Burger, Not Well Done

by Richard T. Stuebi

Last week, First Energy (NYSE: FE) announced that it was pulling the plug on a planned biomass conversion of its R.E. Burger coal powerplant.

This proposed project had been a source of controversy since it was first unveiled in April 2009.  At that time, special favorable treatment was being offered by the state of Ohio to the proposed project, wherein First Energy was to have received additional renewable energy credits (RECs) for agreeing to burn woody biomass instead of coal at the Burger plant.  This granting of so-called “bonus RECs” was accomplished by tucking a line-item into a completely unrelated bill, which was passed by the Ohio Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ted Strickland as part of a brokered deal with First Energy and local officials and labor leaders seeking to preserve employment at the beleaguered plant in depressed southeastern Ohio.

Alas, to many observers, the deal smelled a lot more like manure than burning wood:  a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance hinted that the bonus REC provisions associated with the planned Burger biomass repowering could have potentially “obliterated” the Ohio renewable energy markets — a market that had only been created the prior year with the passage of SB 221 including the creation of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirement for Ohio utilities.  The glut of extra RECs associated with the Burger biomass repowering would likely have fulfilled First Energy’s RPS requirements for years to come, thereby kneecapping the development of other worthy renewable energy projects in Ohio — which was, after all, the intent of the SB 221 RPS.

Assessing the aftermath of the Burger debacle:  Ohio lawmakers have created an unfortunate precedent for making exceptions to the RPS bill for politically-preferred projects.  First Energy spent a reported $15 million on engineering work for a project that has now died — and I’m guessing that First Energy’s customers will likely foot the bill for work that turns out to be irrelevant.  Lastly, plant employees find out that the grand pronouncements of the past year turned out to be hollow, and the economic promises were in vain. 

All in all, a story with no real winners and lots of losers.

Carbon Offsetting Trends Survey 2008

EcoSecurities and ClimateBiz have just released their survey on carbon offsetting. For those who are members on our sister site CleanTech.Org, we are proud to have supported this project. Thank you to those of you who participated in this survey.

The Executive Summary is as follows:

The voluntary carbon markets continue to welcome new participants on both the supply and demand sides. Companies that previously committed to become carbon neutral appear to be continuing with their offset initiatives in 2008. In Europe, the emergence of the Gold Standard and Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) as the market leading standards is a notable development. The former is facing some minor supply issues which have in our view pushed up its issued price whilst the latter is working with several parties to establish central registries by year end for transfer of ownership and guaranteed retirement.

The primary markets on the development side are very active with new projects coming on line around the world to meet an increase in real demand for VERs and the expected increase in corporate’s looking to balance their unavoidable emissions. In the US, the rapid expansion in demand appears to favour US-located emission reductions, and this same force is shaping the types of offsets most in demand. Forestry remains a standalone sector, which has a real mix in sentiment from buyers. You either love it or you hate it. Whether the projects are reforestation or avoided deforestation, they appear to have mixed feedback in part owing to the lingering questions about effectiveness, immediacy and risk in investing in said projects. Conversely, the types of projects most favoured by this survey’s respondents are well-known projects which have an immediate impact, projects of the ‘charismatic carbon” variety: energy efficiency and wind power. Landfill and agricultural methane collection projects also scored highly in this study.

Reputation is pushing demand not only in types of offset projects in which companies most want to invest, but also in whom they purchase offsets from. When seeking out carbon brokers or retailers, experience and reputation were the top-rated factors, while project types, locations and price rounded out the top five requirements for offset projects.

Interestingly, despite the growth in project development the market has witnessed increases in primary market prices. On the other hand, global economic difficulties do seem to be pushing secondary market prices downwards, thus squeezing the difference between primary and secondary pricing. This perhaps reflects the reduced risk of developing projects as the markets grow and also an increased confidence among larger organizations in originating their own offset projects in the primary markets, a result that surprised us from our survey responses.

Send some clean power with Green My Vino

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Green My Vino Facebook application from Village Green Energy

What is it?
Green My Vino let’s you bring your passion for clean energy and your Facebook profile together. In a nut shell, you get to send free online gifts of renewable energy to all your friends. The gifts come in denominations of 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes (but you have to “unlock” the 5 and 10 minute options). When you send these gifts, Village Green Energy purchases that amount of renewable energy from specific wind farms and solar arrays on your behalf.

Why is it better?
The world of social networking can be a scary place. But this application is really easy to use and it’s free. Not to mention, when you send these clean power gifts, you’re not just getting those minutes of green energy purchased. You’re also helping four wineries convert their entire operations to run on wind and solar.

Once Facebook users have sent 10,000 minutes, Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma County has agreed to convert its operations to green power. And there are three other wineries on board! Mike Jackson of Village Green says “If the application is successful, the wineries will purchase over 1.2 million kWh of renewable power.” The broader goal of the campaign is to encourage California wineries to add green power purchasing into their business practices.

Where can you find it?
As long as you have a Facebook account, you can get in on the action! Just check out the application page. And if you’re so inspired, support clean power and Village Green Energy with their RECs.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Press Release:
August 6, 2008 (San Francisco, CA) – Iron Horse Vineyards, Girard Winery, Windsor Vineyards, and Windsor Sonoma Vineyards in Sonoma County and Napa Valley are launching an innovative green energy campaign on Facebook to generate awareness about renewable energy and provide a way for Facebook’s 90 million users to actively participate in motivating wineries to go green. San Francisco-based Village Green Energy created the Facebook application, named “Green My Vino,” which will launch on Wednesday, August 6. “Implementing renewable energy is something that people want to have happen, and by participating on Facebook, the users can actually see change occur. It is a unique opportunity to witness and participate in companies going green,” says sustainability consultant John Garn, who worked on developing the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing workbook for the California Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. The application enables Facebook users to give each other free online gifts worth One Minute, Five Minutes, and Ten Minutes of renewable energy. For each gift, Village Green will purchase the equivalent amount of renewable energy on the user’s behalf. The wineries step forward as certain milestones are achieved. Iron Horse Vineyards is going first and has agreed to power their entire operation with renewable energy when Facebook friends have gifted each other with 10,000 minutes of solar and wind power. “It’s like a petition with a guaranteed outcome from participation. If Facebook users get behind this effort, they know they can make a change,” says Iron Horse CEO Joy Sterling. “For us, it’s an incentive to incorporate green energy in our sustainability strategies.” Girard Winery, Windsor Vineyards, and Windsor Sonoma Vineyards are lined up to take over with each new milestone. “We jumped at the opportunity to participate in the application” said Windsor CEO Pat Roney. “Green My Vino gives the community the opportunity to interact with businesses and make their voices heard. When people participate in the application, they’re telling us that clean energy is a priority for them, and we’ll make supporting renewable energy a part of our commitment as a business.” If the application is successful, Village Green estimates the wineries will purchase over 1.2 million kWh of renewable power – enough to power the four initial wineries entirely with green energy for a year based on their past electricity use. The renewable power will be purchased via renewable energy certificates from Mountain View II Wind Facility in Palm Springs and several solar arrays in Los Angeles. “Our goal has been to develop programs that make business sense for our customers to participate in,” says Village Green Co-Founder Robby Bearman. “Rather than relying on the charity of businesses to help save the environment, we’re drawing them in by speaking their language, especially from a marketing standpoint.” “I am excited about the power of social networking,” says Sterling. “My hope is that this will be so successful that more wineries will become involved, broadcasting our message to as many people as possible.” Roney agreed, adding “this is part of an effort to bring together the wine community around a common cause.” Village Green has partnered with 750 Industries, a leading social marketing startup based in San Francisco, to design and launch the Green My Vino Facebook application. The 750 team is working with Village Green to fully understand how users are engaging with the application and optimize for friend-to-friend sharing. The application website off of Facebook can be found at Here visitors can track the application’s progress, learn more about renewable power and ways to help, and get involved in outreach efforts on behalf of green power.

Blogroll Review: Credits, Charging, Coffee

by Frank Ling

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Many of us use credit cards to collect mileage point and other non-monetary credits. Now, we can use it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

GE is introducing the Earth Rewards Credit Card, which will invest 1% of customer purchases into carbon off-setting.

Joel Makower says developing the system was not straightforward. Initially, GE thought of creating credits, which customers could use to buy eco-friendly products. However, it was found that very few people would actually do that.

It remains to be seen whether this current scheme will work but GE is optimistic.

“It’s too early to tell, of course, but Earth Rewards has the potential to catch on with the large middle market increasingly concerned about climate change but willing to make only small, incremental changes, if that. (GE envisions a potential market of 25 million Americans.)”

Priceless! 😉

Charge It

Plug-In hybrids are no longer a hobbyist’s contraption. Toyota has released the first certified PHEV for public road use.

Though it is only limited to Japan, the PHEV can run on household power and uses NiMH battery technology. Jim Fraser at the Energy Blog notes:

“The PHEV is a 5 passenger vehicle with a cruising range of 8 miles (13 km) in the all electric mode with a top speed of 60 mph (100 km/hr). It is equipped with 2 – 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride batteries powering a 67hp (50kW)/1,200-1,540 rpm synchronous electric motor with a maximum torque of 400N-m(40.8kg-m) @ 0-1,200rpm….Charging time for the battery is 1-1.5hrs @ 200V and 3-4hrs @ 100V.”

Maybe this time, the electric car won’t be killed. 🙂


Back a couple years ago when I wandered around China, there were many Starbucks ripoffs. One of them was called Sunbucks. If that trademark hasn’t been taken, then this company may still have a chance to take it.

In this week’s EcoGeek, Philip Proefrock writes about a Pueblo, Colorado company that is roasting their coffee with the power of the sun.

“The Solar Roast company uses a 10 foot (3 meter) diameter reflector array to heat its roaster to 600 degrees F (315 degrees C) with nothing more than sunlight.”

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.

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.