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Light Bulbs Replace Coal Power Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Stabilization Wedges

by Richard T. Stuebi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool Commutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let There Be Dark, Or At Least Fewer Watts

by Richard Stuebi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Tectonics

by Richard Stuebi

The climate changes only slightly faster than the continents shift. Climate policy changes only slightly faster than the climate is altered by greenhouse gas emissions. So, when one begins to see a few elements of U.S. climate policy moving, in a relatively short period of time, it’s hard not to take note and consider the implications.

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush (kinda-sorta) acknowledged climate change as an important policy aim, referring to it as a “serious challenge”. While there was no mention of a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade mechanism that would seriously address this serious challenge, at least Bush proposed an important mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that had been anethema for decades — to tighten the fuel economy standards of new vehicles. (Not to mention an increased push for renewable fuels to displace petroleum fuels.)

The new Congress is sticking its neck out further, not waiting long to take up legislation that more directly and forcefully combats climate change. (see article) At the most important annual gathering of world leaders, the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, the Republican Senator John McCain — a likely candidate for the Presidency in 2008 — expressed his conviction that the U.S. will soon tackle climate change in a meaningful way. (see article) No doubt, it will take a while for a true policy change on climate change to emerge in the U.S., but the strong ramp-up in attention and activity is unambiguous.

It has become virtually impossible to think that climate change will not be addressed by more than merely political platitudes within any relevant forecasting horizon.

The corporate world can thus no longer afford to assume a continued stalemate that denies true action on climate change from being taken in the U.S. More foresightful companies — even major energy companies such as BP (NYSE: BP), FPL (NYSE: FPL), Duke (NYSE: DUK), and PG&E (NYSE: PCG) — have banded together to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which is committed to reversing the trend of increasing carbon emissions in the U.S. (see article)

Even the most lingering latecomers of the U.S. corporate community are finally beginning to see the writing on the wall: that climate change is a real concern, and that actions will be taken in the near-future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, unnoticed (by me at least) was some reportage from late 2006 that ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has finally stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think-tank that is widely viewed to be spreading misinformation about climate change, so as to muddy the waters and delay anything meaningful being done to address it.

The pent-up forces pushing for action on climate change are starting to become unstuck. Major breakthroughs haven’t happened, yet, but shifting is occurring and the warning tremors are increasingly clear. I used to think that it would take until the next President after Bush for us to see a real U.S. policy dealing with climate change — but recent indicators suggest that we might not have to wait that long, after all.

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.

What has Changed in the Alternative Energy Investment Landscape

Is the time right to invest in alternative energy? We’ve seen a lot of this before in the 1970s and 1980s. Solar and biomass hot, big regulatory pushes, and then companies and investors lost a lot of money when things changed. We’re still a bit skeptical. We’re also all about not getting pulled in to each and every overpriced hype (read, the ethanol race) – but fundamentals are fundamentals. And they’re hard to ignore and pretty darn impressive. We think the real question today is not “are alternatives a good investment?”, but “which ones have legs and make a good investment bet?”

In four words – broad-based critical mass – Unlike alternative energy of yesteryear, this alternative energy explosion has been slowly building for 10 to 15 years, and is reaching critical mass in multiple markets. Take a couple of examples – the solar market is on pace for a $20 Billion per year number globally within 3 years (SolarBuzz.com), across several major jurisdictions (in the 1980s we were talking less than 5% of that). World ethanol production is on the order of $12 Billion/year. In the US wind capacity production has growing at 25%+ per year for the last 2 years wind generation capacity additions have been second only to gas-fired generation adds in the US mix.

“It’s the global economy, stupid” – Don’t forget, this is global now, and it wasn’t really like that 25 years ago. The US pioneered solar photovoltaics, but Japan and Germany (with China catching up) are the biggest markets today. The US pioneered large scale wind power (remember Altamont Pass?), but 3 of the top 4 wind turbine companies today are European. The US engineered cap and trade in carbon, but Kyoto is a European driven engine. Lots of examples of why it’s not just us anymore. For an investor worried about the legs of the industry, that’s a really big point.

In two words – cost structure – alternative energy is still more expensive than conventional energy – that’s why we call it “alternative”. But the cost curves for each and every alternative energy source have fundamentally changed for the better over the last 10 years (NREL), are moving into striking distance, and continue to improve. This trend is not going to reverse, so it’s just a matter of time.

In three words – carbon, carbon, carbon – The carbon credit trading market, driven by Kyoto protocol was $21.5 Billion in the first 3 quarters of last year (World Bank and IETA) – that’s up from virtually zero three years ago. Now we’re talking real numbers. The US has been left out of this so far, but not for long. California is committed, the Democrats are in control of Congress, and we will likely be seeing a strengthening of some sort of cap and trade system before long.

The bottom line – alternative energy is cool and the consumer cares. Of all this activity, it’s really high gas and electricity prices and climate change that have put alternative energy on the map in the consumers minds. And they care. And they vote. And they blog. And they are buying hybrids, uneconomic hybrids, lots of them. And as the battery technology continues to advance (think lithium ion overtaking nickel metal hydride), they’ll start buying HEVs and Plug-in HEVs in massive quantities. And they are buying green power. And little pieces of paper certifying their green power. In enough quantities for Toyota and Walmart and GE and Google to brand green as part of their core strategies. How’s all that for impact?

And finally, the regulations are here. Don’t kid yourself, alternative energy has ALWAYS been a regulatory driven market. But now the regulations are pretty widespread. Take electric power, for example – it’s not just the federal production tax credit anymore, or just the solar tax credit, or the state solar subsidy programs – 23 US states now have Renewable Portfolio Standards for electricity production (Pew Center) , including Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Illinois, etc. That’s up from 1 in 1991. Put another way, if you could swing the electoral votes from just the RPS states, you’d have a landslide presidential victory.

Yes, it’s still possible that if oil and gas prices prices fall back to 1990s levels (we expect them to pull back somewhat, but are scared to make a precise prediction) and we have 5 or 6 normal, cool winters that make the climate change debate disintegrate, then a new political wave will come in (in 30 different western countries), and each and every major alternative energy regulatory program along with all the consumer demand will collapse – in a dozen major nations worldwide. But as the saying goes, that ain’t the way to bet it.

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