How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

July 6, 2020 by  
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How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era Daphany Rose Sanchez Mon, 07/06/2020 – 02:01 During the day I work in the energy sector supporting government and utilities design programs to perform outreach to and educate low-income and diverse communities. At night, I go back into my neighborhood, one thriving with diverse residents. Sitting on both sides of the table, I’d like to share what you need to pay attention to in order to be part of the solution on the interconnected fronts of energy efficiency and social justice. If 2020 has shown residents in the United States something, it’s the dire need to understand historical barriers, immediately stop our current way of working and deliver energy solutions. As a New York City resident, director of an energy consulting organization, an advocate of energy equity and a third-generation resident of public housing, I have a unique view of the structural barriers we must break down to solve the global climate crisis. As energy consultants developing energy solutions, it may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. More than 122,000 U.S. residents — our neighbors, friends and family members — have died from COVID-19. Witnessing a family member or a friend die so suddenly is new to most of us. It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. But the worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. We are seeing on social media people of color — specifically, Black people — murdered time and time again. As with COVID-19, families are worried about how many times they have to see a son, daughter, nephew or friend die so suddenly. They’re also the target of hatred from people they’ve never met, feeling the pain, worry and stress of being judged by their skin color. Communities in the crosshairs Meanwhile, COVID-19, just like other structural inequalities, has had the most profound impact on communities of color. Low-income Black and Latinx folks already quarantined within disinvested neighborhoods are seeing rampant infection and death. They’re vexed with the choice of working as essential workers, risking getting sick or dying, versus losing income and risking eviction from an already overpriced apartment. But this isn’t new. Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other marginalized communities have long been resilient against natural disasters, racism, environmental toxicities and gentrification. What should energy professionals who care about these interconnected crises and operate in historically underserved communities do? What’s the best way to look at COVID and racial injustice, and focus the negative emotions and stress onto positive, equitable energy solutions towards climate change? You can start with the following steps: Understand the connections and empathize I have had conversations with many among the majority of people who live outside of yet sympathize with marginalized communities, and with others who demand justice but have a hard time understanding the relationship between equity and race. I’ve heard and seen the juxtaposition, and the idea that climate and racial justice are two separate issues. Others are aware of what actions are required but fearful of losing power obtained through an “injustice” system. Americans are divided on how antiracist measures are critical to dismantling structural barriers, just as they are divided on the urgency to fix our planet in a way that minimizes the collateral damage of leaving the few behind for the greater good. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. To those of you who have a hard time understanding what we fight for or why we are so loud about climate justice and racial equity, think about how you feel during the rise of COVID: trapped at home, worried about your future. You’re frustrated, angry, depressed, stressed out. You want life to return to normal. That’s how many of us feel who were raised as “different” races, ethnicities, cultures and identities. If we’re born in subsidized housing, others see us as less than human. It is a quarantined site whose children go to schools that receive less funding. We’re worried we won’t be able to make rent because we earn less. We’re afraid we can’t exercise outside for being mislabeled as a criminal and even killed. We’re worried our parents and grandparents will fall sick without a place for us to take care of them. We’re concerned about our future. We walk a thin line — between being the person our employer wants (providing ideas only when asked) and being the person our parents raised us to be (outspoken, providing perspective based on our diverse understanding and experiences). Listening and empathizing will bring you closer to understanding a community’s needs. Assess the situation Next, assess how you have engaged in the community. Assess who you are in relation to it. What has been done to support the local economy?  Have you or your company accelerated injustice? If so, how do you stop and promote equity within your organization? How do you resist selfishness and step down when someone else with a necessary perspective can be elevated? How do you release your power to support a cause? Self-change and organizational change is the first step to address inequity within the workplace. Let communities lead To assess low-income communities, examine what organizations already exist there. What type of outreach have they done, and how can you provide fiscal resources and collaborate with them on programming? Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. They have built trust and know what works and what does not. They are familiar with how to tailor government programming specifically for groups with different cultural backgrounds and energy-use needs. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. To all energy firms: Actively investigate how you are supporting these organizations. Consider mandating a percentage of community representatives on all committee programming boards, regardless of technical expertise, developing materials that are culturally and linguistically representative of the community. Eliminate the transactional relationship with the community. Develop a communal process where you are supporting participants with their mission, helping them build wealth and create a sustainable future for their neighborhoods. Developing long-term community relationships can help us collectively tackle climate change. Evaluate information access Energy consulting firms are also evaluating methods of operation and delivery of energy outreach programming and design. The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind in light of COVID-19 work-from-home quarantine is virtual access as in-person meetings, audits and processes move online. Just as equitable engagement begins with collaborating across sectors to achieve an overarching goal, the clean energy sector must think about collaborating with internet providers while developing outreach and incentive programs that advocate for equipment that requires WiFi. If your energy program incorporates such incentives, think about the additional burden to low-income customers. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? At Kinetic Communities Consulting, our projects have shown that if you provide a separate incentive that improves qualify of life, people are more inclined to pursue energy efficiency. Providing internet at a low or no cost with a solar or air source heat pump project provides a quality-of-life improvement. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? Roughly three in 10 adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29 percent) don’t own a smartphone, and more than four in 10 don’t have home broadband services (44 percent) or a traditional computer (46 percent). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. Collaboration with local internet providers, nonprofits supporting low-income Americans and local government can help close the communication gap. Partnerships with internet providers removes one barrier to energy efficiency programs invested in installing new climate-friendly technologies. Using community aggregation engagement also provides customers the opportunity to obtain a lower internet bill cost and entice customers to complete projects. It gives residents a platform to learn more about their utility usage and lifts a concern of access and awareness. Consider equitable hiring and training COVID has exposed how people of the global majority — that is, people of color — are the first to be laid off, as the latest U.S. employment numbers bear out. Black and Latinx workers are hit the hardest in clean energy, with Latinx workers comprising 14 percent of the industry but 25 percent of its job losses. For energy consultants, the automation of audits and processes can further exacerbate layoffs. When energy consulting firms develop automated methods to accelerate energy outreach and program development; they must consider equitable hiring and training practices. Think about what you have learned in your own position — the relationship of your skillsets and a job’s requirements — to be mindful of whom you are rehiring and who your job postings reach. Consider developing gender-neutral job postings and removing a candidate’s education to avoid unconscious bias. Not only is hiring and training critical, but understanding the work culture you have created can nudge diverse candidates either to grow within or leave your organization. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. These types of efforts pay off.  Companies with the most diverse executive teams were 21 percent more likely than others to enjoy above-average profitability, according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company. For executive teams with ethnic and cultural diversity, this likelihood rose to 33 percent. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that revenue tied to innovation, in terms of products and services launched in the past three years, was 19 percent higher for companies with above-average diversity in management. Spend time creating and maintaining professional development opportunities for staff to learn and grow within the industry. Be mindful of who you believe should be in the position and be open to the skillsets people have, regardless of the industry standards. Educate yourself Below are some amazing people of color/people of the global majority articles you can read to understand the importance of the intersection in energy and social justice:  •     Black environmentalists talk about climate and antiracism •    Climate activists: Here’s why your work depends on ending police violence •     Why every environmentalist should be antiracist •    How racism manifests in clean energy •     The climate movement’s silence •    How to help Black employees •     Felecia Hatcher: Tech community must do more than tweet support. It needs to invest •    I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet •    Hold my earrings: Black women lead on systemic solutions in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond People are dying, and some may not psychically see it, unlike hurricanes or wildfires. U.S. society is in a state of shock and feels a sensation of dystopian reality. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified, giving people who are hit the hardest the opportunity to engage, participate and create a unified solution for a climate-resilient future. The first step is to become aware, and the next step is action. Pull Quote It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. Topics Social Responsibility Cities & Communities Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lady Liberty and New York City at sunset. Shutterstock rudall30 Close Authorship

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How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

Food waste startup backed by Oprah Winfrey snags $250 million

May 26, 2020 by  
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Food waste startup backed by Oprah Winfrey snags $250 million Heather Clancy Tue, 05/26/2020 – 06:01 While overall startup funding is down this quarter because of the economic disruption brought on by COVID-19, entrepreneurs focused on solving climate-related problems have been bucking the trend . This morning brings one of the biggest deals yet this year: an infusion of $250 million in new financing for food waste crusader Apeel Sciences . What’s more, the funding pushes the Santa Barbara, California-based company’s valuation to more than $1 billion — a status dubbed in VC circles as “unicorn.” Cumulatively speaking, Apeel has raised $360 million, including the new funding. The lead backer on the latest round is Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, which explicitly embeds sustainability considerations into its investments. Other “participating” investors are Viking Global Investors, Upfront Investors, Tao Capital Partners and Rock Creek Group. There are also two highly recognizable minority “non-participating” investors: pop star Katy Perry and media queen Oprah Winfrey, who previously invested in Apeel in 2019.  “I hate to see food wasted, when there are so many people in the world who are going without,” Winfrey said in the funding press release. “Apeel can extend the life of fresh produce, which is critical to our food supply and to our planet too.” Food waste is responsible for generating close to 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions: for perspective, that’s three times the amount generated by the aviation industry. The issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic: Farmers have been forced to bury vegetables and pour milk down drains, while livestock operations have been forced to euthanize animals with slaughtering capacity idled during the quarantine. Apeel, which got its start in 2012 with a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has attracted funding from many high-profile funds, such as Andreessen Horowitz, as well as several firms that have championed a focus on climate tech including S2G Ventures, DBL Partners and Powerplant Ventures. The startup’s product is literally a peel — made from fruit and vegetable matter — that can be used to coat everything from limes to avocados to mandarin oranges to apples. It’s applied in packaging facilities or warehouses using a water-based formula. That layer extends the shelf life of the produce so that it is less likely to spoil during its journey to the retailer and so that it lasts longer on display. The company says each item can last two to three times longer, because Apeel’s coating slows water loss and oxidation. What’s more, the coating is edible and because it’s made from plant matter, it can be used on organic products. One reason Apeel’s approach is so, well, appealing is that it’s intended to give nature a boost: fruits and vegetables already seal themselves with a substance called cutin; Apeel’s product helps make that seal last longer .   I think it gives confidence to put more product on the shelf. What we have seen is like a 50 percent [reduction] of waste, and then also a double-digit growth of sales. “I think it gives confidence to put more product on the shelf. What we have seen is like a 50 percent [reduction] of waste, and then also a double-digit growth of sales,” Adrielle Dankier, chief commercial officer for Nature’s Pride, a Dutch importer of fruits and vegetables that is applying Apeel to avocados, said in a customer video. Since 2018, the company has saved more than 3 million avocados by using the product, according to the testimonial. Other organizations featured in the customer video (below) are Cata Fresh, a Spanish exporter of everything from melons to onions, and Sage Fruit, which specializes in pears, cherries and apples. The company is working with suppliers, retails and growers — “ranging from smallholder farmers and local organic growers to the world’s largest food brands and retailers.”  Some of its partners include Kroger (the largest U.S. food retailer), Edeka (Germany’s biggest supermarket company) and Sailing Group (the largest retail group in Denmark). Apeel’s coating is being used in dozens of produce categories. This year, it could save up to 20 million pieces of fruit from going to waste in stores — it also can help extend the shelf life at home. The new funding will enable Apeel to continue is international expansion, especially in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and South America — places where there are higher rates of both food waste and food insecurity. The company operates primarily in the United States and Europe today. In a statement emailed to GreenBiz, a company spokesperson said interest in Apeel has grown since the pandemic. “Our capital raise comes at a critical time — making it possible to accelerate our efforts to improve resilience across the supply chain while it works to rebuild, and provide a better path forward now and into the future,” the Apeel spokesperson said in emailed answers to several questions submitted about the funding. “Food service organizations are also an integral part of the fresh food supply chain and another channel that has been greatly impacted as a result of the pandemic. Our efforts to improve efficiencies through the supply chain will absolutely include this sector, as well as work to help food service distributors and operators reduce waste.” Pull Quote I think it gives confidence to put more product on the shelf. What we have seen is like a 50 percent [reduction] of waste, and then also a double-digit growth of sales. Topics Food & Agriculture Climate Tech Food Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Apeel coats fruits and vegetables with an edible layer that can is designed to extend shelf life by two to three times. Courtesy of Apeel Sciences Close Authorship

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There’s not enough money to save the West from an increase in blazing wildfires

August 28, 2015 by  
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This just might be the most cataclysmic forest fire season in history. So far this year, the Forest Service has spent $800 million trying to keep the blazes from raging too far out of control. This cost amounts to more than 50 percent of their budget, draining coffers so much that they can’t perform other critical services, like forest management. Adding insurance costs, damage to buildings and infrastructure, and further damage caused by flash floods and mudslides, this year’s fire bill is estimated to ring in at around $2.5 billion. Read the rest of There’s not enough money to save the West from an increase in blazing wildfires

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There’s not enough money to save the West from an increase in blazing wildfires

This floating survival shelter rises above floods

August 28, 2015 by  
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The alarming pace of rising sea levels has inspired designers Zhou Ying and Niu Yuntao to create a floating emergency shelter that could save lives during floods and tsunamis . Instead of conventional exposed life rafts, survivors can use the Duckweed Survival House as an enclosed floating shelter that protects people from large waves while trying to get to safety. Read the rest of This floating survival shelter rises above floods

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President Obama Proposes $2 Billion in Funding to Replace Fossil Fuels

March 15, 2013 by  
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Now that the sequester is in full swing, President Obama is proposing new sources of funding to finance his clean energy ambitions. The White House is urging Congress to divert $2 billion from oil and gas leases over the next ten years to pay for research into ‘breakthrough technologies,’ like advanced batteries for electric cars. Following the statements Obama made in last month’s State of the Union address, the goal is to begin to wean the county off of fossil fuels and stimulate the economy by investing in cutting-edge technology. Read the rest of President Obama Proposes $2 Billion in Funding to Replace Fossil Fuels Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “clean energy” , advanced vehicles , argonne national laboratory , chicago , Climate Change , congress , energy security trust , eric d isaacs , fossil fuels , funding , leases , legislation , oil and gas revenue , president obama , sequester , state of the union address , stimulus package

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President Obama Proposes $2 Billion in Funding to Replace Fossil Fuels

A call for $700 billion in sustainable infrastructure investments

January 23, 2013 by  
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Targeted public investments in infrastructure projects could bridge the funding gap in sustainable investments.

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A call for $700 billion in sustainable infrastructure investments

eRecyclingCorps Takes a Bite out of Phone E-Waste with New Funding

December 20, 2011 by  
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The three-year-old company that offers instant incentives for cell phone buyers to trade in their old devices has just landed a $35 million investment from Kleiner Perkins, and is working to expand its partnerships with Sprint and Verizon.

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eRecyclingCorps Takes a Bite out of Phone E-Waste with New Funding

87% of Americans Want BP’s Fines Paid to Gulf States Not US Treasury As Planned

April 19, 2011 by  
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photo: Deepwater Horizon Response / Creative Commons With the anniversary of the Gulf oil spill tomorrow, there’s no shortage of commentary and analysis going on.

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87% of Americans Want BP’s Fines Paid to Gulf States Not US Treasury As Planned

World’s Biggest Wind Farm Gets US Funding, Coming to Oregon

December 17, 2010 by  
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Image: Zunal It may only be a matter of time now before Oregon is home to the world’s largest wind farm — a massive, 845 MW project just received a partial guarantee for a billion-plus dollar loan from the US Dept. of Energy. Furthermore, the site for the project, in Eastern Oregon, has been finalized

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New Cycle Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Invest $12.2 Million in PACE Solar Renewable Funding

November 4, 2009 by  
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Renewable Funding’s PACE solar funding, begun by Cisco DeVries with Berkeley First was a breakthrough in making solar affordable. Now VC high-flyers Draper Fisher Jurvetson, New Cycle Capital, and RWE Ventures have just invested $12.2 million in a first round of financing to make this sober and sensible solar funding available to more homeowners. Renewable Funding is a business in the Common Good

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New Cycle Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Invest $12.2 Million in PACE Solar Renewable Funding

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