University of Calgary hosts Renewable Energy Speakers, Dec 5 and 6

University of Calgary
University of Calgary logo.

Experts will explore total transition to renewable energy.

Two leaders in sustainable energy presenting at the University of Calgary this week.

CALGARY, ALBERTA–(Marketwired – Dec. 2, 2013) – The mayor of the “greenest city in America” and the director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere/Energy program will be on the University of Calgary campus this week for two events on the importance of renewable energy.

On Dec. 5, Bob Dixson, mayor of Greensburg, Kansas – a town levelled by a massive tornado in 2007 – will present at the Distinguished Speakers on Campus about how his hometown rebuilt and now generates all its electricity from wind power.

The following day, Dixson will also be one of two speakers at a free public forum Transitioning to 100% Renewable Energy. Dixson will be joined by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Together they will answer the questions: “Is 100 per cent use of renewable energy scientifically feasible?” and “Has it been achieved in any communities to date?”

Forum Director Mishka Lysack says, “I don’t think we’ve adequately explored renewable energy and this is an opportunity to heighten people’s consciousness about the alternatives, and to begin to influence public policy. Some of the world’s best solar levels and intensity, and wind energy, are in Calgary and Southern Alberta.”

Lysack, a University of Calgary social work professor focusing upon community and social well-being, has studied renewable energy in Germany, where the goal is to obtain 80 to 100 per cent of all electricity from renewable sources by the year 2050.

“This is the first forum in a series looking at renewable energy from many different perspectives over the next one-and-a-half years,” said Lysack. “We hope to hold three forums before the summer.”

He is eager to hear from both keynote speakers.

Jacobson will discuss the scientific and technological feasibility of using 100 per cent renewable energy. He will explain how a renewable energy system can create more jobs, increase government revenues and reduce the human and financial health costs of air pollution and climate change. Jacobson has testified before the U.S. Congress, and written two textbooks, many articles and a landmark study on transitioning New York State to entirely renewable energy.

Dixson was a leader in post-tornado rebuilding efforts in his community designed to make it the “greenest city in America.” Greensburg uses only wind power for its electricity needs. Dixson will discuss the rebuilding and public-engagement process.

The conference is being sponsored by the Faculties of Social Work, Science, Arts, and Environmental Design; the Office of the Vice-President Research; and the Urban Alliance. It is funded in part by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


On Thursday, Dec. 5, Greensburg, Kansas Mayor Bob Dixson will speak at 7:30 p.m. in MacEwan Hall A as part of the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Speakers on Campus initiative that features high-profile leaders in the area of energy and the environment.

The following day, Dec. 6, Dixson and Mark Jacobson are the keynote speakers at Transitioning to 100% Renewable Energy. The event takes place from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Alberta Room of the Dining Centre.

About the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation’s most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada’s top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university’s Gaelic motto, which translates as ‘I will lift up my eyes.’

For more information, visit Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary and in our media centre at

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Media Contact: University of Calgary
Heath McCoy
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403.220.5089 or Cell: 403.607.8461

Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

by Rocky Mountain Institute

Güssing, Austria
Güssing, Austria, goes the sustainable energy route — and saves millions of dollars on conventional energy costs, and is now the model town for sustainable development in Austria.

Originally published on the Rocky Mountain Institute website.
By Laurie Guevara-​Stone.

A small town in Austria that had no significant industry or trade business is now thriving thanks to local renewable resources. Güssing, (population: 4,000) sits in eastern Austria. In 1988, the entire region with a population of 27,000, was one of the poorest districts in the country. It relied on agriculture, there was no transportation infrastructure, unemployment was high, and 70 percent of those who did have work were commuting to Vienna, 100 miles away. The town, where two-thirds of the working population was out of work and young people were moving away, was referred to as a dying town. Due to a lack of connections to the railway network and to the Austrian Autobahn (freeway) system, energy costs were extremely high. At the time the town of Güssing was said to be hardly able to afford its $8.1 million annual fossil fuel bill.

Several of the town leaders realized that $8 million dollars going to pay for fuel oil (mostly for heating) and other fossil fuels (such as coal for electricity) from outside the region could stay in the local economy if they could produce their own energy. However, they realized if they wanted to be energy self-sufficient the first step was reducing energy use. In 1990, the town implemented an energy efficiency program, retrofitting all public buildings with new insulation and replacing all streetlights with energy-efficient bulbs, reducing energy expenditure in buildings in the town center by almost 50 percent.

With greatly improved efficiency, the town then adopted a policy calling for the complete elimination of the use of fossil fuels in all public buildings, in an attempt to keep more money in the local economy.


Güssing, Austria biomass thermal power plant
Güssing, Austria. Readily accessible biomass is found in the surrounding forest, is collected and used to produce thermal heat/steam to create natural gas via a unique process.

There is not a lot of wind in Güssing, but biomass is abundant—the town is surrounded by 133 hectares (328 acres) of forest. Some local residents, realizing that wood in the forest was decomposing and not being used, started to run a district heating station for six homes. With the success of that project, more small district heating systems were built. The mayor, who was looking for a way to revitalize the town, took notice. In 1996, the heating system was expanded to the whole town and was also generating electricity, all from renewable raw materials gathered from within a five-kilometer radius through sustainable forestry practices.

Then, in 2001, with the help of the federal government, Güssing installed a biomass gasification plant, that runs off of wood chips from wood thinned from the forest and waste wood from a wooden flooring company. This was the first utility-scale power plant of its kind in the world. The plant uses steam to separate carbon and hydrogen, then recombines the molecules to make a form of natural gas which fuels the city’s power plant. It produces on average 2 megawatts of electricity and 4.5 megawatts of heat, more than enough energy for the town’s needs, while only consuming one-third of the biomass that grows every year. The town also has a plant that converts rapeseed to biodiesel, which is carried by all the fueling stations in the district.


In 2007 the New York Times reported Güssing was the first community in the European Union to cut carbon emissions by more than 90 percent, helping it attract a steady stream of scientists, politicians, and eco-tourists. One year later, Güssing built a research institute focusing on thermal and biological gasification and production of second-generation fuels. That same year a solar manufacturer started producing PV modules in Güssing, producing 850 megawatts of modules a year and employing 140 people. Several other photovoltaic and solar thermal companies have relocated to Güssing, installing new demonstration facilities in the district.

The little town has become a net energy producer—generating more energy from renewables than it uses. Altogether, there are more than 30 power plants using renewable energy technologies within 10 kilometers of the village. Now the goal is to take the lessons from the small town of Güssing and make the entire 27,000-person district an energy-self-sufficient net producer.

Currently around 400 people come to Güssing each week to visit the numerous demonstration plants.

Even Austria’s favorite celebrity, former California governor, and renewable energy advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Güssing in 2012. “Güssing has become a green island,” he said when he spoke at the Güssing renewable energy demonstration plant. “You have built your own district heating [system]. You are generating your own electricity. You are operating a biomass power plant, produce synthetic natural gas from wood and develop new fuels at the research lab. I have seen all of this with my own eyes. Everyone should follow your example. The whole world should become Güssing.”

The town now has 60 new companies, 1,500 new jobs, and annual revenues of $17 million due to energy sales, all resulting from the growth of the renewable energy sector. The downtown has been rebuilt and young people now picture themselves staying there in the future. And other areas are following Güssing’s lead. More than 15 regions in Austria are now energy independent with regard to electricity, heating, and/or transportation. The town of Güssing has shown that not only is a high-renewables future possible, but also economically advantageous.

Schwarzenegger must agree, because when he left he said, “I’ll be back.”

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock. Second Image courtesy of Güssing Renewable Energy.

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This article, Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Rocky Mountain Institute Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit for more information.


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An Inside Look At Living In One Of The World’s Most Sustainable Cities — Melbourne, Australia

by Ari Phillips, Guest Contributor — Special to JBS News

Capital city trail, Melbourne, Australia. Image courtesy of: wikipedia/commons

Originally published on ClimateProgress

Melbourne is a sprawling network of neighbourhoods, trams, trains, bikes, laneways and, around almost every corner, coffee shops — a bit like Portland, Oregon but bigger, more European feeling and with giant bats. There are tall skyscrapers, Robert Moses-era public housing blocks, dense row houses, overgrown bungalows and suburban complexes.

Over 15 years ago, Melbourne mounted a long-term campaign to change the way it uses energy and has attracted international acclaim for its commitment to sustainability. This has included encouraging bike riding and public transport and improving building efficiency. One notable example of this is the Council House 2 building, Australia’s first six-star green star new office design building. Completed in 2006, some of the building’s features include recycled water use, automatic windows, sun-tracking facades for shade and roof-mounted wind turbines to draw out hot air.

While good public transport and efficient office buildings are a big part of being a sustainable city, residences — and the way people live in those residences — are likely just as important. Melbourne is only as sustainable as its Melbournians.

A person’s carbon footprint, or energy economy, is some combination where they live and how they live. Two forward-thinking approaches to this idea in Melbourne are the 5×4 House, a soon-to-be-built super energy efficient, zero carbon dwelling on a 5×4-meter plot of land, and the Murundaka Co-housing Community, a new eco-housing complex of 20 residences based on the principles of sustainable and community living.

Different Approaches To Sustainability

Design and Technology

Ralph Alphonso, a Melbourne-based photographer, is building the 5×4 House on the space occupied by his garage. His current residence is a large, modern condo is located down a small laneway, or alley, in East Melbourne. He decided to go all out and try to build Australia’s most sustainable dwelling after being somewhat disappointed in the construction practices used in building his current house.

Rendering of what the structure of the house will look like. Image Credit: Ralph Alphonso

“In Australia you find houses with one or two elements of sustainable design,” Alphonso said. “We’re using the principles of full life cycle assessment and embodied energy to reduce the total carbon emissions of the house.”

Alphonso is not an environmentalist — his emissions from flying must be in the top one percentile as he seems to be on a plane every other day (he does buy offsets) — but through this process he’s become much more aware of what it means to live sustainably. For him, this includes everything from eating less meat to sourcing local materials.

“I think the house will start changing my behavioural patterns,” Alphonso said. “A big part of sustainable living is actually living the lifestyle.”

For Alphonso, the project is also about education. He thinks there are three main reasons why people choose to live more sustainably: it doesn’t take a large economic toll, it doesn’t alter their lifestyle too much and they are educated and can make informed decisions.

Cost is a major issue with employing sustainable design, and Alphonso has gotten creative about this by establishing project partners who offer services or products at a reduced cost in or in-kind in exchange for exposure (such as this article). He sees the true value-added being in the comprehensive nature of the project.

“Manufacturers are only going to change their production patterns if there’s a demand for it,” Alphonso said. “We want to showcase sustainable products and create that demand so manufacturers will automatically include sustainability, recycled content, efficiency — all those sort of things — in their production decisions. Then, in the longer term, these products will be more available and more affordable.”

As for lifestyle, Alphonso won’t be sacrificing much. He’ll even have a hot tub on the roof, which will be geothermally heated through partner agreements with Bosch Geothermal and Direct Energy Geothermal Heating and Cooling. While the footprint of the house is small, the square footage is around 650 feet (three floors, not including the roof), not too shabby for one person. He explains that part of the reason he’s doing this is to show that it’s possible to maintain a high quality of life while significantly reducing your energy economy.

Another reason is to illustrate how dense, urban living doesn’t have to feel cramped. Alphonso used his frequent travels abroad to visit some of the densest cities in the world, including New York and Tokyo, to gather ideas for his house. Both the City of Melbourne and the Australian Conservation Foundation are supporters of the project.

Alphonso is using the One Planet Living principles as a guide to building a more sustainable life along with the house. He likes the One Planet Living concept because it’s holistic and it’s quantifiable by showing how many planets of resources we consume to sustain our lifestyle.

August 20 was Earth Overshoot Day 2013: the day humanity uses up all the natural resources the planet can sustainably provide for a given year. From that date on, we’re in ecological deficit for the rest of the year, inflicting more damage on global ecology than it can naturally repair. Every year this date moves forward at least a few days.

“Ecological footprint analysis shows that, if everyone in the world lived like the average Australian, we would need five planets to sustain us,” Alphonso said.


“I like a lot of what the 5×4 House is doing, especially with the embodied energy analysis and One Planet Living guidelines,” Heidi Lee, Future Projects Manager for the architecture firm DesignInc and Murundaka Co-housing Community resident, said.

“But I think it kind of misses the point,” Lee continued. “I feel like we’re not really making much ground if we’re going to keep on knocking things down and building something new and keeping the same area and everyone having a hot tub.”

Lee said there’s a lot of talk about hot tubs where she lives as well, but it’s about sharing one hot tub between twenty households.

Image Credit:

The Murundaka Co-housing Community consists of 18 self-contained apartments centered around a common house. As a rule of thumb, the apartments are ten percent smaller than what’s on the market — ten percent that gets put into the common house and other shared spaces, such as an office, guest room and expansive garden.

The building is only about two years old and has large, open corridors and panel windows that give it a very welcoming and homey feel for being so large. It is a mix of families, single moms, young couples and individuals, with all different apartment sizes. It is affordable housing so it is rent controlled. They have voluntary group activities, occasional meals, and as of recently, a weekly moderation session to improve communication.

“As a microcosm of how we could live in suburbia this has been built intentionally for people to actively live and work together,” Lee said. “To share time with neighbours, although you could live totally independently and never talk to any of the community members if you didn’t want to.”

But that would also miss the point, according to Lee, which is to rediscover the kinds of things humans lost when they stopped living in the size of settlements where people could know each other and have a certain level of trust and reciprocity even with the people they might not know that well. Lee and her partner recently had a child and she said that the community support surprised even her, with members helping with everything from preparing meals to running errands.

While Alphonso sees his main contribution being to change the way new buildings are manufactured, Lee is more concerned with what’s already standing. According to her, about 80 percent of the structures that will be around in ten years are already built.

“We need to put effort into looking after and improving what’s already built,” Lee said. “Otherwise it’s only going to get worse. Old buildings often have high air infiltration, leaking around windows and doors and other energy-wasting problems.”

The Larger Landscape

In June, Melbourne and Sydney launched a new program called Smart Blocks, designed to help apartment owners and their managers save money by improving energy efficiency. Energy audits show that on average up to 30 percent can be saved on just power bills alone.

In an interview, City of Melbourne Environment Portfolio Chair Councillor Arron Wood said population growth needs to be supported by innovative and practical initiatives like Smart Blocks.

“Our population is growing quickly. By 2031, we expect an additional 42,000 homes will be built in the City of Melbourne, accommodating 80,000 people. We need to be smart about the way we develop in the future but we also need to make our existing buildings more efficient. This is a critical step to reaching our ultimate goal of becoming a carbon neutral city.”

To Lee, however, just maintaining the existing suburban home infrastructure totally misses the point as well. She shudders at the thought of the nearly 70 percent of Australian dwellings with a spare bedroom, or large, underutilized yard space.

“Overall a key part of the message is missing: that we have to be living better together,” Lee said.

In Melbourne, and even across Australia, some of these ideals may be within reach. Approximately 40 percent of all new housing in Australia is in medium to high density developments. Over 70 percent of residents in both Melbourne and Sydney live in apartments, and these figures are only set to grow.

The transition from dense living to community living is not to be taken for granted though. While living in smaller spaces may cause people to spend more time outside at cafes or in public parks, which Alphonso plans to do, the idea of cooperative living is still in its infancy in Australia.

Lee recently toured cooperative housing communities in the States, and she was surprised that most of the communities she saw were doing it for social reasons. “In Australia the idea of a co-housing community is still pretty left-wing, and gets lumped in with other lefty ideals: less environmental impact, shared resources, growing your own food,” Lee said. “What I saw in the U.S. influenced how I think of it more as a social experience now.”

Lee would also like to see more collaboration — or more sharing — within the industry, and for the manufacturing and construction bar to be raised to higher energy economy standards. Amongst other things, this involves prefabrication or modular techniques that cut down on energy and transportation demands.

“What I worry about is we’re all going to sit back and go on with a business-as-usual approach,” Lee said. “Many firms just do whatever the client says, no matter what the carbon impact of the decision. We could be doing so much more and providing leadership.”

Lee has only been Future Projects Manager for a few weeks, but this is the type of impact she hopes to have going forward. And with clients like Alphonso, it seems likely that Melbourne will build on its reputation as one of the world’s most livable and sustainable cities.

This article, An Inside Look At Living In One Of The World’s Most Sustainable Cities — Melbourne, Australia, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

What is Mike Bloomberg doing to New York City? Greening it!

by John Brian Shannon

Aside from his full-time duties as the Mayor of the largest city in the United States, his tireless work on the C40 Cities initiative, and countless other good causes and charities, Mayor Mike apparently spends much of his time transforming run-down parts of the city into artistic and park-like settings for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

A rendering of the renovated Empire Stores and the theater at the historic Tobacco Warehouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Image courtesy of

For over a century the East River was rows upon rows of chemical plants, coal or oil-fired power plants, fish processing plants, ugly warehouse buildings and the Navy Yard. Which, in a rapidly growing city, was perfectly normal business for a couple of centuries…

But Mike Bloomberg decided that part of his mandate was to turn those obscenely ugly and heavily-contaminated landscapes into beautiful park settings for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors to NYC.

Let me be the first to say that Mayor Bloomberg has shown amazing vision and leadership — and combined with his contact list of angel investors — vision and leadership has turned into reality, and if anything seems to be gathering momentum.

A rendering of the new Empire Stores Rooftop at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Image courtesy of

This artist rendering shows what the view will be like from the rooftop of the first image in this article.

It just shows what can be done when a visionary and determined person gains political office. Many such projects have begun, are presently in-progress, or have already completed, during the stewardship of Mike Bloomberg.

From obscenely contaminated, ugly and dangerous industrial wastelands, to world class, open city spaces which are a joy for all who visit. What’s not to like?

“All across the waterfront, we are reclaiming and renewing areas that have long been abandoned or neglected, and Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse are the latest examples of that work,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These redevelopment plans will bring even more new life and excitement to the DUMBO waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park, giving residents and visitors more places to work, shop, dine, and experience the arts.”

“Much like the recently announced John Street development deal, these plans represent yet another critical step toward securing the long-term financial stability of Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation Chairman Robert K. Steel. “This investment will ensure additional office, retail and cultural space that will strengthen this public-private partnership while adding additional park amenities that will promote healthy economic development in Dumbo, an already burgeoning arts and technology hub.”

“Brooklyn Bridge Park is a prime example of our city’s commitment to sustainable design and development,” said Veronica M. White, Parks and Recreation Commissioner. “The transformation of these formerly vacant stores will open up usable space for the community, and help to ensure that the park will continue to be well maintained for years to come.”

“This is an historic moment for Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Regina Myer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park. “In addition to securing the park’s financial stability, these long vacant warehouses allow us to recognize the important part our park plays in the history of the Brooklyn waterfront. We are also thrilled to be moving forward on re-energizing the Tobacco Warehouse and integrating even more new parkland into the northern portion of the park. The development of Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse will be a boon to Brooklyn Bridge Park and the larger DUMBO community, creating a new “it” space and showcasing some of the best that Brooklyn has to offer locals and out-of-towners alike. I hope this project will result in much-needed commercial space for Brooklyn’s growing creative economy. I am further pleased to see that St. Ann’s Warehouse, which I have long been investment proud to support, will benefit from this agreement with a quality performance space for artists and arts-lovers alike. Truly this promises to help all of Brooklyn prosper and reinforce our borough’s pre-eminence in the creative and technological arenas.”

A rendering of the new Tobacco Warehouse theater, managed by St. Ann’s Warehouse, at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Image courtesy of

The Tobacco Warehouse Theater and surrounding area is a good example of an unwanted building turned into a useful and welcome space.

“Having activated found spaces for cultural use in Brooklyn since we began in 1980, we are excited to be able to do so once more—this time making a permanent home for the arts and community events in one of the city’s most awe-inspiring locales,” said St. Ann’s Warehouse Founder and Artistic Director Susan Feldman. “We look forward to transforming the Tobacco Warehouse into a welcoming place where artists, audience members, city residents and visitors can gather all year long.”

“We are thrilled about this opportunity to realize our longstanding dream to rebuild the Tobacco Warehouse as a home for St. Ann’s Warehouse,” said Joseph S. Steinberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors of St. Ann’s Warehouse.

“St. Ann’s Warehouse is one New York City’s most exciting performing arts organizations dedicated to bringing cutting-edge work from all over the world to adventurous audiences,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Levin. “We are delighted that with today’s vote the Tobacco Warehouse will be an iconic home for the organization, artists and visitors. We also look forward to opening new exhibition space that will be an exciting new destination to learn about the borough’s dynamic past, present and future.”

A map showing all elements of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Image courtesy of

The Prime Developer of the project is Midtown Equities. Midtown Equities is a privately held real estate investment and development company that is headquartered in New York. With a portfolio of more than 100 properties in the retail, office, residential, industrial and hospitality sectors, the firm actively acquires, develops and leases properties ranging from urban redevelopment projects to commercial centers. With a focus on prime retail properties, Midtown Equities maintains holdings in urban markets including New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as abroad.


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