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News Article | April 28, 2016
Site: http://www.theenergycollective.com/rss/all

In recent years across the UK, citizens, government, and the business community have all demonstrated a willingness to lead the world in the fight against climate change.  So the mystery today is – why is the UK walking away from energy efficiency, the most effective and least-cost way of reducing carbon emissions? We certainly know better. When it comes to energy efficiency, the UK has achieved a great deal. On average, individual households now use 37 percent less energy than they did in 1970, with the bulk of this decrease occurring since 2004. Total household energy use decreased by 19 percent between 2000 and 2014, despite a 12 percent increase in the number of households and a 9.7 percent increase in population. Those impressive reductions in energy use have not been accidental – they have been driven by energy efficiency policies such as Energy Efficiency Obligations on energy suppliers, regulation supporting condensing boilers, and grant programmes such as Warm Front. Research commissioned by British Gas has shown that about 2/3 of the large reduction in domestic gas use has been achieved by energy efficiency improvements. However, the introduction of the Green Deal and the reorientation of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) resulted in a sharp drop in the installation rates of energy efficiency measures. By mid-2015 the average delivery rate for loft insulation had dropped by 90 percent, cavity wall insulation was down by 62 percent, and solid wall insulation had declined by 57 percent compared to 2012. It is now widely accepted that the Green Deal failed and the recent report by the National Audit Office confirms this view. The level of energy demand reduction is therefore expected to slow down in coming years. Going forward, ECO will be focused on households in fuel poverty, an area that has traditionally been supported by dedicated grant programmes. For the first time in more than two decades, there is currently no energy efficiency programme for the able-to-pay market, even though most of the properties requiring energy efficiency measures are within this segment. In order for the UK to meet its carbon targets this acute policy void needs to be filled. This cannot be achieved simply by wishing that “energy markets will deliver energy efficiency,” without either helping consumers or regulating energy businesses.  International experience shows that where energy efficiency improvements have been delivered at scale they succeed either by providing incentives and other supports to consumers, or through regulatory requirements, or a combination of the two. The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum’s new report Warmer & Greener: A guide to the future of domestic energy efficiency policy provides a number of important recommendations in those areas. Developing more stringent regulatory requirements for existing properties at the point of sale or rental is one of them. New financial mechanisms are equally important to trigger investment in energy efficiency. Providing rebates for energy efficiency improvements would offer home buyers the option to claim back part of the Stamp Duty they have to pay if they upgrade their properties. If designed carefully, this could be done so that it is fiscally neutral. Including the able to pay market within ECO is also considered in the report and has been proven to work in the past. An alternative approach could be to deliver carbon credits or carbon revenue to energy service companies or building contractors who deliver efficiency savings, thus mobilizing the UK’s carbon levy to actually deliver carbon reductions while lowering, rather than raising, the nation’s energy bill. There is no shortage of ideas for upscaling energy efficiency delivery – it is time for the government to reconsider its approach and develop a bold policy to make the most of the energy efficiency opportunity in the UK. Jan Rosenow contributed to the WSBF’s recent report Warmer & Greener: A guide to the future of domestic energy efficiency policy. This blog was originally published by Policy Connect. Dr Jan Rosenow is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, based in SPRU at the University of Sussex.


Insurance is widely acknowledged to be an important component of an organisation's disaster preparedness and resilience. Yet, little analysis exists of how well current commercial insurance policies and practices support organisational recovery in the wake of a major disaster. This exploratory qualitative research, supported by some quantitative survey data, evaluated the efficacy of commercial insurance following the sequence of earthquakes in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2010 and 2011. The study found that, generally, the commercial insurance sector performed adequately, given the complexity of the events. However, there are a number of ways in which insurers could improve their operations to increase the efficacy of commercial insurance cover and to assist organisational recovery following a disaster. The most notable of these are: (i) better wording of policies; (ii) the availability of sector-specific policies; (iii) the enhancement of claims assessment systems; and (iv) risk-based policy pricing to incentivise risk reduction measures. © Overseas Development Institute, 2016. Source


News Article
Site: http://phys.org/physics-news/

Even though the human eye isn't particularly sensitive to polarization, it is a fundamental property of light. When light is reflected or scattered off an object, its polarization changes and measuring that change reveals a lot of information. Astrophysicists, for example, use polarization measurements to analyze the surface of distant, or to map the giant magnetic fields spanning our galaxy. Drug manufacturers use the polarization of scattered light to determine the chirality and concentration of drug molecules. In telecommunications, polarization is used to carry information through the vast network of fiber optic cables. From medical diagnostics to high-tech manufacturing to the food industry, measuring polarization reveals critical data. Scientists rely on polarimeters to make these measurements. While ubiquitous, many polarimeters currently in use are slow, bulky and expensive. Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Innovation Center Iceland have built a polarimeter on a microchip, revolutionizing the design of this widely used scientific tool. "We have taken an instrument that is can reach the size of a lab bench and shrunk it down to the size of a chip," said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, who led the research. "Having a microchip polarimeter will make polarization measurements available for the first time to a much broader range of applications, including in energy-efficient, portable devices." "Taking advantage of integrated circuit technology and nanophotonics, the new device promises high-performance polarization measurements at a fraction of the cost and size," said J. P. Balthasar Mueller, a graduate student in the Capasso lab and first author of the paper. The device is described in the journal Optica. Harvard's Office of Technology Development has filed a patent application and is actively exploring commercial opportunities for the technology. Capasso's team was able to drastically reduce the complexity and size of polarimeters by building a two-dimensional metasurface—a nanoscale structure that interacts with light. The metasurface is covered with a thin array of metallic antennas, smaller than a wavelength of light, embedded in a polymer film. As light propagates down an optical fiber and illuminates the array, a small amount scatters in four directions. Four detectors measure the intensity of the scattered light and combine to give the state of polarization in real time. "One advantage of this technique is that the polarization measurement leaves the signal mostly intact," said Mueller. "This is crucial for many uses of polarimeters, especially in optical telecommunications, where measurements must be made without disturbing the data stream." In telecommunications, optical signals propagating through fibers will change their polarization in random ways. New integrated photonic chips in fiber optic cables are extremely sensitive to polarization, and if light reaches a chip with the wrong polarization, it can cause a loss of signal. "The design of the antenna array make it robust and insensitive to the inaccuracies in the fabrication process, which is ideal for large scale manufacturing," said Kristjan Leosson, senior researcher and division manager at the Innovation Center and coauthor of the paper. Leosson's team in Iceland is currently working on incorporating the metasurface design from the Capasso group into a prototype polarimeter instrument. Chip-based polarimeters could for the first time provide comprehensive and real-time polarization monitoring, which could boost network performance and security and help providers keep up with the exploding demand for bandwidth. "This device performs as well as any state-of-the-art polarimeter on the market but is considerably smaller," said Capasso. "A portable, compact polarimeter could become an important tool for not only the telecommunications industry but also in drug manufacturing, medical imaging, chemistry, astronomy, you name it. The applications are endless." Explore further: Chemistry researchers receive patent for new scientific measurement instrument


News Article | April 15, 2016
Site: http://www.theenergycollective.com/rss/all

Intermediary actors can be crucial for bringing about low energy transitions. This blog explores what they are and provides some key insights about intermediaries in low energy transitions. It has long been recognized that changing the way we produce and use energy is of crucial importance to tackle the challenges related to depleting fuel resources and their environmental impacts. For things to change, actors facilitating these processes and connecting people are important. The capital city of Helsinki, Finland, has set up an innovation unit, Forum Virium, which coordinates the construction of a smart city district within the city combining the use of several innovations, including solutions for energy storage and management, car-free blocks and services, including a smart application which allows residents to control appliances, lighting and heating remotely. In this development, according to ongoing work by Eva Heiskanen and Kaisa Matschoss, Forum Virium has acted as an intermediary identifying new innovations and organising networking events for information sharing, among other things. In the UK, an independent organisation, called Bioregional, has been a crucial intermediary in low- carbon building projects. In Brighton, Bioregional acted as a developer for One Brighton, a multi-residential energy-efficient, insulated and triple glazed building heated by woodfuel pellets with a community space and social housing developed to the principles of One Planet Living.  It builds on the experience of BedZED, a pioneering low energy housing development built in early 2000s in London. With Mari Martiskainen we have explored how Bioregional acted as an intermediary to One Brighton in several ways. It created a tangible vision for the building project by adapting previous learning from projects like BedZED, carried out project management activities and connected the local council, the builder and the local community together. These kinds of Innovation intermediaries are organisations – or sometimes individuals – which can act as go-betweens for people, funds, knowledge and ideas that in combination may result in innovation. Intermediaries may: Despite the important role that they can play, these intermediary actors in energy transitions are often invisible and their roles under-played. A workshop held on March 9-10 co-organised by the TRIPOD project and Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED), aimed to better understand the role that intermediary actors in energy transitions play. Three important insights were made: Innovation intermediaries can drive change (akin to innovation champions or institutional entrepreneurs) or mediate and connect individuals, groups, resources and knowledge across sectors (and so are sometimes called boundary spanners, knowledge brokers or hybrid actors). While many intermediaries act as distributed change agents across networks and systems, intermediaries can take on broader roles and operate on many levels. The kind of roles innovation intermediaries carry out depend on their focus, degree of financial or political independence and mandate, among other things. Examples from the processes of creating low-energy buildings, installing heat pumps and setting up community energy schemes presented at the workshop showed how intermediation has evolved from simple advice and information dissemination to the development of tools, business partnerships, professional services, and policy advocacy. For example, in the context of low energy building, intermediaries can: Perhaps a key question is what kind of intermediaries are most useful to advance sustainable energy transitions, and can such intermediaries be intentionally orchestrated? And should they? These are pertinent areas for further research. 2. What kind of intermediary activities will bring about more sustainable energy systems? The intermediary activities required are likely to differ depending on the phase of energy transition or the stage of innovation. This is also likely to define the extent to which intermediation between actors and processes is needed at all. Also, intermediary actors may experience favourable or hostile contexts, which require different strategies. We scholars continue to have different interpretations on the scale and definition of intermediation activity. In the workshop, there were differences in opinion regarding the degree of advocacy and of neutrality (intermediaries as benefactors or businesses) that the intermediary actors possess, or should possess. What we did agree on, however, was the need to make intermediation more visible. This is a fine balance however, as intermediaries should not take centre stage if they are to act as effective brokers between actors. Intermediation focuses on delivering a key object or a service. This can range from shared energy output (from a community energy scheme, for example) and technologies (such as heat pumps) to more broadly facilitating low-energy transitions or niche areas, like low-energy buildings. The focus partly determines if the intermediary is regarded as neutral (politically, financially or technologically) or if it seeks to advance particular interests. Both types are needed but, it was felt by workshop participants that the intermediaries’ stance should be made explicit to others. Why are our insights relevant? When making recommendations as to how we can achieve more sustainable energy systems, it is important to acknowledge the role of different intermediary actors and their associations. We also need to differentiate between those kinds of intermediary activities that are fundamental for low-energy transitions from those that are beneficial or even detrimental. In addition, we need to know if policies or community experiments are dependent on particular intermediaries to make them successful. Paula Kivimaa is Senior Research Fellow at SPRU working for the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED). She is also Senior Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE and Docent at Aalto University School of Business. Paula leads the CIED project on Low Energy Housing Innovations and the Role of Intermediaries. She is also member of the TRIPOD project consortium. Her current research interests include policy analysis from low-carbon innovation and transition perspectives, as well as policy complementing approaches to support low-carbon innovation, such as intermediation. Sussex Energy Group members Dr. Mari Martiskainen, Professor Adrian Smith and Dr. Jake Barnes also contributed to the workshop.


Home > Press > Novel metasurface revolutionizes ubiquitous scientific tool: Ultra-compact polarimeter could improve telecommunications, medical diagnostics and drug testing Abstract: What do astrophysics, telecommunications and pharmacology have in common? Each of these fields relies on polarimeters -- instruments that detect the direction of the oscillation of electromagnetic waves, otherwise known as the polarization of light. Even though the human eye isn't particularly sensitive to polarization, it is a fundamental property of light. When light is reflected or scattered off an object, its polarization changes and measuring that change reveals a lot of information. Astrophysicists, for example, use polarization measurements to analyze the surface of distant planets, or to map the giant magnetic fields spanning our galaxy. Drug manufacturers use the polarization of scattered light to determine the chirality and concentration of drug molecules. In telecommunications, polarization is used to carry information through the vast network of fiber optic cables. From medical diagnostics to high-tech manufacturing to the food industry, measuring polarization reveals critical data. Scientists rely on polarimeters to make these measurements. While ubiquitous, many polarimeters currently in use are slow, bulky and expensive. Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Innovation Center Iceland have built a polarimeter on a microchip, revolutionizing the design of this widely used scientific tool. "We have taken an instrument that can reach the size of a lab bench and shrunk it down to the size of a chip," said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, who led the research. "Having a microchip polarimeter will make polarization measurements available for the first time to a much broader range of applications, including in energy-efficient, portable devices." "Taking advantage of integrated circuit technology and nanophotonics, the new device promises high-performance polarization measurements at a fraction of the cost and size," said J. P. Balthasar Mueller, a graduate student in the Capasso lab and first author of the paper. The device is described in the journal Optica. Harvard's Office of Technology Development has filed a patent application and is actively exploring commercial opportunities for the technology. Capasso's team was able to drastically reduce the complexity and size of polarimeters by building a two-dimensional metasurface -- a nanoscale structure that interacts with light. The metasurface is covered with a thin array of metallic antennas, smaller than a wavelength of light, embedded in a polymer film. As light propagates down an optical fiber and illuminates the array, a small amount scatters in four directions. Four detectors measure the intensity of the scattered light and combine to give the state of polarization in real time. "One advantage of this technique is that the polarization measurement leaves the signal mostly intact," said Mueller. "This is crucial for many uses of polarimeters, especially in optical telecommunications, where measurements must be made without disturbing the data stream." In telecommunications, optical signals propagating through fibers will change their polarization in random ways. New integrated photonic chips in fiber optic cables are extremely sensitive to polarization, and if light reaches a chip with the wrong polarization, it can cause a loss of signal. "The design of the antenna array make it robust and insensitive to the inaccuracies in the fabrication process, which is ideal for large scale manufacturing," said Kristjan Leosson, senior researcher and division manager at the Innovation Center and coauthor of the paper. Leosson's team in Iceland is currently working on incorporating the metasurface design from the Capasso group into a prototype polarimeter instrument. Chip-based polarimeters could for the first time provide comprehensive and real-time polarization monitoring, which could boost network performance and security and help providers keep up with the exploding demand for bandwidth. "This device performs as well as any state-of-the-art polarimeter on the market but is considerably smaller," said Capasso. "A portable, compact polarimeter could become an important tool for not only the telecommunications industry but also in drug manufacturing, medical imaging, chemistry, astronomy, you name it. The applications are endless." ### The research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Icelandic Research Fund. For more information, please click If you have a comment, please us. Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

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