From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Monday, December 05, 2016

McKinsey Talks Energy and Climate at MIT

On November 21, 2016 Scott Nyquist of McKinsey & Company ( spoke to the public at MIT's Sloan School (

Over the next 20 years, there are projections for 80% more demand on resources as a result of growing populations and growing economic production.  However, higher energy intensity, efficiency, and slower GDP growth leads McKinsey and Company to consider a less than base case view.

McKinsey sees 74% of our energy still coming from fossil fuels by 2050, with an energy related CO2 peak by 2035, and a similar peak in transportation by 2025.  COP 21, the Paris Agreement, has businesses going ahead and beyond waiting for negotiation, regulations and governments.  Nyquist pointed us toward not only the Energy Transitions Commission (, 28 leaders from business who recognize that COP21 is not enough and are setting zero carbon as a planning goal but also the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (, 10 companies with 20% of global oil and gas production, which has pledged $1 billion for low carbon technology.

The top 4 emitters, US, China, India, the EU, are planning 4 - 2.5% improvements per year in energy productivity now and that will continue.  China is forecast to exceed the EU, US, India combined in zero carbon energy growth over the next 20 years.  They will have a large nuclear component to their energy mix. Even the Saudis are diversifying from oil.

Autonomous and sharing vehicle systems may reduce transportation emissions dramatically by 2030.  Private cars are going away, says the Senior Partner in the Houston Office of McKinsey and Company and leader in both McKinsey's Energy Practice and the McKinsey Sustainability and Resource Productivity Network.

Solar electricity, photovoltaics, are expected to be competitive in most USA states by 2025. A third of the USA now finds solar electricity competitive with other energy sources, including, in some areas, natural gas, even without subsidies.  Solar is beyond the tipping point today, even with the election of Donald J Trump.  Utility clients are optimistic about the possibilities of storage and micro-grids but still waiting for the technology.  Nyquist did not directly address demand side management or advanced energy efficiency.

According to his conversations, fossil fuel companies understand that the carbon budget is 900 Gt of emissions to keep within the 2ºC increase in global temperature rise while fuel reserves are already 3-5 times that amount.  Scott Nyquist called out  the oil and gas industry and the Republican Party for their conduct on climate change.  The topic of stranded assets was not addressed in this talk.

Nyquist spoke almost exclusively of emissions without really exploring sinks.  All the carbon capture methods he mentioned,  briefly, were industrial.  He concentrated on sources of greenhouse gases rather than sinks, flows much, much more than stocks.  Geoengineering did not come up nor did the idea of geotherapy, amplifying existing natural carbon sinks by ecological design.

At the very beginning of his talk, Scott Nyquist said that there is geological evidence of sea level risings as much as one foot per decade.  That is the context in which McKinsey and Company are thinking about energy and climate change.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Zero Net Energy - November 21, 2016

5 companies leading the field in net zero building

Zero net energy row house project in Sweden

Heidelberg Village PassivHaus development of 162 units, including rooftop and vertical gardens

RMI’s report:  An Integrative Business Model for Net Zero Energy Districts

Hampshire College’s RW Kern Center, zero net energy built to Living Building Challenge standards

Zero net energy retrofits for a Whole Foods grocery and a mixed use historic building with 91 low-income residents in SF

UK Green Building Council’s office renovation for lowest carbon footprint

Zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell train

Regenerative villages

Aruba commits to 100% renewables by2020

Santa Monica requires all new single-family homes to be net zero energy

Ecocor - prefab Passive House construction

Monday, August 01, 2016

Zero Net Energy - August 1, 2016

I’m noticing a cross-over now between zero net energy building and city agriculture, two subjects I follow and publish links lists on.  The archive of the city agriculture links list is at
Net Zero Plus
The NetZero Plus Electric Training Institute (NZP-ETI), opened recently in Los Angeles, and is the largest net-zero plus commercial building retrofit in USA which “will function as a living laboratory, educational facility and demonstration center for advanced and emerging clean energy technologies."

I’ve built a version of this for myself and it seems to work although mine is just a small test model

All terrain off the grid survival vehicle

New home construction moving towards net zero

Retrofit home in Whatcom County, Washington produces twice the energy it now consumes (in an area with solar insolation of 3.5 - 3.0 kWh/square meter/day)

Virginia Beach,VA 10,500-square-foot Brock Environmental Center turns rainwater into drinking water, produces 83% more energy than it uses

Net Zero Energy Vermont - blog focusing on making Vermont the first zero energy state
Net zero energy feasibility study for Vermont buildings (and beyond)
Net zero downtown Montpelier design competition

Siemens new Munich headquarters, using 90% less electricity and 75% less water than what the building it replaced

Los Angeles net zero solar powered  20 unit apartment building:  Hanover Olympic 

Nanjing China zero net energy Green Light House

Net Zero community in Salt Lake City

Telus Gardens in Vancouver, LEED Platinum with indoor gardens

LIAR Living Architecture
"This project will develop blocks able to extract resources from sunlight, waste water and air. The bricks are able to fit together and create ‘bioreactor walls’ which could then be incorporated in housing, public buildings and office spaces.”

Floating House - 100 sqm residential unit, 12 m in diameter and 4 m high, made entirely of recycled laminated timber on a recycled aluminium hull.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Solar Electric Power to the People

I like direct action, positive protest that has immediate, practical, social and economic use.  
That's why I say, Solar IS Civil Defense - light, phone, battery can be supplied by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  The solar bike lights on my backpack over the last decade have proven the concept to my satisfaction (

Light, phone, battery are also entry level electricity for the 1.4 billion or so of us around the world who don't yet have access to reliable electric power.  Emergency preparedness at home, entry level solar power to the people who've never had it is essentially the same thing.
Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is technically and practically feasible now.  
It is rapidly becoming affordable too.  

I know of one company that is reaching the price point of $1 per unit production costs for solar rechargeable lights ( and believe that there are others that are doing the same or better.  That's $1.4 billion in production costs (or less, given economies of scale) to supply everyone among the presently powerless or $200 million if we start with one solar lighting system per family at a global average of 7 people per family.
How much more for delivery and setting up the infrastructure?  The Dominican Light Project ( is beginning to provide solar lights for every family in the Dominican Republic at a proposed cost of $5 each to the customer's door.  They raised some of their money through crowdfunding (
Bare minimum solar electricity for all, as long as the sun shines and the batteries hold out, is not only technically feasible but also affordable and practical now.
in 2015, the world's military forces spent $1,676.0 billion annually or $4.59 billion per day
2016 USA Presidential election spending to July 22, 2016:
Amount raised by candidates:  $904 million
Amount raised by Super PACS supporting them:  $492
Just for reference.
Conceivably, there could be ad hoc popular movement for crowd funding the end of electrical energy poverty within the next 3 to 5 years.  A day of what we spend on warfare or a US Presidential campaign could give everybody who needed a light, a light.  This is solar electric power to the people.
Now, add a bicycle or a hand-crank and you have two reliable sources of electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.
Here are a few solar lighting buy one, give one programs:
One Million Lights


Buy One Give One for Malawi

LuminAID Portable Solar-Powered Inflatable Light

10 Inspiring "Buy One Give One" Projects - Mashable

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Free as in Sunlight

Found an interesting project while wandering through my usual haunts on the Internet the other day.  The Dominican Light Project ( is an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of raising at least $25,000 over the month of May 2016 to give solar lanterns to 5000 families in the Dominican Republic.  "For every $25 raised with the Dominican Light Project on Indiegogo, five Dominicans will receive a solar lantern to provide them with a safe source of light. Each lantern provides 12 hours of bright, LED light per 6-8-hour charge and will also eliminate the health and fire risks associated with candles and kerosene lamps.”  Eventually, they’d like to give a solar lantern to every family in the Dominican Republic at an estimated cost of over $25 million.
This reminded me of another solar project in the  Dominican Republic that started in 1984, Enersol (, which developed the SOlar-BASed rural Electrification Concept (SO-BASEC): "an appropriate low-cost, practical, PV system that could be sold and installed by local PV supply micro-enterprises, with financing through a low-cost micro-credit payment plan managed by a local association, cooperative or NGO.”  This model would go on to influence the Grameen Shakti ( program in Bangladesh as well as the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) ( ) in India.

What I remember most about Enersol and their work was their insistence on builidng a local support infrastructure that would not only install but also maintain and repair the equipment.  "By 1990 Enersol’s training and assistance to local technicians and micro-credit programs had led to the electrification of 1,000 households and micro-enterprises” demonstrating "that solar electrification was an affordable and effective alternative to conventional grid systems and that it benefited the environment and contributed to local economic development as well.”  And that’s at 1984-1990 prices.

The Dominican Light Project estimates the cost of their solar lights at $5 each, 12 hours of light for every 6-8 hours of charging.  A few months ago, I had an email from Thrive Solar ( informing me that they’ve been able to build solar lights for $1 a piece in production costs in their Indian factory.
For years, I’ve been promoting the idea of Solar IS Civil Defense ( - what we are all supposed to have on hand in case of emergency:  flashlight, cell phone, radio, extra set of batteries - can be powered by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  Add a hand crank or bicycle generator and you have a reliable source of survival level electricity, day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.  This is also entry level electrical power for the 1.5 billion people around the world who do not yet have access to electricity.  

Civil defense at home and economic development abroad can be combined economically as a gift, a premium in a “buy one, give one” program, as a small business, and in many other configurations.  Sunlight is free and the technology for converting it to electricity is now within almost everyone’s grasp. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Zero Net Energy - April 20, 2016

Shanghai Tower:  World’s Foremost Eco-Friendly Skyscraper?

Greening the Empire State Building - report from 2011

Net Zero Habitat for Humanity homes

ZNE Action Bulletin, Winter 2016

Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC)  called for legally binding targets for near-zero building energy standards

Energiesprong - Dutch near net zero building retrofit kit

EU ZNE renovarion case studies:  zero-energy for zero-upfront-costs (The Netherlands); a revolving loan fund (Estonia); a large-scale national programme (Germany); a scheme tackling fuel poverty (France) and dedicated energy services for the public sector (United Kingdom).

Toward Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Super High-Rise Commercial Buildings - 2014 White Paper

Seoul to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Buildings 26.9% by 2020

UK’s Costa coffee shops opening 4 new ZNE Eco-Pods

NYC’s first Passive apartment building, Perch Harlem

Sunday, January 17, 2016

World Game Notes: MOOCs, Global Displays, and Existing Technological Opportunities

"Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviors that will avoid extinction."  R Buckminster Fuller
MOOC [Massive Open Online Course]: Power Agriculture: Sustainable Energy for Food
Feb 1st - March 27, 2016“Details: Around one third of the energy used worldwide goes into the production and processing of food from field to table. Given the current energy system mix, the agrifood industry sector is however heavily dependent on fossil fuel inputs for production, transport, processing and distribution, and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. With a continuously growing world population the need for food and for energy to produce it is increasing. At the same time millions of farmers and processors in developing countries and emerging economies lack access to clean energy technologies for irrigation, drying, cooling, storage and other processes. Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) seeks to identify and support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for increasing agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries.”

There is now technology to show this and other MOOCs’ proceedings on, among other things, a dynamic spherical screen like the iGlobe (  Currently, MIT’s Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences is hosting a two foot diameter iGlobe. 
“If you have data or interactive models you'd like to see visualized on the sphere... learn how it can be done and to figure out better ways and how to present information using the iGlobe.  Or try to make a compelling environmental movie using the sphere, an auxiliary screen, and sound.  Or come if you'd just like to experiment with the way things look projected on a spherical surface.”

There are open sessions with the IGlobe display every Thursday in January 2016 from 11am to 12pm at MIT, Building 54-1827, 21 Ames Street, Cambridge, the Green Building, the tallest building on campus.  Glenn Flierl, Professor of Oceanography, is the host.
NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] also has a program called Science on a Sphere, 
“a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.”

These ongoing activities approach R Buckminster Fuller’s idea of a World Game:  
The goal of the World Game is to "make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone." 

Today, we have the technology to play the World Game online in real time with interactive maps and satellite images updated frequently.  Imagine World of Peacecraft or the Final Fantasy of a sustainable, restorative economy and ecology for everybody, all 100% of the human population with a significant number of that 100% participating as co-designers, for the benefit of all who will allow the benefit of all.
An online, ad hoc “Dashboard for Spaceship Earth” can also be cobbled together from existing resources with some of theseWorld Game Dashboards and Visualizations:
clock of various Earthly vital statistics
Breathing Earth - carbon output, births and deaths
AP's interactive map of countries, emissions, and climate goals (2009)
NASA's Aqua/AIRS animation on carbon, watching the Earth breathe - associated with Solutions Journal
Environmental Performance Index 
Arctic Jet Stream
Yale's Environmental Performance Index ( is global in scope. 
And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( tracks everything from temperature change to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. 

Terralingua is tracking something unique they call Vitality Index( 
What are other groups tracking? 
What global measures are there for biodiversity, ocean health, arable land, rainforest, ice coverage, number of species, etc? 
realtime wind/temperature Earth:
The Skeptical Environmentalist ( has a lot of interesting statistics and comes from another perspective. 
UNESCO ( has good statistics about education and science from a global perspective.
NASA's Earth Observatory ( has some cool maps and interesting analysis of what is happening on earth as seen by satellites. 
For example, while biodiversity is going down, the total amount of life on earth as measured by Net Primary Productivity has actually increased on average by 6% from 1982 to 1999.
Crisis Commons ( and CrisisCamps like this 2010 one for Haiti in Boston are already a kind of narrow World Game:
Saturday, February 13, 2010 CrisisCamp will bring again together volunteers in Boston, MA to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti's relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public.
The Buckminster Fuller Institute ( is preserving and continuing Fuller's work and OS Earth ( runs corporate and student simulations based upon the World Game.
There are disaster preparedness ( and humanitarian assistance training ( simulations online. Bright Neighbor ( is a community resilience software package marketed to city and town governments.  [There is also which has worked with Occupy Sandy in NYC and helps cities and towns prepare for recovery before the disaster happens.]
One game designer, Jane McGonigal has built a number of real world problem solving games, including SuperStruct for the Institute for the Future ( in 2009 and Evoke, in 2010. The first challenge in that game is a famine in Tokyo ten years from now. There are ten challenges to be completed in ten weeks. McGonigal's writings are at 
John Robb of Global Guerrillas ( theorizes about "a real world company that operates like a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. One reason I believe that this type of venture would work (and that my dream wasn't purely a fantasy) is this simple insight: MMOs with persistent environments (aka 'worlds') have proven an ability to incentivize tens of millions of players to do billions of hours of work...."
Those incentives are
"Improvement in status (level).
Gain new capabilities (new tools) and skills.
Earn in-game faux money (to purchase new tools and status enhancing items)."
In-game faux money becomes real money all the time these days.
Additional Links:"  The Cost of Life is a pre-earthquake game of rural life in Haiti (Ayiti) from UNICEF. The object of this game is to follow one family for four years. It is not an MMO.  and are both sites trying to compile permaculture and transition town information as it applies to Haiti
Enersa (  is a Haitian group doing solar as a cottage industry.
For more information contact Richard Komp, PhD, Director of Skyheat Associates <>.  His report on a 2007 visit is at [pdf alert]
Ozone Hole Watch
International Institute for Sustainable Development on climate policy
Gamification of Systems Thinking
urban world app from McKinsey "offers previously unavailable data from a proprietary MGI database of more than 2,600 cities around the world”
10 science games doing real research, including a game to find cropland at
There is a board game version that approaches the World Game called the World Peace Game ( developed by John Hunter for Fourth Graders and other elementary school students.  I've talked with him and he knows about Buckminster Fuller's World Game but has his hands full with his won World Peace Game.  He has been working with a gaming group at MIT to make a digital version of the tabletop version of the game.
These are all resources I’ve collected over the years and are not intended to be examined all at once, only to give you an idea of what is already out there and available now.