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UK Carbon Emissions Target On Standby For Disaster

The growth in home devices and appliances is threatening the 2020 carbon reduction targets

Booming sales in electronic gadgets are threatening the 2020 target of a 34 percent reduction in domestic appliance carbon emissions, unless we take further action now.

This is the conclusion reached by a report from the Energy Saving Trust. The Elephant in the Living Room: how our appliances and gadgets are trampling the green dream trumpets the fact that our desire for energy-consuming gadgets is growing, despite rising prices for energy and economic constraints.

New Products Sapping More Power

“In this tumultuous period we have welcomed many new electronic goods into our homes, as the publishing and entertainment industries (as well as others) morph almost weekly into new technological forms,” the report observed. “Our hunger for smartphones and tablet computers, games consoles and e-readers, giant fridges and large washing machines, seems to trump even uncertain employment and shrinking disposable incomes.”

Almost a third (29 percent) of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from home appliances and a reduction in this area could make a difference to the UK’s ability to meet its 2020 target, the analysts claim.

The Elephant in the Living Room is a follow-on to a 2006 study by the Trust: The Rise of the Machines. Overall the new report finds an improved situation created by standards and legislation, such as banning patio heaters and incandescent light bulbs. But computers and peripherals such as printers have been adding greatly to the nation’s electricity bills. Often these machines, plus TVs and video recorders, are left on stand-by when not being used.

Despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) “1-Watt Plan” initiative, launched over ten years ago, the standby power of many computers still exceeds this amount. But the initiative has had some impact.

“Energy use in several historically high-consuming product areas (like lighting and refrigeration) is beginning to show a marked downward trend, and predictions of how things could have looked in 2020 are less pessimistic than they were a few years ago,” the study said.

With mobility, some of the energy consumption that would have been attributed to industrial use has shifted to the domestic area.

The report concludes: “In short, it is time for us to get rid of the elephant that’s sitting inside our living rooms.”

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Mobile & Wireless News

UK Troops In Afghanistan Want Solar Gadgets

MOD announces a new scheme to get troops the gifts they need in the run-up to Christmas – and solar powered chargers are a favourite item

Business travelers in sunny climes are starting to use solar chargers to fuel the family of gadgets they haul around with them – and it seems that soldiers on a combat tour are no different.

But while using a solar charger might be a “green” choice for some, for front-line troops the decision to use the sun is more out of necessity than concern for the environment.

Along with a range of other high-tech kit including portable DVD players, game consoles and solar or wind-up radios, solar chargers are on the list of must-haves for troops in Afghanistan according to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence this week. A campaign is under way to provide the solar powered tech to troops in Afghanistan’s Forward Operating Bases thanks to sponsorship from Littlewoods and Woolworths.co.uk.

According to the MOD, troops want the solar chargers to top-up MP3 players and other gadgets. Earlier this year, US start-up Novothink launched a case for iPods and iPhones with a built in solar panel. The Surge, as the device is known, is a plastic back cover for iPods and iPhones that adds about 10mm to the thickness of the phone, and has a built-in solar panel. Two hours of charging gives about half an hour of talk time, says Novothink.

The MOD released details of the wish-list as part of wider plans to publicise a scheme to channel donated cash and presents for frontline troops into a central fund which is easier to manage then sending out items individually. The Operational Welfare Fund announced this week by the MOD and The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Familes Association (SSAFA Forces) Help is an alternative way for members of the public to send gifts to troops in a way that doesn’t overload the military’s postal system – and delay mail from relatives and friends.

“The generosity and heartfelt support of communities at home is important in keeping up morale, often in very difficult conditions,” said vice admiral Peter Wilkinson, the deputy chief of the Defence Staff. “However, experience over the past two years has shown that the operational mail system can be swamped by the public’s generosity with the result that the all important personal mail becomes significantly delayed. While parcels from the public are without doubt popular with recipients, the delays they inevitably cause to the delivery of personal mail are considerably less welcome.”

In June, handset maker ZTE launched a low-cost solar phone which can be used without any mains electricity at all, thanks to a claimed solar cell breakthrough which could power other devices. The Coral-200-Solar has a single solar panel on a specially-designed back, but is otherwise a customised version of ZTE’s Coral 200, a leading ultra-low-cost phone designed for emerging markets.

Samsung announced a “Blue Earth” touchscreen phone, and has delivered a $60 dual-charging Solar Guru E1107 phone in India, which claims to provide five to ten minutes talk time from one hour in the sun.

The Operational Welfare Fund is especially important given the rise in donations to troops expected at Christmas. “I appreciate, just as members of the Armed Forces do, the public’s great generosity when they choose to send Christmas parcels out to the troops. Public support is such a great morale-booster. But I really cannot stress enough that donating to the Operational Welfare Fund is a much more effective way of supporting our servicemen and women,” said Armed Forces minister, Bill Rammell MP.

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Video Can’t Replace The Bus, Says Livingstone

Former mayor Ken Livingstone says videoconferencing can’t do away with transport, at a conference which also heard government plans to reduce domestic flights

Videoconferencing won’t replace business travel, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone told an IBM-sponsored summit in London, which earlier heard of government plans to replace domestic flights with rail travel.

Livingstone, whose term as mayor gave London the congestion charge, Cross Rail and the cycle hire scheme delivered by current mayor Boris Johnson, said that business centres depend on public transport, because private cars are impractical.  Videoconferencing is not a replacement, he said, because: “Over electronics you lose the small tell-tale signs that say the person you are speaking to might be lying to you.”

“You can’t tell when a hologram is lying”

Speaking at the third day of an IBM-sponsored summit on sustainability and business, Livingstone said that business centres cluster together, and must have public transport, because “roads just fill up”. Despite the benefits of public transport, he warned that treasury bodies would oppose its capital costs, especially in a time of austerity.

Although videoconferencing is improving to the point where it is nearly “holographic”, he said it could never replace face-to-face meetings.

Despite Livingstone’s dismissal of videoconferencing, the government has a policy to reduce the demand for transport, according to Transport Minister Philip Hammond, who said that the government wanted to reduce domestic flights.

The coalition government had  cancelled the third runway at Heathrow because it was “incompatible with our goals”, said Hammond. The government is building high-speed rail networks to major cities as a “real alternative to domestic air travel”, he said.

The rise of rail

“Rail will become the overwhelming choice for passengers,” he said, adding that it is currently too expensive and would become cheaper. It is wrong that “84 percent of all journeys are made by car,” he said.

Despite the doubts about videoconferencing, the summit heard that managing the demand for transport was the most important way to reduce congestion, and make transport sustainable. Achieving this would include better information and better broadband networks so people could choose whether or not to travel.

Prince Charles, who has backed the IBM summit, addressed those gathered, arguing that a more balanced approach could be achieved using systems that mimic nature, taking advantage of millions of years of evolution, instead of roughly 200 years of human technology.

He welcomed sponsorship from IBM and other companies, and encouraged business people and consumers alike to visit the ten-day Garden Party hosted by his Start Initiative charity, to draw attention to greener lifestyles.