Covid19 could lead us to a cleaner more innovative world – if we rethink what we do

About seven million people are killed by air pollution every year. The current model of modern society is unsustainable.

Two leading Professors say that looking through a COVID-19 lens provides us an amazing picture outside and shows some innovative pathways on living in harmony with nature, i.e. new-modern society.

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They are Professor Suresh Bhargava, RMIT University, Australia (pictured above) and Professor Seeram Ramakrishnan, National University of Singapore (below).

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Here are some points from their recent paper on the topic:

Contrary to devastating effects, the COVID19 had positive outcomes in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources, and climate change.  Satellite imageries confirm the reduction of NOx, SOx and other pollutants in all cities of the world.

COVID19 provides an opportunity to rethink everything humans do. The current model of modern society is unsustainable. Reversing the clock and going back to pre-modern society built on fulfilling just the needs of humans is not realistic.

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Sustaining the modern society built on fulfilling the needs and wants of humans requires out of the box thinking. In the current climate of COVID, companies are struggling to survive on top of challenges in industry 4.0 or digitalization of products and services. How will they be able to think about sustainability while their worry is about resilience, and make the necessary adjustments to their business for the long term?

Sustainability has tended to be a secondary priority for many industries and especially SME businesses. Now faced with business survival and viability concerns, what is the status of existing sustainability initiatives in companies and across industries? How has the pandemic affected existing initiatives and longer-term targets, plans and ambitions on the sustainability front?  How can organisations get back on track with regard to their sustainability ambitions e.g. are there synergistic business-led propositions that can serve these aims? What countries can do in terms of sustainability, circular economy and Paris agreement to decarbonize while growing shrink economies and rising employment opportunities?

Using a COVID19 lens, there are opportunities for decarbonisation while not compromising the modern ways of living and economic growth.

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Countries and companies will shorten the supply chains and value chains.  Globalization will take newer form relying more on digital technologies and internet.  This will be facilitated by yet to emerge innovations in finance and commerce.

COVID19 has unexpected effect on food industry. Clean meat is touted as a solution to zoonotic diseases associated with current methods of producing meat from the animals.  Clean meat is made from plant based, cultivated cells.  Hence the carbon footprint is lower than animal sourced meat.

Critics will argue for slow and careful introduction of clean meat to the mass population.  Therein lies huge opportunities for innovations, technologies, new jobs and new pathways of economic growth while caring for the Earth.

Importance of safe water and its adequate supply is highlighted by the COVID19.  Sustainable future lies in the zero-waste water innovations and technologies.

The single use plastic wastes have been identified for their pollution of the marine ecology and subsequent negative effects on the food chain and human health.  Science, business, standards, and policy innovations are needed to replace the petrochemical derived plastics with degradable bioplastics derived from the renewable sources.  Designing products with end-of-life considerations and life cycle engineering opens up opportunities for economy growth and new jobs creation while improving the quality of environment.

The Energy sector is also affected by the COVID19.  Oil futures went into negative. It is an opportune time for the governments to eliminate the fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy infrastructure as long-term nation building.

Perhaps, governments and companies should together accelerate the electrification of transportation.  New jobs and new economic growth to happen in vehicle design and manufacturing, digitization, as well as charging infrastructure.

COVID19 transformed shopping and brought almost the whole of humanity to on-line shopping.  The on-line shopping for groceries and food deliveries are on par with electronic goods and accessories.

Similarly, work has moved to telework, and the Education moved to on-line learning and assessment.

Digital services for virtual meetings, online learning, telemedical diagnostics, government services, ecommerce, grocery delivery, e-banking, and entertainment all experienced unprecedented growth in demand. The hyper scale data centres with their 24x7x365 resilient operation, are the heart of digital transformation.

Looking to the coming decade, the introduction of 5G will further accelerate the digital transformation era with its clear alignment with Industrial 4.0, in which real time data and automation will power more of the industrial world.

Clear messages emerged from the COVID19 pandemic include, the digital transformation is a necessity to keep society running; mental health is important for the general well-being and productivity of a person; and a healthy living environment is a basic human right.

The circular economy vision, decarbonisation and sustainability efforts mitigate climate change thus create opportunities for sustained economic growth and new jobs creation. 

Amazing research work by the two and continues the innovative and collaborative approaches of my friend Professor Suresh Bhargava – well done!

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India’s water and waste provide big opportunities for Australian firms

Water and waste management and technologies are in high demand in India.

Funding from the Indian Government and the World Bank is driving new projects.

Local players are doing well – the Water & Effluent Treatment Business of L&T Construction has secured three Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) water management orders from the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC).

According to the company’s statement, under the contracts it will be responsible for ‘Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer of water supply systems.

Austrade has long been a champion of Australian expertise getting into this sector in India. It says: “The Indian industrial water and waste-water market are going through a shift with recycling and reuse, zero liquid discharge, and online effluent quality monitoring systems becoming mandatory across industries.”

Recycling and reuse of water has been made mandatory for industries and housing projects in some states. Industries across power, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, refineries and textiles and other sectors are gearing to meet stringent pollution norms, leading to increased demand for reliable water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Austrade points to four major opportunities in India:

  • Ganga River Cleaning Project: US$3.5 billion (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project to focus on river restoration, building sewage treatment infrastructure across 118 towns, village level waste water management, and rehabilitation of existing sewage treatment plants (STPs).
  • National Hydrology Project: US$700 Million (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project aimed at establishing a hydrologic database and hydrological information system (HIS) for effective water resource planning and management.
  • Groundwater Aquifer Mapping and Management Project: US$1 billion projects aimed at data acquisition through 21,000 exploratory and observatory borewells to be excavated, preparation of aquifer maps and real time groundwater monitoring.
  • Smart Cities Initiative: Water is a significant aspect of the smart cities initiative in India. Projects on urban water supply, recycle and reuse of waste water, smart water meters are in pipeline.

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South Australian firm Hydro-dis is one of several Aussie firms active in India – it has snared a role in the Cleaning up the Ganges project.

The company, based in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has developed a new device that provides immediate disinfection, improves the efficiency of metal removal and includes residual chlorine to reduce contamination after treatment.

Post Covid19 could be a good time for a major Aussie push into the water and waste landscape of India – we are good at it, have the expertise and the technology.

 

EV’s and charging stations boosted in India

Two announcements have given a great promotion to Electric Vehicles in India.

First, the Government has lowered the GST rate on EV’s to 5% from the standard 12%.

Second, leading company Tata Power will increase its network of electric vehicle charging stations to 700 by next year.

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The company which has already installed 100 fast charging stations in various cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad.

The company is not only targeting the public spaces but will also offering home EV charging stations.

The company is also in talks with metro rail authorities and municipal corporations for setting up EV charging stations. Moreover, it will set up charging stations at Tata Group owned outlets such as Chroma, WestSide, Titan watch showrooms and Indian Hotels.

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Pictured is a trial solar powered EV charge station in India

Solar is getting really interesting as Australia to build world’s biggest solar farm – energy for Asian neighbours

Plans to build a giant solar power and battery facility in central Australia to supply electricity to Singapore will go ahead thanks to backing from tech and mining billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

The duo are co-leads on an investment round for Singapore-based Sun Cable‘s $22 billion proposal for a 10-gigawatt (GW) solar farm and 22GWh battery storage near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory.

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Solar is stepping up while the Australian Government continues to step back – locked into an ideological stance of opposing any alternative to coal and denying any impact on the climate. Sad to see this continue.

Singapore gets 95% of its electricity from imported LNG and Sun Cable hopes running a 4500km high voltage direct current cable from the 15,000 hectare site – around a quarter of the size of Singapore itself – via Darwin to the island state will supply up to one-fifth of the city’s power needs. It will be the world’s largest solar farm and also supply the NT capital.

The 10GW plant is nearly double the 5,500 megawatts Snowy Hydro scheme, which generates around 4500GWh anually. The Australia-Singapore Power Link (APSL) plant’s generation capacity is four times more than Australia’s largest coal-fired power station.

Central to the project is Sydney solar energy startup 5B, founded by Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan in 2013.

The business developed new technology for portable, prefabricated solar arrays, re-engineering the supply chain and simplifying how solar projects are delivered, using fewer materials, rapid deployment and streamlined logistics.

If Australia makes this happen, we can become the biggest energy supplier to the Asian region – Indonesia, Malaysia and more.

The project is expected to take six to seven years to complete.

Big Battery gets bigger too

News of Sun Cable’s progress comes in the same week that South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, dubbed the Tesla Big Battery, announced plans to expand the world’s largest battery by 50% by mid 2020.

The 50 MW/64.5 MWh expansion, supported by Tesla, will be the first grid-scale battery in Australia to provide inertia benefits to the National Electricity Market (NEM), which is critical to grid stability and the future integration of renewable energy.

Solar looks set to change history – for the better.

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The changing mindset of India

The mindset of India has split into two camps – one, the traditional, opposes spending and innovation – the other, entrepreneurial, chases innovation and adventure. It can be tough to navigate.

I was talking to an Indian colleague the other day about collaboration around Hydroponics – growing vegetables and some fruits in a liquid solution combined with various forms of protection such as glasshouses.

This is ideal for India – does not need good land, uses less water, produces the same quality 365 days per year and so on. Plus it grows crops that India’s growing urban populations demand – fresh capsicums, lettuce, broccoli, cucumber and strawberries.

But the early India response is an insight into the competing mindsets.

From one quarter of traditional banking, no thanks, it would cost money to install. Forget the benefits. Forget the competitive advantage. If it costs money, NO.

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From another side of the India mindset comes an enthusiastic response – an entrepreneurial and CSR view. This can make money plus help poor rural farmers and poor rural women. So, YES.

As an optimist, I am guessing the YES side will win on this one.

The Australian Government is probably facing this varying mindset as it seeks to heavily promote Australian coal exports to India.

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Yes, our coal can provide India with uninterrupted power, increasing efficiency and quality of life (and add to the already overwhelming pollution).

No, it would cost money and we put up with interrupted supply anyway. And, No, because we do not have the distribution network so alternatives such as solar are attractive for rural villages (even if interrupted, “it’s better than nothing”).

I am guessing that the NO side might win on the coal issue. But let’s wait and see.

India’s renewable energy reaches new highs

We often look at India from outside and just see pollution – but look closer and you will see major change is taking place.

Solar and wind energy are taking off – “An aggregate of 80.46 GW of renewable energy limit has been introduced in the country as on June 30, 2019 which includes 29.55 GW from Solar and 36.37 GW from Wind control,” according to Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister Mr R K Singh.

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The government has set a focus of 175 GW of clean energy capacity by 2022, including 100 GW solar and 60 GW of wind energy.

According to India’s submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a combined electric power limit of 40 per cent from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources is to be introduced by 2030.

The Ministry also told the House that a sum of 42 solar power parks with a total limit of around 23.40 GW have been approved by the government so far to encourage accomplishment of 100 GW target by March 2022.

Well done India – keep it going.

The next steps will be critically important for Adani in Australia

Now that the Adani mine in Queensland has passed what seems to be the final hurdle, while it will still be a focus of protests it is now important for Adani Group to create and build a long term image and relevance in Australia. Adani Group is widely misunderstood here.

Few if any Australians are aware of the diversified role of Adani in areas such as solar power (below).

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There have been mistakes. While “overstating” projects might be good communication in many countries, it is a disaster in Australia which is the home of the “tall poppy syndrome” (want to chop you down) and cynicism. In Australia it is best to under-estimate a project and then deliver beyond expectations.

This initial approach hurt the project and much of the bravado might well have been the Queensland Government – but dealing effectively with local politics is another important task for the group.

Here are some challenges, opportunities and ideas for the future brand of Adani in Australia:

  1. Build up the media, political and community profiles of your local Australia team
  2. Create some leadership profile opportunities for Mr Adani
  3. Clarifying the Adani approach of “vertical integration” which is not well understood in Australia
  4. Accept that protests and negative media will continue but strive to at least get your proper share of media space
  5. Carefully select the media you will deal with – and provide media tours of Adani in India – with full transparency
  6. Support and become involved in coordinated media relations programs with Indian High Commission in Canberra
  7. Have Mr Adani seen as a “promoter of Australia” by leading an annual group of Indian business leaders to visit and explore opportunities in Australia
  8. Bring some scientific R&D work to Australia – for example with RMIT University as a collaborator – this has the advantage of giving Adani relevance outside of Queensland
  9. Create an alliance with Indian foundations which are high profile here – for example ASHA Foundation educates slum dwellers and is well known for having a slum young person graduate from Melbourne University. Provide scholarships for more to come here
  10. Create or support a meeting of leading Australian and Indian resources and environmental scientists in some annual dialogue
  11. Have a regular presence in Canberra
  12. Develop some “owned media” content that is highly professional, well written and not propaganda
  13. Facilitate Australian business and political missions to India, leveraging close contacts

Let’s give credit where due – India and China are greening the planet!

Congrats to India and China – these two are doing heaps to green the planet.

NASA discovered the good news – the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago. What prompted the change? Well, it appears China and India can take the majority of the credit.

The countries are responsible for the largest greening of the planet in the past two decades. The two most populous countries have implemented ambitious tree planting programs and scaled up their implementation and technology around agriculture.

India continues to break world records in tree planting, with 800,000 Indians planting 50 million trees in just 24 hours.

So – let’s give praise where it is due.

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Why I am an optimist

Seeing the massive changes in India and China, it is clear that in five years they will have less pollution and better health than today.

In fact, there is a lot of good news around if you look for it in the right places.

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These reports come from my friends at FUTURE CRUNCHhttps://futurecrun.ch/goodnews

Volkswagen, the largest car manufacturer in the world, responsible for 1% of global carbon emissions, has committed to going fully carbon neutral by 2050. NYT

America has officially entered coal cost crossover. 74% of existing coal plants now cost more to operate than to replace with wind and solar. Utility Dive

Between 10th and 17th March, Germany got 72.6% of its electricity from renewable energy resources. Did someone just say “baseload power?” Renew Economy

In January 2015, at the height of ISIS’s power, 7.7 million people were estimated to live under its rule. As of last week, that number is zero. CNN

Between 2010 and 2013, India ran a measles vaccination campaign. A new study estimates that it saved the lives of about 50,000 children. Nature

This year will see almost two billion people in 50 countries vote, the largest number in history. Did someone just say “death of democracy?” Al Jazeera

Indian tech billionaire Azim Premji is giving away $21 billion to philanthropy, the fifth largest endowment in the world and the biggest in Asia. ET Tech

Clever win by animal rights activists. Australia has passed a law that prevents companies using data from animal testing for developing cosmetics. The Age

Deep in the frozen forests of Russia’s far east, the Siberian tiger is staging a quiet comeback, thanks to government-led conservation efforts. CBC

And – the above is just one of their regular fortnightly summaries.

Good news – it’s there if you look in the right places.

There are also many locations where you will find constant “bad news” – the choice of where to get your information is up to you. Below are examples of news sources committed to spreading fear and despair…

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World auto industry investing in Indian auto startups

India is attracting global investment, especially in automotive startups – global automobile manufacturers have invested around $491 million in 2018 in Indian automobile industry start-ups, led by Essel Green Mobility’s investment of $300 million into Bengaluru-based on-demand AC bus service provider Zipgo, according to market intelligence firm Venture Intelligence.

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There were 13 investments during the year. In 2018, Taiwanese two-wheeler manufacturer Kwang Yang Motor, known as Kymco, invested $65 million in Gurugram-based electric two-wheeler maker Twenty Two Motors, while auto major Mahindra and Mahindra invested $40 million in self-drive car company Zoomcar.

Toyota Tsusho Corporation, the trading arm of Toyota Group, invested around $30 million in Droom Technology, the operator of India’s largest online automobile marketplace by co-leading Series D fundraising of the company. The firms also concluded a pact on the overseas expansion of the used car and motorcycle marketplace business.

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