09 August 2010

Managing risk, useful benchmarks, buying greenness and other sustainability news

Top Stories

Insurance Companies Find There Is Money to Be Made in Green Technology.reliability high.
"Increasingly, insurers are stepping in to bridge the gap between green intentions and actual capital outlays on green technology. They are backstopping warranties on solar panels, helping start-up companies with short track records offer multidecade guarantees on their products and win over skeptical customers and project financiers. They are studying weather patterns to offer protection in the event of, say, unusually weak winds that fail to spin turbines, or a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that diminishes the output of a solar energy facility in Spain." More examples. See column in The New York Times. [New technology is risky and climate change presents uncertainty. Insurance companies quantify and finance uncertainty and transfer risk. So new uncertainty creates opportunities for them. By packaging risk and selling it to those willing to pay, insurance makes investment less risky.]

Japan to subsidize CO2-cut studies: report.reliability high.
"Since U.N. climate talks have stalled, Japan  is hoping that contributions to cut greenhouse gas emissions abroad will produce carbon credits to offset emissions at home over the next decade as an alternative to the U.N.'s existing complex carbon market. If the proposed 15 projects all proceed, they would reduce an estimated total of 5 to 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun daily said. ... The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has said it will announce on Tuesday which companies are to conduct the studies and benefit from 500 million yen ($5.85 million) in government subsidies. The daily said the 15 projects included forest preservation, geothermal power, energy-saving technologies in homes and in industry." Story at Reuters. [Japan may eventually help finance carbon-saving projects in developing countries, and count the reductions against its own emissions. At the same time developed countries are pushing developing countries to reduce the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions. But these proposed projects, though they take place in developing countries, can't reduce the host countries emissions or their would be double counting. Those who have the money get the reductions, not the countries where the reductions actually take place. How can rich countries complain about the growth of emissions in the developing world when they siphon off any reductions into their own accounts?]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Best Buy Wants to Become Top EV Seller.reliability high.
Electronics retailer Best Buy "are currently the leading retailers of electric bikes and scooters, and have recently added Brammo motorcycles to the mix. ... the company believes that, by educating its customers about electric vehicles, it can become a preferred destination for them to purchase EVs of all kinds, up to and including highway-capable cars that one might normally expect to purchase at an auto dealership." From triplepundit.

Four US States Now Get More Than 10% of Electricity From Wind Power: Report.reliability medium.
Some highlights from DOE's "2009 Wind Technologies Market Report". "What's interesting to note is that 28 states saw new wind power projects break ground, and four states now get more than 10% of their electricity from wind power: Iowa (20%), South Dakota (13%), North Dakota (12%), Minnesota (11%)." See TreeHugger. PDF of report here. [Though that wind-generated electricity enters the grid in the named states, the credit for using this renewable power is spread around the country through the sale of RECs. So the people of North Dakota, for example, can't claim that 12% of the power they use is renewable. Someone else has already bought that claim. See this earlier post.]

Businesses Lag in Tracking Most Sustainability Metrics.reliability high.
"While a majority of facility and sustainability professionals are tracking electricity use, many still don’t track for waste, water, green purchasing, carbon footprint and other sustainability metrics, according to a survey from iReuse. They also lag behind in using data tracking tools." More highlights of the "Facility and Sustainability Data Management Survey". From Environmental Leader. PDF of report here. [Benchmark yourself.]

Government and Regulation

China scraps preferential power rates for energy-intensive firms.reliability high.
"Preferential electricity rates granted by 22 provincial governments for high energy-consuming businesses have been totally scrapped, China's top economic planner announced Friday. All energy-intensive enterprises must be subject to the new power tariff surcharges introduced in May, said the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in a statement posted on its website." See Xinhua.

And: China Risks 'Sacrificing' Growth as Energy Curbs Slow Factory Production.reliability high.
"China is lagging behind a target for reducing the amount of energy used relative to gross domestic product, with only months to run in Premier Wen Jiabao's five-year plan. Policy makers’ determination to meet the goal may be tested by the need for 'sacrificing' growth in an economy that is already cooling, according to UBS AG economist Wang Tao. ... UBS estimates that an intensified campaign to achieve the goal could shave 1.8 percentage points from second- half economic growth." Story from Bloomberg News.