Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reports Paint Greener Present Than Many Know . . . Future, Too!

By Joe Salimando
Salimando is a Fairfax, Virginia-based writer and contributor to energysolutions.necanet.orgeleblog.com, and tedmag.com.
Reach him at

Two recent reports – from the people at CleanEdge and GreenBiz – provide looks at the “green” industry. As most of us don’t spend all of our work time on “green” (and these people do) . . . they might be worth some time. Additionally, they’re both free.

Clean Energy Trends 2012 was posted to the web last month; the price of downloading the 23-page PDF is providing some information. Here are the four assertions on the first page:

  1. The oil, gas and coal industries still receive massive subsidies.
  2. Venture capital is a risky, high-reward business key to U.S. infrastructure.
  3. Nuclear power projects require considerably more in loan guarantees than renewables.
  4. 2011 marked a number of developments that point to significant scale-up of clean tech.

That first point was made here recently. Point #2, of course, is about the government (I’ve heard Energy Secretary Steven Chu make the same point in a recent speech – if you invest in start-ups and new technologies, you should expect some failures).


Above: Estimate of future solar prices and electricity costs out to 2021 from the Clean Energy Trends report.

Point #3 notes that the U.S. government guaranteed an $8.3 billion loan for two new nuclear power plants – nearly 25% of all Dept. of Energy loan guarantees, and equal to 15 Solyndras. Even if you are (like me) pro-nuclear power, it does make one think.

Point #4 includes this sentence: “ . . . a number of noted investors upped their clean-tech investment activities, with Google and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings investing nearly $1 billion and $2 billion respectively in U.S. solar projects.” You can safely be skeptical of Mr. Buffet’s political stances and whether Google legitimately follows its much-lauded “don’t be evil” motto. But from at least a fiduciary standpoint, neither is supposed to go out and fling corporate money at phantasms.

Certainly, all four assertions seem debatable, as does the data in the nearby table taken from the report. However, significant volume installations for Energy Solutions contractors seem likely if, as indicated, the cost-per-watt for solar PV falls from $3.47 last year to $1.28 – in less than a decade.

State of Green Business 2012 is thicker (84 pages) and wider in scope; again, you’ll have to share some information (here) in order to download the PDF. This pulse-taking wanders the waterfront – encompassing (in brief essays) how CFOs feel about sustainability to clean-energy patents, employee telecommuting, e-waste, green office space, and organic agriculture.

LEFT: Data that is out there, but perhaps is not widely reported (were you aware of this before seeing the graphic?). From State of Green Business 2012.

As we might expect – as neither you nor I spend all of our time on matters green – there is information and opinion in here not found elsewhere. The page on office space is headlined: “Inside LEED’s Disappointing Numbers.” Here’s what Rob Watson, interviewed for the page, had to say about LEED 2011 vs. 2010:

“ . . . the real issue—and the real disappointment—is that the total floor area certified [as LEED] decreased compared to 2010. [LEED building] registrations performed slightly better—it is hard to be disappointed if anything grows 17 percent in one year.

“But the truth is that the growth in existing building registrations and certifications needs to double for the next three or four years and maintain that level of certification and registration in order to approach the carbon dioxide reductions science agrees must happen.”

There’s something you probably don’t think about while chasing lighting retrofit business and other Energy Solutions work. In addition to providing employment to electricians, buying materials, saving energy for your customers – and hopefully making a little money at the same time – the bottom line on what you do is being measured in terms of what it’s doing to the environment!

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