens and non-citizen residents are fairly rewarded for their productivity and loyalty to the country, which further engendered productivity and loyalty.

Norway wisely invested in the country’s future so that all Norwegians can receive a full university or vocational education funded by government taxation and receive free healthcare, and many other citizen benefits. Any resident of Norway — whether they’re a Norwegian citizen or not — can apply to Norway’s public universities and receive a full university education free of charge. The idea behind this is that an educated society brings its own economic benefits and increases the dissemination of knowledge to all corners of the Kingdom of Norway.

Likewise, all residents are covered by Norway’s healthcare service, although it can be challenging for the government to provide timely services to tiny population centres of 10-100 people in very remote parts of the country.

Norway proved it can be done

Putting the needs of citizens first, guaranteeing the safety and security of residents, environmentally-sound development of natural resources and sustainable long-term economic models have placed Norway near the top in all global indicators — and that is in spite of the negatives the country must contend with.

Results matter. Ideology does not

Norway is a model that every country must research carefully to contrast and compare with their own results. Which is what really matters. Results matter. Ideology does not matter.

Let’s hear it for pragmatism!

What matters to Norwegians is the well-being of residents and the strength of the economy, and what matters to the Norwegian government are the ratings of respected indices such as those from the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Economic Forum (WEF), credit rating agencies and others.

Norway should award itself a Nobel Peace Prize for Excellence in Governance and Society.

Nobel Peace Prize medallion
And, the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to… Norway, for Excellence in Governance and Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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