A Marketing Challenge for the Electric Utility Industry

Bill Roth | Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

nielsen logo“Ninety-five point six percent of households are willing to change their energy consumption behavior to save money on their energy costs.” — Jonathan Drost, Nielsen Account Executive-Utilities

Drost shared with me this finding from the 2009 Nielsen Energy Audit (pdf), during a phone interview late last month. “This survey strongly suggests the timing is right for utilities to engage their customers with green marketing initiatives,” he said. “The survey points to utility customers being driven by the desire to lower their costs and to have increased control of their energy costs.”

This survey also identifies a glaring challenge confronting utilities. “Eighty percent of households agree the price they pay for their home energy is too high,” he said. However, the electric utility industry is projecting 3 to 4 percent annual rate increases. Electric utilities join the healthcare industry as uniquely increasing prices to consumers during these recessionary times.

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Household Products Need Ingredients Listed On Labels

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 7 Comments

150px-Cometcleanser

Lurking under our bathroom and kitchen sinks are harmful chemicals. “Many chemicals contained in household products have been shown to produce harmful health effects,” Senator Al Franken said in his introduction of the Household Products Labeling Act.

The current law requires that product labels only list “immediately hazardous ingredients,” but do not require labeling for ingredients that may be harmful over time. The bill Franken introduced into the Senate this summer would require manufacturers to list ingredients in household cleaners and other common products. The ingredients required to be listed include fragrances, dyes, and preservatives.

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Why Rich Countries Must Lead On Climate Change

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

230px-Global_Warming_Map

“A much better use should have been made of the economic stimulus packages,” said Mohan Munasinghe, vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Speaking at the National Climate Seminar hosted by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Munasinghe mentioned that South Korea devoted 80 percent of its stimulus package to clean tech. The South Korean stimulus package was worth $85 billion. In July, South Korea announced it will invest $85 billion more in clean tech. In contrast, the U.S. devoted $60 billion of its $787 stimulus package to clean tech.

Munashinge pointed out that the poorest countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they are the ones who had the least to do with the problem. “Developing countries are pressing for more of a voice,” he said. “We have the knowledge to protect the most vulnerable, but the political will is lacking… High emitting countries should take the lead, but that leadership is so far lacking.”

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Open Hands Farm: Another Farm Visit, Another Labor Lesson

3p Contributor | Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

OPEN-HANDS-FARMSThis is the fifth post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.

By Dayna Burtness

Farms never cease to amaze me. Besides my grandparents’ corn and soybean farm, the first farm I ever visited was a tiny place nestled in the woods of northern Minnesota when I was 18. Goats with strange golden eyes wandered up to the fence, hoop houses sheltered mysterious vines, and every square foot was either full of growing things in every shade of green or tools jury-rigged with duct tape and wire. From the moment I arrived I was hooked on the scrappy energy of the place.

Now I’m 24 and have visited plenty of farm operations large and small, but I still get that same buzz when I spot a chicken coop made from salvaged wood and spare parts. Part of my fellowship for Bon Appétit Management Company is to survey local farms in our supply chain about their farming and labor practices, so after spending two weeks visiting farms in southern Minnesota and the Maryland-Pennsylvania area I had plenty to be buzzed about.

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Smart Grid: Revolution or Revolt?

Bill Roth | Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

In the mid-1990’s, while serving as the General Marketing Manager for Georgia Power, I had the honor of managing the team of exceptionally bright people that designed an industry-pioneering meter-linked, integrated real time pricing/demand side management program. Today, I understand this legacy system now bills $2 billion annually on the Southern Company system, a utility recognized for its high customer satisfaction.

A key factor in the success of this campaign was an outreach program that identified barriers to implementation across the fullest range of stakeholders. This process was used to create a systems-thinking model that allowed all participants to exercise their point of view to assess its implications for impacting their goals and the expectations of all other stakeholders. This was both a learning and reconciliation process that enabled pricing, program and information system design, and acceptance of the designs by the consumer.

I highlight this experience as a reference point for reporting on the GreenBeat 2009 Smart Grid Conference and my perception that the smart grid is now entering turbulent waters created not by the technology, but by the marketing of the technology.

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D-Day for Climate: Engage Students with Senators Now

3p Contributor | Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

earth-444By Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

Harry Reid made it clear last week. Sometime next spring, a decade of sweeping grassroots education and national activism will culminate in strong federal clean energy legislation, laying a policy foundation that will be vital for stabilizing the climate.

Or it won’t.

The coming few months represent an extraordinary moment in human history. Should the US fail to pass significant climate legislation, the impact will be felt not only by our children and grandchildren, but by the next thousand generations of human beings to follow. In the coming decade, there will be no big second bite at the policy apple, no final last chance to set the country on a clean energy course. And the climate will not wait on our denial for another decade.

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Al Gore Receives Global Humanitarian Award in Silicon Valley

Dev Crews | Sunday November 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

HumanitarianGoreNobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore received the 2009 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award last Thursday evening for his successful efforts to raise awareness about climate change. The award was inspired by Applied Materials Chairman Emeritus James Morgan’s belief that technology can be a tool to turn ideas into solutions for a better world. It has been given to individuals whose vision and leadership help to build a just, humane and sustainable world. Former recipients include Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the microfinance pioneer, Bill Gates and Intel philanthropist Gordon Moore.

Gore’s most recent book “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” is a powerful and inspiring call to action. “Despite the many challenges to solving the climate crisis, there is hope, and the opportunities are everywhere  –especially in the form of increasingly powerful technological tools,” Gore said.

At a black-tie gala, attended by 1,500 Silicon Valley business executives, industry and political leaders, Gore accepted the award with an impassioned speech.

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What to Report on? How Two CSR Leaders Decide

| Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

fedex-logo-illusionGapWe’ve all seen them.  Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports weighing it at nearly 100 pages, crammed with charts and graphs, and gray with type.  There’s valuable information in there, but unearthing commentary on issues of strategic importance can be daunting. 

 That’s why I was especially curious to hear CSR managers from two industry leaders, FedEx and Gap Inc., explain how they determine CSR report content in a presentation at the recent Net Impact 2009 Conference at Cornell University.

While both managers acknowledged the value of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, they lamented its limitations. As a general framework designed to be used by all companies, the GRI calls for a plethora of data which might not be relevant to a particular company or could require addition of costly data-gathering processes.  So, like many other companies, CSR reporting leaders FedEx and Gap Inc. also use corporate strategy and stakeholder input to determine which issues are material to readers. 

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EcoFactor and the Truly Smart Grid

| Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Technology works best when it’s least intrusive and does the heavy lifting for you. Apple understands this. And so, it seems, does EcoFactor, the winner of the recent Clean Tech Open.

ecofactor smart energy management diagram

What it does behind the scenes is fairly complex, but for the user, easy and out of the way: It keeps your home at an optimum temperature, via an externally managed system. And it doesn’t require you to buy expensive or not yet available equipment.

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Sustainability and Employee Engagement: Anything Goes

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 4 Comments

Engage employees through recyclingEngaging employees through sustainability is not a one size fits all approach.  From Walmart’s Personal Sustainability Project to  Sodexo’s Corporate Citizenship Program to Intel’s intranet to FMYI’s online collaboration, the variety is endless.  Each of the four members of the Net Impact Conference 2009 panel on Sustainable Innovation Through Employee Engagement, had differing approaches on everything from launching a sustainability program to reward programs to changing employee behavior.  The panel was moderated by Justin Yuen of FMYI and was comprised of Holly Fowler of Sodexo, Carrie Freeman of Intel, and Richard Coyle of Walmart.  While variety was their norm, there was also a consistent theme – when it comes to sustainability it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, it matters that you do something.  Here are some of their ideas for starting a sustainability program and getting the employees actively involved.

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Doing a World of Good for Fair Trade Artisans

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

ban-startup-friday
worldofgoodlogoThe term “fair trade handicrafts” summons images of wicker baskets and hand-dyed sarongs. But the business side of the fair trade marketplace is getting a little less old-world, thanks to World of Good, an organization that connects artisans in developing countries with mainstream retailers (including eBay and Whole Foods).

The organization—comprised of a wholesale business, an online marketplace, and a nonprofit arm—was honored last night with the Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award at the Tech Awards. The Tech Awards are produced by The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA, and recognizes 15 laureates in the categories of education, equality, environment, biosciences, economic development, and health.

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SABA Motors Vision: an Exotic Electric Sports Car for the Masses

Steve Puma | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

startup friday

saba_motors2.jpgEver since I was a kid, when my father used give me Matchbox cars he bought on his way home from work, I’ve been crazy about cars. So I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to speak with Simon Saba of Saba Motors, whose EV vision is something any gearhead can get jazzed about: to deliver an exotic electric sports car with a price tag of under $40,000, that will have the looks and performance of cars costing 10 times as much and is environmentally friendly to boot!

I had the pleasure to speak with the animated Mr. Saba and his charming wife at the Fast Lane to CleanTech Incubator Mixer, held at Club Autosport in San Jose. Club Autosport is the current home of Saba Motors, and hosts it and a number of other cleantech companies at its “car-condominium” facility, as part of the Electronic Transportation Development Center (ETDC), a San Jose Redevelopment Agency initiative to incubate and support startups dedicated to clean automotive technologies, including battery infrastructure startup EVIN, the very unusual compressed air powered Magnetic Air Cars, and over 30 others.

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Innovators Honored for Applying Technology To Brighten People’s Lives

Dev Crews | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

startup friday

suryaBoats outfitted with solar panels have become “floating classrooms” for children in the low-lying regions of Bangladesh, where floods have destroyed crops, schools, roads and infrastructure. They are among the more than 20 million people who became displaced last year due to climate change. In the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced 70 climate-related natural disasters. In its rural areas, 81% of people have no electricity, relying instead on kerosene hurricane lanterns.

But now, the social entrepreneur group Surya Hurricane: Electrification for the Landless, is helping retrofit lanterns with CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED lights, that can be recharged with excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. The new solar lighting is durable, mobile, alleviates the health problems caused by smoke from the traditional lanterns and reduces CO2 emissions. The lanterns are recharged using excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. Local women, whose communities have been devastated by flooding, charge villagers $.07 USD for the service, generating a much needed additional source of income.

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Chrysler Pulling Plug on EV Development? Maybe Not

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ChyslerET009_068EV_610x362It wasn’t all that long ago that Chrysler Corp. pocketed more than $12.5 billion in government bailout funds to avoid a bankruptcy filing, promising on the way to the bank to build more fuel efficient cars and produce electric vehicles by 2011.

About three years later the U.S. carmaker has launched no hybrids – although plans for them remain in the works – and its ENVI electric vehicle program is fading fast in the rearview mirror largely because of a strategic decision by Fiat. Fiat received a 20 percent stake from the U.S. in exchange for the Italian carmaker’s more fuel-efficient chassis and engine technology, and is apparently calling the shots now at Chrysler.

Oh the irony.

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Paul Hawken on the State of the Markets

Scott Cooney | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

SI forums_header_shortSustainable Industries continues to impress me.  Yesterday’s SI Economic Forum featured Paul Hawken, well-known author (Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism, Blessed Unrest) and sustainability guru (the mind behind Wiser Earth and a variety of other startups).  And while Mr. Hawken is a big draw, the discussion panel that followed also included some real movers and shakers with some fascinating insights into the green business world, including Lisa Michelle Galley, Founder of Galley Eco Capital, Matt Cheney, CEO of Renewable Ventures, Peter Rumsey, Founder of Rumsey Engineers, and Phil Michael Williams, VP of Technical Systems and Sustainability at Webcor

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