Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech 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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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

Instagram data uncovers the world’s top #urbanjungles

June 12, 2020 by  
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Houseplants offer any number of benefits ranging from cleaner air to aesthetic appeal. Indoor plants brighten up a space and bring the natural world indoors, something that seems especially important during the 2020 COVID lockdowns. They make excellent gifts and enhance every photo opportunity within the home, whether it be a pre-prom photo or a snapshot of dinner. Love of houseplants  seems to be universal, but Budget Direct Home Insurance wanted to know specifically what areas of the world took the biggest interest in plant adoption and which plants people had the most passion for.  To figure this out, Budget Direct analyzed the most commonly used hashtags on Instagram to locate the top 10 plant-loving countries and which plants they are capturing for their feeds. After filtering the results of 200,000 Instagram posts and cleaning up the data by removing outliers and professional plant peddlers such as florists , Budget Direct put all its findings into an easy to comprehend map.  Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Results from the most common hashtag, #urbanjungle, show the United States as the top indoor plant hugging group with 7,592 posts. Brazil came in second, with half that number at 3,577. Europe is another plant-loving culture, with Germany posting 3,417 times and the U.K. showing a proud 2,323 posts. France followed at 1,673 posts, the Netherlands with 1,610, and Poland with 1,591 posts about appreciating indoor greenery. Rounding out the top 10 list was Italy with 1,405, pushing Europe’s total posts to over 17,000, then India with 1,327 and Canada with 1,288. The study breaks this information down further, looking at cities with the highest number of Instagram posts regarding indoor plants. NYC, London and Berlin, in that order, took the top three spots, followed by São Paulo, Paris, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Singapore, Amsterdam and Toronto. Representing an expansive geography, these posts make clear that houseplants are an essential part of  interior design  across various cultures.  While most people are familiar with product influencers on social media, you may not know about houseplant influencers. It makes sense when you think about it. You’re scrolling through Instagram, you like plants and you follow people who are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful so you can successfully grow and enjoy your indoor plants . By studying an assortment of popular hashtags such as #houseplants, #houseplantsofinstagram, #houseplantsmakemehappy and, of course, #urbanjungle, the researchers at Budget Direct Home Insurance created a top 10 list of houseplant influencers. In the results, the company stated, “According to our study, if you want to become an #urbanjungle influencer, you need a blend of houseplant knowledge, interior design flair, and friendliness.” If you’re looking for some inspiration or advice, here are a few of the houseplant influencers that made Budget Direct’s top 10 list. Coming in at number one is Canada-based Darryl Cheng ( @houseplantjournal ), author of “The New Plant Parent.” Following Cheng were U.S.-based creators The Potted Jungle ( @thepottedjungle ) and Hilton Carter ( @hiltoncarter ). Carter not only shares plant wisdom on Instagram, but also via weekly tips as the “Plant Doctor” for Apartment Therapy, plant propagating experiences on Airbnb and two books, “Wild Interiors” and “Wild at Home.” After pinpointing the most passionate Instagram plant owners and locations, the Budget Direct team took their research one step further to identify which plants are the most frequently captured on film. Greenery was identified by hashtags using proper botanical names, rather than common names. The results showed a combination of flowering indoor plants, succulents and foliage plants making up the top 10 most commonly posted varieties. Echeveria, a widely popular desert succulent, took the prize for the most photographed plant. Its striking blue-green rosette makes it a model for the camera. Plus, it is easy to grow and maintain. With 1,021,534 posts, Echeveria stands out as a clear favorite of plant lovers around the world. In second place with nearly half as many mentions (517,005) was the flowering crocus. Another easy-to-care-for succulent, Haworthia, settled into third place, likely due to its forgiving demeanor and eye-catching appeal. Indoor Fuschia and daffodils took over the fourth and fifth positions, showing that people love their flowering plants. The Swiss Cheese Plant, though many people may not recognize it by name, earned sixth place and is one of the most common houseplants in the world. The Dragon Wing Begonia, Living Stones, Freesia Flower and Chinese Money Plant round out the top 10 most frequently photographed and posted houseplants in the world. The results of this study are meant to be an enlightening report of who’s talking and what they’re talking about when it comes to houseplants. Still, Instagram may not be the best exclusive source of information considering it’s still not widely used in many areas. Instead of a comprehensive study, this data reflects overall  interior design  trends that suggest houseplants have a home anywhere around the world. + Budget Direct Home Insurance Images via Budget Direct Home Insurance 

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Instagram data uncovers the world’s top #urbanjungles

The time for electric trucks and buses is now

June 10, 2020 by  
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The time for electric trucks and buses is now Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:30 Despite the pandemic, sales of electric trucks and buses are expected to surge in the United States and Canada over the next couple of years. And perhaps, surprising to many, they’ll soar even within this year (the year that can best be described as WTF).  That’s according to new data released recently by the clean-transportation-focused nonprofit CALSTART. The organization expects there to be 169 zero-emission commercial vehicles available for purchase, or soon to be available, in North America by the end of 2020; that’s a 78 percent increase from the number of zero-emission commercial vehicles available at the end of 2019. What’s more, between 2019 and 2023, the amount of zero-emission commercial vehicle models is expected to double, to 195.  Why does this matter? Because diesel-powered trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate amount of transportation-related carbon emissions and are also a source of air pollution, much of it in disadvantaged communities, who live closer to industrial areas or freeways. In addition, commercial vehicles are offering a bright spot for automakers that are seeing slumping sales of passenger vehicles in the wake of COVID-19.  If data and analyst predictions make your eyes glaze over, you can look at the trend another way. Companies are increasingly making zero-emission truck and bus announcements. Every day when I skim Twitter or my inbox, I see more. Here are just a few from the past couple of weeks: General Motors is making an electric van to rival Tesla. Rivian is on track with its Amazon electric delivery vans. Nikola Motors will start accepting reservations June 29 for its electric pickup truck the Badger. Ford is making an electric transit van. CALSTART says that the surge is coming from a combination of market demand, policies and economics as EV battery costs continue to drop. Big companies such as Amazon , IKEA , UPS and FedEx are making big purchases (or working with partners to make purchases). But cities across the United States are also buying EVs, including electric transit buses, garbage trucks and pickup trucks. Substantial growth in the number of commercial EV models available is particularly important for the market because model availability has long been a major hurdle. The large automakers have been pretty slow to offer a variety of models, citing a lack of demand from customers. It’s a pretty standard chicken-and-egg scenario that happens in a nascent market. But as a result, much of the early commercial EV models on the market have come from startups such as Rivian , Nikola , Chanje and Arrival . The bigger automakers are entering the market and playing catch-up.  COVID-19 also has shone a spotlight on the need for a resilient and dynamic transportation supply chain, as shippers across the country have relied heavily on trucks and truck drivers to meet unusual spikes and valleys in demand. The trucking industry, like all operators of commercial vehicles, will need to become cleaner, too, as customer demand, policies and economics evolve. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Electric Trucks Electric Bus Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Nikola Badger pickup truck.

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The time for electric trucks and buses is now

The time for electric trucks and buses is now

June 10, 2020 by  
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The time for electric trucks and buses is now Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:30 Despite the pandemic, sales of electric trucks and buses are expected to surge in the United States and Canada over the next couple of years. And perhaps, surprising to many, they’ll soar even within this year (the year that can best be described as WTF).  That’s according to new data released recently by the clean-transportation-focused nonprofit CALSTART. The organization expects there to be 169 zero-emission commercial vehicles available for purchase, or soon to be available, in North America by the end of 2020; that’s a 78 percent increase from the number of zero-emission commercial vehicles available at the end of 2019. What’s more, between 2019 and 2023, the amount of zero-emission commercial vehicle models is expected to double, to 195.  Why does this matter? Because diesel-powered trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate amount of transportation-related carbon emissions and are also a source of air pollution, much of it in disadvantaged communities, who live closer to industrial areas or freeways. In addition, commercial vehicles are offering a bright spot for automakers that are seeing slumping sales of passenger vehicles in the wake of COVID-19.  If data and analyst predictions make your eyes glaze over, you can look at the trend another way. Companies are increasingly making zero-emission truck and bus announcements. Every day when I skim Twitter or my inbox, I see more. Here are just a few from the past couple of weeks: General Motors is making an electric van to rival Tesla. Rivian is on track with its Amazon electric delivery vans. Nikola Motors will start accepting reservations June 29 for its electric pickup truck the Badger. Ford is making an electric transit van. CALSTART says that the surge is coming from a combination of market demand, policies and economics as EV battery costs continue to drop. Big companies such as Amazon , IKEA , UPS and FedEx are making big purchases (or working with partners to make purchases). But cities across the United States are also buying EVs, including electric transit buses, garbage trucks and pickup trucks. Substantial growth in the number of commercial EV models available is particularly important for the market because model availability has long been a major hurdle. The large automakers have been pretty slow to offer a variety of models, citing a lack of demand from customers. It’s a pretty standard chicken-and-egg scenario that happens in a nascent market. But as a result, much of the early commercial EV models on the market have come from startups such as Rivian , Nikola , Chanje and Arrival . The bigger automakers are entering the market and playing catch-up.  COVID-19 also has shone a spotlight on the need for a resilient and dynamic transportation supply chain, as shippers across the country have relied heavily on trucks and truck drivers to meet unusual spikes and valleys in demand. The trucking industry, like all operators of commercial vehicles, will need to become cleaner, too, as customer demand, policies and economics evolve. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Electric Trucks Electric Bus Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Nikola Badger pickup truck.

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Stay-at-home orders increase demand for eco-friendly interiors

June 9, 2020 by  
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Lockdowns have forced many to stay home. With all that time inside, you can’t help but pay close attention to the interior details of your home. Many have turned to home improvement projects to make productive use of their time. The novel coronavirus has likewise forced many to become more health-conscious. It’s no surprise then that a joint study, administered by Harris Poll for eco-friendly manufacturer ECOS Paints , found 69% of those surveyed “have taken or plan to take action to make their home environment healthier as a result of COVID-19.” How can we make homes healthier and more eco-friendly? For one, 45% of those surveyed are cleaning the house more often. That’s followed closely by 43% who plan to “use eco-friendly paint, change air filters, add air purifiers, and/or add more plants to their home” to avoid harmful VOCs. Next, 17% are shifting toward natural or chemical-free household products, while 12% will cease using harsh chemicals as cleaners altogether. Another 10% are going to add a humidifier to their homes. Related: Scandinavian company Tikkurila debuts new paint collection to protect endangered species What are VOCs? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines them as substances that emit gases that have adverse health effects. Their toxic fumes, for instance, can cause headaches, dizziness, respiratory irritation, visual impairments or more severe bodily reactions.  VOCs can be found in paints, varnishes, cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, pesticides and even hobby supplies. The use of eco-friendly paints and cleaning substances makes for a healthier home environment. So the pivot toward environmentally conscious products during the pandemic, as folks devote more time to home improvements, has piqued the interest of ECOS Paints.  “Having been in the home decor category for over 30 years, we believe this change in consumer behavior will significantly alter the industry,” said Julian Crawford, CEO OF ECOS. “Paint definitely impacts indoor air quality. ECOS Paints were originally created decades ago as a solution for individuals with chemical sensitivities, including children and babies who cannot tolerate strong odors and harsh chemicals. Today, ECOS has become a favorite among a broader market of consumers who care about creating healthier, wellness-focused living environments in their homes.” + ECOS Paints Image via Arek Socha

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How racism manifests in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t altruistic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion 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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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

June 2, 2020 by  
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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community Joel Makower Tue, 06/02/2020 – 02:11 In the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump was declared the 45th president of the United States, I sat down and penned a note to the GreenBiz community. A lot of us were shocked, confused, depressed and angry that this vulgar man, who saw climate change as a hoax and “beautiful clean coal” as our savior, would be setting the national agenda at such a critical time. It was “a stunning and devastating indictment of decency, fairness and inclusion,” I wrote that morning. And: It will be critically important, for both our individual sanity and our collective future, that we stay the course, double down, make every program, project, partnership and product count. That was then. The past few days, in the wake of the national upheaval over the death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another white police officer, have been similarly filled with angst and anger within the sustainability community. “What do we do?” we’ve asked one another. Should we simply stay the course, doubling down on our work on climate and the clean economy, which is growing more urgent by the day? Or do we stop, take stock and rethink what we do? Today, I’m not sure that staying the course is, in and of itself, what’s needed. It may be time for a radical rethink: Given all that’s changing, what does the world need of us now? Whether you come from privilege or poverty, whether your education comes from the best schools or the streets, whatever your politics or identity, this is a brutally tough moment. The coronavirus and economic crash already had laid bare the inequity and disparity among the classes and races: those who have a job and those who don’t; those who are able to earn a living at home versus those who must risk going to an employer’s workplace during a pandemic; those who are able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, even amid economic upheaval, and those who can’t; those who feel comfortable walking or driving or just being outside their home, and those who fear that any moment could lead to their becoming the next George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. Now, all of those inequities and disparities have been cast into the open. To the extent they existed in the shadows — festering societal problems to which those with power and privilege largely threw up their hands — they are now center stage. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. To the extent they were topics relegated to hushed, private conversations — well, those conversations are full-throated, 24/7 and inescapable. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. The calamities of 2020 — the physical, economic, social and psychological crises we’d already been confronting these past few months — have contributed to this raw moment, the culmination of centuries of systemic oppression and institutionalized racism. Words of comfort, of healing and hope, aren’t cutting it, and they shouldn’t. For those of us working in sustainability, it raises some fundamental questions. Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, “to make the world a better place”? If so, then this is the moment to live up to those lofty goals — fully and, most likely, uncomfortably. That means having difficult conversations with family, colleagues, friends and peers. It means recognizing — really, truly recognizing, not just mouthing the words — that nothing is sustainable if people are in pain. It matters little how much renewable energy is generated, how many circular supply chains are created, how much organic or regenerative food is produced if our fellow citizens are being exploited, discriminated against, threatened and worse. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. This is what “sustainability” should be about — the security and well-being of all species, including humans — and it no doubt will provoke nodding heads among many of you. But nodding heads aren’t enough. They never were and certainly aren’t now. This is a moment for the private sector to step up. Not just in helping to calm and heal, although that will be a critical task in the coming days and weeks, but also to lobby for justice: economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, climate justice. And to deeply understand what these terms even mean, and how they relate to creating the societal value that is the beating heart of business.  This is a seminal moment that is testing all of us — those in sustainability, certainly, along with most everyone else. And as we work on or support societal solutions — and countless ideas are likely to come out of this, from every conceivable source — it’s important to ask some simple but profound questions: Who’s setting the rules? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s being heard? Who’s left out? Who’s benefiting from the status quo and from the proposed solutions? Does it empower the marginalized or merely placate the restless? These are the kinds of questions that have been woefully absent in the past. And we are living with the result. If we are to change the course, not simply aim to get back to some elusive “normal,” these questions will need to be asked and answered. Failure to do that will lead us right back to where we are. I’d like to end on a positive, hopeful note, much as I tried to do back in November 2016. But hope and positivity are in short supply right now. So I’ll just say this: Don’t underestimate your power in this moment. You may not feel powerful, particularly in light of the deafening voices screaming in the streets and on our screens. But there is power in us all: to care for those around us, to contribute time and resources at the community and national levels, to take the time to truly comprehend the issues before us and to understand that silence is complicity. Pull Quote To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

How the Navajo got their day in the sun

May 28, 2020 by  
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How the Navajo got their day in the sun Danny Kennedy Thu, 05/28/2020 – 02:00 In late March, during the early hours of the COVID-19 crisis, just as New Yorkers were realizing how many might die, a small solar development company closed a $4 million financing deal. “Closing” is never easy, but getting a half-dozen high-net-worth individuals, family offices and foundations to pony up as the world’s finance markets crashed around them was a triumph.  Getting the deal done was impressive in its own right, given that private equity had all but frozen in the weeks before and most venture-backed startups were running on fumes, telling their angel investors and anyone who’d listen that they had three months’ financial runway, or less. It seems even more important now, given the terrible toll COVID-19 is having right where the solar is planned: the Navajo Nation. A young team saddled with ambition and support from their tribal government, this largely native-owned company, Navajo Power , was getting ready to build a major solar project in one of the poorest communities in America.  “We are working hard to create jobs and build resilient infrastructure for our Nation and for the greater western region,” explained Brett Isaac, founder and CEO. “Navajo has perhaps the highest unemployment in the country at 65 percent — that’s pre-COVID. It is clearly going up, due to the virus. We need to put people back to work in creating the clean energy future. Developing some of the biggest projects in the world and maximizing the benefits for our communities can provide the resources needed to fund a wave of local infrastructure and community economic development initiatives. Clean energy can be our bridge.” A company to watch, and learn from Navajo Power was co-founded by Isaac and his old friend Dan Rosen, a college dropout from New Jersey. Rosen was adopted by Navajo artist Shonto Begay in his teens and went on to start one of the U.S.’s largest solar loan business, Mosaic. These two and their partners are leading the charge for the Navajo Nation’s just transition, from coal dependence to clean energy superpower. This movement one day will be studied in colleges around the world; justice can be done. Such drama around Navajo is justified. This is the largest indigenous community in the United States, with 250,000 people and a land base the size of West Virginia. There is a sordid history of “divide and conquer,” involving everyone from Kit Carson to the Sierra Club. The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Mined and burned to provide power for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix.  The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Despite hosting centuries of extraction and decades of power generation, in 2020, more than 15,000 families on Navajo land lack electricity or running water. And surprise, surprise: the local community saw only a pittance for the years that King Coal ravaged its ancestral homeland. According to one local leader of the governing “chapter” responsible for running services, his entire community of 1,200 people received about $250,000 per year in royalties from the coal mining operation on their land. This community spent 50 years suffering from the toxic emissions spewing out of the coal-burning 1.2 gigawatt Navajo Generating Station nearby. This plant powered Los Angeles and points west — but not their own towns and settlements. All they got was the pollution, and almost enough money to pay for the salary of one public health worker and overhead. An utter disgrace. By contrast, Navajo Power’s solar projects will pay millions of dollars upfront and fair market value per year for the life of the project, while ensuring that the local community is compensated in addition to the central government. The solar plant will sit on the ground, leave resources in the ground, burn nothing and can be removed afterwards. The chapter can invest the revenue generated by this plant in public health, workforce development, job creation efforts such as ecotourism and high-value agriculture. Business unusual Solar is a strategy that will uplift this community. But unlike the similar promise of coal, solar power will not desecrate the Navajo’s sacred land, pollute their skies or poison their children. And the Navajo Power deal ensures this power will be owned and controlled by Navajo, not outsiders.  It was not only a coup to pull off any investment of this magnitude in the midst of the COVID crisis — there’s more business unusual in the deal. Baked into the financial structure is an expected rate of return for the investors. If and when this rate is achieved, any further returns will be distributed to the communities hosting the solar projects on their land. This financing design, with a “mission delta” built-in between the concessionary rate that investors are taking and a more market rate, will become an innovative benchmark for similarly well-intentioned companies in the future. Additional covenants include 10 percent of company ownership being held in a Turquoise Share, which funds community benefits in the event of profit distributions or sale of the company. Eighty percent of the profits must go toward solar projects or community investments. And executive compensation is capped relative to the lowest-paid employee.  Morgan Simon, CEO of the Candide Group, explained, “Navajo Power is creating a new kind of economic development model for communities through leveraging the revenues of utility-scale clean energy development. That’s what drew us to their work and why we led this investment.” This model is a stark contrast to the hundreds of years of exploitative fossil-fuel ventures that have taken place on the territories of native peoples.  Navajo Power, as you probably can tell, is not a typical company. It is a registered Public Benefit Corporation; a company with a core goal of public benefits on par with profit maximization. And for the power sector, it is innovative from woe to go. It is mostly owned by Navajo and committed, by its mission and business model, to maximize benefits for the community partners hosting the solar projects on their land. The company provides culturally appropriate technical assistance to communities as they go through the development process.  The backstory The political and historical context surrounding this momentous deal is worth understanding. During Donald Trump’s reign, U.S. coal plants have closed faster than during the Obama administration. We can thank the markets for coal’s loss of steam; wind in the Midwest and solar in the Southwest can produce cheaper electricity. This phenomenon has reached the reservation. After decades of hosting some of the nation’s largest coal mines and coal-fired power plants, including the Navajo Generating Station, San Juan, Cholla and the Four Corners Plant, these plants are finished. The first to fall, Navajo Generating Station, closed in November after a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to “save it” with subsidies. Early this year, the San Juan plant on the New Mexico side of Navajo announced it will shutter within three years. Cholla will stop one of three units this year and the rest by 2025. And Arizona Public Service, which operates Four Corners, recently announced it is moving up the retirement of that facility to 2031. Given the increasing loss-making economics, my bet is 2031 is a longshot. The Navajo entrepreneurs saw the vacuum left by falling coal plants as an opportunity for themselves, their reservation and the broader United States. The key insight is that the coal operations built on their land give the Navajo exceptional access to regional energy markets through the high-voltage transmission lines connecting them to major electrical demand centers across the West.  Based on research, Navajo Nation has the potential for more than 10 GW of solar power — more than a one-to-one replacement for every lost megawatt of coal power — plus at least one gigawatt of wind. Their high altitude, blue skies and dry land base is ideal for hosting solar farms. It also could prove an ideal location for hosting long-duration batteries for grid services that provide reliability and resilience. Research and development on solutions such as hydrogen gas from electrolysis powered by inexpensive solar is another potential product of this endeavor. The Navajo are riding the perfect storm: better economics; natural and unnatural competitive advantages; and the disruption of energy technologies to position this previously overlooked community at the center of the U.S. energy future. A change of heart In March 2019, Navajo Power organized an Energy Roundtable that involved Navajo leadership and some big hitters in energy from the American West. These included David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, and Angelina Galiteva, a member of the Board of Governors of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the California electricity grid. California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. So, when the governor’s energy czar and manager of the grid were present at the roundtable, people listened. And they both had the same message: We won’t buy dirty power from Navajo. The previous year, California passed SB100, a law that requires the Golden State to be 100 percent powered with renewable electricity by 2045. California is a huge market, a kind of nation-state unto itself, with a distinct grid and an increasingly wealthy population of 40 million. When California adopted the 100 percent standard, other states followed suit. This included New Mexico, which has a long history with the neighboring Navajo Nation dating to colonial times. These energy players surrounded the nation — both figuratively and geographically — with 100 percent clean energy commitments. The conversation at the roundtable was focused on how none of these states wanted to buy coal-fired power for much longer. After 50 years of being forced by various means to allow coal extraction and combustion on its territory, the Navajo leadership was told that the world is going in a new direction. For the Resource Committee that was gathered, including Vice President Myron Lizer, this was news. But it was heard. It was hard to ignore Navajo’s biggest customer of coal power for last half century saying, “We won’t be allowed, by law, to buy it any longer.”  Showdown at the summit Galiteva had run procurement for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power earlier in her career, so she knew all about contracting with Navajo power producers. She was well-versed on the transmission systems that carried electricity across the high desert and Sierras into the L.A. basin. There’s an interconnect at Glendale, just east of the city, a point in the grid where high-voltage transmission cables connect and the juice from big power plants is broken up before being distributed through the massive urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. Galiteva agreed that Navajo could take advantage of that transmission capacity — a huge multibillion-dollar sunk cost — to sell solar power for the next century. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Other carrots were offered in the room for the Navajo leadership to consider shifting from coal to solar. One came in the form of an energy procurement manager from Apple; the most valuable company in history at that time that recently had committed to 100 percent clean energy. While he could not commit to a specific contract with Navajo on the company’s behalf, he did indicate Apple’s interest in new sources of clean power. In the last few years, data centers such as those run by Apple, Google and Facebook have emerged as core business for energy generators with direct electricity contracts. If the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group of several dozen large corporations, were a country, it would be in the top 10 in terms of energy consumption and commitment to 100 percent clean energy purchasing. The signal was clear for the folks in the room — the times were a-changing and the Navajo needed to get with the program. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Developers elsewhere across the West are proposing massive wind and solar farms with transmission. These were big decisions and directional choices proposed to the committee at the summit. None of which had an easy solution because, at the same time the summit was happening, on the Arizona side of the reservation, lobbyists in Window Rock were trying to convince the president to use sovereign wealth funds to bail out the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. The owners and major off-takers had proposed to shut it down that summer, which would mean hundreds of jobs going off the reservation — a place with few good, consistent employment opportunities.  At the time of the Navajo Power Summit, the nation was under considerable pressure to buy out the owners of the Navajo Generating Station to keep it going — even if It meant funding a loss-making enterprise. Various excuses and initiatives were announced to justify the nation’s digging into a hard-won, rainy-day fund it maintains from fines settled by the federal government for damage caused by uranium mine tailings on their land. The new president, Jonathan Nez, elected in November 2018, was looking down the barrel of 700 jobs going away at NGS and seriously considered spending $300 million to keep the coal power plant running. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis advised Nez that this may keep the plant going for a couple of years, but nothing could turn the tide against coal in the West with all neighboring states committing to 100 percent renewables in the foreseeable future. In other words, it would be buying a white elephant. In an act of bold political leadership, Nez decided against bailing out the coal plant. The nation broadened its vision. It saw that building large-scale solar farms with companies such as Navajo Power would tap the existing transmission lines to big cities and address the thousands of families on the reservation who do not have electricity. In a proclamation made in April 2019, called the Navajo Háyoo?káá? , the parties created “a new economic vision for the Navajo People, through healing the land, fostering clean energy development and providing leadership for the energy market.” This is “a big move for the nation,” said Nez. The plan is based on four principles:  1. A diverse energy portfolio, creating workforce development and job creation opportunities for the Navajo people.  2. Restoration of land and water after decades of uranium and coal mining.  3. Rural electrification of homes that lack access to electricity. 4. Utility-scale renewable energy development to supply Navajo Nation and the western United States.  The Navajo Sunrise Proclamation says, “Through the Diné teaching of ‘T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego’ and for the many who have called upon our Nation’s leaders to transition away from our overdependence on fossil fuels, the Navajo Nation will strive for a balanced energy portfolio and will pursue and prioritize clean renewable energy development for the long-term benefit of the Navajo People and our communities.” The benefits of such investments will go beyond jobs and revenue for the Navajo. There is a sense of pride in picking the path rather than having it foisted upon them, as coal power was 50 years ago. Self-determination is a big issue for indigenous peoples the world over. Overcoming the colonial domination that energy development has created is a major triumphsof the Navajo Sunrise Proclamation. It brings hope, not just to this sovereign nation, but to people everywhere that just transitions can be made. Pull Quote The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Topics Renewable Energy 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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How the Navajo got their day in the sun

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