Month: August 2012

Why the next wave of green buildings will focus on net zero

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

As the green buildings movement matures, the next wave of venture capital will center on startups that make net-zero operations possible.

Net-zero buildings produce as much energy as they consume, requiring investments in both energy efficiency measures and in renewable energy generation.

Bright idea: How LED technology is key to future smart buildings

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Cost and functionality have traditionally been two big hurdles for the widespread use of LED lighting technology in commercial buildings. With technical improvements and increasing awareness of LED energy efficiency beneits, there has been some limited adoption in parking and exterior applications.

But the convergence of building automation and information technology that is transforming the facilities management industry — and helping define the smart buildings market — presents a significant opportunity for deployments in LED (light emitting diode) applications.

EU amps up e-waste collection rules for companies, consumers

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Stringent new EU e-waste rules officially came into effect yesterday, paving the way for a fundamental overhaul of how technology companies, retailers, recycling firms, and consumers handle waste electronic equipment and devices.

The updating of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which first came into effect in 2003, will impose a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules.

Webinar: Community Renewable Energy Success Stories: Financing Renewable Energy Projects

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM CDT
Register at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/860983582

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be presenting a live webinar, Tuesday, August 21, 2012, from 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time on the challenges and successes of financing mechanisms for a solar project in Knoxville, Tennessee, and one of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) CommRE projects.  Learn more about the projects below.

Renewables and Sector Partnerships: Leveraging Incentives to Work for You

In September 2009, the City of Knoxville was awarded more than $2 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding. The City obtained approval to use $250,000 of that funding for initial investment to support the installation of a high-quality, 90-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system using third-party of other innovative financing models. The City of Knoxville successfully used power purchase agreements to build the PV project and save money—all in an area of the country that isn’t allowed to have power purchase agreements.

Challenges With SMUD’s Community Renewable Energy Project

SMUD is tapping into multiple financing sources to successfully develop an anaerobic digester project as part of its overall CommRE project. The challenges and successes SMUD has experienced to date will be covered as well the banking sector’s perspective on financing renewable energy projects and how to help communities understand and navigate financing complexities.

Obama Administration Announces New Public-Private Partnership to Support Manufacturing Innovation, Encourage Investment in America

Today, the Energy Department joined with the Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and NASA to announce the $45 million investment in the pilot institute of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation.

The pilot institute announced today will provide the innovation infrastructure needed to support new additive manufacturing technology and products in order to become a global center of excellence for additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing. This pilot institute will bridge the gap between basic research and product development for additive manufacturing; provide shared assets to help companies, particularly small manufacturers, access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment; and create an environment to educate and train workers in advanced additive manufacturing skills.

Initially committing $5 million to the project, with plans to contribute an additional $5 million next year, the Energy Department is building on its continuing efforts to help America’s manufacturers become more competitive in the global marketplace. Learn more about the Energy Department’s advancement of additive manufacturing by visiting our blog to see photos and a fact sheet. See the press release.

Associations and Sustainability

Read the full post from the Iowa Waste Reduction Center.

We have been talking a lot about environmental sustainability lately. While generally it still seems like a new concept, it has definitely cemented its place in business to encompass all of your environmental initiatives. A simple Google search for ‘sustainable business practices’ gives hundreds of thousands of websites about becoming more sustainable and businesses that are trying to reach this goal. However, a majority of the examples that I have come across are big business and large corporations who have extensive resources and funds to commit to these efforts. But what about small businesses? How do you learn about and implement these practices?

Submissions Invited for Smart Growth Ideas and an Update on EPA’s Green Power Communities

National Smart Growth Conversation: Call for Blog Posts

The Smart Growth Network’s National Conversation blog, devoted to ongoing conversations about the future of America’s communities, invites photos, videos, presentations, and written content for the blog. Submissions may focus on topics such as envisioning future communities; innovative current activities; and new directions for development, transportation, or public health.

Please submit blog post(s) to the National Conversations blog by August 29, 2012, to help launch the conversation nationwide. The Smart Growth Network will review and get back to you about your submission. Written blog posts are limited to 500 words, and attachments are limited to 30 MB. If you would like to send a bigger file, please submit it by email. For more information about the National Conversation, please visit the blog.

Update on EPA’s Green Power Communities Initiative

EPA’s Green Power Communities initiative welcomes its newest members: Oak Park, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Wellesley, Massachusetts. Green Power Communities are towns, villages, cities, counties, or tribal governments in which the local government, businesses, and residents collectively buy green power in amounts that meet or exceed EPA’s Green Power Community purchase requirements.
The program now has 34 member communities, which together are purchasing more than 4.2 billion kilowatt-hours of green power each year, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to those from the annual electricity use of more than 367,000 American homes.

To learn how to become a Green Power Community, please visit the program’s website.

Remains of the Games: A website for all of your used Olympic furniture needs

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

London took impressive, unprecedented measures to inject a healthy dose of sustainability into the 2012 Summer Games including, but not limited to, erecting a recyclable basketball stadium (the temporary steel structure will be dissembled and shipped elsewhere for further use, possibly to Rio for the 2016 Olympics), repurposing the water used to clean swimming pool filters in Zaha Hadid’s stunning Aquatics Centre for toilet flushing, launching an ambitious recycling scheme for all those millions of spent crisp packets, and resurrecting Trackpants Spice and Co. from the dead for the Closing Ceremonies.
And for those wondering what will become of the Olympic Village that housed about 17,000 athletes and officials from around the globe — those buildings will be transformed into East Village, a park-heavy East London district with 2,818 new housing units (1,379 of them will be affordable) for sale and rent. In each of the units, temporary partitions installed for the games will be removed and kitchens will be installed to make way for proper apartments and townhouses.
Sounds fantastic but what about all that brand new furniture and all those fixtures and fittings installed throughout the Olympic Village that only got about two week’s worth of use? Chances are that it’s up for grabs at Remains of the Games, a giant online fire sale dedicated to unloading all the stuff  100 percent authentic stuff ranging from bookcases, beanbag chairs and Usain Bolt-sized beds — found in the Olympic Village apartments and, yes, used by the athletes themselves.

EPA Regulations and Electricity: Better Monitoring by Agencies Could Strengthen Efforts to Address Potential Challenges

EPA Regulations and Electricity: Better Monitoring by Agencies Could Strengthen Efforts to Address Potential Challenges. GAO-12-635, July 17.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-635
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592544.pdf

What GAO Found

It is uncertain how power companies may respond to four key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, but available information suggests companies may retrofit most coal-fueled generating units with controls to reduce pollution, and that 2 to 12 percent of coal-fueled capacity may be retired. Some regions may see more significant levels of retirements. For example, one study examined 11 states in the Midwest and projected that 18 percent of coal-fueled capacity in that region could retire. EPA and some stakeholders GAO interviewed stated that some such retirements could occur as a result of other factors such as lower natural gas prices, regardless of the regulations. Power companies may also build new generating units, upgrade transmission systems to maintain reliability, and increasingly use natural gas to produce electricity as coal units retire and remaining coal units become somewhat more expensive to operate.

Available information suggests these actions would likely increase electricity prices in some regions. Furthermore, while these actions may not cause widespread reliability concerns, they may contribute to reliability challenges in some regions. Regarding prices, the studies GAO reviewed estimated that increases could vary across the country, with one study projecting a range of increases from 0.1 percent in the Northwest to an increase of 13.5 percent in parts of the South more dependent on electricity generated from coal. According to EPA officials, the agency’s estimates of price increases would be within the historical range of price fluctuations, and projected future prices may be below historic prices. Regarding reliability, these actions are not expected to pose widespread concerns but may contribute to challenges in some regions. EPA and some stakeholders GAO interviewed indicated that these actions should not affect reliability given existing tools. Some other stakeholders GAO interviewed identified potential reliability challenges. Among other things, it may be difficult to schedule and complete all retrofits to install controls and to resolve all potential reliability concerns associated with retirements within compliance deadlines.

Existing tools could help mitigate many, though not all, of the potential adverse implications associated with the four EPA regulations, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy (DOE), and EPA do not have a joint, formal process to monitor industry’s progress in responding to the regulations. Some tools, such as state regulatory reviews to evaluate the prudence of power company investments, may address some potential price increases. Furthermore, tools available to industry and regulators, as well as certain regulatory provisions, may address many potential reliability challenges. However, because of certain limitations, these tools may not fully address all challenges where generating units needed for reliability are not in compliance by the deadlines. FERC, DOE, and EPA have responsibilities concerning the electricity industry, and they have taken important first steps to understand these potential challenges by, for example, informally coordinating with power companies and others about industry’s actions to respond to the regulations. However, they have not established a formal, documented process for jointly and routinely monitoring industry’s progress and, absent such a process, the complexity and extent of potential reliability challenges may not be clear to these agencies. This may make it more difficult to assess whether existing tools are adequate or whether additional tools are needed.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA recently proposed or finalized four regulations affecting coal-fueled electricity generating units, which provide almost half of the electricity in the United States: (1) the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; (2) the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; (3) the proposed Cooling Water Intake Structures regulation; and (4) the proposed Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals regulation. Power companies may retrofit or retire some units in response to the regulations. EPA estimated two of the regulations would prevent thousands of premature deaths and generate $160-$405 billion in annual benefits. Some stakeholders have expressed concerns that these regulations could increase electricity prices and compromise reliability—the ability to meet consumers’ demand. FERC and others have oversight over electricity prices and reliability. DOE can order a generating unit to run in certain emergencies. GAO was asked to examine: (1) actions power companies may take in response to these regulations; (2) their potential electricity market and reliability implications; and (3) the extent to which these implications can be mitigated. GAO reviewed agency documents, selected studies, and interviewed stakeholders.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends, among other things, that FERC, DOE, and EPA take additional steps to monitor industry’s progress in responding to the regulations. DOE and EPA agreed with this recommendation, and FERC disagreed with this and another recommendation. GAO continues to believe that it is important for FERC to take the recommended actions.

For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov or David Trimble at (202) 512-3841 or trimbled@gao.gov.