Smart Microgrids – ‘Plug & Play’ power for communities

by John Brian Shannon

Smart microgrids represent the best opportunity for developing nations to bring reliable electricity to rural areas

Significant cost saving opportunities also arise by employing smart microgrid systems in developed countries and reliability of electricity is enhanced, as the vast majority of blackouts, brownouts, or other electricity interruptions arise from grid problems and not from the power plants which are often located hundreds of miles away from customers.

Microgrid graphic courtesy of GE.
Smart microgrid graphic for illustrative purposes only. Image courtesy of GE.

The Galvin Electricity Initiative defines smart microgrids as, “…modern, small-scale versions of the centralized electricity system. They achieve specific local goals, such as reliability, carbon emission reduction, diversification of energy sources, and cost reduction, established by the community being served. Like the bulk power grid, smart microgrids generate, distribute, and regulate the flow of electricity to consumers, but do so locally. Smart microgrids are an ideal way to integrate renewable resources at the community level and allow for customer participation in the electricity enterprise. They form the building blocks of the Perfect Power System.” — The Galvin Electricity Initiative

Not much of a factor a decade ago, microgrids are expected to explode into a $40 billion-a-year global business by 2020, according to Navigant Research, a clean-technology data and consulting company. In the U.S., about 6 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power as many as 4.8 million homes — will flow through microgrids by 2020. Reporting by Bloomberg

The microgrid market is heating up quickly, with deployments occurring around the world in a variety of application segments. Navigant Research forecasts that global annual microgrid capacity will increase from 685 Megawatts in 2013 to more than 4 Gigawatts by 2020 under a base scenario. Reporting by Navigant Research

Paul Orzeske, president of the Honeywell International Inc. says “We are seeing requests for proposals going up significantly, 30 to 40 percent higher than last year.” Honeywell built a $71 million microgrid for an FDA research center in Maryland and the agency is in the midst of a $213 million addition that will be online early next year. Reporting by Bloomberg

The industry is moving into the next phase of project development, focusing on how to develop projects on fully commercial terms. As the microgrid market is evolving, innovative solutions are coming to the fore. For example, two new subsegments – grid-tied utility distribution microgrids (UDMs) and direct current (DC) microgrids – are attracting increased market attention. Reporting by Navigant Research

The Navigant Research report is available for purchase by clicking Microgrid

Smart Microgrids Save Money and Lower Carbon Footprint

It must be said that one of the many benefits of a smart microgrid installation is the saving of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars per month, in electricity costs. One example is the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) smart microgrid system which saves that institution about $850,000. each month in electricity costs.

UCSD can also sell any excess power their smart microgrid produces at various times of the day or night to the main California grid through a net-metering connection.

U of C San Diego’s mixed conventional and renewable energy smart microgrid generates 92% of its electricity demand with 42 MegaWatts (MW) of peak power.  Not only does it save UCSD $10.2 million dollars per year, it adds valuable stability to the campus electricity service.

“Our campus does $1 billion a year in research,” said Byron Washom, the university’s director of strategic energy initiatives. “We have an electron microscope that every time we have a supply disruption, it takes six weeks to recalibrate. We can’t let that happen.”

These savings aren’t an anomaly. The FDA estimates it’s already cutting about $11 million a year off its electric bill through both self-generation and the ability to sell power back to the grid — savings that will rise to $25 million a year when an addition is completed in 2014. — Reporting by Bloomberg

We all know that saving $25 million dollars per year (at just one FDA office complex!) is a big deal. That’s a savings of over $2 million dollars, each and every month.

Incidentally, during Hurricane Sandy, as millions of people were forced to survive without electricity, the smart microgrid at the FDA research centre and at Co-Op City, a 45,000-resident housing cooperative in the Bronx, New York, kept the power flowing by automatically disconnecting from the obliterated grid and running in what’s called “island mode.” Reporting by Bloomberg

In the U.S.A. alone, electricity service interruptions cost the business community some $200 billion dollars per year. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has said that lost ‘business continuity’ (resulting from outages and electrical power quality issues) add another $80 billion to $150 billion to that figure.

Historic Utility Business Model Under Threat

Utility companies are feeling the pressure from numerous sources these days as renewable energy threatens their longstanding business model generally, and specifically, their Merit Order ranking, along with stricter environmental standards for energy producers. Now along comes smart microgrids to completely ruin their day.

However, some foresighted utilities see smart microgrids as an adjunct to their existing operations and as a way to add power generation capacity nearer to electricity demand centres, saving millions of dollars in the combined costs of land acquisition for new transmission line corridors, the initial ‘pylons and power line’ construction and annual maintenance.

Not to mention capturing some much needed green energy points with increasingly environmentally responsible consumers.

Some utilities are hedging their bets. With the help of $10 million in U.S. Energy Department and state grants, SDG&E has set up a microgrid in the remote desert town of Borrego Springs, about 90 miles northeast of San Diego. When a severe rainstorm knocked out utility power to the town last month, the microgrid’s collection of rooftop solar panels, micro-turbines and batteries was able to keep electricity flowing to nearly half the town’s customers, including buildings sheltering the elderly and ill from the desert heat. — Reporting by Bloomberg

Ultimately, whether smart microgrids are owned by foresighted utility companies seeking to protect market share and lower electrical transmission costs, or are owned by investor groups, cooperatives, individual investors, local governments, or any combination of those — multi-billions of dollars worth of microgrids are going to be installed by 2020.

Smart Microgrids are Powering Up

And even that $40 billion dollar business might just be the tiniest of microgrid beginnings if the stars align between local rooftop solar power producers, local wind farms, and local biomass power plants.

If utility companies fail to adapt to 21st century thinking by creating smart microgrids that serve the needs of their customers — people living in rural communities and small cities may no longer need standalone utility companies, and decide to set up their own electrical generation facilities.

Smart Microgrid in Sendai, Japan - Natural Gas plus Solar Power. Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Berkeley Lab
Smart Microgrid in Sendai, Japan – Natural Gas plus Solar Power. “Perhaps the most well-known microgrid demonstration on this planet, The Sendai Microgrid Project was one of the four major New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) ones carried out in Japan between 2005 and 2008.” Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Berkeley Lab

See also:

Nation’s Largest Microgrid Online

See the excellent UCSD microgrid video

Island of Opportunity: Microgrid Technology Comes to the Bay Area

Microgrids and “Micro-municipalization” Do they threaten the traditional utility business model?

Microgrids on the March: Utilities Are Building Out New Business Models to Make Islanding Work — GreenTech Media

Reinvent Fire: Change Energy Use Forever video  Quote from this video about the U.S. switch to renewable energy; “By investing $4.5 trillion we can save $9.5 trillion and make our energy problems history.”

IPCC says climate change brings risks and opportunities

by UNEP

IPCC Report - A Changing Climate Creates Pervasive Risk but Opportunities Exist for Effective Responses
 

IPCC Report: A Changing Climate Creates Pervasive Risk but Opportunities Exist for Effective Responses

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today [March 31, 2014] that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “The latest science cited by the IPCC assessment provides conclusive scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate. It is time to take immediate and robust action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The clock is ticking and time is not on our side. As recent studies show, greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would induce changes in the oceans, ice caps, glaciers, the biosphere and other components of the climate system. Some of these changes would very likely be unprecedented over decades to thousands of years. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.”

“Climate change is a long term challenge but one that requires urgent action today, given the risks of a more that 2 degrees C temperature rise. For those who want to focus on the scientific question marks, that is their right to do so. But today, we need to focus on the fundamentals and on actions. Otherwise the risks we run will get higher with every passing day,” he added.

“We live in an era of man -made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the prese nt and for the future.”

Adaptation to reduce the risks from a changing climate is now starting to occur, but with a stronger focus on reacting to past events than on preparing for a changing future, according to Chris Field, Co-Chair of Working Group II.

“Climate -change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” Field said. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”

Future risks from a changing climate depend strongly on the amount of future climate change. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe and pervasive impacts that may be surprising or irreversible.

“With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits,” said Field.

Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods. The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.

“The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interact s with other stresses to increase risk,” Field said.

Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks, Barros noted. “Part of the reason adaptation is so important is that the world faces a host of risks from climate change already baked into the climate system, due to past emissions and existing infrastructure, ” said Barros.

Field added: “Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate -change adaptation an important way to help build a mo re vibrant world in the near -term and beyond.”

Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: “The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risks of climate change. Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate challenge but the options for solutions.”

The Working Group I report was released in September 2013, and the Working Group III report will be released in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.

“None of this would be possible without the dedication of the Co -Chairs of Working Group II and the hundreds of scientists and experts who volunteered their time to produce this report, as well as the more than 1,700 expert reviewers worldwide who contributed their invaluable oversight,” Pachauri said. “The IPCC’s reports are some of the most ambitious scientific undertakings in human history, and I am humbled by and grateful for the contributions of everyone who make them possible.”

Watch UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner’s video from the IPCC ARG WGII Opening Session: Here

FURTHER RESOURCES

About the IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Working Group II, which assesses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, is co -chaired by Vicente Barros of the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, USA. The Technical Support Unit of Working Group II is hosted by the Carnegie Institution for Science and funded by the government of the United States of America.

At the 28th Session of the IPCC held in April 2008, the members of the IPCC decided to prepare a Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). A Scoping Meeting was convened in July 2009 to develop the scope and outline of the AR 5. The resulting outlines for the three Working Group contributions to the AR5 were approved at the 31st Session of the IPCC in October 2009.

A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, representing 70 countries, were selected to produce the Working Group II report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1729 expert and government reviewers provided comments on drafts of the report. For the Fifth Assessment Report as a whole, a total of 83 7 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors participated.

The Working Group II report consists of two volumes. The first contains a Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary, and 20 chapters assessing risks by sector and opportunities for response. The sectors include freshwater resources, terrestrial and ocean ecosystems, coasts, food, urban and rural areas, energy and industry, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty. A second volume of 10 chapters assesses risks and opportunities for response by region. These regions include Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, Central and South America, Polar Regions, Small Islands, and the Ocean.

Follow John Brian Shannon on Twitter at: @EVcentral

UK Launches Major Solar Strategy

International Digital Editor, Power Engineering International

April 04, 2014 | The UK government today announced its Solar Strategy, the first such strategic document dedicated to solar by any European Union government.

It will entail the creation of ‘solar hubs‘ whereby commercial and public sector buildings deploy solar arrays onsite, effectively shifting the focus of the market towards mid- to large-scale rooftop installations.

It also reasserts the government’s goal to deliver 20 GW of solar capacity by 2020 and sets out a new ambition to double the number of domestic rooftop solar arrays in the UK to one million homes by 2015.

UK Energy Minister Greg Barker
UK Energy Minister Greg Barker. Image courtesy: Power Engineering International

The announcement made by Energy Minister Greg Barker – at a Solar Strategy conference session at event SunSolar Energy in Birmingham – is a statement of intent by the UK government that it is seeking to play a more influential role in the global solar sector, estimated to be around 46 GW by analysts from Deutsche Bank.

That 46 GW represents a 50 per cent increase in existing installed capacity.

Barker said: “We have put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this ambitious strategy will place us right at the cutting edge.

“There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy as part of our long term economic plan.

“Solar not only benefits the environment, it will see British job creation and deliver the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.”

Ministers have also set a target of delivering 1 GW of capacity on public buildings by 2020 and will set out plans for the first 500 MW of installations later this year.

The conference session was co-chaired by Solar Trade Association (STA) PV Specialist Ray Noble and chaired by STA Chief Executive Paul Barwell.

Barwell said: “It’s a clever move by the UK government to start strategising to maximise its stake in a global market estimated at $134bn by 2020. With The Royal Society, the IPCC and even Shell  anticipating solar could be the world’s biggest energy source, the UK needs to make the most of its R&D, product design and manufacturing skills to steal a march in the global clean energy race.”

Noble said: “The Solar Strategy gives a clear signal that solar in the UK makes total sense. We still have work to do in developing solutions to some of the barriers but, working with government, these will be sorted during 2014. The message to the solar industry is full speed ahead and the message to the Minister is that we will achieve your ambition of 20GW.”

CSP Solar power
CSP solar system. Image courtesy: Power Engineering International

Other highlights of the strategy include plans to work with BIS to increase economic opportunities for UK plc in solar, building on UK innovation leads; new industry collaboration on building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and the addressing removal of grid barriers that prevent the expansion of solar.

The strategy follows the ‘Roadmap to a Brighter Future‘ which was published last October. It looks to showcase how the UK is at the forefront of innovation in solar PV and its importance in driving further cost reduction, meeting the challenges of balancing the electricity system, securing carbon lifecycle benefits, and identifying new financial models to help households invest.

This article is republished here with the kind permission of Diarmaid Williams, International Editor of Power Engineering International

Additional gov.UK information is available:

Where does our energy go? Follow the money!

by John Brian Shannon.

Some 16 Terawatts of energy of all kinds, were produced and consumed in 2009 by our civilization, and experts tell us that we will demand 28 Terawatts per year by 2050. An example of energy demand is the electricity that flows into our homes and businesses. Another example is the fuel we use in our vehicles. Still another is what powers our global industrial sector.

Of the energy produced and consumed by our 21st century civilization, approximately one-third is used for transportation.

The cars we drive, the transport trucks and trains that haul our freight, and the airlines and shipping lines that transport us and our goods around the world, are all part of what we call the transportation sector. The vast majority of these vehicles use petroleum fuels to provide the motive power. Fuels such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel/kerosene, bunker fuel and other fuels, produce plenty of CO2, toxic emissions, particulate matter, and soot.

Of the three categories of energy users, the transportation sector is easily the ‘dirtiest-third’ and contributes the largest share of atmospheric emissions.

Another third (approx.) of total demand is consumed by industry and like the transportation sector, contributes large amounts of pollution to our atmosphere. Depending where you live in the world, the environmental effects of that pollution can range from negligible to toxic.

The last third (approx.) of demand is used to power residential buildings, commercial buildings, and various levels of government infrastructure. When you turn on the lights or heat in a building, or look at illuminated signs and streetlights on your way to your local air-conditioned shopping mall — each is an example of residential, commercial, and government energy users.

A question arises; Which of the three categories can lower their emissions at reasonable cost?

In all three categories, not using the energy in the first place is the best way to lower costs and emissions. Energy conservation beats everything else, hands down, every time.

For example, no matter how cleanly your car operates for each mile you drive it — for each mile that you don’t drive it, the car produces zero emissions. The same holds true for cities that shut off every second streetlight after midnight. No matter how efficient streetlights are these days, they still use less power turned OFF — when compared to ON.

Energy conservation differs from efficient energy use, which refers to using less energy for a constant service. For example, driving less is an example of energy conservation. Driving the same amount with a higher mileage (MPG) vehicle is an example of energy efficiency. Energy conservation and efficiency are both energy reduction techniques.

Energy conservation reduces energy services, it can result in increased, environmental quality, national security, and personal financial security. It is at the top of the sustainable energy hierarchy. — Wikipedia

For decades, very little research went into increasing efficiency or adding conservation measures in residential and commercial buildings.

Until the 1980’s, electricity wastage for commercial buildings and residential buildings was often over 80% and little attention was paid to building efficiency or conservation — back in the days of cheap electrical power — but great progress is now being made in efficient buildings and conservation as a way for building owners to reduce operating costs.

One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce overhead and to help lower emissions in buildings, is to employ efficiency and conservation measures, and to source electricity from clean, renewable energy for our residential/commercial buildings and government infrastructure. Efficiency and conservation can save building owners millions of dollars per year with rapid return on investment (ROI).

Example of a green building in Washington DC. Image via Progressive Times
A ‘green building’ in Washington DC. This office building is a LEED Certified building that uses efficiency and conservation to dramatically minimize its environmental footprint and reduce costs. Image via Progressive Times

Some buildings are notorious for their heavy electrical demand. For example, some large U.S. shopping malls have utility bills of $1 million dollars per month. Retrofitting such commercial buildings in order to save up to 80% on their monthly electricity bill has become a huge business in the United States and there is every possibility of this happening globally, as electricity costs are expected to rise (and in some regions, rise steeply) in the years ahead.

Get used to hearing the terms efficient buildings, conservation, and LEED Certification, as these represent a global multi-trillion dollar opportunity for retrofit companies, building systems equipment manufacturers and engineering firms. At the same time, opportunities for building owners to lower their electricity, water and sewage expenses by orders of magnitude — with swift payback on efficiency and conservation spending — via large reductions in operating expenses.

Some building owners may opt for a light efficiency and conservation retrofit, while others choose the so-called Deep Energy Retrofit which is applicable to commercial buildings and forecasts savings of greater than 50% will result from such efficiency and conservation upgrades.

Commercial Building RetroFit Initiative (USA)

Who would have thought retrofitting the 6,514 operable windows of the Empire State building on the 5th floor, for energy efficiency, would be time- or cost-effective?

But it was.

Retrofitting existing commercial buildings for energy efficiency is one of the greatest opportunities facing the building industry. If our existing buildings in the U.S. were a nation, its energy consumption would rank third after China and the U.S. More than a trillion dollars is currently flowing out of our buildings in the form of wasted energy.

Eighty percent of the today’s commercial square footage will be standing and operating in 2030. We estimate a conservative $1.4 trillion dollar value to be gained over the next 40 years from intervening with deep energy retrofits using whole systems design. — Rocky Mountain Institute

One stellar example of a government leading the way for consumers, for commercial building operators, and for industry, is Washington DC. Under the leadership of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the city set a great example for other cities. Washington DC is a thought and action leader on green buildings, efficiency and conservation, renewables, and sustainable development.

The Living Building Challenge is part of numerous efforts by the city to reach Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC” initiative, which includes 11 key categories for environmental/fiscal improvement. The categories include goals such as cutting the energy consumption of the entire city by half, being able to bring in locally grown food within a quarter mile of the city and have it consumed by 75 percent of D.C. residents, as well as tripling the number of small businesses within the city. — Carl Pierre, InTheCapital.com excerpted from D.C. is Planning its First Self-Sustaining, ‘Living Building’

As more than 50% of the world’s citizens presently live in cities (70% by 2050, according to the WHO) it makes sense to ramp-up efforts on efficiency and conservation in cities — where much of the transportation sector operates, where there is an active industrial sector, and where there are large numbers of commercial/residential buildings and government infrastructures.

Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, and other cities are leading the world with their great examples.

What can you do to help add efficiency and conserve power in your home, commercial building, or industry?

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Here are some helpful efficiency and conservation information links, courtesy of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington State.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington state, is an excellent example of efficiency and conservation measures at work to save money for the building owner/operators. Photo credit: J. Housel

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) comprises a campus with several buildings with 532,602 square feet of floor space in Seattle, Washington. The facility was built from 1990 to 2004 and has won numerous awards for energy efficiency because of its original design but also because of its ongoing efficiency programs. For example, FHCRC staffs recommission all air-handlers, controls, and electrical equipment every two years in partnership with the controls system provider, Siemens Building Technology.

Campus maintenance is managed full time by a team of three professionals. In 2000, for example, this team performed more than 1,500 preventative maintenance operations. The performance of campus buildings is the subject of a Labs-21 case study titled Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WashingtonPDF.

Other examples of campuses with good maintenance and energy management programs include the following.

Follow John Brian Shannon on Twitter at: @EVcentral

World Health Organization Air Pollution Report | One in Eight deaths from Air Pollution

by John Brian Shannon.

Seven million premature air pollution related deaths — World Health Organization Air Pollution Report

A March 25 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that 7 million premature deaths were caused by air pollution in 2012. That’s one of every eight deaths worldwide. “This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.” — WHO report

Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal. — World Health Organization

The report clearly delineates between indoor and outdoor air pollution. A large percentage of deaths occur as wood, coal, or kerosene are used as fuel for indoor stoves in the developing world. These rudimentary cooking and heating stoves emit relatively large quantities of soot, particulates and toxic gases. Not to mention comparatively large quantities of CO2 — and while carbon dioxide itself is not a toxic gas it can displace oxygen in enclosed areas within a house for example, causing death by asphyxiation.

Women and Children at highest risk

Women and children tend to suffer most and levels are often significantly higher than outdoor pollution measurements. Indoor air pollution is responsible for 2 million deaths per year, according to the report.

Air pollution is a major environment-related health threat to children and a risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory disease. While second-hand tobacco smoke and certain outdoor pollutants are known risk factors for respiratory infections, indoor air pollution from solid fuels is one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

“Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly. Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.” — Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health

A solution to the millions of deaths in recent decades caused by indoor pollution is the replacement of inefficient wood-burning, coal-burning and kerosene stoves, with electric stoves. For that, 1.3 billion people living in remote regions unserviced by electrical grids in Africa, Asia, and parts of South America will need either standalone energy power plants in the form of Solar Home Systems (SHS) or microgrids to generate and deliver clean electricity for electric stoves and heaters.

World Health Organization Air Pollution report. Chart shows the causes and effects of airborne pollution. Image courtesy of WHO
World Health Organization Air Pollution report. Chart shows the causes and effects of airborne pollution. Image courtesy of WHO

Outdoor air pollution levels continue to increase

The growing outdoor air pollution problem is also a contributor to the millions of premature deaths from outdoor airborne emissions. Urban outdoor air pollution alone is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths annually.

Outdoor air pollution is large and increasing a consequence of the inefficient combustion of fuels for transport, power generation and other human activities like home heating and cooking. Combustion processes produce a complex mixture of pollutants that comprises of both primary emissions, such as diesel soot particles and lead, and the products of atmospheric transformation, such as ozone and sulfate particles. — WHO

Transportation Sector must reduce emissions, now

To reduce the millions of premature deaths caused by outdoor emissions, doubling the automobile fleet miles per gallon, per country, would halve the amount of outdoor emissions emitted by the land transportation segment. Switching from diesel to algae biodiesel (which can emit up to 80% fewer toxic pollutants) can dramatically improve the air quality in cities. And both gasoline vehicles and diesel vehicles can be manufactured or converted to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). New, CNG-burning Honda cars are available for sale in the U.S. and Japan, while many truck fleets in the U.S. and Europe are switching to CNG or CNG+diesel power in an effort to lower costs, extend engine life, and reduce emissions.

The global shipping segment also emits large amounts of CO2, toxic gases and particulates. Emissions from ships may be especially harmful to human health due to the high levels of toxic gases, soot, and particulate matter which are a byproduct of burning so-called ‘bunker fuel’. Biofuel development is underway to help mitigate the damage caused by the world’s shipping lines to the atmosphere. Commercial aviation adds a similar total amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, but soot and particulates are less concerning with aviation fuels as much cleaner fuels are used for aviation. Increasingly, commercial airlines and the U.S. military are switching to biofuel+conventional petroleum blended fuels. Boeing reported that it’s jets produced 80% lower emissions when blended biofuels were used in test flights.

Electric Vehicles emit zero emissions

Cars like the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S are stunning the world with their sales and performance — and their zero emissions for the life of the car. In North America and Europe, Tesla provides free charging for the life of the car via a growing network of charging stations which are often solar powered. Which means zero ‘fuel’ cost for the life of the car, if the owner chooses to recharge at one of the free Tesla ‘SuperCharger’ charging locations. Both the LEAF and the Tesla Model S boast a >95% recyclability rate.

The Nissan LEAF has sold over 100,000 units since it’s introduction, while the Model S is limited to only 30,000 per year (for now) due to a lack of manufacturing capacity. The latest Tesla vehicle, the Tesla Model X has a growing ‘waiting list’ of 12,000 people, and each one of them have paid a minimum deposit of $5,000. as far back as 2013 and are prepared to wait until 2015 if necessary, for their new Tesla electric vehicle.

It will get worse, before it gets better

For now, the annual death toll due to airborne emissions will continue to rise. By 2017, the yearly premature death toll will become a staggering number, much worse than 2012’s one-in-eight and will be a set of statistics difficult for many to comprehend.

Our health is in our hands

Many of us have the opportunity to become part of a better future by the choices we make now. Gas-guzzler, or economy car? Burning fossil fuels indoors, or switching to electric heaters and electric stoves? Burning plastic rubbish, or taking it and other recyclables to the recycling station? The choice is ours!

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A list of specific diseases caused by indoor and outdoor air emissions from the report:

Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:

  • 40% — ischaemic heart disease;
  • 40% — stroke;
  • 11% — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • 6% —- lung cancer; and
  • 3% —- acute lower respiratory infections in children.

Indoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:

  • 34% — stroke;
  • 26% — ischaemic heart disease;
  • 22% — COPD;
  • 12% — acute lower respiratory infections in children; and
  • 6% —- lung cancer.

Related links provided by the World Health Organization