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Walmart: Renewable Energy Rockstar

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Walmart (NYSE:WMT) CEO Mike Duke this week announced a major update on the company’s goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.

At Walmart’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., Mr. Duke unveiled two goals the company is committed to achieving by the close of 2020.

First, on the renewable energy front, Walmart will produce or procure 7 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy globally every year, a 600 percent increase over 2010 levels. Second, regarding energy efficiency, Walmart will reduce the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity required to power its buildings globally by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels.

“More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful,” said Duke.

Walmart, a company which through its considerable corporate responsibility efforts has steadily revived its once-tarnished image, has already made significant strides towards achieving its ambitious energy goal.

The company’s buildings are currently powered by 1.1 billion kWh of Walmart-driven renewable energy – enough to power a U.S. city of a quarter million people. When added to the renewable energy the company receives from the grid, renewable energy currently powers 21 percent of Walmart’s buildings’ total electricity and 17 percent its buildings’ total energy use.

Walmart’s rapid adoption of renewable energy across the United States has outpaced the rest of the country, which gets just around 9 percent of its energy from renewable sources, according to the Institute for Energy Research. Last April, Walmart announced that six of its Colorado stores would go solar, and the company has more than 200 solar projects in operation or under development currently.

Still, Walmart is only around one-fifth of the way towards reaching its renewable energy goal, and the company will need to continue to adopt cutting-edge energy technology if it seriously expects to reach 100 percent. The company said that over the coming decade it “projects to increase LED usage in sales floor lighting, parking lots and other applications. Walmart will also focus on market-relevant scalable technologies, including high efficiency HVAC and refrigeration systems and sophisticated energy/building control systems.”

As the world’s largest retailer with operations that span the globe, Walmart’s sustainability efforts have shown companies that going green and raking in the green are far from mutually exclusive.

“Walmart’s new sustainability goals are not only a sign of strong leadership for the company, they can spur others around the world to take action,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit that has consulted Walmart on its renewable energy strategy.

“Walmart’s commitments show that it understands the urgency of embracing renewable energy to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, while driving business growth that is cleaner and more efficient,” Steer added.

While emphasizing the environmental benefits of Walmart’s renewable energy goals, Duke, the company CEO, was careful to couch the effort in business terms.

“The math adds up pretty quickly — when we use less energy that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings,” he said.

“When I look at the future, energy costs may grow as much as twice as fast as our anticipated store and club growth,” Duke added. “Finding cleaner and more affordable energy is important to our every day low cost business model and that makes it important to our customers’ pocketbooks.”

Thus far, the plan seems to be working. Since 2005, when the company announced its goals to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy and to create zero waste, Walmart’s share price has increased by around 70 percent.

Original Article on Justmeans

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“Disruptive” Energy Companies Honored by MIT

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MIT Technology Review, a publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has released its 2013 “50 Disruptive Companies” List. Among the companies recognized are a series of cutting edge firms that are ushering in a new era of clean, renewable energy.

“The pace at which technology changes is astounding,” said Jason Pontin, publisher and editor in chief of MIT Technology Review. “This issue celebrates organizations at the forefront, displaying ‘disruptive innovation’ that will prove to surpass the competition, transform an industry, and change our lives.”

“We anticipate a busy year.”

Among the companies recognized is a Durham, N.C.-based solar company called Semprius Energy. Last year, Semprius set a new world record for photovoltaic module efficiency, becoming the first company ever to convert over one-third of the sun’s energy into electricity.

“We consider Semprius a solar company worth watching closely,” said Pontin. “It stands out for its novel method of concentrating sunlight onto tiny solar cells to deliver photovoltaic modules with cutting-edge efficiency and the potential to significantly lower the cost of generating solar electricity.”

Semprius is a fairly young company, having announced the opening of its first solar module production facility as recently as Sept. 13, 2012. The company has already secured a contract to supply solar modules to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) in support of PWR’s 200-kilowatt solar system to be located at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“This recognition by MIT Technology Review validates our ongoing efforts to lower the cost of renewable energy,” said Joe Carr, chief executive officer of Semprius. “We anticipate a busy year filled with innovation and the continued expansion of our production facility to meet the increasing demand for our solar modules.”

Semprius’ modules, which were developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, are twice as efficient as conventional silicon-based modules. The modules have also been shown to perform better in hot climates.

“Wait a second, I’ll design my own.

Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who created the iPod and was a leading figure on the team the developed the iPhone, came up with the idea for Nest when he was designing his energy-efficient dream home near Lake Tahoe. When Fadell tried to find a programmable web-enabled thermostat that could control his eco-friendly heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, he hit a wall.

“They were 500 bucks a pop, and they were horrible and doing nothing and brain-dead,” Fadell told MIT Technology Review. “And I was like, ‘Wait a second, I’ll design my own.’?”

Nest, founded in 2010 and headquartered at the heart of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, Calif., manufactures a thermostat that learns users’ temperature preferences and maximizes efficiency as it implements them.

“Think of a normal thermostat. Everyone turns it up, turns it down, a couple of times a day-that’s a pattern we can infer from,” said Fadell. “Instead of changing it fifteen hundred times a year, do it 10 or 20 times and the Nest thermostat can learn from that.”

With 10 million thermostats sold in the United States every year, Nest has a lucrative market to disrupt. Because thermostats typically control around half the energy in used in U.S. homes, Nest’s energy-efficient design could also make a huge dent in U.S. energy consumption.

Nest’s $250 thermostat has already saved owners an estimated 225 million kilowatt-hours of energy, the equivalent of around $29 million at average U.S. prices.

“A very unique solar company.”

MIT Technology Review has also recognized Alta Devices as a disruptive energy company. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm manufactures the world’s thinnest solar cells that can be embedded into any other material, offering the potential to significantly extend the battery life of all kinds of mobile devices.

Founded in 2008 by professors Harry Atwater from Cal Tech and Eli Yablonovitch from Berkeley, Alta Devices has also been honored as one of the Global Cleantech 100 by cleantech.com and as one of CTSI’s Top 17 Defense Energy Technology Solutions, among other awards.

“Alta Devices is a very unique solar company,” said Chris Norris, president and CEO of Alta Devices. “Our goal is to free mobile devices from the grid and to empower the developing world with abundant clean energy.”

In many cases, mobile devices that incorporate Alta Devices’ solar cells never need to plug in.

A full list of MIT Technology Review’s 50 Disruptive Companies will be available on newsstands worldwide on March 5, and has been available online since February 20.

Original Article on JustMeans

Yingli Green Energy Makes Huge Commitment to Fight Climate Change

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Yingli Green Energy has become the first Chinese company and the first photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer to join Climate Savers, a program created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to encourage corporations to make major contributions to addressing climate change.

“We look forward to working more broadly with WWF and joining hands with other Climate Savers to lead the world’s transition to a low carbon economy,” said Liansheng Miao, Chairman and CEO of Yingli Green Energy.

Corporate participants in the Climate Savers program must set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across their operations.

“The Climate Savers program is a very exclusive club,” said Peter Beaudoin, CEO of WWF-China.

Initiated by WWF in 1999, Climate Savers now includes 30 members companies including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Novo Nordisk and Sony.

“Only companies agreeing to be industry leaders in cutting CO2 emissions and supporting growth of clean, renewable energy are accepted as members,” added Beaudoin.

To join the ranks of Climate Savers member companies, Yingli Green Energy made a number of major environmental commitments. For instance, the company has pledged to significantly reduce GHG emissions across its supply chain, production, and transportation by 2015.

“We have been constantly reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions in our production and operation in order to provide greener and cleaner PV products to our customers,” said Jingfeng Xiong , Vice President and Chief Climate Officer of Yingli Green Energy.

By 2015, the company plans to launch a Global Green Solar PV Manufacturing Standard that will aim to promote energy efficiency and encourage the adoption of renewable energy technologies.

In becoming the first Chinese company to join Climate Savers, Yingli Green Energy has positioned itself as a leader in China’s uphill battle to reduce its carbon emissions.

“China has global manufacturing leaders, is beginning to have global innovation leaders, and now is beginning to have global leaders in the fight against climate change as well,” said Beaudoin.

With a steadily growing economy and the world’s largest appetite for coal power, China’s contribution to global warming is significant. In 2007, China passed the United States in its annual contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major contributor to climate change.

China has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international accord to control climate change, but the agreement does not force China to limit GHG emissions because of it is still a developing economy.

Headquartered in Baoding, China, a city of over 1 million residents that lies less than 100 miles southwest of Beijing, Yingli Green Energy sells PV modules in Europe, North America, and Asia.

The company, which markets its products under the brand “Yingli Solar,” has sold nearly 6,000 megawatts (MW) of PV modules to customers worldwide, the equivalent of powering around 800,000 homes with green electricity annually.

With an annual production capacity of 2,450 megawatts, Yingli Green Energy is one of the world’s largest vertically integrated PV manufacturers. The company, which is publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a market capitalization of over $400 million.

Original Article on Justmeans

The Middle East and North Africa: Solar Mega Growth Ahead

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Demand for solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will skyrocket in the next five years, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Emirates Solar Industry Association (EISA).

“In terms of solar energy, it is clear that the MENA region is set to experience significant change over the next five years,” said Scott Burger, the analyst at GTM Research who authored the report.

Solar demand in MENA energy markets will approach 10 gigawatts by 2017, nearly 70 percent of which will come from Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia, which has announced a renewable energy strategy that will include 31 gigawatts of solar production by 2030, should become the region’s first gigawatt-scale market by 2015, but Turkey will be close behind because of its favorable renewable energy policies and previous experience with wind power installation.

While increased awareness of climate change and the development of high-capacity photovoltaic and concentrated solar plants have contributed to steady increased in solar power demand worldwide, solar power accounted for just one-third of one percent of global energy production in 2011.

Still, solar power installations are increasing exponentially worldwide. Thus far, adoption of the clean energy technology has been most pronounced in Europe, but this latest report suggests that the MENA region is ripe for growth.

“The MENA region possesses some of the greatest potential for solar energy in the world,” said Dr. Steven Griffiths, Research Director at ESIA. “This potential is now starting to be more seriously considered.”

Although Saudi Arabia is best positioned for widespread solar adoption, Dr. Griffiths noted that Qatar plans to install nearly 2 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity 2014 and Dubai has set a goal of source 5 percent of its power supply from solar by 2030. Moreover, Abu Dhabi is in the process of commissioning a 100-megawatt concentrating solar plant.

“While Saudi Arabia will likely be the largest market in the long-term, there will be significant opportunities throughout the region,” said Burger. “With strategic planning and a solid development of local partners and supply chains, savvy companies will be able to capitalize on all of the opportunities in the region.”

One such company is First Solar, the global leader in thin-film photovoltaic systems, which opened its first office in Dubai last year. In October, the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority selected First Solar to construct a 13 megawatt solar plant, the first stage in a planned 1 gigawatt project that will cover 48 square kilometers.

First Solar CEO Jim Hughes commended Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s leader, “for his vision in promoting a path toward a sustainable future for Dubai that preserves natural resources, reduces pollution and serves the Emirate’s rapidly growing power needs.”

First Solar, which is seeking for new markets after cooling demand for solar power in Europe forced the company to cut jobs last year, is also heavily invested in Saudi Arabia.

GTM Research and ESIA will present their report at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 16.

Original Article on Justmeans

Kyocera Reaches 2M Module Milestone at San Diego Facility

Kyocera Solar Inc. has reached a major milestone at its solar panel manufacturing facilities in North America. This week, the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kyocera Corporation, announced that it has turned out 2 million photovoltaic (PV) solar modules at its facilities in San Diego, Calif. and Tijuana, Mexico.

“This milestone demonstrates Kyocera’s ongoing leadership in growing the solar industry worldwide,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan-based Kyocera Corporation.

While Kyocera Corporation has been producing PV modules since the 1970s, Kyocera Solar only began production in North America in 2004, when it opened its first production facility in Tijuana. In 2010, Kyocera Solar opened a facility in San Diego to meet increased demand in the United States.

“It took more than five years for Kyocera to reach the one million module mark at our North American operations and only two years to double it,” said Mr. Hill.

The company’s cells are currently powering several notable locations in the San Diego area, including San Diego State University, UC San Diego, the University of San Diego, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

In early December, the company announced that its PV solar panels are powering a brand new 90-kilowatt canopy that charges electric vehicles at the San Diego Zoo. In addition to powering electric vehicles in the zoo’s parking lot, Kyocera Solar’s PV panels provide renewable energy to the electrical grid while storing solar power for future use.

The charging station project is part of the Smart City San Diego initiative, a collaboration combining the resources of government, business, education and nonprofit organizations in the San Diego area.

“This high-profile and innovative collaborative project combines two major sustainability initiatives – solar energy and electric vehicles – showcasing to the millions of Zoo visitors that the future of energy is in San Diego today,” said Jim Waring, a partner in the Smart City San Diego program who serves as executive chair of CleanTECH San Diego.

All the panels used at the charging station were manufactured at the company’s San Diego facility.

“Kyocera is a recognized solar industry leader and its commitment to quality and local manufacturing is important to Smart City San Diego’s mission as well,” added Mr. Waring.

With 1.9 percent market share, Kyocera ranks 14th among solar PV module manufacturers worldwide. The world’s leading manufacturer is China-based Suntech Power, with 5.1 percent market share.

The total global capacity of PV solar power has enjoyed exponential growth in recent decades. In 1995, total PV capacity amounted to a paltry 0.6 gigawatts (GW) and only increased to 5.4 GW by 2005. In 2011, total PV capacity ballooned to 70 GW.

“We’re seeing many regions increasingly embrace high-quality solar energy solutions, and ongoing innovations from Kyocera will continue to improve efficiencies,” said Mr. Hill.

Kyocera Solar’s PV cells boast the world’s highest conversion efficiency of any cell in mass production, with a 17.8 percent conversion rate.

Kyocera is also vigilant about ensuring sustainability across its own operations. The company recycles around 95 percent of all standard waste materials, operates a rooftop solar array that offsets 415 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and uses recycled water for landscape irrigation.

“Consumers who use Kyocera products can rest assured that they are purchasing high-quality, reliable products manufactured with a strong environmental consciousness,” said David Hester, president of Kyocera Mexicana, the conglomerate’s Mexican branch. “We are committed to continuous improvement in all phases of manufacturing, including environmental impact.”

Original Article on Justmeans

Report: World Not Ready to Transition to Renewable Energy Systems

The world is still a long way away from being able to meet its energy needs sustainably, says a new report released this week at the COP 18 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

While most climate experts believe that carbon emissions must be cut drastically to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming, the new report shows that most countries do not have the energy systems in place to transition away from the carbon-intensive energy production methods in use today.

“There is a huge shortfall of private investment into low-carbon and energy infrastructure projects,” said Mark Robson, a partner at Oliver Wyman, the management consulting firm that co-authored the study. “Our report makes it clear that industry looks to policymakers for the assurance that their investments won’t become uneconomic due to policy changes. Therefore policymakers must create policies that remain stable over time and are joined up with other policies.”

Intergovernmental efforts to create a meaningful global climate policy have largely failed. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, was rendered toothless when the United States refused to ratify it. More recently, the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen was largely panned for failing to produce a binding emissions treaty.

The new report, entitled “Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy,” makes three broad recommendations for policy makers, based on interviews with dozens of CEOs and senior energy executives from around the world.

First, policy makers need to design coherent, regionally coordinated energy policies that combine industrial, environmental, and transportation goals. Next, leaders must support market conditions that would attract long-term investments in renewable energy. Finally, policy makers need to get behind more research and development in all areas of energy technology.

“All countries face challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems,” said Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of the World Energy Council, the UN-accredited global energy body that also co-authored the report. “If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all, we need to get real.”

Among the report’s more surprising findings is that the Middle East, a region that relies heavily on the perpetuations of the global carbon economy, may be particularly well positioned to lead the world in developing renewable energy. While the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait currently trail nearly half the world’s nations in terms of their ability to provide sustainable energy, the region is moving faster than many nations to achieve sustainable energy systems.

“The Middle East is well-positioned to take the lead in the global sustainable energy race that is about to reshape the world’s energy landscape,” said Robson. “Most governments in the Middle East have set out aggressive plans for reaching sustainable energy goals over the next eight to 18 years and they have the political leadership and financial resources to achieve them.”

The new report conflicts with research from Stanford’s Mark Jacobson and the University of California’s Mark Delucchi that found that most of the technology required to shift from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Jacobson and Delucchi did note, however, that achieving such a shift would require a total commitment from both the public and private sectors.

Original Article on Justmeans

Trends in Green Supply Chain Efficiency Technology

Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine has announced the recipients its 2012 Green Supply Chain Awards. This year’s fifth annual awards recognize 57 companies of all sizes that are using innovative practices to drive supply chain sustainability.

“Leading companies recognize that initiating sustainable practices in their supply chain processes is key towards driving their competitive edge in today’s recovering economy,” said Barry Hochfelder, Editor of Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “This has been increasingly evident over the past few years and is relatively clear with the increased number of entries we received this year for our annual green awards. The increased adoption of green best practices and strategies will only continue to grow.”

Among this year’s recipients are several companies that are using cutting-edge software and other technology to improve supply chain sustainability.

One such company is Cadec, a provider of trucking fleet management solutions based in Manchester, N.H. Cadec sells both the on-board computer and the cutting-edge software that tracks and reduces wasteful behaviors, including speeding, excessive idling, sudden decelerations, and unauthorized stops. Cadec’s technology helps trucking fleets reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and paper use.

A grocery distributor that uses Cadec to enforce an idling limit on trucks has reduced total idling hours across its fleet by 90 percent. Another Cadec client, a major dairy company, increased the fuel efficiency of its fleet by a half-mile per gallon. Such technology saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

“Fleet management can have a tremendous impact on fleet efficiency, particularly in the areas of fuel economy, carbon emissions and paper use,” said Cadec’s Chief Executive Officer Pete Allen. “Customers tell us that sustainability is among their most pressing business concerns. We’re proud to be among the vendors recognized for our work in greening the industry.”

Also receiving recognition from Supply & Demand Chain Executive were Chicago-based ArrowStream and Elemica, based in Acton, Pa. Both companies provide a variety of technology solutions to clients to increase supply chain efficiency.

ArrowStream’s customers have averaged a 10 percent decrease in their carbon footprint by employing a range of technology solutions.

“Our technology’s benefits are multi-dimensional–it will not only reduce a customer’s carbon footprint, but will simultaneously reduce its total cost. It is a win for both the environment and customer profits,” said Steven LaVoie, CEO of ArrowStream. “We believe this award reaffirms our standing as a premier [Software-as-a-Service] supply chain management technology and logistics services provider when it comes to providing green, cost-saving solutions.”

Further demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, ArrowStream also offers its employees financial incentives to use public transportation for their commutes.

Elemica, founded in 2000, received the Green Supply Chain Award for helping customers achieve measurable sustainability goals by automating manual processes and optimizing shipments. Elemica’s technology helps customers reduce their usage of paper and spending on fuel.

“Elemica enables companies to gain a greater competitive advantage by replacing costly manual approaches with innovative capabilities and systems that streamline operations and boost efficiencies,” said Rich Katz, Elemica’s Chief Technology Officer. “We remain committed to helping companies implement ‘green’ best practices, such as electronic purchasing and sourcing, transportation optimization, and shipment visibility that lower costs while driving sustainability.”

The 2012 Green Supply Chain Awards were decided by Supply & Demand Chain Executive editorial staff. The staff reviewed submissions and selected winners based on the clarity and effectiveness of a company’s strategy to green its supply chain.

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

Report: State Departments of Transportation Go Green

State departments of transportation across the country are successfully implementing a range of sustainable practices and programs, according to a new report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Center for Environmental Excellence.

“This report documents how state transportation departments, municipal planning organizations, and transit providers are putting into practice proven techniques that are speeding up project delivery and cutting costs while protecting and even improving environmental resources,” said John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO.

The report, titled Leaner and Greener: Sustainability at Work in Transportation, highlights some of the ways state transportation agencies are going green to cut costs, strengthen communities, and, of course, preserve the environment.

One such state agency is the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), which teamed up with the Audubon Society of Kansas in 2004 to implement eco-friendly mowing practices along the state’s highways. In addition to promoting re-growth of prairie habitat along the 146,000 acres of land adjacent to the state’s highways, KDOT’s new mowing policies save the department around $1.5 million a year in lower fuel costs and superior road safety.

The program was recognized by the Federal Highway Administration in 2006 as an Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative.

Another program highlighted in the report is the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) investment in smart snow and ice removal projects. Each year, departments of transportation across the country spread 10 to 15 million tons of salt-based anti-icing material on roads, a practice that can do damage to water quality and salt sensitive plants.

MnDOT’s Salt Solutions Program has saved Minnesota, a state with particularly cold weather, over $2 million in salt while reducing environmental impact. The agency has also built 30 miles of living snow fences – barriers made of trees, shrubs, and grasses built along roadsides – that prevent snowdrifts from obstructing roads, thereby reducing the amount of salt and fuel needed to keep roadways clear.

“At MnDOT we’re committed to using innovative practices… to keep Minnesota roads safe, costs low, and the environment protected,” said MnDOT Acting Commissioner Bernie Arseneau.

Still another example comes from North Carolina, where the Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) cost-efficient low-impact bridge replacement designs have supported water quality goals while reducing project costs by up to 25 percent.

“These low-impact replacement designs enable us to make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars while improving safety and promoting economic growth with minimal impact to the surrounding environment,” said NCDOT Secretary Gene Conti.

NCDOT has also implemented an agency-wide effort to recycle office paper, telephone books and cardboard.  From 2006 to 2007, the department recycled 1,106 tons of paper products, saving an estimated 18,802 trees and 3,383 cubic yards of landfill space. In addition to paper products, NCDOT recycles highway signs, scrap metal, and aluminum cans. The department recycled 2,461 tons of such items in fiscal year 2009-2010.

Leaner and Greener is the third in a series of reports from AASHTO’s Center for Environmental Excellence chronicling the ways that state transportation agencies are improving efficiency and cutting costs by going green. The report can be found online at https://downloads.transportation.org/LAG-1.pdf.

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

GM Announces 2014 Spark Electric Vehicle

General Motors has announced that its 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (short for Electric Vehicle) will offer “industry-leading EV power, outstanding driving range, and exceptional fast-charge capability.” The Spark EV is due to arrive in California car dealerships next summer.

Spark EV’s engineers took advantage of much of the expertise that GM has gained in constructing the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle introduced in the U.S. in late 2010. Spark EV uses many of the same components and systems as the Chevrolet Volt.

Spark EV’s lithium-ion battery pack, with more than 20 kilowatt hours (kWh), has undergone over 200,000 hours of testing in GM’s global battery systems lab, according to Larry Nitz, who leads GM’s global electrification engineering team.

The vehicle, which can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than eight seconds, was designed to be more fun to drive than other electric vehicles in an effort to attract more customers.

“What we think customers will enjoy most is how fun Spark EV is to drive. It’s seamless and power is available at every stage of the drive,” said Chuck Russell, Spark EV’s chief engineer. “This will help us to provide an exciting option for those customers who are looking for an EV that’s as much fun to drive as it is environmentally responsible.”

General Motors has not yet announced the vehicle’s driving range, other than that it will “provide EV range among the best in the segment.” Most EVs can travel between 100 and 200 miles on a single charge.

The new Spark EV will lead the industry in charge time, according to GM. The battery can be restored to 80 percent of capacity in approximately 20 minutes.

GM has yet to announce sales projections and has not said when the vehicles will be available in the U.S. outside of California. GM has achieved modest success with its Chevy Volt, selling just over 30,000 worldwide since 2010.

GM has also announced that OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary, has added two updates to its offerings of mobile apps to manage EV charging.

First, OnStar has released a prototype app called Park-Tap-Charge that will allow EV owners to simply tap their smartphone against a charging station to show payment options and initiative the flow of electricity.

“It’s all about transacting through the app to create a very connected vehicle experience,” said Paul Pebbles, global manager of OnStar Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Services. “This type of functionality contributes to an end-to-end solution for owners of the infrastructure and drivers.”

The app, which uses the Near Field Communication technology that has been embraced by mobile payments developers, anticipates the increased demand for public charging stations as electric vehicles become more common.

Secondly, OnStar is updating its RemoteLink app, which allows drivers to manage and monitor charging remotely. The update will now let drivers use a Waypoint tab to determine if they can reach their destination on a single charge.

“The Spark EV Waypoint tab aims to instill confidence in drivers who are not sure if they’ll be able to reach their destination on a single charge,” said Pebbles. “It’s also for drivers who know they’ll be traveling beyond a single charge range.”

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

Does Google Have A “Breakthrough Biofuel” Up It’s Sleeve?

Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been successfully testing a breakthrough biofuel at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The biofuel, made by California-based Cool Planet Energy Systems, is produced using a “carbon negative” process that actually removes carbon from the atmosphere during the course of production.

“Innovations in alternative fuels will be key in addressing growing climate change concerns,” said Brendon Harrington, Google’s Transportation Operations Manager. “We are thrilled to be a part of Cool Planet’s field testing and believe that this product has the potential to make a significant impact on our future energy needs.”

Google’s test car, known as GRide, drove 2,400 miles around Google’s campus using a blend of  Cool Planet carbon negative biofuel and regular gasoline. The test car blend met California’s 2020 Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which mandates a 10% reduction in carbon intensity versus today’s gasoline by 2020.

Cool Planet is performing further field tests and does not yet know when the biofuel will be available to consumers. The company will likely achieve first fuel in its developing facility in Southern Californian in mid-December.

When it goes to market, Cool Planet will offer a high-octane gasoline that is fully compatible with today’s automobiles as well as conventional fuel distribution systems. Cool Planet projects that it will produce a billion gallons by 2015 and “significantly higher volumes” by 2018.

Cool Planet can currently produce the fuel at just $1.50 per gallon, without relying on government subsidies, lending it the potential to compete commercially with gasoline and food-based biofuels.

“Unlike many other biofuel companies, Cool Planet’s carbon negative gasoline is price competitive because of the ingenuity behind our innovation,” said Cool Planet’s CEO Howard Janzen. “By mass producing mobile, pre-fabricated micro-refineries that are easily transportable to the biomass source, we significantly reduce costs of feedstock transportation, which maximizes our overall capital efficiency.”

Janzen noted that each “micro-refinery” can produce 10 million gallons of fuel per year, allowing the company to “compete with oil at $50 a barrel without any government mandates or subsidies.”

Cool Planet’s production process is considered “carbon negative” because it produces a byproduct called biochar that can be used as a soil enhancer, increasing land fertility while isolating the carbon captured from the atmosphere. The production process results in up to a 150% carbon footprint reduction.

The biofuel is produced from non-food biomass such as wood chips, agricultural waste like corn stover, and energy crops like giant miscanthus and switch grass. Food-based fuels such as ethanol have been criticized for failing to reduce dependence on fossil fuels while driving up prices for staple foods like corn.

Launched in 2008, Cool Planet has received venture backing from a number of major firms, including BP (NYSE:BP), Constellation Energy (NYSE:CEG), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Google Ventures, and NRG (NYSE:NRG).

In May, the company announced the hire of Michael Bukowski as VP of Fuel Production. Bukowski spent 14 years at Sunoco (NYSE:SUN), rising through the ranks to become Vice President of the Chemical and Manufacturing Division.

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

Energy Efficient Train Passes 230 Mph Barrier

Bombardier Transportation has been awarded the prestigious German Design Award for its ZEFIRO 380 very high speed (VHS) train. The train, currently being manufactured in China and Germany, can travel up to 236 mph (380 km/h) and employs advanced aerodynamics and other technologies to reduce energy consumption.

“All of Bombardier’s expertise and experience gained from building more than 850 high and VHS trains in the past two decades has been invested in the development of this next generation vehicle,” stated the company. The German Design Award is the third prestigious design award for the ZEFIRO 380, which also took home the German iF Product Design Award and the Chicago Athenaeum’s 2011 Good Design Award.

The ZEFIRO‘s design draws on Bombardier’s extensive research into the aerodynamics of trains. The train has superior cross wind stability, aerodynamic drag, and pressure pulses, all of which contribute to increased fuel efficiency. The train also uses Bombardier’s unique aluminum carbody, resulting in reduced weight while remaining fully compliant with safety requirements.

Other innovative developments include Bombardier’s Thermo Efficient Climatization System and the BOMBARDIER EBI Drive 50 Driver Assistance System, allowing ZEFIRO trains to sport the lowest energy consumption per seat of any VHS train.

High speed trains have the potential to reduce fossil fuel emissions by making train transportation, which consumes less energy than car commuting and airline travel, more attractive to travelers. Harvard Economics professor Edward L. Glaeser calculated that every 240-mile train trip (the distance between Houston and Dallas) eliminates 113 pounds of carbon dioxide emission per passenger.

While high speed trains travelling 185 mph (300 km/h) and faster run in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK, the US has been slow to adopt high speed rail technology.

The United States has only one high speed rail line in operation, the Acela Express, which runs from Washington D.C. to Boston by way of New York. While the train can run up to 150 mph (241 km/h), it only averages about 78 mph (125 km/h), a paltry figure compared to its European and Asian counterparts.

California’s proposed Caltrain line, running 800 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco, will be the first true high speed rail line in the US, topping out at 220 mph (350 km/h). The first leg of the project was approved by the federal government in mid-September.

The Midwest is also considering a high speed rail line that experts estimate would be three times as energy efficient as cars and six times as energy efficient as planes. The rail line would operate out of a central hub in Chicago and serve several surrounding cities including Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.

Still, the US is several years away from competing with other advanced economies on high speed rail, so Americans will have to travel overseas to ride Bombardier’s ZEFIRO 380.

By winning the German Design Award in the transportation and public space places category, the ZEFIRO 380 achieved the distinction of being among the top nine products from 1,500 top quality nominations covering all kinds of vehicles, navigation systems, and urban/street fittings.

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

EPA Grant Lowers Dangerous Diesel Engine Emissions

A grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Farmland Management Services (FMS) has helped reduce diesel emissions across six of the company’s Wisconsin cranberry farms.The grant, awarded under the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, has curbed the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, which potentially cause adverse health effects, emitted by diesel engines on the farms.

There are currently between 9,000 and 11,000 stationary diesel agricultural engines operating throughout central Wisconsin. Older diesel engines are more likely to emit particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.Particle pollution created by diesel engines contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets – called particulate matter – that are small enough to infiltrate the lungs and bloodstream. Smaller particles tend to cause more serious health problems. Particles that are ten micrometers in diameter or smaller are regulated by the EPA.Nitrogen oxides are covered under the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which were first set in 1971 under the Nixon administration. Even very short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a highly reactive nitrogen oxide that forms rapidly from engine emissions, has been shown to cause adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma.The FMS emission reduction projects were just part of a range of projects that benefitted from the $900,000 EPA grant. Each project reduced dangerous emissions from diesel engines through idle reduction technologies or engine repowers on ferries, long haul trucks, school buses, and stationary irrigation pumps.

Leonardo Academy, a nonprofit organization that provides consulting and solutions across a wide range of sustainability-related issues, prepared and submitted the grant application to the EPA on behalf of FMS and several other organizations. Upon receipt of the EPA funds, Leonardo Academy acted as the administrator and fiscal agent for the grant funds.”Leonardo Academy is dedicated to developing sustainability strategies for people, companies and organizations that engage progress in environmental and social equity achievements in driving economic success,” said said Leonardo Academy President, Michael Arny. ” Part of Leonardo Academy’s goal in advocating the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign is to improve air quality by reducing emissions from all types of diesel-fueled engines throughout Wisconsin. “FMS manages about 48,800 acres of tree and vine crops in Wisconsin, Washington and California, and has taken an aggressive approach to reducing diesel emissions across its operations.”We are privileged to receive this award from the EPA,” said Steve Hahn, Area Manager for FMS. “FMS is committed to improving the communities and environments in which we operate.

This project is one example of the many steps we take to reduce emissions and achieve better fuel efficiency from diesel engines in our operations throughout the country.”FMS has also made efforts to eliminate the burning of orchard residues, estimated at between 40,000 and 100,000 tons per year. Nearly all tree limbs from pruning or tree removal are now pulverized in the field and returned to the soil and or used as a dust suppressant on farm roads.

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter and Staff Writer for Justmeans. Harry has covered CSR, ethical consumption, social enterprise, sustainable finance, and fair trade for several media outlets, including Justmeans, 3BL Media, and Social Earth. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

Report: Unsustainable Water Requirements for U.S. Energy Policy

A new report reveals that traditional electricity generation technologies require huge demands on increasingly scarce water resources, while solar and wind power plants require relatively little water.

The report, “The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels,” analyzes the indirect and externalized costs of six fuels used to generate electricity: biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating solar power), and wind (both onshore and offshore). The report finds that of these technologies, only solar and wind power promise to produce power without relying on unsustainable amounts of water.

Nuclear power plants have critical cooling requirements that necessitate huge amounts of water. Almost 40 percent of U.S. nuclear plants use open-loop cooling systems, which need between 25,000 and 60,000 gallons per megawatt hour (MWh). Nuclear reactors with closed-loop cooling systems withdraw between 700-1,100 gallons of water per megawatt hour (MWh), most of which is lost to evaporation.

Coal plants also have open- and closed-loop cooling systems. Open-loop systems require between 20,000 and 50,000 gallons of water per MWh, while closed-loop systems withdraw between 500 and 600 gallons per MWh. Coal power plants have also been known to pollute streams and drinking water through mining and coal-ash dump sites.

Shale fracking for natural gas, a hot-button issue of late, can use anywhere from two to 10 million gallons of water per well. This water is usually taken from on-site surface or groundwater supplies, producing a tremendous strain in areas with stressed water supplies, areas undergoing drought conditions, or locations with sensitive aquatic communities.

Biomass generation, which produces fuel like ethanol, requires enormous quantities of water. Crops that have been dedicated to energy production require between 40,000 and 100,000 gallons of water per MWh, although some crops exceed this range.

Wind and solar power, the two most promising sources of renewable energy, require negligible amounts of water by comparison. The most water-intensive solar plants are called concentrated solar plants (CSPs) and consume around 800 gallons per MWh for cooling. Some CSP plants use dry cooling and need only 80 gallons per MWh. Photovoltaic plants (PVs) use a negligible amount of water, but PVs cannot store energy like CSPs. Wind plants use a negligible amount of water in the generation process.

The report, prepared by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., a research firm that specializes in the electricity and natural gas industry, adds weight to the argument that a switch to renewable energy has become urgent as the effects of climate change accelerate.

Water scarcity, too, has become increasingly alarming. Lake Mead in Arizona, which supplies water to 22 million people, could be dry by 2021. Americans in the Southwest that rely on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigation face serious threats to their future water supply. The Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground reservoir beneath the Great Plains, is steadily being depleted.

“The government and energy industries are literally flying blind as they plan for continued reliance on coal, natural gas, nuclear power and industrial biomass to meet our energy needs,” said Grant Smith, senior energy analyst at the Civil Society Institute (CSI), a Massachusetts-based think tank. “Each of these is water intensive and leads to pollution of water, which is increasingly scarce and in competition for other uses such as agriculture and other commercial uses. The drought intensifies the urgency and the imperative that political leaders in both parties hit the pause button on the headlong rush to support nuclear power and fossil fuel use.”

The Republican-led House of Representatives, which has amassed “the worst environmental record of any Congress in history,” according to a House Committee on Energy and Commerce minority report, is openly hostile to efforts to protect the environment.

The House is currently considering the “Stop the War on Coal Act” (H.R. 3409), introduced by Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH), which would prevent the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to impose greenhouse gas regulations on the coal industry, and from using the Clean Water Act to protect water resources.

“In 2005 the Congress mandated a federal water/energy roadmap,” said Seth Sheldon, lead water/energy analyst at CSI. “Nearly eight years later, that roadmap has not been produced and either through bureaucratic inertia or fear of hard political questions, the questions are not even being asked, much less their solutions explored. At a time of significant water scarcity and increasing threats to water quality, we can ill afford to ignore this central question about the future of our energy choices.”

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter and Staff Writer for Justmeans. Harry has written on CSR, ethical consumption, social enterprise, sustainable finance, and fair trade for several media outlets, including Justmeans, 3BL Media, and Social Earth. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens…

Original Article on Justmeans

The Global 500 Tackles Climate Change

“Managing carbon emission and protecting the business from climate change impacts is fundamental to achieving sustainable and strong shareholder returns.” — Paul Simpson, CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project[1]

If you’ve ever wondered what the world’s largest publicly traded companies are thinking and doing about climate change, the Carbon Disclosure Project has a report for you. Since 2003, CDP, a UK-registered charity, has sent its annual questionnaire to the 500 largest companies by market capitalization listed on the FTSE Global Equity Index Series to produce the Global 500 Report, which analyzes the state of low carbon growth in the private sector. This year, they sent the questionnaire on behalf of 551 investors with USD 71 trillion in assets. On Wednesday, they published disclosures from 396 respondents in the 2011 edition of their Global 500 Report, entitled “Accelerating Low Carbon Growth.”[2]

CARBON DOWN, PROFITS UP

One of the most striking findings is how climate change has quickly moved towards the center of the discussion, with 68 percent of respondents saying that it is central to business strategy, compared with 48 percent last year, marking the first time that a majority of respondents said having this position.

Other key findings include:

  • Companies in the 2011 Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) and Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) provide approximately double the average total return of the Global 500 between January 2005 and May 2011
  • 65 percent (259) of respondents provide monetary incentives to staff for managing climate change issues, versus 49 percent (188) in 2010
  • 59 percent of emissions reduction activities reported by Global 500 respondents have a payback period of three years or less and 41 percent of initiatives have paybacks of over three years

While there isn’t necessarily a causality, there is a correlation between carbon disclosure and better financial performance, which should incentivize other companies to step up to the plate. “Historical financial performance is being exposed by climate change as an outdated model to assess long term business profitability and growth, when you consider the much wider range of financial and non-financial risks associated with business today,” said Alan McGill, a partner at PwC. “Today’s investors have different information needs, which are leading to tougher verification regimes, more emphasis on executive and staffing responsibilities and incentives, and much more unforgiving examinations of the contribution of business to society.”[3]

LOOKING TO 2020: A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

While it’s impossible to predict the next financial bubble that will burst or the next sudden shock to the market, most nations know what their 2020 carbon reduction targets are, many of which have been set in agreement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of the Copenhagen Accord. The United States and Canada, for example, must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent , while the European Union has a 30 percent reduction goal.[4]

And achieving these goals requires initiatives from both the public and private sectors. Governments must pursue low-carbon policies, carbon trading schemes, green investments and tax incentives for businesses to adapt to a low-carbon economy (LCE). The corporate world must continue to recognize the value that sustainability has for their current and future success, as more consumers, investors and fund managers look to socially responsible investing.

PREDICTABILITY MEANS PROFITABILITY

And that’s why having a report such as the CDP’s is so valuable, especially for the private sector, which is generally more focused on numbers than on the social impact discussions that fuel public policy. As UK Financial Services Authority chairman Lord Adair Turner notes, “The first step towards managing carbon emissions is to measure them because in business what gets measured gets managed.”[5]

“We need to emphasise the opportunities here,” writes Alan Brown, group chief investment officer at Schroder Investment Management Limited, for the Guardian Professional Network. “Climate change is not only raising the temperature of the planet, it is also delivering the first predictable industrial revolution as trillions of dollars get spent on mitigation and adaptation. While there is no immediate direct translation from growth to profits, most of us, given a choice, would prefer to swim in the fast-flowing part of the river.”[6] Scientists have known for a long time that reducing carbon emissions is better for the global climate. What is becoming abundantly clear is that the private sector is also seeing that low carbon growth is also an essential lever in achieving long-term shareholder value.

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NOTES

[1] https://www.cdproject.net/en-US/Pages/global500.aspx
[2] https://www.cdproject.net/CDPResults/CDP-G500-2011-Report.pdf
[3] https://www.cdproject.net/en-US/WhatWeDo/CDPNewsArticlePages/commercial-interests-driving-ghg-emissions-reduction-at-worlds-largest-companies.aspx
[4] https://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_15/copenhagen_accord/items/5264.php
[5] https://www.cdproject.net/en-US/WhatWeDo/Pages/overview.aspx
[6] https://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/climate-change-low-carbon-economy-global-forum

 

Reynard Loki

Reynard Loki

Reynard is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A former media executive with 15 years experience in the private and non-profit sectors, Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio that explores transnational progressivism, neo-nomadism, post-humanism and futurism. He is also author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, covering cosmology, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is currently developing the Underground Desert Living Unit (UDLU), a sustainable single-family dwelling envisioned as a potential adaptation response to the future loss of human habitat due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change.


Original Article on JustMeans