Democratization of Electricity: Are You a Public Utility?

| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

rfkSPIIn typical Kennedy-esque fashion Robert Jr. delivered a liberal-environmentalist stem winder from the main stage at Solar Power International this morning, pillorying the coal and oil industries (“carbon cronies”), and calling for the “democratization” of electric power.

He was largely referring to the perceived lobbyist-led stranglehold fossil fuels have on power production. But later in the day, members of a panel on electricity regulation (“Who Will Be the Next Regulator?”) cited Kennedy’s speech to refer to what is happening as more and more individuals, businesses, and organizations install solar panels on their property, generate their own electricity, and sell the excess back to the local utility.

The question that arises is this: if these companies are generating electricity, are they utilities?

If you have rooftop solar panels, are you an utility?

The answer for individuals is almost certainly not. For companies who sell and maintain solar panels, or rent space on rooftops to install their own, the answer is maybe, sort of, hopefully not, but possibly eventually.

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EDF Climate Corps Makes the Business Case for Energy Efficiency Investments

Kathryn Siranosian | Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

thermostat fun
Energy efficiency. It’s the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest energy resource available to your business today.

Sure, rooftop solar panels and on-site wind turbines may seem like the epitome of ultra-green chic right now. But, whatever energy efficiency lacks in “glitz,” it more than makes up for in bottom-line benefits. It’s simple: reducing your company’s energy consumption is a sure-fire way to cut costs and lower your GHG emissions, as well.

Need proof? Take a look at the outcomes recently reported by the Environmental Defense Fund’s 2009 Climate Corps.

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Organic Farming and the Future of Food

3p Contributor | Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 7 Comments


By Laura Klein

Sustainable agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. On the other hand, less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically.

In light of this conundrum, what keeps the organic farmer going?

I spoke with Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, to find out more about what it’s like to be an organic farmer in these tough economic times.

“The future of organic is very, very solid in spite of level sales,” says Wiswall.  A farmer first and author second, Wiswall is seeing a groundswell of new organic farmers entering the marketplace, which he and others attribute to the writings of Michael Pollan, films like Food Inc., and the increased concern surrounding food safety issues in general.

However, there are big speed bumps in the way of an organic farmer’s success.

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Hunter Lovins Speaks On Climate Change Action and Revamping the Economy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

lovins“Whatever you do, please take action…if we are going to solve this one [climate change], it’s going to require all of us,” Hunter Lovins said while speaking on October 21 at Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s National Climate Seminar. The founder and president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, and a founding professor of business at the Presidio School of Management, reminded listeners everyone can take action concerning climate change.

Lovins mentioned that since Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E) quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month because of its stance on climate change legislation, other companies are “starting to flee.” She suggested two actions people can take:

  1. Write to companies who are still members of the Chamber of Commerce, telling them you are not sure you want to do business with them.
  2. Send a letter to the Chamber of Commerce telling them to stop obstructing efforts to mitigate climate change by going to the website, NewVoiceofBusiness.org, where such a letter exists, and click “send.”
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Fisker Automotive Buying Closed GM Plant To Produce Plug-in Hybrids

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Fisker Karma006General Motors (GM) closed its Wilmington, Delaware plant in July, leaving 550 active employees out of work, and another 500 laid-off hourly workers without the hope of being called back to work. Vehicle manufacturing used to be Delaware’s second largest private employer. Perhaps it will be again. Fisker Automotive announced on October 27 it signed a letter of intent to buy the plant for $18 million after a routine four-month evaluation period.

Built by GM in 1947, the Wilmington plant produced 8.5 million cars, and has a production capacity of 300,000 cars a year. The Wilmington plant will support the Irvine, California-based company’s Project NINA, developing and producing a $39,000 plug-in, hybrid sedan. Production is scheduled to begin in 2012, and by 2014 the company plans produce 75,000 to 100,000 cars a year. Over half of the cars produced will be exported. The plant will create or support 2,000 factory jobs and over 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014.

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Solar Conference Opening Coincides with Obama Stroll Through the PV Panels

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

obamasolarpanelsSPIIn an example of either great timing, or a degree of scheduling cooperation that would be the envy of any trade conference, Solar Power International, the largest solar energy conference in the county, kicked off the same day as the Obama administration and its allies began a concerted push for a climate legislation package in the Senate, and with the American public.

Indeed, just as Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), unveiled a “Solar Bill of Rights” on stage in Anaheim, President Obama was standing in front of a field of photovoltaic solar panels at the ribbon-cutting for a new 25-megawatt solar power plant in Arcadia, Florida, the country’s largest solar PV plant to date. Obama was also there to announce $3.4 billion in grants to help build a nationwide “smart energy grid,” designed to improve energy efficiency, and help integrate solar and other renewables into the national grid.

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Facing Reality in Copenhagen

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Measuring success in Copenhagen - The Road to COP15The days grow short and with it the time left to lay a foundation that leads to an international climate treaty to which all nations – rich and poor, north and south – can agree.

As Copenhagen braces for an influx of delegates, press, policy experts, and leaders from all corners of the globe this December, many begin to brace for a new definition of what will constitute success at the COP15 climate talks. A definition based less on the “do-or-die” high expectations of a signed treaty by the end of the year and more on the reality of the work left to accomplish a deal and the time available to accomplish it.

It may be  too much to hope that delegates negotiate a final resolution to the issues that carve a persistently wide gulf between developed and developing nations. Momentum for real progress has been slow going (though it’s building as a sense of urgency mounts).

Rich nations still squabble amongst themselves and developing nations aren’t too keen on  forsaking their expanding fossil-fueled wealth, just when it really gets going–especially when nations already fat and happy on coal and oil seem unwilling to pull their own weight.

The situation isn’t likely to change much, at least not by December. Is COP15 therefore destined to fail? Not necessarily – even with the intractable issues before it.

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Solar in the Developing World: Potential and Pessimism

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

solarpanelsAfricaSPIAmongst the seminars with titles like “The Real Value of Distributed Generation,” and “Innovations in Inverters and System Controllers,” at Solar Power International, one stood out as perhaps having a little more interest to the general reader: “Solar Opportunities in the Developing World.” As anyone who has ever looked into buying a residential solar power system knows, solar panels are very expensive. So what could solar power possibly offer to the world’s poorest people?

Turns out, both a lot and, unfortunately, very little. As the seminar’s three panelists made clear, solar power could be a solution to the developing world’s patchy electric grid. Installed solar panels, coupled with batteries to store electricity for when the sun doesn’t shine, could — and do — provide steady power for corners of the globe that will likely never get it otherwise.

But as the panelists all also agreed, that solution is extremely difficult to implement on the ground.

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Jack Hidary On PACE To $400 Billion

Bill Roth | Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Jack Hidary Accelerating the pace and scale of roof top solar power’s market penetration is Jack Hidary’s mission. Hidary comes to this ambitious goal with a background of success as cofounder of start-ups Vista Research and Dice.com. His plan for putting solar on America’s roofs is based upon creating of an unprecedented amount of financing while also cutting costs out of the sales/installation process to enhance solar power’s cost competitiveness.

Hidary’s financing focus is on PACE which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE is a program where a city borrows money to lend to property owners for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Loaned funds are paid back over 20 years through property tax payments. The program started in California and through the efforts of Hidary and the PaceNOW coalition it is now allowed in 15 states. “PACE holds the potential of financing $400 billion of property improvements tied to energy efficiency and solar over the next 10 years compared to the $6.5 billion budgeted in the current Federal stimulus package,” Hidary proclaims. “That’s both the pace and scale required to produce a meaningful improvement in our country’s economy and our environment.”

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US Chamber Will See Yes Men In Court

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

yesmenIf you are a fan of the Yes Men, you probably ought to go see their newly released movie, The Yes Men Fix The World.  Multiple times.  With all of your friends and family.  The Yes Men will need all of the backing they can get, financial and otherwise, to fight a lawsuit filed by the US Chamber of Commerce against the group for copyright and trademark infringement.

Last week the Yes Men staged a fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce that the world’s largest business federation would reverse its previous denial of climate change.  Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonated a representative of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, addressing a number of reporters who attended the event under the false pretense that it was an official briefing.  The Yes Men also created a fake US Chamber of Commerce website.  The media was, by and large, unaware that this was staged- Fox News interrupted programming to broadcast the phony announcement, and Reuters ran the press release as an authentic news item.  It’s hard not to laugh.

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Let’s Talk About Failure: Lessons to Learn from FailCon

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

1FAILI find people most endearing when they speak with humility and honesty about things they’d rather not have you know.  FailCon was an amazing day of just that – successful people describing how they failed, rather than how great they are.  Here I’ll summarize my key learnings on running a successful start-up for all of you who weren’t able to attend. (Also check out #failcon on twitter for more).

  • Don’t build your resume.  You screwed your resume up when you became an entrepreneur, so you might as well just go for it. Who cares what the next person is going to think. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga (Love this one!)
  • We are living in a time and place where there is a high reward for success and high social acceptance of failure.  We call this Boom Town.  Take advantage of it. ~ Thor Muller and Lane Becker, Get Satisfaction
  • Don’t get funding too frequently, or too much.  This made the team very lazy.  The coolest things we’ve done have been when we’ve been close to running out of cash.  There’s something about being in a tight spot that you have to innovate out of.  ~Ali Moiz, Peanut Labs
  • Get empathy into your business.  Spend time with your target customers, learn about their behavior and motivations, connect these insights to your business objectives.  ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path
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Five Start-up Mistakes Not to Make, Courtesy of Meebo

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

meebo-logoI’m writing from FailCon today which is shaping up to be an excellent use of a Tuesday.  I have a lot of opinions about conferences and two of the things I look for in a conference are that speakers are forced to prepare relevant, thoughtful content beforehand.  And the dress is casual.  FailCon meets both of these needs. Kudos!

Seth Sternberg and Sandy Jan, co-founders of Meebo revealed five mistakes they made.

1) Don’t try to do it all on your own. You need co-founders.

2) Don’t team up only with people like you. People have a tendency to attract similar people with similar skill sets, which can greatly hurt a team.  Find people whose skills complement yours.

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GreenBeat Call for Submissions: Got a Smart Grid Killer App?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

greenbeat_innovationcompetition_125x125_2_iabRenovating the power grid requires big ideas from start-ups, major technology companies, manufacturers, and university labs. Innovations will range from technologies that increase the grid’s capabilities and efficiency, to new business models that will bring the Smart Grid into fruition.

The GreenBeat 2009 Innovation Competition is seeking the best ideas for making the Smart Grid a reality. Submissions are being accepted until this coming Friday, October 30 November 4 (it’s recently been extended). So if you’ve got an innovation to share, enter it here.

VentureBeat will name the top 10 entrants on November 19, 2009 at the GreenBeat 2009 conference, where Al Gore and John Doerr will provide keynote presentations.

Triple Pundit readers can save 20 percent on GreenBeat 2009 tickets by using the coupon code “TRIPLEGREEN”. Register here.

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Employee Engagement: AngelPoints and Saatchi S Launch New PSP Tool

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Slide3As part of a corporate sustainability strategy, there is a growing trend to engage employees on multiple levels, both at work and at home. More and more companies are providing their employees advice and tips on how to green their personal lives. But a key challenge is how to measure and track the benefits of these programs.

AngelPoints, a provider of enterprise software solutions for employee engagement, has recently partnered with Saatchi & Saatchi S, the sustainability strategy firm that helped Wal-Mart create their Personal Sustainability Project (PSP) program, to create a new web-based platform to help make it easier to engage employees in sustainability and to track their progress.

As reported on CSRwire, “The newly launched PSP platform enables employees to chart individual and collective progress on a secure and reliable site easily accessed through a company’s intranet.”

The theory is if you can get employees engaged and excited about being greener in their personal lives, they will bring this excitement and energy to their jobs as well.

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Smart Choice Label Fails Industry, Consumers, FDA

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

On Friday, the highly controversial Smart Choice food labeling program announced it will voluntarily “postpone active operations” three days after the FDA unveiled its plans to review any health claims displayed on the front of food packaging. While this means there will temporarily be no new processed junk food added to the list of “smart choices,” many existing products will continue to boast the deceptive label.

That’s weird. Why would a label that claims to be “coalition-based” run for the hills upon the FDA’s announcement that it will begin to vet nutritional claims found on the front of food packaging? If “scientists, academicians, nutrition educators, public health organizations, food manufacturers, retailers and government observers came together to create a robust system designed” for the consumer, if they were truly “transparent,” and if their standards were sufficiently “comprehensive” to apply to the “diet and health needs of the entire U.S. population,” then there should be no cause for concern.

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