Amidst a free-falling roller coaster global economy, social capital is an encouraging bright spot. While traditional profit-driven capitalism has come into question, the social capital movement is budding, striving to do good and make money at once, shattering the traditional for-profit, non-profit dichotomy. I was a relative newbie at the first Social Capital Markets Conference (SoCap08) which took place last month in San Francisco and want to relay the encouraging vibe.Click to continue reading »
Providing baseload power to the energy grid requires it be “dispatchable”, or available on demand, a significant advantage to fossil-fuel power sources. Smart grid development can help smooth out the expansion of renewable energy, but power storage is the means by which most experts see renewable energy expanding its role as a baseload power provider.
There are several ways to store power for later use during peak demand. Hydroelectric plants can draw on reservoirs to generate electricity, then pump some of the water back uphill during off-peaks times. Another method gaining some recognition is using compressed air for energy storage.
But of all the ways to store energy, batteries are still the most widely accepted. As Jim Kelly, senior vice president of transmission and distribution of Southern California Edison puts it, “For most of us right now, the real key to effective storage is batteries”.
There are several different battery technologies working their way through development and early commercialization, but one technology showing some real promise in stabilizing energy distribution in renewable systems is the Vanadium Redox Flow battery.Click to continue reading »
by Rick Bunch, Beijing, October 22: If there is such a thing as a tipping point, in the sustainability realm one has to believe it’s near at hand when 1000 CEOs (and Cameron Diaz – no kidding!) get in the same room to be jawboned by Walmart CEO Lee Scott. For those of us who have been in it for a while, the elation is quickly replaced by the pressure to make it all work so we’ll turn out to have been right.
Listening to Lee Scott [Walmart CEO] and other Blue-and-Gray executives, , I was genuinely impressed how far Walmart had come since announcing, a few months back, that it would bring its sustainability initiatives to China. At that time I was concerned that there was too little appreciation for differing political, legal, business and social cultures in China, and in particular that Walmart was poised to repeat many of the same mistakes that had recently laid low the food, medicine, toy and other industries that source from China. Many companies sourcing from China had imposed environmental, workplace and product-quality standards on their suppliers, supplemented by third-party audit and certification requirements, but a continuing series of scandals forcefully demonstrates these measures alone cannot succeed.
Walmart has figured out that setting standards and auditing supplier performance will not suffice. For one, suppliers are dealing with numerous conflicting social, safety, quality and environmental standards, and harmonization is needed among major buyers and associations. Even with regular audits, suppliers have a powerful incentive to cheat when buyers care only about price and delivery dates. On the one hand, Walmart proposes to mitigate the cheating incentive by sticking with suppliers who comply with standards and dropping those whose performance does not improve – regardless of cost. They are working with other major retailers and associations to harmonize supplier standards.
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo are reportedly readying their manufacturing units to replace artificial sweeteners in their beverages with an all natural sweetener called Stevia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give thumbs up this week to Stevia, a natural plant extract which has been in use for hundreds of years already in Latin America.
Cokes enriched with Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or sugar leaf, will have all the sweetness of sugar but none of the calories or carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index. The plant, which already has holy grail status in the industry, will likely be adopted in many fizzy drinks and other beverages if it gets approved.Click to continue reading »
The Asia-Pacific market for green IT services will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 68.5% between 2008 and 2011, from around $251 million in 2007 to some $2 billion, according to a recently released study by Springboard Research. According to the study, which excludes Japan, Australia presents itself as the largest, and key, market for green IT services during this period though India and China are forecast to grow at faster rates but from a smaller base.
According to Springboard’s “Asia Pacific Green IT Services Market – The Budding Greens,” consulting services capabilities are a key aspect in the market – expected to grow to $546 million– though infrastructure services make up some 58%, the largest single component, of the market.
“The key finding from our study is that consulting capability is an essential market entry point for vendors,” said Phil Hassey, Springboard vice president of services. “Green IT Services vividly highlights the need for service providers to have end to end capabilities, and to not rely upon a narrow set of capabilities if they are to capture market opportunities.”
Virtualization, data center management, recycling and enterprise-wide green IT strategies are the four key areas organizations are examining when it comes to greening IT.
While the green IT services market in the Asia-Pacific region is still “embryonic,” according to Springboard, HP-EDS and IBM have had success implementing end-to-end solutions. Other active participants include Sun, Dell, VMWare and Microsoft.
The key challenges that lie ahead involve vendors, customers, and governments being able to come together to craft practical, effective solutions and regulations. Vendors in particular “should ensure that their Green IT solutions are more than ‘window dressing’ of existing solutions – for a premium. Green IT adoption will not go into the mainstream until the vendors showcase clear cost savings and a transformational outcome to the enterprise users,” Hassey said.
For a broader and deeper look into what’s going on in Green IT, including how and why it will make it through the recession, check out Greener Computing’s current offerings.
In his inauguration speech, President-Elect Obama said we need an economy that addresses the “new energy to harness and new jobs to be created.” But what are some of the opportunities to watch for? Check out his plan below, and then let’s discuss some of the areas that should see increased opportunity.
In anticipation of an Obama victory, investors scooped up insanely cheap renewable energy stocks on the day before and the day of the election. The solar sector saw some of the most impressive gains, with stocks like Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ:ESLR) climbing 44 percent, and Solarfun Power Holdings (NASDAQ:SOLF) picking up 49 percent. In wind, California wind farm developer Western Wind Energy Corporation (TSX-V:WND) tacked on 53 percent, and many are now expecting Vestas Wind Systems (CPH:VWS) – the world’s largest turbine manufacturer – to gain added momentum if the President-elect follows through with campaign promises of long-term support for wind.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year unfolds, as those that were on the fence with renewables may rush to get a piece of this action now, and those that had been loading up on cheap shares may be willing to cash out in the short-term for quick gains. Regardless, it should be understood that the potential of the renewable energy market does not rely upon an Obama administration alone. Certainly our next President’s energy agenda will support the renewable energy industry a lot more than the Bush administration did over the past eight years. But the reality is, without the continued threat of fossil fuel depletion and global warming, renewables could not take center stage the way they will over the next four years.
With dwindling fossil fuel supplies, coal has been viewed as the energy source of last resort. This outlook is changing as estimated global coal supplies seem to have been severely inflated. Is coal’s future in doubt?
Many experts are saying yes. Professor David Rutledge of CalTech believes that world coal reserves are grossly overstated and could be substantially exhausted this century. This is in stark contrast to earlier forecasts.
I was lucky enough to see Al Gore at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week. Lucky because after all he is the Goreacle, but if you could invite anyone to your post-election victory party, wouldn’t Al be at the top of your list? This year’s “Web Meets World” theme brought together Internet-industry leaders to explore “how might the Web be used to address the world’s most pressing limits.” The Goreacle concluded the summit as the last speaker on the last day, but enthusiasm was still high as he was greeted with loud applause and a standing ovation by the digerati in attendance.
Looking to follow through on its plans to develop biomass-driven biofuels plants in North America Raven Biofuels Nov. 7 announced that it is partnering with British Columbia’s Kamloops Indian Band (KIB), a local First Nations government, one of the largest of the 17 groups into which the Secwepemc, aka Shuswap, nation was divided when the Colony of British Columbia established an Indian reserve system in the 1860s.
Raven and KIB have signed a memorandum of understanding to aimed at developing and building a proposed ethanol biorefinery and cogeneration plant, according to a media release.
If it pans out, the agreement between KIB and Raven seems like a “win-win” situation. It would move second-generation, biomass-driven biofuels production into commercialization, bring clean transportation fuels, business and job creation to a First Nations territory, produce local fuel, power and heat, generate revenues from sales elsewhere, and address the fire hazards and other problems associated with beetle kill, which has decimated large areas of forest across western North America.
Denmark’s institution of a tax exemption on electric vehicles at least until 2012 is attracting a growing list of auto manufacturers to the Scandinavian country’s market.
Germany’s Daimler Chrysler is the latest auto maker to get in line as its Mercedes unit is working to roll out plug-in electric versions of the Smart car by the end of 2009. Daimler’s been working with German utility RWE on a pilot project in Berlin that entails road testing 100 electric Smart cars and building a network of 500 charging stations. It’s also working on a similar project in London with Smart Fortwo, where electric cars are being used by corporate groups and municipal authorities.
Better Place is working with the Renault-Nissan Alliance and DONG Energy to bring electric vehicles, infrastructure and distribution to Denmark. France’s Aixam, Sweden’s Saab and Volvo, China’s BYD and California-based Tesla Motors are also working on entering the Danish market.
Better Place CEO and founder Shai Agassi told the UK’s The Register that the tax break could bring the typical price for an electric car in Denmark down to as low as $20,000 from about $60,000.
Having started out with a project to build half a million charging stations in Israel, Better Place also announced a nationwide smart car-battery recharging network project in Australia.
1,400 Megawatts of Wind Energy Generation Installed in 3rd Quarter – Heading for Another Record Year
Despite the continued economic slide and bad news for some wind farm projects due to the “credit crunch”, the American Wind Energy Association reports that another 1,389 megawatts of wind energy was installed in the 3rd quarter, bringing the total capacity in completed wind projects to date for the year to 4,204 MW.
With more wind projects still underway and scheduled for completion this year, the estimated 2008 total for wind energy development stands at 7,500 MW – enough to power about 2.2 million homes – and is well on the way of becoming the fourth record year in row. Last year’s record was 5,249 megawatts.
Increased manufacturing base
In the report released last week, the AWEA also pointed to a growing domestic manufacturing base for wind projects in the United States. In 2008 eight new wind turbine component plants opened and nine facilities were expanded, adding 9000 new jobs. In addition, 19 new wind component plants have been announced.
The share of domestic production of component parts has risen from 30% in 2005 to 50% today.Click to continue reading »
Will Obama Bring Boom Times to the Sustainability Industry?
The good news, I think, is that those taking a strong position on sustainability and clean technology stood to prosper regardless of who won last Tuesday. The better news, as many of us expected, is that an Obama white house should accelerate things even more, bringing us a “tremendous ramp-up in energy efficiency” and much more…
Enough About the F’ing Light Bulbs
Refreshing candor from the President elect: EcoGeek reports Obama understands very clearly that it’s nice to plant a few trees, but anything meaningful has to come on a vastly larger scale. But will this sentiment come to, ahem, light?
How do you Introduce Efficiency in the Workplace? Show Employees the Bill
It’s one thing to ask for cuts in spending, impose rules, and turn down the master thermostat – but what if simply *showing* the bill to employees made a difference? It does.
Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the Game
In this quick excerpt from Joel Makower’s new book, Strategies for the Green Economy, he suggests renewed optimism for the can-do spirit of today’s green entrepreneurs – leaving Ben & Jerry’s in the dust.
Are the Same Guys that Skunked the Stock Market Going to be any Better at Carbon Trading?
Before we run away with optimism, take a quick reality check from TreeHugger’s John Laumer who suggests – “The very people that caused the banking system melt down – promoting and utilizing unregulated systems – are salivating at getting their little trading fingers into the carbon cap and trade business. And that’s a problem.” Is he right?
Let’s just get this out of the way in the beginning: I am not a fan of Starbucks. Years ago my favorite coffee shop, locally owned, was put out of business when Starbucks moved in to its block. However, I believe in giving credit to companies that practice the triple bottom line.
On Monday Starbucks announced its thirteen new goals, as part of Starbucks Shared Planet. The company plans to meet all of the goals by 2015. The goals include ethical sourcing, environmental stewardship, and community involvement.
Last week I reported on comments made by Pitney Bowes executive chairman, Mike Critelli, in a recent NY Times interview. Mr. Critelli believes the environmental impact of unsolicited mail is greatly exaggerated by well-funded, but misinformed activist groups. To provide an opposing viewpoint, I asked Will Craven, the Media Officer and spokeperson for ForestEthics’ Do Not Mail campaign to respond to Critelli’s comments.
Triple Pundit: Mike Critelli believes junk mail is not an environmental issue. How would you respond to that?
ForestEthics: When people think about the causes of climate change, they primarily think of cars. However, deforestation accounts for 20% of all carbon emissions–more than all planes, trains, and yes, automobiles combined. When a forest is logged, hundreds of years’ worth of carbon absorption is released straight into the atmosphere. If this isn’t an environmental issue, I don’t know what is.