Why corporate partners are essential for Third Derivative, a new climate-tech support network

November 30, 2020 by  
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Why corporate partners are essential for Third Derivative, a new climate-tech support network Heather Clancy Mon, 11/30/2020 – 03:00 Climate tech is more important than ever, but the systemic challenges entrepreneurs face in shepherding these solutions to commercial success is formidable. Most have incredibly long R&D lead times, while the systems that typically support startups cater to ones promising shorter-term payoffs. That’s why earlier this year, clean economy nonprofits Rocky Mountain Institute — known for its thought leadership on climate change issues — and New Energy Nexus — with deep bottom-up resources for founders — combined forces to create a joint venture centered on finding and scaling climate-tech startups focused addressing climate change across the electric grid, transportation, buildings, manufacturing and agriculture. Their mission: create a network of financial, technical and market development resources — including credible and powerful corporate connections — that gets these critically important solutions to commercial scale more quickly. The thesis: The most successful climate-tech startups will be those with early access to economic analysis, policy resources, financing and technical support. This week, the venture, Third Derivative (D3), is launching with a portfolio of close to 50 startups (both early stage and those closer to commercial readiness) and the support of nine corporate partners and nine venture capital firms. D3 is particularly interested in accelerating solutions for “hard to abate sectors” where there aren’t currently good options for decarbonization, according to its website. It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors. Of the 50-ish startup companies announced this week — dubbed ” Cohort 417 ” (for the peak of 417.1 parts per million in atmospheric CO2 concentration recorded in May 2020 — more than two-thirds are led by founders who are women, veterans or people of color, said Third Derivative co-founder and CEO Bryan Hassin. “We went out to meet them where they are,” he said. Both RMI and New Energy Nexus have committed “hundreds” of their market experts to supporting the venture with research, technical expertise and commercialization advice. The organization seeks to bridge knowledge and funding gaps at multiple phases of a startup’s life cycle — moving from basic research into a spinout; product development; demonstrations and market validation efforts; and commercial deployment. RMI and New Energy Nexus are a powerful combo, but the corporate connections and venture resources make the initiative unique by providing that active perspective far earlier in the innovation process, Hassin said, pointing to his own past career as a climate-tech entrepreneur with a background in nanomaterials, off-grid solar energy and artificial intelligence. “We have a systems-level problem that we’re working on here,” he said. “I think we can all agree that more is necessary.” Corporate support equals path to commercialization D3 certainly packs a punch from day one, with nine corporations lined up as backers that have pledged to provide technical resources and financial support over the next three years. That initial group includes AT&T, BP Ventures, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Engie, Envision Energy, FedEx, Microsoft, Shell and Wells Fargo. Together, these big companies represent almost $3 trillion in market capitalization, although the energy company valuations are particularly subject to fluctuation at this time. These companies are “incredibly motivated and visionary,” Hassin said. They will play a hands-on role in startup mentorship and pilot projects, along with any other businesses that choose to join. But this isn’t just about money. “It doesn’t do any good for them to come in and just write a check,” Hassin said. Nine venture firms — representing more than $2 billion in funding and four continents — also have stepped up to support Third Derivative: Imperative Ventures, Skyview Ventures and Volo Earth Ventures from the U.S.; Chrysalix and Emerald Technology Partners from Europe; Factor[e] and Social Alpha from Africa/India; and Tsing Capital and CRCM from China. “It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors,” said Jan Van Dokkum, the former Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner who became chairman of Imperative in 2019, in a statement. “We see enormous value in Third Derivative applying RMI’s market knowledge and networks to cultivate a pipeline of game-changing climate-tech ventures validated by corporate partners. We are excited to make seed investments in those startups, and our ability to work with them over the duration of the program should dramatically increase their investability by the time they are ready for follow-on funding.” These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them. AT&T, which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2035 for its own operations and is also interested in supporting technologies that help its customers work toward similar goals, was intrigued by the “rigor” that Third Derivative is using to evaluate potential portfolio companies and in allowing corporate partners to be part of that process. That was one reason it decided to shell out $900,000 for its first three years in the program, said John Schulz, director of sustainability integration for AT&T. The other motivator: the diversity of perspective the venture offers. “These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them,” Schulz said. Aside from financial backing, AT&T is providing technical resources, especially those focused on how the various technologies being pioneered by D3 companies might be integrated with the internet of things — a major business development focus for the telecommunications company. “What are the connectivity solutions that could be the key to unlock success? That’s of particular interest,” Schulz said. A wide range of solutions D3 actually launched the application process for its first cohort in the spring and received more than 600 applications — many for what Schulz described as “mind-blowing” innovations. The corporate partners were actively involved with evaluating and recommending selections among the 200 finalists, which represent advances in hardware and business models and, to a lesser extent, software. They also represent countries including India, Indonesia, China and Italy, although the initial selections are weighted to companies from North America. “We were a little overwhelmed by the enthusiasm,” Schulz said. Some companies from the first cohort include: Antora Energy : A Stanford-born effort (also backed by Cyclotron Road) working on ultra-low-cost energy storage that could have applications as wind and solar farms. Blue Frontier : A startup supported by NREL, NYSERDA and others that is using saltwater energy-storage technology to create “hyper-efficient” air conditioners. Frost Methane :   An offsets market being created around methane flaring activities Kanin Energy : A venture focused on turning industrial waste heat into an emissions-free energy source. Membrion : A materials company developing environmentally friendly filtration membranes. Silvia Terra : A forest-mapping startup. TexPower : A small team working on cobalt-free batteries. Each D3 startup receives a $100,000 convertible note as well as the potential for $250 million in follow-on funding from the venture capital network that’s part of the program. Hassin said the mentorship process initially will last 16 months, but startups will be encouraged to remain connected. What’s more, companies will be added on an ongoing basis: applications will open up again in December. “We think there is value to working with a cohort for a while,” he said.  Pull Quote It is incredibly hard for investors to source, vet and execute investments across the many varied climate solution sectors. These are big ambitious goals for us, and we feel the sense of urgency to find scalable solutions that can help us meet both of them. Topics Innovation Climate Tech Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Antora Energy, one of the Third Derivative startups, in the lab (L. to R: Tarun Narayan, David Bierman, Andrew Ponec, Justin Briggs) Courtesy of Cyclotron Road Close Authorship

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Why corporate partners are essential for Third Derivative, a new climate-tech support network

Converging crises call for converging solutions

November 20, 2020 by  
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Converging crises call for converging solutions Sarah Golden Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:45 In the words of President-elect Joe Biden, America is facing four historic colliding crises: the economy; a pandemic; systemic racism; and climate chaos.  These aren’t four separate asteroids all coincidentally headed our way at once. They’re intertwined and part of the same challenges; they’re the consequence of decades of actions and inactions that are boiling over and activating one another. It stands to reason that we couldn’t silo solutions.  Perversely, it is possible that economic crises will be the catalyst we need to address climate change. That’s because the problems have the same solution: the rapid deployment of clean technologies across the economy.  COVID, the economy and emissions As the world pressed pause this spring in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, our emissions curve flattened, too. We conducted a science experiment on a historic scale: What happens to emissions when everyone (or a large majority of people) stands still?  As the year rounds to a close, the results are becoming clear: We’re on track to reduce carbon emissions from energy by 8 percent.  While significant, I am surprised that the emission reductions are so small. It reflects the limits of individual action; even if we all do everything we can, the built-in emissions to our economy still will bust our carbon budget. America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. More distressing is the projection of emissions as our economy recovers. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook , carbon emissions are set to rise through 2027, then decline 0.7 percent per year through 2050. That would put the world on track for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming.  In order to have a chance at 2 C warming, emissions would need to decrease 10 times faster. If we’re striving for 1.5 C warming (and we are), emissions will need to drop fourteenfold faster.  We can rebuild the economy without ramping up emissions Historically, emissions and the economy are closely related. It makes sense; when people have more money, they tend to use more energy, travel more, buy more things. Likewise, the only three times emissions fell between 1975 and 2015 were during the recessions of the 1980s, 1992 and 2009. And when the economy rebounded, so did emissions .  Climate skeptics have weaponized this correlation to frame the economy and the environment as trade-offs.  But thanks to clean energy, this relationship is no longer true. In 2016, the International Energy Agency confirmed that emissions and economic growth have decoupled. For the first time in more than 40 years, global GDP grew in 2014 and 2015 — but emissions didn’t.  That’s great news for this moment; the work we need to do to decarbonize is the same work that can pull us out of a global recession. Building a new type of future  The concept of a Green New Deal predates the COVID crises. Yet the harkening to the New Deal, the massive federal effort to pull America out of the depths of the Great Depression, feels prescient as we reckon with the worst economy in a century.  And it may be the urgency to address the faltering economy that spurs the necessary policy alignment to reach true decarbonization.  The numbers are there. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report in September making the case for investment in clean energy R&D to create jobs and boost the economy, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report to analyze the spillover economic gains from such an investment. Saul Griffith’s new organization, Rewiring America , shows how decarbonizing the economy would require around 25 million jobs in the U.S.  While the New Deal did wonders for the economy, it arguably had elements that lacked a strategic lens. Case in point: The Bureau of Reclamation damming every river it could in the west, regardless whether it was justified. Imagine what would be possible with a New Deal that has a guiding principle: rapid decarbonization.  America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Climate change, for reasons I don’t understand, proves to be a difficult unifier. But the economy — now that’s something Americans can get behind.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Topics Energy & Climate Racial Issues COVID-19 Clean Economy 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

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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag

November 20, 2020 by  
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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag Jim Giles Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:30 “We have solutions that are bipartisan and cost the government $0.” That was the opening line of a message I received from award-winning chef Anthony Myint, who replied to my request for elevator pitches for president-elect Joe Biden . Myint went on to describe a scalable mechanism for capturing large amounts of carbon in agricultural soils that would, indeed, cost governments $0. If this sounds too good to be true, consider what happened 20 years ago in a different economic sector. Solar and wind are cost-competitive means of producing electricity, but this wasn’t the case in the late 1990s. Back then, renewable energy advocates were trying to figure out how to scale technologies that were more expensive than fossil-fuel incumbents.  Some state governments simply mandated the use of renewables, but in places without mandates, advocates had to get creative. Even in states with mandates, some utilities wanted to do more. One solution was to ask consumers to chip in. The thinking was that if enough people opted to pay a little extra on their electricity bill, the combined funds would be enough to swap out some coal and gas plants for wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. The idea worked. In 2019, close to 8 million people in the United States voluntarily paid for electricity from renewable sources. This mechanism alone would not have driven the extraordinary growth of renewables witnessed over the past two decades, but it played an important role in kick-starting the renewables market, said Jenny Heeter , an expert on voluntary pricing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. This brings us back to Myint, co-founder of a fantastic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and director of partnerships at Zero Foodprint , the organization behind his pitch to the president-elect. Myint’s idea is to add a 1 percent charge to restaurant bills — perhaps someday to every bill in every restaurant — and $1 per month to waste hauling charges. The money would be used to help farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques that boost soil fertility and store carbon.  We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Right now, Myint and colleagues are signing up restaurants one-by-one. Although progress has been slowed by the pandemic, around 40 restaurants in California and beyond are funding carbon farming, including big names such as Noma and Chez Panisse. Farmers apply to Zero Foodprint for a share of the proceeds; the proposals that sequester the most carbon for every dollar are selected for funding. “We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action,” Myint told me. To take it to the next level, he’s asking regional or state governments to create legislation that would make the charge a default on all restaurant bills. Diners will be able to opt out, but data on other funding schemes that use opt-in as the default show that few are likely to do so. For policy-makers that want to establish a renewable food economy, Zero Foodprint can provide model legislation that they can use as a starting point.  There’s another similarity here with renewables. I said that voluntary charges alone would not have driven renewable growth: It took a portfolio of initiatives, including state mandates and tax credits. It’s exciting to see something similar happening in regenerative ag. Companies are paying farmers to implement regenerative practices in return for carbon offsets generated — either direct, as in the case of Cargill and Bayer , or via a marketplace, such as those offered by Nori or Indigo Ag . Producers also use regenerative branding to justify premium prices . And investors are linking interest rates to carbon storage and soil health .  The challenge of reforming the way we manage the almost 1 billion acres of U.S. farmland can seem overwhelming, but we’re seeing the emergence of a suite of solutions that might be up to the job. One critical next step will be support, or lack of it, from the incoming administration. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Anthony Myint, director of partnerships, and Karen Leibowitz, executive director, of Zero Foodprint. Courtesy of Zero Foodprint

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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag

America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?  

November 2, 2020 by  
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America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?   Carol J. Clouse Mon, 11/02/2020 – 01:30 In the spring of 2020, many small farms across the U.S. found themselves in a bittersweet predicament. Restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus were forcing restaurants — major buyers for the local farms that serve urban areas — to shut down. The loss of these key customers might have wiped out many of these local growers, if not for another COVID-19-induced phenomenon: individual shoppers started calling — and calling — and calling. “The farms we work with are seeing a huge spike in demand [for direct sales],” Dan Miller, CEO and founder of the crowdfunding platform Steward , told me when we spoke by phone in early April. “But now they have to quickly switch their businesses to meet that demand.” So Miller, who launched the platform in the fall of 2019 to provide funding to small, sustainably run farms — operations often underserved by traditional finance — soon found himself expanding Steward’s services to help these same farmers shift their business model. Stories of small farms pivoting their operations on a dime were easy to find in the early months of the pandemic: these farmers worked overtime to meet customer demand, added services such as online ordering and home delivery, and jumped into action to prop up community food banks struggling to serve an influx of the newly unemployed. Compared to the industrialized and supersized food system most Americans live with — represented by rivers of wasted milk and COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants that killed more than 200 people — these distributed systems looked healthier, safer, and more environmentally sustainable than ever. They also looked more agile and resilient. Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems, so I wondered: Would that happen here, with food? Would the food consumption trends driven by the pandemic wind up as a paragraph in the history books — like the ” victory gardens ” of World War II — or could it lead to lasting change? And how do we transform this moment of crisis into a more resilient, sustainable, healthy and just food system? Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems. At GreenBiz Group’s virtual clean economy conference, VERGE 20 , last week, speakers and participants addressed questions such as these, discussed how to make sure that these changes stick and identified what challenges stand in the way. During a session delving into lessons from the pandemic, panelists agreed that the No. 1 barrier to changing the current food system is financing. “The financial services that are out there … are really not calibrated for the moment we’re in,” said Janie Hipp, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “If we’re going to actually build an agile and resilient system going forward, then we have to invest in it.” One example of the financial challenges sustainable farms face comes in the form of crop insurance. If a farmer wants to transition a farm from conventional practices to organic or regenerative ones, costs are associated with that transition. However, insurance policies typically do not cover them, so the farmer is forced to take on the extra up-front costs and risk. The same holds true for traditional agriculture financing, developed for conventional farming. Loans are typically underwritten based on the equipment, inputs, volume, prices and insurance coverage of conventional growers. These factors are different for organic and regenerative farmers, so the numbers often don’t work, resulting in loans being denied or unaffordable. This increased access to capital could help scale the market, which hopefully would bring down the cost and make this more nutritious food more widely available, said Matthew Walker, managing director at S2G Ventures, a food systems-focused venture fund and mission investor. “There’s a lot of work to be done to provide affordable nutrition … and allow those who are seeking to grow organic, or use any tech enabled process that might be better for soil health, better for nutrition, to at least get started,” he said. This increased access to capital could help scale the market. Making healthy food available in disadvantaged neighborhoods, where affordable, fresh vegetables are hard to come by, is the mission of the Green Bronx Machine , but founder Stephen Ritz — a VERGE keynote speaker — didn’t wait for systems change. Established in 2012, the program uses hydroponic and vertical farming technology at its indoor teaching farm at a South Bronx school, where kids learn how to grow and cook vegetables themselves. Each week throughout the school year, the kids take home bags of groceries to their families. Green Bronx Machine also operates a “food for others” outdoor garden and summer youth employment program in the Bronx, which serves food-insecure families in the community. And it has various other partnerships and serves as a model for schools in other districts, including a program in more than 60 Chicago schools, sponsored by the foundation of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews , who joined Ritz on VERGE’s Building a Better Food System for America’s Cities panel. Like the farmers who work with Steward, the Green Bronx Machine’s student farmers pivoted when the pandemic hit, Ritz said in his keynote. “As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption,” Ritz said. “And we found new ways to secure and distribute food to those who needed it most.” This has included providing weekly grocery delivery for 26 food-insecure patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, who are recovering from cancer, and for 55 of the most vulnerable families in the Bronx, across a 26-mile route that includes walk-up buildings. “The truth is children want to be part of the conversation. The truth is children don’t let differences divide them. The truth is children are smarter than you think,” Ritz said. As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption. When New York was the epicenter of the pandemic  — a place where by May, the virus had killed more than 20,000 people, primarily in under-privileged neighborhoods such as the South Bronx — food grown by a bunch of kids was delivered to families who may not have eaten otherwise. The Green Bronx Machine joined community farms, urban farms and small family farms in offering a lifeline to their communities. They proved themselves resilient in a crisis, and their numbers are growing, but they remain a teeny, tiny part of the gargantuan American food system. In 2017, there were 16,585 certified organic farms, a 17 percent increase from just a year earlier, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Organic Survey , released this month. These farms accounted for 5.5 million certified organic acres, an increase of 9 percent over 2016. This impressive growth marks the continuation of a decade-long trend. And yet, certified organic acres still represent less than 1 percent of the total 911 million acres of American farmland. (Although I should add that the survey’s three-year lag does not provide an up-to-date picture, and farms that use organic or regenerative practices but have not been certified don’t get counted.) The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base. Curious to see whether the direct sales demand Steward’s farmers saw in the spring was continuing to hold, I checked back in with Miller. By email, he told me that demand had held and offered an example from Fisheye Farms, an urban farm in Detroit. Fisheye, he reported, already has sold out their entire winter CSA and is fielding inquiries for spring. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture,” a system where customers buy “a share” of the farm. They pay a fixed rate to receive regular boxes of whatever’s in season. Every other week, from November through February, members of Fisheye’s winter CSA will receive spinach, kale, carrots, turnips, radishes, micro greens and more. The cost is $300, or about $38 a week. “The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base,” Miller said in his email. “Even the farmers with the most demand still need capital to run better, as they can’t finance everything they need just on cash flow.” In other words, to replicate and scale what these farms do, and build distributed food systems that are resilient, sustainable, healthy and just, will take time, cooperation and a lot of green. Pull Quote Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems. This increased access to capital could help scale the market. As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption. The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Risk & Resilience Organics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Oleg Demakov on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?  

2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

August 13, 2020 by  
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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun Hunter Lovins Thu, 08/13/2020 – 00:15 We’re female entrepreneurs and environmentalists. We’ve spent decades promoting clean energy technologies. In this strangest of all years, as the death toll mounts from a disease caused by human incursions into once intact ecosystems, we’re observing another death — the demise of fossil fuels. Is that possible? Consider this: In April, Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest companies in the world, announced its intent to become a net-zero carbon company by 2050. When oil and gas companies say that they’re getting out of oil and gas, shouldn’t you? No doubt Shell is counting on some miracle like carbon capture to preserve its adherence to a century-old business model of selling oil. And who could blame it? For years, extracting the black gold from the ground, processing it, then selling gasoline, fuel oil, petrochemicals and other refined products has been one of the most profitable businesses in history. In 2008, Exxon made a record $40.6 billion . For years, seven of the top 10 companies on the Dow Jones Index were oil companies until 2016 when most fell out of the top 10, leaving only Exxon. Last year, no fossil company made the top 10 list. Exxon’s 2018 revenues were half of what it made a decade earlier; in 2019, it was only $14.3 billion . That’s still a lot of money, but running an oil business is capital-intensive: Exxon was borrowing to pay dividends before COVID-19. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reported that “the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas companies shelled out a total of $71.2 billion in dividends and share buybacks last year, while generating only $61 billion in free cash flow.”  Meanwhile, the coal and natural gas industries are also collapsing around us — a swift decline from the shale fracking boom. Fracking equipment sits idly in fields, and utilities shutter coal and natural gas power plants indefinitely. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. In April, the bubble popped, perhaps forever: Oil future prices hit negative $37 a barrel.  What happened? COVID-19 constricted commuting, and demand for refined oil products fell fast. Oil companies ran out of places to store the stuff. Tankers at anchor in the Houston Ship Channel started bumping into each other, but the oil kept flowing.  Why? It turns out it’s not easy to stop. Capping a well, realistically, means writing it off. Wells are capital-intensive to drill in the first place, but they are also costly to reopen. The cost to buy an oil rig runs from $20 million to $1 billion. Renting one isn’t cheap, either. In 2018, Transocean (yes, the folks who brought you the BP oil spill) charged Chevron $830 million ($445,000 a day) for one rig for five years. We bet someone’s now trying to renegotiate that contract. Hydraulic fracturing isn’t any cheaper. Even before the coronavirus hit, the shale gas Ponzi scheme was falling apart as investors realized that the enormous sums that they were asked to continue pouring into the industry were never likely to return a profit . Prices to frack a new well vary widely, depending on whether you’re drilling in West Texas or horizontally to frack under housing developments, varying from $40 to $90 a barrel. The costs multiply because fracked wells typically last less than a year. Even before COVID-19, traditional oil was lifting for $10 to $20 a barrel in Saudi Arabia, with a world average of $40. Fracking was not a viable industry even before oil went negative.  If this is the case, isn’t it a breach of fiduciary responsibility to invest in oil and gas extraction? If these are your own funds, throw them away if you wish, but Bevis Longstreth , former Securities and Exchange commissioner forecasted back in 2018, “It is entirely plausible, even predictable that continuing to hold equities in fossil fuel companies will come to be ruled negligence.” This helps explain why more than $11 trillion have been divested from fossil ownership, even before the University of California announced that it was divesting its $80 billion portfolio. Surely the world runs on oil. This will just be a blip to what is an essential industry for humankind, won’t it? No. It won’t. We can see the end. When the Kentucky Coal Museum puts solar on its roof because it is cheaper than hooking up to the coal-fired grid at its doorstep, it’s over. For fundamental economic reasons, solar power generation plus battery storage will provide at least half of electric power generation globally by 2030. Last summer, General Electric walked away from a natural gas plant in California that had a projected 20 years life because it can’t compete with solar. And this trend is happening around the world.  India canceled 14 new proposed coal plants because they can’t compete with solar. Portugal achieved 1.6 cents a kilowatt hour (¢kWh) for utility-scale solar, a price almost five times below building a new coal or gas plant. This spring the government announced that the country was 100 percent renewably powered and canceled all subsidies for fossil energy . And then Abu Dhabi set the latest new record for “everyday low price” when it brought on utility scale solar at 1.3 ¢kWh. In the bellwether state of California, the death knell for fossil fuels came when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power signed a deal to buy power from a utility-scale solar plus battery storage facility at 2.9¢kWh. To put it simply, that is record-cheap solar power. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. You can have solar on your roof, a battery bank in your garage and be immune from power shutoffs, rising prices and vulnerability of all sorts. Centralized energy distribution from fossil fuels via the grid is not reliable (or cheaper). Extreme weather events are the biggest contributor to power outages and will increase with climate change, which the Department of Energy estimates costs the U.S. economy $150 billion annually. Customer-sited solar plus storage allows you to generate and store your own power, on or off-grid. Welcome to the triumph of the sun. Pull Quote While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. Contributors Catherine Von Burg Topics Renewable Energy Solar Oil Natural Gas 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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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

August 6, 2020 by  
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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying Heather Clancy Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:45 There were plenty of juicy news tidbits in Microsoft’s recent progress report about its goal to become carbon negative over the next decade. But its new goal to link at least 500 megawatts of forthcoming solar energy contracts to environmental justice considerations is bold for many reasons.  For context, the total pledge amounts to about a quarter of the capacity that Microsoft already has signed (1.9 gigawatts) in solar and wind contracts. This is the largest commitment it has made to a single portfolio investment, so it isn’t some side project. Nor is this a reaction to the nationwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd this spring — the active planning has been under way since December.  “We spend a lot of time talking about the energy transition needed if our society is going to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050,” Microsoft’s environment chief, Lucas Joppa, told me. “Microsoft’s position is that the transition has to be an inclusive and just one.” The arrangement, with project financer, investor and developer Sol Systems , will prioritize opportunities and investments in communities “disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.” What does that mean more specifically?  The installations could be in urban neighborhoods that haven’t typically had access to economically priced clean energy resources or that historically have been disproportionately affected by pollution. But they also might be sited in rural communities that have been negatively affected by job losses triggered by the closure of fossil fuels plants or extraction operations, notes Sol Systems co-founder and CEO Yuri Horwitz. “We think it’s equally important that we engage all segments of society,” he said.  As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. The arrangement also will prioritize buying from minority and women-owned businesses. And it will provide at least $50 million in the form of grants to support educational programs, career training, habitat restoration and initiatives that provide low-income communities with access to clean energy and energy efficiency programs. “Solar is, and should be, an economic engine for everyone,” Horwitz added. To make this work, the two companies created a framework power purchase agreement to cover individual projects as they are identified with the intention of getting them validated and approved more quickly. Among the terms: A certain portion of the revenue that’s generated will be reinvested back into the community where a solar farm is located. “You can do this at scale and at a price point that is economically doable,” Joppa said. Microsoft will use third-party evaluators to help quantify and document both the social and environmental outcomes.  Lily Donge, a former principal in the energy practice at Rocky Mountain Institute and now director of corporate innovation for communities with Groundswell, believes Microsoft’s deal with Sol Systems is a sign of things to come. “We do not know whether the community process will be equitable, transparent or consultative,” she wrote on the community solar organization’s blog. “But this is a signal that a giant tech company is willing to understand the demands of the community, under-served customers and the public at large.” As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects, but Sol Systems has been focusing on methodologies for doing so for the past 12 years — it already has about 800 MW of similar projects in its portfolio , including deals it has done for Amazon and Under Armour . The latter project was built in Maryland on land that couldn’t be used for residential development; it will contribute about $1.4 million in tax revenue to the local community. Another Sol Systems ally is Nationwide Insurance, its financing partner . This isn’t the only relationship Microsoft will use to procure energy in the future, so it will be important to watch how that consideration bleeds into other contracts. I’ll definitely be asking. You should do so, too. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. Topics Social Justice Renewable Energy Corporate Procurement Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Sol’s 196-kilowatt solar installation at Christ Church apartments, a low-to-moderate income senior living facility located on the Baltimore Harbor.  Courtesy of Sol Systems Close Authorship

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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

Mio Borsa unveils summer collection of vegan leather bags

August 5, 2020 by  
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Mio Borsa, a vegan leather bag brand based in New Delhi, has unveiled its Spring/Summer 2020 collection of handbags. This stylish, cruelty-free line is made using Piñatex, an eco-textile made from pineapple stems. Mio Borsa founder Palavi Behl believes that fashion should be about holistic trends and integrity. As such, Behl created a line of cruelty-free , vegan leather handbags to show the world what fashion can be without using animal skins of any kind. The line includes bucket, drawstring zip, baguette box, sling and shoulder bags as well as clutches and totes. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves The vegan leather is not just environmentally friendly — it is highly durable and wears well. It is also dirt-resistant, making it easy to clean. Mio Borsa’s vegan leather is made with a combination of pineapple stem extract and polyurethane, a synthetic resin. Polyurethane is often used as a wood sealant because of its resistant to water, abrasions and stains. The Mio Borsa bags feature both modern and classic silhouettes, each with a distinctive look. While they are certainly beautiful, they are also functional and affordable, as the designer hopes to make sustainable fashion more accessible. Each bag is offered in multiple colors, so you can choose a favorite or buy multiple hues to coordinate with your outfits. For centuries, fashion has required great sacrifice from the animal kingdom. Fur made with mink, leather made from the hide of cows, snakeskin, alligator skin — the list goes on and on. Now, it’s time to move into a new era of fashion: cruelty-free fashion. There are lots of ways to shop sustainably and stylishly at the same time, and Mio Borsa is here to prove just that. “While leather requires the skin of animals, faux and vegan leather offer alternatives that keep us looking good and doing good,” the company said. “And not only is it better for the world, it’s better for our closets and wallets too: vegan leather is almost always cheaper than the real thing, and can be versatile and adapted to whatever our needs are.” + Mio Borsa Images via Mio Borsa

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Mio Borsa unveils summer collection of vegan leather bags

Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

August 5, 2020 by  
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Roughly three decades ago, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified giant pandas as an endangered species. In 2016, giant pandas moved from endangered species to “vulnerable” on the official extinction list. Many conservationists cite successful panda conservation efforts to show that protection measures work. That said, protecting pandas may come at a higher price than expected.  According to a  new study  published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, panda protection efforts may have put other animals at risk, some of which face possible extinction. Created ecosystems that cater to pandas do not provide room for other animals such as leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs. Consequently, most of these animals have nearly disappeared from protected areas. The lack of predators negatively affects the ecosystem by allowing prey animals to proliferate and damage habitats. The study attributes the animal disappearances to ecosystem shifts influenced by humans’ attempts to create proper homes for pandas. Panda conservation efforts focused on designating areas where pandas and other animals could thrive. Although many species benefited from the initiative, some lost out. The new study proposes enacting measures to ensure a more inclusive ecosystem. Dr. Sheng Li of Peking University, co-author of the study, calls for a holistic approach to wildlife protection. Such efforts will help protect all animals, not just a few species. Li explains that this is “critically needed to better increase the resilience and sustainability of the ecosystems not only for giant pandas but also for other wild species.” The study states that leopards have disappeared from 81% of panda reserves since the panda habitats were established. Meanwhile, snow leopards have disappeared from 38%, wild dogs from 95% and wolves from 77% of the protected areas. Reintroducing these animals is key to keeping the ecosystem balanced. Otherwise, some species may go extinct during attempts to protect others. + Nature Ecology & Evolution Via BBC Image via Pixabay

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Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

Kangaroo leather sporting goods illegally sold in California

July 29, 2020 by  
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Nearly 5 years after California outlawed the sale of products made from kangaroo skin, over 100 retailers are still selling these items. In 2016, the California Penal Code § 653o went into effect, banning the sale and import of athletic shoes made from kangaroo leather, or k-leather. However, a recent investigation by the Center for a Humane Economy (CHE) has proven otherwise. In the investigation, which spanned several months, CHE has established that the majority of 117 physical specialty stores and 76 online retailers are selling products made with kangaroo skin . The investigation has found that some leading retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nike and New Balance, are still stocking k-leather products years after the ban. According to the California Penal Code § 653o, any person found selling or importing k-leather products could face penalties of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. Such penalties have not stopped retailers from selling the products, in part due to a lack of enforcement. Even some of the leading shoe brands are still producing k-leather products years after the legislation was put in place. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves In a recent attempt to determine whether Nike still produces k-leather products, Robert Ferber, a former Los Angeles city prosecutor specializing in animal cruelty crimes, ordered a pair of shoes from Nike. He requested that the shoes be made with k-leather. “I’ve ordered pairs of Tiempo Legend 8 Elite to see if Nike was following the law,” Ferber said. “Except for a brief period this spring, the shoes I ordered through Nike.com appeared promptly and illegally on my doorstep.” In Australia alone, approximately 2 million kangaroos are killed annually for their skin. Given that their skin is very tough, it is a popular choice for sporting goods manufacturers that want to make durable products. CHE and other organizations are now collaborating to end the use of kangaroo leather . CHE has created a list of companies that use kangaroo skin and specifically outlined which products include this material in a bid to discourage people from buying these items. + CHE Via VegNews Image via Terri Sharp

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Kangaroo leather sporting goods illegally sold in California

Consumer Reports finds high arsenic level in Whole Foods bottled water

June 26, 2020 by  
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New Consumer Reports tests determined that some bottled water manufactured by Whole Foods contains potentially dangerous arsenic levels. Starkey Spring Water, which Whole Foods has been selling since 2015, contained at least triple the amount of arsenic as every other brand tested. Arsenic levels in the Starkey Spring Water ranged from 9.49 to 9.56 parts per billion. While this is within federal regulations stating that manufacturers must keep arsenic levels at or below 10 PPB, Consumer Reports experts believe that level is too high to keep the public safe. Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected Consumer Reports and The Guardian worked together on a major project about Americans’ access to safe and affordable water . They found that bottled water is not always safer than tap water and noted irregularities between the ways in which the EPA regulates municipal water and the FDA oversees bottled water. While states can set individual standards for tap water, they have no jurisdiction over bottled water’s contaminants. For example, New Jersey and New Hampshire lowered their acceptable arsenic levels to 5 PPB to protect children. However, that rule only applies to tap water. “I think the average consumer would be stunned to learn that they’re paying a lot of extra money for bottled water, thinking that it’s significantly safer than tap, and unknowingly getting potentially dangerous levels of arsenic,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), according to The Guardian . Arsenic levels of 5 PPB or more were associated with children’s IQs measuring five or six points lower than average, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health . Whole Foods has already faced a couple of lawsuits over Starkey Spring Water’s arsenic level, including one from a stage IV cancer survivor who said his condition makes him keenly aware of contaminants, and he wouldn’t have bought the bottled water had he known about the high amount of arsenic. An FDA spokesperson stressed that because arsenic occurs naturally, “it is not possible to remove arsenic entirely from the environment or food supply.” However, you may want to rethink your bottled water brand in favor of one with lower levels. Or, better yet, if you live in a place with good tap water, save some money and skip the ocean-bound plastic bottles. + Consumer Reports Via The Guardian Image via Suzy Hazelwood

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Consumer Reports finds high arsenic level in Whole Foods bottled water

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