Posts Tagged ‘green’
“Things aren’t going as well as we’d hoped,” said Joel Makower, principal author of the 84-page report. “For the first time since we began doing our assessment, in 2008, several of the indicators have taken a downward turn.”
Each year GreenBiz examines sustainable business by tracking 20 indicators of progress that measure such things as carbon emissions, e-waste recycling, green office space, vehicle fleet emissions, toxic emissions, energy efficiency, employee commuting, corporate reporting, and a dozen other metrics. Read the rest of this entry »
More than $1.5 billion from two sources, one private and the other public, is going for renewable energy and clean technology projects.
The private venture capital firm Khosla Ventures said earlier this month that it closed on more than $1 billion in funding under two new venture funds with at least two-thirds of the money allocated for clean-tech investments, according to Samir Kaul, a general partner at the Menlo Park, CA firm.
Kholsa Ventures was founded in 2004 by Vinod Khosla, the founder and first CEO of Sun Microsystems. The firm offers venture assistance, strategic advice and capital for entrepreneurs working mainly in clean-tech areas such solar, battery, high efficiency engines, lighting, greener materials like cement, glass and bio-refineries for energy abd bioplastics, and other eco-friendly technologies.
In the two new venture funds announced early this month Khosla closed on a roughly $250 million Seed Fund designed to make investments of around $2 million each, Kaul says.
The firm also closed Khosla Ventures III at about $800 million, which will back companies with initial investments of $5 to $10 million.
This was Khosla’s first foray into raising funds from outside investors and the largest clean-tech funding by a single venture capital firm since 2007.
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) was an investor along with other unidentified pension funds, university endowments and foundations.
Kaul estimated both funds will be invested over the next three to five years, adding that Khosla is looking into various sub-sectors of clean-tech with a special focus on building materials and bioplastics.
Those “are very big markets and they are growing and there’s a lot of consumer demand,” he said.
Current bioplastics investments by Khosla include Draths Corp. of Okemos, MI and Segetis Inc. of Golden Valley, MN. Its building materials portfolio includes two California companies, Soladigm of Santa Rosa and the cement company Calera Corp., of Los Gatos.
So far this year Khosla has added seven new portfolio companies in the clean technology sector. These include Skywatch Energy in solar, HCL CleanTech Ltd. in cellulosic sugars, Hybra-Drive Systems LLC in efficiency, and Rayspan Corp. and SeaMicro Inc. in information technology.
Stimulus grants awarded by DOE and Treasury are in the first round of about $3 billion in direct payments to companies in lieu of tax credits that will eventually support an estimated 5,000 biomass, solar, wind and other renewable energy production facilities.line “These grants will help America’s businesses launch clean energy projects, putting Americans back to work in good construction and manufacturing jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Companies receiving the most money involved wid farm projects, including the Penascal wind farm ($114.1 million) in Sarita, TX; the Locust Ridge II, LLC wind project ($59.2 million) in Shenandoah, PA; the Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC wind project ($52.4 million) in Cohocton, NY; and the Wheat Field wind farm ($47.7 million) in Arlington, OR.\line Iberdrola Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Spain’s Iberdrola SA was awarded $294.9 million for five wind projects, bringing the company’s investment so far in U.S. wind power to about $1 billion. The 12 winning projects could produce 840 megawatts of electricity, representing a 3 percent increase in total U.S. renewable electricity generation capacity, the Energy Department said.
Size and distance matters a great deal when it comes to solidifying Pacific Northwest ports’ status as the “Green Gateway” for cargoes moving out of Asia.
It seems inherently obvious that the larger the cargo vessel and the shorter the route that its cargo has to travel, greenhouse gas emissions will lessen. What the Puget Sound ports of Seattle and Tacoma have done, for the first time it appears, is actually quantify this carbon footprint conclusion.
They did so in a study released Monday that estimates the GHG emissions from the delivery of cargo containers from the four most common-sized container ships in use – 4,500 TEUs, 6,500 TEUs, 8,500 TEUs, and 12,500 TEUs. The TEU, or 20-foot container equivalent unit, is the standard measure of all those ubiquitous boxes that are stacked on ships, rolling behind trucks or double-stacked on trains.
Their conclusion: The lowest emission route to ship cargo from Asia to the U.S. Midwest is through the Puget Sound – what they call the “Green Gateway” for trade.
“The carbon study results are good news, and a great boost to our efforts to measure and reduce our environmental impact,” said Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani. “Our ongoing sustainability initiatives have created a Green Gateway that is good for our environment and our customers.”
It also adds environmental street-cred in the continuing competitive commercial battle between intermodal rail and all-water container services by taking aim from a carbon footprint perspective on the advantages of rail services from West Coast ports over all-water services to the Gulf and East coasts.
The study confirms “what we’ve known for a long time,” says Port of Tacoma Executive Director Tim Farrell. “This region has been a truly green gateway for a long time, and our customers are helping us demonstrate that businesses can do well by doing good.”
The study analyzes the carbon footprints of trade routes between Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, and the U.S. distribution hubs of Chicago, Columbus and Memphis, as well as routes that use US East and Gulf Coast ports via the Panama and Suez canals. It was commissioned by the Port of Seattle and conducted by Herbert Engineering, a ship design, engineering and transportation consulting firm based in California.
A study comparison of the emissions of ocean-going containerships and domestic rail service finds that marine transportation emits about 1.5 to 2.25 less carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per TEU-mile than rail transportation. “This relationship favors shipping over rail transportation when travel distances are comparable,” the study continues. But the ocean distance from Asian ports to the West Coast ports and in particular the ports of Prince Rupert in British Columbia and Seattle “are so much shorter than the (all-water) distances to the East Coast ports that this more than offsets the detrimental impact of the longer rail distances from the West Coast ports.”
The report also finds that shipping though Seattle provides the lowest overall carbon emissions from the three Asian departure ports used in the study, when the cargo continues on to inland container terminals at Chicago and Columbus.
Prince Rupert, emerging as major rival to Seattle and Tacoma in intermodal rail services to the Midwest, has a similar emissions footprint. When shipping to Memphis, the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland have the lowest emissions.
The carbon footprint advantages from West Coast ports “can be quite significant,” the study says. For example, “carbon emissions expressed in terms of emissions per TEU moves are approximately 41% lower when moving a container between Shanghai and Chicago via the port of Seattle on a 8,500 TEU containership, as opposed to moving the same container between Shanghai and Chicago via the Panama Canal and the port of New York/New Jersey on a 4,500 TEU containership. The latter-sized vessel is the largest that can currently fit through the canal.
View the study, “Carbon Footprint Study for the Asia to North America Intermodal Trade,” here.
I was reading about David de Rothschild and his Plastiki Expedition yesterday in a New Yorker article. He’s building an entirely recyclable boat out of plastic water bottles and aims to sail it to the Eastern Garbage Patch sometime this year.
Renew Energy could close Wisconsin plant
Ethanol producer Renew Energy LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 protection under the US Bankruptcy Code in late January, announced today that it will close or sell its 130 mgy ethanol plant in Jefferson, WI if a buyer cannot be found. The sale or closure will take effect between May 18 and May 31, the company said, and would likely result in the layoff of the plant’s entire workforce of 80.
The company is a Wisconsin limited liability company with five members, each holds a 20 percent interest in the company.
For its most recent fiscal year, Renew Energy generated revenue of about $184 million. As of the Jan. 30 bankruptcy filing, it had liabilities of more than $150 million (of which $37 million is unsecured trade debt). It retained William Blair & Company L.L.C. to assist in locating lenders for a DIP facility and in soliciting purchasers of the company’s assets. In the interim, the company had negotiated a temporary DIP facility in the amount of $2.5 million from West Pointe Bank.
BioEnergy Development goes with biomass
BioEnergy Development Company, based in Fishers, IN, said late Friday that it signed a letter of intent with an area utility company and secured land options for the development and construction of a biomass electric generation plant.
The proposed plant BioEnergy Power LLC, will be located on a coal strip mine site in Clay County. The plant is expected to employ 25 to 30 full time workers upon completion.
The new plant will generate approximately 27 megawatts of electricity from wood waste that was previously provided to a paper plant in Terre Haute. The plant closed in 2007; subsequently, a Purdue University study funded by the Indiana Energy Department identified “green” energy production as the highest and best of use of wood wastes.
BioEnergy is in negotiations with a wood waste aggregator to supply the plant. Most wood waste for the plant will come from within a 100-mile radius of the proposed site. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the $17 billion per year Indiana hardwood industry has generated 1.2 million tons of annual waste for the past 25 years.
To qualify for green energy credits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, and to be certified by the U.S. Department of Energy, this plant will use only wood waste and other renewable waste biomass in power generation. To further lower the plant’s carbon footprint, BioEnergy Development is in discussions with other companies to capture carbon dioxide for use in developing other types of energy.
BioEnergy Power LLC said it intends to complete the permitting process and begin construction by fall, 2009 complete construction by the end of 2010.
The United Kingdom’s Environment Agency has given a somewhat grudging endorsement of biofuels in a new report that asks this question in its title, Biomass – carbon sink or carbon sinner?
It seems an overly clunky and cutesy title for a government agency, but that aside, the report highlights how biomass energy “could play a key role in delivering our greenhouse gas emission targets but only if action is taken to ensure it is genuinely low carbon.”
Parsing that sentence could drive one crazy: “Could play a key role?” and what does “genuinely low carbon” mean?
Somewhat better is this quote about the report on the agency website: “Using biomass to generate electricity and heat can deliver very large greenhouse gas emission savings compared with using gas or coal but only if the fuel is produced in an environmentally sustainable way and used efficiently.
“Best practice can deliver up to 98 percent less emissions than using coal but worst practice can result in more greenhouse gas emissions overall than using gas. The report estimates that greenhouse gas emissions of over three million tons of carbon dioxide per year could be saved by 2020 if good practice is followed.”
The agency urges the government to ensure that all power generators publicly report GHG emissions from producing, transporting ands using biomass fuels and “be ready to set minimum standards if required.”
GHG emissions from energy generated using biomass “are generally, but not always, lower than those from fossil fuels,” the report says. How it is produced has a major impact on emissions.
Overall the best performing biomass schemes in terms of greenhouse gas emissions are those that deliver combined heat and power rather than just electricity, which is the current trend, the report continues. “They use wastes or energy crops that have not been transported too far. The worst performing schemes are those where energy crops are grown on what was previously grassland using a lot of nitrogen fertilizers. They expend energy in processing the biomass, for example into fuel pellets, and the fuel is transported thousands of miles and burned to generate electricity only.”
Biomass heat and power is currently the largest source of renewable energy in the UK but it accounts for only 2.3 percent of the UK’s electricity generation and 1 percent of the country’s heat needs.
“It can be a low carbon renewable energy source because it is either based on wastes which would otherwise go to landfill or on energy crops and forestry that, after being harvested, continue to grow and absorb the carbon emitted when they are burned.”
The UK government’s renewable energy strategy does plan for huge growth in energy generation from biomass so that by 2020 it provides about 30 percent of renewable electricity and heat towards the UK’s overall target of 15 percent renewable energy.
“We want to ensure that the sector’s growth is environmentally sustainable and that the mistakes made with biofuels are avoided, where unsustainable growth has had to be curbed,” says Tony Grayling, the agency’s Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Development. “Biomass operators have a responsibility to ensure that biomass comes from sustainable sources, and is used efficiently to deliver the greatest greenhouse gas savings and the most renewable energy.”
Read the 12-page report here.
More backlash: There was this provocative assertion on the UK-based PeakOil news & message board: Biofuels ‘Like Pouring Vodka Into Beer.’
Huh? Is that bad or good? The short item sees that as a bad thing apparently, considering the opening line: “Biofuels could produce twice the carbon emissions of fossil fuels they replace, environmentalists have claimed.”
Talking about the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, the item says Friends of the Earth have said rules introduced a year ago requiring a percentage of UK transport fuels to be “green” could have created an extra 1.3 million tons of CO2.
Considering the source of this one, is it possible that FOE were taken out of context a teensy bit?
While corporations increasingly glom-on to Earth Day as a public relations and marketing tool to demonstrate just how green and sustainable they are – whether they really are or not – the Sierra Club is taking the jamboree back to its more populist and individual roots, with Seven Ways to Heaven on Earth Day 2009.
Don’t forget, April 22 is the 39th edition of Earth Day and as the club says, “If you let this one come and go without doing some good work to celebrate the day, well, you just might not get into heaven.”
It continues: “We confirmed with the eco angels (green wings, pesticide-free cotton gowns, and fair-trade halos) that the following seven activities will confirm your seat at that big sustainable feast in the sky.” So click the link above, read, enjoy, laugh, cry and get ready to “Get out and DO something!”
And remember: Every day is Earth Day.
There’s some heartening news on the green investment and GHG fronts.
While the stock market remains, shall we say, volatile at least it goes up and down rather than falling off another level of the cliff each day.
State of green investment
World-Wire reports that green investors, who had watched the portfolios drop even lower than the overall market, are benefiting from staying in the game. Unlike the mass of investors who sold at the bottom of the market, green investors are taking a long-term view.
Last year many green mutual funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and individual stocks fell 50-80 percent, while the Dow shed about 40 percent of its value. Green investors today can expect their portfolios to rise higher than the overall market as it recovers. Recently the Dow has gained 21 percent from its low in early March, while clean-tech indexes are up 30 percent. Green building stocks are up 11.6 percent in the past two weeks, exceeding the 7.9 percent increase registered by the S&P 500 and NASDAQ.
During a period of the most extreme withdrawals from U.S. mutual funds – 10 times the typical amounts – green mutual funds and ETFs have seen little outflow. “Investors have been holding and, since the beginning of the year, buying into these funds,” says the SustainableBusiness.com report on the State of Green Investing 2009.
“People I work with are more optimistic than I’ve seen in years,” says Sam Jones, portfolio manager of the New Power Portfolio. “The stimulus plan is a big piece of it – they finally feel they have backing. They’ve been swimming against the tide for a long time.”
Clean energy and efficiency comprise about 14 percent of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. “All the elements we advocated for are in the plan,” says Elena Foshay of the Apollo Alliance, a a group that was involved in developing the clean-tech provisions.
A survey of institutional investors representing more than $1 trillion in assets, conducted by New Energy Finance and DB Climate Change Advisors (Deutsche Bank’s climate change investment business) found that 49 percent are “more likely” or “much more likely” to increase their exposure to clean energy now than they were a year ago. Another 46 percent said their intentions haven’t changed, and just 5 percent said they’re “less likely” or “much less likely” to invest more in clean energy.
• Credit is already loosening up for clean energy projects in the US and Germany. Utility scale projects will likely drive growth beginning in the second quarter of 2009. Project financing hasn’t stopped, but has become less predictable, slower and more expensive.
• Green venture capital firms with a strong track record are able to raise funds, albeit more slowly. Those that raised funds before the crash have their pick of strong candidates at lower valuations.
• Worldwide, over $200 billion in incentives and spending for renewable energy, energy efficient buildings, smart grid and clean transportation is evident in stimulus bills across the world. Industry insiders expect the cleantech industry alone to create at least 2 million jobs in the U.S.
• The latest data from NASA shows unprecedented global warming in 2008 – 20 times that of recent annual warming, exceeding that of conservative climate model projections. 2000 scientists at a March conference in Copenhagen warned policy-makers to “vigorously” implement policies. Research shows that even the most stringent greenhouse gas reduction targets can benefit the economy, rather than hurt it.
• The big question for many years has been whether companies that make a commitment to sustainability outperform their peers. Last year, in the most difficult of economic periods, they did. In 16 out of 18 industries, companies with a commitment to sustainability outperformed industry averages by a significant 15%, representing $650 million in protected market capitalization per company, according to A.T. Kearney. Investing in sustainability for the long term will prove to be the best way to protect a company’s value through the months and years ahead.
Progressive Investor said the following leaders in each Green Stock category “should outperform” this year:
• Solar: First Solar (FSLR), SunPower (SPWR)
• Wind: Vestas (VWS.CO), Gamesa (GAM.MC)
• Geothermal: Ormat (ORA), WaterFurnace (WFI.TO)
• Smart Grid: IBM (IBM), Itron (ITRI), EnerNoc (ENOC)
• Energy Efficient Buildings: Owens Corning (OC), Baldor Electric (BEZ), ICF International (ICFI)
• Water: TetraTech (TTEK), Northwest Pipe (NWPX)
Click here to view SustainableBusiness.com’s excellent and comprehensive Green Stock Watch.
Slow progress on climate in Bonn
At least there’s progress. The latest round of U.N. talks on a treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ended yesterday in Bonn. Officiasl said “important progress” was achieved, but there is still lots of work and more meetings ahead.
“Countries have narrowed gaps in many practical areas, for example on how to strengthen action for adapting to the impacts of climate change,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“This is important progress given the very limited time negotiators have to get to an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in December this year,” de Boer said.
Copenhagen, Denmark will be the site of the UN’s annual climate change conference at which countries are expected to adopt an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period for reducing greenhouse gas emissions ends in 2012.
Negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions reductions to be achieved by industrialized countries after 2012 centered on issues related to the scale of the reductions, improvements to emissions trading and the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon offset mechanisms, as well as concerns relating to land-use change and forestry.
A friendly atmosphere is fine, but step up the pace, says the World Wildlife Fund.
“Friendly rhetoric certainly helps, but without serious commitment and binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide it simply isn’t good enough to protect a fragile planet from runaway climate change,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.
“The atmosphere at the talks in Bonn may have improved, but the climate out there is still spinning out of control. We must turn nice words into aggressive action to tackle the giant threat that’s upon us,” he said.
“Stringent targets for emission cuts will be the heart of the new global deal, and finance for technology and adaptation is the lifeblood,” Carstensen continued. “But the heart is not beating and the blood is not flowing, as Bonn only managed to build a frame and some muscles, bringing parties closer to consensus on the overall structure and the mechanisms of the deal.”
An Industry Week article speculates the Obama Administration is poised for a “major expansion” of cellulosic ethanol.
The report says the appointment of Steve Koonin, former chief scientist at BP, to the position of Under-Secretary of Energy, reporting to Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu is an indicator. Koonin and Chu are physicists who worked together through Energy Biosciences Institute.
From the IW article: “There are a multitude of folks chasing this cellulosic ethanol grail,” said Joe Skurla, CEO of Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE), a joint venture of Dupont; and Danish enzyme and biotech company Danisco. “Those that are aligned with large companies and have their own funding are more likely to succeed.”
Here’s the link to the article: Industry Week
Biofuels Digest has pulled together a list of cellulosic ethanol plants that are open or in the planning stages (sources: IEA Task 39 Group, Biofuels Digest, Reuters). It’s one of the more comprehensive lists of the players I’ve seen.
Company name location capacity in mgy feedstock
-AE Biofuels Montana 0.15 Corn, corn stover
-KL Energy Corp Wyoming 1.5 Wood
-Poet S. Dakota 0.02 Corn cobs
-Verenium Louisiana 1.4 Bagasse
Commercial scale plants not yet open:
-Abengoa Bioenergy Kansas 30 Biomass
-BlueFire Mecca Llc Calif 17 Green waste
-Colusa Biomass Calif 12.5 Rice hulls
-Gulf Coast Energy Florida 25 Woody biomass
-Mascoma Corp Michigan 40 Woody biomass
-Poet Iowa 25 Corn cobs, stover
-Range Fuels Georgia 20 Woody biomass
-US Envirofuels LLC Florida 20 Sorghum, sugar cane
-Verenium-BP Florida 36 Energy cane, sorghum
Pilot, or pre-commercial plants, not open yet:
Company location capacity feedstock
-Abengoa Nebraska 10 Corn stover
-BlueFire Calif 3.2 Green landfill waste
-Citrus Energy Llc Florida 4 Citrus waste
-Clemson University S. Carolina 10 Wood waste, algae
-Coskata Pennsylvania 0.04 Woody biomass, waste
-Dupont Danisco Tennessee 0.25 Switchgrass, stover
-Ecofin Llc Kentucky 1 Corn cobs
-Fulcrum Nevada 10.5 Municipal waste
-GulfCoast Energy Alabama 0.4 Wood Waste
-Flambeau River Wisconsin 6 Forest, paper waste
-ICM Inc Missouri 1.5 Switchgrass, sorghum
-KL Energy Corp Colorado 5 Wood pellets
-Liberty Industries Florida 7 Forest waste
-NewPage Wisconsin 5.5 Woody biomass
-Pacific Ethanol Oregon 2.7 Wheat straw, poplar
-PureVision Colorado 2 Corn stalks
-RSE Pulp & Chem Maine 2.2 Woody biomass
-SunOpta Minnesota 10 Corn stover, waste
-University of Florida Florida 2 Bagasse
-West Biofuels Calif 0.18 Wood chips
(Mgy: million gallons/year)
These days it’s not just about following the money. More importantly, it’s also about finding the best way to find the money that’s out there while making the process more visible and transparent.
That’s a tall order for companies trying to do the right thing on the sustainability front while delving into the murky world of finance and investment for funding, which by its very nature is prone to opaqueness, complexity and secrecy.
Simply put it’s tough to reach investors even in a solid financial and economic environment. So dotting the i’s on sustainability is becoming a crucial piece of the funding puzzle.
That’s where the Global Reporting Initiative, an Amsterdam non-profit, enters the picture. It has developed a framework for disclosure on environmental, social and governance data – also known as ESG disclosures or sustainability reporting – and in a report this week says that companies that fail to link their sustainability reporting and activities to an overall corporate strategy likely will fail to connect with investors.
The report – “Reaching Investors: Communicating Value through ESG disclosures” – was written following “extensive consultation” with the finance industry.
GRI says investors have been a key driver in promoting sustainability reporting – they are increasingly asking companies for ESG information to help them make their investment decisions. Assets of more than $15 trillion – or about 15 percent of total global capital markets – are now managed by signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).
“UNPRI signatories commit to integrating ESG issues into investment analysis and to seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues,” GRI said. The disclosure is based on the GRI reporting framework.
Sean Gilbert, Sustainability Reporting Framework Director at GRI said: “As we can see from the number of investors now actively seeking ESG information in order to help them base investment decisions, the dichotomy between sustainability and long-term business value is false.”
But the report says that for the ESG data to be useful to investors “it must be presented in a consistent way,” in a combined sustainability and annual report, for instance, or in separate documents such as CEO or board statements.
The link between a company’s performance on environmental, social and governance issues and its business strategy is crucial, the report says. “Without this link investors will have no way to gauge what the ESG disclosure might mean for the financial bottom line.”
Sustainability reporting should demonstrate “how the company’s behavior in a rapidly changing economic, environmental and social context is affecting its long-term value – for example how the company is dealing with risks and opportunities presented by climate change or how it is addressing poverty and inequalities in the communities in which it operates and thus derives its workforce and consumers.
“In this context, business has to think differently and perform differently and, as we’ve seen, investors are increasingly seeking out ESG leaders. Sustainability reporting should help investors find those companies as well as help the companies understand how they themselves are positioned in the context of sustainability,” Gilbert said.
It may be that companies and their potential investors are getting it; that a company’s green and sustainable strategy must be an integral part of the overall corporate strategy if they expect to get some greenbacks. A recent survey from the financial research firm KPMG says the majority of the Global Fortune 250 companies now issue sustainability reports.
Given recent financial history it might also help if investors were to implement some sustainable reporting, and lending, of their own.
The report can be downloaded on www.globalreporting.org