The Natural Step: A Framework for Sustainability

the Natural Step

The natural step has been regarded as the world’s leading sustainability framework. It provides a set of sustainable management principles that have been tested and applied since the early 1990s to create a common language for businesses so they can move towards sustainability. This blog post will talk about what The Natural Step is, how it works, and why it’s an important tool for business owners who want to be more sustainable!

We will start with what the natural step is. The Natural Step provides a framework for sustainability upon which businesses can use to move towards sustainability because sustainability is such a precise topic that it needs an agreed-upon set of principles by society and industry to guide action.

The framework provides four basic rules which are the sustainability principles that define success. As captured in the Natural step framework, these sustainability principles provide the understanding that: In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing…

1…concentrations of substances from the earth’s crust (such as fossil CO2, heavy metals, and minerals)

2…concentrations of substances produced by society (such as antibiotics and endocrine disruptors)

3… degradation by physical means (such as deforestation and draining of groundwater tables).

4. And in that society there are no structural obstacles to people’s health, influence, competence, impartiality, and meaning.

To apply these principles, the Natural Step applies the ABCD process to implement the above sustainability principles into your business or organization. The implementation of the Natural Step can be applied in different contexts and it takes training, experience, and practice to apply the above principles more easily. The letters represent a process that is followed for each step:

A—Awareness & Vision

Envisioning the future starts with awareness and defining what sustainability means for individuals, businesses, and other organizations. The Natural Step framework uses a science-based system’s perspective definition as the foundation of decisions made at this stage in looking into envisioned sustainable futures.

B—Baseline Analysis (Baseline Assessment)

It is important for organizations to understand their sustainability issues and strengths as it helps establish goals, implement change, and make improvements. Gap analysis is a process that can be used by any organization to find out more about themselves through exploration of the differences between current trends compared with what they should strive towards being. By analyzing these discrepancies, we can identify where an organization needs improvement or provide a way forward on how best you might go about making desired changes happen.

C—Creative Solutions

The first step to achieving your goals is understanding the gaps and baseline of what you are currently working with. Understanding these will allow for innovation so that we can work on solutions to bring ourselves closer to this vision- a sustainable product or organization.

D –Decides on Priorities (Devise a plan)

Developing a plan is the crucial first step in any journey. It will help you understand what the next steps are and “low-hanging fruit” that can produce quicker benefits as well as develop your long-term goals. This process will also help you to formulate both short-term and long-term plans while prioritizing which goal goes first.

System Perspective – Design for Eco-Products

sustainable designMost people don’t realize that sustainable design is a lot more than just designing an eco-friendly product. It involves understanding all the steps that go into your product and how they affect the environment, from packaging to production to disposal. What’s even more important is analyzing these impacts using a system perspective. To help you with this, we’re going to dive deep into what system perspectives are, how they work, and why it’s so important for the sustainable design of products. So let’s get started!

Introduction

System perspective tools such as an environmental life-cycle analysis (LCA) or a Life Cycle Management tool (LCM) as well as The 5 Level Framework (5LF) can guide product development by shedding light on the life-cycle of any given product and illuminating ways to reduce resources consumed and lower costs all along the value chain. It does this by using an ecological footprint perspective–that is, looking at everything from cradle to grave in order to measure environmental impact during every phase. From a system’s perspective, it’s easy enough to identify what steps use up water or produce air pollution more quickly than others; as such these are good places for improvement!

The Components of a System Perspective

Life Cycle Management (LCM) is a business approach that ensures sustainable value chain management to target, organize, analyze and manage product-related information and activities towards continuous improvement along the product life cycle. LCM differs from an environmental LCA in how it measures performance; LCM focuses on improving environmentally conscious aspects of production while also considering economic factors such as cost efficiency throughout the process.

Unlike many other tools for sustainability assessment like ESG or GRI reporting standards which can only provide broad overviews of company operations across various industries/sectors at any given time period, an Environmental Life Cycle Assessment by contrasting forces companies to collect specific data about their products’ environmental impacts during each stage so they are able to accurately identify what needs improvements before making decisions.

In a world where sustainability is becoming more and more important, it’s crucial to know the different types of tools that can be used in order to create sustainable products. One such tool is LCM – Life Cycle Management which provides an umbrella for other assessment tools like environmental LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and offers a framework under which product-LCA are able to inform the design process of new sustainable products.

In addition, the organization called the Natural Step developed a five(5) level framework that can help companies create a picture of what it means to be sustainable not just for their product sustainability, but also in their operations, processes using a holistic approach. Using a holistic approach, and working with a clear vision of the end-point, companies can lay out the steps necessary to get there as the Natural Step founder, Karl-Henrik Robert calls it “backcasting from principles”.

The 5 Level Framework (5LF) is a comprehensive model for planning and decision making in complex systems based on whole system thinking. It comprises five levels: 1.) System, 2.) Success, 3,) Strategic Planing/Decision Making Strategies, 4) Actions to be Taken; and 5., Tools that can help accomplish the goals of each level. The framework helps one analyze any type or scale of complex system by providing tools to plan strategically towards success while respecting principles determined by how the working of the individual components influence its overall performance over time.

Who Uses Systems Perspectives?

sustainable design

The use of system perspectives can help policymakers and designers understand how to make their sustainable projects more impactful. Policymakers could use this perspective for example, when deciding where or what to build in order to have the most impact on improving sustainability.

Similar to the human body, a factory is well-designed when every part of it works together seamlessly for optimum efficiency. In order to do this correctly, you have to consider energy consumption as just one component in an interconnected system. Factors such as water usage and waste production rates also play into how much money your design will cost over time while still being environmentally friendly thanks to its incorporation of systems thinking which should be considered by anyone interested in creating sustainable solutions that are not only effective but profitable too!

Why is it Important for Sustainable Product Design?

First, what are system perspectives and how do they work? A system’s perspective analyzes the environmental impact of your product from start to finish – meaning your production process plus any other steps that lead up to or follow after its disposal. To illustrate this point, let’s consider an eco shampoo bottle as an example: by using system perspective tools such as life cycle analysis (LCA), you can determine which parts of the design might need tweaking in order to make them more sustainable. 

For instance, consider this real-world example: A shampoo bottle. It is designed with the end in mind, and you can look at it from three different perspectives to see how each impacts its sustainability. From a design perspective, use eco-friendly materials that are recyclable or biodegradable for less waste during the production of the product itself; If looking at disposal after usage, make sure your bottles will be recycled properly so they don’t find their way into our landfills – especially now when there’s not as much landfill space available because everyone has been using recycling bins! As an added bonus? Using sustainable practices like those outlined above also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better energy efficiency on every level throughout the process by reducing resource consumption needs and the use of chemicals.

Typical System Perspective Example

Design Perspective: Designing an eco product with materials that are non-toxic, biodegradable or that can be recycled easily

Post perspective: Disposal after usage, make sure your bottles will be recycled properly so they don’t find their way into our landfills – especially now when there’s not as much landfill space available because everyone has been using recycling bins! As an added bonus? Using sustainable practices like those outlined above also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better energy efficiency on every level throughout the process by reducing resource consumption needs and the use of chemicals.

Governing perspective: Analyzing the environmental impact of your product comes in handy using a system’s perspective.

For the above example, System perspective tools such as the environmental LCA can help your business capture these data and create metrics for measurement –and as a result, you can be able to track some basic environmental outcomes – the resources it uses and what it emits or wastes, etc

Benefits of sustainability in business: 5 examples of sustainable companies

go green

What are the benefits of sustainability? As the world becomes more conscious about sustainability and the environment, many businesses are going green. In this blog post, we will look at five (5) different inspirational examples of businesses that have gone green. These include both large and small companies. They illustrate a variety of ways in which you can reduce your company’s ecological footprint by using sustainable practices.

1. Coca-Cola sustainability initiatives – the recycling program

    The Coca-Cola Company has started a recycling program in which they commit to making “100 percent of the packaging for all its drinks recyclable or compostable by 2025”. Coca-Cola is making changes to its packaging in order to help the environment. With Coca-Cola’s new World Without Waste initiative, they plan on achieving three goals: 1) Designing recyclable products 2) Collect and recycle a bottle or can already sold by 2030 3) Partner with other companies who are looking at sustainability issues like climate change as well. By 2025, 100% of all coca cola’s packaging will be recyclable globally while 50% of it being made up from recycled material! It might not seem that far away now but this company has been around for over 130 years so you know they’re good when it comes to thinking long term! Already Coca-Cola is enjoying the benefits of sustainability by reducing waste and by recycling more packaging materials.

    2. IKEA’s Circular model of production

    The Swedish furniture company IKEA has set the goal to become climate-positive by 2030. This means that their business will be more sustainable, as they are shifting towards a circular model of production. One way for them to make this happen is prolonging the lifespan of materials and products in order to create less ecological footprint because it would lower both new material production as well future waste from these items when disposed of at the end of the life cycle.

    In addition to the circular model of production, IKEA is committed to renewable energy and removing CO2 from the atmosphere through forestation. For example, in FY20 they announced a EUR 200 million investment for production speed up as well an ambition of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions by one gigatonne per year with forestry projects alone.

    3. YesStraws – Biodegradable Straws

    YesStraws is an organization that has developed biodegradable straws in order to reduce pollution. The company was started as a result of bans on plastic straw use and the oceans being covered with waste, which can be attributed primarily to them. YesStraws aims at reducing these numbers by developing more environmentally friendly alternatives such as their own product: Bioplastics made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane, they are 100% compostable so you don’t have to worry about it taking over our landfills!

    YesStraws are an environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable plastic straws. They’re made from plant materials, and they can be composted after use or just tossed in the household trash once you’ve finished drinking any liquids that were inside of them! YesStraws have a long list of benefits that make them worth considering when purchasing your next drink at a coffee shop: YesStraws don’t create waste like single-use plastics do; they won’t end up being caught as ocean debris either because it’s biodegradable material meant for our landfills instead. You’ll also save money by buying these reusable items over time – so what more could we ask for? Check out YesStraws products on Amazon.com

    4. Nike’s sneakers – producing sneakers with recyclable materials

    What is the environmental impact of your pair of sneakers? With over 23 billion pairs produced every year, 300 million thrown out, and an average lifespan to decompose being 30-40 years it’s alarming just what this industry throws into our landfills each year with plastic, rubber & petroleum as major ingredients when designing a new pair all together contributing to carbon dioxide emissions!

    As a consequence, Nike and other sneaker companies have been redesigning their shoe products to be more sustainable. In the past five years alone, Nike has used recycled polyester for six(6) straight years as well as transformed over 6.4 billion plastic water bottles into shoes or clothing. By 2020, Nike was able to go even further by using recycled rubbers on midsoles and outsoles in all of its sneakers from Nike SBs to converse.

    go greenIn addition, Nike has created a line of products called Nike Space Hippie that are made from recycled materials. The company also creates shoes like the new Cosmic Unity basketball shoe, which is produced with at least 20% recyclable content and offers comfort for players on their feet all day long as they make game-winning moves.

    5. Green Toys – Made with 100% recycled materials

    This company has combined the best of two worlds, environmental and economic. They use recycled materials to make their toys for children while also saving energy by diverting material from landfills. Beyond these great benefits, they are 100% US-made which further reduces greenhouse gas emissions due to being able to produce closer than other companies around the world can do without having such a large impact on our environment. Their toys are made with 100% recycled plastic while all toy producers around the world are producing plastic with at least 20% recycled content. That is, this company’s products are packaged with recycled and recyclable materials and printed with minimum color using soy inks. Check out Green Toys products on Amazon.com.

    Five (5) go green benefits for a sustainable business

    go green

    Go green concept is a step by step approach and can be implemented by taking a systems approach. Your business just needs to start somewhere and with time, you will have a strategy to assist you to move forward with your going green strategies.

    In that regard, businesses are increasingly going green in an effort to be eco-friendly and save money. Whether you’re a service company or a product-oriented company, going green will depend on various factors including your waste generated from the work system put in place.

    For instance, if you’re a marketing agency that works with clients all over the world then your core business is services and it would make sense for you to go paperless as much as possible. On the other hand, if you’re an industrial firm that produces goods like plastics then it’s likely more important for you to reduce energy costs, which means making changes such as recycling water or installing solar panels on your roof.

    The best thing about going green in the workplace is that it can be done as a gradual process. You don’t have to go all or nothing, you just need to start somewhere and take small steps towards sustainable practices for your company such as recycling paper, switching out light bulbs with LEDs, etc.

    The following four(5) benefits of going green should help convince you to go green for your company.

    1. Reduce waste and save the environment

    One way to reduce your company’s environmental footprint and save the planet is by going green. If you have implemented a variety of different processes, design techniques, or energy technologies in your business then you can generate quite a few benefits for both employees and our environment. Reduce your waste to improve the environment. One of many ways you can do this is by reducing or eliminating paper and energy usage, which will make a huge difference in sustainability.For instance, reducing and minimizing waste is a great way to be more sustainable. You can make an impact by reducing the use of paper for printing or using recycled products, as well as decreasing your carbon footprint with energy conservation tips like turning off lights when you leave rooms!.

    2. Go green cost-saving opportunities

    Going green is not just good for the environment, it can also be a great financial decision. By adopting strategies such as switching to electric vehicles and going solar you will save significant money that would otherwise go towards energy bills or gas expenses. Driving an electric car saves money in two significant ways. The first is the cost of fuel, which a study from the University of Michigan found costs less than half as much for EVs than gas-powered cars. The second reason they save money is through electricity rates that are more stable and predictable over time vs for gasoline prices.

    3. Go green is great for customer service

    When you go green, customers will like your business more! Customers are drawn to companies that care about the environment. And while it’s not easy going green, it only takes a little effort on behalf of one person who cares enough for their community and our planet as well. The benefits from being eco-conscious extend beyond just good customer service–it also helps protect the earth we all share together!–and make sure people can enjoy this beautiful world with us for many years into the future!

    4. Great for your company’s reputation

    The green concept is a trend that companies are following to ensure their reputation and sustainability. Studies show people would rather buy from environmentally conscious, sustainable products than the ones who don’t care or aren’t aware of these issues. Greener business practices are increasingly becoming the norm. In a recent international survey, 80% of people said they would respect companies and brands that adopt greener policies. For instance, with all the environmental problems such as climate change, we see that most consumers will be drawn more towards companies with cleantech instead of those who continue making harmful decisions about our planet’s well-being without any thought for consequences in future generations

    5. Increased productivity 

    With more and more people choosing to work from home, the go-green concept has taken on new meaning. Now with so many offices being converted into virtual workplaces, it is important for architects and employers alike to consider how their building will impact employees’ cognitive function while at work. One recent study out of Harvard University shows that a greener environment can have profound effects on the mental health outcomes in individuals exposed over an extended period of time – including increased levels of cognition by up to 61%. This makes sense considering we spend about 90% of our day inside buildings which are now responsible for providing us not just shelter but also shaping our moods; both positively or negatively depending upon if they’re designed using sustainable materials like recycled steel and bamboo floors as well as natural daylight. Green buildings not only affect the productivity of people at workplaces, but they also have a significant effect on their cognitive function.

    In addition, another study showed that Genzyme Center – a LEED Platinum building in Cambridge, MA – used 42% less energy and 34% less water than standard buildings of comparable size. In addition to this, the employees were 15% more productive because they didn’t have toxins like formaldehyde around them all day from typical materials found in regular construction.

    Renogy solar systems applications

    Renogy solar systems

    Renogy solar systems have a wider range of applications including cabin, boating, RV solar as well as solar for other outdoor activities such as camping and fishing. On the other hand, Renogy solar have broader applications for commercial solutions such as in agriculture, logistics, and information technology. Renogy is a well-known brand focused on designing solar panels, solar kits, charge controllers, inverters, deep cycle batteries, battery chargers, accessories, and wiring. Solar panels or solar kits from Renogy as well as its components develop Renogy solar power. 

      1. Solar home systems 

      Renogy solar power systems are used as power back systems during power outages. They can also be used for cottages or small remote areas and semi-permanent installations that need power on an occasional basis. Renogy solar  are also used to support sustainable living using solar energy. Examples of Renogy solar power for powering homes include: Package 1: Tiny House, (1200 Watts), Package 2: Cottage (2500 Watts) & Package 3: Villa (4800 Watts).

      2. Agriculture:

        Renogy solar power are used for irrigation purposes to power solar water pumps especially for remote areas not connected to the grid. Renogy solar power generators, lighting, water pumps etc. thus powering agriculture with sustainable energy. Learn more about Renogy solar  for agriculture.

        3. Logistics and solar for RV vehicles

          solar panelsRenogy solar power are used in freight trucks providing off-grid power to power liftgates, HVAC systems, entertainment etc. For instance the Renogy 400W Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit with 30A Charger Controller is designed for off-grid solar panel system, Caravan, RV, boat, Green house Solar panel system.

          4. Street lighting and Information Technology (IT)

            Renogy solar power are used to power street lighting and security cameras. In IT, Renogy solar are used to power data centers helping businesses to run greener and smarter at the same time. Renogy solar power the Internet of Things (IoT) networks helping businesses to stay connected with real-time analytics. Learn more about Renogy solar systems for street lighting and information technology(IT).

            5. Outdoor activities

              Renogy solar power have portable solar solutions for powering your outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, boating helping to support sustainable living. For instance, the Renogy Phoenix 246.24Wh/150W Portable Generator is an all-in-one portable solar power system specifically designed for mobile, off-grid applications, and is ideal for emergencies.

              Who makes method cleaning products?

              Method cleaning products use plant-based and a few mineral-based chemicals in their formulation. Some of the mineral-based or synthetic chemicals used in the formulation of these products are used mainly as a pH adjuster or fragrance.

              Method cleaning products are made with plant-based or biodegradable ingredients and packaged on recycled bottles ensuring sustainable design. Natural ingredients for these products are derived from plants such as corn and coconut or natural citric acids. According to Method, the formulations of their cleaning products utilize advanced green chemistry technologies to create strong and safe formulations that are good for their consumers and the environment.

              Also, the formulation for different method cleaning products follows the precautionary principle i.e. if there’s a chance an ingredient isn’t safe, they don’t use it in the formulation. In addition, Method all-purpose cleaners undergo a 3rd party assessment where all method ingredients are rigorously evaluated by an independent material agency for health and environmental safety. Learn more here about Method cleaning products.

              Three simple sustainable options for small businesses

              sustainable optionsIt is always advisable to conduct a comprehensive audit to understand what sustainable options that would have high impact for your triple-bottom-line, however sometimes you just want to get started to enjoy the benefits of implementing sustainable options. To start with, you can consider doing projects that have a high probability of success or focus your efforts on projects that make good business sense i.e. good for the sustainability and profits of the company. This blog attempts to capture a few low hanging fruit sustainable options, especially for small & medium-size businesses that may be interested in implementing low-cost sustainable options to save money or time and material resources such as energy:

              1. Plan an energy efficiency project. Small businesses may not have the finances to conduct a comprehensive energy audit that requires capital intensive modifications but could start with a walk-through audit to visually inspect each of the energy-using systems. Ideally, a walk-through energy-audit will perform a preliminary analysis of energy use or consumption to obtain the energy trends and patterns while benchmarking with other similar facilities. Small businesses can also consider performing a benchmarking audit which is faster because of the use of online tools such as the EPA ENERGY STAR portfolio manager. This online tool which is created by the EPA is a great tool that can be used to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. This tool is free to use and it is recommended for users to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings in a secure onlineenvironment. It is easy to use and it can be used to manage the energy use of any building.
              2. Implement solar photovoltaics (PV) project: Most solar projects especially commercial solar projects can be capital intensive, but in most cases, companies don’t have to own the PV system using flexible financing mechanisms such as the power purchase agreement (PPAs) and leasing financing models that allow companies to buy solar power at slightly lower rates compared to utility rates. EnergySage which is an online solar marketplace is a great starting point that online users can be used to estimate their solar potential, savings and get financing for their solar energy projects. At EnergySageyou will also have access to multiple solar quotes from your local solar installers.
              3. Consider using recycled paper for your office:Buying recycled paper may not have a direct impact on your bottom-line, but the indirect benefit this practice has on sustainability can be considered a high impact. Green America has made estimates for the sustainability impact of how recycled paper can have on environment and climate. According to Green America, recycled paper use saves resources and reduces the paper industry’s impact on the planet. For instance, using 100 % recycled copy paper instead of 100% virgin fiber paper saves: 100% of the trees, 31% of the energy, 53% of the water, and produces 39% less solid waste. In case, you consider, recycled paper, Amazon sells several brands of recycled paper. For instance, this example of 100% post-consumer recycled printer and copier paper for everyday use is made in the USA from recycled food and beverage containers and other paper-based printed materials.

              These are just a few examples of low hanging fruit sustainable options that can be implemented by small or medium-sized businesses. Learn more about greening your business here for more details. To learn more for instance about energy audits and the concept of sustainable business or sustainability, check out the following books on Amazon.

              • Handbook of Energy Audits 9th Editionto learn more about energy auditing in buildings and industry. Topics include energy assessment and computer software, etc.
              • A circular economy handbook to learn more how engaged businesses are now increasingly re-thinking product design, material choices, business models and supply chains, and adopting the principles of the circular economy.

              Steps to install renewable energy systems for your facility

              renewable energyUnlike non-renewable forms of energy such as fossil fuels, renewable energy systems utilize unlimited resources that are replenished time after time. Most countries are endowed with renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro, etc. Depending on what renewable energy resources are available in your location, it is important to determine their technical and economic potential before tapping the resource to produce energy such as heat, or electrical energy. This blog attempts to capture the steps to renewable energy for your home or business facility.

              Steps to renewable energy systems

              1. Determine your renewable energy potential
              2. Assess the different renewable energy resources available to you based on location and site-specific parameters. For instance, biogas production is best suited for farms that regularly collect liquid, slurry, or semi-solid manure with little or no bedding.

                Any site with water drops and flows; natural waterfalls, small weirs/dams, and industrial flows can be potential sites for small hydropower that can be obtained from the flowing water on your site. To get the renewable energy potential for small hydro, you can start by determining the head (the vertical distance the waterfalls) and the flow rate i.e. the quantity of water falling. To do this you can consult a small hydro specialist in your local area. We have captured below details on how to obtain a list of these renewable energy installers whether biogas or any other renewable energy installer.

                When it comes to solar power, determining the potential to install solar panels is much easier than for bioenergy or small hydro because of the easy access to online solar calculators that make it much faster to calculate your site-specific solar potential. EnergySage has a platform where online users can just plug in the address of their home or business in the USA to obtain their solar potential instantly. To learn more about how you can obtain your solar potential despite your location, check this article. Also, you can get in touch with a local solar professional to schedule a solar assessment.

                2. Energy efficiency first before installing renewable energy options Most countries have a good solar energy potential and hence solar power can be harnessed in almost every location on earth unlike wind, small-hydro or geothermal which are largely site-specific. However, before considering adopting a renewable energy system, it is advisable to perform an energy assessment of your home or business facility to understand your energy consumption profile. An energy audit will help to identify energy efficiency measures that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate any energy wastage. For instance, lighting system upgrades & controls (including LEDs) and buying or upgrading your home appliances to Energy Star appliances can result in huge significant savings for your home or business. Learn more here about energy efficiency.

                3. Identify renewable energy installers, renewable energy rebates, and incentives for your local area USA residents interested in going solar can consider the EnergySage to obtain multiple solar quotes from pre-screened solar installers. SunPower has some of the best solar panels in the world and has expanded operations to Europe, Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. Also, solar Business Hub provides a directory with a list of solar installers around the world.

                Renewable Energy Hub provides a platform for online users in the UK and USA for most renewable energy installers. For instance, Renewable Energy Hub USA enables people, communities, businesses, and institutions across America to connect with trusted, reliable advisers, and installers. Using this platform, you can learn all about current renewable energy technologies, energy-saving products, services, grants, federal and state incentives.

                Find out from relevant government authorities about renewable energy incentives or grants that you can benefit from to help reduce the cost of your renewable energy system even more. The initial capital investment required for your renewable energy install can often be perceived as somewhat daunting, there are various ways to reduce it using tax incentives and rebates. However, every renewable energy project is different, find more about how to reduce for instance the cost of your solar panels. Learn more here.

              Five factors to consider when interested in renewable energy

              renewable energy resourcesHere at reneenergy.com, we strive to provide information to help you with your going solar or other renewable energy options that are available to you. Most resources shared on our blogs are USA based and hence are specific to the US context.

              However, we have received questions recently from people who are not from the USA about how to go solar specifically in their respective countries. As a result, this blog attempts to generalize some aspects of knowing how to adopt solar or other renewable energy technologies based on socioeconomic, clean energy technological options as well as policy and regulatory frameworks that affect how you benefit or install renewable energy technologies for your home or business. This particular blog will just capture these factors in general and we will attempt to be specific and capture more details in our future blogs:

              1. Before adopting clean energy resources, you want to assess whether this is the right decision for your household or business. Any renewable energy option adopted is based on your energy needs and its applications and whether it makes economic sense. Environmental or sustainability reasons are other aspects that affect, especially businesses to adopt renewable energy in order to reduce their carbon footprint and help to achieve their sustainability goals. For instance, assessing whether solar is right for your home or business can be determined by how much you can save with going solar or whether you have a reliable source of power. Power outages are one issue that causes people and businesses to look for alternative sources of energy like solar plus battery energy storage. Many power outages occur during peak hours when there is very high energy demand that cannot be met by the existing capacity on the grid.
              2. Many rural communities remain not connected to the grid due to the scattered nature of these rural communities. As a result, many private companies in the energy business may find it unprofitable to invest in building the grid infrastructure. As such, these communities rely on government or donors to build this infrastructure which may take years to construct and it requires a lot of investment because the grid has to be extended at long distances with scattered households. Renewable energy resources come in handy in such a context. Consequently, many governments and donor programs such as the World Bank targets these rural communities with clean energy solutions such as solar photovoltaics (PV). For instance, the World Bank has conducted various studies and implemented many programs for rural electrification using solar photovoltaics for years.
              3. The policy and regulatory framework for renewable energy technologies vary from one country to another. For instance, some countries don’t have the net-metering policy—an arrangement for grid-connected solar photovoltaics that allows the solar host to obtain credit towards their electric bill by installing a bi-directional power meter. There are much other policy and regulatory issues that vary in from the country to country.
              4. Renewable energy technologies have different characteristics that enable them to fit in different settings based on affordability, site-specific parameters, design, and energy requirements in question. For instance, because of the intermittent nature of solar/wind and perhaps not connected to the grid; a battery energy storage system may be needed in some cases.
              5. The socioeconomic factors also determine the various types of renewable energy resources or sustainable technology that can be implemented, for instance, to solve lighting and cooking issues using clean technologies:
                  – Solar PV comes with different solar technologies to solve lighting and other energy needs.

                  – Biofuels including biodiesel and bioethanol provide cooking energy solutions and other clean energy solutions such as for productive use and agriculture. For instance, using sustainable biofuels to power gen-sets for pumping water or irrigation.

                  – Wind-powered solutions for residential, commercial and farms in the rural areas.

                  – Energy efficiency solutions for homes and commercial places.

              Lithium-ion batteries for your solar PV system

              Lithium-ion batteries are now widely used in very many applications and hence are becoming an everyday part of our lives. These applications include but not limited to laptops, electric vehicles to stationary and building-sized applications. This rapid change has been enabled by the reducing price of lithium-ion batteries which has dropped more than 70% between 2010 and 2016. 

              Battery electricity storage (BES) using lithium-ion batteries seem to have a similar story of price reduction just like solar photovoltaics (PV) which dropped in price with over 60% in the last decade. As a result, solar + storage is now a common product sold to businesses and homes by solar companies such as Tesla that are able to provide the Tesla power wall and solar panels. Other quality solar battery power systems offering reasonable prices are the Enphase AC Battery and SonnenBatterie Eco.

              The lithium-ion batteries are the new generation of battery energy storage advancing from the traditional lead-acid based deep cycle battery technology. Lead-acid batteries are widely used in many sectors because they cost less upfront, but they have a shorter lifespan and require regular maintenance to keep them running properly unlike lithium-ion batteries which are more expensive up front, but maintenance-free and have a longer lifespan. According to EnergySage, a lead-acid battery system cost a few hundred or thousands less than a similarly sized lithium-ion setup. Lithium-ion batteries for solar power systems can cost anywhere from $5000 to $15000 including installation and this is dependent on the size of the PV system.

              Based on chemistry there are various types of lithium-ion for battery electricity storage that are produced by different battery manufacturers such as Discover, SimpliPhi, etc. The term “lithium-ion” refers not to a single electrochemical couple but to a wide array of different chemistries, all of which are characterized by the transfer of lithium ions between the electrodes during the charge and discharge reactions. Li-ion cells do not contain metallic lithium; rather, the ions are inserted into the structure of other materials, such as lithiated metal oxides or phosphates in the positive electrode (cathode) and carbon (typically graphite) or lithium titanate in the negative (anode). Lithium-ion chemistry combinations include Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LFP); nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC);lithium manganese oxide (LMO ), nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) and lithium titanate (LTO). Generally, the various material combinations or chemistry of lithium-ion batteries yield unique performance cost and safety characteristics.

              The different chemistries allow for battery energy storage optimization to meet various performance and operational objectives (IRENA, 2017). As such, different electrode or electrolyte selections may be used to design for different applications where reduced costs or high power or high density is required. For instance, lithium titanate (LTO) batteries have very good thermal stability, long cycle life-time, high rate discharge capability and has no solid electrolyte interphase issues (IRENA, 2017). However, LTO batteries will be cost-prohibitive because of the high cost of titanium and will have reduced cell voltage and low energy density compared to lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide which can be tailored for high power or high energy stable thermal profile and can operate at high voltage.

              EnergySage Buyer’s Guide for Solar Batteries

              EnergySage has prepared a comprehensive solar batteries guide where consumers can browse hundreds of solar batteries from top manufacturers around the world. Solar batteries can provide numerous benefits, especially for property owners in areas that experience demand or time-of-use charges or where net-metering policies are limited in terms of compensation from the grid. Essentially, electricity demand tracks the total amount of energy that is being consumed at a given time. The more devices using electricity at the same time, the higher the customer’s demand charge.

              As such, solar batteries can reduce demand charges and provide resiliency, while adding value to solar installations at the same time. When you install a solar battery alongside a solar panel system, you can store extra solar electricity produced by your panels for later use after the sun goes down. Learn more about other aspects of going solar such as obtaining solar quotes and using the EnergySage buyer’s guide for solar panels, solar batteries, and solar inverters. See this solar resource for more details.


              Reference:

              IRENA (2017), Electricity Storage and Renewables: Costs and Markets to 2030, International Renewable Energy Agency.