Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism

I love this Wall Street Journal op-ed, A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism. Sustainability in its simplest format can be seen as the rejection of short-term thinking and an embrace of long-term thinking. With respect to capitalism, sustainability can help create greater and perpetual profits. Who doesn't want that? Yet, our system is designed today to reward short-term profits at the expense of future and sustained growth. As the op-ed states, current events have fully demonstrated the fundamental flaws with short-term thinking. It's now time to put business on a sustainable path.

Among the tips that are shared in the op-ed to help put companies on a profitable and sustainable path is the elimination of quarterly financial reporting for public companies. I've seen firsthand the radical and destructive behavior (such as mass layoffs) that occurs each quarter in order to maximize profits and keep a company's stock price artificially inflated. Then when the next quarter rolls around the same radical short-term fix begins anew. This insane pursuit of short-term profits at the expense of people's lives (and even the longevity of the company itself) is unsustainable, selfish, and prevents long-term incremental growth of a company. It is unsustainable behavior.

Sustainable business practices are nothing new. I look forward to the day when companies of all shapes and sizes begin to implement practices that will ensure their longevity. Our economy, our environment, and our communities sure could use stable, long-term planning and growth right about now. Can you make it happen at your business?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

COSEIA Gets $491,000 Grant to Cut Red Tape and Costs for Solar Installations

Congrats to the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) for getting almost half a million dollars from the Fed to devise ways to cut costs from solar module installations. This will be money well spent considering that 40% of the solar module installation costs are due to things such as permitting, design, and installation. COSEIA will also be partnering with reputable institutions such as the Rocky Mountain Institute and the American Solar Energy Society.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Up on the Rooftop: Updating HVAC Rooftop Unit Performance

For those that are interested in improving the performance of their light commercial building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system check out this upcoming webinar on December 13, 2011. Mark Cherniack, Senior Program Manager of New Buildings Institute and Kristin Heinemeier, Senior Engineer, Western Cooling Efficiency Center, University of California at Davis will present on this topic. These speakers will also provide updates in two key areas of heating and cooling performance improvement in the light commercial buildings sector: 1) advanced controls and 2) performance monitoring, including fault detection and diagnostics. It should be informative so check it out!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breakthrough Berkeley Mist Sealant Technology: Potential to Save Americans $5B Per Year

There is a silent and deadly pocketbook killer out there - leaky ducts. According to this article, residential and commercial buildings typically lose about 25-40 percent of heating and cooling energy through leaky ducts and this equates to about $5 billion lost every year. That's a big chunk of change. Well it looks like the smart folks at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have created a novel way to take care of this leaky duct epidemic and help the cause of energy efficiency. They've developed a "mist" that when blown into a pressurized duct system will seal the cracks and holes. Non mas leaky ducts (and empty pocketbooks). Think of this mist as a super pookie on steroids! Energy-efficiency, like scientists, may not be sexy but it's certainly cool and smart because it will save a big chunk of change in heating and cooling costs. Congrats and a big thank you to those good women and men at Lawrence Berkeley!

Colorado PUC Green Lights Xcel Contract for More Wind Power

Sweet. More renewable wind power at a cheaper rate for Xcel customers. Xcel received permission from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to purchase 200 megawatts of wind from a wind farm in Limon, Colorado. Even though Xcel will meet the state's renewable energy standards ahead of time, they still bought more wind power than necessary because the price was lower than they typically pay. The contacted price is good for 25-years.

Why Businesses See Profits in Sustainability

This article in the Economist, "Why Firms Go Green" shows that businesses are beginning to lead the way by implementing business sustainability methods. Not only will business sustainability practices help reduce the amount of natural resources consumed, but they can cut precious costs. We all know that businesses exist to create wealth, so why not increase your business' social, economic and environmental capital by implementing sustainability practices throughout the enterprise? Larger companies like Alcoa, SAP, and Unilever are baking sustainable processes in their operations. But these methods aren't just for big business, small-to-medium sized businesses and non-profits can benefit from sustainability initiatives as well. I'm glad to see the Economist pick up on the growing trend of sustainability in the business world.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Greece Bets on Solar Power As a Debt Solution

This is just the type of outside the box thinking that I can really appreciate. Greece has racked up a substantial amount of debt in the European Union (EU) and in my mind there is really no way of repaying via traditional "cutting off the nose to spite the face" methods (i.e. raising revenues through taxes on folks without jobs or with stagnant wages or cutting spending through "austerity" measures like reducing or eliminating pensions). Greece is both sunny and beautiful. There are only so many tourists (and revenue) that can come through each year to see the beauty of Greek history and its people. So the smart people of Greece think they can capitalize on something that they have an abundance of - the sun by capturing it and exporting it to other EU countries. Cool huh?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Colorado Scores Another Win: GE Will Build a Solar PV Factory Here

The good times just keep rolling into Colorado. First there was the announcement earlier this week that Arrow Technologies was moving their corporate headquarters to the Centennial State. And then it was announced that GE is bringing a $300 million thin-film solar manufacturing plant to this state. This article from the Denver Business Journal says that reasons GE chose this state were because of an "well-trained workforce with access to higher education" and the "ability to move into a 700,000 sq. ft. facility" to name a couple. This is an incredible announcement considering that Ascent Solar in Thornton, CO announced recently that they are building a thin-film solar manufacturing plant in China. It's been a great for this state and I know that the Colorado Economic Development Office is working hard to bring in even more businesses.

Vestas’ Brighton Blade Plant Gets First Order

Good news from Colorado Energy News on the Vestas plant in Brighton, Colorado receiving their first order for 55-meter wind turbine blades to be completed by the end of the year. Looks like X-mas comes early for the folks working at that Brighton plant.

And speaking of wind turbine blades, while I was driving down I-76 today I saw a huge turbine blade being transported via semi. It was incredibly long (seemed like a city block) and I wish I could have snapped a picture of it (but I was driving). After it drove by I did wonder how they install those blades. Do they put the tower up first and then add the blades or do they put the whole thing together on the ground and then pull it up via helicopter or crane or what? Any ideas dear readers?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Westinghouse Solar Introduces Low-Cost, DIY Home Solar Power Kits

The price of solar is perpetually dropping. It's a beautiful thing. Because of this Westinghouse has developed a simple low-cost solar photovoltaic kit for your home. They come in various sizes from a small one-panel experimental kit to a 20-panel kit that can satisfy about 70% of the homeowners electricity. I hope to see solar panels on every home in the United States. But remember to make sure that your home is as energy efficient as possible before you supplement your power with solar PV or thermal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Colorado’s First 100% Affordable LEED Platinum Building

I just stumbled upon this article in Colorado Energy News about a senior apartment building complex in Lakewood, CO that is LEED certified. Seniors tend to be on a fixed budget so cutting energy costs in half, as the article said, will help seniors have more income for other things such as medication, health services, and food. Just think, if we had more buildings (multi-family, single-family and commercial) that could use energy more efficiently we would save a ton of coin. Even though we all can't make our structures so efficient that we get the esteemed LEED certification, we can think about ways to weatherize our homes so we use less energy this winter and beyond. Kudos to Lakewood and the team that built the LEED certified multi-family apartment complex. You are a great inspiration to all of us that wish to reduce our energy consumption and save some money!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Governor’s Energy Office and CSU to Collaborate on Energy Efficiency

Who said government can't be effective and reduce spending? The Governor's Energy Office (GEO) and Colorado State University (CSU) are joining forces to help reduce the amount of energy, water, paper, and petroleum use in government buildings across the State of Colorado. I think that we should all be quite ecstatic that our state government is going to save some money and from the looks of this initiative it's going to be a lot of money. If you remember energy efficiency initiatives have the quickest return on investment (ROI). Another interesting offhand comment in the Colorado Energy News article is this little nugget from TJ Deora, director of the GEO:

"Colorado is already positioned to be the first state reporting it's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from statewide operations..."

How cool is that? Colorado will not only save taxpayers money with energy efficiency initiatives, but may also one day report its GHG emissions. I look forward to the progress reports from the GEO and CSU.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Solar-powered Homes Remain a Distant Dream for Many in the U.S.

Although the title of this article sounds a bit doom and gloom it really isn't. Capital today is flowing towards utility-scale renewable energy projects. This is a good thing. I'd rather have more renewable fuels in my utility's portfolio than fossil fuels. However, as the article states there are other options besides the traditional owner-financed solar photovoltaic (PV) array on a residential rooftop. The market for leasing solar panels is growing fast. This is an attractive option for those homeowners who can't afford the upfront capital costs for PV modules, inverter, and the labor to install it. However, for those that like to buy rather than lease, the cost of PV is dropping each year. PV will be competitive with traditional fossil fuels soon.

The last thing I'd like to mention, which always seems to get overlooked in renewable energy discussions and articles is something less sexy, but is the best bang for your buck - energy efficiency. Making a residential or commercial building use the least amount of energy possible is where the smart money is. A quicker return on investment (ROI) can be realized by completing energy efficiency projects such as caulking, insulation, low-flow shower heads, Energy Star appliances, efficient HVAC systems, and the cheapest of measures - behavioral change (turning off lights when leaving the room or taking shorter showers). Once the building is enhanced to use the least amount of energy possible, there is a really good chance that you won't need as many solar PV modules on your roof and therefore won't need to finance as much. Energy efficiency is low-hanging fruit.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Verizon Turns to NREL for Energy Efficiency

I can appreciate the forward-thinking that Verizon is attempting here. What better way to learn about becoming a more sustainable business than to partner with the world-renowned National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Verizon is interested in learning how to make their data centers more energy efficient as well as developing new technologies to utilize its vast communications network to help homes and businesses save more energy. It's a smart move considering that mobile communications are already ubiquitous (with each mobile device consuming electricity) and showing no signs of losing flavor with consumers. I hope that others in the telecom space follow Verizon's lead and start the process of becoming a responsible business with the intent of reducing its carbon footprint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Conversation: Sustainability and the City

Sustainability is such a simple word yet it conjures up all kinds of meanings in people's minds. The definition of sustainability, which to me is the most easy to understand, is the one developed by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations, "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In other words, a sustainable society doesn't gobble up all of the resources so that there are none left for our children.

We (the planet Earth "we") are going to have some hard choices coming up here rather soon with respect to the topic of sustainability. Economic and physical growth are inevitable but need to be at a sustainable pace. So what choices can we make so that this growth doesn't put future generations at risk?

I was encouraged to see this article from Smart Planet on a recent meeting set up by the software company SAP (who by the way has an awesome online sustainability report). SAP brought together policy makers, energy companies, and city planners to discuss the possibility of sustainable economic and physical growth led by our urban centers. The ideas brought up were encouraging and I hope this model of bringing diverse backgrounds together to discuss the impact we have today on future generations gains rapid acceptance.

Report Ranks Colorado in the Middle on Clean Economy

I saw this article headline out of the corner of my eye and I had to look twice. Part of me can't believe that Colorado is ranked 20th for number of clean economy jobs. I went to the report on the Brooking Institute's website (PDF) to see what other figures I could find about Colorado. Some of the statistics are as follows:

  • Colorado has 51,036 "clean jobs"
  • 51,036 clean jobs equals 2.2% of all jobs in the state
  • Colorado grows its clean economy sector by 5.6% annually
  • Median wage for clean jobs in Colorado is $45,973 (median wage for all jobs in CO is $40,892)

Although these numbers are healthy and even one clean economy job is a good thing I still think that we can do better. Colorado's state policy, private investment, and incentives can all help grow the clean economy faster than the 5.6% listed above. I know this is definitely possible with the the incredibly smart and savvy people here in this state.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Habitat Builds First Energy Efficient Homes

Habitat for Humanity of Broward in Florida has just received LEED Gold certification for some of their new builds. They are the first builder in the Florida county to get this certification on their new builds. In order to receive the LEED Gold certification they had to demonstrate building performance in five areas: water conservation, sustainable site development, indoor environmental quality, material selection and last but not least energy efficiency. The families that are going to move into those homes are going to have a positive impact on their lives. Congrats to Habitat for Humanity in Broward County for thinking about the future.

DOE Explores a New Frontier In Quest for Cheaper Solar Panels

I love how ambitious the Department of Energy's (DOE) goal is in their "SunShot" program: "...eliminate 75% of the total installation costs for solar energy systems by 2020." That's incredible. There are working with utilities, software providers, and local governments to meet this goal so as to make rooftop solar arrays more affordable for property owners. With the collective brainpower of those entities, I think that this goal can definitely become reality in just nine years.

Biofuels Take Off in Europe

Congrats to KLM and Lufthansa airlines for taking the necessary step of testing the use of biofuels on their "regular routes". KLM is going to use biofuels on their Paris to Amsterdam route and Lufthansa will use it on their Frankfurt to Hamburg route. These airlines are using a processed oil from camelina a biofuel crop. The camelina can be planted in wheat fields during a time when the fields would be left fallow (farmland left unsown for a time to restore its fertility). The European Commission is also in support of the airlines using biofuels as long as they don't use food-based feed stocks to create the fuel and as long as the feed stock is grown and processed in Europe. I'm glad that these airlines and the European Commission are baking sustainability into their planning and policy. Let's see if the Americans can follow suit.

Vestas CEO on the Renewable Energy Index and Wind Market

Via Colorado Energy News we have a quick article on the information the Vestas CEO recently told Bloomberg TV. Although the "Corporate Renewable Energy Index" he mentioned peaks my interest, I think this quote is the most powerful:

"90% of all consumers in the world would like to have more renewable energy, and 80% of those consumers actually believe that companies that have the right behavior in renewable energy are companies that they would like to support."

It's really a no brainer folks - governments and businesses need to invest in renewable energy simply because constituents/consumers want more renewable energy. Right?

Boulder Wind Power, NREL Receive Energy Department Grants

Excellent news for local Colorado organizations. The two will receive a portion of a $7.5 million Department of Energy grant to help expedite next-generation utility-scale wind turbine drivetrains. According to their website Boulder Wind Power has a new design for a direct drive wind turbine generator, which they claim is more efficient, reliable, and cheaper than current direct drive or alternative geared systems on the market. And we all know the quality research that NREL is doing on wind turbines. This is money well spent and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nation's Largest Community Owned Solar Array Goes Live in Rifle, CO

Chalk one up for community owned solar! This is another example of folks coming together to generate clean, renewable power. Holy Cross Energy, the Clean Energy Collective, and Garfield County, Colorado collaborated to install a 1,500 MW solar PV array that will supply electricity for about 350 residents. The solar array was installed at the county airport. Here's to adding more community-powered renewable energy to the grid through cooperation!

NREL's Research Support Facility: A Lesson in Sustainability

Credit: NREL
This past week I was fortunate enough to attend CORE's Sustainability Breakfast on renewable energy certificates (RECs) located at the National Renewable Energy Lab's new Research Support Facility (RSF) in Golden, CO. The speakers at the breakfast were engaging and each had a somewhat unique perspective on RECs. The highlight was a full tour of the RSF. This new 220,000 sq. ft. building is a prime example of sustainable construction and energy efficient building performance. The architects also took into account human behavior or the way humans use energy throughout the day in an office building. NREL is targeting a LEED Platinum rating. I hope they get it. Some of the more interesting technologies utilized are:

  • Electrochromatic windows on the West side that automatically tint when a sensor detects direct sunlight,
  • A transpired solar collector that captures warm air, transmits it to a basement thermal mass labyrinth, and then circulates it throughout the building,
  • Lighting switches that force a person to turn them on but automatically shuts them off when they leave the room,
  • Light louvers on the southern windows that deflect direct light to highly reflective interior paint on the ceilings and, 
  • 1.6 MW of solar photovoltaics on the RSF and on the covered visitor parking. 

There is so much more to this building that will serve as a model and inspiration to all future sustainable building construction. We are fortunate here in Colorado to have an incredible renewable energy research laboratory.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

GE Combines Natural Gas, Wind, and Solar

Credit: GE via Technology Review
First off, I must say that I have a minor addiction to MIT's Technology Review. The writers render hyper-techie information into a digestible format that even grandpa can understand. Ok, cool science magazine plug out of the way, we have interesting news from GE. They've created this hybrid solar thermal/wind/natural gas plant. They say that a solar thermal and natural gas combo is nothing new, but the additional element of wind is something new. I think all three of those elements working in conjunction is fascinating. The plant uses renewable solar thermal to help heat the water to create steam to turn the turbine. In addition, the plant uses natural gas to do essentially the same thing when the sun is not shining, and the new element is the use of a wind turbine to supplement electricity generation. As we've discussed before natural gas is a better fuel than coal for use with the variability of wind. This trifecta of fuel for a power plant (two renewable fuels and one fossil fuel) will be a great way to reduce the overall amount of natural gas. GE has announced that they will implement this new technology at a power plant in Turkey by 2015. I can't wait to see the numbers once this thing comes online.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Colorado Governor's Energy Office Faces Funding Drought

I'm a bit dismayed at the possibility of life without the Colorado Governor's Energy Office (GEO). Those folks have worked incredibly hard over the years to increase awareness of both energy efficiency and renewable energy in the state of Colorado. But awareness aside the GEO has helped nurture budding markets (think Vestas wind turbines, Abound thin-film solar PV, solar thermal, energy audits) as well as boosting old ones (think appliances, home improvement, HVAC, windows). This article in the Boulder County Business Report gives the harsh realities (albeit between the lines) of myopic government influenced by a strong fossil fuel lobby working to keep us wedded to old technologies. It's been the Colorado GEO that has helped the people of Colorado look towards a sustainable, efficient, and renewable future. If you still believe that Colorado can be the clean tech thought leader and renewable technology incubator of the U.S. then you definitely need to call/write your state lawmakers and let them know that it is important that the GEO be fully funded. Let's keep this delicious renewable momentum going.

Farm-to-table Revolution in Western Colorado

Great article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on the partnerships that can be developed between local food growers and institutions like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. Programs like these aren't the cheapest, and often can't compete on price and convenience with the large corporate food producers, but I believe that focusing your attention on more locally produced food will be beneficial to your community in the long run. Why? Because processed foods (think of the stuff that comes in a can or box) is loaded with high doses of sugar and salt (which are major factors in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and which cause a drain on the local health care system). Processed food can come from 1,000s of miles away using large amounts of fossil fuels. Even the food processing itself is fuel and resource intensive. How many resources does it take to drive a crate full of fresh tomatoes or corn or strawberries or spinach 100 miles down the road? Not much. Getting our tomatoes from California and our grapefruits from Mexico is not sustainable. Growing our own or purchasing our food locally from our neighbors is sustainable. This article is a reminder to see what each of us can do in our own communities to buy locally.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Xcel Energy Says It’s Close to Meeting Colorado Target for Renewable Energy

This headline from the Denver Business Journal is bittersweet. On one hand, kudos to Xcel for meeting Colorado's renewable portfolio standard (basically 30% renewables by 2020) approximately eight years early. It's an incredible feat and Xcel should be commended for working diligently and creatively to meet that goal. On the other hand, the momentum towards accomplishing this goal will inevitably begin to decline. This suggests that utility incentives for homeowners to install solar PV or solar thermal may begin to dwindle. Funding for wind turbine farms on the Eastern plains may begin to dwindle. And perhaps even incentives for energy efficiency measures may dwindle. Of course the renewable energy market has to begin standing on its own, however the great state of Colorado can't just take it easy and feel good about having already accomplished 30% by 2020.

Even though there may not be any political appetite in this "age of austerity" for increasing the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS), I think that since Xcel was able to acquire the RPS goal that quickly, it's time for Xcel, Governor Hickenlooper, the state legislature, and environmental groups to work towards increasing the state RPS to oh let's say 40% by 2025 for investor owned utilities and 20% for co-ops and municipal owned. I think that goal would set the pace for the country and demonstrate that Colorado is the renewable energy powerhouse it was always meant to be. Once you've accomplished a goal, isn't it time to set a new one? Just sayin'.

If anything, I sure do miss ex-Governor Ritter's ability to develop those unique coalitions of strange bedfellows right about now. Alas, let's see if Governor Hickelooper can govern as effectively. What say you kind readers?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

GEO Recharge Colorado Rebate Program Pumps Nearly $90M of Investment into Colorado Economy

This is another example of how the Colorado Governor's Energy Office (GEO) works quietly behind the scenes to boost renewable energy technologies, promote energy efficiency in our structures, and stimulate the Colorado economy. A resident could get a rebate for installing a solar PV array, for weatherizing their property, or for purchasing an Energy Star appliance. Kudos to the GEO for strategically developing a rebate program that makes a positive impact in three different areas.

Discovery Could Make Fuel Cells Much Cheaper

I love science and all of the possibility and hope it brings. Bright men and women are working hard each day to discover cures for debilitating diseases and to develop better, faster, cheaper, smarter ways to do things. And now we have scientists that have discovered a cheaper material for a hydrogen fuel cell catalyst. The catalyst of choice today is platinum, which according to that article is a mere $1800 an ounce. Pricey. The new cheaper catalyst is a carbon, iron, and cobalt mixture and they say it is as durable as a platinum catalyst. Cool huh? If you need a good primer on the magic of fuel cells check this out at How Stuff Works. Science rocks!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pew Report: U.S. Drops to Third in Clean Energy Investment

I'm not ready to hit the panic button yet, but China is eating our lunch with respect to deploying clean energy technology. Although U.S. investment was up 51% ($34B) from 2009, the Chinese and the Germans are still pumping more investment dollars into clean tech deployments. Pew Clean Energy Director Phyliss Cuttino said, "The United States' position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain." That about sums it up for me. Our elected officials need to develop a comprehensive energy plan for this nation gradually phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewables or in the end we will spend way more than $34 billion for our energy needs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Working Toward a Clean Energy Economy

Check out this guest commentary at the Denver Post from an outgoing member of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Although this PUC member is leaving, it's refreshing to see his passion for Colorado's clean energy economy. It's necessary that we start transitioning away as quickly as we can from fossil fuels and move towards clean and renewable sources of energy. The reason? Simply put, burning fossil fuels to provide transportation to move ourselves and our products as well as providing heating and cooling for our homes is unsustainable. With the rate of consumption and the amount of those consuming (6.9 billion so far) increasing exponentially, we will not have enough fossil fuels for future generations to use for their energy needs. But lack of sustainability is only half the problem. Don't forget about the pollutants that occur to our air, water, and land from the use of fossil fuels. Anybody remember watching the footage of the Olympics in Beijing? The haze that was clearly visible (and clearly felt in the lungs by the visiting athletes) was from coal-burning power plants and manufacturing plants. Of course, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has thankfully prevented us from becoming a Beijing (although before the EPA's creation we were certainly headed there). I could go on, but I think you get the picture - the use of fossil fuels are unsustainable.

I look forward to the cooperation that will occur between the utilities, the PUC, and the consumers in order to help the state of Colorado create a sustainable, clean energy economy, if not for ourselves, then for future generations.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NREL Software Visualizes Energy Use in Buildings

I truly love this stuff! A software development team at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) have created a free program called OpenStudio that allows you to explore the energy use in any building. The software program was developed for Windows, OSX, and Linux and enables you to add various "loads" such as lighting, HVAC systems, and other equipment that use energy throughout a building. The program integrates well with a few Google applications like SketchUp and there are various plug-ins that can do cool things like convert a photograph of a building into a 3D model. According to the developers there is great potential here to integrate with other Google apps. My only critique is that there isn't a robust GUI to make it user-friendly for the nontechnical, but I imagine that this will come in time. This is a gigantic first step in bringing energy modeling to the masses and helping to further educate each of us on how a building consumes energy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Does Energy Efficiency’s Promise Remain Unfulfilled?

Recently, I have felt that energy efficiency techniques haven't been adopted by commercial and residential buildings as quickly as they should. I'm really a bit shocked when individuals and businesses don't want to save cold hard cash by reducing how much energy is consumed by their home or office. We all should know that of all the "clean" methods that provide the quickest return on investment (ROI), making a home or business use energy wisely is it. And while we wait for the cost of solar photovoltaic modules to come down in price, we should prepare our building by getting a professional energy audit and then incorporating energy efficiency measures. This process of changing light bulbs or adding insulation or caulking the holes isn't difficult and I wonder why more folks aren't thinking about doing it and really aren't interested in saving a buck.

So when I saw this article, "Why Does Energy Efficiency's Promise Remain Unfulfilled," I just had to read it. You should too, because it addresses the reasons why consumers aren't always motivated by what makes economic sense. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bill Ritter: Natural Gas and America's Clean Energy Future

I was fairly disappointed when former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter opted out of running for a second term. He had done so much to further clean energy in the state of Colorado and I was worried that clean energy would begin to take a back seat with a new administration. Surely, in my mind, there was no other Colorado politician that could live up to the former governor's passion for clean energy. But after reading this article by Bill Ritter, I am beginning to think that being governor was just a stepping stone towards a bigger and more aggressive goal of establishing clean energy, not only in the state of Colorado but in all 50 states. After having negotiated with the left and the right, small business and big business, and environmentalists and pure capitalists, the former governor now has the skills to help the entire country implement smart and sensible clean energy policies. Plus, he can do this unencumbered by the politician's shackles. I'm happy for Bill Ritter and his new gig up at Colorado State University and I look forward to seeing some healthy changes to our national energy policy in the new future.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MIT Study: Companies Up Commitment to Sustainability

The MIT Sloan Management Review recently completed a study that determined more and more corporate leaders are committing to sustainability practices. I would imagine that any intelligent business leader is going to implement triple-bottom line practices throughout their enterprise. Putting policies in place that tend to the social, environmental, and economic stakeholders of your company will do several things for your company. For one, business sustainability practices will save you money. Two, these practices will lessen your company's impact on the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. And three, your reputation amongst your employees and the community will be enhanced. The end result? Your employees are happy and they produce more, you help save the planet and conserve resources, and you make lots of money. What's not to like about business sustainability? Oh and if you stay true to these sustainability principles your company will last for a long, long time.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Colorado Renewable Energy Rules Survive GOP Offensive

Kudos to Dems in the Colorado State Legislature for putting the kibosh on an attempt to roll back Colorado's clean energy mandates outlined in the Clean-Air Clean Jobs law. I understand the sensitivity towards the cost to the consumer, but rolling back good policy that will help Colorado clean the air and create jobs is a little short-sited. We all are going to have to take on additional cost if we want to help build a better and cleaner future for our children. Plus there are things that we can do today to help reduce our energy bills, namely weatherizing our home to make it more energy efficient.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Study: By 2030 World Can Run On Renewables

Headlines like this excite me to no end. Here are some scientists from Stanford and University of California who say that they have a detailed plan to power the planet with clean, renewable energy in just 20 years. Some of the highlights include implementing hydrogen fuels cells to generate electricity, using offshore and onshore wind turbines, implementing a smarter grid, accessing geothermal, and making sure we aren't wasting any energy in our buildings or transporting materials. This study (Part 1 and Part 2) published in  Energy Policy journal is comprehensive and stunning. Everything from the financial cost of implementing renewables globally by 2020 to the amount of mined rare earth materials is included. Converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy is completely doable, as long as we start thinking about building the future and not building a bridge to the past. I'm ready, are you?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Colorado State Republican Wants Renewable Energy Mandates Scaled Back

A couple of members of the Colorado State legislature want to scale back some of the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act signed into law in 2010. I wrote a piece on the signing here. This law was developed and supported by a broad coalition including Xcel Energy, Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and environmental groups. This type of robust coalition is rare these days in this political climate. One of the state legislator's main reasons for wanting to scale back this law is "cost". The cost is of course an economic one. Changing over to renewable energies or to lower-emitting fossil fuels like natural gas is going to cost us all more money than if we were to just stay with coal. However, there will be other costs (that will eventually cost more money) to our health, to our environment, and to our society if we stay the course with coal-burning power plants. We must continue to move forward with our energy policies and any attempt to pull us back is short-sighted thinking.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Degrees in Sustainability: Risky or Worth It?

Even before reading this great article I'd have to say that a sustainability degree is about as noble as a science, engineering, or liberal arts degree (ahem, a shout out to all my English lit. sisters and brothers). As well, I think that type of degree is full of fiscal and common sense. I would hire a person in a second who has spent numerous semesters analyzing the economic, social, and environmental impacts of our daily actions. It doesn't matter what kind of business or organization you own or work for, there are sound methods for making that entity more sustainable and in turn more profitable. Sustainability makes sense in the short term and in the long run, and our society would be better off if there were more generations that were being educated in this manner. So, if you're reading this then I give two thumbs way up to a sustainability degree. Totally worth it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

MIT Charged Up about Its Energy Efficiency

The folks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are showing the world how smart they really are by taking advantage of one of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save money - energy efficiency. As we've revealed before here on Denver Sun Sponge, the quickest ROI isn't gained by installing solar panels, or adding solar thermal or a wind turbine, but is gained by implementing energy efficiency upgrades to a residential or commercial building. From this article in the Boston Herald, MIT hopes to reduce it's electricity use by 15% in three years, which, according to their projections, would help them save a cool $50 million in energy costs. Wow, $50 million sure could by a lot of physics textbooks.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

RETool: Opportunities in the New Energy Economy

The next RETool class at the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Colorado starts on January 28th. I took this class last year and was impressed at the quality of education and instructors. Here's the line-up:
  • Friday, January 28 - Renewable Electric Power
  • Friday, February 18 - Understanding Smart Grids
  • Friday, March 18 - Renewable Transportation Energy
  • Friday, April 22 - The Promise of Energy Efficiency
This is a great way to enhance your energy industry knowledge and meet some really interesting people. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Online Solar Map Provides Data on 800,000 Colorado Buildings

This solar map from the Governor's Energy Office and the Denver Regional Council of Governments is unbelievable. If you live in the Denver metro area all you have to do is find your structure on a Google satellite map and it provides the potential kilowatt hours that could be generated from having a solar PV system installed on the roof of your residential or commercial building. The solar map also provides the estimated electric bill savings, the size of a PV array in kilowatts, and a form to fill out to have an installer (PV or solar thermal) contact you. This interactive map with the above data points is truly a way to generate interest in distributed generation solar PV and solar thermal. This is a cool tool. Please check it out when you get a chance. Read more about the solar map in this Daily Camera article.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

CU-Boulder Appoints First Director of Campus Sustainability

The University of Colorado is moving in a sustainable direction with the recent hire of Moe Tabrizi, Director of Campus Sustainability. Mr. Tabrizi is going to need all the support he can get with the university's ambitious sustainability goals. Just look at how ambitious these goals are:

“…reducing energy consumption by 20 percent, water consumption by 10 percent, petroleum use by 25 percent, and paper use by 20 percent, all by 2012.”

Those are nice and aggressive goals for a campus. Hopefully these are contagious to the rest of the community and surrounding cities. It seems like the Campus Sustainability Office is going to place an emphasis on communicating the progress to the campus and the surrounding community. Communicating all efforts will go a long way towards increased adoption of sustainable behavior. Congrats to CU - Boulder and to Mr. Tabrizi!

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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