Pepsi Generation

by Richard T. Stuebi

Today, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) announced that it was buying from Sterling Planet about 1.1 billion kwh worth of renewable energy credits (RECs) per year for the next three years to offset 100% of its corporate electricity requirements in the U.S., thereby making Pepsi the largest buyer of green power in the U.S.

Press release

According to reportage in the USA Today (article), PepsiCo will spend about $2 million on this REC purchase. That seemed like a steal to me: Pepsi probably got $20 million worth of good PR just by showing up with good press on the front page of USA Today‘s Money section.

PepsiCo’s action will serve as a catalyst to expedite development of renewable energy projects in the U.S. Since wind is generally the most economic form of renewable energy, windfarms will likely constitute the lion’s share of the new capacity that is added to serve PepsiCo’s needs. By my calculations, using some generic assumptions, I estimate that the Pepsi REC purchase could trigger about 350 new megawatts of wind development.

Given the high visibility impact that Pepsi was able to achieve at relatively low cost with their green commitment, I suspect that many other large retail and consumer products companies will be following suit in the coming weeks and months. If so, we could see many more megawatts of new renewables — primarily new wind — being built in the U.S. to serve the large corporates, which are now in a race to appear more green than their peers.

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, Inc.

Blogroll Review: CO, Surveys, & Phones

Conservation of energy
Carbon monoxide or CO is not your friend. It binds to your hemoglobin and your brain starves from a lack of oxygen. But like all molecules out there, it’s not really good or evil. It’s just trying to maximize its entropy.

With biofuels now in the spotlight, some have proposed converting CO into ethanol. Not all are convinced. Robert Rapier at R-squared says the fermentation methods are inefficient. He discusses the thermodynamics:

“Let’s say 340 BTUs of CO get fermented to 340 BTUs of ethanol, and then it takes 340 BTUs of natural gas to purify the ethanol. In effect, what we have is an input of 680 BTUs of CO plus natural gas to produce 340 BTUs of ethanol.”

Looks like someone is trying to make the world’s most expensive drink. 🙂

Acting locally
Earth day, as far as I can tell, is not yet a Hallmark Holiday. It’s interesting to look at how attitudes are changing with regard to the environment. Or are they?

On his blog, Joel Makower writes about recent surveys on America’s perception of the environment. The results are fascinating but perhaps not so surprising:

“Hope or Hypocrisy? An ABC news poll found most Americans consider global warming the world’s biggest environmental problem and that an whopping 94% say they are willing to make personal changes to help the environment. However, 8 in 10 Americans say they oppose increasing taxes on electricity to encourage energy conservation, and about two-thirds are against raising gasoline taxes and prices at the pumps.”

Can we breathe now?
Mobile phones have come a long ways. Not only do they come with a whole array of applications, they are becoming socially enabling devices. One company makes software that helps you find dates. Another even claims they have the best mp3 player in the world.

But who would have thought they could tell you if the air you breathe is good or bad? Ecogeek reports on an app that gives you air quality reports:

“The ecogeeks at NearBio.com have created a cell phone widget that will provide live air quality reports that update automatically as the cell phone (and its breathing owner) moves about. Using data from Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring stations, the cell program will harness GPS technologies available through uLocate Communications’ WHERE Platform. That means no more sending textys offering up your current city or zip code – your phone will know where it is – and it will know if you should be wearing a SARS mask.”

Now if only these devices could tell me where I left my keys. 🙂

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

ACI Conference 2007

by Heather Rae

Cleveland hosts the 21st ACI Home Performance Conference this week. Over 1,000 people registered to exchange information about “house as a system” building design and operation.

ACI President, Laura McNaughton, greets attendees, “As this conference opens, the issue of climate change and the urgent need for affordable energy present both environmental challenges and economic opportunities. Many people are struggling to stay warm, and we wonder if we are running out of fossil fuels. At the same time, consumer demand for green homes that are energy efficient, durable, comfortable, healthy and safe has made the ‘house as a system’ approach more relevant than ever. Home performance contracting is poised for mainstream expansion.”

ACI attendees represent the crossroads of residential energy; there are utilities, national laboratories, government agencies, technology vendors, non-profits and, of course, consultants. I attended a full-day session with the EPA on the national Home Performance with Energy Star program to learn how to best manage and market the program and how to motivate contractors and homeowners to participate.

Time and again, studies and anecdotes find that people’s priorities for their homes are comfort and operating costs, indoor air quality (health), resale value and environmental impact. All of those concerns are addressed through home performance.

Our challenge with home performance is not so much to ‘transform the market’ but to create a market for a concept that is entirely new to the general public. Unlike green billboards — like solar panels — which announce to the neighbors one’s ‘greenness,’ home performance is a mostly invisible endeavor. Like solar, however, the energy benefits of home performance can be measured and used to demonstrate ‘greenness.’ The EPA (with the help of Performance Systems Development, my employer) is working on a certificate that lists the improvements made to a house — things like air sealant, moisture remediation, insulation. The certificate for the Maine Home Performance with Energy Star program will include carbon savings as well. A homeowner can take that information to the IRS for tax credits, to the bank for home equity loans, to the real estate market, and to future carbon trading markets.

The certificate is a marketing hook for a concept with significant marketing challenges, the first one being that nobody knows what you’re talking about. (‘Oh,’ you might hear, ‘energy audits!’ Well, sort of, but not really, you might reply, as you force yourself not to talk about science or diagnostics or even energy but about the things that really matter to people like drafty rooms and wet basements, ice dams and moldy rec rooms and the costs of maintaining a home.)

Efficiency remains the red-headed stepchild but is gaining recognition. Greg Thomas, president of Performance Systems, and past president of ACI, wrote of a report by the American Solar Energy Society (Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.), “fifty-seven percent of the expected carbon reductions would come from efficiency, followed by only fifteen percent from wind. The remaining sources were geothermal (not heat pumps, but hot earth), biomass, concentrating solar and solar PV, and biofuels, such as ethanol. Interestingly, this is almost in reverse order to the attention these possibilities get in the press.”

The potential for dynamic marketing of home performance is as big as the challenges and the rewards.

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.

California Hydrogen Highway Spans 800 Miles

By John Addison (4/23/07) The California Hydrogen Highway Network now extends from Chula Vista, near the Mexican border, to Arcata, near the Oregon border. You are invited to a virtual tour weaving over 1,000 miles as we visit some of the more interesting stations.

The City of Chula Vista pioneered its hydrogen station almost four years ago. Currently it has one shared fleet fuel cell vehicle, the Honda FCX. Chula Vista has taken the Honda to Torrance and back without refueling, demonstrating the vehicle’s 190 mile range. The new Honda FCX will have a range exceeding 300 miles. ISE Corporation has also paid for a number of H2 fill-ups in Chula Vista. In nearby Poway, ISE builds hydrogen and hybrid bus and heavy vehicle drive systems.

Driving up the coast, we pass two stations in progress. One will use direct solar electrolysis to make hydrogen, the other station is still a secret. We next arrive in Oceanside, home of the United States Marine Corp’s Camp Pendleton. This Marine operation has taken a leading role in making the nation more energy independent. Camp Pendleton has hundreds of electric vehicles, uses one million gallons of biodiesel annually, and has a hydrogen station just outside the USMC guarded perimeter so that public access is available. The USMC has tested a GM hydrogen truck and GM Equinox fuel cell vehicle. In a few months, vehicle use will expand when Camp Pendleton brings online its onsite reformation of natural gas and adds more hydrogen vehicles.

Irvine has the state’s sole public station offering 350 and 700 bar pressure. Although Honda is achieving 300 mile range with 350 bar, other auto makers such as GM need 700 bar to eventually exceed a 300 mile range. The Irvine station is at the convenient major intersection of Campus and Jamboree. It provides limited public access. The station is used by the University’s Toyota FCV hydrogen vehicles. These Toyota’s have also been successfully used by local corporations and an individual in a special lease program. The U.S. Postal Service also uses this station for its hydrogen fuel-cell van.

Diamond Bar is home to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). AQMD is committed to improve the health and air quality of the millions who live in Southern California. For years, AQMD has pioneered and helped fund alt-fuel vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen vehicles. It facilitated the purchase of 30 Toyota Priuses modified to run on hydrogen, thereby bringing the cost of a hydrogen vehicle to less than $80,000. AQMD’s public station produces hydrogen with a mix of grid and solar electrolysis. The station is actively used by AQMD’s hydrogen DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Quantum Prius vehicles. UPS also uses the station for a hydrogen delivery vehicle. The station has been popular with other fleets when traveling north or south.

Torrance is home to several hydrogen stations. The U.S. headquarters of Toyota and Honda both have stations and both use solar electrolysis. A new public station is coming online that is likely to sell hydrogen for less than equivalent gasoline prices by tapping into the existing hydrogen pipeline that runs from Carson to Torrance.

Los Angeles is home to a growing number of hydrogen stations. L.A. is the number one target market among auto makers, hydrogen fuel providers and the DOE for expanded use of hydrogen in transportation. The most interesting station is probably the BP public access station at LAX. Drive-up with a credit card and fill-up just like any other station. Currently the station is mainly used to fuel the fleet of five Mercedes F-Cell vehicles that are part of the LA Airport fleet. The airport is considering converting other hydrogen vehicles to hydrogen.

In downtown Los Angeles, hydrogen blending is being added to Trillium’s CNG station. The nation’s largest natural gas bus fleet, LAMTA, will experiment with a bus running on a blend of 30% hydrogen and 70% CNG.

Although traveling Southern California provides enough stations to keep even limited range hydrogen vehicles refilled, getting to Northern California is a problem. Currently hydrogen vehicles are successful only in local fleets. Individuals continue to buy gasoline vehicles for convenient and fast refills. In 2007, if you want to drive your hydrogen vehicle to Northern California you will (1) need to pull extra H2 in a trailer behind your vehicle, or (2) see if Honda will lend you its new FCX that might get the 330 miles from Burbank to San Jose. Drive the speed limit and brake frequently in traffic because modern hydrogen vehicles make excellent use of regenerative braking energy.

As we leave Southern California, we say goodbye to a number of other clean fleet operators who are piloting hydrogen and other electric propulsion vehicles. These operators include Sunline Transit, SCE, and a number of leading cities such as Santa Ana, Riverside, Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

In Northern California, VTA in San Jose carries hundreds of daily riders on its three hydrogen fuel cell buses. In Oakland and Berkeley, AC Transit carries over 1,000 riders daily on its three hydrogen buses that are plug-in hydrogen hybrids with an added 90kW of batteries per bus. AC Transit supervisors’ fleet of Kia and Hyundai vehicles is growing to ten vehicles. More buses are on order. Other hydrogen stations are coming online in San Carlos, SF Airport, San Francisco and Emeryville.

Next stop is West Sacramento, home of the California Fuel Cell Partnership where the latest exciting vehicles are constantly being driven. The State of California often fuels its fleet of hydrogen vehicles at this station, or at nearby U.C. Davis.

From here we can head north into magnificent mountains, redwood forests, and then dramatic cliffs over the ocean as we head towards Oregon. Before reaching the next state, we arrive at California’s northern most hydrogen station at the Schatz Research Center at Humboldt State University. Station funding was the result of an student team’s national award-winning proposal for of an energy park. Longer term, nearby Diversified Energy and Evergreen Pulp are seeking funding for biomass energy with hydrogen byproduct.

In Canada, Vancouver continues to expand its own hydrogen highway in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We will see if Portland and Seattle develop hydrogen stations that would extend a West Coast hydrogen highway over 2,000 miles in length to Whistler, Canada.

Hydrogen transportation continues to grow in California for several reasons including falling vehicle costs, falling fuel price costs, state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and state law to reduce petroleum dependence. California leads the nation in use of solar power, wind power and hydrogen transportation.

Skeptics have valid reasons to doubt hydrogen’s long-term success. The idea of a hydrogen highway was over hyped. A number of stations have hydrogen brought in on diesel trucks from remote reformation of natural gas to hydrogen. This approach offers no source-to-wheels greenhouse gas advantages over gasoline.

Many of the leading hydrogen stations are achieving major source-to-wheels advantages with renewable electrolysis, onsite reformation of natural gas, and use of byproduct and waste hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells also extend the range and “recharging speed” of electric vehicles without adding internal combustion engines and the use of petroleum. Hydrogen may be displacing 100 million gallons of gasoline and reducing 500,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in California by 2020.

This Friday, April 27, hydrogen leaders from San Diego to Vancouver will converge in Sacramento for the California Hydrogen Business Council’s meeting. There will be a number of presentations from hydrogen station and fleet operators, long-range plans in California, fuel cell updates and more. CHBC Meeting Details: http://www.californiahydrogen.org/page.cfm?content=45&event_ID=66

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report which tracks clean transportation in California. John serves on the Board of the California Hydrogen Business Council. He can be reached at www.cleanfleetreport.com. John is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet.

What’s Up with ConocoPhillips?

by Richard T. Stuebi

On the clean-tech front, ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) seems to be striving to take the lead among U.S. oil companies. In just the last two few weeks, COP has made two announcements of significance.

ConocoPhillips is not yet in the league of Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and General Electric (NYSE: GE) as major players that are driving environmental improvement on a mass-scale through the aggressive pursuit of capitalism across their core businesses.

But at least COP has gotten off the dime: they aren’t denying the existence of climate change as a real issue, and are recognizing that they need to start shifting their perspective if they want to continue to be a relevant energy company in the future.

Its peers among U.S. oil majors, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX), have also begun making strides on the green-front.

The contrast between the three of them and the major U.S. automakers — General Motors (NYSE: GM) and Ford (NYSE: F) — is stark. The auto companies are stuck with tenuous competitive positions due in large part to their strategies for focusing on high profit gas guzzlers (e.g., SUVs and performance cars), and as a result they are fighting Federal pressures to tighten auto fuel efficiency standards. In general, they don’t want to hear about climate change.

The historical solidarity between the companies involved in oil supply and in oil demand seems to be breaking down.

Presumably, it’s at least partly because the oil companies are in better shape than the auto companies: with huge profits, the oil majors have more degrees of freedom to think more proactively. However, I think it’s also because the oil companies are increasingly coming to the view that reduced oil demand is unavoidable in the future — not just for environmental reasons, but simply because supplies will be challenging to obtain. COP, XOM and CVX are probably beginning to plan what they will look like as companies in a post-oil world, and that plan is consistent anyway with carbon limitations.

Interestingly, most of the independent U.S. oil producers and refiners — many of which are enormous companies in their own right — are laggards on the environmental front, alongside the U.S. automakers. What will it take for the U.S. oil independents to begin to see the light? Do they not see a future for them beyond oil?

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, Inc.

Blogroll Review: Vegan Power, Lasers, & 18 Seconds

Going Green? Go Vegan.

Who says grocery shopping can save greenhouse gas emissions? Perhaps those who just buy vegan.

That’s right. Choosing the right products at your supermarket can impact your carbon footprint. Jessica Marmor at the Wall Street Journal provides an in-depth analysis of different strategies at home, on the road and in the grocery store.

Mark Gongloff, staff writer at WSJ, says that “the most-difficult at-the-grocery store tactic is to go vegan, which could save 3,000 pounds of CO2 a year, or about 8% of the average American’s annual production of 40,000 pounds of CO2. The easy way? Eat whatever you want, but only as long as it’s locally made (thus cutting down on transportation). Such a tactic might keep 60 to 242 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere a year.”

Beam Me In

Lasers have come a long way since Charles Townes’ discovery. They are used for everything from supermarket checkout scanners to removing fat in liposuction, but a Silicon Valley startup PowerBeam has found another use: energy transmission.

Matt Marshall at Venture Beat says that “Using a laser to beam light, the energy of which would be used to power your laptop or other device without having to plug it in.”

Although the idea has been around for a while, beaming lasers raises concerns of safety, which the company claims to have addressed. Matt adds that “if the laser power itself were to come from solar panels, the entire energy transmission system would be solar. With venture capitalists so passionate about the clean energy area, Powerbeam may just find some backing.”

18 Seconds

18 seconds may be enough time to eat an entire hotdog, but according to Yahoo, that’s also enough time to reduce 450 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Many of us already know that by simply changing a bulb from the conventional incandescent lamp to the newer compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL), we can reduce electricity use and emissions by two-thirds or more. But on this week’s Switched, Phillip Crandall also showed us other earth friendly tips.

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley.

Nigerian Scams Move into Solar?

I received this brief missive in my email box last night. Fascinating, but true, Nigerian scams appear to be moving into solar. Does that mean solar has grown up?

The email read:

“Dear sir/Madam,

This is to introduce our co. to you that we are in Uganda (East Africa) andwe kindly request you to give us prices of the 75watts and 80watts of solarmodules Please, we kindly request you to make all pricesin USD that are cif Entebbe airport.We shall be very happy for the quckest response.

rgds Lutaya Macon the behalf of

MM. GENERAL MERNDISE PLOT NO.4 BOMBO RD P.O BOX 5435 KAMPALA UGANDA EAST AFRICATEL: +256-772-579326″

It looks like a classic Nigerian scam, where after making contact, one eventually receives the opportunity to pay or front some money, in order to unlock illgotten gains that they will pay into your account later – but of course never do.

I get one of these every day, and as usual:

– it came from a hotmail or free account but purported to represent a legit business or a scam opportunity,
– came from an African country addressed to Dear Sir/Madam,
– very polite if unsophisticated writing style (complete with abbrev.),
– had a very long generic sounding PO Box address
– had nothing to do with my business, but acted like it did (I don’t actually sell solar cells, I just write about them).

They’ve been getting more sophisticated over the years – and now rarely ask for money up front, instead trying to lure you into some sort of a business relationship first. But it’s still a Nigerian scam.

Here’s the rub – never in the 10 + years I’ve been getting these things, have I seen one using solar cells as the bait!

Obviously the solar industry’s sex appeal is transcending boundaries and attracting the “wrong” kind of attention. But that’s good right? Does it mean the industry has “made it”? Your guess is as good as mine.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Author for Inside Greentech, and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

Big Utilities vs. Big Oil

By John Addison (4/17/07) Question: What could be more American than healthy competition? Answer: Healthy competition that reduces our dependency on foreign oil. By 2010 you may be filling your “tank” by plugging-in to your electric and natural gas utility. Today fleets turn to utilities to power everything from light electric vehicles to heavy natural gas and hydrogen vehicles.

At the recent Alternative Fuels and Vehicles Institute (AVFi) National Conference, major utilities were there with exciting presentations and demonstrations. Major California utilities included Sempra Energy (SRE), Southern California Edison (EIX), and PG&E (PCG). Major automotive and truck manufacturers showed their latest alt-fuel vehicles. Globally there are over 30 million electric vehicles and over 5 million natural gas vehicles.

Vehicles give utilities added markets for electricity and natural gas, the opportunity to use excess off-peak electricity that is now wasted, and long-term opportunities to capture electricity from vehicles (V2G) when electricity is in peak demand.

Southern California Edison provides electricity to over 13 million customers. Edison’s Gordon Smith presented the ability for 70% of U.S. vehicles to be powered with off-peak electricity. Edison provides electricity to customers with thousands of electric vehicles, forklifts, sweepers, scrubbers, airport equipment, truck stop electrification, ship port electrification, and plug-in hybrids. Over 300 of Edison’s own fleet are electric vehicles. Some of its 240 Toyota RAV-4 EVs have achieved a life of up to 150,000 miles. Edison Programs

Running a utility requires large fleets including vans and trucks. Edison is aggressively testing hybrids and plug-in hybrids. SCE now is testing a DaimlerChrysler (DCX) plug-in hybrid-electric Sprinter vans with a 20 to 30-mile all-electric range through a partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the South Coast Air Quality Management District and DaimlerChrysler.

SCE is partnering with EPRI, other utilities and Eaton Corporation (ETN) to establish a program for Class 5 plug-in hybrid troubleman trucks using the Ford (F) F550. They will offer the ability to drive in an all-electric mode, and to operate in a stationary mode (without idling). The electric mode is perfect for the hours that these trucks are used at work sites and when running hydraulic lifts. The electric mode eliminates emissions, fuel cost and noise.

SCE is also working with other fleet operators through the Hybrid Truck Users Forum to place prototype heavy-duty hybrid trucks in operation, with a goal of leading to production commitments and expanded purchases. Based on initial testing of the trucks at an independent facility, these vehicles are projected to cut air emissions by up to 50%, and use 40% to 60% less fuel, compared to similar diesel-powered trucks. These trucks are likely to become a standard Class 6 offering by International, using an Eaton hybrid drive system.

AVFi presented the “Industry Pioneer” award to the Southern California Gas Company, a Sempra utility. Sempra is the nation’s largest natural gas utility, serving 29 million customers. The Gas Company owns and operates a fleet of 1,100 natural gas vehicles. It operates 26 natural gas stations. It helped LAMTA create the world’s largest fleet of natural gas buses (over 2,200). LAMTA is also expanding into buses running on hydrogen blended with CNG and battery-electric buses.

PG&E provides electricity and natural gas to over 5 million customers in California. With revenues exceeding $12 billion, PG&E has an opportunity to increase revenues one billion dollars if there is a shift from vehicles with gasoline engines to vehicles using electric propulsion.

As part of its larger environmental leadership strategy, PG&E owns and operates a clean fuel fleet of electric and fuel cell vehicles, and more than 1,100 natural gas vehicles. PG&E’s clean fuel fleet consists of service and crew trucks, meter reader vehicles and pool cars that run either entirely on compressed natural gas or have bi-fuel capabilities. Over the last 15 years, PG&E’s clean fuel fleet has displaced over 2.7 million gallons of gasoline and diesel, and helped to avoid 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

PG&E is actively field testing both battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV).

PG&E has ordered four Phoenix Motorcars (http://www.phoenixmotorcars.com/) all-electric sport utility trucks (SUTs) for June delivery. PG&E has given Phoenix a conditional order to buy 200. The Phoenix trucks have an impressive 130 mile range using Altair Nano (OTCBB: ALTI) batteries with their unique lithium titanate spinel oxide (LTO) electrode materials. Both Phoenix and Altair were on display at the AFVi Conference. Altair has claimed a breakthrough in several areas: specific power, battery life of over 10,000 charge cycles, “zero explosions and safety issues” test results, and fast charge capability. Altair Nano Batteries:

“PG&E is firmly committed to reducing our carbon foot print by using innovative alternative-fuel technologies,” said Bob Howard, PG&E vice president of gas transmission and distribution. “By adding the Phoenix Motorcars SUTs to our leading clean fuel fleet, we are taking an important step in developing a proven and necessary electric vehicle market. Electric vehicles provide a practical solution to help us reduce our dependency on petroleum-based fuels, keep California’s air clean, and meet the challenges associated with climate change.” PG&E News

Along with Edison, PG&E’s fleet was one of 14 in the country chosen to test the plug-in hybrid pilot project for a Ford F550 Super Duty Field Response Truck. PG&E currently has 350 Field Response Trucks on the road. PG&E, partnering with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, also recently placed into service a prototype Plug-in Toyota Prius to demonstrate the benefits of light-duty plug-in hybrid vehicles.

PG&E owns and operates 34 compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations, through which they supply natural gas to more than 200 commercial and private fleets throughout the PG&E system. This includes transit districts, private refuse haulers, school districts, municipalities, air/seaports, and other miscellaneous operators including taxi, package delivery, military, and private fleets.

Construction of a hydrogen fueling station in San Carlos, California is also scheduled to begin this summer. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) was awarded a California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant for the project. GTI will serve as a partner on the project, providing a mobile hydrogen unit (MHU) that uses GTI’s patented reformer technology. This self-contained unit will produce hydrogen from natural gas and condition it to serve the on-site dispenser during the development of a hydrogen fueling network in California. The hydrogen fueling station will be co-located with a publicly accessible compressed natural gas station to allow for 24/7 availability. Once sufficient demand is established, the MHU can be replaced with permanent facilities, and the unit can then be relocated.

The relationship between big oil and big utilities are complex. Oil refineries are among the world’s largest users of electricity. Oil companies are transforming into integrated energy providers that sell large quantities of natural gas to major utilities, making the utility a distribution channel for the natural gas producer. Some energy giants are expanding into wind, solar and other renewable energy.

Edison and BP have a joint venture to build a large scale electric plant that will not run on coal, not on nuclear, not on natural gas. The Carson plant will run on hydrogen and output 500 MW of electricity. By products will include enough hydrogen to inexpensively fuel thousands of vehicles in Southern California. Another byproduct will be CO2 that will be sequestered as part of increasing oil production. Hydrogen power plant details:

Edison also has an existing hydrogen fueling station in partnership with Chevron.

Currently, fleets are taking the lead with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that are developed by system integrators and specialty companies. DaimlerChrysler was at the AVFI conference with its 25 mph GEM. 40,000 have been sold. Rumors are flying that in 2008 Toyota (NYSE:TM) will begin fleet tests of its new plug-in hybrid using lithium batteries. Consumer sales may start in 2009. By 2010, Mitsubishi (MSBHY) will start selling an EV to consumers in Japan. Drivers will increasingly use electric power.

Today, utilities are powering vehicles with electricity, natural gas and hydrogen. In a few years, electric vehicles will also power homes with vehicle-to-home (V2H). Large batteries and fuel cells provide many times the electricity demand of a home. In a few more years, smart grids and intelligent power management will allow peak electricity demands to be met by utilities buying power from vehicles with vehicle-to-grid (V2G). U.C. Davis and PG&E have demonstrated V2H and V2G already.

Healthy competition is leading America to cleaner electricity and cleaner vehicles. Innovative utilities are taking an important role in the transition.

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet and publishes the Clean Fleet Report http://http://www.cah2report.com/. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish or excerpt with attribution. John owns stock in ALTI.

The Party’s Over

by Heather Rae

This past Friday, I put down the crowbar and power-downed the computer and drove to Portland to speak about home performance at a workshop, “Global Warming, Cool Solutions.” The workshop was part of a one-day conference called “Achieving Global Energy Security.”

Held in a LEED Gold-designated building, it was a provocative day sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Council of Churches, Sierra Club, Peace Action Maine and others. Unlike “silo” meetings, conventions where the choir convenes to sing to itself, this conference painted the big picture that is often missed in silos — the connections among climate change, environment, economy, energy and foreign policy, peaking oil, nuclear proliferation, the health effects and hideousness of war, and morality. Somehow, the conference planners spun the negative messages positively into workshops around solutions. Those solutions are clean energy: renewables and energy efficiency. And conservation. The conference presentations are being posted on the website: www.peaceactionme.org/.

Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times magazine (The Power of Green): “I am not proposing that we radically alter our lifestyles. We are who we are – including a car culture. But if we want to continue to be who we are, enjoy the benefits and be able to pass them on to our children, we do need to fuel our future in a cleaner, greener way.”

A photograph of an Iraqi man holding a fainting or dead young girl in his arms, her leg blown to bits, flesh and bones dangling, was still with me at 2am the night of the conference. So was Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford’s reference to Richard Heinberg’s, The Party’s Over. Dr. Ashford paused, breaking from her presentation as the audience chuckled at the image of a businessman holding a gun to his head to say, it was a fun party wasn’t it? But now the guests have gone home, and we’re left with our house in disarray. After the fossil fuel party, what will the response be of this industrialized nation addicted to oil: Will we go the way of Cuba that adapts by adopting distributed micro-solutions, or will we go the way of totalitarian North Korea and enter into dark stagnation?

The message I heard at the conference was that everyone can do his and her part, everyone can take action to find solutions to these pressing global energy-related issues. (I also heard from Efficiency Maine that it has established the first program in the country to reclaim used CFLs at the point of purchase.) This past week, seven contractors came to my house to take their field exams for the Building Performance Institute certification. In the vernacular of building science, all seven found that various parts of this old house “communicate” with one another. That is, air flows freely every which way in her balloon frame.

This old house, she’s a talker, and I’ll shut her up as best I can. Tightening up a house is not radical change. Nor is buying a hybrid car. Or screwing in an energy-efficient light bulb. But I doubt it’s enough. A while back, I sat down with an aide to Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and suggested that monies be taken from the war chest and allocated to solar R&D and market penetration. Apparently, that’s radical; the aide nodded at the suggestion, politely. It should be a lot harder to be polite in the face of the blown flesh of an innocent little girl.

Other Goings On This Week
Another party that’s over…
Pete McCloskey, a one time candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, explained his reasons for leaving the Republican party and included this: “Earth Day, that bi-partisan concept of Gaylord Nelson in 1970, has become the focus of almost hatred by today’s Republican leadership. Many still argue that global warming is a hoax, and that Bush has been right to demean and suppress the arguments of scientists at the E.P.A., Fish & Wildlife and U.S.Geological Survey. I say a pox on them and their values.”

Me too.

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.

Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance

by Richard T. Stuebi

A few weeks ago, a group of us from Cleveland made the two-hour drive down the Turnpike to Pittsburgh in order to learn more about the Green Building Alliance and to meet its leader, Rebecca Flora.

Founded in the mid-1990’s, the Green Building Alliance is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote green-building principles and activity in the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania area.

Unlike most other environmentally-oriented not-for-profits, the Green Building Alliance is exceptionally market-oriented. They tout financially-grounded value propositions to customers — in their case, primarily real estate developers — rather than promoting green buildings as “the right thing to do” to save the environment. They serve capitalists, instead of posing as tree-huggers.

Also unlike most other environmentally-oriented not-for-profits, they are having significant and seemingly-scalable impact. Though a mid-market city, Pittsburgh is frequently recognized as a hot-bed of green building activity, a leader among U.S. cities, ranking alongside San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. (Yes, Pittsburgh!) And, from an economic development perspective, this activity is generating a cluster of product and services businesses specializing in green buildings, with revenue opportunities far beyond the Pittsburgh region.

I speculate that their uncommon impact is highly correlated with their uncommon focus on customer needs. It’s perhaps a good case study for other environmental not-for-profits to understand.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh community for their achievements so far in revitalizing themselves economically and environmentally through an increasing commitment to sustainable buildings — and to the Green Building Alliance for playing such a vital role in catalyzing this regeneration.

Of course, much of the success of the Green Building Alliance owes to the dynamic leadership of Ms. Flora, and to sustained financial support from the local philanthropic sector, particularly The Heinz Endowments. Kudos to them. Such boldness is rare, but hopefully their encouraging example will inspire many others to follow.

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

Gambling on Global Warming

Gambling on global warming? It sounds like a really bad made-for-the-internet soap opera. But apparently at one online betting site, you actually can. So move over carbon trading and Sir Nicholas Stern – Vegas is weighing in on the true likelihood of damages from climate change.

I figured that rated a column on a lazy Friday the 13th afternoon. And while not for the not for faint of heart – here are the bets and the odds listed on their website:

“Will any of the following occur?
Hollywood will be under water before 2015 +10000
A major motion picture studio will be under water +5000
A celebrity sea-side will be under water bef 2015 +500
“Water World” becoming a reality +30000

Which will cause more damage in California?
Global warming +5000
Earthquakes -9999″

You can look it up at BetUs.com under their sportsbook “other”. According to one news story on the subject, they have received over 3,000 bets.

My preference, let’s just invest in cleantech and next generation energy technologies and actually try to solve the problem, but if you happen to prefer to spend your money in casinos, be my guest.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Author for Inside Greentech, and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

HAVOC

by Heather Rae

It must have been the mid-70s, because my brother, sister and I could fit together comfortably on the library couch. It must have been a Friday night, because we were deep into an episode of The Brady Bunch. The Public Service Announcement might have come on, the one with a man’s most serious overtone, “It’s 10pm, do you know where your children are?” We knew where we were, we just didn’t know where our mother, a single parent who sometimes worked three jobs, might be.

That’s when the boiler blew. Or exploded. At least, it boomed, and I remember the sense of the couch poofing. The sensation was likely fear elevating our senses out of a tete-a-tete between Greg and Marcia. Not knowing what to do, and the boiler in the dirt floor basement being a mystery and cause of much consternation for all when the basement would flood and when my mother couldn’t quite pay the oil delivery company, we decided the best thing to do that night was to watch The Partridge Family.

Many years later, I was given the job of managing the marketing of a rebate program for energy-efficient air conditioners. I think of it as “the pink slip” assignment — an indication that my days at the coal-loving, anti-clean energy, anti-demand-side-management utility were numbered. (They were.) Several of us utility “marketers” sat around a big table. My colleagues volleyed the word “HVAC” across the expansive room with aplomb. In a rare exercise in calculated self-preservation, I kept silent. This HVAC would reveal itself. It did. For good reason, the term has an alliterative resemblance to havoc — were one to try to sound out the H, instead of saying the letter, which is, I learned, what one does.

In building science, heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) is one of the harder elements to fully grasp: the ‘right-sizing’ of systems, ductwork and radiant distribution systems, the options for fuel switching, combustion efficiencies and proper venting of noxious gases and humidity.

I’ve been evaluating my HVAC options in this old house in Maine — options that are constrained by the reality of what’s already here, options that will be further constrained by economics. The house has a functioning, though not “state-of-the-art”, oil furnace — in a dirt-floored basement. The furnace vents into a deteriorating and unlined chimney. There’s a new Norwegian natural gas (propane) standalone stove in the master bedroom upstairs that vents through the wall. The house is heated primarily with wood that warms only the northern half of the house. The coolness of the southern side may explain, in part, why the chimney is ailing (that and the water that has seeped through poorly flashed roofing and a seasonal barrage of corrosive gases). There are no ducts to the second floor, meaning that the upstairs is heated, primarily, by gravity. A painfully expensive electric hot water heater that takes up a fair chunk of a makeshift kitchen heats the house’s hot water.

Given my druthers, I’d chuck all of it but the wood burning stove and start from scratch. Now that I’m a big girl, who can’t just sit on the couch and watch The Partridge Family, I’m facing the havoc in this old house. I have a few ideas.

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.

Order in the Court

by Richard Stuebi

This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark verdict against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

NYT article

In essence, the verdict demands that EPA justify why it should continue to exempt carbon dioxide from being regulated as a pollutant, given the increasing evidence that climate change is an urgent environmental problem and that CO2 is a major contributor to it.

It’s getting harder to see how the U.S. government will be able to avoid taking material action soon to deal with carbon dioxide emissions.

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, Inc.

Which Way to the Sun? Where is Solar Headed?

I had a chance to talk with David Hochschild, the outgoing Executive Director of PV Now about his thoughts on the solar industry and recent changes. PVNow is an industry association that, among other things, helped lobby for the net metering and the solar initiative in California and increased RPS standards in Texas and New Jersey. David is a well-known advocate and speaker on solar issues.

David, can you give us a bit of background as to PV Now, and your role in the industry?

Sure. I co-founded Vote Solar in 2002 after working on the $100 M solar bond campaign in San Francisco. More info at http://www.votesolar.org/. For the last year, I have been Executive Director of PV Now, the consortium of major solar companies, working to promote pro-solar policy at the state level.

While PV is the only viable solution for small point of use electric generation, solar thermal is generally considered a hugely more economic solar solution at multi-megawatts scale than PV, but PV gets all the press in its drive to compete with the grid at large scale. Why is that? Understanding that your focus is PV, how would you like to see solar thermal fit in the solution set?

Am a huge fan of solar thermal and am getting a thermal system installed on my house this weekend, actually. I think PV gets more attention in California partly because we experienced an energy crisis that was really an electricity crisis and the blackouts were an electricity problem. But the contribution solar thermal can make is very real and very important and I think the passage of the ITC bill this year, if it happens, will do a great deal for solar thermal. States like Hawaii and countries like Israel already have a 30% market penetration for solar thermal and there’s no reason CA couldn’t as well. A little known fact – the country with the most solar thermal in the world is China. My personal view is that US should be leading in both PV and solar thermal and that if we can get the 8 year solar tax credit bill passed this year (HR 550), we will be in position to retake the lead.

It feels like there has been a changing of the guard in terms of the leaders in PV module production. What’s your take? Who would you rank as the up and comers?

I think China is emerging and we’ll see companies like Suntech really continue to grow rapidly. Older industry leaders, like BP, that used to dominate, are now sliding down the rankings of PV manufacturers. It’s also a good time for American solar manufacturers like SunPower and Evergreen, which are growing fast and are aided by the emergence of more state-based US PV markets like PA, TX, NJ, and AZ, in addition to CA.

And similarly on the integrator and installer side – what does the future hold? How do these companies best survive in a much more competitive environment?

I think there will be a major changing of the guard here too and things will get more sophisticated, which is long overdue. The installation cost of PV in Germany is about 30% less than the US so there is a lot of cost cutting to be found in installation. The savings are not just going to come from better manufacturing. Things like mountings systems, electronic shade analysis, snap-connects, better installation methods, customer energy calculators, reducing the # of site visits, all these factors bring down costs.

PV concentrators – I have long felt that concentrators are in a catch-22: if PV module costs don’t fall rapidly (as the industry works hard to drive them down), then the solar industry will struggle anyway, but if PV costs do fall as rapidly as expected – then why would the industry need concentrator technology whose primary advantage is reducing the amount of PV module? What’s your take?

If you are referring to technologies like Solaria’s – that take a concentrating lens and amplifly the amount of light on a PV panel – that will move forward and be important no matter what happens to the cost of PV because the lens will always be cheaper than silicon and the benefit you get from them is profound. I am optimistic about this sector in particular because, if they get it right, it could bring PV costs for conventional silicon technology down by 30% or more, fairly quickly. But there are still obstacles to be worked out such as heat gain and how you deal with that, which is a major issue in PV performance.

And where the rubber meets the road, do you have a PV system on your roof? If so, who did you buy it from, whose technology did you pick and why? If not, whose technology would you use?

I live in San Francisco by Dolores park and my wife and I have a 2kW system on our house that we installed in 2000. BP panels. If I were doing it today, I would opt for a higher efficiency panel such as SunPower.

After thinking about it a bit, I’d asked David to clarify a couple of his comments.

Can you elaborate a little on large solar thermal – like parabolic trough projects. I see little reason to do a large grid connected 5-10+ MW PV system, instead of a solar trough system. What are your thoughts on the competitive situation between PV and solar thermal trough power as PV tries to get to “grid scale”?

You’re absolutely right about CSP. I just visited the new CSP plant outside Las Vegas – 64 MW. And it is a superior technology for central station solar generation. No question. And that will only get better as newer synthetic oils come on to the market that can be heated to hotter temperatures than are currently possible (750 degrees is about the limit and that is a major constraint on how much power CSP can produce but this is likely to change soon). The federal ITC was the only reason that Nevada CSP plant got built so we can expect a lot more if the ITC gets extended.

I think the role that PV is best suited for is rooftop applications and there is so much available roofspace in this country, it’s ridiculous. So large scale PV is great, but in my view, it is best for rooftops rather than deserts.

Also, as to our discussion on changing of the guard, BP Solar among others has announced some major expansions.

Does this indicate that the “old guard” is likely to retake market share? It has been suggested to me that the some of the market share changes were related to silicon supply constraints that are now easing.

Regarding BP, yes they are making capacity expansions, but so is everyone. Nobody in this sector is NOT growing. The question is how fast they are growing. And I do think we are witnessing a major shakeup and many of the companies that were top market leaders over the last 5 years will not be over the next 5 years.

Myself, I tend to agree with David on this. While it is hard to pin down winners and losers, rapidly growing markets and changing competitive dynamics and cost curves do not make for stable market shares. It will be interesting to watch.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Author for Inside Greentech, and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

Clearing the Way

by Heather Rae

This past week I went by my town office to pick up a copy of the guidelines for the town’s “holding area.” In Montgomery County, Maryland this place was called “the beauty spot,” a rural transfer station for waste to be, more or less, properly disposed. It was proven to be an easy, cost-effective and, yes, beautifying alternative to mattress-and-old-stove-by-the-side-of-the-country-road and the oil-and-paint-in-the-yard dumping. It was also a great place to swap usable items. I don’t recall a fee for disposal of anything at “the beauty spot” nor the waste transfer station in Gaithersburg where I took the household trash that couldn’t be composted; it was covered through taxes. Still, at our farmhouse, the previous owner had dug a giant hole on the property and burned and buried his trash there, instructing our neighbors not to spill the beans to the new owners, us. The neighbors fessed up that the ever-sinking depression in the lawn next to the cheesily constructed greenhouse was our personal dump. The lawn dumper was a doctor who wore overalls and doused his garden with herbicides and pesticides the smell of which would drift over to the homes of these neighbors who gardened organically and harvested honey from their own bee hives.
At my town office, a man in line repeatedly refered to the transfer station as “the dump” and he was repeatedly corrected by the clerk, “the holding area.” I paid my $1.00 fee for a “Dump Sticker” (looks like they need to work on branding) and perused the regulations on the walk home. There are three piles growing in my yard — one of wood without paint, one of painted wood, one of cement chunks (the old front steps that someone scattered around the property.) There’s also a 100 cubic foot dumpster that I filled to the gills with rubbish, trash, refuse hauled out from above, in and under the old summer kitchen. That dumpster alone is expected to cost me $400 for disposal. I have cornered a pile of usable items indoors like lighting ballasts and curtain rods that will go to one of the building materials outlets, Building Materials Exchange or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
And, someday I will have a collection of dead compact fluorescent bulbs. Per the “holding area” regulations, these bulbs are UNACCEPTABLE WASTES and should be dropped off at another site where I will be charged $.50 per lamp. It’s not like the bulbs are the only unacceptable waste…all that wood covered in lead paint can’t be beautified. And I should separate out the treated wood. The more I try to figure out the “holding area” regulations, the more confused I become about what can go where and what costs what to heave and who can actually do the heaving. Some aspects of upper Montgomery County, Maryland, I could do without, like the politics, but I can tell you this: I sure do miss “the beauty spot.”

Other Goings On This Week:
While the EU is urging the US to get real about climate change, and the courts have ruled that the EPA does have oversight over carbon dioxide, Rush Limbaugh continues to rant about climate change as a hoax perpetuated by Hollywood liberals and Al Gore and their friends in the Supreme Court.

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.

Crude Impact

by Richard T. Stuebi

A few weeks ago at the Cleveland International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to serve on a discussion panel for a recently-released documentary entitled Crude Impact.

Crude Impact aims to portray all of the various social ills — political instability in the Middle East, corruption and poverty in the developing world, air pollution and environmental degradation, sprawl and traffic — associated with modern society’s reliance on oil. After establishing all of the disturbing challenges associated with oil, Crude Impact closes with a somewhat perversely optimistic punchline: “peak oil” — the maximum rate of extraction from our planet for the finite stock of oil that was left from pre-history — is surely coming, and no matter what economic or geopolitical crises that phenomenon will precipitate, at least the decline of oil will put an end to all of the miseries that oil underlies.

On balance, I give Crude Impact a “thumbs-up”. Without falling into despair, it clearly tells a number of stories related to petroleum through various lenses, and weaves these stories together to paint an overall damning picture of oil in a compelling manner.

I might suggest double-billing Crude Impact with An Inconvenient Truth, which focuses on the planetary impacts of global climate change without spending much time on the primary culprit: our seemingly insatiable desire to consume fossil fuels. Crude Impact seizes unflinchingly on this root cause, and is effective in reinforcing a sense of urgency to further commit to reducing our use of energy generally, and oil in particular.

The one criticism I have of the film is that it places a lot of blame for propagating oil demand on a variety of social segments — governments in the U.S. and worldwide, oil companies, auto manufacturers, the media — without fingering the ultimate precipitator: the consumers who have been completely complicit all along the way in creating our energy and environmental crises. The makers of Crude Impact tend to shun ascribing responsibility to the viewer, the average citizen, for any of the planetary woes we face due to society’s oil addiction.

If we are to have impact in changing the world for the better, we can’t fall prey to the passive negativity of laying all of the fault on other bigger parties that are supposedly more powerful than the individual. We have to own up to our role in causing our current problems, by being undemanding and unquestioning consumers. Once we see vividly our integral part in the drama, we lose the sense of being hopeless victims, and can act with much deeper resolve towards changing our path forward to a more hopeful 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, Inc.