Our grid isn’t ready for climate change

February 19, 2021 by  
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Our grid isn’t ready for climate change Sarah Golden Fri, 02/19/2021 – 01:30 Last summer, when 750,000 Californians experienced rolling blackouts as heatwaves overtook the west, some politicians in Texas took the opportunity to blame liberal policies to explain the outages.  California’s politicians did this, not the heat. https://t.co/wft1kFsHfX — Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 6, 2020 California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity. Biden/Harris/AOC want to make CA’s failed energy policy the standard nationwide. Hope you don’t like air conditioning! https://t.co/UkKBq9HkoK — Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 19, 2020 This week, as ice storms overtook Texas and plunged more than 4.4 million people into freezing darkness, some Californians on Twitter were gleefully dunking on those same Texas politicians for not keeping electricity flowing during their extreme weather events.  I get it. I understand the tribalism of politics. But at this moment, millions of Americans are freezing without power — with no end in sight. It is horrifying and beyond politics. Energy resilience, like climate change, is not partisan. It will affect every community and statehouse, regardless of who is in charge. The battle is not between liberal and conservative states. It is between those working towards a clean, affordable resilient energy future and the politicians and incumbent energy providers that politicize it.  The grid isn’t ready for climate change While the grid is designed to handle spikes in energy demand, reliability is dependent on the ability for operators to predict future supply and demand conditions.  The week’s cold snap affected both: Texans (with power) were cranking up their thermostats at the same time as gas-fired, coal and nuclear facilities were knocked offline amid the icy conditions.  Making matters worse, the Texas transmission lines weren’t up for the challenge. So, regardless of the energy source, grid disruptions will continue as long as we rely on a grid built for a 20th-century climate. “The situation in Texas could have happened anywhere,” said Mahesh Sudhakaran, chief digital officer for the energy, environment and utilities sector at IBM, in an email. “It exposed the importance of grid resiliency, which is something that impacts us all.” Is renewable energy to blame for the Texas power crisis?

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Our grid isn’t ready for climate change

Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies

February 19, 2021 by  
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Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies Suz Okie Fri, 02/19/2021 – 00:40 Creating human-made materials from living or biological sources is by no means a new development, yet newly invented bio-based materials are garnering significant hype as of late. From electronic displays made from fish scales to sanitary products made from banana fibers, these inspiring innovations can capture human imagination and evoke an aspirational future free of toxins and litter, amongst other environmental improvements.  But these materials do more than strike awe and inspiration. According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030.  To better understand these headline-grabbing materials, I followed up with three emerging bio-based products from a Circularity 20 panel exploring bio-utilization and the opportunities bio-based materials afford. Here’s what I uncovered. Turning mycelium into packaging that’s ‘compatible with the planet’ Founded in 2007, New York based Ecovative Design leverages the naturally binding properties of mycelium — mushroom’s root structure — in several sustainable materials. The company’s first technology, MycoComposite, precipitated the subsidiary Mushroom Packaging , which I discussed with Ecovative’s business development lead, Meghan Olson. According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030. Offering an alternative to polystyrene, polypropylene and other protective or insulating packaging, Mushroom Packaging infuses locally sourced agricultural byproducts (such as hemp hurd or rice hulls) with mushroom spores. The mixture is filled into custom shaped packaging molds, designed in collaboration with their clients, and the mycelium is allowed to take form. After seven days in its facilities, the grown result is a nontoxic, fully home- and marine-compostable material that protects and insulates a variety of products — everything from candles to industrial servers.  Mushroom Packaging is growing its footprint with a global network of licensees from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and beyond — expanding its customer base to include cosmetics retailer Lush and even interior designers. Meanwhile, Ecovative Design continues to research new applications for its mushroom technology portfolio in New York, expanding beyond packaging into textile alternatives and vegan meat substitutes.  Turning algae into straws that are ‘designed to disappear’ Loliware was founded in 2016 in pursuit of “a radical leap towards [a sustainable packaging] future.” Its interdisciplinary team is based on the east coast of the United States and combines expertise in food technology, seaweed biology, polymer engineering and even fashion to create “not just the material, but also the feeling of the brand.” As co-founder and CEO Sea Briganti notes, “You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together.” Sourcing algae from sustainable seaweed farmers that capture carbon as they grow their crop, Loliware is working to manufacture a variety of bio-based polymers. The end products are (technically) edible tableware replacements that naturally break down within six to 10 days in home composting, and even faster in the ocean.  With a B2B strategy, Loliware is building a portfolio of partners — including Marriott, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Pernod Ricard — to distribute its straws. Although the pandemic has disrupted hospitality and demand, Loliware has used the lull to advance its technology and scale manufacturing with a mission to overturn legacy plastics. Turning pineapple leaves into textiles that benefit ‘people and planet’   Following a consulting assignment with the Design Center of the Philippines, self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Carmen Hijosa was determined to find (or invent) an alternative to leather and the negative impacts that came with it. By 2013, following several years of studying, research and development, Hijosa had a Ph.D., a new material in tow, and had founded London-based  Ananas Anam . You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together. Leveraging pineapple leaves, a waste product of the pineapple industry, Ananas Anam uses a low-energy, low-water, chemical-free process to convert the leaves’ natural fibers into a leather-like material called Piñatex. Producing just 2.69 kilograms of carbon per meter of material, Piñatex touts carbon saving benefits as the equivalent volume of reclaimed pineapple waste would emit about 8 kilograms of carbon if it were left to decompose or burn in the fields.  Piñatex can be found in the footwear, fashion and furnishings of more than 3,000 clients , ranging from small-scale designers to large-scale apparel companies such as H&M and Hugo Boss. As Ananas Anam grows, so do its social and sustainability efforts as it further builds a Philippines-based supply chain and promotes local culture and resilience.  While these companies represent wholly different applications and biological sources, they share several instructive commonalities about the current state of bio-based materials.  They can functionally compete with legacy materials  Touting benefits such as “carbon-negative,” “biodegradable” and/or “sustainably sourced,” it’s hardly surprising that bio-based materials frequently outcompete legacy alternatives on environmental impact. Beyond these sustainability claims, however, eco-friendly or bio-based products are often perceived as less effective than their synthetic counterparts.  That’s why Briganti of Loliware knew her product “had to be a 1:1 replacement” when it came to performance. Loliware, Ecovative Designs and Ananas Anam have all invested heavily in ensuring (and proving) that their products are as functional as the legacy product they might replace.  Mushroom Packaging promises comparable if not superior strength, insulation and hydrophobic properties to polystyrene. Ananas Anam follows stringent technical specifications to meet its clients’ exacting standards, ensuring a durable material that can take wear and tear comfortably for at least five years. And mechanical testing has shown Loliware’s straw durability is on par with its plastics counterpart, while outperforming PLA — Polylactic Acid, a bioplastic — and paper straws. The flexibility of plastic straws is a bit more challenging to replicate, but R&D is under way to do just that.  They can be cost-competitive too, with some caveats Competing on cost, perhaps the most elusive metric, is also in reach according to these companies. As Hijosa notes, Piñatex being sold in rolls can save clients up to 30 percent of the waste associated with the odd shapes, scratches and tears of leather hides, allowing for a comfortably comparable price point.  As Mushroom Packaging is grown (without the need for tooling, molding or post-processing) Olsen shared that prices are competitive with molded polystyrene and molded paper pulp on smaller volume orders (while struggling to match-up when orders surpass 500,000 units.) “Low- to medium-volume sized orders are actually best for our process… [that’s why] we like working with smaller brands and growing with our customers,” Olsen said.  Finally, early 2021 will see the launch of Loliware’s 2.0 polymer, which Briganti said will allow it to compete with paper straw pricing. Although it admittedly can’t match virgin plastic prices, Briganti will be the first to note “the true price of plastic is not reflected in the price of the product — the price to clean it up, the price to our wildlife, our fisheries… our children and the next generation.”  They can offer local sourcing benefits All three companies’ manufacturing happens in close proximity to the farmers from which they source — whether it’s Loliware near its seaweed sources in Connecticut, Ananas Anam setting up fiber processing facilities near pineapple farms in the Philippines, or Mushroom Packaging working to source locally abundant biomass — i.e. mushroom food — within 500 miles of its production facilities.  Beyond local, they also prioritize sustainability. Loliware has sought out “the most sustainable farms in the blue ocean economy” and partnered with Greenwave , a regenerative seaweed farming nonprofit. In the cases of Mushroom Packaging and Piñatex, their biological source is considered an agricultural byproduct or waste. By purchasing it, they not only provide an added revenue stream for their farmers but also ensure the would-be waste isn’t sent to landfills, burnt or left to rot in the field. We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders. As a certified B-Corp, Ananas Anam also prioritizes transparency, local employment and training. “We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders,” Hijosa said. With that in mind, Ananas Anam partners with small farming cooperatives, ensuring all employees in their supply chain enjoy full contracts and fair wages.  They can help regenerate ecosystems By sourcing carbon-capturing, regenerative seaweed, Loliware is helping to rebuild and regenerate marine ecosystems on the Eastern Shore in the U.S.  Beyond displacing 2 million pounds of legacy foam annually, Mushroom Packaging is not just biodegradable, it’s also “bio-contributing,” adding nutrients to any soil it decomposes in. For this reason Olson says you can “feel good” about throwing it in your backyard.   After saving water and energy in its fiber processing, Ananas Anam uses excess biomass to create compost and add nutrients back to its farmers’ soil. By 2023, it’ll have enough biomass to profitably create local energy with an anaerobic converter.  They have requests Given the size of the legacy industries they compete with, these companies represent a relatively narrow market share. With new supply chains to build, customer habits to overturn and cost caveats that sometimes equate to higher price points, it’s important to note they face significant hurdles to substantively scale. With that in mind, I asked what they’d wish for to advance their companies and the bio-based material industry at large. The three women I spoke with had varying, but valuable requests for what comes next.  Olson would like consumer demand to continue to push out and displace more environmentally destructive, single-use options on the market. Briganti hopes legislation and regulation will take a more active role not just in the market, but also in supporting and funding entrepreneurs and innovators. Finally, Hijosa would like to see more integrity, transparency, and responsibility across the supply chain. Here’s hoping they get their wishes.  Pull Quote According to WBCSD’s recent report on the circular bioeconomy, bio-based products will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030. You can’t build what you can’t imagine, so a lot of our work is helping people imagine this new future so we can all build it together. We’re actually in complete union in caring for people and planet. All stakeholders are important to us, not just shareholders. Topics Circular Economy Biomaterials Innovation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off From left to right: close up images of mushrooms, pineapple and seaweed, sources of bio-based products, which will represent a $7.7 trillion opportunity by 2030.

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Lessons from 3 emerging bio-based material technologies

Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

February 16, 2021 by  
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Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals Joel Makower Tue, 02/16/2021 – 02:11 Last week, during GreenBiz 21, Jarami Bond — a new colleague but an old friend — announced the launch of a new nonprofit “that exists solely to nurture and empower BIPOC professionals to accelerate a just transition to a clean economy,” as he described it. It was a moment of deep pride for all of us. The nonprofit, spun out of the for-profit GreenBiz Group as an independent entity, was born of our longstanding efforts to counter the overwhelming whiteness of the sustainable business profession — and sustainability overall — but was energized by the events of last summer, as the topic of racial justice burst from the margins to the mainstream across the United States and beyond. GreenBiz.org is the response to a range of confounding challenges so many of us have voiced in both public and private settings. Among them: Why aren’t there more Black, Indigenous and people of color — BIPOC, in today’s argot — working in sustainability? Speaking on behalf of the predominantly white corporate sustainability movement, how can we, individually and collectively, better engage, serve and learn from communities of color, the tens of millions of our fellow humans who may not look like us? Where are the opportunities to lift BIPOC voices, to elevate and amplify the ideas and proven solutions from communities outside our sphere? Perhaps we need to create a bigger sphere. I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. I’ll let Bond describe the purpose of this new organization, pulling from his moving and passionate presentation at GreenBiz 21. (You can watch his entire 10-minute talk here . Click on the Tuesday keynote, starting at 41:00 on the video.) Bond began by sharing his own story, as his childhood love for the environment turned into a career path, starting at Interface, the iconic flooring company. Along the way, he said: I recognized that something huge was missing, something that I felt was integral to our field accomplishing the big, bold goals it was chasing after. And that missing link was people that looked like me, Black- and Brown-melanated souls. Throughout his time in both college and Corporate America, Bond said, “I grew used to being the only Black person in my class or on my team — the face of the race, navigating microaggressions and flagrant assumptions, wrestling with double consciousness, challenging those who wanted me to conform to majority culture, and trying to posture myself constantly to defy the stereotypes, even challenging those who tried to suppress my blackness to make themselves more comfortable, or make a caricature of it for their own entertainment.” Jarami Bond speaking to the GreenBiz 21 audience. Amid his personal struggles, Bond saw an opportunity to align his profession with his passion: I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities, with the stakeholders at the front of the march advocating for equity and justice. We need all hands on deck. In parallel, as my colleagues and I at GreenBiz Group began to sketch out the vision for a new nonprofit, I knew exactly who to enlist to help. As a strategic adviser to GreenBiz.org, Bond is leading the efforts to stand up this organization and to articulate its purpose, as he did so eloquently last week: We envision a vibrant ecosystem of individuals, organizations and communities working symbiotically to transform our field culturally and dismantle environmental injustice. We will convene companies, nonprofits, activists and community stakeholders to bolster the resilience of disadvantaged and marginalized communities. We will foster belonging and support the career development of BIPOC sustainability professionals. We will help fund BIPOC social entrepreneurs spearheading startups and small businesses focused on innovating toward a clean economy through an intersectional lens. We will support creators of color telling stories about the emerging clean economy through that same intersectional lens. We will also create spaces for BIPOC sustainability professionals to build community fostering deeper connection and support. He concluded, as he began, on a personal note: “I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve been working to create what I and so many in our space have been dreaming of for so long. … I truly believe that our field will be different because this nonprofit exists.” We are over-the-moon excited, too — about the potential for this new organization to open the sustainability tent far wider than before to include voices and faces not traditionally heard and seen within the mainstream business community. And to — finally — harness a far broader swath of knowledge, wisdom and experience about what it means to live in a sustainable world. And how we can all get there together. Much more to come as GreenBiz.org takes wing. For now, we welcome interested parties: funders; strategic partners; and professionals excited about the new entity’s vision and goals. Sign up for updates here , or email Bond directly: jarami@greenbiz.org . I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. Topics Social Justice State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

February 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals Joel Makower Tue, 02/16/2021 – 02:11 Last week, during GreenBiz 21, Jarami Bond — a new colleague but an old friend — announced the launch of a new nonprofit “that exists solely to nurture and empower BIPOC professionals to accelerate a just transition to a clean economy,” as he described it. It was a moment of deep pride for all of us. The nonprofit, spun out of the for-profit GreenBiz Group as an independent entity, was born of our longstanding efforts to counter the overwhelming whiteness of the sustainable business profession — and sustainability overall — but was energized by the events of last summer, as the topic of racial justice burst from the margins to the mainstream across the United States and beyond. GreenBiz.org is the response to a range of confounding challenges so many of us have voiced in both public and private settings. Among them: Why aren’t there more Black, Indigenous and people of color — BIPOC, in today’s argot — working in sustainability? Speaking on behalf of the predominantly white corporate sustainability movement, how can we, individually and collectively, better engage, serve and learn from communities of color, the tens of millions of our fellow humans who may not look like us? Where are the opportunities to lift BIPOC voices, to elevate and amplify the ideas and proven solutions from communities outside our sphere? Perhaps we need to create a bigger sphere. I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. I’ll let Bond describe the purpose of this new organization, pulling from his moving and passionate presentation at GreenBiz 21. (You can watch his entire 10-minute talk here . Click on the Tuesday keynote, starting at 41:00 on the video.) Bond began by sharing his own story, as his childhood love for the environment turned into a career path, starting at Interface, the iconic flooring company. Along the way, he said: I recognized that something huge was missing, something that I felt was integral to our field accomplishing the big, bold goals it was chasing after. And that missing link was people that looked like me, Black- and Brown-melanated souls. Throughout his time in both college and Corporate America, Bond said, “I grew used to being the only Black person in my class or on my team — the face of the race, navigating microaggressions and flagrant assumptions, wrestling with double consciousness, challenging those who wanted me to conform to majority culture, and trying to posture myself constantly to defy the stereotypes, even challenging those who tried to suppress my blackness to make themselves more comfortable, or make a caricature of it for their own entertainment.” Jarami Bond speaking to the GreenBiz 21 audience. Amid his personal struggles, Bond saw an opportunity to align his profession with his passion: I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities, with the stakeholders at the front of the march advocating for equity and justice. We need all hands on deck. In parallel, as my colleagues and I at GreenBiz Group began to sketch out the vision for a new nonprofit, I knew exactly who to enlist to help. As a strategic adviser to GreenBiz.org, Bond is leading the efforts to stand up this organization and to articulate its purpose, as he did so eloquently last week: We envision a vibrant ecosystem of individuals, organizations and communities working symbiotically to transform our field culturally and dismantle environmental injustice. We will convene companies, nonprofits, activists and community stakeholders to bolster the resilience of disadvantaged and marginalized communities. We will foster belonging and support the career development of BIPOC sustainability professionals. We will help fund BIPOC social entrepreneurs spearheading startups and small businesses focused on innovating toward a clean economy through an intersectional lens. We will support creators of color telling stories about the emerging clean economy through that same intersectional lens. We will also create spaces for BIPOC sustainability professionals to build community fostering deeper connection and support. He concluded, as he began, on a personal note: “I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve been working to create what I and so many in our space have been dreaming of for so long. … I truly believe that our field will be different because this nonprofit exists.” We are over-the-moon excited, too — about the potential for this new organization to open the sustainability tent far wider than before to include voices and faces not traditionally heard and seen within the mainstream business community. And to — finally — harness a far broader swath of knowledge, wisdom and experience about what it means to live in a sustainable world. And how we can all get there together. Much more to come as GreenBiz.org takes wing. For now, we welcome interested parties: funders; strategic partners; and professionals excited about the new entity’s vision and goals. Sign up for updates here , or email Bond directly: jarami@greenbiz.org . I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. Topics Social Justice State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

January 8, 2021 by  
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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose Heather Clancy Fri, 01/08/2021 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (5:35). Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies 5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021 2020 was a breakthrough year for climate tech, and there’s more to come in 2021 Features ‘The right to flush and forget’ (16:15)   Outtakes from this week’s interview with Catherine Coleman Flowers, who has dedicated her career and voice to the lack of water and sanitation infrastructure in rural American communities.  2021 reflections from sustainability leaders (22″45)   We feature the voices of our vibrant community in this episode. Sustainability professionals considered this question: What’s the most significant way that the events of 2020 changed your job or perspective as a sustainability professional? What’s your priority for 2021, as a result? Here are responses, many of them from our GreenBiz Executive Network. For revelations from 30 Under 30 honorees, listen to Episode 249 . Page Motes, strategy leader for sustainability, Dell (23:10) Jill Kolling, vice president of global sustainability, Cargill (25:12) Emilio Tenuta, chief sustainability officer, Ecolab (26:50) Margot Lyons, product and sustainability manager, Coyuchi (29:00) Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls (30:55) Alice Steenland, chief sustainability officer, Dassault Systems (32:50) Jim Andrews, chief sustainability officer, PepsiCo (34:12) Suzanne Fallender, director of corporate responsibility, Intel (36:30) *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Waiting for the Moment That Never Comes,” “Decompress,” “Not My Problem,” “I Bet You Wonder Why,” “More on That Later,” “Everywhere,” “Start the Day,” “Looking Back,” All the Answers” and “As I Was Saying” Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Deonna Anderson Topics Corporate Strategy Infrastructure Podcast Sustainability Water Recycling Environmental Justice Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 39:23 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership

November 3, 2020 by  
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Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership Mike Hower Tue, 11/03/2020 – 01:30 Four years ago today, many corporate sustainability professionals — regardless of political leanings — stood shocked as they watched Donald Trump clinch the presidency in one of the biggest upsets in American presidential history. Many of us feared for the future of climate action, and pretty much every other social and environmental issue. We were right to worry — things are, to be blunt, looking pretty terrible from a federal climate policy perspective. The Trump administration has abandoned all semblance of U.S. leadership on the climate crisis during the very years when we needed to be taking the most decisive actions to curb emissions. It axed the Clean Power Plan, gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, weakened the role of scientific evidence in environmental policy and withdrew the United States from the historic Paris Agreement — a decision that takes effect Nov. 4 — among an endless list of other anti-climate actions. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has continued to devastate communities across the country with record-shattering extreme weather events — from hurricanes and floods to droughts and wildfires. With the latest science telling us that we have until 2030 to take the necessary actions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we can’t afford four more years of what we’ve seen — or, rather, haven’t seen — over the past four years. I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling. “If we don’t get much of the work done by 2030, we probably aren’t going to get a chance to do much afterward because it’ll be too late,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org , last week during a VERGE 20 keynote. While McKibben praised the proliferation of voluntary individual and corporate actions to address the climate crisis, he emphasized that this wouldn’t be enough. “It’s very good that corporations are moving to electrify their delivery fleets, but I will tell you … the fleets I care about most are the fleets of lobbyists being deployed on Capitol Hill,” McKibben said. “It’s time to make sure those guys aren’t spending all their time trying to get the next tax break and to make sure they are falling in line behind the things we need to do to have a liveable planet.” While it’s true corporate sustainability continued to advance climate action even during the Trump administration — and likely will continue to do so regardless of who sits in the White House over the next four years — the climate crisis won’t be solved by a hodgepodge of voluntary actions. It will require sweeping policy change, and businesses can and must play a central role in making this happen. “I do think that it’s most impressive when you get people cooperating across industries to tell a story together,” McKibben said. “But I also think that companies can really start … if they really have a genuine story to tell, as part of the story of their own progress towards understanding what justice and solidarity are coming to mean. We’ve got to move out of a world where we see it simply as a zero-sum game where companies fight with each other to be the biggest or the best or grow the fastest, or whatever. People have to understand that at this point in Earth’s history and human history, this requires something much deeper, more profound. I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling.” Change the narrative, change the game One of the most powerful ways businesses can help advance climate policy is by helping to counter the false narrative that climate action and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. Years of misinformation campaigns bankrolled by Big Oil first worked to sow doubt over whether the climate crisis was even real. While the United States still has a significant number of people who downplay or deny the climate crisis, six in 10 Americans view it as a major threat — up from 44 percent from 2009, according to Pew . This change in opinion is likely in large part because the impacts of the climate crisis — such as extreme weather, floods and wildfires — have been too gargantuan to ignore more than a sudden increased love for science. Meanwhile, those who oppose climate action have shifted their strategies. The narrative has changed from denying the climate crisis outright to acknowledging its existence while claiming that taking action to address it would hurt the economy. “The big issue on climate is getting influential companies to influence policymakers and counteract the negative influence of those who are trying to preserve the status quo,” said Bill Weihl, executive director at ClimateVoice , recently during a thinkPARALLAX Perspectives virtual panel event, ” Brand Advocacy: The final frontier of climate leadership ,” which I moderated. There’s plenty of negative influence to be countered — since the Paris Agreement was signed, companies such as Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and others have spent over $1 billion in direct lobbying against climate policy in the United States. “The big challenge big companies face as they think about brand advocacy is political risk,” Weihl said. Many companies fear that if they speak up on an issue such as the climate crisis, they might draw unwanted regulatory attention to another aspect of their business, which could hurt their bottom line, he added. Moving forward, companies must find the courage to overcome this fear because they are uniquely positioned to help change the national conversation on the climate crisis. Today, Americans are more likely to trust companies than the federal government, a factor largely influenced by the corporate response to the pandemic, according to an Axios-Harris poll . Values-driven policy action Many companies abstain from brand advocacy out of fear of alienating employees or customers by being “too political,” said Will Lopez, vice president of Customer Success at Phone2Action , a digital advocacy company, during the thinkPARALLAX virtual panel. But brand advocacy done correctly is a natural outgrowth of a company’s values that inspire employees or customers to act. “When we work with organizations that talk about brand advocacy, we’re looking at organizations that are mobilizing their customers or internal employees on policy issues that are relevant to their values and policy initiatives,” he said. “Your customers already value your product and values.” Martin Wolf, director of sustainability and authenticity at Seventh Generation , concurred. “Companies should advocate for issues and policies that align with their mission and values,” he said. This shouldn’t be done to sell more product, Wolf said, but to put in front of the public who you are so that consumers can join you in advocating for some endpoint. “Make sure that what you do advocate for is aligned with positions you’re taking outside of the consumer space because if there’s a lack of alignment, you are going to be subjecting yourself to criticism.” During the thinkPARALLAX panel, Michael Millstein, global policy and advocacy manager at Levi Strauss & Co . said that, before advocating on an issue, the company puts the policy up to a test of whether it is consistent with its core values and if the benefits of weighing in on this outweigh costs and risks. “Climate policy clearly passes this test,” he said. Uniting sustainability and government relations In many large corporations, corporate sustainability and government relations operate in separate siloes. This lack of unity leads to, at best, disjointed and, at worst, contradictory policy actions. As I wrote in GreenBiz earlier this year, one of the best ways to ensure alignment in corporate sustainability and government relations teams is by making sustainability central to business strategy. One way Levi’s does this, Millstein said, is by holding both its policy and corporate sustainability teams responsible for addressing sustainability goals. While materiality assessments, for example, typically are the domain of corporate sustainability teams, at Levi’s the policy advocacy team also has a mandate to address material issues. “This helps us all be on the same team,” he said. Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics. If a company effectively makes sustainability core to business strategy, there naturally won’t be a conflict between departments, said Darcy Shiber-Knowles, director of operational sustainability and innovation at Dr. Bronner’s , during the thinkPARALLAX panel. If capitalism is a force for good, then the term “corporate sustainability” shouldn’t even exist, she said. “Corporations ought to be sustainable and inherently socially responsible,” Shiber-Knowles said. “So to have one department that is not in alignment with another department focused on long-term sustainability doesn’t make good business sense.” Yet many companies operate far from this ideal — the financial bottom line trumps the sustainability team’s agenda every time. “Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics,” Weihl said. The next four years While uncertainty shrouds the future political environment around the climate crisis, one thing companies can bank on is growing expectations from all stakeholders to better engage on climate policy, among other issues. Just as silence is complicity in the ongoing movement for racial equality, the same could be said of the climate crisis. “The No. 1 thing that will come out of the election, regardless of who wins, is that the appetite will still be there from consumers and organizations to do something about climate change,” Lopez said. Millstein agreed. “The outcome will influence what’s on the table, but there will be opportunities regardless,” he said. Remember to get out there and vote — and don’t stop there. We are the last generation that can do something about the climate crisis before it’s too late. Another four years of a Trump administration certainly would be a setback for the planet and everyone living on it, but it doesn’t mean game over — any more than a Biden victory means we can sit back and relax. Democracy is difficult and demands our constant civic engagement in order to realize desired outcomes. We owe it to ourselves and everyone who comes after to fight for policy change that addresses the climate crisis and secures a better future for all. Pull Quote I think probably corporations would be wise to be very humble in their storytelling. Business schools and sustainability people are taught to speak the language of finance and the CFO, but the CFO and other people aren’t taught how to speak the language of morality, humanity and ethics. Topics Policy & Politics Marketing & Communication Corporate Strategy VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Nancie Battaglia Close Authorship

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Bill McKibben reflects on brand advocacy, the final frontier of climate leadership

How to value solar plus storage

November 3, 2020 by  
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How to value solar plus storage Adam Aston Tue, 11/03/2020 – 01:00 In the wake of California’s summer of wildfires, blackouts and planned outages, many consumers and businesses are clamoring for more resilient options. The crisis has turbocharged interest in systems that deliver power even when the grid is down. Solar plus storage is fast emerging as a top choice, both at scale on the grid and also “behind the meter,” installed in a home, apartment or commercial building.  “Solar plus battery storage can provide value in two ways: first, energy reliability for customers during emergency power outages, and second, during non-emergencies, to help the grid balance demand and generation,” said Dawn Weisz, chief executive of California utility MCE, during a breakout session at last week’s virtual VERGE 20 event.  Founded in 2008 as California’s first not-for-profit, community choice aggregation program, MCE today serves over 1 million residents and businesses in four San Francisco Bay area counties: Contra Costa; Marin; Napa; and Solano. When it comes to reliability, solar-with-storage systems offer the ability to charge a battery that can keep the power on during an outage. “It’s worth a lot to know you can keep your power on, especially for customers that have medical needs that rely on electricity,” Weisz said. “And those that need electricity for heating, cooling, and to keep food fresh.”   Solar plus storage also helps the wider grid and environment by letting consumers shift the time when they consume solar power: by storing solar energy when it’s abundant during the day, and using it at night, in place of power generated from fossil fuels. “Behind-the-meter storage lets you optimize solar consumption, taking up excess output during the day, and discharging it in the evening, when demand spikes,” explained Michael Norbeck, director of grid services business development at Sunrun, a San Francisco-based provider of residential solar systems and services.  Indeed, absent storage, too much solar can become a challenge, when supply exceeds demand. In California, “We started to see so much solar going onto the grid that our ability to use it was diminishing,” Weisz said.  In extreme cases, that can mean curtailing output: switching off the excess power flowing from solar farms. Storage can put that excess output to good use, flowing it back onto the grid when needed. “It’s in California’s best interest to be sure we’re using as much of those electrons as we can,” she said. “More batteries will help eliminate curtailment.”  It’s no secret that the cost of solar energy has plummeted. In an October analysis of the levelized cost of energy — a measure that blends the full cost to finance, build and fuel an energy system over time — investment bank Lazard calculated that large-scale grid solar beats all fossil fuel options on cost, even absent any subsidies. Even rooftop solar, installed on homes or commercial buildings, is close to par with power from conventional sources such as natural gas peaker plants, coal and nuclear.  Meanwhile, battery costs have followed a similar downward path. Average market prices for battery packs plunged by 87 percent in real terms in the decade to 2019, reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). MCE commercial battery storage project in partnership with Tesla and the College of Marin. The installation is estimated to save the college $10,000 per month on electricity bills. Courtesy of MCE. Yet even as prices continue to fall, making these systems accessible to more consumers and businesses, concerns persist about equal access. Weisz noted that even as prices for combined systems fall, the market is following in the footsteps of early solar, when panels were installed first by wealthy customers but lower-income customers couldn’t afford the systems.  As a not-for-profit dedicated to community energy services, MCE has tapped state subsidy programs, grants and other funding sources to extend the benefit of solar plus storage. “We don’t want to replicate the same patterns of disenfranchising our lower-income customers,” Weisz said.  For its part, Sunrun has pioneered a pricing strategy that can guarantee power prices below the grid average, thereby reducing customers’ long-term costs. For instance, to minimize both installation costs and monthly fees, Sunrun’s most popular plan, BrightSave Monthly , leases panels to homeowners for $0 down, paid for via a long-term, stable price.  With wildfires emerging as a nearly year-round threat to western states, the resilience that solar plus storage offers is growing in importance. Sunrun’s systems have grown increasingly responsive to remote management. When grid conditions grow unstable, Sunrun’s systems can island themselves and call on a reserve portion of the battery to support critical needs.  Panels recharge batteries during the day, which can then discharge at night, even when blackouts can stretch from hours to days or even weeks. “During the wildfires last year, we had a customer on uninterrupted power for over 142 consecutive hours, or nearly six days,” Norbeck said.  Topics Renewable Energy Energy & Climate Solar Energy Storage VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A building powered during blackout. Courtesy of Sunrun

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How to value solar plus storage

Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility

November 3, 2020 by  
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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility Holly Secon Tue, 11/03/2020 – 00:30 Swedish home furnishing company IKEA isn’t just focusing on what’s happening inside your home anymore. The company is also thinking about what’s happening in the streets outside. That is, the company is pumping cash into a new sustainable mobility program. For the company known for its delicious meatballs and DIY shelves, the investment isn’t actually that surprising. It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. “The No. 1 reason that a consumer is not an IKEA customer is accessibility,” Angela Hultberg, head of sustainable transportation at IKEA, said last week on the virtual stage of GreenBiz Group’s clean economy conference, VERGE 20 . It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA.   The furniture giant is starting with a sustainable mobility strategy in urban areas, which has several dimensions, Hultberg explained. Many of IKEA’s customers live in cities and don’t have access to large vehicles that would allow them to travel to IKEA and return to their homes with furniture. Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated a shift from brick-and-mortar business to e-commerce, but diesel delivery trucks bring air and noise pollution into these downtowns. All the while, transportation emissions have risen around the world in the past few years to over 24 percent of global CO2 emissions . “So we need to figure out — how can we get the customer to us in a convenient, affordable and sustainable way?” she added.  The company plans to make 100 percent of its last-mile deliveries be zero-emission by 2025. In addition, IKEA wants its operations in five cities around the world — Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai, which already met the goal — to be zero-emission by the end of this year. Specifically, that includes shuttle buses, electric fleets and EV charging stations powered by 100 percent renewable electricity for customers. IKEA climate commitments and cities The furniture giant’s commitments have the potential to move markets: IKEA has 433 stores in 53 countries, and it hit 2019 global retail sales of about $45.5 billion .  The company has been reorienting towards a sustainability strategy that it’s calling ” climate positive “: by 2030, the goal is to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than the entire IKEA value chain emits. IKEA has invested about $2 billion in total in clean energy — at the end of last year, it earmarked $220 million on green energy, reforestation and forest protection projects. Its sustainable transportation focus is part of its long-term sustainability plan. Specifically, Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities where it does business. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. “We have goods we need to deliver to people — in a sustainable way,” she described. “As air pollution is on the rise, cities all over the world are looking to close city borders to fossil fuels. If we can’t deliver, that’s a huge problem.” More than 100 cities around the world, ranging from San Francisco to London to Addis Abada, Ethiopia, have committed to create and implement inclusive climate action plans in line with keeping global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius through the C40 Cities initiative . These cities have committed to science-based targets to cut emissions in sectors that are some of the biggest urban emitters: buildings ; transportation ; and waste . That means low-carbon deliveries for businesses that want to operate in these locations. “So it’s about futureproofing our business,” Hultberg said. Sustainable mobility in cities will provide support for not only IKEA’s Millennial, urban-dwelling customers, but also for young, car-free employees.  “We know that young people don’t want to go on public transportation more than 30 minutes, and they don’t want to walk more than four blocks,” she said. “So that means that they want a job that is close to where they live so if you’re an employer and your workplaces are kind of remote, you risk losing out on talent. We can’t have that.” Equity matters, too Sustainable mobility commitments are important to Hultberg and IKEA as a whole because it’s not just an environmental issue, it’s also a social issue, she said.  “If you can’t afford a car and if you don’t have good and reliable public transportation, you can’t get to work,” Hultberg said. “Maybe you can’t even get a job because it’s just too far, and then you’re stuck in a very negative spiral of poverty. In many parts of the world public transportation isn’t safe, especially for women. So if you can’t get in a bus to go to school, or to get to work, then what?” IKEA is known for its affordable furniture solutions. Making sure that those who turn to IKEA for the cheaper, stylish product are able to come shop there is critical for the company’s core business. For example, the company is pushing its electric fleet partners to go electric, and investing in low-carbon fuel technologies. In addition, IKEA already has implemented free shuttles in New York City to help customers reach the store. “Mobility is a prerequisite for business and really for everything in society,” she said. Pull Quote It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. Topics Transportation & Mobility Shipping & Logistics VERGE 20 Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flickr Brendan Lynch Close Authorship

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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility

From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

September 25, 2020 by  
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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet Heather Clancy Fri, 09/25/2020 – 00:30 As with virtually all gatherings of the climate community during the COVID age, this year’s Climate Week was convened as an online event — one hosted from more than 20 countries across myriad time zones rather than its usual host city of New York.  Instead of running between Manhattan locations, attendees platform-hopped among more than 450 presentations, panels, screenings and other events, including those hosted by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, while iconic structures such as the Empire State Building turned their lights green to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. As is their wont, many companies used the occasion to proclaim updated commitments — the buzzword du la semaine was “net-zero” with Walmart declaring a zero-emissions target by 2040 along with a big clean fleet promise and a pledge to “protect, manage or restore” at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. GE made headlines with its decision to stop making equipment for new coal-fired power plants to focus on its renewables business (although it doesn’t say anything about fixing the old ones).  More than 1,500 companies are committed to net-zero emissions, triple the number that had made those pledges by the end of 2019. Morgan Stanley offered its own twist with a promise to reach “net-zero financed emissions” by the critical 2050 timeframe. The intention is to align its portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement. (Morgan Stanley, along with Bank of America and Citigroup, has agreed to deeper disclosure.) In other words, stop financing the emitting stuff, as it has been criticized for in the past. The biggest national-level news of the week came out of the United Nations General Assembly, where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country aims to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Given the country’s status as the world’s largest emitter, the development is essential for progress against climate change.  While words aren’t action, the commitment stands in sharp contrast with the extensive environmental protection rollbacks adopted by the Trump administration, which has announced its plan to pull out of the Paris climate accord. At the state level, California Gov. Gavin Newsom put the transportation industry on notice with his executive order banning new gasoline-powered vehicles after 2035. Newsom also was named to a two-year term as co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, a network of states and regions looking to integrate the Paris Agreement goals with a mind to social justice.  On the other side of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a superpollutant found in refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling equipment. And the mayors of 12 cities — representing 36 million residents — announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels. Among the signatories to the C40 campaign: Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Throughout the week the heightened attention to supporting nature and biodiversity and to going beyond carbon emissions reductions was also a frequent theme — with a particular focus on the role of science-based targets in driving corporate action.  The Science Based Targets Network has created new guidance for companies interested in setting goals for land and freshwater use, biodiversity or ecosystem impacts using science-based principles, as many are doing to set emissions reduction targets.  “The best companies in the world are no longer satisfied with ‘doing better’,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, in a statement. “They insist on ‘doing enough’. That’s what science-based targets provide them.” Wondering what you missed from your home office? Below is a curated list of notable corporate commitments and campaign updates that emerged during Climate Week.  Accounting bigwigs suggest ‘universal’ ESG metrics Four iconic accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC  — teamed up with Bank of America to develop and release a set of standard metrics and disclosure frameworks that companies can use to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The new guidance, released by the World Economic Forum as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit , focuses on four pillars: Treatment of employees, including diversity, wage gaps, and health and safety Dependencies on the natural environment related to emissions, land and water use How a company contributes to community well-being, including what it pays in taxes Criteria for accountability  Amazon signs more Climate Pledgers, curates sustainable products shopping site Five more companies have signed the Climate Pledge, an initiative orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism : retailer Best Buy ; engineering firm McKinstry ; professional sports club Real Betis ; energy firm Schneider Electric; and manufacturer Siemens . This gesture commits them to reaching a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040, one decade before the deadline for the Paris Agreement.  The mighty e-commerce retailer also created a new “Climate Pledge Friendly” shopping section on Amazon.com dedicated to showcasing consumer products that hold one or more of 19 sustainability certifications such as Cradle to Cradle, Energy Star and Fairtrade.  The focus is on grocery, household, fashion, beauty and consumer electronics options — and some initial brands showcased are Burt’s Bees Baby, HP Inc. and Seventh Generation. Amazon also created its own externally validated certification, Compact by Design , which will recognize products designed to require less packaging, which makes them more efficient to ship.  Jenny Ahlen, director of EDF+Business, praised Amazon’s new strategy but said it doesn’t go far enough. “Certifications are a good starting point for companies to help shoppers make more informed and sustainable choices,” she wrote in a blog about the announcement. “But to truly make progress on creating safer, more sustainable products, retailers — Amazon included — need to work with their suppliers to improve the quality of all the products they sell and share that information with shoppers. Calling out a small portion of products that have met environmental standards isn’t enough.”  Climate Group tallies up more members for RE100, EP100  Beverage and snack company PepsiCo set a new global target to source 100 percent of its electricity for company-owned and controlled operations using renewable power by 2030, and across its entire franchise by 2040. (It expects to reach this goal for its U.S. operations by the end of this year.) This move could result in the equivalent of removing 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca amped up its renewable energy with a deeper commitment to addressing industrial heat by joining the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, dedicated to decarbonizing tough-to-abate manufacturing and production processes. Currently, 13 percent of AstraZeneca’s power load comes from combined heat and power, and the company has committed to identifying renewable alternatives by 2025. Two energy-centric campaigns managed by the Climate Group welcomed new members this week. The EP100 initiative , which encourages companies to commit to higher levels of productivity and revenue while using less energy, has more than 100 members, with Japan’s Daito Trust Construction among the latest joiners. The RE100 , which represents more than 260 companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power, added new signatories including Intel , ASICS (the apparel company), pharma firm Sanofi and manufacturers SKF and VELUX .  Formidable food purveyors forsake food waste A group of powerful food retailers including Kroger , Tesco and Walmart and food service company Sodexo created the “10x20x30” initiative , which commits them to convincing at least 10 of their suppliers to halving food waste and loss by 2030. The effort is part of Champions 12.3, a group focused on addressing the challenge of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by the end of this decade.  One example of the actions we might see as a result is Walmart’s move to source cucumbers that use a coating provided by startup Apeel that extends their shelf life through a natural coating that extends shelf life. “Cutting food loss and waste in half  — from farm to fork — by 2030 will require ambitious, collection action,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart, in a statement. “The 10x20x30 initiative is accelerating progress by aligning and training shareholders across the industry on how to dramatically reduce food waste.” IKEA, Unilever, others bring 1.5 Celsius mindset to supply chains The Exponential Roadmap Initiative in Stockholm launched the 1.5 Degrees Supply Chain Leaders initiative , a group of multinational companies that have set targets to halve their absolute GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions across their supply chains by 2050 — in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Initial supporters include BT Group , Ericsson , IKEA , Telia and Unilever . Among the commitments is making climate-related targets and performance a “key supplier purchasing criteria” by this time next year.  “To tackle the climate challenge, it is not enough for us to collaborate with the big global suppliers,” said Mikko Kuusisto, senior director of strategic sourcing for Telia, in a statement. “We need to engage also with the smaller, more local and often nonlisted companies to get them to commit to halving their emissions by 2030.” To help facilitate that transition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative teamed up with the International Chamber of Commerce, the We Mean Business coalition and the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign to create the SME Climate Hub . The website will provide a set of resources intended to help smaller suppliers take these steps, including measurement tools, best practices frameworks and services.  Mars, Carrefour giants cultivate new coalition for forests The Forest Positive Coalition of Action, which includes close to 20 companies with a collective market value of $1.8 trillion, is a CEO-level group under the umbrella of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) vowing to address key commodity supply chains that often contribute to deforestation. Among the actions they are advocating include joining forces for forest conservation in “key production landscapes,” policy initiatives and regular reporting.  Aside from sponsors Mars and Carrefour , the list of participants includes Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Danone, Essity, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Jerónimo Martins, METRO AG, Mondel?z, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart. The launch was greeted with skepticism by environmental NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), SumofUs, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Amazon Watch, which notes that the involved companies so far have fallen short on deforestation commitments and on protecting the rights of Indigenous people. “We’ve see 10 years of inaction, half-measures and greenwashing from the CGF, while human rights defenders and frontline communities have been putting their lives on the line to defend forests from rampant corporate expansion,” said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner at RAN, in a statement. Microsoft shares ‘positive’ vibes for water Building on its “carbon negative” pledge in January, a goal that will see it remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it historically has emitted, Microsoft is applying that same mindset to its water strategy. Only in reverse. Its new commitment will see it reduce the per-megawatt consumption of water related to the energy that powers its operations and also focus on water replenishment in 40 “stressed” regions in which it operates. The goal is to replenish more water than it uses by 2030. That will inspire measures such as: Wetland restoration Removal of impervious pavement Installation of on-site rainwater collection and water recycling systems across its newest offices, including the new Silicon Valley campus, the redesign at its central campus in the Seattle area and facilities in India and Israel A heightened focus on evaporative and “adiabatic” (outside air) cooling technologies for its data centers AI for Earth technologies, such as a project called Vector Center, for helping measure water risk and scarcity  It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s new strategy prioritizes not just availability but also accessibility, the issue of safe drinking water and sanitation. Were there other announcements this week? Sure, and I’m also sure I’ll get plenty of emails about what I “missed.” While I am grateful for every company that commits to taking practical, meaningful, un-greenwashed action, the common thread of the visions advanced above is that they set the bar higher — even if just a little bit. That’s what we need to move entire industries to support taking action on the climate crisis. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A moment in time for the climate clock on the metronome in New York’s Union Square.

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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid

September 4, 2020 by  
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Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid Sarah Golden Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:30 I’ve written about my high hopes for microgrids and my disappointment at the speed of deployment (due in part to COVID-related slowdowns that stalled construction).  But don’t be confused. Like a swimming duck, a lot has been happening with microgrids under the surface. New third-party financing options for microgrids in which the energy offtaker does not own or maintain the asset — known as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) or microgrids-as-a-service (MaaS) — are making microgrids accessible to small businesses with small energy loads, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie . While not a new structure (EaaS has been around for the better part of a decade), the research shows the market is maturing. Increasingly, financers are investing in small-scale microgrids that are less than 5 megawatts, a size better suited for on-site power generation for, say, medium to large commercial buildings or a mid-sized industrial facility.  This is kind of a big deal, as financial innovations are as important as technological innovations for clean energy technologies to proliferate. Solar is the classic example; it took off once people could get it without upfront costs.  Here are three forces that, together, finally could get you that microgrid you’ve been eyeing.  1. Microgrid portfolios are opening up new financing models Once upon a time, microgrids were bespoke and built on a project-by-project basis. That required legwork by financers to assess the technology risk and business models, which only made sense if the projects were bigger — say, 10-20 MW minimum.  Increasingly, microgrid service providers are selling a portfolio of microgrids — that is, deploying multiple microgrids with similar (if not identical) components at different locations. The homogenization of the microgrid technologies allows investors to streamline due diligence and finance the portfolio in aggregate. Examples include projects at Stop & Shop , which recently announced it will install microgrids at 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts using Bloom Energy fuel cells, and H-E-B , which plans to install microgrids at 45 locations in Texas through Enchanted Rock . We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. “The financer is basically betting that that set of controls and that technology is the same or similar across the portfolio, so they’re able to quantify and manage technology risk,” said Isaac Maze-Rothstein, microgrid analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of the report, in a phone conversation. Just as beneficial to financers, providers can replicate their microgrid-as-a-service business model for different customers, as Enchanted Rock has done in Texas.  “For the financer, they’re evaluating a single business model across a portfolio of diverse customers,” Maze Rothstein said.  2. Standardization is driving down costs — and increasing investors’ appetite The predictability of the microgrid technologies in a portfolio makes them cheaper to site and install. While bespoke microgrids required on-site construction, the modular microgrids are essentially prefab, ready to be installed when they arrive on site.  As a result, the distributed energy resources (be they renewable, energy storage or fossil-based) are becoming the lion’s share of the capital costs for microgrids. The cost of renewable technologies has fallen precipitously in the last decade and is expected to get cheaper.  The aggregated portfolio of microgrids and lower costs are piquing investors’ interest — and not just the usual suspects, such as utilities.  “You also have infrastructure investors who have historically focused on oil and gas and midstream investments who are looking for above-market returns with the reliability of an infrastructure investment,” Maze-Rothstein said. Because the mass potential size of the new market (companies that want energy reliability, need less than 5 MW and don’t want to pay upfront costs), microgrid supermajors are partnering with investors to roll out projects. Earlier this month, for example, Schneider Electric announced a partnership with Huck Capital to serve commercial buildings. 3. Energy resilience is driving more customers to microgrid as a service model  No PR campaign could have better educated companies on the need for energy resilience than recent extreme weather events. From floods to hurricanes and wildfires, businesses are starting to understand the cost of inaction.  Enter MaaS, which promises resilience without upfront or ongoing costs, a much cheaper option than buying or renting backup generators or interrupting operations. In addition, on-site microgrids can save customers money on electric bills.  “We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally,” Maze-Rothstein said. “Many people, if you’ve lived in California in particular and you’ve had regular power outages of various types, you start looking at resilience options.”  A study from Rocky Mountain Institute shows that businesses affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California would have saved money if they had bought solar plus storage outright. With microgrid-as-a-service, customers can get the resilience benefits and not even fork over the cash.  And as more companies hear about these financing options through press releases and news articles (hi!), the more common they will become.  This is in contrast to microgrids owned by the offtaker (such as utilities), which are more often driven by economics and renewable integration.  Pull Quote We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. Topics Energy & Climate Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An aerial view of an Enchanted Rock microgrid site. Courtesy of Enchanted Rock Close Authorship

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