Cap and trade lives on through the states

Read the full story in Politico.

Many people in Washington think of cap and trade as a carbon-cutting strategy that died in the Senate four years ago.

But in fact, it’s alive and well in much of the country. Advocates say it’s working. And it’s poised to gain new life from the proposed greenhouse gas rule that the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out next week.

Saving Energy with Neighborly Behavior: Energy Efficiency for Multifamily Renters and Homebuyers

Download the document.

Tenant engagement programs encourage the people who live in a multifamily property to change their behavior in order to achieve a goal. These programs are an attractive option for owners or managers who want to improve energy efficiency. In this report, we assess the key features of existing programs, make recommendations for improvements that housing providers and advocates can use immediately, and outline a wish list for the future.

In late 2013 and early 2014, ACEEE conducted a series of surveys and interviews to examine the current landscape of tenant engagement programs in the United States. The focus of this report is on tenants living in multifamily buildings that operate energy efficiency programs. We were also interested in seeing if any programs use similar tactics to target people who own their homes, either units in multifamily buildings or single-family houses. We found that tenant engagement programs are much more likely to be found in properties with primarily low-income residents. We also found that many programs rely heavily on the mass information campaign, a technique that has been shown to be largely ineffective. However, a number of the programs we surveyed use more complex behavioral techniques like incentives, challenges, and teams of peer role models. We recommend that tenant engagement programs use techniques like community-based social marketing (CBSM) to ensure that the programs are tailored to the targeted community.

Christie administration seeks to repeal rules tied to greenhouse gas program

Read the full story in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Two months after a state appeals court ruled that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration broke the law in the way it pulled New Jersey out of a regional agreement aimed at reducing carbon dioxide pollution, the state plans to submit an official proposal to repeal regulations tied to the program.

Environmentalists say even though he’s agreed to follow the procedure ordered by the court, the Republican governor is making a mistake by not rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.

It’s the latest development in an ongoing fight over Christie’s decision in 2011 to unilaterally withdraw New Jersey from RGGI, a nine-state “cap-and-trade” program. Under the pact, power plants are assigned an amount of carbon dioxide they can release, though they can buy or sell credits to increase or decrease emissions.


Obama Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan Unclear, Will Let States Make Many Decisions

Read the full story in Governing.

President Barack Obama is about to unveil the centerpiece of his agenda to fight climate change, a much anticipated rule to slash the emissions of planet-warming gases from power plants.

The president will call for major reductions, according to sources familiar with the planning, with each state given its own greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and the power to decide how to meet it. The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the plan together, and Obama will announce it Monday.

SolarCity offers its largest online discount, with Groupon

Read the full story in Smart Planet.

SolarCity announced today that the company is partnering with Groupon, the online deals marketplace, for a limited time to provide the largest online discount SolarCity has ever offered.

In an attempt to push residential solar energy systems even more into the mainstream, SolarCity will offer a $400 discount on a home solar system. SolarCity told SmartPlanet the discount should provide roughly 3-4 months of free solar energy, depending on solar setup for each individual customer.

National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition: Six Regional Winners Advance to Final Round

Via the EERE Blog.

Anticipation for the final round of the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition is growing. For the past two months, winners of six regional contests throughout the country have been crowned after facing intense competition and judging panels of industry and financial experts. These regional finalists will go on to compete in the third annual national competition in Washington, D.C. on June 11 and 12.

The national competition aims to promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bring cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market, and strengthen economic prosperity. Six regional organizations have received a total of $2 million over three years to host the competitions, including $100,000 in annual prizes for each regional competition’s winning team.

The following six teams will now have the opportunity to compete in the third annual National Competition, where they compete for unique technical, design, and legal assistance to help commercialize their technology.

Western Southwest Region — Rice Business Plan Competition run by Rice University

Ohio State University, KAir Battery

KAir Battery develops clean, energy efficient, and cost-effective large-scale stationary potassium-air (K−O2) batteries. These batteries could support renewable energy systems by storing excess power and distributing it at times of peak consumer demand. According to KAir, these batteries store generated electricity and return 98% of the input energy.

Southeastern Region — ACC Clean Energy Challenge run by University of Maryland

Georgia Institute of Technology, Energy Internet

Energy Internet has developed a new approach and solution to address cyber and control challenges facing the power grid with a decentralized, autonomous, Internet-like control architecture and a learning control software system. This distributed control architecture is designed to help integrate significantly more renewable energy into the grid.

Eastern Midwest Region — Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge run by Clean Energy Trust

Michigan State University, Black Pine Engineering

Black Pine Engineering’s technology, the Woven Wheel System, is an advanced turbomachinery system composed of carbon fiber, used for retrofitting geothermal power plants. Geothermal plants waste a portion of well steam due to steam compressors that remove harmful gases. The Black Pine Engineering system replaces current plant equipment with their advanced modular compressors, and eliminating steam loss.  According to Black Pine, the technology can boost power generation at geothermal plants by 8% and increase revenue by more than $280,000 per year per well.

Western Midwest Region — CU Cleantech New Ventures Challenge run by University of Colorado-Boulder

University of Colorado-Boulder, Superior Ecotech

Superior Ecotech develops technology that uses algae to convert carbon dioxide waste into omega-3 oils and other useful products during the process of making beer, which lowers carbon emissions for craft brewers. The team’s long-term goal is to use its algae oils to produce clean, cost-effective, and renewable biofuels.

Northeast Region — MIT Clean Energy Prize run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Unified Solar

Unified Solar developed an integrated circuit solution for maximum power point tracking at cell-level granularity, reducing energy loss for solar panels. Solar panel systems with central inverters suffer from the “Christmas tree” or “weakest link” effect—when a shaded or dirty panel reduces the output of every other panel on a string. Panels using Unified Solar’s technology effectively behave as a single “super-cell,” which solves the weakest-link challenge. Unified Solar claims its technology doubles the average energy capture for less than a third of the price of current solutions.

Western Region — First Look West run by California Institute of Technology

University of Houston, REEcycle

REEcycle reclaims rare earth elements from magnets in electronics, creating a sustainable supply of critical components. Rare earth elements are critical to manufacturing clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, energy-efficient lights, thin-film solar cells, and motors and batteries for electric vehicles. The company acquires used electronics from recyclers and extracts REEs using its patented solvent combined with low temperatures. REEcycle claims that its process is much less hazardous and significantly less expensive than current reclamation methods.

In the competition’s first two years, 600 teams participated in six regional competitions, and those teams have incorporated 57 startups – creating more than 120 full time jobs and attracting almost $26 million in follow-on private and public sector funding.  Register to attend the event now and learn more about the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.

Better Buildings Neighborhood Initiative Upgrades 100,000 Buildings, Saves $730 Million on Energy Bills

Building on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the Administration’s Better Buildings Initiative, the Energy Department announced today that the Department’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program has helped more than 40 state and local governments upgrade more than 100,000 buildings and save families and businesses over $730 million on utility bills. Supported by the Recovery Act, the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program worked with 41 competitively selected state and local governments and their partners to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes and local buildings and leverage early federal funds to launch sustainable community-based programs.

“In the United States, residential and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of all energy use,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Upgrading the energy efficiency of our homes and other buildings will save families and businesses money on utility bills and reduce pollution in our communities, moving the nation closer to our clean energy future.”

Over the last four years, these state and local governments have partnered with utilities, nonprofit organizations, financial institutions and building efficiency experts to upgrade more than 100,000 homes and other buildings. The initial $508 million federal investment leveraged another $1 billion in other public and private sector funding and supported more than $740 million in direct invoices to local workers for energy assessments and upgrades they performed. Local direct investments and savings will continue to grow as leveraged funds are used to finance future energy efficiency project upgrades.

All in all, more than 1,400 home improvement contractors completed upgrades for homeowners. Approximately 30 programs out of the original 40 are continuing without federal support, including programs in Oregon, Maine, Virginia and Florida.

To support continued public-private partnerships on residential energy efficiency, the Energy Department has launched the Better Buildings Residential Network, which currently includes 70 organizations. The network provides technical assistance and facilitates peer sharing for a wide range of stakeholders, including contractors, financial institutions, nonprofits, state and local governments, and utilities, who share best practices on home energy efficiency program strategies. Membership is open to all organizations interested in expanding the market for residential energy efficiency.

Find more information on how the Better Buildings Initiative is saving communities throughout the country energy and money at

It Takes a Village

Read the full story at FutureStructure.

In the past few years, net-zero buildings have been gaining momentum. Once considered a crazy idea, they’re now coming of age as a realistic goal for a building. More than 400 such buildings are documented globally, with about one-fourth in the U.S. and Canada.

New, Fossil-Fuel-Free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable

Read the full story at FutureStructure.

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process.

The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors…

The results, which appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, show that the key to Reguera’s platform is her patented adaptive-engineered bacteria – Geobacter sulfurreducens.

Consortium Hosts Webinar on 7 Important Elements for an Effective Green Chemistry Program

Read the full post at the ACS Nexus Blog.

Across the world, more and more chemical companies are beginning to transform their processes and products to be more efficient, less toxic, and less dependent on depleting, non-renewable resources. This move to greener chemistry is often a triple win as these sustainable actions track with financial improvements, reduce environmental impact, and remove or lessen safety concerns associated with traditional technologies. To meet this need and to get out in front of this rapidly growing trend, companies are creating programs completely dedicated to green chemistry. These programs not only promote greener practices and technologies, they create usable resources for others in their company to learn more about this newer approach to chemistry, raise awareness and visibility, and collect metrics and recommend targets for research and development. While the structure of these groups vary across firms, one thing is clear: these groups are critical for departments across a firm to begin cohesively and successfully developing greener technologies and adopting more sustainable practices.

In order to inform and further accelerate this movement, on April 25th the International Consortium for Innovation & Quality in Pharmaceutical Development (IQ Consortium) hosted an online webinar titled “Seven Important Elements for an Effective Green Chemistry Program.” The presentation was based off of a 2013 Organic Process Research & Development article with the same title. The three presenters (David Leahy of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Ingrid Mergelsberg of Merck, and John Tucker of Amgen) participate in the consortium in addition to being American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable (ACS GCIPR) member representatives.