Day: July 30, 2013

4 rules to drive innovation: A guide for business leaders

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Based on two decades of the world’s best academic and industry research, this guide answers the question: How can companies innovate to become financially, environmentally and socially sustainable?

Some organizations define innovation as new technologies and processes that don’t exist anywhere else.

This research, however, asserts that innovation can show up in almost any of your company’s operations, including how you design, package and promote products, how you hire and train employees and even the type of business you run. Innovation can be free and simple or expensive and complex.

Chicago wants large-building owners to disclose energy consumption

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Owners of large buildings would be required to publicly disclose how much energy their buildings use and how they measure up against their peers under a proposed city ordinance.

The goal is to cut energy use in half of Chicago buildings by 30 percent by 2020.

But some building owners are concerned that the information could be used to shame owners of older buildings who already are struggling to find tenants. Owners of historic buildings also say they aren’t allowed to make certain modifications like replacing old windows without running afoul of rules governing landmark structures.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago is opposed to publicly disclosing the information, suggesting that it should only be released to “interested parties,” such as buyers, renters and financers who have expressed interest in a property.

America’s Wasting Trash-to-Energy Potential, Supporters Say

Read the full story in Governing.

Energy recovery isn’t necessarily new, but its advocates still argue that it’s underutilized. About 12 percent of U.S. waste is converted to energy through a chemical combustion process like the one on display inside the Covanta plant. By comparison, Germany converts 38 percent of its waste into energy and recycles the remaining 62 percent. Fifty-five percent of Americans’ waste gets dumped in landfills, compared to less than 1 percent of Germans’.

Critical Thinking on Climate Change: Questions to Consider Before Taking Regulatory Action and Implementing Economic Policies

Via the RFF Library Blog.

US Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Minority Report
http://1.usa.gov/12yBl4K

[InsideEPA.com, sub. req'd] Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) Republicans — long opposed to EPA GHG rules — most recently issued a July 25 report, “Critical Thinking on Climate Change: Questions to Consider Before Taking Regulatory Action and Implementing Economic Policies” that rejects the need for the rules [President Obama's second-term climate rules using his authority under the Clean Air Act]…

The EPW Republicans said in a statement issued alongside the report that it “provides an opportunity to think critically and asks important questions about the impacts, policies and motivations related to climate change. The key sections examine the 15-year break in global warming not predicted by the models, the rate of sea level rise, extreme weather events, and the impact that unilateral regulatory action will have on the economy…”

[From the report]…The climate has always and will always be changing, and that is unquestionable. What is in question is the amount of influence human activity has on climate patterns, and this report is intended to provide an opportunity to think critically and review some of the more important global warming predictions made over the last several decades.

…Wildfires have not increased: ‘Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won’t resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century…’

Appliance Standards: Comparing Predicted and Observed Prices

Download the document.

When appliance standards are revised, the Department of Energy (DOE) looks at the estimated benefits of standards relative to the estimated costs and only sets standards that it finds are cost-effective to consumers. This study compares the projected and actual costs of nine appliance and equipment efficiency standards, finding that across the nine rulemakings, DOE estimated an average increase in manufacturer’s selling price of $148. On average the actual change in price was a decrease in manufacturer’s selling price of $12. Looking at the midpoint (median) change, DOE estimated $108 across the nine rulemakings and the actual midpoint cost was an increase of only $10. All of the nine products’ actual costs were less than what DOE estimated. Looked at another way, DOE estimated that the new standards would increase product prices by an average of 35% but average actual prices did not change after adjusting for inflation. Several alternative analysis approaches were also used and found similar results.

These findings raise the question of why this is the case. Further product-specific investigations and analysis will be needed to find causes but one hypothesis is that as manufacturers redesign products and production lines to meet standards, they discover new lower cost ways to meet the standard than DOE examined.

This paper discusses several steps that DOE has taken to improve its cost estimates and finds that these steps have improved the accuracy of DOE price estimates some but that prices are still substantially overestimated. The authors recommend that DOE conduct additional research on ways to model innovation when making price estimates, and that in the meantime DOE include sensitivity analysis in their calculations to look at the cost-effectiveness of standards if past inaccuracies in DOE price estimates continue.

Engineering team makes breakthrough in solar energy research

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

The use of plasmonic black metals could someday provide a pathway to more efficient photovoltaics (PV) to improve solar energy harvesting, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The LLNL Materials Engineering Div. (MED) research team has made breakthroughs experimenting with black metals. These nanostructured metals are designed to have low reflectivity and high absorption of visible and infrared light. The MED research team recently published their black metals research results in a Applied Physics Letters.