Management and Sustainability

Building Sustainable Communities

Development of others is one of my core values. It is with this in mind that I offer these thoughts for your consideration. I also believe in customer focus and the principles of quality management, especially as they effect continuous improvement. I would appreciate any comments you have and hope you will post the comments for others to view, so we all can improve. Sustainable habits need a guide and that guide is Jon's Management Philosophy 2.0. From your Vision and Mission to employee development to good communications, and corporate responsibility and stewardship, everything you need is here. We can help you with your technical questions or your management focus. The management material published in this blog in January and February comes from "Jon's Management Philosophy 2.0". The original paper contains appendices not available in the blog. You can obtain a free copy by clicking here. or below on Box.net

Save Water - Save Energy - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Remanufacture Waste-
-Use Greener Transportation-
It is Your Children’s Future, Create a Sustainable Community

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sustainability: How do you stack up?

Currently, most companies understand sustainability is not rampant environmentalism and that it can be a key to having a successful future.

Combining sustainability and corporate social responsibility objectives.
Early on, sustainability started out with the primary objective of improving the environment. It has evolved to embrace environmental, social and economic objectives and also to include social responsibility, transparency and stakeholder involvement; corporate social responsibility (CSR). As individuals, organizations, or governments we all must act responsibly to survive and prosper. The essence of sustainability and corporate social responsibility focuses on stewardship; leaving our world in a better state for future generations. One cannot be responsible without being sustainable and one cannot be sustainable without being responsible. As a result, it is good policy to combine the two and incorporate them into business plans.

  Does your organization have sustainability and corporate social responsibility objectives incorporated into your business plans?

Accountability and Transparency
Many companies are willing to be held accountable for their actions and are working to be more transparent. A 2012 study reported that 53% of Fortune 500 companies publish a sustainability report and 63% of those report according to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. A 2011 KPMG survey reports 80% of G250 companies adhere to GRI sustainability Reporting Guidelines. KPMG also reported that companies are increasingly using multiple forms of media to communicate results; only 20 percent rely solely on stand-alone corporate responsibility reports and barely 10 percent restrict their report either to web-only formats or annual reports alone.

Does your company openly report progress against goals and objectives?

Continuous Improvement
As noted above, sustainability and CR involve considering the future and it should involve taking responsibility for ones actions. Superior corporate governance, business ethics, community support, environmental protection, human rights policies, as well as how one deals with workplace issues are all part of being sustainable/responsible. Of course we all realize there is nothing that is 100% sustainable and no individual or organization can be 100% sustainable. Capitalism requires we get better to survive and to succeed. It is through continuous improvement that we can all become more sustainable, more responsible and more likely to survive and prosper. Sustainability is nothing more than continuous improvement. Setting and seeking ambitious goals and building a roadmap will pave the way for necessary continuous improvement. Sustainability is a path and not a destination; it is easy to get lost. It is written somewhere that because sustainability involves our ability to survive and prosper in the future, people are passionate about it. Leaders find it easy to find followers, who will pursue sustainability, but leaders need to be careful, they must have a plan or they will fail stay on the path. The point is that there are lots of sustainable actions that lead to detours and don’t take you far down the continuous improvement path. It takes goals and a plan to make significant improvement.

Does your company understand the link between sustainability and continuous improvement? Do you have a roadmap leading to clear goals and objectives?

Integrating sustainability into strategies and plans.
In the past, corporate sustainability pioneers were as often defending themselves against reputational or regulatory risk as they were looking for value. Now, however, leading companies are moving from “sustainability 1.0 to sustainability 2.0”, as some describe it. Sustainability 2.0 involves exploiting the markets and opportunities that an understanding of the issues, and of the consumer reaction to them, presents. Adrian Hodges, Managing Director of the International Business Leaders Forum, stated that “(CSR) has moved through a long continuum to where today leading companies are looking at aligning business strategy with societal needs.” A new sustainability era is on the horizon. One 2010 survey by Accenture found widespread agreement among CEOs about what the next era of sustainability will look like: It is one where sustainability is not only a separate strategic initiative, but something fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company. Integrated reporting acknowledges this and combines financial and CSR or ESG reporting. In 2011, KPMG supported the development of integrated reporting as the next step to improving the value of corporate reporting. The current leaders in sustainability are incorporating sustainability concepts into their strategies and business plans and making it a part of everything they do. Companies want to translate the strategy into business initiatives that drive financial success. All projects and investments related to the sustainability strategy must demonstrate a clear business case and meet the criteria for delivering value, risk reduction, and leadership in environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Future projects and investments identified as part of this strategy should compete for investment dollars along with other opportunities and initiatives. A Harvard Business School study that tracked financial performance over 18 years reported that companies with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance outperformed companies with weak ESG performance as measured in accounting terms. Similarly, it has been reported that the companies in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index clearly outperformed the Dow Jones Global Index. There is mounting evidence that companies that lead in sustainability, lead financially. A 2003 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that 71% of CEOS said they would sacrifice short-term profitability in exchange for long-term shareholder value when implementing a sustainability program. And, a 2008 article by the Economist reported 57% of executives as saying the benefits of pursuing sustainable practices outweigh costs. Specifically, they said sustainable practices can help reduce costs (particularly energy expenditure), open up new markets and improve a company’s reputation. Further the Economist reported that companies with the highest share price growth over the prior three years paid the most attention to sustainability issues, while those with the worst performance tended to do less. Goldman Sachs incorporates 25 quantifiable environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) indicators to identify investment opportunities. They tell us that companies that are the leaders in sustainable, social and good governance policies have 25% higher stock value than their less sustainable competitors. In 2011, KPMG analyzed the reports of more than 3,400 companies globally, including the 250 largest companies. Of the 250 largest global companies, fully 95% now report corporate responsibility activities. Close to half of the G250 companies (47%) reported gaining in financial value. G250 companies who reported financial benefits were most likely to cite either increased revenues or improved cost savings with improved market share close behind. G250 companies are seeking to be more transparent and currently use assurance as a strategy to verify and assess their CR information.

Does your organization integrate business and sustainability planning and reporting?

The details
The elements of a good sustainability plan should involve four important things: 1) association, 2) benchmarking, goal setting and measuring, 3) reporting, and; 4) development of the tools, techniques, and practices needed to implement more sustainable actions.
  Association -To improve, one needs to associate with thought leaders and join organizations that identify and promote best practices.
Goal Setting and Measuring- In order to know how far down the path you have gone, you need to measure your progress according to accepted protocols, benchmark to others and revise your goals appropriately.
Reporting- To maintain transparency and help yourself and others understand your progress, you need to also report your progress according to accepted protocols.
 Implementation- And, you will need to develop tools and techniques to help you do your work in a way that results in more sustainable internal operations

To reiterate, the focus should be on continuous improvement, so the plan must include how to identify baselines, benchmark against others, set improvement goals, how to measure improvement, and how to report to employees, suppliers, customers and stakeholders. The plan should also focus on how to identify and communicate with stakeholders to find and create best practices. A plan should identify whether you want to be a leader in the industry, helping to develop training, certifications, and best practices or whether you want to be a follower using these things developed by others. What gets measured gets managed. Goals are metrics that can be measured, reported and compared to others--benchmarked. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) reports that public goal setting is not only the norm, but it is nearly universal among sustainability leaders. Further their interviews confirmed the concept that setting goals is a prime opportunity to engage and align the organization, provide strategic direction, and further integrate sustainability into the core corporate strategy. Almost 90% of companies in their survey have public goals, with carbon reduction goals being the most common type (96%). Companies are about evenly split between absolute and intensity carbon reduction goals. The median carbon reduction goal is 20% over six to seven years. While companies with more ambitious goals have a lower success rate, they do achieve the largest impact reduction. PWC concludes companies should strongly consider setting more ambitious goals-- even if they are not successful in achieving them, they will likely be able to point to stronger performance. By applying leading practices to the process of setting environmental and social goals, companies increase their ability to drive change and create lasting business value through sustainability. It is important to know what your competitors and similar industries are doing. Caterpiller is an interesting point of comparison. They state the following goals to be achieved by 2020 and report progress toward these goals annually: Reduce energy intensity by 50% compared to 2006. Use alternative/renewable energy sources to meet 20% of energy needs. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to 2006. Reduce water consumption by 50% compared to 2006.

Does your organization know what its competition is doing? Does it benchmark its progress against others? How do you stack up?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Black & Veatch Sustainability Policy

I joined Black & Veatch almost 18 months ago and immediately joined the corporate sustainability committee and its subcommittee charged with developing a corporate sustainability policy. While we were challenged at times to come up with the right policy and the right justification consistent with the company's culture, the executive committee approved today a policy statement that should provide a firm foundation for futue endeavors. That policy is provided below.

BLACK & VEATCH SUSTAINABILITY POLICY

Policy 8.01 – Sustainability.

Since its inception in 1915, the Company has lived by the value of stewardship. We continue today to recognize this core value in all that the Company does and include it as one of the elements we annually use in performance discussions with our professionals. In today’s vernacular, stewardship and sustainability are very interchangeable. This policy covers sustainability in direct support of the company’s core value of stewardship.

The Company is committed to sustainability -- meeting the needs of the present generation while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable solutions build value through services, products, and operations that integrate economic, community and environmental needs. Our overall focus is on what best serves our client’s needs. To that end we, continuously improve our related sustainability services, provide thought leadership and practice good stewardship of the company’s operations, the environment, and the communities in which we work.

Sustainable Solutions.
The Company is a market leader in delivering solutions that integrate economic, community and environmental considerations to accommodate client specific needs. Implementation of the following supporting objectives is tailored to each client’s sustainability perspective.
a) The Company offers solutions that consider life cycle of facilities, services, and materials, and conserve resources through prudent and economic use, reuse, and waste minimization.
b) The Company seeks to avoid unnecessary environmental impacts by complying with legal requirements and offering environmental engineering and permitting services to integrate clients’ environmental objectives.
c) The Company helps clients integrate sustainable community development and environmental impact considerations with client project financial goals.
d) The Company supports clients in engaging stakeholders who are affected by the clients’ projects.
e) The Company encourages its professionals to cultivate awareness of and consider the sustainable aspects of the Company’s activities and services and their individual personal actions.
f) Corporate Procurement encourages project suppliers and subcontractors to adopt sustainable practices that support client needs.
g) Divisions provide communication, training and professional development necessary for professionals to understand and implement policy and practices that facilitate delivering sustainable solutions.

Sustainable Operations & Community Outreach.
The Company believes that there is a direct tie between efficient operation of the business and sustainability. The Company implements the following objectives as an active leader in developing sustainable internal operations and community outreach.
a) Divisions develop and implement management systems to identify practices and set goals to achieve continuous improvement.
b) The Company conserves resources needed for internal operations through prudent and economic use, reuse and waste minimization in concert with the local community.
c) The Company manages facilities and operations to safeguard the environment.
d) Corporate Procurement will show preference for vendors and suppliers who adopt sustainable practices.
e) The Company promotes health, safety and security in the workplace as described in Corporate Policies 3.13 and 3.16.
f) The Company protects rights of its professionals to equal opportunity regarding all employment matters, promotes practices that reinforce inclusion and diversity management, complies with all laws and regulations, and follows fair employment practices in our operations as set forth in the Company’s Code of Conduct and corporate policies.
g) The Company’s facility planning considers sustainable community development.
h) The Company participates in community outreach programs to help improve and sustain the quality of life in communities touched by Black & Veatch.
i) The Company promotes stakeholder awareness of the B&V policies, practices and performance that facilitate sustainable internal operations and community outreach.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Auto dealers try to be more efficient

Ford dealerships shoot for efficiency

At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention this weekend in Orlando, Ford unveiled a pilot project currently underway aimed at greening its 3,500 dealerships nationwide.

The project, tentatively named the Go Green Initiative, has begun at three dealerships -- one in Florida, one in New York, and one in Nevada, and involves a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the firms impacts, primarily from an energy use standpoint, but looking at impacts across the site.

"In the past [dealers' thinking] was 'the more light the better,' but today we want to be resource efficient, and we want to provide a comfortable atmosphere," Bill Allemon, Ford's Land Energy Efficiency Manager told me in an interview. The new thinking will be to redesign the lighting at dealerships to bring lighting levels down in the showroom and spotlight it more on the products. "Think of an art gallery," Allemon said.

Ford has developed the program in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which will be helping Ford evaluate up-and-coming technologies that can improve energy efficiency. RMI, which contributes regular blog posts to GreenBiz.com, has long focused on energy efficiency in facilities.

Details about the dealership project are somewhat scarce, since it is still in the works. Allemon explained that it is fully voluntary for all of Ford's dealers, which largely operate on the franchise model and are independently owned and operated from Ford Motor Company.

But greening dealerships is in everyone's best interests: As the primary touchpoint that individuals have with Ford vehicles, a green dealership helps present the environmental initiatives that Ford Motor Company has undertaken.

And Ford is applying some of the best practices it has learned in its multi-billion dollar renovation of its Rouge River facility, including lighting redesigns, daylighting, and even landscape innovations, like that facility's famed vegetative roof, and the use of landscaping to manage stormwater runoff.

Allemon was hesitant to talk about potential savings from these retrofits, but he said that, using off-the-shelf technologies, a dealership could expect to save 20 percent on its energy bill, and that, while Ford has "a very aggressive target" for energy savings, they're keeping it under wraps until the pilot project is completed later this year.

The renovations will be timed to coincide with already-planned improvements, so that dealers can incorporate new, greener technologies as part of the existing project. And Ford will be presenting a menu of "good, better, and best" options for efficiency retrofits, letting dealers decide just how green they want to go.

Although Allemon described a dealer aiming for a "good" renovation as essentially continuing business as usual, he also discussed the potential for having "net-zero" energy using sites, so the range of improvements is broad.

"Dealers are laser-focused on how to become more energy efficient," he said, adding that dealers "can set the dial" for what they want to do. But the sales pitch behind the renovations project is cost savings, and while they're saving money, they're also reducing their carbon footprint.

Asked about the timing of the announcement, when the nation is still reeling from a long economic slide, Allemon said that the economic situation makes the time ideal.

The time is perfect, actually," he said. "A lot of the stores have reduced their operations, they've cut their head count, and they're always looking for ways to reduce their operating costs, as well as to differentiate themselves from competitors and sister dealerships across town."

We'll have more about the project in the coming months; Ford expects to have the three pilot renovations completed later this year, at which time Ford can begin gathering and reporting the data on the environmental impacts these three dealerships are having

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Simple Explanation that Makes Good Sense

Occasionally we see something that just seems to help clarify things. I think this article is one of those that help clear the view.

Why the Triple Bottom Line Matters More Than Ever
By Mitch Tyson
Published January 08, 2010

The conventional way to measure the success of a business is the bottom line. But the concept of a triple bottom line, where social and environmental factors are considered along with economic ones, is also getting a lot of attention.

Is this another business fad? Is it a new management technique like total quality management?

I don't think so. I see the triple bottom line as a way to think about yourself, your career, and your company. The essential challenge it poses to business leaders is to find a way to simultaneously please your investors and impress your grandchildren.

Triple bottom line thinking holds that a company should combine standard metrics of financial success with those that measure environmental stewardship and social justice. It is sometimes called the 3P approach -- People, Planet and Profits. In each case it requires thinking in three dimensions, not one.

It is argued by many that companies that factoring these impacts into their overall corporate balance sheets will be more successful because it delivers greater efficiency, makes them more competitive and sparks innovation -- all drivers of profitability over time.

But intuitively, doesn't it also just make sense? Don't you want to leave the planet a little better than you found it? Don't you want to work for a company that operates ethically and acts with integrity and cares about the people it employs and serves? Don't you want to make products that really enhance people's lives? Don't you want to help our country become less vulnerable to oil supply disruptions?

We certainly don't measure the success of our families by how much money we have saved. Our family's health, our kid's education, and the amount of love and caring in our family, count as much, if not more, than our financial security. So why do we have to measure the success of our companies with only one metric?

Another concept often linked to triple bottom line is that of sustainability. We sometimes speak of adopting sustainable business practices or building sustainable businesses. But what does that really mean?

The best definition I've heard was created in 1987 by the United Nations Bruntland Commission, which defined sustainability as "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It's a simple, powerful statement. Make sure our decisions today take future costs into account. By adding time it asks us to think in four dimensions and not one.

There is a strong argument that triple bottom line or building sustainable businesses creates more profitable and successful business. Pursuing environmental and social objectives doesn't have to be at the expense of financial objectives and often is reinforcing.

Take the desire to reduce the environmental impact of a building for example. You could just lower the thermostat and make everyone a little more uncomfortable. Or you could do something better and install more efficient lighting. Or you could do something even better and rethink the entire building and design an integrated building that has better ventilation, better lighting, uses much less energy, and is more comfortable.

People who work in LEED-certified buildings typically show 6 percent to 16 percent improved productivity, roughly 10 times the initial energy savings. That becomes a measurable benefit that can ultimately be linked to profitability and shareholder value. What's more, employees feel better about their work environment and their employer, creating stronger employee relationships and company loyalty. One investment in building efficiency yields benefits across multiple dimensions.

This is just the beginning. Businesses pursuing sustainability are becoming more efficient, more innovative, more connected, more profitable, and more competitive.

But as in most things, companies go through phases.

At first they tend to be defensive and focus on complying with regulations. When they move beyond that, they become tactical -- looking for ways to reduce waste and become more efficient in the way they do things.

In the next stage they start to think systematically. Here, a company begins to identify its position in the value chain and explore how their customers use their products and how they dispose of them. They will also explore their supply chain and find out where their raw materials come from and how much energy is used to make them. They will start thinking about their own factories and find ways of using new manufacturing process that use less energy.
At AEB, we manufacture an energy efficient, pollution-free technology that allows traditional manufacturing industries to replace antiquated process technologies like thermal ovens.

For example, a large food package printing operation could replace its drying ovens with our electron beams and save millions of BTUs of energy annually, avoid tons of CO2 and VOC pollution. This kind of technology is both more sustainable and more profitable. In driving the adoption of our technology, we've realized it's critical to talk to brand owners and retailers to help them understand how the manufacturing processes of their supply chains impact their own environmental footprint.

Ultimately, progressive business leaders start thinking strategically and see sustainability as a catalyst for new business models.

Recently FedEx Kinko's, which has been in the business of delivering packages, started accepting documents electronically and printing them near where they need to be delivered thus meeting their customer's needs with significantly less energy.

Rosabeth Moss Kantor writes in her recent book about SuperCorps, which embedded the idea of serving society into their business definition and strategy. She cites companies like GE, which focused its mission on helping the world transition to a more sustainable energy infrastructure.

I believe that triple bottom line thinking and sustainability are inevitable. To business leaders, these are choices.

We can start to make our companies more efficient or wait until costs rise. We can redesign our products for a more sustainable world or we can try to catch up later. We can wait until our customers or the government ask us to report our carbon footprint or we can volunteer it now.

A recent Sloan Business Review survey found that 92 percent of 1,500 executives said that their companies are addressing sustainability, but most said not aggressively. Clearly the door is wide open for leaders to emerge.

Business leaders do not need to check their values at the door. Despite media coverage of ethical business lapses and shortsighted business practices, all the CEOs I know want to do the right thing.

They want employees to be healthy because they care about them not just because it lowers premiums. They want to reduce pollution from their plants because they live in the community and breathe the air not just because they want to avoid fines. They treat their customers and suppliers fairly because that's the way they want to be treated. They create value for their investors because that's what they were hired to do and that's what they committed to do, not just because they want their share. They are motivated by their core values.

You can rationalize that the triple bottom line will make your company more successful, which it will, or you could pursue it because it reflects your values as a person. But in some sense to those that will be most impacted it doesn't matter why we do it as long as we do it.

Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, uses something he calls the "Grandparent Test." He runs one of the biggest utilities in the country and has a lot of people counting on him. His customers expect there to be power at the flick of a switch and his investors expect profits every quarter.

But he's focused on what his grandchildren will say to their grandchildren 50 years from now. Will they say he ran the dirtiest utility in the world or that he was the first utility executive to commit to going carbon free?

For Rogers, doing well and generating profits aren't mutually exclusive goals; the two are inexorably linked. And in fact many of the Fortune 1000 executives who have started embracing triple bottom line thinking cite their grandchildren when asked why they are doing it. Future generations aren't an abstraction to them any more than revenues or earnings are.

The triple bottom line and sustainability aren't new management techniques. They aren't the latest management fads. They are concepts that challenge each of us to balance the way we successfully run our business and the world that our children's children will inherit from us. And we need to start now.

Mitch Tyson is Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Electron Beams based in Wilmington, Mass.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cap and Trade AMMO

More Fodder for the Cap and Trade arguement.
Cap-and-trade emissions reduction programs catch on
Dec 16 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Timothy B. Wheeler The Baltimore Sun


In a little more than a year, a regional push to cap greenhouse gases has raised millions for Maryland energy programs, with supporters calling it a model for easing climate change on a national or even global scale.

Since September 2008, Maryland and nine other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have been participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. In its "cap and trade" regulatory scheme, emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants have been capped and plant operators are required to buy permits for all the gas that their facilities release into the atmosphere.

Similar programs, in which businesses buy and sell the rights to release greenhouse gases, are being considered for extension nationwide under legislation in Congress that passed the House last summer and is pending in the Senate. It's also on the table for international action at rancorous United Nations climate talks scheduled to conclude Friday in Copenhagen.

"While Washington and the world debate this in Copenhagen, we've already exercised leadership and proved that cap-and-trade can work, said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, "and we are investing the proceeds in helping families and businesses."

Some business groups and conservative critics have warned that cap-and-trade regulation of greenhouse gases could cripple the U.S. economy, driving energy prices through the roof and putting millions out of work. Some economists and environmentalists also oppose the approach, arguing that it's too complicated and fraught with loopholes to make a real dent in emissions that threaten to drastically alter the world's climate.

But power companies in Maryland and the nine other states have been paying for the rights to emit greenhouse gases for more than a year with slight impact on consumers' electric bills. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s residential customers are paying perhaps $1.25 a month more as the costs of the carbon-dioxide permits are passed through, said Constellation Energy spokesman John Quinn. That represents about 1 percent of the average household's electric bill.

Meanwhile, the state has collected more than $96 million in revenue from the six carbon-dioxide auctions held since September 2008, with the funds earmarked for providing relief from energy costs and ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, half the funds this year go to help poor families pay their power bills, while nearly a quarter goes to provide a bit of rate relief for all residential utility customers -- about 43 cents on the typical household power bill this winter, according to Quinn.

Another 18 percent goes into promoting energy efficiency and conservation, with an additional 6 percent earmarked to provide grants and low-interest loans for homes and businesses to install "clean" energy systems.

Frank and Lois Bohdal are among more than 600 Marylanders this year who have received state grants funded in part with carbon-auction proceeds to help them put in home solar, wind or geothermal energy systems.

Bohdal, a computer programmer with the state comptroller's office, has blanketed the south-facing roof of the couple's Millersville rancher with 40 solar panels. They cost a total of $55,000 -- but the state helped cover their installation with nearly $14,000 in grants. And the electricity they generate has reduced the couple's power bill by nearly a third.

"So far, it's been worthwhile to me," said Bohdal, who notes that he was able to cover about half the upfront costs with federal and local tax credits.

Some of the carbon-auction funds also are going into retrofitting low-income apartment complexes with better insulation and energy-efficient appliances and lighting. The state recently awarded grants to fix up the 158-unit Sierra Woods apartments in Columbia and another complex in Montgomery County. Using the auction proceeds and federal stimulus funds, the state hopes to work on nearly 1,600 apartments this year.

"We do believe that in the long haul it will help make these properties and the rents more sustainable for our residents," said Pat Silvester of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which is overseeing the projects.

The regional effort in the East has inspired similar collaborations of states in the Midwest and the West, and supporters believe it helped build support on Capitol Hill for the cap-and-trade plan to curb greenhouse gases that is written into the bill that passed the House in June. A similar approach is being considered in the Senate.

But some note that the greenhouse gas initiative wasn't much of a test of the idea of using the market to achieve pollution reductions, since states purposely set their caps on carbon dioxide above what power plants were emitting at the time. The price of pollution allowances sold by the states have ranged between $2 and $3.50 per ton, while the Environmental Protection Agency estimates carbon credits would sell initially for $12 to $15 per ton under the more sweeping cap-and-trade approach in the House bill. A congressional budget analysis found that the cost per household in higher energy bills would average $175 a year.

Maryland officials say the states intentionally set a loose-fitting ceiling on carbon-dioxide emission for the first few years so power plants could get used to paying for pollution allowances.

The plan is to gradually reduce the allowable emissions 10 percent by 2018, ultimately making the allowances more valuable, and costly.

Bids for the carbon credits through six auctions have been within the range projected by the states, but they've trended downward lately. In the most recent auction Dec. 2, carbon dioxide allowances went for $2.05 each, down from a high of $3.51 per ton in March. And for the first time two weeks ago, the states were unable to sell all the allowances they had put up for bid on future emissions.

Karen Palmer, an economist with the Washington think tank Resources for the Future, said bidding appears to have cooled on the regional carbon auctions partly because of uncertainty about how it would be affected by federal legislation. The bill that passed the House would effectively replace the regional power-plant curbs with a nationwide cap on all greenhouse gases, though the pollution credits sold under the regional auctions could still be used to help meet the new, more rigorous federal control scheme.

Another reason for declining bids, Palmer said, is the slumping national economy, which has reduced the demand for carbon-dioxide permits now. Power plant emissions have declined as the business downturn lowered demand for energy, she pointed out.

With recent auction proceeds less than projected, that's forced the states to pare back what they can expect to get and spend on energy programs. In Maryland, though, Woolf says the drop in carbon-auction proceeds has been made up for by an infusion of federal economic stimulus funds earmarked for energy efficiency and clean energy efforts.

"The ultimate goal was always to demonstrate for the country that a cap-and-trade system could work," said Shari T. Wilson, Maryland secretary of the environment. "Really, that goal has been accomplished."

Some argue that imposing a tax on carbon would be a better way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They acknowledge, though, that cap-and-trade garnered support, at least initially, from businesses and from many environmentalists.

Charles Komanoff, co-director of the Carbon Tax Center, said some green groups evidently believed the market plan would be a "stealth" way to tax carbon, and he contended that businesses were looking to write special deals for themselves into the complicated House bill, which runs to more than 1,000 pages. Senate action has been delayed by debate over health insurance reform, though members also remain split over the bill's economic impact and some even question scientific evidence of climate change.

The regional experience with cap-and-trade has won over Constellation Energy, it seems. "We were supportive of an experiment," said company spokesman Quinn, "that a market-based system that put money back into solving the problem wasn't a bad idea."

Now, he added, "It's time to do a comprehensive program, rather than piecemeal it." The company's chairman and CEO, Mayo A. Shattuck III, issued a statement at the beginning of the U.N. climate summit supporting an international accord committing the United States and all other countries to reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases

Monday, November 23, 2009

Petrol States Eyeing Renewables

Middle East Turning To Alternative Energy
Published on November 23rd, 2009 by Green Prophet


It all sounds very grandiose and really too good to be true, but a number of Persian Gulf states, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar are hoping to be able to satisfy a good portion of their massive energy needs through alternative and renewable energy sources, instead of relying mostly on oil.

In a part of the world that experiences some of the hottest summer temperatures, averaging above 44 degrees Celsius during at least 4 months of the year; and whose energy growth use is growing by more than 10% per annum, these countries have their work cut out for them to be able to realize 70% of their total energy needs from alternative and renewable energy by the year 2030.

By trying they definitely are, and with unique sustainable environment projects like Abu Dhabi’s zero-carbon Masdar City and Qatar’s carbon-neutral Energy City being able to produce a good part of their required energy needs may not be as far fetched as it seems.

In the two noted examples, both Abu Dhabi and Qatar plan to use a combination of renewable energy power sources to provide electricity and other energy needs for these pilot projects which will be the basis for the gradual switching from conventional power sources to those such as solar energy and wind power, geothermal and hydrogen (which also can be used to power cars and other vehicles).

In regards to geothermal power which utilizes energy from volcanoes and hot springs, and is now said to be more economical than either coal or natural gas, the UAE and other Gulf States may find it worthwhile to do business with an Israeli company, Ormat Industries, which is now said to be involved in a large geothermal energy project in Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and one that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. If Indonesia can do business with an Israeli company like Ormat (which is also involved in solar energy projects), so can countries like Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

In order to generate more interest in renewable and alternative energy projects in the UAE and other Gulf states, various international conferences and exhibitions are being held there, including the Alter Energy 09 Convention, recently held last month at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, with the theme of developing and implementing alternative and renewable energy to reduce dependence on conventional energy sources.

And then there is the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, in January 2010, that will feature the concept of environmentally sustainable “eco-cites” of which Masdar City will be one of when completed.

Fortunately for these Gulf countries, most of them have enough remaining oil wealth to finance these projects without having to apply for crippling loans from the World Bank (whose theme is a “world free of poverty”) or other financial institutions.

These countries are also acutely aware that they need to wean themselves off dependence on petroleum for both their livelihood and primary energy source; for they are aware of the reality that in regards to oil, it won’t last forever.

Article by Maurice Picow appearing courtesy of Green Prophet

Friday, November 13, 2009

Politics vs Carbon, where are we going?

Clean Tech Revolution In Need of a Green Gandhi.
He May be Emerging.

Published on November 12th, 2009 by Joe Walsh

In spite of leaps and bounds in technology, investment capital, political support and public will over the past decade – much less the past year – there is one element of a revolution that has not emerged in the clean tech movement: an icon. Sure, standard-bearers of the green movement that began in the 1960’s are still visible and active and there are brilliant scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians out there who might be candidates. But, as greens cast about for their own JFK in government, or a Green Gates in the private sector, what they really need is their own Green Gandhi. He may be emerging.
Not content to play politics behind-the-scenes, President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives has taken his quest to save his country to the level of zealotry. Nasheed’s Indian Ocean nation is part of an archipelago of islands sitting just 2 meters above sea level. For Nasheed and his countrymen, climate change is not just the primary challenge of the 21st century, it is a matter of survival.
Not only does Nasheed have an urgency that few others can lay claim to, but his case for getting cleaner and greener has a moral heft that is difficult for even the most compelling global clean tech business leaders to trump. Like Gandhi, Nasheed has staked his entire political life on a single existential question for his people, and he is taking his fight to Copenhagen, to the ocean floor and everywhere in between. The question for 100 years hence is not only whether students will learn the lesson of a heroic effort to save the planet, but whether there will be any students in places like Maldives at all.

Maldives leader turns stuntman

By Mohamed Shahyb (AFP) – Oct 18, 2009

MALE — Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who staged the world's first underwater cabinet meeting at the weekend, is emerging as the global stuntman in the battle against climate change.

Nasheed, 42, dived with his cabinet to the sea bottom Saturday in an effort to press December's UN summit in Copenhagen to cap carbon emissions that cause global warming, threatening low-lying nations such as the Maldives.

"We should come out of Copenhagen with a deal that will ensure that everyone will survive," said the president as he bobbed in the shimmering Indian Ocean after the meeting.

A presidential aide said the event, to highlight the threat facing the resort paradise -- which scientists warn could be submerged by rising sea levels by the century's end, was Nasheed's idea.

He said a New York-based environmental group had wanted the president to hold a banner underwater to push for cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions.

But Nasheed, the youngest leader in South Asia, went one better, with the 30-minute meeting intended to highlight a potentially watery future for the 1,192 coral islands that make up the Maldives.

It was only the latest in a series of eye-catching public relations moves by Nasheed, a former journalist, to focus the spotlight on climate change and how it could affect the archipelago, known as an idyllic getaway for the rich.

The president stunned the world last year when he announced he wanted to buy a new homeland to relocate the population of the Maldives in the event that damage from rising sea levels became too great.

The announcement had a major impact in India, Sri Lanka and Australia -- all potential destinations cited by Nasheed for what could be some of the world's first environmental refugees.

Nasheed has also been photographed at a submerged desk off the sandy white beaches of the Maldives.

The environmental activism of Nasheed, who came to power last year, follows efforts by his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, to highlight the nation's predicament.

"Gayoom had been a very vocal campaigner so there is a political compulsion for Nasheed to keep the Maldives at the forefront of the global warming issue," said Ibrahim Ismail, for many years an independent member of parliament.

Gayoom, described by opponents as autocratic, ruled the islands unchallenged between 1978 and 2008 and repeatedly threw Nasheed in jail over a period of six years.

As a political activist, Nasheed was at one point an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

Educated in Sri Lanka and Britain, the president, a father of two young daughters and holder of a degree in maritime engineering, built a pro-democracy movement with local and foreign support, winning the country's first multi-party elections a year ago.

His latest dive in scuba gear was preceded by interviews to foreign television networks to talk about what he called his "sinking feeling."

Ismail said Nasheed's underwater cabinet meeting had little impact locally in a country whose 300,000 Sunni Muslim population was more preoccupied with immediate bread and butter issues.

"I think this is a good action as far as publicity is concerned. Not locally, but internationally," Ismail said.

Nasheed announced last month the Maldives had no money to pay for him to attend the Copenhagen summit, but Denmark has said it will fund him as his participation is considered essential