Turns Me Off

by Heather Rae

I drove along a dirt road to a place in the woods where the plow had left a berm of snow. Sasha, the cocker spaniel, and I continued on foot along a path, crunching through the ice-caked snow. The natural and architectural beauty of Sheepscot, Maine Hollywood could not hope to imitate. We followed the Sheepscot River which feeds to the Atlantic. We were – it turned out – trespassing: The path was a driveway leading to a 19th-century cape, pastel green and cream-trimmed, beside a modest cedar-shake barn. The house overlooked a sweeping field, an ice sheet glistening in the sun sloping down to the muddy flats of low tide.

Standing on the old lichen-dappled rock wall, I saw a lamppost alongside the driveway, its shade missing. The lamp held a compact fluorescent bulb. The bucolic setting was no worse for this swirly bulb.

Two days earlier in another reality, I was driving by WalMart with Rush Limbaugh on the radio. He was mocking a Barbara Walters interview with Laurie David, wife of “Seinfeld” producer Larry David and producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” – otherwise known as “Al Gore’s movie” which later in the week would win an Oscar.

Limbaugh said David was nothing but a Hollywood activist and as such, he questioned her qualifications to comment on climate change. He played a clip from Walters’ interview in which David says that if every homeowner in the country were to change five ordinary incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off of the road. This “stat” sent off Limbaugh (apparently), and he said something to the effect that if anyone listening believed David about the light bulbs…if anyone thought changing light bulbs would make a bit of difference in addressing climate change…then “turn me off.”

So I did.

I can’t help but wonder…who is Rush Limbaugh to think he is any more qualified than Laurie David to comment? In adolescent, mocking tones, he chooses only some words carefully, like “climate change” in Luntzian fervor to align himself with science. Translation: his is not the global warming of Hollywood liberals and their politicized Oscar winner whom Limbaugh loves to deride. Call it global warming or climate change, to Limbaugh, it’s politics.

As a responsible service to his listeners, Limbaugh could (but likely won’t) read and talk about the benefits of CFLs. He could (but likely won’t) review the cost-benefit evaluations of CFLs out of California, Vermont, Minnesota and other states. Nor will he (likely) read a roundup, “Findings and “Gaps” in CFL Evaluation Research: Review of the Existing Literature” by Skumatz and Howlett. Below are some findings from that research (citations removed):

  • “CFLs were invented 25 years ago at Royal Philips Electronics. Compared to standard incandescent light bulbs, CFLs provide several key advantages: they use less energy, generate less heat, and last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs. However, in the year 2000, after 20 years in the market, they still made up less than 0.5% of the market for light bulb sales – even with program efforts by utilities.”
  • “Nationally, it is estimated that CFLs comprised about 2% of screwbase lamp sales in 2004.”
  • “Although manufacturers have made inroads in compatibility between CFL and standard bulb fixtures, consumers may have had difficulties finding CFLs in locations where they normally purchase incandescent bulbs. One study has shown that while the greatest share of incandescent light bulbs are sold in grocery stores (31%), only 1.3% of CFLs are sold in the same location. Rather, the vast majority of CFLs (57%) are sold in home centers, with the next-largest share sold in hardware stores.”
  • “Results indicate that energy savings vary from 20-80 kWh per unit, depending on the situation, and the peak savings in watt per unit range from 2 to more than 5 watts per unit. Residential CFL loads peak at 20:00 to 21:00 and generally do not contribute to overall load during peak periods.”
  • “Retailer perceptions of the key advantages of CFLs align with those of householders. According to a study in California, they include: lower operating cost/energy savings, longer life, lower life-cycle costs, and less damage to the environment. Eighty percent of CFL purchasers reported they were at least as satisfied with the CFLs they purchased as with purchases of incandescents. More than one-third said they were more satisfied.”
  • “The review indicates that CFL technology has advanced and provides products with appealing features including performance similar to standard bulbs, good fit in fixtures, long lifetimes, and excellent savings. Early technical problems have been overcome for the most part, and price differentials are falling. However, prices in most areas still seem to be higher than most residents are willing to spend.”

Limbaugh might add that light bulbs are not the silver bullet, but they are part of the solutions for economic viability, national security, ecological sustenance and healthy futures for our children.

Limbaugh may think he needs to ask me to “turn him off” if I agree with an energy “stat” simply because it is voiced by a “Hollywood liberal,” but as a woman with an appreciation for integrity and intellect, I’m already so turned off by this man, he needn’t ask.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

RECs and Carbon Credits are a GOOD Thing

RECs and carbon credits are a GOOD thing, so stop bashing them.

As an example a few months ago Inside Greentech had an article attacking renewable energy credits, singling out one such purchase by Wells Fargo, and comparing them to the indulgences sold by the Catholic Church to save your soul in the middle ages.

“In the 16th-century church, those who were long on cash but short on righteous living could balance the equation by buying “indulgences”, representing a sort of absolution for sinful behavior.

Indulgences may have disappeared about the time of Martin Luther, but they seem to be alive and thriving in a more contemporary religion – the Church of the Green.”

I find this rather exasperating.

All renewable energy, carbon and energy efficiency credits are, is a simple derivative.

Devolving the “power” produced by one company into its components a) the electrons, b) the “green strip”, c) the “low carbon strip” (though often for conservatism only one of b or c can often be claimed), and selling these components to different users.

There is nothing more wrong or complex here than is done with collateralized mortgages and exchange traded funds everyday on Wall Street. The only caveat is ensuring you don’t sell the same thing twice, but that’s what certifications and audits are for.

By defining the property rights for the green portion of the power as separate and detachable (just like oil and gas mineral rights and water rights are detachable from land ownership) from the electron stream, we enable the market to act more efficiently, give the consumer choice, and change the world for the better.

It’s not a matter of asking why a company should be permitted to make or sell a credit. The real question should be, why can’t I? If I’m the producer, it’s my power, I can split it up anyway I want as long as my customer agrees. Once it is in the grid, the electrons don’t care. And as a buyer, if my current provider won’t sell me green power because they don’t produce enough (and in a regulated world I don’t have a choice about who to buy from), I can buy my electrons from my regulated provider, and buy the green power portion from a third party who does makes the product I want, but whose electricity customer doesn’t care or won’t pay as much as I will.

This is especially true for someone like Wells Fargo, who operates across state and national borders. In their infinite wisdom, the energy regulators don’t let Wells Fargo aggregate its retail power purchases from one single provider or buy power from Xcel Energy’s Colorado wind farms for its California offices. Without green credits, Wells Fargo could not put their money where their mouth is and go green. Do we really want to punish good behavior?

So why are RECs and carbon credits important? It’s all about giving the consumer (whether that’s residential or commercial) a choice. Nobody screams when Fidelity or Vanguard creates a new ETF, why would we complain when someone does the same thing with green power? Whether you are liberal or conservative you should be able to understand that.

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com.

A (Re)Birth for Offshore Wind

by Richard T. Stuebi

In the early 2000’s, much of the interest of the worldwide wind energy community was focused on offshore opportunities. This was because the world’s largest wind market — Europe — was getting developed towards saturation, and the best wind resources were offshore where population density was not going to be a factor. Several high-profile projects — such as Middelgrunden off the shores of Copenhagen, and Ireland’s Arklow installation by GE (NYSE: GE) — generated arguably more publicity than kilowatt-hours.

In the past few years, the momentum for offshore wind has reversed. Completed projects cost more than expected to developers and manufacturers alike, and — in the U.S. — the siting controversies associated with the ignominious Cape Wind project have cast doubt on the near-term viability of offshore wind. In the meantime, the fortunes for onshore wind have never been better, especially in what is now the world’s largest market: the U.S., where population density and land availability is not a constraining factor for the foreseeable future. The wind industry overall is booming, the current opportunities are all onshore, and everyone’s making hay while the sun shines. Correspondingly, offshore wind has been shunted to the back burner.

Here in Cleveland, a contrarian view is emerging. The Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force recently issued Building a New Energy Future, a report outlining the concept of a Lake Erie Wind Energy Center. This would be comprised of two components: a 5-20 megawatt demonstration project 3-5 miles offshore downtown Cleveland, and an affiliated research center to enable the invention and testing of next-generation wind energy technologies optimized for offshore application.

The next step is for a team of advisors to be retained to perform a detailed feasibility study to ensure that there are no truly insurmountable obstacles — technical/engineering, economic/financial or legal/regulatory — to its completion. If/when completed, the vision is for the Cleveland area to seize leadership in offshore wind, tackling the fully-acknowledged challenges now while the rest of the wind industry is preoccupied with capturing the onshore opportunities, so that when (not if) the offshore wind industry really blossoms, Cleveland will be the acknowledged center of offshore research, deployment and manufacturing.

I was privileged to serve on the Task Force that developed this report, and am pleased that its release has generally been well-received. However, there are some who wrinkle their brows and question the sanity of focusing on the offshore wind opportunity at this time.

Why not focus on onshore wind? Because the private sector is aggressively pursuing good onshore wind opportunities already, because Ohio’s onshore wind resource is modest, and because onshore wind deployment even in large volumes does not generate many ongoing jobs. Economic revitalization for our region will only come with high-paying research and manufacturing jobs, which in turn will come by addressing the needs of the wind industry that others are avoiding for the time being.

We cannot afford to wait until others start focusing on offshore wind. We will break down the barriers of offshore wind development on the Great Lakes to build the market demand. We will work with manufacturers and researchers to break down the technical and engineering barriers and improve the economics of offshore wind supply. In so doing, in decades to come, we can see gigawatts of wind offshore in Lake Erie, generating a large portion of our region’s energy requirements without producing any air emissions, built with equipment supplied by local manufacturing operations, installed and maintained by offshore wind service companies (akin to the base of expertise in offshore oil/gas E&P that resides in Houston and New Orleans).

It’s a bold vision, certainly with risk, but it’s doable, and worth doing. Wish us well and keep your eyes on us.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement for The Cleveland Foundation, and is the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Light Bulbs Replace Coal Power Plants

By John Addison (2/23/07). California media, business and government leaders gathered at the CFL Summit in San Jose on February 22 to discuss an important subject – changing a light bulb. Yes, it was an all-day meeting about a light bulb – the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).

A summit meeting about a light bulb? I had to attend. I thought it would be like the light bulb joke that asks “How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?” Correct answer: Eleven. It takes four to create a space for it to happen, one to change the bulb, four to share in the experience, one to write a book about the experience, and one to negotiate the movie rights to the book.

It turns out that the right light bulb is no laughing mater. CFLs are an important part of saving billions, achieving energy independence and averting a climate crisis. If each American replaced only one conventional 60W bulb with a 13W ENERGY STAR-labeled CFL, it would prevent the burning of 30 billion pounds of coal, and save $8 billion in energy costs.

This enormous potential for change brought 200 to the meeting including a Hollywood producer, Washington officials, environmental leaders, and corporate executives from around the country.

Producer of an Inconvenient Truth, Lawrence Bender introduced the significance of 18seconds.org, named for the 18 seconds it takes to change a bulb. “This movement is about empowering the individual — to say to every person in America that with one easy step, they can become part of a movement that will literally change the world,” said Bender. An Inconvenient Truth is nominated for two Academy Awards including best documentary. Mr. Bender’s past films Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction won multiple Oscars.

Co-founder of Yahoo, David Filo, talked about the unexpected rewards for doing the right things. He knows a lot about empowering people to make a difference. When he co-founded Yahoo in 1994, 99% of us were unable to navigate and communicate using the Internet. From the early years, Yahoo has supported a wide-range of non-profit causes, bringing together those that want to help with those in need. Yahoo for Good (http://brand.yahoo.com/forgood/) provides details about programs including Earth Day, Breast Cancer, and Disaster Relief. Amy Lorio, Yahoo News GM, shared how environmental news is reaching many of Yahoo’s 500 million users.

Yahoo manages 18seconds.org and helps sponsor summits like this one. Yahoo also goes to lengths to empower employees to enjoy sustainable living and avoid gridlock traffic. (Cool Commutes) http://www.cleanfleetreport.com/vault/cool_commutes.htm

Environmental Defense offers details about a wide range of compact fluorescent lamp for different lighting and decorative requirements at their website.

One of the CFL Summit sponsors is public utility PG&E which actively promotes fuel efficiency and is investing billions in renewable energy. Not all utilities are promoting efficiency. Making daily headlines is TXU’s controversial proposal to build 11 to 19 inefficient coal power plants that threaten all of us with the planned emission of 78 million tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In the past month, Americans have installed enough CFLs to more than offset the power that would be produced by these plants.

18seconds.org provides good information and tracks success. For example, since the start of 2007, over 14 million CFLs were purchased in the U.S. During the life of these lamps, $400 million will be saved; 1.4 billion pounds of coal will not required for fueling unnecessary power plants. Over 6 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions will be prevented.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, observed Confucius. Ending global warming begins by installing one CFL. It only takes 18 seconds.

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish. For years, he and his wife Marci have lighted their home with CFLs. This article appears in full at the Clean Fleet Report. http://www.cleanfleetreport.com

Big Ideas from Cleantech

I just returned after two days of action at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco.

Over 600 venture capitalists showed up, representative of the tremendous upsurge in investment in the sector.

In huge investment news announced in conjunction with the forum – CalPERS commits $400 mm in investment to Cleantech. California strikes again.

I tried to distill the conference to 3 Big Idea Takeaways in Energy and Cleantech:

BP on the Future of Automotive Fuel – Paraphrasing BP Distinguished Scientist Theo Fleis – Stop thinking in terms of “ethanol” or “hydrogen” or “biodiesel” – the future fuels will be blends. Think hybrid fuels, just like hybrid cars. (A sentiment we have blogged about before, and with which we wholeheartedly agree.)

His BP prediction on our future fuel mix in the year 2100 – gasoline from crude oil – 30%, gasoline fro gas to liquids, coal, syngas, or other “synthetic” source, 50%, hydrogen, included in the “other” category.

Steven Chu on Global Warming – Paraphrasing Steven Chu, Nobel laureate and Director of Lawrence Berkeley Lab – one of the most untalked about issues with global warming – water storage. For example, we here in California get a large portion of our water (and power) from snow melt – ie, water (and energy) stored or “banked” in the form of ice until needed as a way to balance the fact that we get most of our rain fall in a very short period of time. If global warming reduces the snowpack, it will also massively affect the water storage system that underpins our society.

Walmart on the Next Big Thing – Again to paraphrase “We’ve done a huge amount in energy efficiency already – the next thing we’re turning our attention to is water reduction and resuse – how to make our stores more sustainable.”

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com.

The more things change…

by Heather Rae

My favorite book on clean energy is Energy for Survival: the Alternative to Extinction written by Wilson Clark and published in 1975. I was barely in high school then. It wouldn’t be for another 20 years that I would hear the words ‘compact fluorescent bulb’ and another 28 before I would discover Clark’s book. It was in the library of an energy engineer in Denver.

Some of the energy technologies in Clark’s book have evolved into the marketplace, though not enough to avoid wars over oil and not enough for solar to be commonplace in the United States. Some things stay the same.

Polar bears perch on bonsai-shaped ice floats, and The Boston Globe writes about the possibility of drilling in the melted Arctic and the opening of new shipping routes due to climate change. Some things do change.

Amidst the bit of progress in energy technology, the lack of political will to invest as much in war as in the R&D and the science of life remains. So I wonder, is this new, these mangled priorities, or is this just more of the same? In the context of marketing and new technology adoption, do people, can people, change? In America? What will it take – other than the fear-mongering that backfires – to get people on board with new energy technologies and new behaviors? I don’t have the answers, but I have an inkling and am paying close attention. It comes in handy when marketing everything from solar to air sealant to biofuels to building science.

An energy consultant with a vast reference library passed along Energy Efficiency: Perspectives on Individual Behavior, a compilation of articles published twenty years ago by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. (One thing that needs to change is the term “energy efficiency.” I won’t get back on that soapbox.)

Take a peek back in the past:
On information and economic incentives: An article in the volume shoots holes in the argument that attitudes (education and information around energy) and reason (cost-effective economics) will lead to behavioral changes like buying those CFLs.*
On weatherization lacking glamour and appeal in the marketplace: “[the lack of glamour] is why so many of our respondents are willing to spend thousands of dollars on solar water heaters that can never pay for themselves, while they are unwilling to take an afternoon to caulk cracks and save hundreds of dollars in the first heating season. As specialists we may laugh at such behavior, but in the interests of further energy conservation in the country it behooves us to learn to work with the existing set of cultural values rather than to challenge them.”
On energy consumed by a town in Minnesota called Foley: “Many Foleyites felt powerless and angry in the face of rising fuel prices and an uncertain energy future. They trusted neither government nor utility companies, which they felt gave them mixed messages about energy: the denial of an energy crisis by the Reagan administration; conflicting reports on existing fuel supplies and natural resources; and the sharp reversal of former encouragement to consume “penny cheap” fuel. Foleyites felt trapped as dependent fuel consumers. Many chose to reassert a sense of personal power through maintaining or even increasing their household fuel consumption levels. They legitimated these “rebellious” decisions with the third rationale, the ability to afford the consequences…Sobel (1981) depicts consumption as a “sacrosanct” area of American life, one in which feelings and power and control are experienced. Foleyites resented attempts to constrain their freedom of consumption, especially since the inalienable right to cheap fuel was being abridged.”
On energy consumed by a town in Sweden called Munka Ljungby: “The confidence that most Swedes place in their government and its policies contrasts markedly with the hostility exhibited by Foleyites in the face of energy ambiguities and with their suspicion of collusion between government and “big business” to profit from energy crises. The Swedish welfare state is based upon humanitarian and moral principles, and its policies result from an elaborate process in which academic and scientific specialists, labor unions, businesses, and all public interest groups are consulted. Decisions issued are thus based on consensus, and Swedes can accept them with confidence, knowing that the “right” conclusion has been reached and that all Swedes will be treated equitably.”
On self-image and change: “Foleyites were apologetic, and the Munka Ljungbyans smug, about their ways of life with regard to energy use. These attitudes helped to precipitate the changes made by Foleyites and to deter changes on the parts of the Munka Ljungbyans.”

Beyond the science and the engineering are the governments and the utilities…and people who are just as hard to figure out as the technology.

Other Going On This Week:
The New York Times throws questions to a NASA climate scientist who says global warming “is a bad name.” It sounds “cozy and comfortable…Climate meltdown sounds a little more ominous.”

Australia (which like the United States did not sign on to Kyoto) has new rules around light bulbs. By 2009-10, regulations will ban incandescent light bulbs. Some changes just take some political will.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

A Call for Action

by Richard T. Stuebi

A Call for Action: that’s the title of the introductory report by the newly formed United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP).

The USCAP is a group of organizations who have come together to press the U.S. Federal government to stop arguing and start taking real action to address climate change. And, from what I read in the report, it’s very encouraging, not just “green-wash”.

USCAP states that “we know enough to act on climate change”, and recommends “national legislation in the United States to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achieveable.” USCAP “pledge[s] to work with the President, the Congress, and all other stakeholders to enact an environmentally effective, economically sustainable, and fair climate change program consistent with our principles at the earliest practicable date” .

USCAP strongly argues for “mandatory approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the major emitting sectors”. And, the targets they propose are not toothless: current levels within 5 years of enactment, 90-100% of current levels within 10 years of enactment, 70-90% of current levels within 15 years of enactment, and — most importantly — 20-40% of current levels by 2050.

These are not the positions of parties that merely want to appear concerned about the environment. These statements are very consistent with those of leading environmental organizations — which shouldn’t be that surprising, given that several USCAP members are in fact leading activists on the climate change issue: Environmental Defense, NRDC, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and World Resources Institute.

Let’s give due credit to the corporate members of USCAP, who are making it increasingly acceptable for the private sector to get on board the bandwagon for promoting action to combat climate change:

Alcoa (NYSE: AA)
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK)
DuPont (NYSE: DD)
PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG)
PNM Resources (NYSE: PNM)

Unfortunately, these companies are far ahead of many others who should also be, but aren’t, on this list advocating for climate change action.

Hopefully, with ongoing pressure from the public, politicians, peers and investors, the list of USCAP members will grow to include all the major players in the energy and financial worlds. Maybe then we’ll finally see the stalemate in DC on climate change start to break. Until then, the companies on the roster of shame remains way too long for me to list here.

If you own shares in energy companies that aren’t on this list, you might write to urge management to get aboard the USCAP movement, and to reposition the company accordingly. Or, you might want to think about dumping the stock, as it might not fare well in a carbon-constrained future, given the company’s apparent preference for clinging to the past in a defensive posture rather than seeking to seize the future.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Ranking of Top 5 Cleantech Cities

SustainLane just ranked the top cities for cleantech incubation clusters in the nation and three out of five are in California. They are as follows:

1. Austin, TX
2. San Jose, CA
3. Berkeley, CA
4. Pasadena, CA
5. Greater Boston, MA

Very detailed discussion on Joel Makower’s blog.

Overview of SustainLane from their website:

“SustainLane provides online sustainability resources for government, business and consumers. Founded in 2004, SustainLane has benchmarked sustainability programs, policies and practices for the largest 50 U.S. cities.

SustainLane Government is the company’s dedicated desktop environment (www.sustainlane.us) and newsletter for state and local government officials and their contractors, providing a rich repository of sustainability best practices submitted by practitioners and policy makers. This password-protected content, currently free to state and local government professionals and their consultants, includes a searchable network of sustainability managers, experts and practitioners from states, cities and counties across the nation, enabling government entities large and small to work more efficiently in managing sustainable development approaches and projects.”

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com.

Green Fringe

by Heather Rae

Reading the New York Times Real Estate section is like pulling off the toenail of your little toe. In a world where the price of habitation climbs into the cool millions, this sweet torture leaves you bleeding and worrying for your sanity. You don’t really need the toe or the toenail, and they would have been better off left alone. And now you hurt.

Last week’s “Living Here” section of the paper was somewhat less torturous and kindled some hope in the desert – which is closer to the “here” in “living here” than the streets of New York City. It featured seven straw-bale houses. The hollow stalks of straw bales provide excellent insulation and are ideal for climates like those also ideally suited for second homes – Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas and British Columbia. Common features include passive solar, radiant heat, solar photovoltaics…and views. I imagine buyers of second homes do not wince reading New York Times Real Estate section.

Up the east coast, The Boston Globe Magazine ambled into “Your (Green) Home” with three articles on green residential construction (an outlandish earth-berm and two of the “oh-it-looks-normal” urban and suburban variety). A separate article on “earth-friendly, money-saving fixes from paints to appliances” (“Is it Worth It?”) is good, but nothing you wouldn’t find on any green builder supply or architectural website or in magazines like Natural Home. What’s most interesting about this issue of the mainstream Globe Magazine is the complete absence of advertising for the green products and services referenced in the articles.

This past week, This Old House sent a Sneak Preview of an article on their first-ever green renovation project. The energy-efficient lighting section is very good and the section on green products is great fun — complete with links to product suppliers — but if energy efficiency is the heart of green (and it is) then this particular old house renovation, however beautiful, has a weak heart. I need to see the heating and cooling specs.

I would have seen more of green, energy efficiency specs at an exhibit on green architecture at Bowdoin College – a mile away from my well-insulated rental in Maine – had I even known about it.

“Homes built to those standards are significantly more energy efficient than conventionally designed homes, according to MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick. ‘By making these designs available to the public, as well as homebuilders, architects, and contractors, we hope to encourage the development of more green housing in the state,” McCormick said. “Green housing is not only more energy efficient, it is also environmentally friendly, compatible with its location, durable, and healthy for the occupants.’”

This past week, a colleague in the energy technology marketing field was at the NET2007 (New and Emerging Technologies) conference in Orlando, Florida. Orlando was also the site of the 2007 International Builder’s Show held last week. The National Association of Home Builders, a sponsor of the Builder’s Show, posted a press release on its website two days ago, “Builders Embrace Green Building To Save Energy, Conserve Resources” My landlord is on the board of NAHB, so I go easy here. The highlight of the NHBA show, so my NET2007 mole tells me, was the Kohler exhibit where models showered in skin-colored bathing suits behind glass. That’s men standing around ogling. So, what else is new? From the displays at the show, its awards and the press release (despite its assertion to the contrary), not green building. The green building action was over at NET2007, not at the builder’s show where green building is as fringe pulling off a toenail.

Other goings on this week
Ellen Goodman’s, “No Change in Political Climate”in The Boston Globe: “On the day that the latest report on global warming was released, I went out and bought a light bulb. OK, an environmentally-friendly, compact fluorescent light bulb…it was either buying a light bulb or pulling the covers over my head…I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say the global warming deniers are on par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future…I don’t expect that this report will set off some vast political uprising. The sorry fact is that the rising world thermometer hasn’t translated into political climate change in America.

“American University’s Matthew Nisbet is among those who see the importance of expanding the story beyond scientists. He is charting the reframing of climate change into a moral and religious issue – see the greening of the evangelicals – and into a corruption of science issue – see big oil – and an economic issue – see the newer, greener technologies.”

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

Climate Stabilization Wedges

by Richard T. Stuebi

The most useful framework for considering solutions to the climate change problem was developed by Professor Robert Socolow of Princeton University.

In a pathbreaking August 2004 Science paper, Socolow (with fellow Princeton co-author Stephen Pacala) coined the concept of “stabilization wedges” to illustrate the types and magnitude of actions that would be required by society to stabilize the climate. Each “wedge” corresponds to one gigaton per year of worldwide carbon reductions by 2050; seven wedges are estimated to be required to cap CO2 concentrations to less than 500 ppm and thereby achieve climate stabilization. (Incidentally, this translates to a global emission reduction of about 1/3 relative to projected business-as-usual levels.)

It is then fairly straightforward mathematics to postulate actions that can achieve one wedge. For instance, an increase in fuel economy from 30 mpg to 60 mpg for 2 billion cars achieves one wedge. The authors then imagine several hypothetical mutually-exclusive wedges, to demonstrate that climate stabilization can be achieved just by using the palette of technologies that are already commercially available (wind, nuclear, solar, efficient lighting, land-use practices, etc.).

At last July’s annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society held in Denver, the plenary discussions were framed around designing relevant climate stabilization wedges for the U.S.: what it would take for the U.S. to achieve its necessary contribution to climate stabilization — a more severe challenge, requiring about a 60-80% emission reduction by mid-century. These plenary discussions, and the resultant calculations, have been aggregated into a new report that presents wedges of emission reduction strategies that the U.S. could undertake.

The results suggest that the U.S. can achieve the required emission reductions through a mix of energy efficiency and renewable energy options alone — without requiring a mass-shift to nuclear. In other words, a robust move to the rich mix of available renewable resources in the U.S. — wind, geothermal, solar and biomass — along with a dedicated focus to capturing the vast efficiency improvement opportunities that can be found in our relatively wasteful energy system can alone produce an aggressive emission reduction to get us to climate stabilization.

Technology advancements can only make it more economic, but the point is: we absolutely can achieve climate stabilization, if we have the will to employ the technologies we already have at hand.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Could Solvent-Free Manufacturing Technology Help Make Lithium Polymer Batteries a Reality?

I had a chance to chat with Dr. Klaus Brandt, EVP of Lithium Technology Corporation (Ticker symbol LTHU.PK). LTC has been in the business of Lion battery development for over 10 years. They are focused on large energy content / high power applications, primarily using lithium polymer technologies.

The Company was formed 4 years ago through a merger of a German battery startup called and LTC. Dr. Brandt is the Executive Vice President of LTC and Managing Director of their GAIA GmbH subsidiary, joining GAIA in April, 2005. A 25 year battery industry veteran, Gaia is his 5th battery company. He previously worked for Duracell (US) and VARTA (Germany), Moli Energy & Ionity. He holds a PhD, Physics from Tech Inst of Munich.

They haven’t disclosed much on their customers, but are focused on the military markets (especially for unmanned vehicles, like UAVs, they have one announced participation with Phoenix), and in niche industrial markets like robotics. The holy grail opportunity, of course is the EV, HEV and Plug-in hybrid automotive markets, where LiOn technology has an opportunity to displace NiMh, if it can drive costs down far enough. So far LTC has been working on early demonstrator projects in this area, but doesn’t appear to have hit the big one yet.

A quote from a recent press release on some of LTC’s activities in the plug-in hybrid sector.

“LTC has powered a project in conjunction with Innosys Engineering in which a four passenger Daihatsu Cuore was converted into an electric car using the lithium-ion batteries and a three-phase asynchronous electric motor. The battery, built with cells manufactured by LTC subsidiary GAIA, has a capacity of 25 kWh and an approximate highway range of 180-200km (100-125 miles) at 90-100km/hr (56-60 mph). These results are similar to the expected performance of the recently announced Volt slated to be made available by General Motors in 2010. “The technology is here today. LTC has it, and we’ve demonstrated it,” says Dr. Brandt. “Price is the biggest factor holding back the production of these more environmentally friendly, fuel efficient vehicles. By committing to work together, the auto manufactures and battery companies can bring the cost down and make cars like the Volt an affordable reality for the consumer.” LTC’s technology was recently highlighted in a video produced by Plug-In Partners, a national grass-roots initiative to demonstrate to automakers that a market for flexible-fuel PHEVs exists today. The full video discussing the economic and environmental benefits of PHEVs can be viewed on the Plug-In Partners website.

The piece featured a project in which LTC provided cells to the University of California, Davis Hybrid Electric Vehicle Group for the conversion of a Chevy Equinox to a PHEV as part of the Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility engineering competition. The lithium-ion battery has the same capacity as the original metal hydride battery but with half the weight. The battery can be charged by either the internal combustion engine (ICE) or a standard AC household electrical socket and can drive over 40 miles on the overnight electrical charge. The converted vehicle has a fuel economy of 36 mpg in the city, and 38 mpg on the highway, as compared to the original Chevy Equinox range of 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.”

As a result of the merger with Gaia, Arch Hill Ventures, NV, the venture capital firm behind Gaia, now has a dominant stake in the company. I couldn’t find much information on Arch easily available, though.

The company trades over the counter in the US, and has struggled financially (revenues are around $2 mm/year), and it loses money, and the stock price for the last several years has reflected this. Of course, it doesn’t help that the company doesn’t seem to have filed a 10-K or 10-Q since May of 2006. In December the company earned a reprieve raised $3 mm in a Series C Preferred Stock at a valuation on the order of $23 mm, and converted about $2.4 mm in debt.

In Germany the company is manufacturing cylindrical cells, and packaging them into batteries, and doing some prod development, along with EU sales. In the US Dr. Bradnt says they do a limited production of flat cells, the US sales and marketing, as well engineering and assembly of batteries for American customers.

But aside from all that, I asked Dr. Brandt to give me a summary walk through of the technology, what makes it neat, and what the cost and performance advantages are.

The brief from their website:

“LTC’s unique technology allows for the production of very large cells with a high capacity and high power capability.

LTC’s wholly owed affiliate GAIA Akkumulatorenwerke in Nordhausen, Germany employs a unique patented extrusion process for producing electrodes for lithium ion cells. This process is environmentally friendly (no solvent) and eliminates the need for expensive explosion proof coating and solvent recovery equipment. Using high speed winding and a unique assembly technology, large cylindrical cells are manufactured. In our Plymouth Meeting facility, we have the capability to build large footprint flat cells and stack them to form large batteries. Our proprietary technology includes critical composition, processing, and packaging aspects of the battery. Our coating, lamination and extrusion know-how enables us to achieve uniformity and consistency through a range of application techniques. Batteries for the consumer, transportation, and industrial markets require different electro-chemical systems that we believe can be easily accommodated by our extrusion process.”

According to my conversation with Dr. Brandt, LTC has two core technologies. The first is this extrusion process for a part of the cell manufacturing for either LiOn or Lithium Polymer batteries. The uniqueness is a way to avoid the use of large amounts of solvents in the process of manufacturing electrodes from electrode powders.

Normally, you make electrodes by a coating process. Taking electrode powders and mixing them in an organic solvent with has a binder and any additives dissolved in it. This results in a fairly viscous slurry with typically more than half organic solvents . Then battery manufacturers typically use a coating process (usually a printing type roller process or some sort of foil through narrow slit, controlling deposition quality mechanically) to coat the slurry onto a current collector, usually a thin metal foil, and in a post process step heat the electrode to evaporate the solvent, which by volume is often greater than the active material.
Typically the make-up of the solvents used is key intellectual property for the battery manufacturer, but most are highly volatile and toxic chemicals, and need to be recycled in some sort of a closed loop system that is generally equipment and energy intensive (read costly, and not very green).

The LTC process is different. LTC runs an extrusion process as follows – make the electrode powders into mixture of powder materials directly with a special polymer binder, which flows under some pressure and temperature, and extrude the mixture into a film sheet. The process runs in the range from 200-300F up to 350-400F, and uses off the shelf plastic extrusion equipment. As second step, LTC then laminates the film to the foil. The lamination allows good control of all kinds of properties. The whole thing is roughly similar to low temperature polymer membrane construction process.

The trick is the mix of the polymers. If mix isn’t right you can’t keep mechanical consistency or can’t control thickness of the film and uniform distribution of the components. The polymer mix also affects the binding properties.

They claim the process does not really affect the cell manufacturing or the electrolyte relative to other processes. And Dr. Brandt says it has applicability for lithium ion as well as lithium polymer.

The advantage – no solvent extraction, cleaning, and recycling process equipment, and reduced energy use. Basically a more efficient, greener, cleaner process. LTC estimates their process can reduce a cost structure on the order of 5-10% improvement over conventional technology, a big improvement in battery manufacturing techniques.

The main challenges are those similar to all lithium ion and lithium polymer battery manufacturers. In the area of automotive and HEVs, they need to address cost. Scale of production is obviously a main cost down concern for LTC at this point, but materials costs are a close second. Like all lithium polymer technologies, the materials in general are still quite high.

On the performance side, Dr. Brandt walked through another interesting technology development.

They are able to build relatively large systems at a similar power density and power rate to smaller systems compared to other manufacturers, especially useful in areas like submarine and UAV batteries.

They also get high power and excellent charge/discharge rates – on some cell types up to 80% of the energy in 2 – 3 minutes.

The trick here is LTC’s technology to manage the thermal issues in the way they make the electrical connections between electrodes and terminals in the wound cells. LTC essentially makes electrical connections at every turn of a wound cell, directly connecting each cell to the terminal, using massive (relatively) terminals. They do it with a special trick they have developed to easily allow a large number of the multiple connections.

All in all, a fascinating story. One I will have to follow closely and see how well the company pulls through its recent financial straits.

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com.

Proposed: National Center for Sustainable Technologies

by Heather Rae

The Brunswick Naval Air Station on the midcoast of Maine is on the Pentagon’s list: the base realignment and closure process, a recurring cost-cutting procedure, also known by the acronym BRAC, has targeted the Brunswick station for closure in 2011.

In April 2005, The Times Record ran an editorial by Walt Rosen, a retiree from the Commission on Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences. Rosen proposed turning the base into a national center for sustainable technologies, including residential and industrial uses.

Walt Rosen died last year. His idea is worth repeating, as developers and government begin the wrangle over what to do with the Brunswick land. The Brunswick Sustainability Group is gathering ideas from around the globe to put some fire under Rosen’s proposal, from Freiburg-Vauban in Germany to Dongtan in China. The Sustainability Group and Walt Rosen’s proposal should be at the table with developers and government.

This is a plan for use of a portion of the 3,000-acre site if and when the Brunswick Naval Air Station is decommissioned. Existing structures on the site are mostly hangars and housing units, easily adaptable to the proposed project.

This proposal would create a National Center for Sustainable Technologies that will promote research, education, training and demonstration of what have been termed “sustainable” or “appropriate” technologies — that is, procedures and practices that utilize alternatives to fossil fuels and minimize or eliminate the production of heat-trapping combustion products that can cause global climate change, and some of which are toxic to humans and other organisms. These alternatives utilize renewable energy sources such as solar radiation, biomass, wind and tides.

The heart of the project, and of the center, will be a planned residential community and industrial park showcasing state-of-the-art sustainable technologies.

Conversion from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) to renewable alternatives would free our society from dependence on these finite energy sources and from the toxic byproducts of their use. Because the supply of these alternative energy sources is essentially unlimited, and because their use is nonpolluting, they are termed “sustainable,” a term that distinguishes them from energy sources such as petroleum, of which the earth has limited stores, and the extraction and use of which creates pollution and causes global warming.

Rising fuel costs, global warming (caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gasses), and concerns about the security of overseas sources of petroleum have combined to reawaken recognition of the desirability of moving to renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

It is proposed to make part of the BNAS site a national center for such efforts. Properly implemented, such a center will provide jobs, training and revenue to replace what will be lost to the state and the community by the base closing. Demonstration projects and other training opportunities will draw people from throughout the country and beyond for education and training in the development and use of renewable and sustainable technologies. Just as agriculture colleges and the National Institutes of Health play host to graduate students and senior investigators, so will the proposed Sustainability Institute.

A model sustainable community
Successful large-scale planned communities are those of James Rouse in Columbia, Md., and Reston, Va. Another is the Disney Corp.’s Celebration, Fla. Design of these communities focused on motor traffic and pedestrian flow and on distribution of residential and commercial areas and civic amenities. Energy generation, consumption, conservation and recovery was left to local practice.

At the heart of this proposed development will be a planned residential community in which the objective in design and function will be maximization of the use of renewable energy — largely solar energy captured on site. Systems for the recovery of energy from biomass will be deployed wherever and whenever feasible. Homes — and where possible public facilities and businesses — will be furnished with biomass recovery systems (such as dry composting toilets), solar space and water heating, fuel cell technologies and photvoltaics.

Manufacturers of the required hardware will be given incentives for locating in a community industrial park, thereby providing employment and training opportunities for residents of the community.

Much planning will be required to establish policies concerning management of the community and eligibility for admission to residence there. Among the strategies and policies to be considered are low-interest or interest-free mortgages, leases, co-op governance, individual or community gardens, preferential placement in on-site jobs and internships.

Potential development and demonstration programs: glass-house food production; heating with biogas generated on-site from municipal sludge and cultivated biiomass; a wind farm (if wind velocities are sufficient to generate the electricity required by a small community); sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry; ecological restoration; photovoltaic hardware production and research; hydrogen fuel cell research and demonstration; and electricity generation from tidal flow.

Our community is richly endowed with people and programs that can provide the relevant expertise. These include the Bowdoin College Environmental Studies Program; USM’s Muskie Institute; the Chewonki Institute’s biodiesel and hydrogen research and development programs; Morris Farm; Wolf’s Neck Farm; the Maine Center for Economic Policy; the Maine State Planning Office and its director of Energy Independence.

The SPO’s “2003 Directory of State Energy Programs and Reources” reveals a wealth of relevant businesses and programs already active in Maine, providing a highly supportive environment for this project.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has a Web site that provides a wealth of information on relevant programs, demonstrations and literature.

At least a year of intensive research and planning will be required for the preparation of detailed proposals for the funding and implementation of this concept. A planning grant will be essential for proposal preparation.

A 50-acre to 100-acre Peace Park in, or bordering the residential area, can include a solar-heated swimming pool and community center, bike paths, playing fields and demonstration organic gardens. Indeed, it was Hersch Sternlieb’s idea for a Peace Park on the BNAS site that triggered this proposal.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

Cool Commutes

Innovative solutions for energy independence and ending the climate crisis are manifest in Silicon Valley: breakthrough energy storage, biotech conversion of waste to fuel, electric vehicles, fuel cells, materials science, converting sunlight to energy and more.

200 members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) convened to advance a different type of innovation – programs that make employees more effective anytime and anywhere. Organizations are increasing productivity whether employees are at a primary work location, secondary, home, customer site or other remote location. Work Anywhere and Cool Commute programs get increased job results with fewer wasted hours from people trapped in gridlocked traffic.

“Cool Commutes” was the title of the January 31 meeting. “Cool Commutes” is a friendly competition between Bay Area employers to determine which can encourage the greatest number of employees to commute without driving solo. Several attending corporations and government employers shared their success in helping thousands reach work using ride sharing, public transit, bicycling and walking. One CEO in Redwood Shores even canoed to work. Employer programs are both reducing the fuel wasted in commuting and eliminating unnecessary commutes.

Cool commuting is improving the profits of a number of Silicon Valley companies. The new workforce is mobile, at times working at their office, other times at home, other times at a customer site. Effective mobile working often requires wireless services, Internet services, VOIP, VPN, security, laptops, mobile devices with better energy storage and so on. Companies benefiting from secure mobile commuting include the meeting host Hewlett-Packard (HP), plus IBM, Oracle (ORCL), Hyperion (HYSL), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Cisco (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Symantec (SYMC) and hundreds of others.

In addition to revenue improvements, many of these corporations and government employers are seeing cost savings. Healthcare costs lower when employees get more exercise walking and bicycling. Productivity goes up when the stress of rush hour commutes goes down. Mobile workforce strategies coupled with commute programs has allowed many to reduce facility costs. Reduced parking saves up to $2,400 per space. Shared facilities have a much higher payoff.

Cool Commute and flexible work location programs helped several participating high-tech firms with employee recruiting, retention and productivity. The programs did more than benefit employers; all of us benefit from reduced burning of fuel that results in more energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Ann Zis detailed a number of areas of success at Applied Materials (AMAT). Their program, “Applied Anywhere,” addresses their global business environment and provides agility to be closer to the customer as well as supporting the needs of many employees who perform some or their entire job outside the traditional office place. Through the program Applied Anywhere supports eligible employees that at different times may need to work from one of several corporate offices, at home, at an airport, or at a customer site.

“Applied Anywhere” is far more comprehensive than traditional telework programs. The program has made global teams more effective, reduced commute hours, increased productivity, saved gas miles and jet miles. Ann Zis advised workshop attendees to start by interviewing senior executives and to make a program align with corporate and executive goals and objectives. Conduct design workshops to facilitate the creation of program policies, places, technologies and details. Periodically, validate the program goals with focus groups.

All workshop attendees agreed that flexible work location programs fail when the approach is “one size fits all.” In some countries, the management culture requires most employees to be together most of the time. Yet, even in those countries sales and customer engineers are often mobile and at various locations so drop-in centers and satellite office could be a better alternative to solely a “work from home” approach. The nature of the job dictates where people need to be. All attendees also agreed about the importance of technology enablers to support flexible work location programs.

Ann Zis recommended a phased implementation, starting with a group near headquarters that is likely to succeed. It often takes four to six months for people, both managers and employees, to adjust to a new style of work location flexibility. Over time, categories of employees emerged including those that could work from home, mobile, drop-in, while for some, it is still appropriate for them to retain a dedicated seat in an Applied building. The policies, practices, technology and locations were created to support each category.

Currently, over 2500 Applied Materials employees now participate in Applied Anywhere, including over 1400 located outside the U.S.

Flexible work locations reduce unnecessary travel. When travel is necessary, organizations are innovative in making commutes better from employees, employers and the community.

36% of Yahoo headquarters employees get to work without driving solo, reported Danielle Bricker with Yahoo! This is double the 18% mode-shift that the corporation committed to the City of Sunnyvale when building permits were first issued. Yahoo’s cool commute program is comprehensive, popular and getting results.

As one of two dedicated Commute Coordinators at Yahoo, Daniel practices what she preaches. For three years, she has commuted 90-miles daily without owning a car. She commutes by train, using her bicycle to handle the “last mile” at both ends. Intermodal commuting is used by many.

Yahoo provides employees with free VTA Eco-Passes for bus and light-rail. Many of the Yahoo commuters are able to get extra work done using laptops and other mobile devices while commuting on public transit.

Yahoo’s results are impressive considering that Silicon Valley workers are widely dispersed in search of affordable housing. Technologists work long and irregular hours, which makes ridesharing more challenging. Many Silicon Valley locations provide a long and uncomfortable walk in the dark to public transit.

Yahoo addresses these problems in a number of ways. One is that it provides a guaranteed ride home. Yahoo will pay for a late worker’s taxi or rental car. Many at the workshop agreed that a guaranteed ride home is critical to a commute programs success. All agreed that employees rarely use the guarantee, making the cost minimal.

Yahoo has a fleet of shuttles to get people to and from transit, between Yahoo locations, to airports and sometimes providing an emergency ride. Some of the shuttles run on B20 biodiesel.

It is not easy to get employees to change their commuting behavior. Yahoo used surveys, education, an intranet website to help people find others for ridesharing, and YahooGroups to encourage collaboration, and monthly reward competition for those who avoid driving solo.

Yahoo encourages the use of the zero-emission vehicle owned by one billion people on this planet – the bicycle. Yahoo provides bicycler riders with secure storage of their bikes. Free lockers and showers are available. To help people quickly navigate Yahoo’s campus of buildings, loaner bikes are also available.

Many meeting participants recognized the value of the humble bicycle. SVLG CEO, Carl Guardino, commutes to work emission-free three times weekly, riding his bike 30 miles roundtrip. Lockheed Martin will make it easy for employees to zip across its campus with 200 yellow bicycles available for anyone.

Many presenters and attendees praised the non-profit organization “511.org.” 511 is an example of friendly systems that allow people to easily travel without getting in their car. 511 allows you to put in your departure and destination locations, then see or hear the best way to travel with public transit, train, even carpooling and bicycling. It even includes current traffic conditions. I have used this wonderful system with everything from an Internet browser (511.org) to my cell phone (dial 511). 511 is widely used in Northern California.

511.org offers consulting to employers. Employee surveys, employee home locations, flexible work locations and plans are all considered. Plans and recommendations often include public transportation, carpools, vanpools, bicycles, guaranteed ride homes. Employers like Genentech (DNA) and Stanford University have custom 511 implementations as part of their employee intranets.

Nationwide there are many organizations that offer some of the services provided by 511. Using your favorite search engine type “rideshare” plus your zip code.

Cool Commutes is just one of a dozen exciting initiatives included in SVLG’s “Clean and Green” Energy Action Plan. You can join Cool Commutes at SVLG.

John Addison is the author of Revenue Rocket and the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. He has conducted workshops for several of the firms mentioned in this article. He publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

Let There Be Dark, Or At Least Fewer Watts

by Richard Stuebi

Last week, as virtually everyone with an interest in energy and the environment knows, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gathered in Paris to release the first report of their Fourth Assessment. (see article) The report presents the accumulated evidence of physical change that has already occurred in the climate, and what is expected to or might occur by the end of the 21st Century.

If someone were to read this report and continue thinking that climate change is a hoax, then that person is either unable to read or unable to think.

To show their support for the climate scientists that had assembled there, Parisian officials decided to make their statement about the need for solutions to climate change by shutting off the lights to the Eiffel Tower for five minutes. (see article)

You might say, “five minutes, big deal.” Certainly, in and of itself, the act of turning out the lights is solely a symbolic act. But, it had one effect on me: I began thinking about all the ways in which we celebrate lighting things needlessly — and how much energy is wasted in doing so. Does the Eiffel Tower (or any other big building, for that matter) really need to be lit up, so brightly, for so much of the time?

If we’re going to light things for purely ornamental reasons, we should at least do it efficiently. I’m glad to hear that the Eiffel Tower uses much more efficient lights than it used to. But my speculation is that a lot of public lighting continues to be based on energy-intensive incandescent lightbulbs. We need to stop it.

In that vein, a bill has been introduced in the California Assembly to ban the sale of incandescents in the state, through the wonderfully-named “How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act”. (see article) Once again, California leads the nation.

Let’s begin a public conversation about our public lighting practices: what deserves to be lit, how much of the time, with what kind of bulbs.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

BP Awards $500 MM Bioconversion Research Center to Berkeley

BP announced the award of $500 MM Bioconversion research center to Berkeley. The award follows a process where BP had shortlisted several major universities, so I’m really glad to see a local university win it. I had a chance to meet with some of the BP technology team working on this project some months ago, and had gotten some early insight into what it would mean. This had been rumoured for some time, and I had a rumour not too long ago that Berkeley had won.

This is a big part of BP’s low carbon technology strategy, and is an anchor of the open innovation model of technology development BP is doing that we have blogged about before.

Just wait until their next research center gets announced. They are serious about an outsourced based tech transfer model of R&D.

What ever you want to say about BP, when it comes to spreading the wealth in cleantech, they put their money where there mouth is.

The announcement from Berkeley below:

“Colleagues, students, and friends:

I am proud and excited to tell you that a partnership led by UC Berkeley has been selected to receive an unprecedented $500 million from global energy firm BP to lead the way in research to develop new, clean, renewable sources of energy. With this remarkable support, the work Berkeley will undertake will be transformative for our nation and, indeed, our planet.

The campus will partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in this 10-year effort, which was announced this morning at a campus press conference by Robert A. Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc., along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

This new research effort — the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) — will focus initially on biotechnology to produce biofuels, that is, transportation fuels that are made from plants. Berkeley and its partners will bring the most creative science, innovative technologies, and astute understanding of social sciences to bear to develop viable solutions to global energy challenges, among the most fundamental problems facing us today.

I firmly believe that the depth and breadth of excellence at Berkeley are what sets us apart. That depth and breadth allow us to reach for such an opportunity, win it, and, I am certain, succeed over the next decade in changing the impact of energy consumption on the world’s environment.

My congratulations and gratitude go to the faculty and staff who have worked so hard and with such vision to take this idea from proposal to reality. I invite you to read more about this good news for Berkeley– and view a webcast of the press conference later today — at http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/ebi.

Yours sincerely,

Robert J. Birgeneau

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to AltEnergyStocks.com.