Friday, July 30, 2010

Green press chronicles clean energy evolution

Green jobs, green business and green energy. The terms are batted around like crazy, especially on the clean energy news sites we follow here at the SJVCEO.

And according to a series of studies, the sector is due for substantial growth -- or could be depending on friendly legislation, according to a series of studies.

Here are a couple of stories offering anecdotal evidence of that green surge. Tony Illia of the Las Vegas Business Press does a good job showing the connection clean energy and green practices have to saving money and providing value in a battered economy in his story "Green's monstrous growth."

The gist of the story is perhaps best reflected in a quote Illia got from McGraw-Hill Construction Vice President Harvey Bernstein, who said, "Green growth is phenomenal across the globe. The expansion of green products and services will have a long-term impact on our future economy and ability to build green."

He also quoted Rick Van Diepen, 2010 president of the Nevada chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, as saying, "Developers and owners are seeing the value in green building as a competitive differentiator. The bottom-line decisions are becoming paramount in terms of lowering operating costs."

We've heard the same from Loren Aiton, board president of U.S. Green Building Council Central California, who says building green pays for itself and is relatively cheap on the front end. He said LEED certification adds 4 percent to 5 percent to construction cost and a little more if you go to the ultimate platinum level, but the building's efficiency pedigree speaks for itself in the marketplace for buyers and renters. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and has become an industry standard for energy efficiency and green building practices.

Another round-up of green energy activity comes from online news service sierra2thesea.com in the story, "Tulare & Kings Counties Going From Nada Watts To Mega Watts."

The Central San Joaquin Valley, sierra2thesea founder John Lindt offers, "is suddenly ground zero for the solar transformation of California." His story lists a range of projects: "Tulare County has attracted 13 applications for special use permits mostly 20 megawatts." Kings County has potential projects from 20 to 5,000 megawatts.

We'll be watching closely.

Photo: Kern Schools Federal Credit Union in Bakersfield, among the first LEED certified buildings in the Central San Joaquin Valley, courtesy USGBC CC.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's getting hot out there

The results are in and it's official. The world is getting warmer.

The State of the Climate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and issued this week spells out a pretty bleak picture of environmental trends. The report tapped the talents of more than 300 scientists from 48 countries who analyzed data on 37 climate indicators, including sea ice, glaciers and air temperatures.

"The earth is growing warmer and has been for more than three decades," the report says. "A warmer climate means higher sea level, humidity and temperatures in the air and ocean. A warmer climate also means less snow cover, melting Arctic sea ice and shrinking glaciers."

While some dispute the global warming finding, results of a poll released this week indicate continued support in California for AB 32, the embattled state law that calls for Californians to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The report by the Public Policy Institute of California shows 67 percent supporting the law.

Ten key indicators stand out in the State of the Climate report, and all indicate warming trends. Those indicators were ocean heat content, air temperature near surface, temperature over oceans, temperatures over land, humidity, sea level, snow cover, glaciers and sea ice.

The report said most of that heat -- 90 percent-- is being absorbed by the ocean. "Warming has been observed as far as 6,000 feet below the surface, but most of the heat is accumulating in the oceans’ near-surface layers, the report says. "The implications are considerable. First, because water expands as it warms, ocean heating is responsible for much of the sea-level rise we’ve observed. Melting of land-based ice is
responsible for the rest."

The report also said despite fluctuations, such as last year's cold snap in the middle and eastern regions of the United States, the average temperatures continues to climb.

For more on the report and poll, read KQED's Climate Watch.

Photo: Satellite imagery from NOAA shows the decline of Arctic Sea ice over the past 30 years. Both images were taken when the ice was at its lowest in September.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State Energy Officials Consider Alternatives To PACE


California energy officials stood by the embattled PACE program today, but said they also will consider alternatives to the plan that has drawn fire from a federal housing finance agency.

California Energy Commission staffers were adamant that the Federal Housing Finance Agency was wrong, and is essentially punishing homeowners, by derailing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs that several counties in California were undertaking.

But commissioners also acknowledged the obstacles - and wanted to ensure $30 million in PACE financing doesn't disappear because it's not committed by the Dec. 31 deadline. So, they reluctantly agreed to consider a Plan B if Plan A - PACE - falls apart. They are scheduled to revisit the issue Aug. 6.

Claudia Chandler, chief deputy director of the CEC, said the staff is conducting a "full-court press" to come up with an alternative. Failing that, the ultimate fall back is to add the $30 million to an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act energy-conservation loan program that has considerable demand.

Chandler and others said PACE remains the preferred option because it enables homeowners to cut energy bills, add value to their homes and creates jobs. In Sonoma County, an in-progress PACE program has financed more than 1,000 upgrades in 16 months, put $30 million of new investment into the community and directly and indirectly created an estimated 330 jobs.

Sonoma County plans to keep its PACE program regardless of concerns by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the two mortgage giants it oversees, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said John Haig, energy and sustainability manager for Sonoma County.

PACE was designed to allow California homeowners to finance energy-efficiency upgrades through an assessment on their property tax. FHFA opposed the program, saying the PACE debt takes priority of mortgage debt.

California officials say that's not true. The assessments are tied to the property, not to the borrower, and data shows pilot PACE programs have default rates significantly below mortgage debt. And they pressed their case in court when Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit July 14 against Fannie and Freddie.

Sonoma County also has filed suit, and an array of legislators have submitted bills to keep up the PACE. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he is willing to add PACE language to a watered-down energy bill if a Republican joins in, according to grist, an online clean-energy publication.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region











Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Electric cars are coming to a showroom near you

Nissan said today it will debut its all-electric Leaf in California and four other states in December, while General Motors is expected to allow consumers to drive off in its Chevy Volt this fall.

Meanwhile, GM ended nearly three years of speculation by announcing today that it will slap a $41,000 price on the base model of its electric automobile. "Taking the $7,500 tax credit into account, the net cost to the buyer will thus be $33,500," according to gm-volt.com. "GM is pricing the car’s lease price much more aggressively. The three-year, 36-month lease payment will be $350 per month with $2,500 down payment."

Nissan priced its Leaf at $32,780, according to Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post.

"At those prices, the cars are considerably more expensive than comparably sized cars that run on gas, such as the Honda Civic or the Ford Focus, each of which costs under $20,000," Whoriskey writes.

"Moreover, General Motors is hoping the Volt's added capability will attract buyers who are considering the Leaf. The Volt's battery -- with a range of 40 miles -- is supplemented by a gasoline-powered generator that allows it to go another 340 miles. The Leaf has a range of 100 miles on its battery."

The marketability of both cars remains untested. After a boost provided by initial media attention, sales could stagnate. The uncertainty over the technology and an unwillingness by the American public to adapt to different requirements of a new technology could further erode potential market share.

However, both automakers are staking millions of dollars on their electric cars. And although pricing remains a question many speculate the clean cars will find fans. Here's a post from nuclearboy on gm-volt.com: "They deserve this price and the car is worth far more than a 100 mile range BEV (battery electric vehicle). Everyone of them will sell. Demand for them will spur on the process of developing Volt Version 2.0."

In addition to California, Nissan will sell its Leaf in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee. The company said the areas are home to the EV Project, an effort partly funded by a U.S. Department of Energy and under partnership with ECOtality to provide charging stations.

The Leaf will be introduced to Texas and Hawaii in January 2011; to North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Alabama in April 2011; and to the rest of the country a year from now.

"Consumer feedback and market readiness have been key drivers in developing our phased rollout," said Brian Carolin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America. "Nissan is able to target areas of customer demand for early launch, while continuing to work in future markets to ensure the continued success of electric vehicles."

Report links national security to energy independence

A report released today links national security to energy independence and says the U.S. Department of Defense stands the best chance of guiding development of alternative sources of power and defusing the growing threat caused by relying on other countries for fuel.

"America's current energy posture undermines our economic security and constitutes a serious and urgent threat to our national security," said officials of CNA, a not-for-profit research and analysis firm based in Alexandria, Va. that released the report.

The Defense Department is uniquely positioned to spur clean energy innovation "because of its size, the considerable amount of energy it consumes and its extensive experience in technological innovation," says the report, issued by CNA's Military Advisory Board. "DoD is in a position to help drive this change -- for itself and the nation as a whole."

CNA says the board is made up of 15 top-ranking admirals and generals.

The report, Powering America's Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroads of National Security, says that without a strong economy, the United States has neither a strong defense, nor effective international influence.

"We need to remain competitive in the world as we move toward a future of green, sustainable energy," said Gen. Charles F. "Chuck" Wald, USAF (Ret.), in a statement. "The biggest motivation to do it is national security."

The report draws similarities of the race to get a man into space back in the 1960s between the U.S. and USSR. It lists China, Spain, Germany and even the United Arab Emirates as pushing forward with greater gusto and success than the United States in the realm of green energy innovation. Failure to develop its own technology would again require the U.S. to depend on foreign nations to meet future energy needs, the report says.

U.S. military might could eliminate that concern. "Numerous widely adopted technologies, including the jet engine, gas turbines, solid-state electronics, and the Internet were pioneered by the United States military," the report said.

The report also said the Defense Department should partner with the U.S. Department of Energy for that agency's "robust research and development capability for energy technologies and vast knowledge base."

Gen. Gordon Sullivan (Ret.), chairman of CNA's Military Advisory Board, said, "The DoD-DoE partnership, which has been successful in the past, could be instrumental in the move away from fossil fuels if there is a willingness to empower this team to seek clean, renewable, and economical sources of power for domestic use."

The report said the U.S. government "should take bold and aggressive action to support clean energy technology innovation and significantly decrease the nation's dependence on fossil fuels."

The CNA Military Advisory Board also produced the 2007 report "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" and the 2009 report "Powering America's Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security." Its roster includes retired 2-, 3- and 4-star flag and general officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserve. The board includes a former Army Chief of Staff, commanders of U.S. forces in global regions, and leaders in logistics, procurement, research and development, engineering, nuclear energy and ocean management.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Market for biomass energy to grow 18% in next decade, study says

Energy generated from agriculture waste, manure and other wastes and feedstocks should reach a market value of $53 billion by 2020, a study released today says.

Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research in its report Biomass Markets and Technologies cited continued "significant investments" in biomass research and development and the pace of commercializing new technologies. Advances made in cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from relatively cheap to produce switch grass rather than corn, and algae are among those advances.

“Biomass will continue to be the leading source of renewable energy,” said Clint Wheelock, Pike Research managing director, in a statement. “While it does not have the celebrity appeal of solar, wind or other emerging technologies, biomass is an affordable and reliable form of power generation. In addition, we expect continued growth in the adoption of biofuels during the next decade, as well as a proliferation of bioproducts such as plastics and chemicals.”

That may be good news for Sacramento-based Pacific Ethanol, which has an idled plant in Madera County and whose stock is hovering around the 50 cents-per-share mark. The company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy but reached an agreement with creditors in June and expects to restart its idled plants soon.

Biomass, as defined by Pike for the purposes of its report, also includes corn and grains, plants and forest resources, construction and industry waste, food industry wastes and municipal waste.

Wheelock said applications for biomass range from power generation to heating, transportation fuels, chemicals and plastics. He said development of the biomass industry is driven by government policies and mandates and, "while world governments are likely to back away from some of the aggressive targets set a few years ago, Pike Research anticipates that biomass will continue to be a significant focus for energy policymakers."

Photo: Courtesy Pike Research.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Knew Postal Service Could Be Model Of Green





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Anyone who thinks energy efficiency isn't worth the cost should study the example of the U.S. Postal Service.

The federal agency figured it would cut energy bills at a New York City processing center by $30,000 per year. Instead, the new green roof and other energy-saving measures whacked off a whopping $1 million.

Installing the green roof, changing 1,600 windows and other upgrades slashed energy consumption 40% per month. The crown jewel of the project, the green roof, covers nearly 2.5 acres. Nearly 90% of the original roof was recycled and used during the remodeling. The new roof is project to last 50 years, twice as long as the original covering.


The New York City building is pursuing LEED certification, following post offices in Denver, CO. and Southampton, N.Y., and processing centers in Greenville, S.C., and Troy, MI.

As a result, the Postal Service is more than two thirds of the way to achieving its goal of 30% energy reduction by 2015.


The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley
(photo by Sigal Ben-Shmuel/EKLA)

Big wind project secures financing near Tehachapi

Terra-Gen Power LLC says it has secured $1.2 billion in financing to build four wind-powered electrical generation projects near Tehachapi.

Officials estimate it will generate about 1,500 jobs.

The combined generating capacity is 570 megawatts, or enough electricity to supply 570,000 homes. The project would bolster the 3,000 megawatt Alta Wind Energy Center, which was started in the 1980s and "where former Governor Jerry Brown jump-started the US wind industry back in the early ’80s with 55% tax credits. Back then, because of those policies, California led the nation in wind and solar," wrote Susan Kraemer on Cleantechnica.com.

Terra-Gen officials said in a statement that combined with another project which received financing in March, this would put the New York-based company "well on its way to completing what is anticipated to be the largest wind energy farm in the nation."

John O’Connor, chief financial officer of Terra-Gen, said project financing is a first using a leveraged lease and a bond issuance under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 144A, which "are not required to be registered with the SEC and may not be resold to individual investors, but may be traded between qualified institutional buyers," according to an article by Miles Livingston and Lei Zhou on moneywatch.com.

"We are hopeful that these benchmarks will expand the capital base available to fund future growth in the renewables sector,” O'Connor said.

Jim Pagano, CEO of Terra-Gen said the project expands California's renewable energy base and helps achieve energy independence. “The Alta projects I-V will create more than 1,500 domestic manufacturing, construction and operation and maintenance jobs, and inject more than $600 million into the local economy," he said.
Construction is expected to begin immediately, and commercial energy production should start next year.

Power will be delivered to the Los Angeles Basin through Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in March 2007. Construction on the project is now under way. SCE officials say it is the "first major energy transmission project in California being constructed specifically to access multiple renewable generators in a remote renewable-rich resource area."

Photo: Courtesy Southern California Edison.

Challenge prompts automotive fleets to reduce CO2 emissions

The results are in, and they look pretty good for a carbon dioxide-reducing challenge sponsored by Wheels Inc.

The Des Plaines, Ill.-based automotive fleet leasing company today said that its inaugural EcoWheels Green Driver Challenge, which enlisted 2,970 corporate fleet vehicle drivers, prevented tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

The ten-week program got pledges from drivers "whose actions are equivalent to saving 4,640,520 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of 341,787 trees having been planted," officials said in a statement.

The exact amount is near impossible to measure. However, the EcoWheels Challenge Web site provides some clarity. It provided those who signed up a checklist of activities with estimates for each energy-saving measure. The list included checking tires to ensure proper inflation, reducing idling time, planning routes in advance of any trip, accelerating more gradually and leaving excess cargo.

"It is clear that our drivers are excited about the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operate their vehicles more efficiently while still carrying out the duties of their respective jobs," said Dan Frank, president of Wheels Services. "The drivers took action that made a significant contribution to the preservation of our environment while at the same time reducing their fuel consumption and expenses."

Forty-one different corporate fleets participated, including SimplexGrinnell, a Boca Raton, Florida-based fire suppression and emergency communications company.

"The EcoWheels program demonstrated the significant impact our employees can have by making simple changes in driving habits and embracing the importance of conservation and environmental protection," said Jim Spicer, president of SimplexGrinnell.

The results encouraged Gail Watson, fleet manager, Nationwide Insurance, who said, "We actively search for opportunities to improve our operating efficiency and to reduce waste, and participating in this challenge shows that you don't need to be in manufacturing in order to make sustainability a priority."

Wheels officials said they will continue to share information with customers so fleet drivers "can make smart, environmentally sound driving decisions year-round." The framework of the challenge is relatively simple, and its recommendations can be adopted by drivers in any size fleet.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Studies: More Smog, Less H20 Possible In California


Climate change will increase pollution levels and decrease water supplies in portions of the San Joaquin Valley, according to two just-released reports.

If both are true, the ramifications of climate change bode ill for residents of the Valley, which already has some of the worst air pollution in the nation and is one of the top farming regions in the world.

In one Air Resources Board report, scientists at Universities of California at Davis and Berkeley found that California by 2050 could experience as many as six to 30 more days with ozone concentrations that exceed federal clean-air standards.

The study also predicts that peak concentrations of dangerous airborne particles will increase in the San Joaquin Valley as climate change affects wind patterns. "Now we have scientific evidence that higher temperatures are hurting our lungs," Air Resources Board Chairperson Mary D. Nichols said in a statement released with the report.

The new study provides evidence of what is called "climate penalty" - where rising temperatures increase ground-level ozone and airborne particles, despite achievements by programs targeting smog-forming emissions from cars, trucks and industry.

"Climate change and regional air pollution are intertwined problems," added Dr. Michael J. Kleeman of UC, Davis. "We must consider climate change and air pollution together as we plan for the future."

The researchers merged results of large-scale global models with detailed models for the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley. One positive note: The study found that climate could decrease particulate matter concentratiosn in coastal California.

Still, it's not good news for the San Joaquin Valley, where childhood asthma rates are among the highest in the nation.

If that study isn't bad enough, there's another equally depressing report. This one, released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, says a study by Tetra Tech concluded that climate change could increase the risk of severe water shortages in 48 of California's 58 counties - including most in the central San Joaquin Valley - by 2050.

Those at-risk counties produce some $21.5 billion worth of crops, with farmers in Fresno County contributing $5 billion to that total.

The report uses publicly available water-use data and climate projections from models used in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change work to evaluate water withdrawals. "The analysis shows...over one out of three U.S. counties facing greater risks of water shortages," said Dan Lashof, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report noted that already in some areas, including parts of California, water use exceeds supply.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.
(Graphic from climatescience.gov)



Friday, July 23, 2010

Get ready for Home Star: federal help for energy efficiency retrofits

This is a guest post from Houston Neal, director of marketing for Software Advice, an Austin, Texas-based software consultant.

The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 -- informally known as "cash for caulkers" -- is nearly here. The bill was passed earlier this summer by the House of Representatives and now awaits approval from the Senate. Supporters predict it will pass before the end of the summer.

In the meantime, homeowners and contractors should be doing their homework. The legislation describes 13 types of renovations that will be eligible for funding. Each renovation has unique eligibility requirements and predetermined rebate amounts. To take advantage of coming funds, homeowners need ensure their retrofits comply with the bill's specifications.

Software Advice, an online technology resource for contractors, recently put together a "definitive guide to cash for caulkers." The company lists all the detailed requirements in an easy-to-read table. It also has combined the retrofits into three packages to help homeowners make the most of the rebates:

  • Seal Your House Envelope and Improve Insulation -- Homeowners need to weatherize and seal their house “envelope” before carrying out any serious retrofit.
  • Repair and Replace Leaky Ducts -- Ducts are notoriously leaky and inefficient. They are one of the usual suspects in a crime of high utility bills or when rooms are difficult to heat and cool.
  • Upgrade Your Furnace and Water Heater -- Improving the heating efficiency of your home will have the biggest impact on lowering your energy costs. Sealing air leaks is a good start, but replacing your heating system could provide real leverage toward cost savings.
To learn more, click here.

About the author: Houston Neal joined Software Advice in 2007, just shortly after the company was started. He spends most of his day writing for the company blog and getting the word out about Software Advice's resources. He enjoys researching and reporting trends in software and technology, and has a particular interest in developments in "green" technology.

Boxer Offers Up Bill To Keep PACE Alive



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U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and colleagues from three other states have joined the fight to keep Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs in place, offering a companion bill to a House version introduced earlier.

Boxer, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced a bill Thursday to protect the energy-efficiency and job generating PACE programs. "The current uncertainty surrounding PACE programs is jeopardizing $110 million in federal investments for California communities, which is simply unacceptable," Boxer said in a statement. "We must take action to protect these initiatives because they create jobs, save homeowners money on their energy bills and help our environment."

PACE programs create bond-financing mechanisms to loan money for energy-saving retrofits. Owners repay the loans over 20 years through their property-tax bills.

Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, along with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, opposed the program because PACE debt is higher priority than mortgage debt should property owners default.

The FHFA ordered Fannie and Freddie to take additonal actions to limit the use of PACE programs in connection with their home mortgages. And there is some concern the controversy could spread to commercial properties even though Fannie and Freddie have no authority over them.

It's anybody's guess what happens at this point. There has been talk of creating a large pilot program to test PACE or abandoning the residential program in favor of one focused on commercial buildings - where there is likely to be more bang for the buck anyway.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Roof-top solar to soar, studies say

Advances in technology and product development will spur significant growth in the use of solar-infused roofing products that are almost indistinguishable from standard shingles, two reports contend.

In fact, Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research, a clean technology market and consulting firm, says the market could expand by about 271 percent by 2014 to 886 megawatts.

"As an outside possibility, this market could grow to as much as 1,200 MW (megawatts) if the cost of solar shingles can be driven to less than $1.15/W (per watt) while maintaining the size and esthetics of normal slate tiles," wrote Dave Cavanaugh of Pike Research in a blog post.

Cavanaugh defined the roof-top solar products in question as building integrated and building applied photovoltaics, "as solar products designed to replace conventional building materials, to be installed as part of a rooftop structure, and to be esthetically pleasing." He said that previous availability of such products has been limited.

But that's about to change.

Cavanaugh said new products are expected from Dow Solar Solutions, Solarfun and Canadian Solar. Other companies that expect to add products to their existing lineups include UniSolar, Swiss Solar Systems, Scheuten Solar and Shuco. This availability has been spurred by "a number of new developments such as the developing ability to laminate relatively high-efficiency (currently just under 11 percent) CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and selenium) panels into shingles that replace conventional asphalt shingles and generate power at the same time."

CIGS is a semi-conductor material used in thin-film solar applications. Cavanaugh said once the shingles can be installed by professional roofers, and allow mechanical and electrical connection, "the residential market ... would be limited only by the cost of the shingles."

Pike's findings are backed up by a report from GTM Research, which is affiliated with web energy news site greentechmedia.com. "Products based on the concept of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are beginning to emerge in the marketplace after more than 20 years of R&D."

GTM said thin-film photovoltaics enable the development because of their superior flexibility compared with conventional silicon-based solar technology.

Will it happen? Look at the roof-tops in the next couple of years. While some of the new products may not be noticeable, roofers usually place a sign in a yard after they do a job. And that sign should indicate whether it's solar. In new subdivisions, builders likewise will tout their solar cred.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Photo: Courtesy Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingle.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fuels from sunlight? Energy Department says, 'Make it so'

A California team won an award of up to $122 million to produce fuels from the sun, the U.S. Department of Energy said today.

The key appears simple in concept but Star Trek complex in execution. The mission will be making it commercially viable.

"Finding a cost-effective way to produce fuels as plants do -- combining sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide -- would be a game changer, reducing our dependence on oil and enhancing energy security," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, in a statement.

The award is over five years. It went to the California Institute of Technology, which is partnering with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other California institutions, and will establish the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis.

"With this award, some of California's top scientists will continue to lead the way forward by working together to create 'artificial photosynthesis,' a process that can emulate the inner workings of plant life to produce a useful transportation fuel we can put right into our cars without further processing," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the DOE statement.

"If successful, this concept -- to combine sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to produce a clean fuel -- would revolutionize the energy sector. It would help scrub the atmosphere of excessive carbon dioxide, help eliminate our dependence on oil, and generate an innovative industry in the heart of California. This is very exciting."

The operation is one of three that will receive money from DOE this year. The agency announced in May that a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory will pursue research on modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors. The final selection has yet to be announced.

DOE officials explained cracking the sunlight-to-fuel process this way: "Research will be directed at the discovery of the functional components necessary to assemble a complete artificial photosynthetic system: light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes. The Hub will then integrate those components into an operational solar fuel system and develop scale-up strategies to move from the laboratory toward commercial viability."

Clear as mud?

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Clean energy policy could generate huge economic dividends, study says


The federal government could generate as many as 2.5 million jobs and $134 billion in economic activity in the next decade if it were to adopt clean energy policies and establish limits on greenhouse gases, a new report said today.

The report, aptly titled "Energy Policy Report: Impacts of Comprehensive Climate and Energy Policy Options on the U.S. Economy," based its conclusions on climate policies developed by 16 states. The report was created by the Center for Climate Strategies and published with Johns Hopkins University. It calls for "adoption of 23 specific policy approaches that have the potential to reduce pollution, are cost-effective, and improve energy, health, environment, and economic development."

"The economic analysis of these plans ... indicates that these stakeholder-recommended policies can, if designed properly, actually spur the economy, create jobs and reduce energy prices while significantly reducing emissions," the report says.

California, which has developed its own greenhouse gas reduction policy, the Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, was not included in the list. However, its policies already have had effects, prompting utilities to snap up renewable power contracts to meet benchmarks established by the law, subsequently spurring growth in wind and solar installations.

"Several states have pioneered creation of comprehensive state climate action plans in recent years," said Tom Peterson, president and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies, in a statement. "Our analysis provides the first clear indication of what would happen to the economy if such programs were adopted at the federal level."

The policies specified by Center for Climate Strategies include adopting crop production techniques to enhance greenhouse gas savings, increasing methane production from livestock waste, maintaining and replanting forests, enhancing recycling, capturing methane from landfills, adding nuclear power, capturing carbon, improving coal plant emissions, upgrading building codes, adding energy efficiency retrofits to buildings, creating biofuel standards and others. Policies would mean targeted funding, tax and price incentives, reform of codes and standards, technical assistance, information and education, reporting and disclosure and voluntary and negotiated agreements.

"These results may sound surprising to some, but detailed analysis shows opportunities for well-chosen policies to expand the economy," said Adam Rose of University of Southern California, a principal author of the study.

The report won the endorsement of Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA chief and New Jersey governor, who said, the "findings substantiate that advanced climate actions are essential to establishing a stable and strong economy, using clean energy sources, including renewables and nuclear power, as the primary drivers, long into the future." Whitman is co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a proponent of nuclear energy.

Photo: One of Visalia's new buses that runs on compressed natural gas. Incentives would include upgrading fleets to reduce pollutants.

Saving billions of dollars the easy way



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We here at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization are all about energy efficiency. We know retrofits and upgrades are an easy cost-effective way to cut utility costs. And when your power bill is less, you have more money in your pocket.

But even we were stunned by how much money businesses and landlords across the country are leaving on the table: $41 BILLION per year. That's how much the nation could save if all 79 billion square feet of commercial buildings in the U.S. was retrofitted to be energy efficient, according to a study released by Pike Research and noted by CNET News.

Just imagine what that means in an economic crisis like this. Businesses and government could hire more people, or at the very least not cut as many jobs. Companies could invest and devote more resources to research and technology. People would be put to work making the upgrades.

Consumers would have more money in their pockets. They would buy more cars, refrigerators and clothes. And that doesn't include the other positives of greenhouse gas reductions, energy independence, higher property values and increased productivity, as noted in this report by Candace Lombardi.

Of course, building owners have the initial cost of the upgrades, estimated collectively at $22.5 billion a year over 10 years . That, of course, is part of the problem, Lombardi notes when she quotes the report: "The current financial crisis has had a significant dampening effect on property owners' investments in their properties. Financing for such projects is scarce."

Despite that, Pike Research believes energy retrofits will grow over the next four years. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman in this just released op-ed piece that argues for climate legislation, says such investment is crucial.

He cites research that shows annual investment in energy would increase $11 billion if climate legislation passed. "That’s new employment from a private sector stimulus," Friedman says.


The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.







Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Norway tops zero-carbon index, U.S. improves

Norway topped the list of countries developing a zero-carbon environment, according to a recently released study.

The study by London-based Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors showed Brazil in second place and the United Kingdom in third. China and Australia filled out the top five, tying for fourth place. The institute commissioned the the Environment Institute at University College London to develop the Global Zero Carbon Capacity Index, which seeks to gauge progress made toward "decarbonised built environment at the national level."

The United States came in at No. 25, just behind Mexico at No. 24.

The index measures energy consumption in residential, industry and transportation; the share of renewable energy in terms of total production; and policies that promote "zero-carbon
built environments."

"Governments must provide incentives and implement initiatives to create a zero-carbon built environment," said Stephen Brown, the institute's head of research, to BusinessGreen.com.

The study highlighted the importance of energy efficiency retrofits in buildings. It cited statistics from the International Energy Association, which said, buildings consume 40 percent of total energy demand today and will account for 30 percent of projected growth between now and 2050.

The rest of the rankings look like this: New Zealand No. 6, India No. 7, Austria No. 8, Germany No. 9 and Sweden No. 10.

"The countries that have made the greatest improvements in their ranking are the Slovak Republic, France, Germany and USA," said Yvonne Rydin, the report's author. "However, the absolute improvement in Index score for
the USA is less than that for the other countries, reflecting less movement in the individual indicators."

Federal Govt Is Cool - At Least On Rooftops


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The federal Department of Energy and possibly other federal agencies will build cool roofs on their structures as part of a plan to reduce energy bills and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The agency said cool roofs will be installed on new or replacement roofs whenever it makes economic sense. Already, the National Nuclear Security Administration - a separate agency within the DOE - has installed more than 2 million square feet of cool and white roofs across the country, saving an estimated $500,000 per year in energy costs.

The NNSA has reduced heating and cooling costs an estimated 70% annually through cool roofs and more insulation. Expectations call for $10 million in savings over a decade.

This summer, the DOE plans to begin reroofing a total of 350,000 square feet at its headquarters in Washington D.C. and national labs in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Upton, N.Y.

A recent study by the DOE's own Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that cool roofs and cool pavements can trim the demand for air conditioning, decrease temperatures for entire cities and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of carbon dioxide emissions.
The DOE is encouraging fellow federal agencies to follow suit. While not using cool roofs, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is installing solar power, geothermal and biomass heating systems at two facilities.
The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the
central San Joaquin Valley

(Graphic by simcoolroofcoating.com)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Navy's call for alternative energy in Lemoore just another example of green trend

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The Pentagon's effort to go green appears to have reached the Central San Joaquin Valley.

Last month, the Navy collected alternative energy proposals for 2,900 acres near Naval Air Station Lemoore with the intent of considering "the private development of large-scale renewable energy generation facilities." The green power would fuel base operations.

The Navy is hardly alone. The private sector likewise has launched into the green energy movement with startling vigor, despite the downturn. And as we've repeated here numerous times, small government has seen the fiscal prudence of energy efficiency -- planning retrofits in municipal real estate.

Today, Google announced that it would buy 114 megawatts of wind power from NextEra Energy Resources starting July 30 for 20 years. The energy would come from turbines in Story and Hardin counties in Iowa and supply several data centers, said Thomas Claburn of InformationWeek.com.

Claburn quoted Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president of operations at Google, as saying "the size of the purchase will support further investment in clean energy production."

And Wal-Mart has emerged as a leader in corporate America, extending to suppliers its efforts to make operations energy efficient. Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott said earlier this year that the company would continue to demonstrate leadership and work for change worldwide.

“It is important for all of us to understand that there are a number of issues facing the world that will profoundly affect our lives and our company,” Scott said in a statement. “I am talking to you about issues like international trade, climate change, water shortages, social and economic inequities, infrastructure and foreign oil. Wal-Mart can take a leadership role, get out in front of the future, and make a difference that is good for our business and the world.”

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is on the same page. "It's a matter of energy independence, it's a matter of our security," he said last month of the need for the Navy and Marine Corps to reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

Possible Pilot Program For Embattled PACE?



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A New York legislator is proposing that 300,000 homeowners participate in a 30-month demonstration project to determine the effectiveness of embattled Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency may decide Wednesday whether to adopt the idea, according to grist, an online alternative energy news source, which quoted Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y).

"Right now you've got the regulatory community advancing a theory about PACE bonds," he told grist. "You have PACE advocates advancing their theory. Let's test out which theory is valid. At the end of the 30-month period we'll have hard data on which to base decisions."

PACE programs, which allow property owners to pay for energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes through property-tax assessments, have drawn fire from FHFA and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The three agencies say the program creates risk because PACE loans have priority over mortgage debt if the property owner defaults. Their reluctance to support the program has basically shut it down.

As a result, several counties in California, including Fresno and Kern, that planned programs are in limbo. State officials sued Fannie and Freddie and a House bill that would enable the programs to continue has been introduced.

Israel told grist that he would rather settle the dispute without going to court. His priority, he told grist, is to reinstate PACE programs in regions where they were suspended. Whether Fresno and Kern counties would be included is uncertain.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the
central San Joaquin Valley.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Forecast Shows More Green Jobs



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In wake of stories like this one that appeared in The Fresno Bee, maybe - just maybe - green energy is the job generator of tomorrow.

With four surveys complete, the folks at GreenBiz.com says it's pretty clear that big companies are advancing green policies because their customers want it.

Only a year ago, 48% of 483 businesses surveyed and 40% of those with revenue over $1 billion cited the economic downturn as the catalyst. Today, only 20% of the large businesses say the economy is driving their efforts. Sixty percent cite customer (35%) and company leadership (25%) requirements are influencing their policies.

The surveys show large and small businesses are spending more on environmental and health programs, with energy efficiency job one. "This shift doesn't mark a decrease in green-product investment, but rather a higher priority focus on cost savings," according to the report.

As a result, larger businesses are hiring more people in environmental and sustainability capacities. Last year, only 8% said they would beef up their environmental departments. Today, it is 28%.

Smaller businesses are hiring as much: only 20% said they plan to enlarge those departments in the short term.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley










State to take role in PACE debate

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The California Energy Commission has joined the debate over the future of the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

"PACE programs are strongly supported and encouraged by federal, state and local decision-makers," said Claudia Chandler, CEC chief deputy director, in a memo to members of the agency's commission.

The CEC is considering re-allocating its 401 funds, essentially the PACE portion of its stimulus money, and plans to release a statement later today with more information.

The CEC also plans to meet July 28 and Aug. 6 on whether to cancel a stimulus-funded financing program and amend State Energy Program guidelines. Officials say the moves are "prompted by recent developments that cast serious concerns over the viability of first-priority liens as near term municipal financing options for residential energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofit projects. First-priority liens are central to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs and required in municipal financing programs."

Recent actions by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency have undermined the program. The FHFA says financing energy efficiency upgrades through PACE programs promote unsound underwriting guidelines and are are too risky because PACE liens would have priority over mortgage debt if the homeowner defaults.

However, PACE is not without its supporters. Last week, Mike Thompson, D-Ca, introduced HR 5766, or "Pace Assessment Protection Act of 2010," with 29 co-sponsors. The bill would allow homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades to their houses and repay the cost through their property tax bills.

And California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac saying the mortgage giants are blocking a measure that would create badly needed jobs. Brown blasted Fannie and Freddie for taking huge government bailouts and putting more than $100 million in federal stimulus money in California at risk.

The CEC board meets at 10 a.m. July 28 at 1516 Ninth St., Hearing Room A, First Floor in its Sacramento offices. A copy of the meeting agenda can be found here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sustainability plans proliferate from campus to corporation



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Energy efficiency and good stewardship truly have entered the mainstream.

I got an idea of the extent of this when I went on a hunt for energy efficiency and sustainability policies. I came across a fantastically large cross section using a variety of Google searches. I began with government, headed into corporate and then finished with education.

I was most intrigued by the clarity of the college campus plans. Many spelled out energy goals and just how they would be paid for. For instance, Stanford's policy say it has allocated $15 million for major capital improvements to the most energy-intensive buildings on campus and that "new buildings and most major renovations must meet Stanford’s Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings, which adapt the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system and the U.S. government’s Labs21 guidelines to the university setting."

Officials reported earlier this year that the University of California system would "pay about $15 million more per year in energy expenses if it had not implemented efficiency projects resulting from the systemwide sustainability policy.

"UC's policy sets a goal to install 10 megawatts of on-campus renewable energy generation by 2014. To date, 3.5 megawatts of solar power-generation capacity has been installed, including a 1-megawatt facility in Merced which provides about 20 percent of the electricity on campus."

The shortest plan overall is Walmart's: "At Walmart, we know that being an efficient and profitable business and being a good steward of the environment are goals that can work together. Our broad environmental goals at Walmart are simple and straightforward: To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; To create zero waste; To sell products that sustain people and the environment."

Here's Montreal-based Dawson College's short and sweet policy:

Dawson shall implement and maintain a College-wide sustainability management plan; Dawson shall develop simple and measurable sustainability benchmarks and performance indicators; Dawson shall promote environmental literacy to the College community, when appropriate, as part of College programs of study and courses.

The reasons so many institutions, corporations and governments have opted to spell out sustainable goals may have a lot to do with esoteric reasons such as making the world a better place for future generations, addressing global warming or feeling like better stewards of the environment. However, such concepts now transcend the ideals of the activists. Changes made now actually do make a difference -- in real-time cash savings. I read recently about a concept that if everybody replaced a single incandescent bulb in their homes with a compact fluorescent, the energy savings would be the same as taking thousands of cars off the road.

But simple energy efficiency retrofits make a big difference. The payback on many of them is very fast. Those with big utility bills have a huge incentive to make every effort to save money, especially in these recession-enhanced times.

Matt Kistler, senior vice-president of sustainability at Walmart, wrote this in a post on treehugger.com: "At Walmart, sustainability continues to make us a better company by reducing waste, lowering costs, driving innovation, and helping us fulfill our mission to save people money so they can live better. In 2005, when we began our sustainability journey, we learned that taking a leadership role and collaborating with others that share our commitment and passion for sustaining the environment could benefit entire business sectors around the globe."

Sustainability, at least in the corporate world, offers multiple paybacks. Here's to more of that.

Photo: Stanford campus.

Legislator Introduces Bill To Save PACE Programs



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A San Francisco Bay area congressman and other lawmakers have introduced legislation that would order lenders to support Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, including pilot plans in Fresno and Kern counties.

Mike Thompson, D-Ca, introduced HR 5766, or "Pace Assessment Protection Act of 2010," with 29 co-sponsors. The bill would allow homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades to their houses and repay the cost through their property tax bills.

"PACE programs are an important part of the push to create a green economy and reduced our reliance on foreign oil," Thompson said in a statement. "This is especially important in California, which has already taken significant steps to ensure PACE programs are available to 70% of Californians by the end of 2010."

Thompson wrote the bill as a response to actions by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which don't support the current program. The FHFA says the plans promote unsound underwriting guidelines are are too risky because the PACE liens would have priority over mortgage debt if the homeowner defaults.

Thompson says that even modest implementation of PACE could create 160,000 green jobs in the United States, and potentially cut the average energy bill a total of $5,000 to $14,000.

The legislation came only a few days after California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against Fannie and Freddie.
California PACE programs are operational in the City and County of San Francisco, Sonoma County, Placer County, Palm Desert and Yucaipa. Programs are set to launch in 2010 in the following jurisdictions: Los Angeles County, San Diego City, Alameda County, Fresno County, Kern County, Monterey County, Sacramento County, San Diego County, San Benito County, San Luis Obispo County, San Mateo County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, Solano County, Ventura County.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO) will continue to follow developments in this issue.

The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.




Thursday, July 15, 2010

Commercial Buildings Offer Best Energy Savings



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A new study that highlights the robust energy savings that owners and tenants of commercial buildings can achieve at relatively modest cost through retrofits comes as little surprise to us at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization.

The Fresno-based non-profit is working with cities and counties throughout the Valley in a program that should significantly reduce their power bills. Through recently approved grants, the approximately three dozen local governments will install new energy-efficient lights, replace pumps and make other upgrades.

The result: thousands of dollars cut from their power bills, which is vitally important in this era of slashed budgets and employee layoffs.

Some of those upgrades are the most cost-efficient improvements that building owners in California can make, according to a new study by Collaborative Economics and Next Ten, an independent non-partisian think tank funded by philanthropist F. Noel Perry.

Why is this important? Commercial buildings use more than one third of all the energy in California - and much of it is wasted.


In fact, the report says improving the energy efficiency of commercial structures is a "potential gold mine" that could generate jobs, save money and stimulate economic growth. The report cites the U.S. Department of Energy, which claims commercial buildings could be made 80% more efficient with new and existing technology.

And the investment in that technology comes at a modest price-tag. In new construction, a 2% increase in cost can cut energy use in half. Simply adding insulating window films will yield $3 in savings for every $1 invested.

Boosting insulation to recommended federal levels can cut energy consumption 30%. Using CFL or LED lighting gains an additional 8% to 20%, depending upon which is used.

It sounds simple, but barriers abound.

The report says the upfront cost, though it often can be paid back in a short period of time, is a sticking point for some owners and developers.

In addition, tenants are reluctant to make the outlay either because they don't have the authority or fear relocating before recouping their investment, and lsome andlords won't do it because they see the tenant as receiving the benefit.

"As a result, landlords see little financial incentive to make energy-efficiency investments when their returns seem uncertain," according to the report.

But are those returns really uncertain? The study noted that LEED or Energy Star certified buildings command higher rents and sales prices. A 2008 survey found that 79% of tenants would pay up to 5% more for space rated LEED Silver.

"...The average annual return on investment for energy-efficiency retrofits is over 20% when coupled with savings guarantees through peformance contracting," the report concludes.

Performance contracting uses savings resulting from the efficiency project to pay for the work over a period of time.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.






Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reports project green jobs, power

A couple of recent reports spell a bright future for the green building movement and renewable energy.

The green building industry will more than double by 2015 to a market value of $173.5 billion, according to the first of the two reports.

Fort Collins, Colo.-based EL Insights, an online energy industry trade publication, said expansion will proceed at a clip of about 19.5 percent annually from an estimated $71.1 billion this year. The magazine cited increased environmental awareness as the result of the Gulf oil spill, direct investment by large corporations and commercial construction.

Commercial green building is projected to grow by 18.1% annually, the magazine said. This would take the sector from $35.6 billion to $81.8 billion and create a potential 2.5 million jobs, which could expand the construction industry by a third.

"So if you haven't been paying attention to the U.S. Green Building Council, now is the time to start -- the nonprofit offers virtually endless amounts of information on green building studies and LEED certification," writes Ariel Schwartz of fastcompany.com. LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The second report, "Economic Benefits of a Comprehensive Feed-In Tariff: An Analysis of the REESA in California," contains a caveat. The report by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley says that nearly 300,000 green jobs could be created in the next decade but their materialization requires passage of the Renewable Energy and Economic Stimulus Act now pending in the state Legislature.

The report says the act -- AB 1106 and now in the Senate Appropriations Committee -- would not only enable the state expand its renewable energy to a third of all power generation by 2020 but create 280,000 jobs over the next decade. It also would "increase state revenues by an estimated $1.7 billion" and "stimulate up to $50 billion in total new investment in the state."

A feed-in tariff is defined as a "pre-specified electricity price paid to mid-sized clean energy distributed generation installations ... with rates set commensurate with the projected cost of generation." Said another way: Renewable energy generators would get about what it costs to the produce power.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Calif. Attorney General Sues Over PACE Pause


California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit today against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because the mortgage giants are blocking an innovative program to finance energy upgrades and create badly needed jobs.

The mortgage agencies have said, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency affirmed, they won't support Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs because the liens receive priority over mortgage debt. The loans, financed through sales of bonds, are repaid through property tax assessments over 20 years. The Housing Finance Agency wanted more safeguards installed.

Brown blasted Fannie and Freddie for taking huge government bailouts, and then thwarting efforts to generate jobs and lower energy bills while putting more than $100 million in federal stimulus money in California at risk.

The stakes are high, Brown said in a statement. Almost half the counties in California - including Fresno and Kern, which are participating in a pilot program - have PACE-style plans in place or propose one.

He cited San Diego as an example. The city planned a PACE program this summer, but the plan has been suspended and more than 100 people trained in energy retrofits are without jobs.

Brown's bashing comes on the heels of harsh words by California Gov. Arnold Schswarzenegger, the executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and others.

Officials at Fannie and Freddie reportedly had no comment on the latest developments.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Hot - And Likely To Get Hotter



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The temperature in the central San Joaquin Valley in California's heartland is nearing triple digits as I write this, which is common for summer. But I'm afraid, after reading this report from Stanford University that it may get hotter - much hotter.

Global warming hot.

And the results could be devastating, particularly on crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and wine grapes. Some of those, by the way, are big players in the bountiful San Joaquin Valley, the world's bread basket, where another study by UC Davis found significant reduction of chilling hours a threat to fruit and nut crops.

It won't happen this year or next, but researchers from Stanford say that long heat waves like the recent one in the eastern U.S and the one that killed thousands in Europe in 2003 are likely to become more common over the next three decades.

As many as five intense heat waves could occur in the central and western U.S. between 2020 and 2029, and as many as seven times in areas of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico between 2030 and 2039.

The two-year study debuts at about the same time NASA concluded that we are going through some historically high temps (See what Huffington Post wrote here), and also reported a chunk of ice of ice one-eighth the size of Manhattan detached from a glacier near Greenland, likely the result of ocean warming.

This is directly from the NASA report on the glacier:

"While there have been ice breakouts of this magnitude from Jakonbshavn and other glaciers in the past, this event is unusual because it occurs on the heels of a warm winter that saw no sea ice form in the surrounding bay," said Thomas Wagner, cryospheric program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "While the exact relationship between these events is being determined, it lends credence to the theory that warming of the oceans is responsible for the ice loss observed throughout Greenland and Antarctica."

The Stanford study used climate models to predict the likely outcome if carbon dioxide emissions heated the earth 1.8 degrees by 2039, which the International Panel on Climate Change thinks is possible.

In a disturbing statement, the lead researcher said the temperature is increasing faster than expected.

The Stanford report could lend more credibility to those opposing efforts to suspend AB 32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. (See our previous blog).

For more on climate and energy issues, read the 2008 best-selling "Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution - And How It Can Renew America" by three-times Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.
(Photo courtesy of Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy)
















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