Energy 2020; Renewables Outcompete Carbon

The challenge of the century for renewable energy sources is quite simply storage, also known as batteries. Solar and wind can generate power at a reasonable cost, but that energy can’t be stored. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t shine all the time, nor does the wind blow perpetually. Without cheap reliable batteries or systems to store that energy, renewables require on-demand backups, and those are almost always carbon-based.

Berlin, Germany released plans to install a 120 megawatt underground battery storage unit which will store power from wind and solar farms.

Energy is about economics. People use the energy type they can afford. By 2020, the reason coal will no longer be in demand is because it costs more to produce than the market will pay. It is also the reason why the promise of cheap renewable energy has made solar energy and wind turbines very attractive propositions. The upfront cost for these technologies is relatively high, but the long run costs may be much lower than fossil fuels.

And those low operating costs can be amortized over the life of the power generator, be it a wind turbine, solar panel, or hydroelectric dam. With practically zero operating expenses, save for maintenance costs, solar energy and wind farms are cheaper than oil based electric production.

For solar and wind energy, there is a need for more batteries at a lower cost. With low-cost batteries, a solar energy farm can store the excess production in batteries, and use these during night time. The same is true for wind farms, as well as some oil powered plants in high-demand areas. Batteries allow plants to store excess production and draw on the reserves during peak use times. The problem has been, industrial-sized batteries didn’t really exist in a cost-effective form.

Researchers have made great strides in all aspects of renewable energies. The cost of producing a unit of power with solar has decreased exponentially over the past few years, making solar truly competitive for homes and small businesses with more traditional sources. New batteries which can store large quantities of energy through the night and sunless days, are set to make solar truly cost effective and viable.

Many countries, including France and Germany, are experimenting with storing energy in a variety of ways. One innovative solution is to use pipes, such as those used for natural gas, compressing the gas during peak production and letting the pressure escape to generate energy at other times. Many areas are also using renewable energy to pump water uphill into reservoirs during peak production, in order to let it flow down and generate energy during low production or peak demand.

Battery Innovations Make Renewable Energy Competitive

Of course, batteries are regarded as the ideal choice of energy storage, because they can be standardized and placed in almost any environment. Battery development has had a fantastic run for the past 20 years, increasing in efficiency and longevity at the same time they became smaller and more powerful. If present trends continue, the world is on track to enjoy energy from renewables, including battery storage, roughly comparable in price to energy from oil, gas, and coal by the year 2020. In a few short years, renewables can be truly competitive.

Unfortunately, the research into battery technology has slowed down. U.S. federal spending for research and development costs of items like battery technology decreased from 1.2% of US GDP in 1976, to 0.8% in 2015. In 2016, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the Department of Energy funded 75 projects for battery systems. The department said that these had the potential to enable renewable energy battery storage within five to ten years. Unfortunately, the House passed a bill which effectively ends the ARPA-E project funding. At the same time President Trump also expressed the idea that ARPA-E should be eliminated altogether next year by not including it in his proposed 2018 budget.

According to expert, Daniel Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor, the limited funding will cause a short-term downturn. It will lead to limited competition between diverse technologies. The funding money will be spread out only to those which have the biggest potential in the immediate future.

In the meantime, battery installation and power storage needs are growing. Recently, Berlin, Germany released plans to install a 120 megawatt underground battery storage unit which will store power from wind and solar farms. In addition, Tesla recently accepted the challenge to install a battery utility in Australia. Elon Musk, head of Tesla also added in the contract that it has to be installed within 100 days or it’s free. The 100 megawatt power utility will be three times bigger than any other utility in existence.

With lower cost of production, and 24/7 access to energy due to battery storage, the future of renewable energy seems to be finally at hand. The question is, will the world continue to be chained to the past, or pursue the new and bold technologies of the future?

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Makati increases budget for Free Medicines Program to P900 Million

The city government of Makati has increased this year’s budget for its Free Medicines Program from P600 million to P900 million to help defray the cost of medications needed by the beneficiaries of its Makati Health Plus (MHP) Program, better known as Yellow Card.

Launched in 2013 with an initial budget of P59 million, Makati’s “Libreng Gamot Para sa Mamamayan” currently benefits more than 230,000 patients which include senior citizens, persons with disability (PWD), city government employees, and other active MHP members.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay asked the Makati City Council to increase the budget for the program to ensure that it would be sustained with adequate funds throughout the year.

“We want our beloved Makatizens to worry less about expenses for maintenance medicines so they could enjoy a better quality of life,” Mayor Abby said.

The City Council approved the budget increase for the program through City Ordinance No. 2017-059 passed last April 26.

The program covers medicines for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardio-vascular diseases, dyslipidemia, enlarged prostate, gout, cough and colds, sexually transmitted infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, seizure disorder, allergy, ulcer, vertigo, and gastro-intestinal problems, and more. It also provides free multivitamins for children, adults and pregnant patients, as well as oral and injectable contraceptives.

The Makati Health Department (MHD) reports that the program has a total of 232,672 beneficiaries to date. These include 42,335 senior citizens and 171 PWDs, while the rest are other city residents, city government employees and selected national government workers based in Makati.

This July, the Makati Action Center (MAC) has made door-to-door deliveries of free maintenance medicines and vitamins worth around P7.2 million to some 4,099 senior citizens aged 70 years and older and bed-ridden beneficiaries identified by the MHD to be qualified for the special service.

Under the program, senior citizens aged 70 and above are entitled to receive the full dose of their monthly prescription of maintenance medicines.

To avail of the free medicines, registered members need to present a valid prescription issued to them by medical personnel from Ospital ng Makati (OsMak), Makati City Hall Employees’ Clinic, as well as any of the barangay health centers in the city.

The authorized distributor, Planet Drugstore, has eight outlets in strategic locations catering to their respective clusters.

More than free medicines and vitamins, Yellow Card beneficiaries enjoy free outpatient consultations and subsidized hospitalization for emergency and in-patient care at the premiere city-run Ospital ng Makati. Primary health care is also being provided by the city’s 26 barangay health centers, while its three lying-in clinics provide subsidized services for normal deliveries.

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Makati fast tracks free public WiFi system, other digital PPP projects; Mayor Abby signs contracts with private sector partners

In its bid to become a fully digital and technology-embracing Smart City, the City Government of Makati today entered into public private partnership (PPP) contracts with private sector partners for five landmark digital projects.

One of these is the Fiber Optic Loop project which will establish a public WiFi system providing free WiFi connection to Makati residents. The project is targeted for completion in 27 barangays, excluding the six villages, by the end of December this year.

Another PPP contract scheduled for completion within the year involves the installation of mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity for the benefit of residents and transients in the city.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay led the signing of the contracts which are expected to fast track the implementation of key programs aimed at expanding access to digital technology all over the city.

The mayor said the contract signing signifies the city’s commitment to provide the best features of today’s advanced technology to the city’s residents, guests, and business partners. She added that these projects will serve as the cornerstone of Makati’s goal to become a true “Smart City”.

“These five projects are just the first of many digital transformation programs which will further improve the technology we already have in Makati. We are tapping industry leaders from the private sector to speed up the implementation of these projects,” Mayor Abby said.

The mayor said the city government and its partners have laid out plans that will ensure that the projects will really make a difference in the daily lives of Makatizens.

The contract signing took place at the Lakan Tagkan Conference Room at Makati City Hall Building I between Makati City officials headed by Mayor Abby and representatives of the private companies.

The five digital PPP projects launched are the following: Fiber Optic Loop connecting Makati City e-Government; Makatizen card promoting e-currency and online payment; Mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity; City-wide towing, impounding and clamping that will allow online payment; and e-Payment at Jollijeeps using the Makatizen card.

The Fiber Optic Loop project will be accomplished in partnership with Converge Information and Communications Technology Solutions, Inc and Neo Tech Asia Distribution, Inc. Also known as the Makati City Public Wi-Fi System, it relies heavily on a Fiber Optic Cable Infrastructure to deliver managed Internet Services to Makati’s constituents.

The said project aims to accelerate the City Government’s efforts in enhancing internet accessibility for its constituents to boost their economic, social and educational opportunities. It also intends to enhance the delivery of frontline services and transactions, improve internal and government processes to ensure greater transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in its operations, and allow easier and wider public access to government information and services.

The private contractor will complete installation of the fiber optic cable in and around Makati City, as well as provide the internet bandwidth that will be required in connection with the MyMakati Wi-Fi service. The free internet service will be available to students, guests, and transients for a fixed period every day.

Following its initial launch last May 30 with partners G-xchange and iBayad Online Ventures, Inc., the Makatizen Universal Card System will now be rolled out to the city’s 33 barangays to provide over 500,000 residents better access to city government services. Along with city government employees, residents can receive cash allowances, stipends, and other cash benefits using their Makatizen Card. They can also use their cards to pay fees and taxes, as well as for personal remittances and other financial transactions.

The city government has also teamed up with Aim Technologies Inc and Market Research Knowledge Technology, Inc. for the project on Mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity, which will make use of existing Makati City-owned lamp posts and structures for installing and maintaining telecommunications equipment and public information structures. It aims to provide better cellular phone service and public information messages to residents and transients.

Through its partnership with Tokagawa Global Corporation, the city government aims to ease daily heavy traffic caused by illegally parked vehicles, stalled vehicles and those involved in vehicular accidents. The private proponent shall provide all the towing vehicles and accessories, clamping materials, impounding area and manpower at no cost to the city. The digital aspect of the program includes provisions for online payment of fees and penalties for the convenience of drivers and vehicle owners.

Meanwhile, the city government has revitalized its existing partnership with Metro Stores for the provision of additional “Jollijeep” food stalls or mobile canteens as an alternative to sidewalk vendors and the acceptance of e-payment using the Makatizen Card. The private contractor will monitor and manage the new and improved mobile food stalls to ensure their strict compliance with City Ordinance 2002-007 with respect to sanitation, safety and functionality.

The Makatizen Card was the city’s first digital PPP project and affirmed Mayor Abby’s belief that PPPs are the best way to bring about digital transformation in Makati and other localities. She had said earlier that Makati recognizes the indispensable role of such a partnership in revolutionizing the way government serves its people.

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300,000 Makatizen Cards up for distribution to residents, City Hall employees by yearend


Makati Mayor Abby Binay announced on Wednesday that the city government aims to distribute the all-in-one Makatizen Card to around 300,000 residents, students and city government employees by the end of the year.

Speaking before other local chief executives and members of the business sector at the 5th Regional Competitiveness Summit and Awards Ceremony held at the Philippine International Convention Center, the mayor revealed that the cutting-edge program is now being rolled out to the city’s 33 barangays.

“To date, the registration of city government employees and eligible Makati-based national government workers is well underway. We have also started to roll out the Makatizen Universal Card System to the city’s 33 barangays with the goal of registering around 300,000 residents by the end of the year,” Mayor Abby said.

The mayor presented the features, advantages, and benefits of Makati’s unified ID card to local chief executives and key officials from 1,487 cities and municipalities from all over the country.

“The Makatizen Card project represents this year’s theme: Technology and Innovation is Key to Competitiveness. It is not only a financially inclusive eco system that creates a digitally connected citizenry, it also takes the government – including all its services and processes, online,” Mayor Abby said.

The Makatizen Card is a public private partnership (PPP) between Makati and G-xchange and iBayad Online Ventures, Inc. It is a comprehensive universal card system which offers residents, students and city government employees expanded and improved access to government services.

The card allows recipients to receive cash allowances, stipends, and other cash benefits, including those provided under the Makati Health Program (Yellow Card), Senior Citizens program (Blu Card), PWD card and Solo Parent Card among others.

“Aside from making day-to-day tasks much more convenient for Makatizens, the project also allows greater transparency in the implementation of the city’s various social welfare programs, thereby ensuring that the right people receive the right benefits in the most efficient way,” the Mayor explained.

The Makatizen Card can also be used to pay fees and taxes, personal remittances and other financial transactions. More importantly, the magnetic strip contains vital information about bearer: his address, gender, blood type, as well as emergency contact numbers. The card is also equipped with a Near-Field Communication feature which will allow city offices equipped with iBayad machine readers to verify the identity of residents and employees with just a single tap.

Mayor Abby presented her actual Makatizen Card to the audience and shared that she had used it to pay for her water bill in the wee hours of the morning, without having to wait in line or wait for regular business hours. She also noted that using the Makatizen Card as a payment option for city government employees will reduce the mountain of paperwork that accompanies doing the payroll.

She also mentioned other notable digital PPP programs. The Fiber Optic Loop project, for one, will establish a public WiFi system providing free fiber optic WiFi connection to Makati residents. The project is targeted for completion in 27 barangays, excluding the six villages, by the end of December this year.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) had invited Mayor Abby to present the Makatizen Card Program and the city’s digital transformation platform at the summit, following a similar presentation she made at the 5th Annual Ease of Doing Business Summit held last June 28.

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Economic Opportunity, Senior Healthcare

The population of the United States and most of the developed world is aging. It is estimated that by 2030, more than one-fifth of the population of the United States will be composed of senior citizens. To care for this aging population, the healthcare industry is exploring new technology in order to provide needed services and assistance to the elderly.

In 2016, the funding for companies and startups making healthcare tech products increased to $2 billion, up from $425 billion in 2010.

Very little healthcare tech has been developed specifically for seniors. However, it seems that they are ready for it. In a recent study, it was shown that more than half of seniors go online on a regular basis. Additionally, almost half of seniors have broadband access.

The number of seniors who use cell phones is also rising. In 2012, about 69% of seniors used smartphones, this has increased to 77% in the last year. As expected, the younger seniors use the internet more, while the older seniors rarely do. What is significant is the buying power of those in the 50 year old and above category. They are estimated to have almost half the economic power of the whole country.

This means that the current senior population is a viable market for technology, especially for healthcare, as this is a prime concern for the elderly. A number of new apps have been developed for the elderly, or for the care of seniors. These include monitors, and vital sign readers, with the ability to share feeds or data with different family members or healthcare providers and professionals.

Seniors Have Spending Power for Health Tech

For many people, their image of seniors is someone living in a nursing home with little physical activity and often with a have disability. They may be close to the truth when it comes to disability, as of 2010, 40% of those aged 65 and above have disabilities. However, only 3.1% of those aged 65 and older are in nursing homes, and of the 75 to 84 year olds, only 3.2% are in nursing homes. This means that the majority of seniors are living alone or with a family member. About 39% of adults are also caregivers. And 70% of caregivers also hold full-time jobs.

To relieve the stress and problems with home care, as well as communicating with seniors in nursing homes, there are apps which help. These apps can be used to order medicines that are then delivered to the home. Other apps help with communications between the senior, their family, and healthcare providers at the same time. Information like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, pulse rate, etc. can be sent and shared simultaneously to family members and healthcare providers. In 2016, the funding for companies and startups making healthcare tech products increased to $2 billion, up from $425 billion in 2010.

One part of the equation which is sure to be addressed early is that of data collection. At present, there is already a large amount of data about seniors. However, in order to better understand the market, specific apps for the elderly have to collect and maintain their own big data repositories. This approach can be helpful in analysing the health records and trends as the population gets older. The information itself, as raw data, can be very helpful for healthcare providers in offering better care and reducing costs.

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Whole Foods; Cashier-Less Terminals

Recently, Amazon bought Whole Foods, and even before the ink dried they have been receiving suggestions on how to run the wholly-owned subsidiary. Whole Food customers are used to innovation. Survey results released by ChargeItSpot show that Whole Foods customers are looking forward to the positive changes Amazon can bring. Before long those changes might include cashier-less checkouts.

[Whole Foods] has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

In late 2016, Amazon launched their first Amazon Go store. Although this is just a prototype used to test the concept, customers are already excited for the buzz. The main selling point, or value add, of Amazon Go is that it does not have any cashiers. You only need to be an Amazon member, logging in to the store via a smartphone app.

The items you pick up and add to your cart are noted so that you can easily indulge in the stores’ advancements. For one, Amazon Go does not have cashiers, nor take out counters. The customer’s app takes care of everything; including tallying up the purchases and processing payment by the credit card company. Customers can enter, find products, and leave just as quickly with what they desired. Any purchases will be credited on the fly, even if the customer has not yet left the store. This cashier-less experience is responsible for the popularity of Amazon Go.

Amazon Go was supposed to be a test bed for the latest in grocery innovations. The store has been very promising, and is definitely leading the industry in modernization. Amazon has made a statement that Amazon Go will expand further south from Oregon in the following years.

Amazon Go; Innovation and Convenience

The novelty of Amazon Go is not lost on the Whole Foods customer base. They understand that Amazon can pay $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods because Amazon has the technical savvy to revolutionize the supermarket industry. With Amazon Go, the user is scanned during the whole time he or she is in the store. Since there is no cashier, sensors and cameras have taken the process of payment and transformed it to an activity integrated with the sensors. When the customer leaves the store, he already knows how much he has spent, as he receives an electronic copy of the bill.

When polled, Whole Foods customers want to experience “cashier-free checkouts.” Whole Foods has been introducing improvement in various ways to the supermarket/retail industry for many years. Most notably, they follow different rules in compensation. The company has also been known to adjust to local market conditions in order to provide their customer base with the freshest and certified organic ingredients.

The survey was conducted on 900 customers, and the results point to a need for a different customer experience. The main reason why consumers want the stores to be without any cashiers is to save time at the checkout counter. The innovation in today’s technology adds immense value for loyal Whole Foods customers.

One of the most radical steps Whole Foods has instituted is to have its stores run as independent corporations. There are 17 regional offices, and each of these locations have enabled them to outsource their products to local producers. This is one tenet of sustainability and allows the stores to develop eco-friendly techniques. Buying local means that the produce is made at a short distance from where it will be bought, which leads to fresher ingredients for the customer at home.

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Smart Car Test on I95

The state of Virginia is attempting to wrestle the title, Capital of Driverless Cars, from California. Governor Terry McAuliffe has promised to spend the rest of his term making Virginia the capital of automated vehicles.

The tests will emphasize speed harmonization, a concept that provides a smooth flow of the traffic stream, reducing bottlenecks while increasing reliability.

Citing the more than 280 wineries, within the state, McAuliffe asserted that Virginia is already closing in on California regarding the crucial industry of winemaking. His focus is now on grabbing the world’s attention with the development of automated cars in Virginia. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts and Arizona are also vying for the title.

An agreement among four agencies involved in the supervision and operation of Virginia’s Interstate 95 has paved the way to begin testing smart cars over a three-year period, which is still subject to an extension. This agreement allows for testing to be conducted when the express lanes are closed to the public. An exact schedule is being prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. Later on, testing will be conducted under light traffic conditions.

As California holds the distinction for having the most comprehensive regulations on the subject, Virginia makes their pitch anchored on the lack of legislation and rules pertaining to self-driving vehicles. Virginia Transportation Secretary, Aubrey Layne, has stated that the absence of rules pertaining to autonomous vehicles is intentional on their part.

Virginia Bids to Be the Capital of Smart Cars

Express lanes in Virginia will become the testing grounds of smart cars which are believed to be the future of transportation. The emerging technology will be tested on the lanes of Interstates 95 and 495. The smart vehicles will communicate wirelessly with one another as well as with the road’s infrastructure. Virginia’s express lanes are deemed ideal for testing purposes because of their separation from the primary lanes.

Virginia’s Assistant Secretary of Transportation, Ronique Day, hopes there will be no significant impact on the regular flow of traffic during the testing process. He believes the tests will potentially show how automated technology, as well as the proposed connected vehicle technology, can improve the state’s transportation system. They also hope the testing of smart cars on the interstate will start a new era for the department.

The three-year tests aim to significantly improve traffic flow and safety. Testing will include the Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, which involves a group of vehicles forming a platoon (a train of cars that travel closely together). It will also include tractor-trailer platoons traveling in groups of three.

The tests will emphasize speed harmonization, a concept that provides a smooth flow of the traffic stream, reducing bottlenecks while increasing reliability. Backers also hope the tests will reveal that driverless cars reduce the environmental impact of vehicles on the road and improve road safety, comfort and convenience.

The tests also aim to determine the viability of automated and connected vehicle technologies when it comes to improving lane changes, and merging off and on to roadways. These issues are something American motorists are very familiar with.

The integration of emerging transportation technologies into the infrastructure of US transportation began more than ten years ago, but has accelerating in recent years. The US Department of Transportation started a pilot program for automated and connected vehicle technology in 2015. The aforementioned pilot programs are currently being undertaken in New York City, Tampa, Wyoming, and Michigan.

As different states employ diverse approaches concerning the development of emerging technologies, the common goal remains to utilize these bold developments to innovate transportation. However, progressing the transportation industry will only be realized after a thorough series of testing is done within a real world environment.

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