The Rise of Green Business Innovation

The business world is under pressure today to stay ahead of the ever-increasing number of social issues and trends. While the push toward sustainable technologies and products to save the environment is not new, it has never been more significant than it is today.

Many companies are coming up with innovative solutions to help build a green future. They are taking this route to gain customer support as well as to reduce harm to the environment.

The Global Green Economy Index first launched in 2010. It measures the green economy performance of 130 countries and looks at how the experts make their assessments. The GGEI is now the index most widely used by civil societies, policymakers, international organizations and the private sector to benchmark performance.

With nine of the world’s top 10 greenest countries being in Europe, the innovations include energy-saving and eco-friendly logistics. Below are some examples of these initiatives, from which developing businesses could take a few lessons.

Renewable power sources

U.S. solar-powered corporations

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been keeping track of the top corporations using solar power in the United States for several years. These are its results by company based on megawatts (MW) installed:

  1. Target Corporation: 147.5 MW
  2. Walmart: 145 MW
  3. Prologis: 107.9 MW
  4. Apple: 93.9 MW
  5. Costco Wholesale: 50.7 MW
  6. Kohl’s: 50.2 MW
  7. IKEA: 44.MW
  8. Macy’s: 38.9 MW
  9. General Growth Properties: 30.2 MW
  10. Hartz Mountain Industries: 22.7 MW

Since 2012, according to SEIA, the top U.S. companies have increased their solar usage by 240%, and demand for socially responsible financial planning has also increased.

Solar power for Australians with disabilities

While Europe is taking the lead on reducing fossil fuel dependency, Australia is among the world’s top innovators when it comes to renewable energy enterprises. Natural Solar Initiatives provides affordable solar-powered housing for Australians living with a disability. The initiative will incorporate battery and solar storage into Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA). It has been undertaken to help eligible participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The battery and solar integration will be built into new properties to lower the cost of electricity. Disabled Australian residents covered by NDIS will have lower household costs when living in SDA.

Floating solar plants

In Japan, the Kumamoto Technology Center is pursuing the adoption of 100% renewable electricity for all its sites by the year 2040. Japan has the world’s largest floating solar plants and the capacity of half of all existing floating solar plants. Other countries building floating solar are South Korea, China, Singapore and Thailand.

Electronic transportation

There is an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Europe was the leader in 2015, with more than 425,000 electric passenger vehicles registered.

These are some other initiatives:

  • California has submitted the Clean Cars 2040 Act, an initiative to ban the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles starting in 2040.
  • The Netherlands’ goal is to ban conventionally fueled vehicles by the year 2050.
  • Holland’s sustainable transportation government initiatives are implemented through public and private partnerships. Millions of goods and people are moved daily through systems designed to have less of an adverse impact on the environment.

Smart building initiative

The Edge is Deloitte’s Amsterdam headquarters, which Bloomberg calls “the smartest building in the world.” Using advanced technology and innovative practices, the Edge has 28,000 sensors to monitor everything, including light, temperature, moisture and movement.

The building uses LED panels and produces more energy than it consumes. It saves power in unoccupied spaces and even lets employees use their smartphones to make coffee.

Eco-friendly consciousness as a marketing tactic

For the past few decades, consumers have been increasingly concerned about the environment and our impact on it.

Sustainability has become a priority. Food waste, plastic in the oceans, global warming and air pollution are some of the significant concerns of an environmentally conscious population.

Millions of people have joined Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). They are committed to only purchasing products designed to reduce the harm to the environment, even if the costs are higher.

Companies that want to attract consumers interested in social responsibility are evolving their marketing strategies to what is known as green marketing and looking for innovative ways to make green products.

What is green marketing?

Green marketing means selling products or services by highlighting the benefits to the environment. Consumers refer to brands that incorporate green marketing with terms such as “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “organic” and “recyclable.”

Just because companies say they’re eco-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean they are. The following are guidelines you and your customers can use to determine if your brand is practicing authentic green marketing.

Your products and services …

  • Do not use toxic or ozone-depleting materials.
  • Are designed so they can be reused over a long term.
  • Are packaged with recycled, biodegradable and eco-friendly materials.
  • Follow environmentally friendly manufacturing guidelines.
  • Are produced from recycled materials.

Companies with innovative green marketing initiatives

If your brand is ethically and genuinely using green marketing, it needs to be at the core of your company culture and transparently showcased via your company’s processes, operations, and sourcing.

Patagonia Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing retail company that has transparently prioritized its green marketing mission. In 2011, it announced its Footprint Chronicles. This initiative shows consumers every step of Patagonia’s manufacturing processes digitally, allowing them to make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

One of the ways Patagonia works to minimize its carbon footprint is by offering incentives to staff members who take public transportation or carpool to work. The company also practices transparency, as it doesn’t hide the fact that it can’t be eco-friendly with all of its products and does rely on fossil fuels in some of its processes and product deliverables.

IKEA’s People Planet Positive

With its People Planet Positive sustainable strategy, Swedish furniture brand IKEA’s core belief is that consumers shouldn’t have to choose between environmentally friendly products and affordable, stylish ones. IKEA encourages its customers online to lead a lifestyle that is not harmful to the environment. These are some of its environmentally conscious company practices:

  • Using solar panels in 90% of its buildings in the United States
  • Sourcing all the cotton used in its products from sustainable sources
  • Working toward 100% renewable energy and wood sources by 2020
  • Switching all its lighting to energy-efficient LEDs
  • Making new commitments to spending $1 billion for climate actions

IKEA is a prime example of a company that not only says it supports environmentalism, but demonstrates its dedication by embracing it in everything it does as a business.

Environmentally friendly Hershey

Hershey’s famous chocolate brand has evolved to include green marketing as its key ingredient. The company also owns an amusement park and hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It has made being environmentally friendly a top corporate priority. These are some of its initiatives:

  • Reducing greenhouse gases by 50% by the year 2025
  • Repurposing its products for charity
  • Sharing on its blog news about innovations that will have a positive impact on the community (e.g., edible product packaging)

Is green marketing economically viable for small business?

There is no doubt that the green marketplace is profitable. Most people and business owners agree that “green is good.” Companies that practice green marketing are committed to corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. By doing so, they are trying to show their own strong belief in protecting the environment. Green marketing also makes their products or services more attractive to consumers who have the same concerns.

But the question remains, from an economic standpoint, is it profitable for small business? There may be a barrier to implementing such practices when it comes to short- and long-term costs.

Are consumers willing to pay more for green?

According to a 2014 Nielsen Global Corporate Social Responsibility Survey, it appears they are.

The survey polled 30,000 consumers from 60 countries, showing these results:

  • 52% of consumers check the product package to see if it’s sustainable.
  • 55% will pay more money for products or services from brands that are committed to positive environmental and social impact.
  • 52% had made at least one purchase within the last six months from at least one eco-friendly company.

The survey noted that consumers in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa showed a higher preference for green products than consumers in Europe and North America.

Although going green has many environmental benefits, it can also mean extra costs that may be difficult for small businesses to absorb.

For example, switching to solar power requires the installation of solar panels. They carry a hefty upfront cost that may take years to recoup in reduced energy costs. Also, the cost of switching energy suppliers and purchasing wind-power electricity can cost more than a small business can afford.

It’s all a matter of supply costs and demand. If consumers are willing to spend more money on green products, companies will continue to provide them. If they aren’t, small companies will not.

Demand differs by country also. As an example, in the 1990s and 2000s, New Zealand entrepreneurs saw their country as a natural place to grow the organic food market. However, because consumers weren’t buying the organics, the farmers weren’t interested in growing them, and the supermarkets weren’t stocking them. Even though the organic food market was thriving in countries like Denmark and the U.S. at that time, it represented only 1% of the grocery store market in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s attempt at going green is a prime example of the challenges small businesses can face when trying to go green and be profitable.

Can going green increase production costs?

In many cases, switching to green materials requires small businesses to raise their prices to cover the higher production costs. For example, a furniture manufacturer that chooses to switch to sustainably harvested wood will have to pay more for lumber. This increase in cost is often passed down to the customers and also cuts into profit margins.

Authenticity – not making false claims about being environmentally friendly – should be a priority for eco-friendly small businesses. Making inaccurate claims will harm your brand’s credibility.

Do the benefits of going green outweigh the disadvantages?

Small businesses can go green on a smaller scale, one step at a time. For example, they can switch to recycled products or start recycling trash if they don’t already.

Companies taking small steps to help the environment have a cumulative effect. Even little changes can eventually lead to significant savings for small businesses.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Print less and rely more on digital documents and files.
  • Turn off computers when not in use instead of leaving them on standby.
  • Take advantage of the tax breaks offered to companies that go digital.
  • Promote your green marketing initiatives to improve your brand’s reputation and attract like-minded consumers.

Showing their concern for social responsibility and the health of the environment can help small businesses increase their bottom lines, even if there is a short-term loss. In the long run, as consumers seek more sustainable products and food, they will be loyal to the companies that provide them.

Is burning trash a good way to dispose of it? Waste incineration in charts

Burning trash has a long history in the United States, and municipal solid waste incinerators have sparked resistance in many places. As an environmental justice scholar who works directly with low-income and communities of color, I see incineration as a poor waste management option.

Although these plants generate electricity from the heat created by burning trash, their primary purpose is waste disposal. Emissions from burning waste worsen environmental inequalities, create financial risks for host communities and reduce incentives to adopt more sustainable waste practices.

I recently co-authored a report that describes signs of decline in the U.S. waste incineration industry due to many factors. They include a volatile revenue model, aging plants, high operation and maintenance costs, and growing public interest in reducing waste, promoting environmental justice and combating climate change.

Nonetheless, 72 incinerators are still operating today in the U.S. Most of them – 58, or 80% – are sited in environmental justice communities, which we defined as areas where more than 25% of residents are low-income, people of color or both. Incinerators worsen cumulative impacts from multiple pollution sources on these overburdened neighborhoods.

Environmental justice flashpoints

Waste incinerators are heavily concentrated in northeast states and Florida – areas with high population densities and limited landfill space. Some of these states also provide favorable economic incentives, such as allowing incinerators to earn renewable energy credits for generating electricity.

In the past year environmental justice advocates have successfully shut down incinerators in Detroit, Michigan, and Commerce, California. The Detroit incinerator was built in the 1980s and received more than US$1 billion in public investment borne by local taxpayers. Groups such as Breathe Free Detroit and Zero Waste Detroit rallied residents to oppose the public financing and health burdens that the facility imposed on surrounding environmental justice communities. The plant closed in March 2019.

The California plant closed in June 2018 after a yearlong campaign by two community-based organizations, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Valley Improvement Projects, to prevent incineration from qualifying for state renewable energy subsidies. The facility ultimately closed when a 30-year power purchase agreement with the local utility expired, leaving it without a sufficient revenue stream.

Aging facilities

Incineration plants’ average life expectancy is 30 years. Three-quarters of operating waste incinerators in the United States are at least 25 years old.

These facilities’ revenues come primarily from tipping fees that waste haulers pay to dump trash, and secondarily from generating electricity. These revenue streams are volatile and can undermine the industry’s financial stability. At least 31 incinerators have closed since 2000 due to issues such as insufficient revenue or inability to afford required upgrades.

Operations and maintenance costs typically increase as plants age and their performance decreases. Upgrades, such as installing new pollution control equipment, can cost tens of millions of dollars, and sometimes more than US$100 million.

These large capital expenditures represent risks for host communities, which often provide public financing through bonds or tax increases. Such measures are risky because the waste service and energy contracts that generate revenue are increasingly shorter term and vulnerable to fluctuating market and regulatory conditions. As plants age, their environmental performance may also degrade over time, posing increasing risks to the environment and public health.

Construction years for MSW incinerators

Most U.S. municipal solid waste incinerators are at least 25 years old, and some have been running for more than 40 years.

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: Tishman Environment and Design Center, 2019

What incinerators burn

The composition of municipal solid waste has changed over the past 50 years. Synthetic materials such as plastics have increased, while biogenic, compostable materials such as paper and yard trimmings have decreased.

Plastics are particularly problematic for waste handling because they are petroleum-based, nonbiogenic materials. They are difficult to decompose and release harmful pollutants such as dioxins and heavy metals when they are incinerated.

Materials in U.S. municipal solid waste

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND; Source: EPA

Waste management trends

Today, thanks to the evolution of waste handling options, a majority of the materials in municipal solid waste can be composted or recycled. This reduces impacts on the environment, including air, soil and water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions. As cities like New York and San Francisco adopt zero-waste policies that create incentives for diverting waste from landfills or incinerators, burning trash will increasingly become obsolete.

Many U.S. cities and states are adopting aggressive climate change and sustainability goals. Waste reduction and diversion will play a critical part in meeting these targets. The public is increasingly demanding more upstream solutions in the form of extended producer responsibility bills, plastic bans and less-toxic product redesign. There is also a growing movement for less-consumptive lifestyles that favors zero-waste goals.

Materials in U.S. municipal solid waste recycled and composted (percentage of each type)

Wastes that are not recycled or composted typically are either burned or buried in landfills.

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND; Source: EPA

Heavy polluters

Incinerators release many air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, lead, mercury, dioxins and furans. These substances are known to have serious public health effects, from increased cancer risk to respiratory illness, cardiac disease and reproductive, developmental and neurological problems. According to recent figures from the waste industry, incinerator plants emit more sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated than power plants burning natural gas.

Research on direct health impacts of waste incineration in the United States is limited, but a handful of studies from Asia and Europe, where waste incinerators are prevalent, offer some insights. For example, a 2013 study in Italy analyzed the occurrence of miscarriages in women aged 15-49 years residing near seven incinerators in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and found that increased particulate emissions from the incinerators was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.

A single incinerator may burn anywhere from a few hundred tons to several thousand tons of waste per day. Smaller incinerators typically have lower absolute emissions but can emit more hazardous pollutants for each ton of waste they burn. Plant emissions also can vary widely based on the heterogeneous composition of municipal waste, the age and type of emissions control equipment, and how well the plant is operated and maintained over time.

Emission rates for “Dirtiest Dozen” municipal solid waste incinerators (pounds per ton of trash burned, 2014)

For each pollutant, at least 8 of the 12 incinerators with the highest emission rates nationwide were located in environmental justice communities

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND; Source: Tishman Environment and Design Center, 2019

Ana Baptista is assistant professor of environmental policy and sustainability management at The New School. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Best Buy Wants to Help Consumers Go Green

Best Buy is hoping its customers will become environmental stewards. The retail giant has, for the first time ever, set a goal to help consumers save $5 billion on utility costs and reduce their collective carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2030.

The move is partly a response to what consumers themselves want.

“The vast majority of Americans–and certainly our own employees and customers–are concerned about the environment, especially after the devastating natural disasters in U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico in recent years,” Best Buy spokesman Matthew Smith tells TCB. “We find that more and more customers seek energy efficient products, too.”

To help customers reduce their own emissions, Best Buy plans to steer them toward more Energy Star products, including smart thermostats and LED lighting. The retailer also will offer extended electronics recycling and repair services.

“Best Buy exists to help people enrich their lives through technology, which certainly embraces ecofriendly options that benefit our customers and planet,” says Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, Best Buy director of environmental sustainability and compliance, in a statement. “We believe a combination of eco-friendly products and services, along with continued improvements in our own operations, can produce measurable results for everyone.”

For its own part, Best Buy will continue to work on its company goal of decreasing emissions by 75 percent by 2030. These efforts have involved—or will involve—switching store facilities to renewable energy sources and LED lighting, switching to a hybrid vehicle Geek Squad fleet, and investments in on-site solar panels and solar farms.   

The company is also introducing more and more automated technology into distribution centers to improve efficiency and reduce shipping waste. This includes new machines that will create custom boxes that better fit products—a move that will produce 40 percent less cardboard excess and eliminate the need for plastic fillers.

To date, Best Buy has reduced its carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of metric tons since its 2009 baseline, says Smith. In just the first year of using hybrid Geekmobiles, the retailer saved 14,000 gallons of gas. According to Best Buy, it’s also the nation’s largest collector of recyclable electronics and appliances—having collected more than 2 billion pounds’ worth since 2009.

“Technologies including LED lighting in our stores, a fleet of hybrid vehicles for our Geek Squad Agents and more save energy, which saves money,” says Smith. “[So] having a sustainable business model makes business sense.”

Poop power: livestock byproducts turn into renewable energy

If you turned on your light switch today, thank a farmer! That’s the impressive sentiment I felt after touring a poultry processing facility in South Carolina.

I was there as a guest with Brightmark Energy, (BME) my latest social media partnership where we are working together to make the planet a little greener. Brightmark has two main categories to their business; one is to turn plastics into fuel (Yes! Plastic is recyclable after all!) and the second is to turn organic matter (manure, food waste, livestock byproducts, etc.) into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, which ultimately recycles it into power and fuel.

Speaking of gas, that’s sort of how this whole thing works. Think of this digester as a giant stomach or “fart bubble” that digests food. The “bugs” inside this work to break down the organic matter which produces methane. The methane is then trapped and goes through a process to recycle everything which creates clean water for field irrigation, bedding, compost and fertilizer, power, heat gas, etc.

How do they do it?

At the facility I spoke with the waste water manager for the plant and project manager for BME, Greg Meyer, explained the process which consists of basically 6+ steps which produce numerous byproducts: evisceration, DAF (dissolved air flotation), digester, anoxic tank, aerate, and decant.

This may sound a little complicated to the average person but I do think it’s fascinating and important to learn more about! This processing facility processes about 800,000 birds per week where chickens are quartered for food and the byproducts like tallow and fats, bones, oil, and blood are made into other things. In the livestock world, no part of any animal goes to waste! There are literally thousands of products that come from animals — from feather pillows to life saving pharmaceuticals; makeup to shampoo; pet food to adhesives, textiles, bullets, cement, electricity, the list goes on.

Rather than going to waste or a landfill, Brightmark Energy has created an amazing solution (at no cost to the farmer or facility!) that turns all this waste into power. This plant in particular generates about 10 million gallons a week for the digester. This ends up producing electricity for a local utility and powers around 500-700 homes! It’s a win-win situation as the methane from the processing facility is trapped and doesn’t end up in our environment. Considering methane is more potent than CO2, this is amazing technology! It’s a win for the farms as they get cleaner water and products, and doesn’t flare the gas. A win for the plant and farmer as it doesn’t cost them money; a win for recycling.

BME invests into this infrastructure and makes money selling the energy to power companies. Not only that, but the water used within the facility is totally recycled! Over 50% of the water that is cleaned through the process is used to irrigate local farmer’s fields. It’s then captured through drainage tiles and recovery wells which in turn flushes the chicken byproduct sorting facility.

The water treatment facility operator, who was once in the Navy, has been in the wastewater business for over 20 years. He beams with pride as he shows off the finished product, “You know you’ve done a good job in wastewater treatment if it’s so clear you’d feel comfortable drinking it yourself.”

I felt the same. The finished product is tested and sterilized through special types of lighting, (no added chemicals or chlorine!) where 5% of it is even released to a nearby stream/nature preserve.

The Public Utilities Commission runs a legislated thermal renewable energy credit program (RECS) specifically for green energy solutions like this, so anyone involved in these programs — whether a processing facility or large farm using manure to generate power — receives credit and shares. The generator and computer monitoring shows water cycling, temperature, kilowatts in real time, and BME owns and manages the entire process. Contact me with more details and go green for the planet. Brightmark Energy is on a mission to provide innovative waste and energy solutions that have a positive global impact and I’m honored to be a part of it!

To learn more and see additional photos of our tour together, click here.

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

Cricket World Cup 2019: How the stadiums are adopting renewable energy


Cricket World Cup renewable energy

Lords is powered by the London Array offshore windfarm. Credit: Yorkspotter



Cricket World Cup renewable energy

The Oval’s energy policies save 6,252 tonnes of CO2 each year. Credit: PaddyBriggs



Warwickshire aim for Edgbaston to be the most sustainable cricket ground in the UK. Credit: JimmyGuano

The Cricket World Cup is currently underway in England and Wales for the first time since 1999. Six weeks of cricket will conclude with the final at Lords on Sunday 14 July.

The tournament will take place in 11 venues across the country, from Lords in London to Old Trafford in Manchester. But how green is the energy these stadiums use? Power Technology reviews the renewable energy policies of these grounds.

Lords

The spiritual home of cricket in St Johns Wood, London, the current version of Lord’s has been in existence since 1814.

As part of its sustainability pledge, the ground moved towards having 100% of its energy sourced from renewables in October 2016. The following year it announced it would get its energy entirely from wind power, using the London Array offshore windfarm in the Thames Estuary, the second largest offshore windfarm in the world. This has helped the ground reduce its carbon footprint by 80%.

Steeped in history with its legendary honours board, for batsmen who reach centuries and bowlers who take five or more wickets, and the MCC Museum, Lord’s has one foot firmly in the future with its renewable energy policy.

The Oval

Also in London and home of current county champions Surrey, the Oval is where England traditionally play the last test of the summer.

The Oval made the switch to renewable energy in April 2018. It signed a deal with Fidelity Energy and French company ENGIE to supply the ground in a deal that will last until 2022. This move will save the ground a total of 6,252 tonnes of CO2 per year.

With a current capacity of 25,500 thanks to the magnificent OCS stand, the Oval will eventually expand to 40,000, making it the largest cricket ground in England.

Edgbaston

Edgbaston is home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, and in December 2018, Warwickshire signed a two year deal with Haven Energy to ensure that its energy comes from renewable sources.

Haven has installed solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicle (EV) charging points at its head office, and the company also hopes to install further charge points at its entrances and car. This in order to meet Warwickshire’s goal of being the most sustainable cricket ground in England.

Edgbaston has seen its fair share of memorable moments; in the summer of 1994, Brian Lara hit 501 not out against Durham, setting a world record that is unlikely to be beaten. It was also the scene of the closest test match in Ashes history in 2005, as England beat Australia by two runs on a tense Sunday morning. Edgbaston’s sustainability targets could be the new record to beat.

Old Trafford Cricket Ground

Boasting the same name as the home of Manchester United, Old Trafford is the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club.

As part of its recent redevelopment, Lancashire committed to incorporating environmentally-friendly features through its architects BDP. Alongside harvesting rainwater and recycling, the ground is powered by solar panels on its roof to power the facilities. The club was awarded gold certification by the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), particularly for its work on The Point extension on its pavilion.

England’s leading test wicket taker James Anderson and iconic all-rounder and Top Gear presenter Andrew Flintoff can rest easy knowing their Old Trafford home has such green credentials.

Bristol County Ground

Bristol County Ground is the home of Gloucestershire Country Cricket Club, which just before the start of the 2019 County Championship announced a partnership with local company Bristol Energy to supply the ground with 100% renewable energy. The company buys its electricity from renewable generators in the UK and uses the Green Plus plan to replace units used on the national grid with certified green units.

Bristol can claim to be one of the most important sites in English cricket. It was here from 1889 onwards that Gloucestershire made their home thanks to the generosity of W.G Grace, who bought the ground at his own expense thanks to him being the most iconic and well-paid sportsperson of the Victorian era. It is now making its mark on history as an eco-friendly icon.

The World Cup of green energy

In the Cricket World Cup, England are the favourites having dominated one day cricket with some big scores in recent years, but they face stiff competition from India, who boast the world’s best one day batsman Virat Kohli and bowler in Jasprit Bumrah. It will also be an opportunity to see the iconic opening batsman Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle of the West Indies for the last time, as the big hitter will retire after the tournament. But what can be guaranteed is that the stadiums are hitting renewable energy targets for six.

Solar-fueled oversupplies drive record renewable energy waste in California

SNL Image

As California’s renewable energy use climbs to new heights, the state’s primary power grid is also setting records for wasted wind and solar generation. In the first five months of 2019, the California ISO off-loaded, or curtailed, roughly 37% more available renewable energy than in all of 2018, according to an SP Global Market Intelligence analysis of grid operator data.

To balance supply and demand, the independent system operator eliminates excess wholesale wind and solar generation, especially in the middle of the day as low electricity consumption coincides with peaking solar production, mainly from photovoltaic, or PV, power plants. The curtailments happen primarily through bids from generators to reduce production. In extreme cases, the grid operator will intervene and order plant operators to cut back power. The oversupplies also trigger negative prices, when generators pay distributors to take their output.

The ISO curtailed 630,864 MWh of wind and solar generation in 2019 through May, according to grid operator data, compared with 287,057 MWh in the first five months of 2018 and 461,054 MWh in all of 2018. In May alone, 223,195 MWh of wind and solar energy went to waste, topping previous monthly records set in March and April.

“Sometimes curtailments get ahead of where the markets are,” said Paul Denholm, principal energy analyst at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

SNL Image

Problem is outpacing solutions

Although curtailments accounted for only about 2.5% of total available renewable generation through May, California’s lost wind and solar energy so far in 2019 is more than what many renewable power plants produce in an entire year. Exelon Corp.’s 241.5-MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One in Los Angeles County, for instance, netted 606,235 MWh of generation in 2018, according to SP Global Market Intelligence data.

Curtailments are rising despite an expanding Western Energy Imbalance Market that enables CAISO to export some of its excess renewables, growing demand for battery storage arrays to save otherwise idled electrons for later use, and the state encouraging electric vehicle drivers to charge on clean, midday oversupplies.

The wind and solar reductions, however, have not stopped renewable resources from increasing their overall share of California’s power mix.

Through May, utility-scale renewable generation on the CAISO grid, not including hydropower from large dams, totaled 24,154,510 MWh, up slightly from a year ago. After accounting for an estimated 34% of the state’s retail electric sales in 2018, California’s renewables already have surpassed the state’s 33%-by-2020 goal and appear poised to hit the state’s 60% target by 2030, if not before.

Renewable energy served a record 78% of demand on the ISO system at 12:40 p.m. on April 20, besting a previous high of 73.9% in May 2018, according to the grid operator. Several solar records have also fallen since March 2019, the latest of which occurred slightly before noon on June 1 as solar peaked at 11,363 MW.

SNL Image

‘Paradigm shift in thinking’

With California’s curtailments clearly not going away, more regional collaboration, midday EV charging and accelerated energy storage installations can help, Denholm said, calling storage “the biggest hammer in the toolbox.” In addition to those measures, “a paradigm shift in thinking of [renewable energy] as a dispatchable resource” is needed.

Like conventional generators, renewables can ramp up and down as part of normal grid operations. “We’ve been doing that for 100 years,” Denholm said. But “throwing away free clean energy” should be avoided if at all possible.

David Olsen, chair of CAISO’s governing board, agrees that a big rethink is required. But to make the state’s renewables dispatchable, the California Public Utilities Commission must encourage “new kinds of [power purchase agreements] that allow clean resources to be compensated for providing all of the operational capabilities essential for operating the grid,” including essential reliability services now provided primarily by natural gas and large hydro, Olsen said in an interview.

Current renewable energy contracts, in contrast, reflect a “simplistic approach that looks mainly at levelized cost of energy,” Olsen added, which has led to solar PV’s domination of California’s renewables mix. “But this ignores the facts that it has little or no capacity value, that other expensive resources are needed to meet the steep ramps that PV imposes on the system at sundown, and that increasing amounts of it have to be curtailed,” Olsen said. “Overreliance on PV doesn’t make economic sense. And from a grid operational point of view, it’s irresponsible.”

Instead, California should invite contracts that reward a more diverse portfolio of renewable generation, plus energy storage, for “the full spectrum of power system capabilities,” Olsen said. “If we paid clean resources to provide power services instead of just energy, we wouldn’t have to curtail renewables as much, because we would use them not [only] to provide energy, but to supply the grid capabilities that gas now provides.”

African luxury safaris get eco-friendly with electric vehicles

Evolving from elite colonial sport into bucket-list favorite, safaris have long played to western fantasies of the African wild. Given prices that start at about $750 per person per day (easily increasing by three or even ten times that), this “trip of a lifetime” naturally comes with big expectations.

And because the qualities you’re actually paying for are difficult to capture (exclusivity, colorful local guides, location), lodges put a lot of energy into crafting dreamy settings, from Instagrammable bathrooms to plunge pools overlooking honeyed landscapes to four-poster beds surrounded by trappings of colonial grandeur.

However, the world is changing and as millennial tastes and influences start to have an impact long-held consumer habits globally, the idea of the old school, pith helmet-wearing colonial safari ride isn’t as appealing as it might once have been.

“The industry is in need of a complete rebrand, ” says Fred Swaniker, the much celebrated Ghanaian entrepreneur and founder of the African Leader University. Swaniker was speaking at the African luxury tourism industry’s annual We Are Africa conference last month where the great and good of the sector gathered.

The changes have been coming—incrementally. For example, the rising popularity of using electric game drive vehicles. The very first e-game drive vehicle was introduced on the continent in 2010, when South African lithium battery manufacturer Freedom Won converted a conventional Jeep Grand Cherokee to run off electric battery power.

Anyone who has clocked a few hours driving through the bush knows how overbearing the sound (and smell) of a diesel motor can be—and the calm that descends the moment that engine is silenced.

Electric vehicles are the most visible part of an important larger trend in the industry that is making green building, water and waste recycling, and off-grid energy solutions a norm that clients should come to expect as part of a luxury experience. That said, for real sustainability, the safari industry may need to look beyond “technological fixes” to something less tangible.

Colorful guides. Check.

While the Out of Africa romance has long beguiled the western imagination, international millennial tastes are challenging that narrative, as are those of Africa’s own affluent urbanites. In other words, even as more luxury lodges ditch colonial references and let local, eco-friendly solutions guide their aesthetic, a truly visionary industry would speak more directly to the market in Africa.

“The safari experience is not appealing to middle class urban Africans,” says Swaniker, explaining that the political power of Africa’s own rising middle and upper classes is what will make or break conservation – and by extension, the safari industry – in the long run. “If nature is not relevant to urban Africans and the rising middle class, then it’s going to be lost forever.”

EV Safari

Reading about Freedom Won’s prototype in an airline magazine, the manager of Chobe Game Lodge, Johan Bruwer, immediately saw the beauty and logic of a silent, eco-friendly wildlife viewing option. The only permanent lodge within Botswana’s famous Chobe National Park  Chobe Game Lodge went on to work with Freedom Won to develop Botswana’s first and the continent’s largest fleet of e-vehicles (five of nine game drive vehicles, and all five of its boats for wildlife cruises on the Chobe River).

While it seems the obvious route to go, nine years since e-vehicles first appeared, surprisingly few lodges have gotten onboard. Cost is a supposedly a factor. Freedom Won’s conversions start at about $36,000, a price tag that co-founder Antony English acknowledges does not at current volume turn a profit, but which he accepts as the vehicles remain “a side-line, but a passion”. Additionally, if using solar power to charge the vehicles, a solar installation must be invested in if not already in place (English says solar installation costs for the cars add approximately 50% of the car’s cost to the final bill). However, the capital outlay is recouped over time in e-vehicles’ lower operating and maintenance costs, plus massive savings in fuel.

Maybe not black middle class, but black royalty?

In the end, the few pioneering lodges that have gone electric in any meaningful way have been motivated by considerations beyond cost-benefit ratios. They have also put skin in the game.

Driving between his properties in Zambia back in 2010, Green Safaris’ founder Vincent Kouwenhoven’s eureka moment came when switching off his Land Rover to watch a pack of lions. A frequent traveller to Silicon Valley where Toyota’s Prius and Teslas had become ubiquitous, Kouwenhoven suddenly imagined what it would be like to hear the sounds of the bush throughout one’s entire game drive.

Developing Zambia’s first “e-Landy” prototype, he quickly realized he was more interested in disseminating the concept than launching another company, and made his design open source. Having since commissioned Freedom Won to convert all of Green Safaris’ vehicles (game drive vehicles, boats, and quad bikes), Kouwenhoven calls the silent safari “a true differentiator for exploring the bush.”

Cheetah Plains Lodge owner Japie van Niekerk would agree. The only lodge on the continent that can boast a “full fleet” of e-vehicles, the newly launched luxury property in South Africa’s Sabi Sands is attempting to set itself apart in various ways, and its fleet of five “state of the art” e-game drive vehicles offers an undeniable distinction.

“No one had a vehicle on the market that suited our needs, so [I thought] we may as well do our own thing and know exactly how it works,” says van Niekerk, an avid motor sport competitor whose main concerns were around reliability (imagine inadequate torque in the face of a stampeding elephant herd) and comfort. Speaking to the latter, his model (a Toyota Land Cruiser fitted with Tesla batteries) comes with amenities like reclining, heated seats, and USB plugs, as well as a price tag of $100,000 – a cost van Niekerk dismisses. “[It’s] the most important tool in my business. Your customer sits four to six hours a day on that vehicle. People spend millions on interior decorating, but then want to employ economics when it comes to vehicles,” he says.

While these three operators are unique on the continent in terms of having converted most if not all of their vehicles, the constantly improving prices and technology for lithium batteries cause insiders to anticipate that silent safaris will become the new luxury standard in the next five years.

Companies like Electric Safari Vehicles, the newest player in this space, are banking on it. CEO Steve Blatherwick says the company, which also installs Tesla batteries in its conversions (about $60,000 a pop), has plans to complete 40 conversions by the end of this year from Kenya to South Africa, and as many as 150 in 2020.

In a world where true wilderness and stretches of unwired time are ever more scarce, they are already among the ultimate luxuries. The industry would do well to maximize that asset. As Kouwenhoven notes, “at the end of the day, it’s about being close to nature.”

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox

Renewable gas: A sound option to fight organic waste

Let’s play a game: what would you do with 25 million tons of organic waste annually?

Here are a few tidbits to spark your imagination: Organic waste includes food and green waste, landscaping and pruning waste, lumber, fiber, sewage and sludges.

The Puente Hills Landfill in Los Angeles is the largest landfill in the United States (rising 500 feet high and covering 700 acres) and it has a capacity of 700 million tons. However, there is one caveat for this exercise that I forgot to mention — none of the organic waste can go to a landfill.

Renewable gas is a clean, renewable alternative to fossil natural gas. 

As it turns out, this is not a game. This is the reality that will be faced by local governments and the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery beginning in 2025.

In 2016 California once again established itself as a global environmental leader with the passage of SB 1383 by former state Sen. Ricardo Lara. This groundbreaking legislation included a target of achieving a 75 percent reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste by 2025.

In acknowledgement of the fact that methane is a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, this legislation also established a methane emission reduction target of 40 percent by 2030.

California has identified the reduction of short-lived climate pollutant emissions, including methane emissions, as one of the five key climate change strategy pillars necessary to meet California’s target to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 as established in California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

That means that without a workable organic waste strategy California will not meet its climate goals.

Also, a subset of the methane target is a 40 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030 from livestock manure. So please add a few million tons of livestock manure to that list from earlier….

So, what can be done with 25 million plus tons of organic waste?

We can generate renewable gas. Renewable gas is a clean, renewable alternative to fossil natural gas. As organic waste breaks down it emits methane that can be collected and processed to meet natural gas pipeline quality standards. This renewable gas can be used to displace fossil natural gas that otherwise fuels end-use applications including space and water heating, cooking appliances, heavy-duty vehicles and stationary fuel cells.

The benefits of renewable gas are well-documented.

According to the California Air Resources Board, in addition to the ultra-low and even carbon-negative footprint of the fuel, renewable gas projects can produce significant reductions in a multitude of local pollutants including nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia. It can also reduce odors and improve water quality. All of these benefits are achieved in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities while simultaneously reducing demand for fossil fuels.

Which brings us back to the impetus for this commentary: a recent opinion piece that was published in Capitol Weekly entitled, “Renewable gas really is too good to be true.”

The authors of that piece advocate for the electrification of all natural gas end-uses instead of any deployment of renewable gas. It’s a narrowly focused strategy that may reduce demand for fossil fuels; however the suggested policy does not result in the local benefits of renewable gas production identified by the California Air Resources Board, it does not reduce organic methane, and it does nothing to address the organic waste challenge.

Environmental policy should not be developed in silos. Policymakers do not have the luxury of ignoring reasonable solutions when they are the bodies ultimately held responsible for achieving the state’s ambitious goals.

I would challenge the authors of the aforementioned opinion piece to answer the question: What would they do with 25 million tons of organic waste? Remember, this is not a game.

Editor’s Note: 
Nina Kapoor is the state government affairs director for the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas.

Going Green: Builders, developers and homebuyers seek sustainable, earth-friendly environments

The term, “green living” is part of our cultural dialect.

Being conscious of how our environment affects our health, future and the generations to come isn’t just a lofty concept as it once was a decade or so ago. It is a reality that many are living or striving to incorporate into their lives. That environment includes our homes.

Eco-friendly materials, carbon footprint reduction, energy-conscious systems – builders are heeding the call and buyers are ready for it.

“Green Building is about building an efficient home that not only conserves energy but also provides a healthier environment to live in,” said Will Jenkinson, Broker in Charge of Carolina One New Homes. “Over the past decade, by working with builders, I’ve watched the evolution of ‘green building’ in our local market.”

Jenkinson said he’s personally embraced greener living by consuming less energy in his home. “Over the past year, I’ve conditioned my crawl space and spray foamed insulation in my attic. Not only have I saved over $100 a month in energy bills, I have provided a healthier home with better air quality for my family.”

Jenkinson noted that tankless hot water heaters were rare a decade ago, but now they’re becoming standard, as well as using spray foam installation, Low-E windows (low-emissivity that minimizes the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that comes in and have a thin coating that reflects heat) and in some cases, solar panels in the construction of new homes.

According to an article on PDH Academy, a website for contractor education, “a building that is environmentally friendly is going to have a higher retail value than one that is not…” The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system that contractors and builders go by in order to designate a building or home as LEED certified. It encompasses the exterior and interior design and construction, building operation and maintenance, neighborhood development and city development. Going above and beyond in terms of water and energy conservation, preservation of resources, use of materials and superior indoor environmental quality is also part of being LEED certified.

According to PDH, green building is a “solid foundation on which the ideas of conservation in construction can be built.” Green building is the foundation of LEED ratings. LEED ratings change and evolve as builders and contractors learn more about conservation and how using certain materials are better for the planet.

Kiawah Island and Indigo Park

“The homes in Indigo Park, just beyond Kiawah’s second gate, are the country’s only enclave of luxury green homes,” said B.J. D’Elia of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty. “Each is LEED certified.”

Dyal Compass, a New York based real estate development team partnered with Cumulus Architects, Christopher Rose Architects and Kiawah Island builder Royal Indigo Construction to develop a neighborhood of 16 lots and four models of luxury home plans to choose from. There’s also a 3-acre park that residents enjoy.

“The homes, priced from $1.895 to $3.195 million are designed to be in harmony with Mother Nature,” D’Elia said. “Each is fueled by geothermal energy, using the most earth friendly building materials and leaves the landscape in its natural state.”

According to D’Elia, the most recent LEED research shows that geothermal healing and cooling uses 18-39 percent less energy per floor area than conventional heating and cooling.

Leaving properties in their “natural state” also saves residents time as there’s zero landscaping costs. “Maintenance-free living is what attracts buyers to Indigo Park, especially for second home buyers who’d rather play golf, tennis or spend time at the beach than work around the house,” he said.

The developers and builders ensured that the landscape within the neighborhood worked in conjunction with its natural habitat to reduce flooding – the gardens hold water and the concrete driveways let water seep through.

The homes’ roofs are metal and windows are impact rated for the Lowcountry’s sometimes volatile weather. The exteriors, constructed of NuCedar require no painting and have a quarter century guarantee.

There are green communities across the country, but none “as luxurious,” D’Elia noted. The 2018 HGTV dream home was featured here and was the show’s first dream home ever to be platinum LEED-certified.

LEED is the as best as-it-gets standard for green living, with homes that resist mildew, use low VOC paints and use sustainable materials such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. FSC Wood only comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental and social benefits. Closed cell spray insulation used in the homes at Indigo Park reduces moisture infiltration and improves indoor air quality.

“Sustainable building is already the standard in many large cities,” D’Elia said. “Builders will increasingly be turning to sustainable, earth-friendly materials and techniques.”

New Leaf Builders – Sovereign Still, Oak Terrace Preserve and Sea Island Hamlet

“Charleston Living” Magazine selected New Leaf Builders as the “Best of the Best Reader’s Choice” in 2017 in the Home Building Category. The company, located on Johns Island, with a “focus on responsible building standards,” was founded in 2010. New Leaf builds custom and semi-custom homes throughout the Lowcountry. They work with local contractors and artisans, selecting crews based on a homebuyer’s needs.

“We’re locally rooted so we value innovation, collaboration, integrity and quality craftsmanship in everything we create, said Adam Baslow, Owner of New Leaf. “Our core purpose is to enhance people’s lives by giving them better and safer places to create memories with their loved ones.”

Baslow’s vision and mission for the organization is evident in many of New Leaf’s projects and builds in various neighborhoods.

Sovereign Still, an intimate neighborhood on James Island, has homes that range in price from the mid $700-$800,000. There are 10 homes on large lots that range from 2,800 to 3,800 square feet. Using the most current and energy-efficient systems and appliances and cement plank exteriors, the homes on are the site of an old whiskey still discovered on the property.

“We like to start our homes off with a higher level of green offerings,” Baslow said. “We use low flow plumbing fixtures, low VOC paints, radiant barrier roof sheathing, gas appliances and tankless water heaters as a standard.”

Baslow stated they often also try to incorporate elements with the help of Mother Nature such as utilizing any roof and surface runoff as part of their landscape plan to minimize water usage, in terms of irrigation.

Oak Terrace Preserve is a green, sustainable development in North Charleston. The 55-acre site has 370 homes and there are designated green spaces, 17 pocket parks and large oaks trees. The front streets of the neighborhood are pedestrian and bike friendly. Running and walking trails (made of recycled pliable rubber) circle the 50 plus acre community. Rain gardens and natural bio-swales control rainwater runoff and the homes are green certified, winning a Green Builder of the Year Award in 2008 and “Best New Neighborhood” by Charleston City Paper in 2009. New Leaf has built properties within the Phase 3 section of the neighborhood. Prices are in the mid-$300,000.

“Our buyers run the gamut as it relates to green building,” Baslow noted. “They range anywhere from being appreciative to a more thoughtful building approach that leads to lower utility bills and less wasteful, all the way up the ladder to being off the grid with solar panels, ICF houses and rainwater harvesting.”

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) homes are constructed of pre-made forms that fit together; the outside being flat sheets of foam and connected within a plastic framework. They are laced with rebar and filled with concrete. They are incredibly energy efficient and reportedly last a lifetime. Though typically more expensive to build than traditional construction, they are an excellent choice for areas prone to hurricanes. Rainwater harvesting refers to the collecting of run-off rainwater from a structure to store and use later. More and more homes are being built to accommodate these types of “green” practices.

Sea Island Hamlet is one New Leaf’s newest townhome communities in Mount Pleasant. Beginning in the high $400,000, the “village” comprises 24 luxury townhomes constructed with New Leaf’s signature style of environmentally responsible building techniques. Their mindful landscaping includes pervious pavers and “environmentally sensitive” elements that enhance the natural setting around them. Located off Coleman Boulevard, all maintenance on the homes is included so yardwork and upkeep isn’t part of the lifestyle, but convenience most certainly is.

New Leaf is known for using some of the most energy efficient building materials and techniques available, and Baslow believes that energy-conscious building is here to stay.

“I see the future of green building being more of the norm and less of a buzzword,” he said. “The building and energy codes have forced this shift as a standard of building. Future owners of new construction will get a more energy efficient home as a standard.”

Homes by Dickerson – Nexton

“We committed to building green in 2009,” said Jonathan Bailey, Division President of Homes by Dickerson. “Nexton is really developing some of the construction standards and materials that we’ve been committed to doing and using for a long time now.”

Homes by Dickerson earned recognition as a 2018 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Green Partner of Excellence and is a Best Green Home award winner. According to Home Innovation Research, they have the most single-family homes certified to the NGBS in the country. Building to these standards requires a minimum number of criteria in water efficiency, home site design, sustainable materials and indoor air quality. They have built energy-efficient homes in the Carolinas.

The large master-planned community of Nexton located in Summerville has businesses, schools, single-family homes, apartments, shopping and restaurants located within 4,000 acres. Homes by Dickerson, one of the large development’s builders, has homes ranging in size from 1,900 to 2,600 square feet and priced from the high $300,000 to the mid $400,000.

Bailey commented that the rating system to adhere to the community’s building standards match the Homes by Dickerson standards. “We take manual J calculations of the house size, the direction it faces, the number of windows inside – it’s all taken into consideration when we design our HVAC systems, on a house by house, lot by lot basis.”

Manual J calculations determine heating and cooling loads. Conducting a complex series of these calculations ensures that the absolute best HVAC is installed for a particular home.

Get the best of the Post and Courier’s Real Estate news, handpicked and delivered to your inbox each Saturday.

In addition, Nexton requires builders to have their homes tested through an eco-select certification according to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) which is an efficiency rating for homes. The lower the number, the more energy efficient it is.

“Right now, a house built to a bare minimum code would score about a 100,” Bailey explained. “Our homes in Nexton are currently at a 57 HERS rating.”

Sustainable materials such as tankless hot water heaters, green certified carpet (low VOC emissions) made from recyclable materials, ceramic tile and sheetrock from recyclable materials and cement plant exteriors are part of their green-conscious, environmentally friendly toolbox.

“It has become the ‘trend’ to go green,” Bailey said. “But we wanted to be in front of that trend a decade ago and be the best stewards of our customer’s money and spend it as wisely as possible. Committing to green building and energy efficiency is the best way to do that. There are a lot of things we incorporate into our construction that you don’t necessarily see – they’re behind the walls as well.”

Over time, the extra cost spent to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient construction pays off. The total cost of ownership of a green home is less and buyers won’t have to replace materials as much or at all, compared to less eco-friendly or energy-depleting construction.

What else can we expect, along with our earth-friendly environments?

“We’re beginning to incorporate automation in our Raleigh market,” said Bailey. “I see home automation being the next trend in home buying and building. Alexa, Google, those products that talk to your house – there are those types of products that speak specifically to your HVAC systems and can alert you to potential problems.”

Maybe we’ll name our green homes in the future and tell them, “Thanks, it’s not easy being green, but it’s better for the planet. Now, turn the A/C on please.”

Contact Brigitte Surette at bsurette@postandcourier.com.

***

Green Building Facts

• The American Institute of Architects (AIA) formed the Committee on the Environment in 1989.

• The EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy launched the ENERGY STAR program in 1992.

• The first green building program was introduced in Austin, Texas in 1992.

• The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was founded in 1993.

• The LEED rating system was revealed in 2000 and has become an international standard for environmentally sound and conscious building.

• In 2007, President Bush signed an executive order that included federal goals for sustainable design and high performance buildings in 2007.

• LEED is in 165 countries and territories.

• There are 2.2 million plus square feet of buildings LEED certified every day with more than 90,000 projects using LEED and it is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

Source: AGPOM and USGBC