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One Tonne Life: A Swedish Family’s Green Lifestyle Experiment Begins : TreeHugger

One Tonne Life: A Swedish Family’s Green Lifestyle Experiment Begins

by Leonora Oppenheim, London, UK on 01.21.11
Cars & Transportation
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One Tonne Life family moving in photo
All images via One Tonne Life

This week in Sweden an unprecedented low carbon lifestyle experiment has begun. The Lindell family have moved into a solar powered prefab house in the suburbs of Stockholm that is specially designed to minimise energy consumption. The family’s aim is to see if they can radically reduce their average carbon footprint of 7 tonnes per year, down to 1 tonne. TreeHugger was in Stockholm this week to meet them and hear the One Tonne Life story.

One Tonne Life house family car photo

Ready for the low carbon challenge
Nils Lindell, 52, his wife Alicja, 51, daughter Hannah, 16, and son Jonathan,13, are enthusiastically gung-ho about their One Tonne Life challenge. They say they don’t know exactly what changes they will have to make to their normal routines, but they are ready to embrace the new lifestyle programme and are keen to learn as much as possible about low carbon living through the process.

“We will do whatever it takes” says Hannah, who is really the driving force in the family, being the one who discovered an advert for the project in the local paper, then persuading her family that taking part was a great idea. It helps of course that living in a beautiful, spacious, new designer home, with a Volvo electric car at their disposal, is part of the deal.

Nils and Alicja cooking photo

Corporate collaboration
While it is up to the Lindells to transform the One Tonne Life project from high concept to everyday reality, their ability to do so comes from a broad range of technological and lifestyle support in the form of some of Sweden’s largest brands.

The big names behind the One Tonne Life project are Volvo, who have supplied a C30 electric car that will be charged in the solar powered car port next to the house; A-Hus, the prefab housing experts, have manufactured a design by Gert Wingårdh, one Sweden’s most successful architects; The country’s biggest energy provider Vattenfall have supplied the energy monitoring equipment in the house; Siemens have installed a full range of energy efficient white goods for the family to use; and the national supermarket chain ICA will be guiding the family through a healthy low carbon eating plan.

Lindell family in kitchen photo

PR or R&D Exercise?
It’s quite a roll call of big brands that haven’t always been celebrated for their dedication to sustainability. Quite a few eyebrows have been raised at Vattenfall’s involvement, as the third largest greenhouse gas emmitter in Europe last year. But while on the outside this looks like an highly polished PR exercise, on the inside it’s a really rather ground breaking R&D project for everyone involved.

Alicja plugging in Volvo C30 Electric photo

The data and information that will be diligently collected from the house over the next six months will be extremely useful to see just how close we are to being able to live a One Tonne Life and will help all these companies develop their sustainable innovation strategies. Everyone I spoke to was excited about the learning that will come out of the project.

Committed to the cause
Though the Lindell family are aware of the commitment they have made to this social experiment, and will be blogging throughout their time there, it is somewhat reassuring that the whole endeavour stops short of being a media circus. Hannah Lindell looked shocked when I asked if they would have got involved if this had been a reality TV show.

“No, of course not” she says, “this is a serious project. This is not about us, we are just the tool, it’s really about this whole house and its footprint.”

Hannah looking at the Energy Watch monitor photo

Watch the BBC feature on the One Tonne Life project.

We will be posting a series of interviews with the One Tonne Life partners on TreeHugger over the next few weeks.

Panasonic plans home-use storage cell

Panasonic plans home-use storage cell

December 23, 2009 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Panasonic Develops High Energy Lithium-ion Battery Module  with High ReliabilityEnlarge

Panasonic Corp., which recently made a successful takeover bid for Sanyo Electric Co., plans to market a lithium-ion storage cell for home use around fiscal 2011.

“We’ll be the first to bring to the market a storage battery for home use, which can store sufficient electricity for about one week of use,” said Fumio Otsubo, president of Panasonic, in a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

On Monday, Panasonic announced it has officially acquired a more than 50 percent stake in Sanyo.

It has become Japan’s second-largest electronics giant, next to Hitachi, Ltd., with anticipated combined sales of 8.66 trillion yen for the business year ending in March.

Stressing that Panasonic and Sanyo have already test-manufactured a storage battery for home use, Otsubo said, “We’re positioned closest [among firms] to realizing CO2 emission-free daily life.”

By making Sanyo its subsidiary, Panasonic plans to accelerate the development of the storage battery, while planning to sell it together with a system that will enable households to check electricity usage on a home-based TV display.

Solar batteries for home use and fuel cells can generate power but cannot store electricity, making the development of a storage battery an urgent task for related businesses.

“As we now have such power-generating products as solar power and fuel cells, there’ll be an opportunity to create a bigger business…In the area of automobile cells, we can deal with all kinds of eco-friendly cars such as hybrid cars or electric vehicles,” Otsubo said, emphasizing the synergistic effect of tying-up with Sanyo.

Otsubo said his company will announce its basic ideas with regards to reorganizing the two firms’ growth strategies and overlapping product lines–such as large household appliances–on Jan. 8, while presenting specific ways to deal with the overlapping lines of business when the company announces its settlement of accounts in May.

Conceding that product brands of Panasonic and Sanyo need to be unified at some well-timed point in the future, Otsubo said many things need to be considered, adding that the company’s new midterm plan would be worked out while keeping Sanyo’s brands in place.

With the rise of the yen and accelerating deflationary pressure, the corporate environment remains harsh.

“We’ll come up with products sought by middle-income people in such emerging countries as China and India, which haven’t been hit by deflationary pressure… We hope to introduce Sanyo products to Panasonic’s sales channels,” he said.

This sounds a bit like old time soviet style propaganda to me, but it is good to read anyway.

Cuba: Viva la Revolucion Energetica – 21st Century Socialism

Cuba: Viva la Revolucion Energetica

What nation is the most sustainable in the world? If you guessed Sweden or Denmark, you would be wrong. Instead, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has declared Cuba as the only country on the planet that is approaching sustainable development. Key to this designation is the island’s Revolución Energética, an energy conservation effort launched only two years ago.

The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2006 assesses sustainable development using the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The index is calculated using life expectancy, literacy and education, and per capita GDP.

The UNDP considers an HDI value of more than 0.8 to be high human development. According to the ecological footprint, a measure of human demand on the biosphere, 1.8 global hectares per person or less denotes sustainability. The only country in the world that meets both of the above criteria is Cuba.

From blackouts to efficiency

Just a few years ago, Cuba’s energy situation was bleak. This communist nation of 11 million people had 11 large, inefficient thermoelectric plants that functioned less than half of the time. There were frequent blackouts and high transmission line losses. Adding to the crisis, most Cubans had inefficient appliances, 75% of the population cooked with kerosene and residential electrical rates did not encourage conservation.In 2004, back-to-back hurricanes slammed into Cuba, leaving a million people without electr icity for 10 days.

In the face of an antiquated system, violent storms, peak oil and climate change, Cubans realized that they had to make energy a priority. Thus, in 2006, they embarked on their Revolución Energética.Only two years later, the country consumes 34% less kerosene, 37% less LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and 80% less gasoline. Cuba’s per capita energy consumption is one-eighth that in the US, while Cubans’ access to health services, education levels and life expectancy rival those of their North American neighbors.

Solar panels on the roof of a Cuban school

Prior to the 1959 Cuban revolution, only about half of the country’s population had electricity. By 1989, that number had risen to 95%. After 1991, however, food, gas and oil all became scarce as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US economic blockade. This time came to be known as the “Special Period” because Cubans had to learn how to produce more of their food, medicines and energy locally and sustainably.

In the mid-1990s, Cuba embarked on a drive to save energy and use more renewables. All rural schools, health clinics and social centers not previously connected to the grid were supplied with solar energy, making lights, computers and educational television programs accessible to all students. This program garnered Cuba the Global 500 award from the United Nations in 2001.

However, despite 10 years of revolutionary effort, Cuba still had a crisis on its hands. So in 2006, it took some drastic steps. Cuba’s energy revolution has five main aspects: energy efficiency and conservation, increasing the availability and reliability of the national grid, incorporating more renewable energy technologies into its energy portfolio, increasing the exploration and production of local oil and gas, and international cooperation.

In an address to the Cuban electrical utility in 2006, then-president Fidel Castro said, “We are not waiting for fuel to fall from the sky, because we have discovered, fortunately, something muchmore important: energy conservation, which is like finding a great oil deposit.”

To decrease energy demand, Cuba began changing over to more efficient appliances. In two years, residents have replaced almost two million refrigerators, over one million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps.. Compact fluorescent light bulbs were handed out for free and within six months, over nine million – or almost 100% – of the island’s incandescent bulbs had been replaced. At the same time, Cubans were discouraged from cooking with kerosene. Families have consequently purchased almost 3.5 million rice cookers and over three million pressure cookers.

To encourage conservation, Cuba introduced a new residential electrical tariff. People consuming less than 100 kWh per month pay 0.09 pesos per kWh (a fraction of a cent). For every increase of 50 kWh per month the rate rises steeply. Consumers using over 300 kWh per month pay 1.30 pesos per kWh.

Cuba’s national energy program implemented in 1997, teaches Cubans about energy-saving measures and renewable energy. “If we begin to insist on at the preschool age, we are creating a conduct for life,” explains Teresa Palenzuela, a specialist with Cuba’s energy-saving program.

The program has held energy festivals for the past three years, educating thousands about efficiency and conservation. The festivals target students, who express energy conservation through songs, poetry and theatre. In each Cuban school, the children with the best energy efficiency projects go on to the festival at the municipal level. The best of them then move on to a provincial event and from there to the national stage. The public lines up for blocks to attend the national festival. “These contests are important to the entire country; they motivate children, students and the general population to save energy in all their actions,” says 15-year-old Liliana Rodríguez Peña.

Social workers power the revolution

To carry out its ambitious energy conservation plan, Cuba relies on its small army of trabajadores sociales or social workers. Cuba’s social workers are made up of youth who have the task of bringing social justice to the island in many different spheres, including labor, education, culture, sports and the environment ..As well as assisting people with disabilities, the elderly and those convicted of crimes, the social workers help carry out the Energy Revolution.

Since 2006, 13,000 social workers have visited homes, businesses and factories around the island, replacing light bulbs, teaching people how to use their new electric cooking appliances and spreading information on saving energy. The social workers also teamed up with the Ministry of Agriculture to save energy during the sugar cane harvest and for the national bus system.. Former president Fidel Castro, who founded the program, refers to the social workers as “Doctors of the Soul.”

Media promotes efficiency

The media does its bit to help disseminate information about energy. Dozens of billboards that promote conservation are scattered across the country, a weekly television show is dedicated to energy issues, and articles espousing renewable energy, efficiency and conservation appear regularly in newspapers. In 2007 alone, there were over 8000 articles and TV spots dedicated to energy efficiency.

Nonetheless, in 2005, blackouts were still common as a result of an old and inefficient electrical grid. Thus began the move to decentralized energy, which involves generating electricity in smaller substations. In 2006, Cuba installed more than 1800 diesel and fuel-oil micro-electrical plants, which now produce over 3000 MW of power in 110 municipalities.

This switch virtually eliminated the blackouts. In 2004 and 2005, there were over 400 days of blackouts greater than 100 MW that lasted at least an hour. In 2006, there were three and in 2007 there were none at all.Cuba also embarked on an impressive plan to fix its old electrical transmission network. It upgraded over 120,000 electrical posts, installed almost 3000 kilometres of cable and half a million electric meters.

As a result, the nation reduced the amount of oil needed to produce a kWh of electricity by 3%, from 280 grams in 2005 to 271 grams in 2007. It is estimated that over the same period, Cuba saved almost 872,000 tons of oil through its energy-saving measures.

Cuba is also incorporating renewables into its energy mix. 100 wind-measuring stations and two new wind farms bring the island’s total wind energy installation to 7.23 MW. They are also developing the country’s first grid-tied 100 kW solar electric plant.

“We need a global energy revolution,” says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, an energy expert with Cubaenergia, an energy information centre. “But for this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts like distributed generation, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and the gradual solarization of the country.”
Laurie Guevara-Stone is the international program manager at Solar Energy International, a non-profit renewable energy education organization based in Colorado, USA.