14 July 2010

GE wants your smart (grid) ideas, CDP and GRI consistency, and other green business news

Top Stories

$200 Million for Smart Grid Ideas.reliability high.
"General Electric, in partnership with four prominent venture capital firms, announced a $200 million competition for clean-energy innovation funds on Tuesday. ... From now until Sept. 30, budding smart-grid entrepreneurs will be able to submit their proposals in one of three areas that the investors see as central to ramping up use of renewables: Maximizing penetration of clean energy into the grid. Improving the efficiency of the grid. Helping electricity customers use energy more wisely." See New York Times Green blog. See the Ecomagination Challenge site here.

Aligning the CDP and GRI Guidelines.reliability high.
"Because climate change reporting is becoming increasingly important, and because considerable overlap exists between GRI’s indicators and CDP’s questions relating to energy consumption and GHG emissions, the two organizations have agreed to collaborate in an effort to standardize the practice. To that end, the two organizations have published a linkage document to coordinate a more efficient reporting mechanism. The 17-page document consists of a table that 'compares the relevant indicators and questions and reveals the similarities as well as the disparities,' according to GRI. According to the linkage document, 'This table includes the relevant GRI G3 Profile Disclosures and Performance Indicators (plus Indicator Protocol Compilation section) and relevant CDP questions from the 2010 questionnaire where overlap between the two was found.'" From Greener World Media. Access the document here.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Virtual power plants fill supply gaps in heat wave.reliability high.
"During a few hours of last week's East Coast heat wave, thousands of megawatts worth of electricity--enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes--were temporarily removed from the grid, a practice grid operators expect to do more often to weather energy supply crunches on the grid. PJM, which operates the wholesale electricity market in 13 states, on Monday reported that it put into effect an "emergency" demand response program last week, tapping over 2,500 megawatts worth of energy reductions, dispersed over thousands of sites, to ensure that electricity flowed during times of peak demand. ... automated efficiency technology, particularly dialing back electricity usage during peak times, is becoming one of the most effective smart-grid tools for maintaining the balance between electricity supply and demand." From CNET News. [Good overview of how demand response works to help satisfy peak demand without building more power plants.]

Analysis: Energy efficiency is new green for U.S. homebuilders.reliability high.
"U.S. homebuilders used to brandish their environmentalist bona fides to lure customers. Now they are focusing less on green and more on greenbacks, introducing energy efficient features they say will convince customers to buy a new rather than a used home by saving them money." Examples of approaches various homebuilders are trying to entice buyers. See Reuters story. [Some people want to go green on principle, but perhaps most home buyers, like companies, are more focused on the bottom line. And how much motivation comes from wanting to be seen to be green? The question is, how will the neighbors know your home is energy efficient? Maybe energy efficiency is its own reward. (Of course the easiest way to make a home energy efficient is to build it smaller, or as part of a multi-unit building, and in a temperate climate, and where you don't need a car for all trips.)]

Study: Cheap gas will hamper success of electric vehicles in U.S.reliability medium.
"a study from Pike Research suggests that the success of electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. hinges on higher gas prices. As the research indicates, Americans have little to gain by going electric if gas prices stay low. To the contrary, countries with absurdly high gas prices have a strong reason to consider switching over to battery power. ... But we believe that few consumers will run all of the numbers before sensibly choosing to go electric. Instead, the initial choice to go electric will most likely be driven by the desire to be different and environmentally responsible. These desires can overshadow the power of money." From Autoblog Green. [Nobody buys a Prius or a Tesla to save money.]

Government and Regulation

Lowest Gasoline Taxes Since the Beginning of the Automobile.reliability medium.
"People may complain about the price of gas going up because the raw number is going up, but — adjusted for inflation — gasoline taxes are at their lowest in decades. ... 'Drivers are on track to spend $55.7 billion on federal, state and local gas taxes in 2010’s first quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That’s down from $68.5 billion in 2000 after adjusting for inflation — even though Americans drive 7% more miles annually.'" See CleanTechnica. From underlying USA Today story: "Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation's roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That's a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975." [Infrastructure is increasingly maintained through borrowing--Let our grandchildren pay for it.]

A Well-Designed Feed-In Tariff Can Drive Renewables in California.reliability high.
"According to the study "Economic Benefits of a Comprehensive Feed-In Tariff: An Analysis of the REESA in California," conducted by Dan Kammen and Max Wei of the University of California, Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory Energy and Resources Group, a well-designed feed-in tariff (FiT) like the one in pending state legislation will bring California $2 billion in additional tax revenue and $50 billion in new investment, while adding an average of 50,000 new jobs a year for a decade. ... the FIT Coalition's Lewis said their REESA was conservatively crafted so that the utility's ratepayers will not bear a significant burden." Story at Greentech Media. PDF of report here. [The main benefit comes not from transferring money from ratepayers to investors, but by providing assurance of a predictable stream of income from sale of electricity to the grid, which makes it easier to get loans or private financing to build capacity.]