By Gary Hartley
Sustainability, renewables, smart technologies, new modes of transport – none of these are things where international borders are particularly relevant anymore.
Often the ‘green jobs’ created in one country are provided by firms from another, and the expertise behind it all are pinging their vital emails wherever the work is to be found. Very close to home, our very own Tom Lock is advising Turkey on product energy standards for EU membership.
So it’s worth checking in with what other countries are up to in the fields we’re interested in. Sadly, we don’t have any former employees blogging on their bikes from far afield anymore, so a bit of a desk summary will have to do. So what’s going down?
The BBC has reported on some very raw green entrepreneurship in India, where a Mr Bondal has come up with a prototype which aims to simultaneously tackle the country’s waste problem and create cheap fuel – a machine the inventor claims can turn 150 tonnes of waste into 150,000 litres of crude oil, every day. It’s a case study which is part of a much bigger trend: India has the green-tech growth in the major world economies, which is lucky, since energy efficient behaviour isn’t well ingrained.
Changing behaviour while improving technology is behind another sustainable Indian idea mentioned in the report. Four per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the use of wood stoves for cooking.
The designer of the Greenway stove, Ms Juneja, toured the country looking at the way people used their stoves, ultimately creating a model that more effectively oxygenates the wood, leading to less waste. If all this sounds a little unfamiliar, the areas of big-league green investment in India are solar and wind – the international language of mainstream renewables.
Back in Europe, a more worrying story. Portugal is considered a renewables trailblazer, and for a few hours in 2011 managed to provide all its electricity need from renewable sources. But the impact of overarching recession is leading some to question whether the will to keep pushing on will be there.
And now there are times of surplus renewable energy – energy effectively ‘wasted’ until there’s a rush of electric cars in the country. But subsidies for EVs and domestic solar have been cut by a government tightening their belt in line with bailout conditions.
There is hope here though too – with international help, funnily enough. A Finnish company is driving forward wave power in the Atlantic off the coast, and one of China’s state energy companies has bought a significant stake in Portuguese power generation during a government sell-off. An economic giant learning from a modest pioneer, perhaps.
Staying in the East – and Scandinavia, actually – bankrupt Swedish car company Saab has been sold to NEVS, a Hong Kong/ Japanese venture that will use the model of the Saab 9-3 as the basis for a new electric car carrying technology from Japan, while still manufacturing the car at Saab’s factory in Trollhaettan in south-western Sweden. Jobs here, brains there, cash on a transaction screen – this is green globalisation at will.
And I think the best has been well and truly saved for last in this round-up. Scotland is flying its flag far away by helping Malawi – a country where 93 per cent of people have no access to electricity – to get wired up in a way that promotes sustainable growth.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon has already praised Scotland’s efforts in sustainable energy, and First Minister Alex Salmond had plenty to say on the new link-up:
“Our commitment and expertise in the areas of renewable energy and climate change are an important element of Scotland’s contribution to the world and to international development in particular.
“Much of the region of Chikhwawa in Malawi did not have electricity until a programme led by Strathclyde University, funded by Scottish Government, installed a solar energy system. Now school buildings have lighting and power sockets allowing studying in the evening and its health post now has refrigeration allowing vaccines to be stored more effectively.
“We will work with the Government of Malawi to help extend electricity provision from test areas such as Chikhwawa.”
So if ever you need a telling reminder that making the greener choice is truly a global game, think of Strathclyde’s likely legacy in Southeast Africa.