Wynn Las Vegas Outlines Increased Sustainable Energy Practices At The 2018 Global Meetings Industry Day

LAS VEGAS, April 17, 2018/PRNewswire/ — Leaders from the top resort companies in Las Vegas recently convened for the 2018 Global Meetings Industry Day to share current investments and future advancements that will help Las Vegas remain the number one trade show destination in the country. At the event, Wynn Las Vegas’ Director of Energy Procurement, Erik Hansen, outlined the company’s approach to sustainable energy and eco-friendly meetings and conventions practices after announcing Wynn’s new 280,000 square foot meetings space expansion.

Wynn Las Vegas (PRNewsfoto/Wynn Las Vegas)

“Our meetings and conventions clients are increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment, prioritizing clean energy use, responsibly supplying and using data, and recycling,” said Hansen. “Knowing this has served as a roadmap for us to implement several large-scale programs that satisfy these needs without sacrificing even the smallest detail of our five-star service.”

The Las Vegas meetings and conventions industry generates more than $12.4 billion in economic impact, and welcomes more than 6.6 million business travelers annually.To serve this need, Wynn has combined design, technology, and sustainability when conceiving its new state-of-the-art luxury meetings and conventions development, debuting in March 2020. The new complex is an oasis in the middle of the desert, built on repurposed land that was previously the Wynn golf course, and will be adjacent to a 25-acre lagoon, a first for Las Vegas.

The grand rotunda entrance will lead to 18 new thoughtfully scaled rooms ideal for a variety of uses from small receptions to general sessions, highlighted by sunlit promenades and oversized terraces. Unique to this development is a one-of-a-kind 20,000 square foot outdoor events pavilion surrounded by natural beauty, and a remarkably engineered 83,000 square foot pillar-less ballroom.

The new space will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy sourced from the 160-acre Wynn Solar Energy Facility, making this one of the most eco-friendly developments in Las Vegas and an industry first for a gaming operator in Nevada. The resort will begin receiving power in the first half of 2018 from the facility which will be used to offset up to seventy-five percent of its current meetings and conventions peak power requirements until the expansion opens.

Combined with the recently installed solar panels covering 103,000 square feet of Wynn’s convention space rooftop, enough renewable energy will be generated to power 5,056 homes and eliminate 33,734 metric tons of CO2 emissions from the environment annually.

Wynn’s information technology infrastructure, housed at Switch, is powered by 100 percent renewable energy. This means that clients have access to reliable data capabilities in their on-site business centers, and can support hundreds of laptops and thousands of personal phones, with no impact on the environment. Switch was able to retire over 835 geothermal and solar renewable energy credits in 2016, and expects to retire over 850 in 2017, on behalf of Wynn Las Vegas. Independently tracked and verified, each renewable energy credit is proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource and delivered to the energy grid.

Wynn has implemented a wet-waste single-stream recycling program used to capture the value of a variety of materials at once. This method collects and sorts food and landscape waste, as well as recyclables such as paper, plastic, and cardboard. The reclaimed materials are repurposed for various commodity streams or used as sustainable food sources for local farm animals. The practice also reclaims items that have been inadvertently discarded, like flatware, dinnerware, glassware, linens and more, keeping them from entering landfills.

Wynn Resorts is the recipient of more Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Awards than any other independent hotel company in the world. Wynn Las Vegas opened on April 28, 2005 and was once again named the best resort in Nevada on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2018 “Gold List,” a title received for the tenth time. Wynn and Encore Las Vegas feature two luxury hotel towers with a total of 4,750 spacious hotel rooms, suites and villas, approximately 192,000 square feet of casino space, 21 dining experiences featuring signature chefs and 11 bars, two award-winning spas, approximately 290,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, approximately 110,000 square feet of retail space as well as three nightclubs, a beach club and recreation and leisure facilities. In addition to two luxury retail esplanades, a Strip-front expansion, Wynn Plaza, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed in 2018. For more information on Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, visit www.wynnpressroom.com, follow on Twitter and Instagram at and Facebook.


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SOURCE Wynn Las Vegas

Seattle to ink new trash-collection contracts worth $850M

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to clear Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to sign new long-term contracts for solid-waste collection.

The 10-year contracts with Recology and Waste Management will see the city pay out an estimated $850 million and will require both companies to use only trucks powered by renewable fuels or electricity.

SPU last signed major contracts for solid-waste pickup in 2008, choosing CleanScapes and Waste Management. In 2011, CleanScapes merged with Recology, and the resulting company now does business as Recology.

The two contractors collect garbage, recyclables and compost from all of Seattle’s residents, garbage from all of its businesses and garbage and recyclables from city containers in public spaces.

In 2017, they collected a combined 418,000 tons of garbage, recyclables and waste, according to a council memo.

With the existing contracts set to expire in March 2019, SPU issued a request for proposals.

There were four bidders and an internal-evaluation committee recommended Seattle stick with the incumbents.

The new contracts together are about $5 million cheaper per year than the existing contracts, said Hans Van Dusen, SPU’s solid-waste contracts manager.

The contracts, which will begin in April 2019, say the companies’ primary fleets must by then consist exclusively of trucks no older than 2018 and powered by 100 percent renewable fuels.

Recology’s fleet will use diesel sourced from animal fats and vegetable oils. Waste Management will use natural gas certified as renewable based on contributions to the natural-gas grid from landfills.

As of 2013, no trucks in the Recology and Waste Management fleets were powered by 100 percent renewable fuels, Van Dusen said.

Waste Management’s fleet now meets that standard, and Recology’s will soon, he said.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s utilities committee, asked SPU in September to push for electric trucks.

Recology will deploy at least two electric collection trucks and Waste Management will use some electric route-management and street-crew trucks.

The companies will continue weekly garbage and compost pickup and every-other-week recyclables pickup, but the new contracts say SPU may at some point allow customers to choose every-other-week garbage pickup.

Seattle has other, separate contracts for garbage processing and disposal and for recyclables sorting and processing.

Most Seattle businesses do their own contracting for recycling and compost collection.

Green Business Trends in 2018 – Costs, Opportunities & Challenges

Operating outside of the needless global warming debate, businesses who adopt green practices as a long-term strategy seem to enjoy great financial benefits across the board: increased energy savings, Government-funded incentives and higher profitability. In 2018, green business trends seem to expand their reach across all sectors, leading to a paradigm shift and reshaping the image of the perfect company. In 2018, entrepreneurs are leveraging the benefits of the green business model and launching new initiatives and operations aimed to help the environment and the economy. They are ready to answer to the stringent consumer demand for corporate environmental awareness and increased transparency: according to a green industry report conducted in 60 countries, more than half of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services, as long as they are better for the environment. At present, 70% of Americans already take eco-friendliness into account as a differentiating factor between suppliers.

Investing in renewable energy

On April 9, 2018, Apple announced that they were completely powered by renewable energy. All of the company’s stores, offices and data centers in 43 counties across the globe rely solely on wind and solar power, and nine additional manufacturing partners announced their intention of powering their Apple production with green energy. This is just one of the many examples of international brands willing to invest millions in powering their operations with renewable energy and it’s interesting to see that the list is getting longer and longer, featuring not only multinational tech giants, but also small, local businesses. More and more business owners choose renewable energy sources such as solar panels for their offices or coming up with innovative ways of turning waste into energy.

Taking ethical action to reducing the business’ carbon footprint

Businesses have a major carbon footprint, so taking steps towards reducing it is one of the main trends of 2018. Again, this is another field where tech companies seem to be leading the race by making carbon footprint reduction practices mainstream. Some of the ways they’re doing this include: going paperless, encouraging employees to cycle to work, activating power saving mode on all devices or switching computers with energy-saving laptops. At a larger scale, these companies are making changes that could also change the modern workplace in the long run. For example, telecommuting has become more and more popular and as much as 60% of American, Indian and Indonesian employers have remote work arrangements. Made possible by the latest innovations in cloud computing, telecommuting reduces the company’s carbon footprint because employees no longer have to drive to work.

Extensive efforts to reduce waste

Although it might not seem related to climate change, waste is actually one of the biggest environmental challenges that the planet is facing. And businesses are generating a lot of it: paper, plastic, metal, toxic by-products of manufacturing, food, organic matter can all harm the environment in the long run if not collected and recycled correctly. Fortunately, more and more businesses are adopting the zero waste policy to promote a circular economy. One part of the zero-waste policy involves reusing as much as possible – for example, many supermarkets are donating leftover food to local food banks instead of throwing it away. Then, there are the special containers created especially for workplace recycling, such as recycling bins, balers and compactors. This helps achieve a cleaner and safer environment while saving time, space and money, so for 2018 experts expect them to become more and more widespread.

The rise of the green franchise

Green business practices have created great franchising opportunities for local, national and international suppliers. In the following year, consumers are expected to see more of the following:

– Organic food stores – these are already quite mainstream, especially in urban centers, where sales exceed over $35 billion. As more and more people are interested in buying healthy, locally sourced, organic goods, the traditional fast food business model faces more competition from the healthy fast food chain model. Other similar models include organic catering services and organic restaurants.
– Green cleaning franchises – conventional cleaning companies, be them residential or commercial, often use harsh detergents and cleaning agents that pollute water, soil and reduce air quality, so green cleaning franchises suggest a cleaner alternative, based on organic, non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients.
– Increased awareness of ecological issues has created an opportunity for energy auditing businesses, which assist homeowners in building eco-friendly properties.
– Green printing services suggest an eco-friendly alternative to conventional printing services by using recycled paper and non-toxic ink.


Increasing environmental standards generate a lot of pressure. Business owners know that consumers care about green policies and that the green business model increases revenue, so many of them are tempted to create an eco-friendly image even though they are not. This is called greenwashing and it’s one of the biggest problems associated with green business trends. Companies that greenwash are not fully transparent. They advertise only one ethical aspect of their business (such as organic products or paperless operations) and hide other unethical practices that do a lot of harm to the environment. Unfortunately, greenwashing practices are expected to become more widespread, and it’s oftentimes up to consumers to do their own research.

Apple Runs On 100% Renewable Energy, But Is iPhone Really Zero …

Apple released an ad claiming that their iPhone is zero waste, which sounds great, but it’s not accurate. Even though the company has been working hard to build a better world, announcing that they’re now run by 100 percent renewable energy, presently, it’s impossible for a smartphone to be made out of zero waste.

According to Mashable, everything about smartphones is damaging the environment, from their business model to their materials, no matter how clean and green Apple is. Smartphones contain precious minerals that are in limited supply on the planet, including gold, cobalt and copper. Some of these precious rocks, according to a Yale study, are irreplaceable, meaning that tech might have some troubles in the future. 

Materials from smartphones are really hard to recycle, especially from iPhones. Most devices from Apple are built with proprietary screws that require special tools to open. That’s why Apple charges you an arm and a leg whenever you want to switch batteries or change a cracked screen. It’s insane that Apple is claiming to be “zero waste,” when they’re one of the companies that make recycling harder than it already is.

Another thing that perpetuates waste is the current smartphone business model, which is all about short term performance. Most smartphones are designed to have short lifespans, with companies releasing new and upgraded devices every year.

Where does all this waste go? To your drawer? Best case scenario, your old phone will end up in a store where it’ll be refurbished and resold. Still, new phones won’t stop coming out and dozens of minerals would have already been wasted. It’s an endless cycle of waste that Apple would like to hide from you with a cute ad.

New label aims to help drinkers find eco-friendly wines

As Earth Day approaches on April 22, some California wines are about to sport a new environment-friendly logo on their labels.

The new “California Certified Sustainable” logo was just approved for use on 2017 vintage wines by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, a joint effort by the Wine Institute, a state trade association, and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. We should begin to see it soon on new white wines and rosés from 2017, and later on red wines when they are released in a year or two.

The logo will join others proclaiming environmentally friendly practices. Demeter certifies biodynamic wines, while others are “made with organically grown grapes.” Wines from Oregon can be certified as LIVE or Salmon Safe, and Lodi Rules Certified Green denotes enviro-friendly wines from that area of California. Sustainability in Practice, or SIP, is a similar program that certifies wineries in California and Michigan.

Why should we care about these labels? To be California Certified Sustainable, a winery must adhere to 58 individual requirements in the vineyard and another 37 in the winery. This is more than avoiding pesticides and herbicides; it’s about energy and water conservation, pest management, wildlife habitat protection and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions, among other criteria. Results are audited by third-party accreditors.

And the program keeps expanding. Last year, the Certified Sustainable program saw 46 percent growth in the number of certified vineyards and 20 percent growth in the number of certified wineries. As of last November, 127 wineries producing 74 percent of California’s wines are certified as sustainable under the program, as are 1,099 vineyards farming 134,000 acres, nearly a quarter of California’s vineyard land.

While winery and vineyard practices have been certified before, the new logo is an important evolution in the program: For the first time, the wine itself will be certified. To carry the logo, at least 85 percent of a wine must come from a certified sustainable vineyard.

Wineries planning to use the logo with some 2017 wines include Ponte Winery, Wente Vineyards, Saracina, Marimar Estate and Jackson Family Wines, according to Gladys Horiuchi, a spokeswoman for the Wine Institute, a California trade group.

Why would wineries subject themselves to so many criteria and third-party audits? Partly out of a sense of doing right by the environment, but also because they believe consumers — especially younger ones — will respond.

“If you want your team (especially the people under 30), if you want your clientele (especially the people under 40), if you want your children to believe that you’re actually doing it, if it matters to you as a company, you have to have somebody certify it,” says Claudio Ponte, owner of Ponte Winery in the Temecula region near San Diego.

“It gives credibility to our claims,” Ponte said in an interview released by the CSWA. “With consumers today, every small brand is subject to doubt, particularly a product that goes inside your body. People rightfully need to be suspicious that what’s in the product is what you say. If a company is willing to put themselves through an audit, that resonates with consumers. Not all consumers, by any means, but enough to make it worth the effort.”

Julien Gervreau, director of sustainability for Jackson Family Wines, agreed.

“Market research tells us there’s an increasing desire, particularly among younger consumers, for third-party certification, so we’re eager to see how the logo resonates,” he said in a telephone interview. Jackson Family Wines owns more than 30 California brands, including the ubiquitous Kendall-Jackson label. The Certified Sustainable logo will appear first on the 2017 Matanzas Creek Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc, to be released this spring, followed later in the year by some wines from Cambria, Byron and Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve. The family-owned company, which doesn’t release sales figures, hopes to have the logo on its popular Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay with the 2018 vintage, he said.

For JFW, sustainability includes the company’s relationship with its employees and the surrounding communities, Gervreau said. Most notably, it means carbon sequestration, water conservation and renewable energy. The company has partnered with Tesla to install solar power on 11 of its wineries and now produces enough electricity to offset the demand of about 1,400 homes. And conservation efforts initiated in 2008 have reduced the amount of water used company-wide to produce a gallon of wine from 9.1 gallons to 3.9. With California suffering through drought for several years, that’s huge.

“A winemaker’s greatest impact is his footprints in the vineyard,” Gervreau said, quoting an old industry saying about the importance of paying attention to the vines. “If you’re paying attention to all of your impacts, you can’t help but make better wines.”

These California wineries are betting that consumers will think so, too, and respond when they see the California Certified Sustainable logo on the label.

More from Food:

Wine column archive

Potawatomi’s $20 million waste-to-energy plant violated wastewater permit with excessive discharges

The Potawatomi’s $20 million facility in the Menomonee Valley to convert food waste to biogas fuel — heralded as cutting-edge renewable energy technology when it opened in 2013 — repeatedly has flushed too much of fats, oil and grease to sewers in violation of its wastewater permit, records show.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has notified the waste-to-energy plant of a series of permit violations since April 2017, MMSD water quality protection manager Sharon Mertens said.

The recurring excessive discharges landed the Forest County Potawatomi community’s renewable energy facility atop MMSD’s 2017 list of local industries in significant noncompliance with permitted pollution discharge limits.

The district limits the amount of fats, oil and grease that businesses can discharge to sewers to prevent clogging or blocking the pipes with thick mounds of the gunk, said Mertens.

“This is not something we can totally eliminate but too much is harmful to sewer pipes,” she said.

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In a Feb. 15 notice of continuing violations, the district reported a Dec. 5 wastewater sample contained 6,900 parts per million of fats, oil and grease, or 23 times more than allowed under the permit, Mertens said.

The limit is 300 parts per million. A Dec. 11 sample contained 1,300 parts per million of fats, oil and grease.

Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford said facility managers and tribal officials have been taking the violations seriously and shut down waste digesters and biogas-burning generators for two months last summer to find the cause of the problem.

Workers removed fats from the digesters and other tanks during the shutdown and since that time, the tribe has invested more than $300,000 in equipment upgrades to boost efficiency of the digesters and prevent further problems, Crawford said.

Each year, a total of 16 million gallons of food waste is mixed together before it is poured into two 1.3 million gallon digester tanks.

The facility did not discharge excessive amounts of fats, oil and grease to sewers in 2013, 2014 and 2016, MMSD records show. There was one violation of the permit limit in 2015.

“This is like a big pot of soup that we are stirring and constantly adding waste to,” Crawford said in describing the digesters. “We found out that we need to be very good chefs in this kitchen as we cook our soup, 1.3 million gallons at a time.”

Inside the digesters, bacteria release methane and other gases as they digest the slurry of wastes warmed to 98 degrees. This biogas is collected and burned in two generators to produce electricity.

RELATED: Potawatomi project will use food waste to make energy

But too much fat was added to the pot in 2017. The load of wastes coming in from businesses could not be stirred adequately in a mixing tank at the start of the process so fats, oil and grease clogged up the works there last fall and had to be cleaned out, according to Dec. 1 correspondence from Crawford to MMSD. Better mixers also were installed earlier this year.

Facility managers in November decided to change what Crawford calls the soup recipe by reducing the amount of slaughterhouse waste and other sources of food waste loaded with fats and grease, such as restaurant grease trap contents, that it takes in for the digesters, said Crawford.

Apart from the two-month shutdown from mid-July to mid-September last year, and occasional routine maintenance of the generators, the facility consistently meets a goal of producing 2 megawatts of electricity, Potawatomi officials said. That is enough to power around 1,500 homes and is sold to We Energies.

Crawford said the waste-to-energy facility has been in compliance with permit limits on fats, oil and grease since Jan. 1 of this year. A commercial laboratory’s test of a March 28 wastewater sample found only 16.4 parts per million of the pipe-clogging contents, well below the permit limit, according to Crawford. 

Mertens disagrees that the Potawatomi have corrected the problem.

Testing of a Jan. 25 wastewater sample found 315 parts per million of fats, oil and grease, slightly above the permit limit, according to a Feb. 16 notice of continuing violations issued by MMSD senior industrial waste engineer Song Tran.

MMSD continues to monitor discharges from the massive waste digesting tanks located west of the Potawatomi Hotel Casino on Canal St., Mertens said.

The district will require weekly tests of wastewater samples until there have been two consecutive months of compliance, she said.

Each sample is split so that MMSD’s laboratory and a state-certified commercial laboratory hired by Potawatomi can test the contents, Crawford said. But testing methods for fats, oil and grease differ between the laboratories.

The Potawatomi have challenged some of MMSD’s results when the district’s lab finds excessive amounts and the tribe’s lab finds low levels. The district and Potawatomi’s lab have not agreed on the use of one uniform testing protocol, Crawford said.

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Kyrylo Shevchenko: New Strategies for Fostering Progress of Ukraine’s Banking Sector

KIEV – Media center of Segodnya.ua hosted an interview with Kyrylo Shevchenko, Chairman of Board at JSB UKRGASBANK, laureate of the national award Person of the Year 2017, nomination Financier of the Year.

Barring the shocks of economic crisis and the failure of the banking system at large, Ukrgasbank has not only seen its profits increasing but has successfully grown to the leading positions in the marketplace. As of today, the bank ranks the 4th largest asset holder among Ukrainian banks. In particular, we were first to introduce loans to enable homeowners to install solar power plants at 0.001% per annum interest rate. We were also the first in Ukraine to adopt a unique eco-friendly credit card. All throughout 2017, we have been continuously reducing mortgage and car loans rates. Our affiliate programs with property developers and car dealers enable us to offer new housing for as low as 5% per annum rate and cars and electric vehicles for as low as 0.001% per annum.

– Mr. Shevchenko, you’ve just become “Financier of the Year”. What was it that made you choose a career in banking?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: Upon graduating from school, I had two options to choose from: a career of a journalist or an economist. It was quite an obvious choice for me as my mother was a member of the USSR Union of Journalists and my father was an economist. My poor handwriting would have barred me from passing the introductory essay I needed to produce, were I to pursue a career in journalism. That’s why I chose to study economics at the same university. I can see now that I wasn’t wrong to make that decision.

 – What are the major qualities a banker should possess?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: I can name the one quality that not only a banker but anyone else should fight, which is envy. A job like ours entails a lot of money and if you try personalizing it as opposed to viewing it purely as a means of production, this career is definitely not for you. 

 – What do you value most in your work?

 Kyrylo Shevchenko: The most important thing is to do no harm. And the important thing is being happy with what you are doing.

 – They say that bankers have special premonitions and beliefs when it comes to money. Do you believe in any such things as rules or omens?

 Kyrylo Shevchenko: No, I do not. I am familiar with many common beliefs about things to avoid doing but I don’t know a single person who gained any benefit from following these so-called rules. As a banker, how can you avoid lending money? It renders your very job meaningless.

 – Can you allocate enough time for your hobbies and loved ones, and how do you enjoy spending your leisure time?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: I do lack spare time for my hobby. I am a fan of mountaineering, however, I didn’t have a chance for a significant ascent since the beginning of my career in Ukrgasbank. Work remains my focus but I am lucky to have an understanding family.

 – Why are bankers predominantly male, in your opinion?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: To a great extent, this is a false statement. During the Soviet era, the bank employees were overwhelmingly female. I won’t generalize and assume others think the same but, personally, I never made any difference between men and women with regards to their career growth. At Ukrgasbank, every true professional can make a successful career. As of now, we have more female employees than male. The Board itself is 50% men and 50% women. Women cope just as well as men. By the way, last year, for the first time in our country, a woman became the head of the state bank. Galyna Danylivna Pakhachuk took on the leading management position at Privat Bank.

 – Kyrylo Evgenovych, the National Bank’s data shows that Ukrgasbank is the fourth largest bank in terms of assets among 88 active Ukrainian banks. What was it that made it possible to achieve that?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: Indeed, as of January 1 2015, we were ranked 17th and held a market share of less than 2%. Now we have grown to reach the 4th position and a market share of up to 6%. We had to step in 2015 with a UAH 2.8 billion loss but managed to finish the year with more than a UAH 250 million profit. In 2016, Ukrgasbank joined the ranks of top banks. Moreover, since 2015 and onwards Ukrgasbank is the only state bank that did not require an increase of authorized capital. For the past three years, we have not made use of budgetary donations. The bank’s authorized capital is replenished of its own profits. In 2017, these amounted to over UAH 620 million. Fighting our way out of loss is due to the joint effort of our team. We improved a lot of things to transform the bank. Without a doubt, the new Green Banking strategy played an important role in the overall success. Additionally, SMEs were organized into a new business vertical group in 2015. We have also launched our affiliate programs for affordable housing. 

 – What does the Green Banking strategy entail?

 Kyrylo Shevchenko: Launching any “green” program pursues a goal of financing investment projects aimed at improving the environment in a given country. Loan rates for renewable energy are always lower than standard rates. Additionally, exclusive programs and deals are usually put in place. Borrowers use loans to switch to a more energy efficient equipment and are able to pay the bank back thanks to all the savings they’ve been able to make as opposed to the income they earned. In 2016, the World Health Organization estimated that our country once again topped the list of countries with the largest death toll caused by air pollution. This has nothing to do with a state of advanced economy, rather, it is a matter of the government’s concern for the health of its citizens and future generations. At Ukrgasbank, we set up a special department to conduct technical audit of each project. We also cooperate with international experts in this field. In particular, we signed an agreement with the International Finance Corporation in May 2016. We request them to audit our “green” projects. In turn, IFC applies its global experience to assess these projects. Thanks to our cooperation with IFC, Ukrgasbank was the first bank to invest in environment protection projects in Ukraine which means that each investment is not only profitable but also has a positive social impact. IFC made a decision to make Ukrgasbank part of the Global Trade Finance Program which is an umbrella for the top banks from over 100 countries. This has been sufficient proof of opting in for the right growth strategy for us. At the same time, our “green” lending program allows us to carry on with other programs. We are constantly improving our operational models and introducing new programs. We signed up new customers and grew our profits thanks to the launch of unique programs, personalized customer service and simplicity in relationships with our clients.

 – Which clients or business sectors comprise the largest credit group in Ukrgasbank?

 Kyrylo Shevchenko: SMEs and large businesses are the most profitable customer segments for Ukrgasbank. We have expanded our existing credit line for SMEs to add renewable energy projects and “green” financing. Of course, we offer our clients much more favorable loan terms under these programs. The rates for these loans are always lower than the market ones in order to motivate our customers to switch to clean and energy efficient business processes. We have also introduced a new risk assessment approach. For example, when evaluating each particular loan, our managers consider the environmental impact of that particular project. Additionally, we cooperate with the German-Ukrainian Fund and set up a separate program designed specifically for SMEs. Moreover, Ukrgasbank is an absolute winner in terms of implementation of the state energy efficiency program. Throughout the entire duration of the program, the bank has issued more than 600 “warm” loans for the installation of energy-saving equipment. This comprises 70% of the total volume of the “energy efficient” loan portfolio in Ukraine.

 – Based on Ukrgasbank records, are there new loan trends or preferences evolving?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: Without a doubt, the loan market in Ukraine is undergoing a busy period. Demand for loans from both the population and businesses is increasing. It is worth noting that a growing interest in installing energy-saving equipment as well as in alternative energy sources is gaining more and more traction. Since the beginning of our cooperation with IFC, 72 large-scale projects have been implemented, and the total amount of clean electricity is expected to exceed 990 gigawatt-hours per year. This is enough to meet the electricity needs of all inhabitants of the city of Mykolaiv every year. Novotroitsk wind farm with a capacity of 70 MW in the Kherson region was a truly grand project as this wind farm is expected to become one of the three most powerful projects of the kind in Ukraine. Overall, Ukrgasbank was able to make a real breakthrough in the renewables industry in 2017. Every 3rd MW of the “green” energy in Ukraine last year was produced by Ukrgasbank. Also, as part of our cooperation with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, we have started workking with 100 enterprises that cause the greatest air pollution. We have already issued an eco-loan to Zaporizhstal, the largest metallurgical company in Europe. Following the installation of modern equipment, harmful emissions will be reduced by at least 20% which will significantly help the environment protection of the industrial region. Overall, our eco-loans helped businesses save UAH 715 million and reduce CO2 emissions by almost 761,000 tons.

 – How can you describe Ukraine’s banking sector based on what you’ve learned with Ukrgasbank?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: Following 2014-15 reforms, Ukraine’s banking sector faced a number of problems of a core economic nature. The crisis years were hard on the banking system but we can see today that things are getting back to normal. First of all, the most important proof of stabilization is that banks are growing their assets. Respective figures are increasing for the whole of the banking system. By the way, I’d like to emphasize the fact that Ukrgasbank also demonstrates a significant capital growth and remains a weighty component of Ukraine’s banking sector. Based on our 2017 performance, the bank’s profit reached UAH 624 million which is almost 20% higher than the target figure set by the budget and approved by the bank’s Supervisory Council.

 – What are the most troubling issues right now, in your opinion?

 Kyrylo Shevchenko: Trust remains the biggest problem in the banking system. Faced with the consequences of the crisis and bank closures, even strong banks find it hard to regain the trust of citizens. On the other hand, though, this motivates banks to improve their product range and build new models of cooperation with customers. For example, we signed up new customers by introducing unique programs, prioritizing convenience, simplicity, speed of registration and of course, personalized service. Moreover, Ukrgasbank takes care of its customers by always offering affordable loans and interesting bonuses. Clients can not only place a deposit with us but also benefit from our loyalty program. The mix of these programs provided us with a stable growth of our client base.

Other issues faced by the banking sector in the era of ubiquitous technology are cyber-attacks. According to the IBM’s estimates, each bank is exposed to thousands of attacks during the year, some of which can completely destroy the bank’s infrastructure. Today, criminals are less likely to rob bank branches and more likely to attempt to break into the database looking for credit card numbers, PIN-codes, passwords, keys, etc. At Ukrgasbank, we have significantly reinforced our IT department as well as our security services and are constantly improving the system to be able to resist cyberattacks. Technology has both benefits and drawbacks so it is vital to be able to effectively address the new challenges.

 – Are housing loans popular among Ukrainians?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: According to our estimates, 50% of Ukrainians are in a need of housing or better living conditions. That’s a lot, for sure. There’s no better solution to this problem across the entire world than getting a mortgage. However, clients today face a significant constraint: a high interest rate. That’s why we offer loans under affiliate programs for which the rate starts from 5% per annum in UAH. In December 2017, we provided almost 100 mortgage loans worth more than UAH 35 million. According to our stats, Ukrgasbank issues 40 housing loans per month. I don’t think that’s a lot. Still, even this result required a considerable amount of effort on the part of the bank’s employees and our partners. Additionally, demand is influenced by external factors. For example, once the devaluation of hryvnia begins, demand increases and vice versa.

– What exactly do housing loan programs offer?

Kyrylo Shevchenko: The minimum contribution a homeowner is required to make in the primary market is 30% of the cost of a home. Existing conditions are quite flexible. We offer both fixed rates for the entire year and differentiated ones. We actually offer a great variability: rates from 5% per annum in UAH, an affiliate program with Kyivmiskbud from 7% per annum, and other programs from 12%. Our standard rate equals about 18.9% per annum. We are able to offer such flexible rates thanks to our affiliate programs. On the contrary, other banks are not able to offer such rates. The loan period is 20 years. According to our statistics, the average lifespan of a mortgage loan is typically up to 10 years.

As the state bank, we find another thing very important: when calculating a loan, we only take the official income of the borrower into account. If a person has other sources of income he or she is not willing to disclose to evade paying their  taxes, we will not issue a loan. Therefore, we perform another important function: eradicating the black market.

Renewables law could lock EU into costly burning technologies

The EU Council’s position on the recast Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), if adopted, could lock EU member states into expensive and polluting waste-to-energy technologies that contradict the circular economy and climate objectives, writes Janek Vahk.

Janek Vahk is the policy coordinator at Zero Waste Europe, an association working towards eliminating waste in society.

The recast of the next Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) currently under negotiation by the Council and the European Parliament risks locking EU member states into expensive waste-to-energy infrastructures for the next half-century if no safeguards are included.

To date, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) has encouraged the practice of burning of mixed municipal solid waste (MSW) to generate ‘renewable’ energy.

The effect so far has been a clear distortion of the waste market, whereby investment in waste infrastructure and operations costs are determined on the basis of subsidies for energy extraction from waste instead of sound environmental performance of the best waste management option.

As a result, many European countries have over-invested in waste-to-energy facilities whilst under-investing in recycling facilities.

Today over 80 million of tons of MSW is burnt in Europe, with large burning facilities located mainly in Northern and Western Europe – namely Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Belgium.

Not only has this led to the stagnation of waste prevention and recycling rates, but also to high green house emissions. In fact, a recent study shows that a typical waste incineration facility has a carbon intensity comparable to burning natural gas at an efficient power station.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the current waste incineration rates are relatively low and landfill has been the main destination of waste so far. Now, the Circular Economy legislation approved at EU level is pushing to reduce landfilling and increase recycling, which could be a real opportunity to drive better environmental standards in waste and resource management.

However, many Central and Eastern European countries are looking for ‘quick technological fixes’ to meet their renewable energy and waste obligations. In such a situation, it is paramount that the new Renewable Energy Directive provides the right incentives to invest in resource-efficient systems that prioritise separate collection, waste prevention and recycling as the best way to cut down landfilling, rather than promoting costly waste-to-energy infrastructure.

Yet the Council’s position to allow renewable energy support for the extraction of energy from mixed waste, accompanied by the lack of any sustainability criteria for the use of waste for energy does the contrary, and could result in more member states locking themselves into long-term contracts with oversized waste incineration facilities, as we have already seen in many countries.

If EU policies are to be coherent and promote a true environmental transition, the Renewable Energy Directive and the Circular Economy package must complement each other and pull in the same direction.

This implies ensuring that energy recovery from waste respects the principles of the waste hierarchy, in line with the recommendation of the Commission’s Communication on the Role of Waste-to-Energy in the Circular Economy.

DEWA reveals plans to power UAE’s largest eco-friendly attraction

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has announced plans to support the development of the Al Marmoom Conservation Reserve with six sustainable development projects.

Launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Al Marmoom Conservation Reserve aims to become the UAE’s largest environmental tourist destination that attracts one million visitors annually.

The Reserve, which will be a home for the area’s unique plants and animals and local and migratory birds, will feature a total of over 20 projects implemented by nine government organisations.

DEWA’s projects include powering it with clean energy from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to help protect the environment and promote sustainable development.

It also plans to install solar panels on the rooftops of the reserve’s facilities and connect them to DEWA’s grid as part of the Shams Dubai initiative.

Green Charger electric vehicle charging stations will also be installed while smart meters, interactive screens, smart environmental sensors, and internet access will also feature.

DEWA will also develop an advanced water infrastructure at Al Marmoom Reserve, which meets the highest international standards, it said in a statement.

DEWA said it is pleased to participate in this plan, through projects that support sustainable development in its economic, environmental, and social aspects.

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA, said the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is located within Al Marmoom Reserve, is the largest single-site solar project in the world with a total planned capacity of 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030.

China leads in global shift to renewable energy

Global investment in renewable energy continued its upward trajectory last year, raising the proportion of world electricity generated by green sources like wind, solar, biomass and geothermal to a new high, says a new report.   

A record 157 gigawatts of renewable power were commissioned last year, up from 143 gigawatts in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70 gigawatts of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period, revealed the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report, released on Thursday by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables exceeded $200 billion (€163.2 billion), the report states, adding that since 2004, the world has invested about $2.9 trillion in green energy sources.

The lion’s share of this investment went into expanding solar power production, with the world installing a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity last year, far more than the net additions of any other technology — renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear.

Solar surge

In total, solar power drew investment worth $160.8 billion, up 18 percent year-on-year. It accounted for about 57 percent of last year’s total investment for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion. 

The number far outstripped new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, estimated at a lowly $103 billion.

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment, around the world, shows how much can be achieved when we commit to growth without harming the environment,” said the head of UN Environment Erik Solheim in a statement. 

“By investing in renewables, countries can power new communities, improving the lives and livelihoods of the people who live in them, and at the same time cleaning up the air they breathe.”

The continuing decline in costs for solar electricity is driving the expansion of its production, the report’s authors say. 

In fact, the cost of solar power production plunged 73 percent between 2010 and 2017, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, which predicts it will continue to fall.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Copenhagen, Denmark

    Copenhagen wants to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Since 1995, it has reduced its carbon emissions by half. It stands out for its efforts on sustainable mobility, with large car-free zones, high quality public transport and impressive cycling facilities. District heating and cooling systems – some of which use cold seawater – do their bit to reduce emissions, too.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Reykjavik, Iceland

    The Icelandic capital already has a renewable supply of heat and electricity – mainly from hydropower and geothermal. An impressive 95 percent of homes are connected to the district heating network. The city is also aiming to make all public transport fossil-free by 2040 and strongly encourages residents to do without their cars.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Curitiba, Brazil

    In Brazil’s eighth biggest city, around 60 percent of the population relies on the urban bus network. They also have 250 kilometers of bike lines at their disposal, as well as the country’s first major pedestrianized street, Rua das Flores. Curitiba’s green belt provides natural protection against flooding. But its rapid population growth is putting its green ambitions under pressure.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    San Francisco, United States

    In 2016, San Francisco passed a law that all new buildings must set aside space for rooftop photovoltaic systems – the first major US city to do so. Plastic bags have been banned since 2007, and it introduced an urban food waste program in 2009. Now, it plans to go waste-free by 2020. Plus, the majority of its buses and light rails are zero-emission.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Frankfurt, Germany

    Germany’s financial center was one of the first cities to adopt a roadmap towards a 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2050. New buildings must follow strict guidelines on energy efficiency. Controversial materials like PVC are forbidden, and it has drastically reduced its waste, thanks to a modern waste management system. Frankfurt also has ambitious plans for e-mobility.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Vancouver, Canada

    Vancouver is trying to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. By then, it seeks to reduce carbon emissions by 33 percent compared to 2007. The city’s electricity comes almost entirely from hydroelectric dams, but it still needs to move away from natural gas and oil for heating and transportation. The goal is to reduce per-capita ecological footprint by 33 percent.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Kigali, Rwanda

    Kigali has been described as Africa’s cleanest city. It’s planning to develop pedestrian and cycling corridors. Plastic bags are banned and citizens spend a day each month cleaning up the city, where it’s rare to find litter. However, human rights groups have denounced the high price of this “cleanliness,” which they say is as an excuse to impose a discriminatory control over the population.

  • The world’s greenest cities

    Ljubljana, Slovenia

    The European Green Capital 2016 gets all its electricity from hydropower. It has a strong focus on public transport, pedestrian and cycling networks, and has banned cars from its city center. It was the first European city to aim for zero waste, and already recycles over 60 percent – one of the highest rates in Europe.

    Author: Irene Banos Ruiz

Uneven growth paths

China was at the forefront of this solar boom, adding some 53 gigawatts of capacity, equivalent to more than half the global total. The Asian giant’s total investment in renewables — at a record $126.6 billion — was also by far the highest in the world.

Despite being the largest investor in renewable energy, China has faced an uphill battle transitioning from coal, which is used to generate roughly three-quarters of its power, according to the International Energy Agency. China burns more coal than any other country worldwide and bears the title of top greenhouse gas emitter.

Still, the country is seen as a potential leader in the fight against climate change after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the Paris accord struck in 2015.

Renewable energy investment in some big markets like Europe and the US, meanwhile, have suffered a decline, according to the report.

The US saw a drop of 6 percent in investment, amounting to about $40.5 billion, while Europe faced a much bigger fall of around 36 percent, to $40.9 billion. 

Investment in Germany — viewed as a pioneer of renewable energy technologies — slipped 35 percent due to “lower costs per MW [megawatts] for offshore wind, and uncertainty over a shift to auctions for onshore wind,” the report notes. 

“In countries that saw lower investment, it generally reflected a mixture of changes in policy support, the timing of large project financings, such as in offshore wind, and lower capital costs per megawatt,” Angus McCrone, chief editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and lead author of the report, said in a statement.

Countries worldwide have been increasingly looking for green sources of energy as part of their efforts to combat climate change.