Shell switches 710k homes to renewables as AI bin cuts food waste

Written by Lori Campbell on 25th Mar 2019

Shell switches First Utility customers to 100 per cent renewable electricity overnight as a new report reveals that the oil giant – alongside ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Total – spend a staggering £153 million each year lobbying against climate change policies. Octopus Energy teams up with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa to help customers use cheaper, greener energy, and UBS aims to double its core sustainable investments after upping them by 72 per cent in 2018. Meanwhile the world’s first artificially-intelligent bin aims to drastically cut food waste from restaurants. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.

Shell switches First Utility customers to renewable energy overnight 

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has switched 710,000 homes to 100 per cent renewable energy overnight after it bought and renamed energy provider First Utility as ‘Shell Energy.’

Shell bought British energy supplier First Utility for £200 million just over a year ago. Under the rebranding, its customers have all been switched to electricity that comes entirely from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biofuels.

Only a handful of other suppliers, such as Bulb and Octopus Energy, currently offer 100 per cent renewable electricity. Shell will continue offering natural gas to its customers.

Shell hopes to attract more users by offering Shell Energy customers a three percent discount on fuel at its large network of petrol stations. It will also offer discounts for electric vehicle charging. First Utility’s broadband business has been rebranded as Shell Energy Broadband.


Top oil firms spending millions lobbying to block climate change policies

Meanwhile, however, it has been revealed that Shell and oil and gas giants Exxon, BP, Chevron and Total spend nearly $200 million (£153 million) each year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.

A new report by InfluenceMap, which maps and analyses how corporations influence climate change policies, reveals that the top five publicly listed oil majors spend a combined $195 million (£747 million) a year on branding campaigns suggesting they support action against climate change.

It says corporations are increasingly using social media to successfully push their agenda to weaken and oppose any meaningful legislation to tackle global warming. But these campaigns are misleading the public about the oil giants’ actions. While publicly endorsing the need to act, they are massively increasing investment in a huge expansion of oil and gas extraction. The study says that in 2019 their spending will increase to $115 billion (£87 billion), with just 3 per cent of that directed at low carbon projects.

The study reveals Shell alone spends around $4 million (£3 million) on direct obstructive climate lobbying each year in the US and EU, and millions more on lobbying through trade associations.


World’s first ‘AI’ bin to tackle food waste

The world’s first artificially intelligent (AI) bin aims to cut down on food waste from restaurants.

The bin, made by UK technology startup Winnow Vision, uses a camera and smart scales to keep track of what types of food are being thrown away too often, helping restaurants to save money – and the environment.

The new smart bin applies machine learning to the problem of waste by recognising different foods after some assistance from kitchen staff in the initial stages. It has already been successfully trialled in 23 Ikea stores as well as a number of hotel restaurants around the world.

About 75 of the devices have already been installed and the company plans to roll out hundreds more this year. Winnow estimates it has saved almost 22.7 million tonnes of food and 39,000 tonnes of CO2 so far.

Marc Zornes, chief executive of Winnow, said: “Food waste is a global issue, and one that kitchens around the world are struggling with. Without visibility into what is being wasted, kitchens are wasting far more food than they think.”

UBS to double core sustainable investments after upping 72 per cent 

Financial services group UBS Asset Management aims to double its core sustainable investments assets from its 2017 level of $182 billion (£138 billion) by 2020.

This will build on the Swiss bank’s success in 2018 when sustainable investments assets grew to $313 billion (£237 billion), up 72 per cent from the previous year.

The growth was mainly driven by the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into its investment research process. Core sustainable assets currently account for 10.1 per cent of the overall invested assets of the firm.

The bank has also put $1.9 billion (£1.4 trillion) of client assets into impact investments with a focus on the United Nation’s sustainable development goals investments.

“Alexa, turn the washing on when it’s cheapest” – Octopus Energy teams up with Amazon.

Octopus Energy has teamed up with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, to help customers use cheaper, green energy.

The clean energy firm’s Agile Octopus tariff is the first to combine ‘smart’ time-of-use pricing with voice automation. Customers will be able to ask Alexa questions to help bring their energy bills down by maximising cheaper energy during off-peak periods.

Octopus Energy’s chief executive Greg Jackson says the new technology will enable customers to decide when to use energy-intensive appliance such as dishwashers and washing machines, as well as when to charge an electric vehicle.

For those with the smartest homes, this level of integration could make securing cheap energy even more effortless. With the If This Then That (IFTTT) platform, customers with connected devices can ask Alexa to ‘turn the washing on when it’s cheapest.’


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