Monday, December 15, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives: How to Reduce Energy Consumption in the Office

When it comes to cutting operational costs in the office, one of the most obvious ways to go is to reduce the electricity bill. It's awfully important to look closely at your energy expenditure, especially since it will probably mean a lot of savings in the long run. 

To give you some tips on how to save your money and help the environment, here are a few small things you can change in your office courtesy of Westward Group Alternatives.


* Temperature
   
- When it's cold, keep the curtains or windows wide open so the heat from the sun can help out your heating system.

- When you do use air conditioning, make sure that doors and windows are closed so that the cold won't disperse in a much wider area than necessary.

- Adjust the thermostat whenever people go on break or go home -- a change of a couple of degrees for a few hours can already make a big difference.

- Instead of AC, use a cooler or an electric fan to cool the room.

- Ensure that your heating and cooling system gets a check-up every 6 months so problems can readily be identified and repairs done before more energy goes to waste.


* Lighting
   
- Make use of the natural daylight whenever possible. Just by opening up the blinds or windows you can take advantage of this free source of light and reduce the heat emission at the same time.

- Instead of lighting up a whole room, switch an overhead lamp during overtimes.
       
- Identify the correct level of brightness in a particular area. Just like how too little light can cause eye strain, so is too much light.

- Choose lighting fixtures that are more energy-efficient. For instance, fluorescent lamps consume less than half of the energy that an incandescent lightbulb does; plus, it lasts much longer.

- Always turn off the lights when not in use and make sure that lights outside are only turned on when needed.


* Others

- Set your desktops or laptops to hibernate when not in use, or better yet, turn off the display before you get up your seat. The monitor consumes a large amount of energy so putting up that cool screensaver is not actually going to do your electricity bill any good.

- You might also consider investing on so-called 'green' alternatives for your major equipment like airconditioning and computers. It might cause you a little more than usual upfront but you can save in your electricity bill for months to come, based on a Westward Group Alternatives report.


- Unplug any charger that's completed its job or else it will continue to draw energy. On the same note, manually unplug any machine or equipment before you close shop. Any plug that's connected to an AC is still consuming a small amount of energy, even though it is turned off.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Westward Group Alternative Energy Tokyo: No excuse for inaction on emissions

The latest report by the United Nations panel on climate change may not offer any new surprises concerning the threats posed by global warming, but it does remind us that doing too little, or waiting too long, to cut the emissions of heat-trapping gases could be disastrous.

The onus is now on governments, including Japan, to expedite talks for a new framework to reduce the emissions in time to avert “irreversible” damage to the global environment.

In an assessment issued Nov. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide need to be cut to “near zero or below” by the end of this century for the world to escape the “irreversible detrimental impacts” of climate change on people’s lives and the environment. To meet the internationally agreed goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature since the start of the Industrial Revolution to within 2 degrees Celsius, the world needs to reduce emissions between 40 and 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050, the report said.

Time is indeed running short to take action. According to the assessment, countries around the world have already emitted two-thirds of the maximum allowable amount of carbon dioxide that can keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees. They have only a 1-trillion-ton margin left — an amount that could be exhausted in about 30 years if emissions continue at the current pace.

Many of the stern warnings in the latest report have been around for years. But progress in negotiations among governments on a new framework for cutting the gas emissions that cause global warming has been slow even after the commitment phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. The Protocol set binding targets on industrialized economies.

The report was compiled to serve as a scientific guide for policy actions by governments. But in negotiations by the parties to the U.N. convention on climate change, agreements on which countries should do what to reduce global emissions have been elusive as interests have clashed between industrialized nations and developing nations.

While the former call on emerging economies to set substantial goals to reduce their growing emissions, the latter charge that the advanced economies have a historical responsibility to lead the efforts in minimizing climate change.

Participants in the U.N. negotiations, who will gather in Lima next month for the COP 20 conference, have set a goal of agreeing on a new framework for climate action — beyond 2020 — at the COP 21 meeting to be held in Paris in late 2015.

Before the Paris conference, countries that have readied their own targets are set to submit their plans by the end of March for review by the other negotiating parties. Last month the European Union announced a new target of reducing its emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

Japan does not appear ready to set a target beyond 2020. Last year it replaced an earlier plan with a new “tentative” target of reducing emissions 3.8 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. It came under international fire because the new target represented a net increase in emissions from the Kyoto Protocol base year of 1990. The government said the goal was the best it could offer given the uncertainties created by the idling of the nation’s nuclear power plants following the March 2011 meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant — a situation that remains little changed a year later.

To blame the uncertain future of nuclear energy for inaction on plans to fight climate change now is inexcusable. Nuclear power generation does not emit carbon dioxide, but the government needs to explore various avenues, including an accelerated shift to renewable energy sources and the introduction of tougher energy-efficiency standards, to set an ambitious target. Even the restart of idled reactors after screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority would not reduce emissions to levels that would be in step with the international efforts called for in the IPCC report.

Japan cannot keep relying on nuclear power to do its share in the fight against climate change.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Westward Group Alternative Energy Tokyo: Climate Change On Japan Agenda

TOKYO, Japan - Climate change and disaster risk reduction will take centre stage during the ministerial-level talks between Japan and CARICOM member states this week.

The country is hosting delegations representing the 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states this week in a bid to strengthen partnership on international issues ahead of critical United Nations’ meetings next year.

Maki Kobayashi, director of the Caribbean Division within Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained the Caribbean bloc had substantial influence as active members in the international arena, and increased solidarity on foreign policy issues that impacted Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Officials will also seek to establish cooperation on international issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, development, United Nations reform – particularly Security Council reform – and the post-2015 Development Agenda.

“We would like to advance rapidly and profoundly the relationship that we have with Caribbean countries, to cooperation in terms of economic development in order to ensure sustainable development of CARICOM, because Caribbean countries are vulnerable particularly as Small Island Developing States and as Japan also has small islands within our territory we have experiences and challenges that we share with the Caribbean community,” Ms Kobayashi said.

“We put a lot of importance to work together to overcome vulnerabilities and increase resistance to natural disasters. We both are energy importing countries so we would like to find ways to overcome issues of how to mix with renewable energy and fossil fuel energy, what we can do to work together in order to cope with climate change but at the same time mitigate the effects of climate change which are natural disaster and energy issues.”

Both Japan and CARICOM member states share common perspectives on a number of issues as democratic nations with similar geographical characteristics, Ms Kobayashi added.

The first consultation meeting to establish the Japan-CARICOM relationship was held in Jamaica in 1993, and this year was commemorated as “Japan-CARICOM Friendship Year.”

The fourth ministerial-level conference will take place on Saturday, and will follow up on policy outlined at the Japan-CARICOM Summit held in Trinidad and Tobago in July. The country also hopes to deepen mutual trust through bilateral meetings with individual member states.

Seven foreign ministers, and one trade minister, will attend the meetings, with the remaining seven member states to be represented by designated officials.

Picewell Forbes, High Commissioner to CARICOM, will lead the Bahamas delegation.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives - Alternative energy sources are crucial: reader opinion



As you know, the Clean Air Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the president.  (It was originally enacted and then signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, and amended in 1977 and 1990.)  In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Therefore, curbs on carbon dioxide emissions are, in effect, mandated.

A few weeks ago, The Charleston Daily Mail (in West Virginia) published an editorial concerning support for regulation of power-plant emissions which was surprising – given that The Daily Mail is in a major coal producing region. Also, The Houston Chronicle – a newspaper in an oil and gas state – editorially supported the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently, in testimony before a U.S. Senate Sub-committee, four former Republican heads of the EPA, supported such regulations. In addition, on June 21, in The New York Times, former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, a Republican, called for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

In a nationwide poll conducted in June by ABC News and The Washington Post, 70% of the respondents reported "the federal government should limit the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort to reduce global warming."

These developments suggest that nationally the mood of citizens is changing in response to events in their lives and research reports by climate scientists worldwide.

The changes now under way may not proceed as smoothly as we would like, but increased use of alternative sources of energy and energy conservation are crucial to our economy, our health, and our survival.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives Editorial: Expand alternative energy with caution


Consumers should have the chance to produce their own electricity, but other customers shouldn't bear the cost

Lawmakers are considering a package of bills that would expand the state’s renewable energy program in several ways, including making it easier for consumers to be compensated for creating their own solar and other forms of alternative power.

Michiganians deserve as much autonomy as possible in choosing and generating their own electricity. As long as reliability is maintained and the grid is able to handle additional power, government shouldn’t arbitrarily cap participation.

But while greater electricity freedom is a step in the right direction for Michigan consumers, changes to the way electric grids function must be handled with caution. Electric utilities and consumers who rely on traditional electricity shouldn’t be punished in the process.

House Bill 5673 in the state House Energy and Technology Committee would lift restrictions on the number of residents who can participate in the program to create their own power, which is called “net metering.” It would also lift restrictions on the amount of electricity consumers can generate and sell back to energy companies, which makes sense.

But creating a system in which consumers and energy companies both buy and sell power poses new problems. Caps for participation have existed to keep grids secure and to allow alternative energy to be added gradually to mitigate risks for electric power grid operators.
The retail rate consumers currently pay for electricity includes many costs — the actual power being generated, along with fixed costs for overhead, grid maintenance and security and general operations.

When consumers who generate their own electricity are compensated at the full retail rate, as net metering does, those fixed costs get shifted onto consumers who are not generating their own electricity.

Alternative energy users still rely on main utility grids 100 percent of the time, because their supply and demand never fully match. And a patch of clouds for an hour or two might mean a solar user needs to tap into the grid.

They should pay for the overhead and operational costs they incur at a moment’s notice.
A recent California Public Utility Commission study on net metering showed consumers who invested in rooftop solar shift the fixed electric power grid costs to consumers who can’t afford expensive rooftop solar systems, live in multifamily housing or don’t have a rooftop appropriate for solar panels.

This means California customers who don’t use net metering will pay an extra $1.1 billion in shifted costs each year by 2020.

And the majority of solar customers have higher incomes than the average consumer, meaning the fixed utility costs are shifted onto lower-income customers. In California, 78 percent have higher incomes and in Nevada, 73 percent do.

Another bill in the Michigan package seeks to set fair-value pricing based on market demand for electricity being sold back to companies. If consumers produce power at 3 p.m., a high-demand time, they would be paid more than if they produce power at 3 a.m., when there is little demand.

Mandating electric utilities buy back electricity at retail rates, however, ignores the fact that utilities can produce the same product for much less or buy it at a wholesale rate. This increases the overall cost of electricity, which in turn is passed onto consumers.

Alternative energy usage in Michigan increased 18 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. That trend is likely to increase, and it’s good the Legislature is getting ahead of these issues for consumers.


As lawmakers find ways to expand the state’s alternative energy programs, they must consider overall grid safety and minimize burdensome costs on consumers who can’t afford or don’t want to invest in their own electricity generating systems.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Westward group alternatives: Alternative Energy: Investing Essentials

Alternative energy is currently one of the fastest growing areas in energy. There are also a variety of factors driving the industry's pursuit of alternatives to traditional oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. Climate change in impacting how we look at fossil fuels, and Inexpensive oil is becoming more and more scarce, but the biggest driver may be the economics of alternatives to fossil fuels.

Over the next decade, it's improving costs that will drive the adoption of wind, solar, electric vehicles, and biofuels. That opens up a world of potential for investors.

What is the alternative energy industry?

Alternative energy consists of energy sources that are different from traditional energy sources like oil, natural gas, nuclear, and coal energy. They may be renewable and they may be clean but those aren't requirements to be an alternative.

On the electricity generating side of energy, alternative energy is dominated by hydro, wind, and solar energy. Hydroelectric energy has long been a contributor to the electric grid but wind and solar energy are growing in popularity as costs fall and concern about climate change increases. These are the two major growth markets in electricity generation in alternative energy.

Alternative energy is also of growing interest as an alternative to gasoline or diesel to fuel our vehicles. In recent years, electric cars have been produced in growing numbers as have natural gas trucks and even hydrogen vehicles. While these aren't a large part of the current energy industry, they do have long-term potential to replace oil as a primary fuel energy. But today, the energy industry is still dominated by fossil fuels.

How big is the alternative energy industry?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 9.3 trillion BTUs of alternative energy from hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and biofuels were consumed in 2013. The largest contributors were hydroelectric power (2.56 trillion BTUs), followed by wood energy (2.1 trillion BTUs), and biofuels (2.0 trillion BTUs). Wind and solar energy are the fastest growing among the renewable group.


While these are big figures in energy, they pale in comparison to the energy industry as a whole. Alternative energy accounts for just 11.4% of all energy consumed in the U.S. last year, so the upside for alternative energy is very large.


How does alternative energy work?

Alternative energy is sold into two primary markets: electricity and fuel. In the electric market, sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy are sold to utilities through power purchase agreements or sometimes through the spot electricity market. Occasionally, utilities will own these generating assets themselves.

In the fuel market, alternative energy is often mandated by the government but is increasingly becoming a choice for consumers. For example, an ethanol mix into gasoline is mandated by the government, creating demand for the alternative energy. Tax breaks are also given to hydrogen and electric vehicles and both are growing in availability and popularity, opening up a new market for energy companies. In fuel, natural gas is also considered an alternative energy because it is competing with oil and provides a cleaner and cheaper alternative.

The EIA says that in 2011 (the most recent data available) the consumption of alternative transportation fuels increased 13% as more ethanol and natural gas were consumed by consumers.


Expect electricity and hydrogen to be a larger piece of the pie above in the future as the technology improves and costs come down.

What are the drivers of alternative energy?

There are two main drivers of alternative energy: cost and government mandates.

Falling costs for wind, solar, biofuels, and other alternatives to traditional energy sources will keep driving adoption further. To give an example of this progress, according to GTM Research the cost to install a utility scale solar-power system fell 61% from the first quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2014. These kinds of cost reductions will drive demand long-term, and are making alternative energy more economically attractive than fossil fuels.

Government mandates will also drive demand for products like ethanol and other biofuels. Incentives like tax breaks and renewable energy standards also drive demand for alternative energy, although these incentives are declining around the world as the cost of alternative energy falls.

For investors, it's important to understand the dynamics between cost and government mandates or incentives. Government incentives can come and go quickly, leading to an unsustainable market for some alternative energy sources. Investors should focus on energy sources that are becoming economically viable without these incentives because in the long-term, that's what will make alternative energy a winner over fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources.


More related article here: Westward Group Alternatives

Monday, August 25, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives Red ginseng-based ‘vitality drink’ is a tasty alternative to ‘energy drinks’


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For millennia, ginseng has been used as an herbal “remedy” believed to rejuvenate the body and mind, alleviate fatigue and stimulate cognition.

Sacramento entrepreneur Paul Vonasek and his partners are touting their Root 9 ginseng-based “vitality drink” for its “wide range of benefits,” which they say include boosting energy, metabolism, memory and libido.

The product contains “the highest grade of Korean red ginseng,” which is produced in a specific area of South Korea and is aged for six years before going to market.

The zero-calorie, sugar-free drink is lightly carbonated and has an intriguing flavor, akin to a mild strawberry-like taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a pleasant alternative to caffeine-heavy energy drinks and cloyingly sweet soda.

“We’re developing a mango-flavored (version) that should be ready in two months,” Vonasek said.

Root 9 is sold in about 900 locations throughout California and parts of Nevada, including Nugget Markets, convenience stores and gas stations. It’s $3 for a 12-ounce can, or two for $5.

Westward Group Energy Alternatives is an autonomous service for patrons who want to save cash on their gas and energy bills. Here are several major pieces of information about our service.

Established in 2012, Westward Group Energy Alternatives provides wide-ranging and objective guidance on home energy services.