Green Building supports 7.9 Million U.S. Jobs

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenbuildingconstruction

I’m not typically one to debate the merits of green jobs because I see the value of green job creation every single day.

Sure, there are a number of studies out there that question the validity of some green jobs or seek to find a more precise definition of what a green job is. And this is all relevant stuff.

But there are also studies that I have to call out as being nothing more than politically-charged rhetoric.

Like the “7 Myths About Green Jobs” study that came out earlier this year.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts, but despite what seemed like an honest approach to a valid question: How do special interest groups calculate how many green jobs new energy policies would create? I quickly found myself reading what hinted at some questionable intentions hiding behind the guise of academic research.

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Syfy Creates a “Sanctuary” for Kids

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

hollywood & green
S4K_logoThere are few things more influential than entertainment, and the ability for characters (and the celebs who portray them) to drive retail consumption and inform pop culture. Every generation has spawned a myriad of fads from Farah Fawcett’s feathered bangs to Jennifer Aniston’s signature “Rachel” haircut to iPods, mobile apps, the vampire craze and Ashton Kutcher’s popularization of Twitter. Even Mad Men’s 60s style has infiltrated the Gap and Banana Republic, along with Brooks Brothers’ limited edition suit (which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way).

While these are superficial elements, what’s powerful about trends is that they spark conversations, evoke emotions, and make a memorable mark on the individuals who embrace them. And I’ve often said that this same process can be replicated by harnessing the power of entertainment for social good, which is exactly what SyFy’s television series, Sanctuary, is doing with their new endeavor, “Sanctuary For Kids” (S4K), a call back to their tagline, “Sanctuary For All.” According to the website, the mission of Sanctuary for Kids is “to improve the lives of children around the world who need protection and are in crisis – those who are exploited, dispossessed and threatened.”

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EV Tech Center Abuzz Over an Electrified Future

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments
Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Electric vehicles and the changes they promise to bring to our transportation infrastructure are making lots of headlines these days, but to Ed Kjaer, the director of Electric Vehicle Tech Center, EVs are old hat.

Kjaer drives an electric Toyota RAV-4 every day. He’s logged 83,000 miles on the rig, which he drives to Southern California Edison’s Pomona facility, home of the EV Tech Center. And when he gets to work, it’s all EV, all the time. It’s clear from talking to Kjaer that he’s an EV advocate. But EV technology is about more than just zero-emission vehicles. It’s about a new approach to energy management and storage.

Step inside the EV Tech Center and the first thing you’ll notice, aside from shiny new electric concept cars from the likes of Ford and other carmakers, is an electrical buzz—similar to the buzz you’ll hear walking past power lines in a rain storm. Must be all those power and battery systems that researchers in the lab are putting through their paces. Of particular focus, not surprisingly, are banks of automotive grade lithium-ion batteries.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Project Developer

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments

wind farm developmentWind energy capacity in the U.S. grew by 8,358 MW last year, an impressive 50 percent jump in total capacity. This trend was accompanied by a 35 percent increase in jobs in the industry. Unlike trends in many industries, career opportunities are expected to expand, as wind power plays a key role in President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production within three years, renewable portfolio standards are met, and stimulus funding is utilized.

Currently about 7 million households are powered by wind energy and 85,000 people were employed by the wind energy industry, up from 50,000 the previous year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. These jobs are very diverse, and include turbine manufacturing, wind farm development, wind farm construction, and turbine maintenance.

Developing an industrial-scale wind farm requires a team of people with a variety of abilities. This seven part series will examine the skills needed achieve this feat. The first job we will explore in this series is project developer.

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SolarCity CEO Says Solar Installation Biz Splitting into Big Guys and Little Guys

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 5 Comments

SolarCity_Lyndon RivecroppedSolarcity CEO Lyndon Rive said in an interview Friday that he is seeing a growing market schism between the thousands of small, local solar panel installers and a “half a dozen or so” national players that can provide “a trusted brand focusing on scale and services.”

Rise of the Brand Names

Solarcity, which the 32-year old Rive co-founded in 2006, has grown to be one of the leading solar panel installers in California, and perhaps the most recognizable solar installation company in the country.

The solar panel industry is still one where success is measured in the thousands of customers, not millions or billions, however, and despite its high-profile status in the news media, solar installers are still in a very niche business.

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Spacing Out on Solar Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

jaxaP-022-0015-15495Solar power satellites are the yin to the yang of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s Star Wars fantasy, and almost as old. Scientists for decades have explored the potential of using space-based solar cells to beam power to the Earth.

It’s an idea with very long legs, as they say, but now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has gone beyond whimsy by actually signing up several major collaborators to launch a giant one-gigawatt space solar power satellite into space. The players are huge – Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric and Sharp – and the bucks that JAXA has indicated it will invest in the project are also huge, $21 billion worth of huge.

The plan, according to various recent news reports including London’s Telegraph, is to have the test version of the Space Solar Power System launched in 2020. The final system would go operational in 2030. The station would send down power by laser or microwave.

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Landmark “Electrification Coalition” Plays Down Environmental Benefits of EVs, Plays Up Oil Dependence

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

EC-Roadmap-croppedMore than a dozen top executives ranging from Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn to David W. Crane of NRG Energy and Frederick W. Smith of FedEx Corporation jointly announced Monday the launch of the Electrification Coalition, a serious and rigorous industry-backed non-profit with the goal of having 75 percent of all miles driven in this country in 2040 powered by electricity.

The non-profit, non-partisan Coalition’s first act was to release the Electrification Roadmap, a 91-page report “detailing the dangers of oil dependence, explaining the benefits of electrification, describing the challenges facing electric cars, and providing specific policy proposals to overcome those challenges.” The Roadmap is available from the organization’s website. For anyone the slightest bit interested in the challenges and promise of electric cars, it’s required reading.

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Why Solar Rebates Are Becoming Extinct

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

180px-Depuradora_de_LlucSolar rebate programs are winding down. Austin Energy cut solar rebates for homeowners by a third. Xcel Energy will cut its rebate program by about 50 percent. The Long Island Power Authority made an immediate cut in its rebate program, and one scheduled for January. New York reduced its solar incentive by 50 cents per watt in October. Massachusetts closed its rebate program, and California is gradually decreasing its incentives. Australia also stopped its rebate program. However, a 30 percent federal tax credit still exists.

Popularity and the impact on budgets are the reasons why rebates are being reduced according to New York Times’ Green Inc blog. Barry Cinnamon, chief executive of installer, Akeena Solar, said, “I do not believe that the more the merrier is the right approach. Instead, I believe that incentives should decline as costs decline — that way ratepayer dollars are used most efficiently.”  

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JumpStart Helps Cleveland’s New Entrepreneurs

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

100px-Cleveland_seal-TCleveland is part of the “rust belt,” the moniker given to the upper Midwest because many of its factories and plants are no longer in operation. However, in 2004 Cleveland’s business leaders, government, and foundations created the nonprofit corporation JumpStart to help entrepreneurs. JumpStart invests only in companies that have the chance to grow between $30 million and $50 million in sales within five to seven years and have innovative products.

JumpStart has helped 40 companies who have the potential to create 2,400 jobs at an average salary of $65,000. Last year JumpStart spent $9 million last year, generated $75 million in local spending, and Cleveland made $8 million through payroll taxes.

Early stage investment starts at $250,000 and goes up to $600,000. The nonprofit corporation assigns an experienced CEO to help create a business plan. In order to qualify for JumpStart’s help, companies must have the following:

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Secrets of Successful Social Intrapreneurs: Advice From Three Major Brands

| Monday November 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainability careers are in high demand, judging from the record-breaking attendance at the 2009 Net Impact Conference this past weekend (2,400 participants, 60% of which were MBA students).  Problem is, there just aren’t that many full-time positions with “sustainability” or “corporate social responsibility” in the title.  But, it is possible to create a full-time sustainability position where none exists, report three successful social intrapraneurs.

logo-accentureDo what you love.   A self-described “soft-techy guy,” Accenture’s Mike Nicholus had a reputation of being able to deliver results in a global setting.  He was also known as a tree-hugging guy who spouted phrases like “peak oil” and kept preying mantises around his home.  After filling a variety of roles at Accenture and working closely with the CEO, Nicholus was tapped when the company decided to implement a work-at-home initiative.

Like most sustainability efforts, it paid off in several ways – substantial cost-savings for the firm, a reduced carbon footprint and workplace flexibility that employees crave.  Now as director, global environment programs, Nicholus promotes programs to measure and manage Accenture’s environmental impact across operations in 49 countries.  His strategy for selling “green” initiatives:  “You need the ability to identify your key ‘buyers’ and make a sound business case for your proposal.”

Nicholus’ advice:  Figure out how to do your day job in four days and spend the fifth day doing what you love. Then flavor the other four days with that.

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Coca-Cola Rolls Out Plant-Based Recyclable Bottles

| Monday November 16th, 2009 | 19 Comments

plantbottle2Seemingly every day a different company announces a new greening initiative, so when Coca-Cola said this morning that it has begun distributing plastic bottles of Coke and other beverages made with up to 30 percent plant-based material, it might have seemed like just another press release.

In fact, consider it a milestone. The Coca-Cola cursive logo is the most recognized consumer brand in the world, and now, in some places, it will have a little green stamp on it, symbolizing not only that company’s sustainability efforts, but the degree to which green thinking has penetrated the corporate mindset.

Introducing PlantBottle

The Coca-Cola Company dubs the new packaging PlantBottle, and boasts that it is the first-to-market plant based PET plastic bottle in the industry. PlantBottle is already on the shelves in eco-conscious Denmark (in time for Copenhagen) and will be introduced in Canada in December, and San Francisco, LA and Seattle in January.

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The “Impact” of the 2009 Net Impact Conference: Suggested Improvements

Matthew Savage | Monday November 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

event-net-impactThis year’s Net Impact Conference was a big success. It was an incredible gathering of many current and future leaders in the sustainability field. That’s why the following bones that I have to pick are important to address – if we can’t get it right, who will? (I love you Cornell and Net Impact ;)

  1. Carbon footprint of the conference: Cornell University in upstate New York is a beautiful location. However, it’s also very remote. To get there from most locations in the U.S. requires at least one connection and driving. The carbon emissions from flights are enormous and most of this is in take-off and landing. Cornell, we love you, but could we have future conferences in hub-ier cities?
  2. Waste at the conference: There were some instances of easy-to-interpret bins for compost, recycling and regular trash (for me, the ones that work are those that you can easily identify without crouching down or having to decipher which one is which). Color, shape and large type are all key to being able to do the right thing whilst having a conversation with your friend or colleague. Some were the right kind, but many of them were strange over-sized paper bags that all looked the same and didn’t stand up straight (one fell over during a social event, covering a woman’s leg in melted Ben & Jerry’s!). A waste strategy can’t have inconsistencies like these, because once it gets out of hand, it’s all mixed up. Net Impact, can we get this right next time?
  3. Posterity: It is a crime not to record such a gathering of great minds and thinkers. There were more than 120 sessions with some great insights and it was all lost to the halls of Cornell (except the keynotes)! I say that we should be “open source” so that this knowledge gets shared as much as possible. Plus, it might have given an option to those who didn’t want to commit to the financial or environmental costs of the conference. This is easy; every iPhone has a voice recorder if video is not possible.
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Avoiding COP15 Burnout with “Expectation Management”

| Monday November 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments


success_roadsign“Climate change and climate policy in Europe and the U.S. – Opportunities and Challenges in the Run-up to the Copenhagen Summit and beyond”

Thus was billed a recent conference I attended last week at the Aspen Wye River Conference center located in rural Maryland along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The two-day conference was yet another step in the Transatlantic Climate Bridge began earlier this year between Germany and the U.S. in hopes of fostering greater understanding and cooperation on energy and climate issues, especially now in the final days before the Copenhagen summit.

The conference brought together journalists from both sides of the pond, along with a select group of advisors, consultants, negotiators, and policy experts on the front line of the issues facing the world next month in Copenhagen. Since the journalists (and blogger) at the conference are subject to the Chatham House rules, I am  not able to attribute specific positions to any particular speaker, but the ideas discussed and the perceptions explored in the dialog are worth summarizing – kicking it off with the burning question in the wake of news over the weekend that world leaders have “agreed not to agree” to a fully binding treaty at COP15: Is there any real hope left for “success” in Copenhagen?

In a word, yes. There is not only hope, but a realistic chance for success at Copenhagen. That is, if we can engage in “expectation management” and tailor a definition of success within those expectations – let the qualifications begin.

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SoCal Edison: On Teaming with Titan Automakers, and Sharing Customers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday November 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments
Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

The smart grid is coming! And so are (again, finally) electric cars! Want to know how this makes Ted Craver, the president and CEO of electric power generator and distributor Edition International, feel? Excited. And scared.

“We’re looking at the confluence of public policy, environmental issues writ large, and enabling technologies that are really going to change our industry, and our company, dramatically. We’re going to be dealing with more industries, which means more change and stress on business models,” he told a group of journalists touring Southern California Edison’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Tech Center in Pomona, Calif., on Friday. “It’s exciting, a little scary, and [it's] something that will determine the future of this company for the next 100 years.”

We’ve written before about the growing interdependency between automakers who are developing electric vehicles and the utility providers that will provide the fuel for these cars. And we’ve heard from Ford about its work in developing its electric vehicle program and the partnerships it is forming with utility providers.

But what do utility providers have to say about this new vision for transportation?

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The More Climate Regulation, The Better? A Report…

| Monday November 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

lawbooksA new report out of UC Berkeley argues the stricter the regulation of greenhouse gases, the better it is for state economies, from California to Connecticut, and everywhere in between.

The report, entitled “Clean Energy and Climate Policy for U.S. Growth and Job Creation,” argues that improvements in energy efficiency, as well as a government mandated shift away from fossil fuels, will result in increased income for Americans, and higher job growth, as less income is spent on energy and new technologies spur industry.

From the report:

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