March 2011

March 2011

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US is Attempting to Make Solar Energy Economically Competitive

The Department of Energy (DOE) is attempting to push down the cost of clean energy sources. On the solar front, the new effort is called “Sunshot”. The DOE has announced $27 million in SunShot projects that it hopes will reduce the cost of photovoltaic cells by 75 percent. Such a reduction would take the cost down to about $1 a watt, equal to around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. Read more here.

2011 Environmental Education Regional Grants

The 2011 Environmental Education Grants Program is now open. These grants support environmental education projects that enhance the public’s awareness, knowledge, and skills to help people make informed decisions that affect environmental quality. EPA will be hosting two conference calls for potential applicants interested in additional information about the application process. The conference calls will take place on April 6. Learn more here.

Local City News

City of Walnut Creek to Start Using Solar Energy

The City Council voted to accept a solar feasibility study that evaluated city-owned sites in Walnut Creek for solar power. Six sites were determined viable for solar installation. City Hall, which also houses the police department, is one of the largest energy users of all of the Walnut Creek public buildings, using nearly 1.4 million kilowatt-hours a year. The study found that solar panels would offset about 7 percent of the building’s energy usage. The estimated 25-year savings on power costs is $625,819. Learn more.

San Francisco’s New Commercial Buildings Energy Audit Requirements

San Francisco passed a landmark energy ordinance requiring owners of commercial buildings to perform energy benchmarking. The San Francisco Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance requires annual benchmarking and energy audits every five years. The Ordinance provides clear criteria for the qualifications of the energy engineer/energy auditor to ensure successful results. The benchmarking piece of the law will dovetail nicely with California law AB 1103, which requires building owners to disclose their Energy Star Ratings during sale, lease, or financing transactions. Read more here.

Other City News

Pasadena’s Green Progress Makes a Difference!

Pasadena’s Green City efforts are designed to create policies and practices that balance the social, economic and environmental needs of the present with those of future generations. The fourth annual report shows the City of Pasadena’s Green Plan is making a difference. The city reduced water use by 15%, reduced peak energy demand by 4.45 megawatts, and installed more than 100 new solar units citywide. Eight of the City’s green goals have been met, including the use of renewable energy to meet 10 percent of the city’s peak electric load by 2012. Learn more here.

Saving the Earth, One Beer at a Time

Brewers big and small have wrestled with waste issues since the dawn of beer-making. In recent years, they’ve turned to recycling — both as a cost-saver and for environmental reasons. However, an MIT-trained mechanical engineer has invented a device that turns brewery waste into natural gas that is used to fuel the brewing process. Recently implemented at Magic Hat Brewery Co. in Vermont, the anaerobic methane digester extracts energy from the spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process, and it processes the plant’s wastewater. That saves the brewer on waste disposal and natural gas purchasing. Read more here.

British Environmental Agency warns Business to Adapt or Face the Consequences

The Agency said that while many companies were starting to take steps to reduce their emissions, few businesses had started to appreciate how rises in temperatures would impact their operations. They are warning businesses to not only cut emissions, but to look to how climate change will affect their business and what mitigation efforts will become more important. Read more here.


Is it Time for Oil Taxes?

Well, here we go again. Three years ago, when oil prices spiked over $100, Americans momentarily panicked. The world had changed forever! We had to build more efficient cars! We needed a green energy policy! But then the global economy crashed, oil prices fell back below $100, and we went right back to business as usual. Now the global economy is growing again, the Middle East is descending into chaos, and oil prices are skyrocketing again. Enough, it’s time for this ridiculous shock therapy to end. Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider, recommends a flexible tax. Learn more here.

How Does Conserving Land Prevent Climate Change?

Both local and national legislation has been passed to preserve open space and wilderness around the country. This is great for open space, but how does it help with Climate Change? While it doesn’t specifically address global warming, the climate will benefit from protecting so much land. Forests store vast amounts of carbon in tree trunks, roots, leaves, dead wood and soils which helps to store the buildup of human-generated carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Read more here.


Three Surprising Ways that Global Warming Could Make You Sick

Scientists had already predicted more deaths and illnesses due to heat waves, natural disasters, and the expansion of tropical diseases. However other, less obvious health threats will likely arise as warming changes the ecology of ocean and freshwater environments in the coming decades. Research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows that global warming may cause human health problems due to microbes, bacteria, and toxic algae blooms in the coming decades. Learn more.

Alaska’s National Parks are Feeling the Change

The thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes are sprouting on the tundra and are blocking panoramic views. Glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks. Read morehere.


Investors Need to Keep Climate Change in Mind

A recent report entitled “Climate Change Best Practice Methodology” provides asset owners with tools for measuring climate change-related risks and opportunities protecting investments. Climate change is perhaps the largest single threat to an asset Upcoming events.

Benchmarking in Portfolio Manager for State and Local Governments and EECBG Recipients

April 7, Webinar

This session will review EPA’s online energy management tool, Portfolio Manager, which enables you to track the progress of energy efficiency efforts and compare the energy use of your buildings to peer buildings across the country. Attendees will learn how to measure and track energy use and carbon dioxide emission reductions to establish baseline energy use, prioritize investments, set goals, and track improvements over time. Register here.

San Francisco Green Festival

April 9-10, San Francisco

This festival is a two day expo of the latest green technologies, strategies, and products, with food and drink, entertainment, and talks by both local and nationally-recognized speakers. The content is “all about green,” exhibitors must pass a ‘green screen’ to be present, and the logistics themselves are green. Visit here for more information.

Life & Death of Social Factors: A Conference Reexamining Behavioral and Cultural Research in Environmental Design

April 29-May 1, Berkeley

This conference aims to start a dialogue about the present and future of social research in environmental design. In this conference, they will ask how contemporary research addresses the idea of “the social” in space, not only from those in our field, but also from those in emerging fields of research, to understand how we might address critiques such as the disconnect with design practice and our use of social science methods. Learn more here.


ICLEI Quick Guides to Get you Started

ICLEI, a proud partner in the Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative (SEEC), has developed three SEEC guidebooks to help you address climate change and save energy. To download them, just register for free here. See Quick Start Guides for Climate Action Planning, Setting a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target, and Conducting a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. Learn more here.

owner’s long-term performance. Of all the environmental, social and governance issues, climate change has the highest material threat to all aspects of an asset owner’s portfolio. High risk sectors include fossil fuels, stationary energy, steel, aluminum, cement, construction, transportation and the financing of these sectors. This could be over 40% of an asset owner’s portfolio, with a large proportion of this exposure in capital intensive assets that have life spans of up to 40 years. Learn more here.

What is the Future of Nuclear Energy?

As Japan’s nuclear crisis unfolded, shares in renewable energy industries rose while most other energy stocks fell. According to many, nuclear energy, for the time being, has become politically unacceptable. Energy and environmental experts said that investor confidence in nuclear technology was already beginning to wane prior to the incident. Read more here.