Environment Forum

Idea dearth at big money sustainability summit

Tom Rand, P.Eng., Ph.D., is Cleantech Lead Advisor at MaRS Disovery District and author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit. Any views expressed are his own.

Curious about new financial innovations to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy, I attended the recent United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) summit in Washington, D.C. This was a gathering of big money and those who shape its flows – pension funds, insurance companies, policy wonks and political negotiators.

Not surprisingly, I found nothing mind-blowing.

Our intentions are good, but we move – as always – incrementally. Catastrophic climate change still doesn’t fit our spreadsheets. Pension funds still rely on voluntary principles of risk avoidance.

But hats off to Paul Abberley, CEO of Aviva Investors out of London, England, for the best idea of the conference. Abberley wants to translate, directly, the good intentions of pension contributors into the fiduciary duty of investment managers.

Anyone on the carbon scene knows we’re at a standstill. There are bright spots like California’s brand new cap and trade regulations and Ontario’s Green Energy Act, and there are always some intrepid businesses that carve out a market for their piece of low-carbon infrastructure.

A clear and fair incentive to pollute less


Connie Hedegaard is EU Commissioner for Climate Action. Any opinions expressed are her own.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a rather unusual bill directly addressed to Europe.

Through the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act H.R. 2594, America’s legislators want to tell American airlines not to respect an EU law.

Finalists named for “Nobel of Sustainability”

 

 

If the Nobel society had an award for sustainability, it would resemble the Katerva awards, a new international prize for the most promising ideas and efforts to advance the planet toward sustainability.

Minus the money.

Katerva, the new UK-based charity, today announced winners for 10 individual categories, who are now shortlisted for a single grand prize to be awarded in New York on Dec. 7.

Awards are for “game-changers and industry breakers; ideas that leap efficiency, lifestyle, consumption and action bounds ahead of current thinking,” their website says.

Federal purse reopens for solar science

 

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week $60 million in funding for scientists to develop “revolutionary research” to lower the cost of solar power systems.

The DOE SunShot Initiative is baiting researchers to increase efficiency of commercial solar power (CSP) systems and lower costs to six cents per kilowatt hour by the end of the decade. 

The initiative is being called a “sign of the times for the sector“, and comes amidst accusations the government is squandering taxpayer money on businesses doomed to fail, best exemplified by recently bankrupt solar heavyweight Solyndra.

D.C. dawdles, California leads on climate

Becky Kelley directs the Climate and Clean Energy Agenda at the Washington Environmental Council. Any opinions expressed are her own.

We could smell the sweet winds of change all the way up in Washington State last week, when California adopted final rules to implement a cap and trade program to reduce climate pollution across its economy, beginning in 2013.

California got it right. Cap and trade is a policy at the scale of the problem: big, complex policy to deal with a big, complex problem.

Will California’s carbon market spur cleantech growth?

(This article by Felicity Carus first appeared on Clean Energy Connection and has been edited for length. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Before California regulators announced they unanimously approved regulations for a cap and trade market on Thursday, the chair of the California Air Resources Board made much ado about the impact it would have on the development of clean technology in the state.

Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in her opening remarks : “Cap and trade sends a policy signal to the market and guarantees that California will continue to attract the lion’s share of investment in clean technology.”

Back to the Future goes electric

The DeLorean Motor Co. announced it will launch an all-electric version of its Back to the Future gull-winged car in 2013, but aficionados are debating whether or not it will fly.

Texas-based DeLorean has partnered with Epic EV (and its sister battery company Flux Power) to bring to market the prototype DMC-12 EV, with a top speed of 125 mph driven by a 260 horsepower electric motor. Range is between 70 and 100 miles and the battery has an expected lifespan of 7 years.

It will sport a price tag from between $90,000 to $100,000.

Critics are concerned about the weight of stainless steel.  “I’m not sure you know the DeLorean – it is a very large, very, very heavy car and I couldn’t imagine making an EV version of it.  $100 says the range blows,” writes AMouth, one of 294 comments on the subject at techie hub slashdot.org.

Newsweek’s green giants

Newsweek today released its third annual Green Rankings, a leading benchmark for rating the largest publicly owned companies in the United States and around the world. Again this year they divided the rankings into two surveys, the top U.S. companies and the top global companies, this year increasing the number of global companies to 500 from 100. By far it’s tech companies leading the packs, from IBM (who scored #1 and #2 on U.S. and the Global lists respectively) to Hewlett-Packard, BT Group and Infosys among others.

Newsweek’s comprehensive online package includes articles to mull including Cary Krosinsky’s report that companies and their shareholders “make out like bandits when they’re environmentally responsible” and a closer look at “Obama’s Big Green Mess” by Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift as well as other nuggets on the state of green business in faltering economies and abandoned plans for policy reform at the governmental level.

“Big companies have decided that this is a long-term play,” Thomas Lyon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is quoted as saying in Ian Yarett’s intro.

Steve Jurvetson on clean tech innovation that will change the world

(This article by Felicity Carus first appeared on Clean Energy Connection and has been edited for length. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

What venture capitalists really think and what they say aren’t always the same thing.

Steve Jurvetson, from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, last week gave his overview of disruptive innovation in clean tech at the Always On Going Green conference in San Francisco.

Vehicle-to-grid: Genius or waste of energy?

 

A professor at the University of Delaware has patented a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology for parked electric vehicles to return power to the grid and teamed up with NRG Energy to commercialize it.

Professor Willett Kempton, who has been testing V2G technology that lessens the load on natural gas plants, told the New York Times utilities would not be interested in buying electricity from individual cars but from groups of perhaps 100 vehicles.

The idea is not without its critics.

The only way this will take off is for users to have a financial incentive to allow the power company to do this, i.e. the power price during peak demand must be so high that it’s cheaper to deplete your EV battery rather than draw from the grid,” writes hackertourist on listserv slashdot.

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