Public Transportation uses more Renewable Energy

By John Addison (9/30/09). More Americans ride on public transit than any time in the past 50 years as more live in cities and most watch their transportation costs. Remarkably, transit operators are moving more people, yet reducing our dependency on oil and generating less carbon emissions. Increased use of solar, other renewables, vehicle electrification, and low-carbon fuels are all part of solution.

New Jersey Transit is preparing for a future where parked cars can be charged with sunlight while people use public transportation. New Jersey Transit is installing 402 kW solar canopies on the rooftops of two large parking garages at the Trenton Amtrak Transit center.

These parking structures are also equipped with 110v charging stations for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Participating in the opening ceremony was the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars (MAGIC) consortium, which includes the University of Delaware, Pepco Holdings, PJM Interconnect, Comverge, AC Propulsion, and the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, created to further develop, test, and demonstrate vehicle-to-grid technology.

A few years ago, Los Angeles Metro invested $5 million to install 2MW of solar power as part of a three-year plan to install solar panels on every Metro Bus and Rail facility within its Los Angeles County service area. For example, the solar panels installed on Metro Bus Division 18’s maintenance building rooftop and shading parking structures consist of about 1,600 solar panels that generate 417 kilowatts of electricity, enough power pay for itself in 10 to 11 years.
Now LA Metro will receive $4,466,000 to make its rail system more energy efficient. Red Line Westlake Rail Wayside Energy Storage System: Install wayside energy storage substation (WESS) at Westlake passenger station is at-grade level on the high-speed heavy rail subway Red Line. The nearby traction power substation will be switched off when the WESS is operating. The WESS flywheel technology captures regenerative braking energy when trains slow or stop and transfer back to same train or another train when it starts or accelerates, reducing energy demand and peak power requirements.

This month, the federal administration announced $100 million in Economic Recovery Act funding for 43 transit agencies that are pursuing cutting-edge renewable energy and efficiency technologies to help reduce global warming, lessen America’s dependence on oil, and create green jobs. The 43 winning proposals were submitted by transit agencies from across the country as part of a nationwide competition for $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds. Selection criteria included a project’s ability to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and also to provide a return on the investment. The Federal Transit Administration reviewed more than $2 billion in applications for these funds.

AC Transit in Oakland, California, is awarded $6,400,000 to increase photovoltaic capacity to generate “green” hydrogen: Install multiple PV modules at its Central Maintenance Facility in Hayward. Combined with AC Transit’s already-installed solar capacity, this solar installation will produce the renewable electricity equivalent to what will be required to produce 180 kg/day of “green” hydrogen for 12 buses carrying up to 5,000 riders daily, for the current 3 zero-emission buses that carry about 1,000 riders daily.

VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, Texas, was awarded $5,000,000 to replace conventional diesel transit buses with 35-ft composite body electric transit buses. The project includes quick-charging stations at this terminal layover in route to recharge bus batteries. Grid sourced electrical energy used to recharge the bus batteries will be augmented with solar energy collected with panels procured and installed under this project.

The nation is becoming less dependent on oil as record numbers escape solo driving in gridlock and increasingly use public transit. Electrification of light-rail and buses coupled with renewable energy makes this transportation greener.

Clean Fleet Report Summary of RE Projects

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Money Walks, Fossil Fuel Talks

by Richard T. Stuebi

as posted to Huffington Post
Earlier in September, a group of investors from around the world with over $13 trillion under management issued a statement calling on governments to agree at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December to require greenhouse gas emission reductions of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
$13 trillion. That’s a lot of money. It’s the kind of money that makes decision-makers sit up and take note.

This money is telling world leaders that maintaining the status quo — of essentially doing nothing substantive to mitigate the prospects for human-induced climate change — will be expensive and risky relative to undertaking prudent and prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Since investors are the engine of the global economy, without which productive growth cannot occur, you’d think that industries seeking to be major players in world markets for decades to come would want to be arm-in-arm with the big sources of capital.
In few industries is access to capital as critical as the conventional energy industry. It takes billions of dollars to make a major oil discovery or build a new baseload powerplant. Energy requires massive amounts of capital, no two ways about it. And, in a world where energy demand growth has resumed and is likely to continue unabated to satisfy the increasing appetites of China, India and other developing economies, many trillions of dollars will need to be obtained by energy industry players from the world’s capital markets in the decades to come.
Yet, many of the main purveyors of fossil fuels — the bedrock of the energy sector — are fundamentally at odds with the growing ranks of investors clamoring for global government action on climate change.

For instance, here in the U.S., an “astroturf” (i.e., false grassroots) organization called Energy Citizens, backed (according to this recent article in The Economist) by the American Petroleum Institute and other oil/gas interests, is sponsoring rallies around the country denouncing the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House a few months ago — a bill that would lead to substantially less emission reductions than the aforementioned investors wants to see.

Now, it must be said that the fossil fuel industry — oil, gas and coal — represents one of the strongest aggregations of political muscle on the planet. And, although maybe not as much as the financial centers of the planet, the energy companies have plenty of financial resources to throw at an opposing “call to inaction”. After all, consumers worldwide spend roughly $5 trillion per year on energy, putting lots of dough in the coffers of the energy suppliers.
So, over the coming months running up to Copenhagen, it will be interesting to see which side can amass more force: finance or fossil fuels.

In the U.S., it is doubtful that any climate change bill will become law this year, with Congress being mired in the ongoing health care debate. Without a U.S. climate bill passed in Congress, representatives in Copenhagen will be challenged to achieve anything meaningful. Thus, the fossil fuel folks may well win this round of the battle.

But the energy companies must remember that they will need to go to the capital markets, hat-in-hand, many times in the coming decades if they want continued successful growth. And, investors are going to be less and less willing to fund management teams for business growth if the same management teams are stifling progress on something that represents a bigger wealth-destroying factor for their overall portfolios.

Energy companies like to say that they fuel the economy. That may be true, but capital fuels the economy at least as much — and fuels the energy companies to boot.
In the long-run, I’d put my bets on the money managers making change happen, than on the energy industry preventing change from happening. Because when money walks away from them, all that fossil fuel interests will have are declining resource extraction businesses starving for capital. All they will have left, is talk. And talk is cheap.

As the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at the Cleveland Foundation, Richard T. Stuebi is on loan to NorTech as a founding Principal in its advanced energy initiative. He is also a Managing Director at Early Stage Partners, and is the founder of NextWave Energy.

Offshore Wind: Europe Now, U.S. When?

by Richard T. Stuebi

Every two years, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) holds a major conference on offshore wind energy.

The last time EWEA convened its offshore event, in December 2007 in Berlin, the mood was relatively somber. Several major offshore wind projects had been completed, but had run into unforeseen technical and economic challenges. European policies and regulations for the next phase of offshore wind energy were in flux. Although everyone was convinced that offshore wind was going to be a significant growth sector in the European energy mix, there were real doubts as to when such opportunities would actually come to fruition.

Last week, EWEA held their 2009 offshore event in Stockholm, where 4,750 attendees (up from about 2,000 in Berlin two years ago) congregated to celebrate what is now clearly emerging: a boom in offshore wind in Europe over the next decade. EWEA projects 50 gigawatts of offshore wind installed by 2020. With 20 gigawatts of projected installation, the United Kingdom is making a play to steal (or at least share) German leadership in offshore wind manufacturing and deployment.

Wind manufacturers are clearly bullish. Recently, Siemens (XETRA: SIE) has established a separate business unit for offshore wind, with well over 100 employees — and still hiring. Also, General Electric (NYSE: GE) acquired ScanWind, a Scandanavian turbine manufacturer, to gain a product specifically designed for offshore application, thereby getting back in the offshore game after retrenching in the wake of its initial foray in Arklow Ireland a few years ago. At the exhibition, Vestas (NASDAQ OMS Copenhagen: VMS) unveiled a new model, the V112-3.0, for the offshore market.

So, the offshore wind industry seems to be really taking off – in Europe. Here in the U.S., as is the case with so many things on the energy front, we’re years behind.

In its industry roadmap, projecting how the U.S. could achieve the aspiration (set by both the Bush and Obama Administrations) in which 20% of the nation’s electricity supply would come from wind energy by 2030, analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that about 50 gigawatts would probably need to come from offshore wind. This is not because there’s insufficient onshore wind resource in the U.S., but rather, that most of this resource is too far removed from demand centers in the East and access to transmission would be problematic.

Developers are increasingly exploring opportunities in U.S. offshore wind, mainly along the North Atlantic, due to favorable policies and market conditions in states like New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island. In the Great Lakes — likely to be a separate market from the Atlantic for geographic and logistics reasons — the Cleveland area is pursuing offshore wind, and so are parties in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.

While the private sector is most eager (and naturally so) to find lucrative profit opportunities, civic leaders in each of these areas are taking steps to encourage offshore wind from a job-creation perspective, aiming to attract manufacturing activity and all of the logistics services – shipping, engineering, installation, maintenance – that come with significant development of offshore windfarms.

The good news is that many of these jobs for offshore wind pretty much have to be done locally. The bad news is that, at least when it comes to technological leadership in offshore wind, the U.S. has pretty much absent from that game, with the massive 10 MW Brittania design by Clipper Windpower (AIM: CWP) being the only American exception — although, it should be noted, its initial deployment is planned for the U.K.

The worse news is that offshore wind is not on a track to becoming a significant activity in the U.S. for at least 5 and probably more like 10 years. In the above-noted DOE study, offshore wind penetration only begins in the late 20-teens. This is because there’s nowhere near the degree of policy commitment to offshore wind in the U.S. as is seen in Europe. In turn, this is because Europe has less developable land, greater renewable energy and environmental aspirations, and higher electricity prices than the U.S.

So, akin to Thomas Friedman’s “Have A Nice Day” op-ed piece in the New York Times last week, the U.S. has clearly abdicated leadership in offshore wind to other countries.

Until the profit prospects become significant, developers will find it challenging to explore offshore wind energy opportunities in the U.S. For the U.S. market to really bloom, this puts the burden on the suppliers of offshore windfarms – not just the turbine manufacturers, but also those who are working on foundation, erection and shipping designs – to drive the costs of offshore wind down to competitive levels in a timely fashion (10 years?).

The private sector is likely to need a “carrot”, in the form of some supportive public policy, to make the investments in technological advancement for offshore wind energy that ultimately produce a self-sustaining growth industry.

As the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at the Cleveland Foundation, Richard T. Stuebi is on loan to NorTech as a founding Principal in its advanced energy initiative. He is also a Managing Director at Early Stage Partners, and is the founder of NextWave Energy.

Cash is King in Renewable Energy Development

It is a buyer’s market for those developing large wind, solar, bioenergy, biofuel, and other renewable energy projects. In 2009, land is less expensive , equipment cost less, deliveries are faster, and warranties longer. It is a buyer’s market if you have cash, yet it continues to be a difficult time to secure debt financing. This message was consistent from the majority attending the FRA Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Summit this week. I chaired the renewable fuels track and had a chance to talk with a number of developers and financers of renewable energy and fuels.

Demand for renewable energy is at a record high as U.S. utilities in about 30 states struggle to meet RPS (renewable Portfolio Standards). These utilities want to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) for 5 to 20 years of wind power, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and other renewable production. In the future, to meet targets these utilities may need to directly develop, own, and operate these RE plants. Many would need PUC (public utility commission) approval to make this part of their business model.

RE has been a historic opportunity for developers who would take projects through 3 to five years of analysis, regulatory approvals, securing equity and debt financing, buying equipment, program management, and operating the plant. Now, few investors and lenders have the appetite for risk, as projects such as ethanol plants have gone bankrupt.
Credit worthiness of developers, utilities and end users are scrutinized. For example, major public real estate owners of buildings, hotels, and shopping centers that want MW of solar cannot get the RE because their corporation or REIT has a sub-prime debt rating.

Risk is intensified as redundant regulation and NIMBY (not in my backyard) opposition can delay installation of high-voltage lines for 7 to 10 years from wind or solar farm to major cities that need more electricity. Even billionaire Boone Pickens was unwilling to tie-up money for that period of time.

New high-voltage lines can be done. Prairie Wind went from zero to a transmitting 345kV line in less than 3 years. It is now optimistic about completing a 110 mile 765kV transmission system in Kansas. Prairie Wind Transmission is a joint venture of Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America — a joint venture of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. ITC Great Plains (ITC) and Prairie Wind Transmission are authorized to build different segments of the Kansas V-Plan.

Although large-scale RE development in 2009 is beyond the financing capabilities of most entrepreneurs, it is an opportunity for major public companies with investment-grade bond ratings such as FPL Energy (FPL), GE Energy (GE), Iberdrola Renovables (IBR.MC), and EDF Energy Nouvelles (EEN.PA). Wall Street analysts are forecasting record 2009 and 2010 earnings for Iberdrola and EDF.

Smaller wind and solar developers find that new developments are possible, though more difficult. Utilities are standardizing RFPs and making conditions more reasonable. Private equity money is available if investors can be convinced of high returns and low risk. David Perlman, Managing Director with investment banker Fieldstone Private Capital Group, reports that, “Liquidity is returning, but with fewer banks than before economic crisis, smaller lending commitments, shorter maturities, and club deals rather than syndications. Bankers might offer construction terms and an operating loan of no more than five years for developments that show little risk.

The ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) has helped and hurt. More federal bureaucracy and slower release of money is reported. New wind and solar deals are more likely to use ITC than PTC. The cash flow for an ITC is sooner and more predictable. For many projects, the new Treasury Department Grant is even more favorable than ITC. Tax-exempt bonds are another avenue for financing RE projects reported John M. May, Managing Director of investment banker Stern Brothers. He identifies bioenergy and biofuel from solid waste are good targets for tax-exempt bonds.

Wind and solar developments are difficult. Biofuel debt financing is next to impossible according to conference participants. Bankrupt corn ethanol plants are being sold for pennies on the dollar, with Valero’s (VLO) purchase of VeraSun assets being a prime example. Clean Fleet Ethanol Report. Cellulosic plants and algal fuel pilots are moving forward for those who have received equity investments in the tens and hundreds of millions, and do not require bank financing, including Abengoa, Enerkem, Mascoma, Poet, Sapphire, and Synthetic Genomics to name a few.

The demand is growing for renewable energy and fuels. The rewards are significant for the patient investor who can moderate risk with a portfolio of RE projects at various stages of approval. In 2009, the year of the Great Recession, cash is king.

John Addison speaks at cleantech and renewable energy conferences. He publishes the Clean Fleet Report. Disclosure: he owns stock in Iberdrola Renovables, EDF Energy Nouvelles and some wind and solar manufacturers.

Northeast Ohio’s Place in the Advanced Energy Universe

by Richard T. Stuebi

On September 1, the Fund for Our Economic Future – a collaboration of philanthropic organizations in Northeast Ohio – approved a $1.7 million grant to launch a new advanced energy initiative at NorTech, whose mission is technology-based economic development for the region.

This new initiative (stay tuned for a sexy name, to be announced soon!) will become the “center of gravity” or “focal point” for all things advanced energy in the 21 counties of Northeast Ohio. It will also play meaningful roles in coordinating or leading large-scale multi-constituency projects that offer the potential for transformational economic impact in the region.

Representing the Cleveland Foundation, I have worked with NorTech leadership for nearly a year to develop the plan for the initiative, and will be lent to NorTech by the Foundation to serve as a Principal for the initiative.

Although I am pleased with the successes achieved since I joined the Foundation to lead its advanced energy work in March 2006, I am joining this new initiative with enthusiasm, as I am optimistic that the broad reach, resources and support afforded by NorTech will enable an even greater degree of impact.

Given limited resources, we will be unable to pursue an unbounded agenda. Rather, we must remain focused, building on our strengths (which are substantial), and avoiding “me-too” strategies just because other areas are gaining good traction in attractive sectors.

We know we’re joining an already active game: to illustrate, look at the organizations emplaced in Michigan (NextEnergy) and New York (STEP: Saratoga Technology + Energy Park) to pursue similar missions for regional economic development via advanced energy technologies. Indeed, instead of viewing the others as competitors to whom we might “lose”, we must view our colleagues elsewhere as potential collaborators, employing a “win-win” mentality, because we’re all on the same planet together.

I am more confident than ever that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio can be a major player in the advanced energy economy of the future. Even now, we are already a globally-significant factor in fuel cell R&D, wind energy manufacturing, and efficient lighting technologies. Not only can we extend and deepen these clusters, but we have already-extant seeds and shoots in other sectors – such as waste-to-energy, energy storage, alternative fuels, advanced nuclear designs, and power “informatics” (sensors, controls and intelligence) – that can serve as the nuclei for new clusters.

I thank the Fund for Our Economic Future for its significant grant to launch this important new initiative, NorTech for its recognition that advanced energy must become one of the key technological legs for the revitalization of the Northeast Ohio economy, and the Cleveland Foundation for its overall leadership in putting advanced energy on the region’s map of consciousness. All of us in Northeast Ohio – and elsewhere – should give similar thanks.

Northeast Ohio may not, yet, be a world-leader in advanced energy. But at least we’ve got a growing number of oars in the water, paddling with increasing effectiveness in the same direction as the leaders, with whom we eagerly seek to partner.

Richard T. Stuebi is the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at the Cleveland Foundation, and is also a Managing Director at Early Stage Partners.

A Smart Grid Requires Smart Utilities

by Richard T. Stuebi

In my more cynical moments, I might quip that the phrase “smart utility” is oxymoronic.

For sure, most utilities remain captive to technologies that are decades old. And, unquestionably, some utilities are managed by people and within cultures that seem to be stuck in the middle 20th Century (or even more obsolete).

But, some utilities are clearly more advanced than others. In an article published in the July/August edition of Intelligent Utility, Rick Nicholson and H. Christine Richards of IDC Energy Insights provide their assessment of which utilities are leading the pack towards a “smart grid”.

A clear pattern emerges: the first six utilities at the top of the list – Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), Austin Energy, Edison International (NYSE: EIX), Oncor, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) and CenterPoint Energy (NYSE: CNP) – are all based in either California or Texas.

In these two states, the combination of retail energy competition and policies to support renewable energy and energy efficiency has spurred these utilities to be ahead of the pack relative to their peers elsewhere in the country. In turn, this should serve them well as they build new business models for the electricity business in the 21st Century.

There are probably many observers that would claim that the significant electricity policy changes over the past 10 years have harmed Texas and California more than they have helped. Perhaps. However, longer-term, legislators and regulators in Texas and California have arguably done their citizens and their utilities a great favor by pushing the policy envelope, because it is likely that customers in these states that will soonest benefit from the adoption of smart grid technologies.

Smart utilities are the future. Those utilities that didn’t show up on this list are at risk of being left out in the dark as the electric industry transforms itself in the coming decades.

Richard T. Stuebi is the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also Managing Director of Early Stage Partners.

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

Ener1 (HEV) took the lead among a group of investors that plans to inject $47 million of equity funding into Think Global AS, the Norwegian electric vehicle producer. Ener1 effectively expands its existing 10 percent stake to a 31 percent stake in Think. Ener1 is the parent company of EnerDel, a leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion automotive battery systems and an existing supplier to Think.

Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer stated, “Ener1 and Think have collaborated for years on systems development, and today possess a unique ability to bring together category-leading technologies in a fully integrated platform, to suit a wide variety of vehicle applications.” Ener1 appears to be pursuing a business model similar to Bosch Automotive and Magna (MGA). Gassenheimer added, “As a key battery supplier and now partner in the production and marketing of electric drivetrain solutions for a range of next-generation vehicles, Ener1 looks forward to a strong future relationship with this industry leader.”

EnerDel and Think have also agreed to enter into a new long-term battery supply agreement as part of the transaction. EnerDel will receive certain exclusivity rights for the supply of lithium manganese titanate batteries for Think’s current and upcoming new vehicle models.

“This investment cements our partnership with one of the leading advanced battery manufacturers in the world,” said Think CEO Richard Canny. “In addition to ensuring supply of high-performance battery systems, the new deal will enable us to more fully capitalize on our advantage in the marketplace with the only ‘plug-and-play’ electric vehicle drive system with prismatic lithium-ion technology.”

Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include the military, grid storage and other growing markets.

Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology-based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.

Think is a pioneer in electric vehicles, and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. Think is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to market a ‘plug and play’ mobility solution in the business-to-business sector.

The equity funding allows financially struggling Think to exit court protection and resume normal operations with the production of the ready-to-market TH!NK City.
Also participating in Think’s restructuring is Valmet Automotive, a provider of automotive engineering and manufacturing services of premium cars. In 40 years the company has produced over 1,100,000 high-quality vehicles in Finland. Valmet Automotive manufactures Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman for Porsche AG. The manufacturing of Fisker Karma hybrid vehicle starts in 2009. The company is a part of Metso.

Diversifying into system integration around a technology platform is an intelligent strategy for Ener 1 who faces tough competition from battery giants who have joint ventures and strategic relationships with major auto makers. Competition includes Panasonic, Hitachi, NEC, LG Chem, and Johnson Controls-Saft.

By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Reclaiming Carbon Offsets

by Molly Aeck

While channel surfing a few months ago, I came across a Law & Order episode, in which the murder victim had been running a carbon credit scam… seriously. It’s no wonder that when people ask me what I do, I never tell them that I work for a “carbon credit” company or an “offset provider”. I awkwardly explain around these words like a game of $100,000 Pyramid, but am much less likely to trigger someone’s word-recall of a media story that dismissed offsets as a conspiracy. When I buy myself time to talk about my experience hunting down emission reductions, prior to introducing the buzzwords, the listener is usually more receptive to the logic behind using a market to uncover least-cost abatement opportunities.

It seems to me that in the three+ years I’ve worked for EcoSecurities public impressions of carbon offsetting have wavered dramatically. In 2005, the Clean Development Mechanism was the newest shiny tool for channeling investment from industrial countries to assist developing countries in leapfrogging dirty development. In 2007, a different company was going “carbon neutral” every day. But shortly thereafter came websites like CheatNeutral and reports dismissing the CDM as failed before we even had a chance to learn by doing. Now, US policy makers are designing cap and trade legislation as though the last decade of emissions trading never happened.

I would no sooner get into an argument about the superiority of a carbon market to a carbon tax than I would a debate about scientific evidence of global warming. Someone else can make the arguments with data and graphs. However, when I’m not busy avoiding the subject entirely, I am at times compelled to defend the CDM and the value of offsets from a purely experiential stand point.

My adventures in carbon trading began when I received a Fulbright scholarship to spend a year in the Philippines researching project financing for renewable energy. At that time, a 33 MW wind plant in Ilocos Norte was the first and only project to have obtained CERs in the country, but I visited with dozens of companies pursuing CER revenue to finance technologies ranging from bagasse co-gen at sugar mills to large-scale geothermal. It was on one such site visit that I was introduced to EcoSecurities, which owned anaerobic digester projects at 16 different piggeries.

I joined EcoSecurities as their local project manager in the Philippines and sought out to secure “host-nation approval” for these projects. Getting things in order was no easy task. I won’t get into details, but it involved calibrating biogas meters, hosting stakeholder meetings in rural barangay halls, training local “pollution control officers”, and navigating the nebulous world of environmental permitting in a developing country. I didn’t need a verification report to tell me that the emissions reductions from these projects were real – I took part every day in creating their additionality. I also experienced the desired co-benefits firsthand; the water was dramatically cleaner, the air smelled better, clean local electricity replaced dirty diesel trucked in by dirty diesel.

Today there are over 4,000 projects in the CDM pipeline and the World Bank estimates that by the end of 2008 the CDM had leveraged over $140 billion in clean energy investment to the developing world. In light of this, why at times is the concept of “offsetting” still dismissed as a distraction from real infrastructure change or an undeserved license for someone else pollute? Certainly there will always be examples of bad projects that slipped through the cracks, but what’s important is that the CDM motivated us to do something. It motivated us to put on our rain boots and tramp through pig sh*t. So to all of you out there who’s time and effort became part of a project’s additionality- when you use buzzwords like “carbon credits” and “offsets” to describe what you do, back them up with darn good explanation of what that means on the ground, so that someday soon these words can be attributed the tangible connotation they deserve. Until then, I hope there’s not another Law & Order episode where the crime drama involves carbon trading – I don’t think I could take it.

Molly Aeck is a Senior Client Manager for EcoSecurities based in San Francisco. She encourages you to check out EcoSecurities’ ProjectNet which brings the Philippine piggery and other offset projects to life through photographs, diary blogs, video footage, testimonials, location maps and project design documents (PDDs).