Friday, December 28, 2012

The Energy-Water Nexus: It's a Thirsty World and the Stakes Are High

“All the water that will ever be is, right now.” With this simple sentence in 1993, National Geographic summed up the challenge: How do we continue to supply 7 billion people with enough water from a finite supply and satisfy the needs of modern society with increasing population and demand?
Water and energy are the life’s blood of industrialization. These resources are inextricably intertwined and work together to quench our thirst for power. Water is integral to resource extraction, refining, processing, transportation and electric power generation. Conversely, significant amounts of energy are needed to extract, transport, treat, and use water in urban areas. The collision of these two resources is often referred to as the energy-water nexus.
It’s a thirsty world and the stakes are high. However, using no energy uses no water at all and consumers and businesses alike can take advantage of new technology to minimize energy use. According toSandia National Labs, “coal, the most abundant fossil fuel, currently accounts for 52% of U.S. electricity generation, and each kWh generated from coal requires withdrawal of 25 gallons of water. That means U.S. citizens may indirectly depend upon as much water turning on the lights and running appliances as they directly use taking showers and watering lawns.”

Fortunately, many new and proven critical technologies with real solutions are currently jockeying for position to strategically target market opportunities to reduce power use in the building sector. These technologies can chip away at building power consumption and improved policy could dramatically speed this process. For example, mandated efficiency targets or on-bill recovery for retrofits could transform the industry across the board.

Many of these technologies address multiple problems. For instance, SolaRover, a Colorado company, offers a rapidly deployablecritical-output mobile solar power generator system that properly configured, can deliver up to 50 kW of continuous power. These generators can be plugged directly into a facility and be used to reduce facility energy use and cost during times of peak load demand—the time when energy costs are highest. At the same time, these units reduce water use by reducing the facility’s power needs generated off-site. In the event of an emergency, like Hurricane Sandy, these mobile generators can be simply and quickly moved to where they are needed – without the need for fuel. Thus, mobile solar generators can provide a lifetime of energy and water savings.

The Green Power Resource Management multifaceted solar powered air conditioning unit can be further adapted to function as a virtual power plant can further minimize building energy use by combining PV technology with DC engineered air conditioning innovation.

More and more businesses are recognizing the potential to turn their company building, previously a pure expense, into a power generation asset that can generate abundant and clean electricity. Pythagoras Solar, a company focused on building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), provides building owners the opportunity to achieve “ubiquitous solar” via integration of solar windows and solar skylights. The Pythagoras Solar window is a solar panel built around two panes of glass which allows it to function as both a window and an electricity generating source.

New innovations can further facilitate production of potable water without using fossil fuel powered energy to power filtration.  

Modern society is characterized by growth: Demand for energy and water is increasing while our water resource is finite. We are at a crossroads and the challenges that we need to address are daunting. Fortunately, with challenge comes opportunity and policy makers, businesses and consumers can take steps to reduce use by incentivizing a harmonized approach to energy-water planning and by incentivizing deployment and integration of technology that can reduce energy use and create a sustainable energy-water infrastructure. 

As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 13-17, Masdar is sponsoring a blogging contest called “Engage: The Water-Energy Nexus.” The winner will be invited to Abu Dhabi as VIP media to cover the week’s high-profile events. Please vote for me here:






Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Arzu Studio Hope: A Sustainable Business Model for Transformational Change

It isn’t enough to talk about peace.  One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it.  One must work at it. – Eleanor Roosevelt
How do you lift women out of poverty in a country where women are marginalized and defined by their subordinate status?  According to Connie Duckworth, CEO of Arzu Studio Hope (Arzu), you use the tools you have available to design and build a platform for growth.    “There is dignity in work and self –reliance,” said Duckworth.  “Women are amazingly resourceful.  Women do the work of the world and are also the face of poverty.  They are peacemakers and mothers everywhere want the same things.  We want our kids to have opportunities, to be healthy and to have a future.”   
Arzu demonstrates that transformational change can happen even in the world’s most horrible places.  “Each one of us holds the power of hope and change in our hands,” continued Duckworth.  As a mentor to countless women coming up through the ranks at Goldman Sachs and an advocate for family focused policies like maternity leave, Duckworth has demonstrated a lifelong passion for women’s rights and economic sustainability.  Arzu is a reflection of that passion and with Arzu, Duckworth has created a roadmap that could be replicated to impact women globally.   “We’ve developed a successful business in Afghanistan, a conflict zone with no infrastructure, no power grid, no internet, no roads,” says Duckworth, “if we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.”
The concept is based on the mantra, “she who writes the check controls the agenda.”  Women that have an income can have a sense of independence that they would not otherwise have; with an income women gain authority.  The idea for Arzu grew out of an identified need.  Duckworth was asked to travel to Afghanistan as a business representative of the US Afghan Women’s Council, a Council created to ensure that in the restructuring of Afghanistan that women have a seat at the table.  They were the first delegation allowed to overnight in the country.  She describes it as stepping back in time 2000 years.  Kabul is a city devastated by civil war that flattened whole sections of the city.  On the way back to the airport the group stopped by a bombed out Soviet-style building and met dozens of women and children squatting for the winter with very little in the way of clothing and no heat, electricity or water.  Many, if not all, of these women were widows with no education and no way to support their children – and it is not uncommon for women in Afghanistan to have 7 or 8 children. 
Struck by these images, Duckworth knew she was going to do something to create a business to employ as many women as possible.  The challenge: start a business with no access to electricity, in a war-zone, without a shipping infrastructure or banking infrastructure.   While she did not have these things, she did have a vision.  She wanted to identify an export product that would create enough cash to fund the back end of the business including all the materials, all the social programs and provide for fair wages.
Here is where the process begins to emerge.
Step one in starting a business is to get as much information as you can.  Duckworth hired a woman at the UN to compile economic data.  One drawback was that the data was from 1975 but it still provided some framework to work from.  Afghanistan is extremely poor, extremely dry and access to water is limited – thus, no opportunity for agriculture.  To set the stage, there are really no employment opportunities for women or men.
Step two was to use this information to identify the product.  Weaving is a culturally acceptable activity for women, they can weave in their homes, and in theory the business could be started that day.    So, through trial and error, Duckworth essentially backed into high quality Afghan rugs as the target product. 
In life, success is based partly on the cards falling your way.  Bamyan Province has the first, and so far, only female governor, Habiba Sarabi.  She was appointed in 2005 and she invited Duckworth to start an enterprise in Bamyan.  Bamyan Province is home to the magical Buddha’s and translated means ‘The Place of Shining Light.’  Bamyan is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan.  According to the Regional Rural Economic Regeneration Strategies (RRERS), 

Bamyan is one of the poorest, most mountainous, and agriculturally least productive areas in the country. Much of the land is barren and inaccessible, with acute water shortages, small landholdings, extensive food insecurity, and poor soil quality characterizing much of the region. While specific communities in Bamyan have benefited from short-term relief efforts and some infrastructure improvements, substantial need for well-planned initiatives remains. 

Duckworth made the decision to start an enterprise around training and developing Afghan talent.  While still a segregated society, the company is run by two production managers: one male and one female.

Step three is to negotiate or garner the support of family and community.  To do this, Arzu went village to village and house to house negotiating with the male heads of households to create a social contract.  The deal was that in exchange for fair labor wages, the company would pay for “A” quality product and add a 50% quality bonus.  These are highly skilled and talented artisans.  Each year Arzu formally sits down with each family to negotiate and they truly understand what a job can do to transform a woman’s life and her social position in the household.
One story that Duckworth tells is that of a widowed woman weaver named Fatima.  Arzu gives priority to widows.  Before Arzu, Fatima was living in a refugee camp with her seven children.  Statistically, 25% of children in Afghanistan die by the time they are 5 years old, 95% of women will never have any medical care and Afghanistan has the second highest maternal death rate globally.  These women suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy and 85% of them suffer domestic violence.  If there is a history of being a sole wage earner, however, that woman’s respect goes up dramatically.  Fatima is now reading at a fifth grade level, supporting her family and is a shining beacon of hope for them.
Why does this model work?  Because, says Duckworth, these families are being economically incented to support the model.  “Follow the money,” says Duckworth.  “We believe that for this to work, women need to be empowered economically and also supported with an ecosystem.  You can’t just pull one end of the thread out of a ball of yarn.  You need to bring in education and promote health.” 
Part of Arzu’s success is because they consciously built an ecosystem of support that consists of three components.  First, the family must agree that the women get released to Arzu for 2 hours a day for tutoring.  One woman who realized this change in her life commented that, “reading is like a blind woman getting her eyes.”  It is amazing that things that we take for granted can make such a huge impact.  Second, the family must agree that all children in the household go to school and Arzu tracks compliance.  Third, the family must release the women for pre- and post-natal care health checks.   It is significant that since 2006 the community that lives within this ecosystem has not lost a mother or baby in childbirth in a country with one of the highest maternal death rates.   The difference is that the families have bought into the business model.  They are economically incented to do so and their success is based on their own performance. 
“If you follow the money and trace it back, you can figure out why people behave the way they do,” explained Duckworth.  For example, why do families marry their girls off at the age of 12? Economics -  the family gets money from selling the daughter to the in-laws.  If, however, we can figure out how to provide employment to teenage girls they are worth more to their families earning a consistent income.  Whenever possible, Arzu employs teenage girls for part-time jobs.  They are the teachers for the women weavers, they help in the garden.  Seventy female students are attending college.  The equation is simple: income = girls get to stay in college.     
Arzu demonstrates that if you can show someone that they can be the catalyst to set their children on the path to a better life, they will do what it takes to make that happen.  The message to us is that no change happens if you don’t start.  “It doesn’t matter what you do,” says Duckworth.  “Just start.  If each of us just did that one thing that we are capable of doing there could be a tsunami of change.”  Arzu has created between 700 and 1000 jobs in a place where there are no jobs, scarce resources, cultural challenges and overwhelming destitution.  Change happens with baby steps and celebrating small victories.  Arzu is an inspiration for promoting transformational change through sustainable business models. 
For more on Connie Duckworth’s vision and journey, listen in to ICOSA’s Driving Force radio and anyone can support by going to Peace Cord. 




Monday, December 3, 2012

Living Better Electrically AND Efficiently – Elevations Credit Union and the Denver Energy Challenge Team Up

It's almost unimaginable that consumers would have to be encouraged to use electricity to make their lives easier - but that's where we started.  To explain, we can look to the visionary known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison.  It was Edison's vision to create a system to deliver electric light into private homes in the late 1800's and ultimately, his vision revolutionized our way of life.
During the postwar era of the 1950s and 1960s, the power industry's growth transformed America and the American way of life. The opportunities provided by electricity seemed endless.  Remarkably, in 1956, to keep demand high and increase public awareness, General Electric launched its "Live Better Electrically" campaign.  The campain, supported by 300 power utilities and 180 electrical manufacturers across the nation, was designed to extol the benefits of "better living by living electrically!"  The result was a revolution in the quality and ease of domestic life.  Consumers now had electric-powered vacuum cleaners, clothes dryers, toasters, refrigerators, televisions, raido and even air conditioned movie theaters.
Decades have passed since the “Live Better Electrically” campaign and with it remarkable changes to our energy landscape. First and foremost however, today, a campaign to encourage use is unnecessary. Indeed, our energy use has grown exponentially.  For Americans, electricity is both pervasive and essential. We love it and our appetite for it keeps growing. The average household today owns 26 electronic gadgets. Electricity consumption doubled since 1980 and is expected to grow by another 25 percent by 2030. We take for granted that when we flip a switch a light will come on and when we plug in those gadgets they will recharge.  One way to keep up with demand, however, is to reduce our energy use and luckily, we can save money and live more comfortably at the same time.  That’s the beauty of energy efficiency upgrades.  After all, the cheapest energy is the energy that we don’t use.
Gone are the days of Jimmy Carter and his red cardigan.  Welcome to a new world of efficient buildings that manage energy use and integrate new technologies to achieve huge energy savings and vastly improved comfort.  An added bonus, potentially huge money savings to the bottom line for homeowners and business owners alike.
It’s no secret that I’ve taken steps to reduce energy use in my home.  I talk about it on ICOSA Driving Force radio and on this blog.  For example, I have all of our electronics on power strips so that they can be turned off at the strip to prevent “phantom power” or the power drawn by gadgets and electronic devices when they’re switched off or not in use.  I installed a clothesline and hang our clothes to dry outside in the sun (thereby also earning the nickname of Laura Ingalls Wilder from my husband.)  I’ve installed skylight blinds for the summer months and honeycomb blinds to help insulate the windows.  As my old “Edison” light bulbs burned out I replaced them with energy efficient ones – which as I explain below should have been expedited.  But what else can you do and what if there are upfront costs?
These challenges: the upfront cost associated with energy efficiency retrofits and identification of the changes that will make the biggest impact, are two key hurdles for consumers.  Luckily, the Denver EnergyChallenge provides education, free support services through an energy advisor, along with financial assistance to residents and businesses in the City and County of Denver. 
The Denver Energy Challenge was created to expand energy efficiency services to residents and businesses in the City and County of Denver and its funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Program (under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).  The fact is, decisions on energy efficiency and investment can be time consuming and can be confusing.  To address this, Elevations Credit Union has teamed up with the Denver Energy Challenge and Energy Smart in Boulder County to bring Elevations Energy Loans to eligible homes and businesses in Denver City and County and Boulder County. This team of experts provides access to energy advisors to help assess the business needs and make retrofit recommendations, connect them with qualified contractors to make the improvements and loan specialists to provide low interest loans (2.75% for homes and 3.75% for businesses).  Under this program, Elevations Credit Union is committing $35M in financing for energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades for eligible homes and businesses in Denver and Boulder Counties. 
In-line with the “Live Better Electrically” campaign, we each have some control over our energy use even without implementation of smart grid programs or smart appliances.  I enlisted the help of the Denver Energy Challenge and Elevations Credit Union to find out how.  What I learned was that I can make small changes to my energy use and make a big impact.  Some of these fixes require minimal up-front costs like the following three examples. 
1.      Lower the temperature of your water heater.  Why?  It reduces standby energy loss.  The report recommended setting the water heater to deliver at 120F or the lowest practical setting for your preferences.  “A good measure is if you can take a shower using only hot water (not adding cold water).”  Estimated savings in my home: $60/year. 

2.      Replace lighting with CFLs or LEDs.  Why?  They use less energy and heat output is much less which equates to less cooling required for hot summer months.  According to the report, “Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use ¼ of the energy of regular incandescent light bulbs and last 8 to 15 times as long.  Replacing them with CFLs will save significant energy and replacement costs over time.”  Installed cost is estimated for my home at about $60 and the savings estimated at $124 per year.  I made these changes in the basement and my kids say it now looks like a stadium!  Brighter light and less energy use. Can’t beat that. 

3.      Sealing air leaks can make a big difference and it’s an inexpensive fix.  Caulk between the object and the drywall on all of the penetrations of walls and ceilings where you can see gaps.  In my home we found gaps in the outlets and switch plates on exterior walls, bath fans, duct boots in the ceiling and the exhaust vent over the microwave. According to the report,” air sealing is typically the most cost effective improvement you can make to your home. To properly seal out air leaks, a contractor will use a large fan called a blower door to depressurize your house. When this happens, the contractor can easily find the air leaks and take corrective measures. A good air sealing job will dramatically increase the comfort of your home and help you save significant energy.” 

Overall, it was estimated that with simple fixes alone I could save about $220 per year.  That’s $220 of warmer living with brighter more natural light in the winter and cooler in the summer.  That doesn’t even include my other Laura Ingalls Wilder type habits!   

Thank you to Elevations Credit Union, the Denver Energy Challenge, and Logan Faser (aka, “Saving Slick” from the Comfort Cowboy video seriesfor the thorough education, money saving tips and the increased comfort! 











Friday, November 16, 2012

Sustainable Technology: What Can We Learn From the Military's Vision to Increase Mission Effectiveness

Think about the military and it probably conjures up images of guns, ammo and tactical vehicles - not energy and water.  Yet these two resources are critical in enabling the military’s continued operational capabilities; including maneuvers, mission command, sustaining troops and equipment and humanitarian services.  Implementing ways to reduce the manpower required to deliver fuel and water and to reduce the vulnerability to supply shortages are critical to improving readiness, minimizing casualties and reducing operational costs. 
Sustainable technologies can enable significant reductions in fuel and water and their efficacy is not lost on the military.  Indeed, the military recognizes the importance of implementation of sustainable technologies to decrease future mission constraints, increase flexibility and resilience, safeguard human health, improve Army quality of life, and enhance the natural environment.  According to the Army’s Sustainability Report 2012, “the Army’s innovative solutions in 2010-2011 lessened the logistical challenge of providing water and fuel, reducing the number of convoys needed and thus reducing the risk to Soldiers during combat operations.”

The challenge is to lighten the logistical burden on the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs).  Manpower focused on resupply is manpower not focused on the mission.  "We need to figure out how to enable our Soldiers to go out on patrol, to set up camps, without this long logistical supply train," said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Environment and Energy Katherine Hammack. "We want to enable our Soldiers to go further with less of a supply train so that they can really fight better." 
Technology Enables Soldiers to Focus on the Mission

The military is testing technology that supports the operational base camp smart grid called SAGE for Smart and Green Energy for Base Camps program.  SAGE is using commercial off-the-shelf technologies including, utility hardware and open source control software to demonstrate and validate whether they can design a smart base camp microgrid technical specification capable of reducing the need for JP8 fuel by 30 to 60 percent at basecamps for 600 to 3,000 Soldiers.  

To test the concept and the technology the Army launched the Base Camp Integration Laboratory (BCIL) using sites modeled after forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The BCIL is split into two 150-person camps called “Force Providers” that house energy-efficient shelters and structures within a 10-acre compound to test a micro-grid, an energy storage system, a shower and laundry water reuse system, a waste management system, a solar hot water system and a power management system.  The BCIL also provides a live Soldier environment where service members training at Fort Devens stay at the BCIL and provide input on what is being tested there. 
The solution envisioned conjures up images of a futuristic utopian society – except that the future is now.  SAGE is described as a holistic energy generation, storage, management solution.  The SAGE microgrid interconnects easily transportable purpose built shelters that consist of insulated structures as well as integrated solar with solar water heating, plug-in charging stations, integrated renewable energy, energy storage and optional interconnectivity to the grid.

Critical to understanding how this arrangement is possible is an understanding of how these technologies work together to significantly reduce fuel and water requirements.  One aspect is energy capture, another is taking advantage of renewable resources that are readily available at these remote locations, and yet another aspect is to not use the energy to begin with.  Energy efficient technology such as lighting and insulation provide opportunities to drastically cut the energy that is required to power the basecamp.  After all, the cheapest energy is the energy that is never used.

Water reduction is also a focus and water reuse drastically reduces the logistical burden on units.  “Within the Army, 70 to 80 percent of our resupply weight or convoy weight is fuel and water,” said Hammack.  Once all of the security and logistics factors are taken into account, the cost per gallon of water delivered can range between $5 to $30 according to the Army.  One saving measure tested by the BCIL is the Shower Water Reuse System (SWRS).  In simple terms, the SWRS uses a series of filters, membranes and chemicals to recycle waste or gray water for future use.  Significantly, although the water is only approve for reuse within the shower, the recycled water falls within potable quality standards.  The capacity of the system is also impressive.  Of the 12,000 gallons of water that can be treated per day, 75% of it can be reused which results in the potential savings of 9,000 gallons of water per day or 3.2 million gallons of water per year in just one shower facility.
The Army evaluates technology in terms of force multipliers. In this case, use of SWRS reduces the water required for transport which in turn, reduces the number of water convoys and the Soldiers that would be on those water convoys are now available to remain engaged in the mission.  The SWRS also impacts placement of new FOBs because strategic considerations can weigh more heavily on location determination rather than ease of resupply.   "We need to figure out how to enable our Soldiers to go out on patrol, to set up camps, without this long logistical supply train," said Hammack. "We want to enable our Soldiers to go further with less of a supply train so that they can really fight better."

If successful, these technologies are immediately rolled out to remote FOBs like Afghanistan and the return on investment is almost instant.  Each SWRS system costs roughly $170,000. If used to its fullest capacity, the Army could realize a potential savings of millions of dollars per unit each year. It is this type of innovation that the Army is banking on to enhance their capability and "do more with less," according to Army officials.

Ideally, like the Internet and GPS, both technologies that were developed by the military and subsequently commercialized to transform the consumer market, these concepts could be used to support resilient domestic civilian communities.  The recent strike of Hurricane Sandy left 8 million people without power.  Building sustainable communities that use less power, mitigate risk and use more renewable energy resources could help protect against increasingly complex and disastrous weather patterns.  Sustainable technology is not just about being green.  Ask the military – sustainable technologies enable mission effectiveness. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green: A New Infographic from CarInsurance.Org Urges Caution When Considering EV's to Lower GHG Emissions

In the United States, we use 13 million barrels of oil a day.  That number is staggering and indicates that we have choices to make when it comes to transportation.  Those choices, however, have to be smart.

The graphic below from succinctly demonstrates the issues that consumers and policy makers need to consider in making decisions with respect to transportation.  As a practical matter, are we plugging our electric vehicle into a coal-fired generation facility or does the mix contain more renewable or clean energy?  We posed this question to Bob Yuhnke of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) on ICOSA's Driving Force radio.  The other environmental consideration is batteries.  How are they made, how long do they last, can they be recycled? 

These issues and price appear to be holding consumers back as Dan Bigman noted in his Forbes article titled, "Who's Killing the Electric Car." Why aren't electric vehicles taking hold as precicted? According to Bigman, "Is it the lack of charging stations? Is it the batteries? Is it the range? Is it the price? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes."

Transportation is a tough issue and our society is built on having the freedom to get where we need to be when we want to be there.  The bottom line is that for every action there is a consequence and we need to carefully consider those consequences before we take action.

For a clearer image go to:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ICOSA Driving Force Radio: Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs – a discussion with co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar

Clean tech isn’t partisan – except in Washington, D.C.  When it comes to clean tech, “we need to hear less from Capitol Hill and more from Main Street” concludes a report by DBL Investors, a venture capital firm located in San Francisco whose goal is to combine top-tier financial performance with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the region and sectors in which it invests.  The report titled, “Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs,” (the “Report”) looks at the disparity between Washington D.C.’s view of “green jobs” and the rest of the country.  On Capitol Hill, “in general,” says the Report, “Democrats support them.  Republicans oppose them.  End of story.”

This isn’t how it’s always been.  “Indeed, some of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation were enacted during the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon.  The polarized discussion of the environment is a relatively recent phenomenon, and, perhaps sadly, echoes the sharp divisions occurring throughout American political discourse,” continues the Report.  At the state level, clean tech doesn’t appear to have a political party.  Indeed, “many of the governors working the hardest to bring clean tech jobs to their home states are not only Republican, but are usually regarded as leaders of their party.”  Governors are focused on creating jobs and the data shows that they are using clean tech to bring high-quality jobs to their states. 

Clean tech is a significant part of the economic engine in the U.S. contributing significantly more employment opportunities than the coal industry.  However, even though the clean tech portion of the economy is much larger than that of coal, clean tech receives proportionally less attention in the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  The Report explains it this way:

According to the National Mining Association, coal employs 136,000 people in the entire country.  (See, National Mining Association, Fast Facts About Coal 2012) But three states all by themselves each have more clean tech workers than all the coal mining workers in the USA.  The total number of Americans working in clean tech is many times the size of those in coal.  This rarely-acknowledged statistic suggests that we broaden the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  That discussion often emphasizes their impact on the coal industry, without the much larger clean tech portion of the energy economy receiving proportionally much less attention.

The Report bolsters its conclusion by highlighting the clean tech efforts of five Republican governors: Mississippi Former Governor Haley Barbour, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Texas Governor Rick Perry.  It appears that while each governor approached clean tech differently, the result was the same – job growth and a higher voter approval rating.  For example, Governor Christie moved New Jersey from second to the first largest solar market in the U.S. by signing a law mandating solar purchases for state utilities.  According to the Report, at the time of signing Christie commented that, “having renewable energy in our state, having it be a larger part of our portfolio, creating jobs, is not a Republican issue or Democratic issue. It’s an issue that the people of our state demand we work on together.” 

In order to maintain momentum, the Report urges implementation of policies that support long term investment including: (1) keeping the Solar Investment Tax Credit; (2) redrafting tax legislation affecting clean tech-related Master Limited Partnerships and allow for solar REITs; and (3) extending the Production Tax Credit. 

The emphasis is that clean tech is recognized by both Parties as a valuable tool for job creation at the local and state level.   “We all need to understand that green jobs and clean tech are not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country.  What’s more, their numbers are growing every day.” 

Co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar will join Jan Mazotti and co-host Kelly de la Torre on ICOSA’s Driving Force radio ( next week.  Nancy Pfund is Managing Partner of DBL Investors.  Nancy writes frequently on matters relating to clean tech and “Impact investing.” Last year, she co-authored a widely-cited study showing that contrary to popular belief, current federal subsidy levels for alternative energy sources are in fact much lower than they ever were in the early days of “traditional” energy sources, such as coal, gas, and nuclear.

Michael Lazar is an MBA candidate at the Yale School of Management.  During the summer of 2012, Michael joined DBL Investors as a Summer Associate.  Prior to Yale, Michael worked for the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications and political advocacy firm in Washington, D.C.  Michael earned his BA from Stanford University.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Night of Sustainable Celebration with the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Former Governor Ritter and Vice Admiral McGinn

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (the “Alliance”) held its Heroes of Sustainability event this evening at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, CO.  The event was a Who’s Who of sustainability in Colorado including a number of former Ritter administration cabinet members including Jim Martin, current Administrator for EPA’s Region 8 Office and former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; and Alice Madden, Wirth Chair for the CU School of Public Affairs and former Climate Change Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to Ritter.  Former Governor Ritter himself was there to highlight the Alliance and introduce the Hero of Sustainability, Vice Admiral McGinn, President of the American Council on Renewable Energy.

After a hearty standing ovation, Ritter started by saying that, “being in this room tonight may be one of the most comforting things that I’ve done since leaving office.” The people in the room share values for quality of life for years to come.  “It is with great pride that I stand up here.” In his new position as Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, Ritter works with people around the country.  Ritter emphasized that 220 million Americans live in states with a renewable portfolio standard or renewable energy standard and 240 million Americans live in states that have efficiency standards. The take home message is that there is public support for what the Alliance and for what Colorado is doing.  “The people in this room are doing the things that the public wants them to do.”

This sentiment is echoed in an article by Mark Jaffe in the Denver Post (, titled, Red, Blue and Swing States are Green When it Comes to Renewable Energy.  According to Jaffe's article:

"Showing clean tech job growth in some of the blood-reddest of states and aggressive renewable energy policies by Republican governors, even Tea Party darlings like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the analysis by Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar contends 'clean tech and green jobs are only contentious inside Washington.'

'It is almost universally appreciated as the important engine for job development and economic growth that it is,' says the study Red, White & Green."
Following another standing ovation, true to his character, Vice Admiral McGinn recognized that while this is an individual award he recognizes that life is a team sport.  He then proceeded to recognize Veterans Green Jobs (, a non-profit organization that connects military veterans with training and employment in the green sector economy.  It is very important that we employ our veterans and use their skills to make a more sustainable nation and a more sustainable Colorado.
The military gets it, said McGinn, and he explained why.  He served with other veterans – retired Generals and Admirals with CNA, a research group that represents all of the military services and the Coast Guard.  CNA produced a report titled, “Climate Change and the Threat to National Security.”  The title says it all, urged McGinn.  Climate change is a threat because the increase in global warming and weather events will increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, like drought.  In this way, climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability and fragile governments will fail.
Even in the face of great science, however, some people just don’t get it.  It may be that we are afraid of believing in climate change because we may have to give something up.  The truth is that sustainability is a way to live better.  Increased energy security, environmental security, economic security - all factors in making a better life. 
The military gets it, repeated McGinn.  In another report by CNA, Powering America’s Defense Energy and the Risks to National Security, the unambiguous conclusion was that America’s energy posture, and in particular, America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our country at risk.  Those who wish to do us harm can exploit that vulnerability.  Using September 11th as an example, we can no longer believe in business as usual, emphasized McGinn.  What we can do, however, is come together in alliances like this one.  We can come together in every town and village across the country.  We can create opportunity for jobs and local, regional and global environmental quality.
These problems won’t be solved in Washington but in states around the country.  Referring to the statistics offered by Ritter, McGinn emphasized that multitudes of people are already living in states with RES and RPS standards.  This is just the beginning.  This beginning is being led by the military services.  From here in Fort Carson by creating a net zero installation and prototyping microgrids coupled with traditional forms of energy.  Leading the way technically and culturally.  We can follow that lead and we can see the technology benefits.
Sustainable technologies have made a tremendous impact on military personnel, especially at forward operating bases, by reducing the number of fuel convoys that have to resupply these units to decreasing the weight of the backpacks.  What is the take away? The military gets it because sustainability comports with the bottom line namely, operational efficiency and combat effectiveness.   According to McGinn, just like we benefit from GPS or the Internet and economic drivers from investments that the military made decades ago, so too can we benefit from their investment in renewable energy and efficiency.  We also can’t let political noise drown out the signal that this country will be more secure and more prosperous.  This is good for business.  CO and the Alliance is a leader in showing the nation how we can move forward.
The alliance is about being everyday heroes as part of this team sport called life for our children and our children’s children for many generations to come.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn – Alliance for Sustainable Colorado 2012 Hero of Sustainability

Many people understand the direct link between oil and America’s enemies. But what they may not understand are the realities of our oil dependency as a nation.  As a 35-year veteran of the Navy and President of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Vice Admiral McGinn understands these realities because he’s experienced them.  The good news is that his knowledge and experience puts him in the ideal position to change our dependency on traditional energy sources by creating opportunities for Americans.  Better yet, he’s leading the charge.

In addition to his ACORE presidency, Admiral McGinn lends his expertise to, among other energy and climate boards, the CNA Military Advisory Board.  The CNA Board comprises 11 recently retired three- and four-star generals and admirals, examining the national security implications of climate change and the nexus of energy, climate change and national security.

McGinn believes America’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels poses significant security risks to the country and our military.  This is not a new issue for him.  He became interested in national energy security issues during the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970’s when there were long lines at the gas pumps.  “We were relying too heavily on imported oil.  I realized then how vulnerable we really were, and I haven’t lost focus on the critical link between energy and America’s economy and national security,” recalls McGinn in CNA’s Voices of Experience.  Further, he believes, “our dependence on fossil fuels comes as a cost that is not fully reflected in the amount paid at the gas pump,” says McGinn.  “Every time we fill up, we need to understand the costs involved, especially the high price we pay with the lives of the men and women in the armed forces.” 

Our dependence on oil undermines our national security on multiple levels.  Vice Admiral McGinn explains that oil’s pervasiveness in America’s energy policy forces the country to engage at various levels with hostile and unstable regimes, weakening our international leverage and putting our economy in a precarious position.  According to one CNA report, “The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil production, yet controls less than three percent of an increasingly tight supply.”  The trouble is that oil is traded on a global market, a market that is vulnerable to manipulation by those who control the largest shares.  “Without bold action now to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, our national security will be at greater risk,” testified Vice Admiral McGinn, before a U.S. Senate panel.  “Fierce global competition and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuel will be a major part of the future strategic landscape.”  America’s goal should be, he believes, to relieve our oil dependency by diversifying our fuel supply, increasing the efficient use of fuel and increasing our use of low carbon technologies.

Moving toward low carbon energy sources and technologies also helps confront the challenge of global climate change.  “Climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security, acting as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the world’s most volatile regions, adding tension to stable regions, worsening terrorism and likely dragging the united States into conflicts over water and other critical resource shortages,: testified Admiral McGinn before a Senate Committee.  “The truth is, climate change aside, our energy choices have a direct bearing on our economic well-being,” he says.  “If we’re not economically strong and stable we aren’t going to be militarily stable.” To address these challenges, there needs to be recognition that “climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.” 

Security, infrastructure, and climate threats are more than challenges-they are opportunities-opportunities to create industries around energy efficiency and renewable and low carbon technologies.  Notes Vice Admiral McGinn, “One of ACORE’s guiding principles is that we are for all kinds of renewable energy, and against none.  ACORE is about building a more secure and prosperous America with clean renewable energy because that is part of the solution.  We need to apply every technology and efficiency to solve our energy challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ energy solution.” The energy platform can’t be rigid. The platform needs to evolve depending on variables like need, geography and availability of resources, to name just a few.  For example, solar might be the best resource for Arizona while wind is better in the Midwest. We are looking at an integrated system of variable parts and we need to look for solutions to fit with that system.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado ( will celebrate Vice Admiral McGinn as the 2012 Hero of Sustainability on September 11, 2012 in Denver, CO.  According to Vice Admiral McGinn, “we can be the ‘Next Greatest Generation’ in the 21st Century by taking on the new challenge so today that are threatening our way of life.  We can do something about these challenges.  The beauty is that to do so doesn’t mean sacrifice – it means more jobs, more national and energy security, and more economic security.  Let’s get over the fear of the future and do something now to shape a better future for all of us.  Business as usual is not the answer.”

This article is a truncated version of the article from ICOSA Magazine ( written by Kelly de la Torre.  For more on Vice Admiral McGinn go to, and

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ICOSA Driving Force Radio: Improving the Bottom-Line Through Energy Efficiency Technologies and Creating Unique Finance Mechanisms to Facilitate Investment

The least expensive power is the power that we don’t have to create.  Not only that, but not having to create that power can be an economic engine.  “In Colorado alone, the energy efficiency industry provides over 14,000 jobs and creates more than $1 Billion in local economic development, according to the State of the State, a report produced by the Energy Efficient Business Coalition ( 

To introduce this concept from the perspective of a business owner, ICOSA invited Tim Heaton, Vice President and co-founder of Coolerado, Inc. ( to talk about his experience with energy efficiency, both the successes and the challenges.  Energy is the single largest controllable business expense.  “The commercial real estate industry spends approximately $24 billion annually on energy -- typically a third of variable expenses,” according to statistics.  Of that, lighting and cooling account for 80% of that cost. 

The biggest impact is in the retrofit market because new construction accounts for only 1% of market activity. In fact, 73% of our commercial buildings are 20 years or older.  The benefits of reducing energy costs are huge and represent big opportunity, according to Heaton.  A 10% decrease in energy use could lead to a 1.5% increase in net operating income (NOI).   This is money that goes directly to the business’ bottom line, emphasizes Heaton.

As we take a deeper dive on the show, however, we see that the benefits exceed those that are directed towards a business’ bottom line.  Studies have shown that conserving 1 megawatt of energy:  creates 22 new jobs; generates an increase of $2,230,572 in annual economic output for the region; provides $684,536 in new wage income; produces $125,000 in new business income for local businesses.  This is yet another time on the show that we see the impact of market failures.  In this case, if numbers show that energy efficiency is an economic engine, why isn’t the energy efficiency industry growing in-line with its potential?   

One market challenge is the upfront cost associated with energy efficiency retrofits.  To understand the challenges and some solutions in this area we talk to Sharon Procopio, P.E. Commercial Energy Program Administrator, City and County of Denver Department of Environmental Health.  Sharon manages the Denver Energy Challenge for Businesses, which provides education, free support services, and financial assistance to businesses in the City and County of Denver.  (  The Denver Energy Challenge was created to expand energy efficiency services to residents and businesses in the City of County of Denver and its funding was derived under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

Because energy is a business cost and not necessarily associated with a business’ core objective, decisions on energy efficiency and investment are time consuming and can be confusing.  To address this, Elevations Credit Union ( has teamed up with Energy Smart and the Denver Energy Challenge to bring Elevations Energy Loans to eligible homes and businesses in Denver City and County and Boulder County.  This team of experts provides access to energy advisors to help assess the business needs and make retrofit recommendations, qualified contractors to make the improvements and loan specialists to provide low interest loans (2.75% for homes and 3.75% for businesses). 

Under this program, Elevations Credit Union is committing $35M in financing for energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades for eligible homes and businesses in Denver and Boulder Counties.  Boulder and Denver Counties have set aside $8M of grant funds to create a finance program to improve energy efficiency of existing buildings and stimulate local economic growth.  Businesses and residences can find more information by looking at this video or going to the Denver Energy Challenge website

Join us for a more detailed discussion on ICOSA’s Driving Force radio with Jan Mazotti ( and co-host for Energy 101, Kelly de la Torre.   






Jon Powers, Federal Environmental Executive in the White House council on Environmental Quality: Leading by Example

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.”  - Albert Einstein

Jon Powers, the Obama Administration’s Federal Environmental Executive within the White House Council on Environmental Quality recently addressed a packed room at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (  As Federal Environmental Executive, Jon is responsible for promoting environmental and energy sustainability across federal government operations. During this meeting Powers emphasized the Obama Administration’s commitment to lead by example as directed by Executive Order 13514 that sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies.  These goals are closely tied to environmental and economic performance as well as to our energy security.  While the scope of the Order is daunting - the Federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services – the results that can emerge and are emerging by this lead by example strategy are staggering. 

A movement and culture shift of this size needs leadership, passion and determination.  Fortunately, these are skills that Jon Powers brings to the table. Powers told a story about his first days in the Army when his Platoon Sargent took him aside and said there are two types of leaders: those that lead by rank and those that lead by example.  Powers took leading by example on as a value and draws upon his intimate understanding of the impact of energy and sustainability on our security to focus on the initiatives under Executive Order 13514.

More than leadership, Powers demonstrates a commitment to learning about what is working and it is a goal of the Council to use that knowledge to replicate success stories.  For example, on his tour of Denver, Powers also visited with leaders at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to discuss a joint federal/local government leadership team that created a sustainability challenge to increase conservation awareness, save natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The team consists of the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 and the City of Lakewood.  The sustainability challenge engaged employees with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide and educating local communities.  Some of their successes include a 1 MW Denver Federal Center Grid (DFC)-Tied Photovoltaic Solar Park.  The 6,192 panel site generates about 1,600,000 kWh per year – approximately 10 percent of the DFC's entire electrical demand.  Retrofits for interior lighting have reduced electrical demand by 3,765 kWh per year.  It is these types of strategies and partnerships that the Council on Environmental Quality is seeking to replicate, according to Powers. 

For the federal government to meet mandates for reductions in energy use, water use and GHG emissions, however, mechanisms are needed.  The government can leverage its buying power but there still need to be functional mechanisms to finance improvements and funding available for research and development and according to Powers, there are barriers. 

Federal funding supports research and development.  As one example, the Internet and GPS came out of R&D projects under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency created to develop technology beyond immediate requirements of the military.  Recognizing the need for transformational energy research “where success would drive dramatic benefits to the nation,” ARPA-E was funded in 2009 with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  These funding opportunities can also leverage partnerships with the Department of Defense and enable investment in high risk/high reward energy research.  A current challenge however, is that the House Republican Budget currently proposes a 19% cut to funds for clean energy.  These budget cuts would undermine the findings in the 2007 report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” the same report that recommended creation of ARPA-E.  The report found, in part: 

The United States takes deserved pride in the vitality of its economy, which forms the foundation of our high quality of life, our national security, and our hope that our children and grandchildren will inherit ever-greater opportunities. That vitality is derived in large part from the productivity of well-trained people and the steady stream of scientific and technical innovations they produce. Without high-quality, knowledge-intensive jobs and the innovative enterprises that lead to discovery and new technology, our economy will suffer and our people will face a lower standard of living. Economic studies conducted even before the information-technology revolution have shown that as much as 85% of measured growth in US income per capita was due to technological change.

Another challenge is lack of data necessary to design appropriate funding mechanisms.  Powers noted Green Button as an innovative program directed towards data collection.  According to, “Green Button is an industry-led effort that responds to a White House call-to-action: provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy usage data in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format via a "Green Button" on electric utilities' website.”  Accurate energy information can not only empower consumers to make educated choices around managing their energy use but also provide data that innovators can use to produce new consumer applications that address energy management needs. 

In short, one important take away message was that the federal government is leading by example and at the same time, this work is creating data that we can use to innovate and educate from the ground up.  Having access to critical data is key in removing barriers to innovation.  Innovation is closely tied to our energy security – and thereby our national security, and to me, nothing is more compelling.