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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Interfaith Power & Light: Energy From Heaven

Bill Roth | Monday November 16th, 2009 | 4 Comments

ip&l2“The faith community must be heard, now is the time for people of faith to take a moral stand to save our planet.” –Reverend Canon Sally G. Bingham, president of The Regeneration Project Interfaith Power & Light

I was raised by a God-fearing mom with a strong affinity for fire and brimstone preaching that grounded me with a strong respect for the power of the pulpit. So when someone introduced me to the Interfaith Power & Light (IP&L), an organization of 10,000 churches, synagogues, mosques and temples covering the religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, my internal radar started to buzz. If I were a business person in America I would post this article on my bathroom mirror to reflect upon every morning because 85 percent of Americans define themselves as persons of faith.

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AdaptivCool Greens Data Centers by Solving Air Distribution Problem

Kathryn Siranosian | Monday November 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

green-data-centers-banner

Green Data-center-energy-efficencyOdds are, your data center feels as cold as a meat locker.

And if it does, you’re wasting energy –and money.

Data centers don’t need to be ice cold, says Rajesh  Nair, the founder and CTO of Degree Controls, Inc., based in New Hampshire. Rather than over-compensating for server heat loads, he explains, companies need to focus on what’s really important: air distribution around the servers.

“In a data center, the heat load keeps changing over time and place,” Nair says. “But, the typical data centers has a static cooling system. That means there’s static cooling for dynamic heat flow –and that’s why there’s a problem.”

In fact, once you change the air distribution in your data center, it’s likely that you’ll be able to shut down 20 to 40 percent of your air conditioners, he adds.

But, how can you re-design the air flow?

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Business Not As Usual: Twitter Commentary On Corporate Succession Planning

John Laumer | Sunday November 15th, 2009 | 0 Comments

vatanfall-photo

  1. When corporate executive change gossip spills outside the pages of financial pages of record and onto thousands of cell phones, something big and new is going on.  Wouldn’t you know,  the first big example has something to do with maintaining  a company’s green image. See Vattenfall Wakes Up to VattenFAIL Reputation: Did Twitter Help Topple CEO? for discussion. Business significance: U2/C3
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John Perkins: Learning from the Economic Meltdown

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Sunday November 15th, 2009 | 0 Comments

John PerkinsJohn Perkins, author of “Hoodwinked” and “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” says he had a hand in creating the current economic crisis.  As an “Economic Hitman” his job was to promote corporate interests at the expense of anyone, anywhere; an unjust, untenable, and unsustainable practice he referred to as “Predatory Capitalism”.   Speaking at the 2009 Net Impact Conference, he discussed this side of  multi-national corporate behavior with a surprisingly positive outlook.  According to Perkins we still have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of predatory capitalism and turn the economy around.

Predatory Capitalism, according to Perkins, is a mutation of capitalism that comes about when the single focus of a corporation is to make profits – ie, an extreme adoption of Milton Friedman.  In the predatory world, when profit making conflicts with the public interest, profit making wins no matter the cost or consequences to others.  As an Economic Hitman, Perkin’s job was to find Third World countries with desirable resources.  He would arrange large and seemingly attractive loans loans for infrastructure development contracted out to US corporations.  These loans were much larger than needed and ultimately the country would be unable to pay back the debt.  When the country could not make the required payments, the financing group would extort payment in the form of economic resources.

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America Recycles Day: A Look at Single-Stream Recycling

Wes Muir | Sunday November 15th, 2009 | 5 Comments

america_recycles_day

By Wes Muir, Director of Communications, Waste Management

Since November 15 is America Recycles Day, this is an appropriate time to take a step back and consider what we can be doing better for the planet. From a resource management perspective, the four Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle and recover – have long guided solutions for dealing with the abundance of waste produced on a daily basis.

Building on this principle, communities and neighborhoods around the U.S. have joined to support waste reduction by participating in curbside recycling programs that enable every person to have a positive impact on the environment. In turn, roughly 33 percent of paper and cardboard waste is recovered and processed in the United States, according to a 2007 report from the EPA.

You may be thinking, “Only 33 percent? Shouldn’t this rate be higher?” It should, and it can be.

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Honest Tea Says It Will Stay Honest with Coca Cola Partnership

| Saturday November 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment

green-tea-honest-mdHonest Tea‘s President and “TeaEO” Seth Goldman doesn’t think he’s sold out. During the closing keynote address at the 2009 Net Impact Conference today, Goldman explained his decision to allow Coca Cola to acquire 40% of Honest Tea by reassuring event goers that his commitment to producing a healthy, organic, less sweet drinks has not changed since the multinational became a majority player in his company.  According to Goldman, the only thing that’s changed is that more people around the country have access to good iced tea.

When Goldman first started to make tea using thermal bottles and empty Snapple containers in 1998, he probably never thought that his home-grown business would be connected to Coca Cola, a producer of high fructose corn syrup drinks.  From the beginning, Goldman wanted to produce a low-calorie, low-sugar, organic drink that was a healthy alternative to the high-sugar carbonated beverages already in the market.

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Johnson & Johnson’s Sustainability Strategy Includes Avoiding Greenwashing

| Saturday November 14th, 2009 | 2 Comments

johnson_and_johnsonWhen you hear the name Johnson & Johnson, you might think about baby oil, baby powder and band-aids–and not necessarily think of them as leaders in sustainability.  At a speaker panel at the Net Impact Conference on Friday, several J&J company leaders spoke to how the company’s Credo is the backbone of its sustainability strategy and how they have avoided greenwashing as they implement their “Healthy Planet 2010 goals.”

During the talk, Al Iannuzzi, Senior Director of J&J’s Worldwide Environmental Health & Safety unit, told a story of his early days as an environmentalist in the 1970s who believed that “corporations are evil.”  He resisted working for big corporations until he read J&J’s Credo–which upholds its responsibility to its employees, the environment and communities–and found an interesting job within the company.  He’s been with J&J now for nearly 30 years and wants everyone to know how J&J is using business for good.

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