Pioneering microfinance crowdfunding platform provider Kiva reached a milestone yesterday, announcing that $400 million in microloans have been made since opening for business in 2005.
Founded based on the idea that a “social lending” network could help alleviate poverty and expand economic opportunity, Kiva’s microfinance loans have now reached more than 1 million people in more than 65 countries, according to Kiva’s press release.
The “Green Building” movement is gathering momentum worldwide as businesses increasingly see attractive economic returns and social-environmental benefits from enhancing the overall sustainability of their operations, including initiatives to conserve and enhance efficiencies with regard to energy, water and other natural resources.
The number of businesses anticipating that more than 60 percent of their operations will be “green” by 2014 will more than triple in South Africa; more than double in Brazil, Germany and Norway; and increase from 33-68 percent in Australia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK and the US, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s, “World Green Building Trends – Business Benefits Driving New and Retrofit Market Opportunities in Over 60 Countries.”
Heating and cooling a home, residential or commercial building has always been a major expense for home and business owners, one that’s more likely than not to rise in coming years given current trends in energy costs and consumption. The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions, along with the uncertainty of economic conditions and government policies, complicate matters further.
All this has not gone unnoticed by home and business owners or the U.S. government, all of whom are on the lookout for new climate control and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) methods and technology that can lower energy usage, monthly expenses and greenhouse gas emissions.
Finding ways to meet these needs is opening up new sustainable business and market opportunities. Energy efficiency and HVAC equipment and service providers large and small, new and well established are coming out with a new generation of “smart” thermostat control equipment, systems and service solutions that make use of the latest business models, technological advances and innovations.
But what makes an HVAC or climate control system “smart”? What are the benefits and how can home and business owners looking to reduce their energy bills by making energy efficiency improvements educate and familiarize themselves with the latest HVAC and climate control systems and services in order to make the best possible decisions?
Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information readily available, so it’s worthwhile to sift, sort through and distill some key data and information to better inform, guide and make the decision-making process easier and more efficient.
A rush to start construction before expiration of the U.S. wind energy production tax credit (PTC), and record growth in Europe fueled new global wind energy capacity nearly 19 percent higher in 2012, making up for slower growth in China and India. Adding 15.75 gigawatts (GW) of new nameplate wind power capacity – 13.2 GW in China – the Asia region continued to lead the world in new wind power installations nonetheless, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
Looming expiration of the wind energy PTC in the U.S. led a rush by project developers to install wind turbines as quickly as possible, though a last-minute compromise led to Congress extending the PTC through 2013. More than 8,000 megawatts (MW) of new nameplate wind power capacity was installed during 2012′s fourth quarter in the U.S. alone, bringing the annual tally to 13,124 MW, according to GWEC’s Global Wind Power Statistics 2012, which was released on February 11.
Patented in 1952 by Frank Zybach of Strausburg, Colorado, center pivot irrigation systems have turned out to be, well, a pivotal invention for agriculture, so much so that their spread has raised concerns about ongoing, rapid loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
Providing electrical power to more than 30,000 center pivot irrigation systems across Nebraska (the largest producer and user of center pivots in the U.S.), the state’s largest utility, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), is launching a project to test the feasibility of using solar photovoltaic (PV) energy to power them, the Journal Star reported last week.
Enhancing the sustainability of U.S. water resources is an increasingly pressing challenge facing urban, suburban and rural communities across the U.S. Crafting and carrying out sustainable water strategies can create substantial numbers of green jobs in a wide range of professions and address the issue of social inequity, as well as problems associated with drought, flooding, and water contamination, according to a new report from the Pacific Institute.
In Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Jobs, Pacific Institute researchers identify “136 different kinds of jobs involved in implmenting sustainable water strategies, from plumbers to landscapers, engineers to water irrigation specialists.”
“There is great potential for partnerships between labor, business, water experts, community organizations, and policy makers to design projects and policy that are a win-win for jobs and for water improvements,” the Pacific Institute’s Eli Moore was quoted in a press release. “Such partnerships can align worker training and certification with industry and community needs and design policy that maximizes creation of high quality jobs.”
Leading by example in the drive to increase energy efficiency and realize the transition to a cleaner, greener economy and society, the Department of Interior released its 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, on February 7, marking the latest step forward in making good on President Obama’s commitment to cutting waste, pollution, and costs in federal government operations.
The Greening of the U.S. Government
Key performance indicators reported in Interior’s 2012 Sustainability Plan include:
- Decreasing certain greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5 percent in FY 2011 relative to the FY 2008 baseline—putting the department on track to meet the reduction target goal of 20 percent by 2020;
- Reducing potable water intensity by 11.2 percent in 2011, relative to the FY 2007 baseline—putting Interior on track to meet the reduction target goal of 26 percent by 2020; and
- Exceeding the FY 2011 goal for use of 5 percent of electricity from renewable sources.
Now open for a 60-day period of public comment, included in Interior’s Sustainability Plan for fiscal year 2013 is the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for FY 2013, “which outlines the initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of Interior’s programs, assets, and investments to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise or more frequent or severe extreme weather,” according to an Interior Department press release.
Ongoing algae biofuel research and development is yielding the prospect of applications beyond the production of biofuels. Work on realizing algae biofuel breakthroughs, OriginOil announced this week it had developed new technology that could literally help clean up the aquaculture industry.
Los Angeles-based OriginOil says its Solids Out of a Solution (SOS) technology “could help the aquaculture industry reduce toxin levels and adopt algae as fish feed on a wide scale,” according to a company press release. Looking to build upon successful lab testing, OriginOil is going into partnership with Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based aquaculture company WeFeedUs “to test and validate OriginOil’s proprietary water decontamination and algae harvesting technologies for aquaculture systems in the field.”
Concerted efforts to jump-start development of an offshore wind energy industry on the part of the Obama Administration, state governments and private-sector players are beginning to bear fruit. Now, a U.S. Senator is looking to revive an wind tax credit for investors that will generate significant forward momentum toward realizing that objective.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) intends to reintroduce legislation that would offer a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) for a limited number of offshore wind power projects, according to a report from The Hill.
Carper and co-sponsor Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) originally submitted a bill during the previous session of Congress that called for the enactment of an ITC that would have reimbursed developers for up to 30 percent of offshore wind power project costs, according to The Hill’s report. The bill would have capped the ITC at 3,000 megawatts (MW) of combined offshore wind power generating capacity.
Wetlands provide a wide range of essential, life-supporting services and products to communities and businesses in countries the world over. Despite national governments having signed numerous multilateral environmental agreements, wetlands loss continues unabated and threats intensify amid population growth, coastal property development and land use change.
A host of international organizations are looking to change the economic calculus driving ongoing wetlands loss. Marking the Ramsar Convention’s World Wetlands Day 2013 on February 1, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International, and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Geneva Environment Network released an environmental policy paper that “urges a major shift in our attitudes to wetlands, to recognize their value in delivering water, raw materials and food, essential for life, and crucial for maintaining people’s livelihoods and the sustainability of the world’s economies.”
Ohio State University (OSU) expects to shave nearly $1 million off its energy bill in 2013, thanks to a 20-year power purchase agreement that entails buying a whopping 50 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable electricity from more than 100 wind turbines in northwestern Ohio. The wind-generated electrical power is being produced at the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties and delivered to OSU via American Electric Power (AEP) transmission lines, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch.
OSU has set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral. More than 400 researchers are studying energy issues at the state university, and energy was recently singled out as one of three priority focus areas for university instruction and community research for the next ten years, according to Columbus Dispatch’s report.
Working both inside and outside the institution of higher education, “Together, we will make Ohio State a national leader in sustainability, while investing in renewable energy produced right here in Ohio,” OSU president E. Gordon Gee was quoted as saying when the wind power purchasing agreement was signed.
Taking a cue from retail warehouse buyers’ clubs, residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system buyers across the country are realizing substantial cost savings by joining group efforts to purchase and have rooftop solar PV systems installed.
By buying in bulk, the more than 60 participants who signed up for the Salt Lake City (Wasatch) Rooftop Solar Challenge team’s program — one of 22 regional teams participating in the Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Rooftop Solar Challenge –- have saved 40 percent on the total installed price of their PV systems, the DOE announced in the January 16 edition of its SunShot newsletter.
Plugging electric and hybrid electric vehicles into the grid represents the ultimate vision of a distributed, decentralized and flexible electricity grid based on clean, renewable electric power generation. That goal that may be closer to becoming reality than many think.
The Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) Jan. 16 announced that it’s establishing public-private R&D partnerships with universities and industry in support of the DOE launching its Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) program at a conference in San Francisco.
World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson announced the two international organizations will work together much more closely to address and help solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems, sustainability, health care and education prominent among them.
Pointing out that the two organizations have traditionally collaborated, “the founders of both organizations had more serious intentions and wanted us to be working as a team, not only on headquarters level, but out there in the field where the people of the world need our help,” Eliasson states in a World Bank video.
“With the leadership of Yong Kim and Ban Ki-moon, I know from personal experience of meetings that we are on to something which I would hope lead to a qualitative and quantitative new step in our cooperation.”
Access to electricity is a keystone of modern society and socioeconomic development, but there are different ways of getting there, and they have vastly different impacts and ripple effects at the nexus of society, economy and environment. As opposed to the centralized and mass-produced, Industrial Era electricity grids that have come to characterize our energy infrastructure, policies that foster development of distributed, clean and renewable energy systems afford developing and developed countries substantial advantages and benefits that address these challenges.
Significant strides in providing access to clean, renewable electricity are being made across Central America, but financing large-scale, grid-connected renewable energy projects continues to pose significant challenges to Central America’s governments and private sector. Moreover, taking this energy development path doesn’t address the problem of providing last-mile connectivity, a particularly salient point given the size of these countries rural populations.
In a June 2012 Worldwatch Institute blog post, Allie Goldstein highlights the cross-cutting benefits fostering small-scale, distributed renewable energy systems can have across the region and beyond.