Posted By Graeme MacDonald,
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) are receiving a great deal
of attention in the media, and waiting lists for the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S,
and Chevy Volt are rapidly growing as consumer demand takes off. Whether PEVs
will completely replace the internal combustion engine is debatable, but
there’s no question that PEVs will be widely available within just a few years.
But before PEVs can be broadly adopted, a charging infrastructure needs to be
in place. Municipalities will play a critical role in the development of PEV
charging infrastructure, through direct investment, the development of
favorable permitting processes, and coordination with electric utilities and
Electric vehicles are a key technology needed to address two critical
issues facing the US economy: climate change and energy security. According to
the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the U.S. uses two-thirds of its oil for
transportation, and two-thirds of that is used as gasoline.[i]
And according to the Center for American Progress, as of 2008 the U.S. imported
over 60% of its oil.[ii] Doing the
math, a complete transition to electric vehicles would eliminate the need for roughly
75% of our oil imports. This would improve our energy and economic security,
not to mention dramatically reducing our nation's carbon footprint (on the
order of millions of tons of CO2 per day).
So electric vehicles are an important technology for addressing climate
change and national energy security. But how quickly can we expect a full
transition? In 2009, Warren Buffet predicted that all new cars would be
electric within 20 years.[iii] Despite
investing nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in PEV-related technology, the "Oracle
of Omaha” may not be exactly right. Still, disruptive technologies can spread
quickly. Recall that the commercial Internet isn't even 20 years old itself! So,
once started, a full transition to PEVs could very well happen in just a decade
The key question, though, is when will the transition to PEVs truly
begin? PEVs will almost certainly follow the standard Rogers Adoption Curve for
"Innovators” have been purchasing PEVs or converting existing gas-electric
hybrids into PEVs for several years now. But the transition won't truly begin
until the next wave of consumers, the "Early Adopters,” begin to purchase them
Unfortunately, for these consumers there exists a true
chicken-and-the-egg problem. PEVs require an entirely new supporting
infrastructure: charging stations. Though not a complex technology, charging
stations are not widely deployed. Many consumers will not want to purchase a
PEV until they know that charging stations are generally available, yet
charging stations are unlikely to be installed until a critical mass of
consumers own PEVs.
Figure 1 - Rogers Adoption Curve
Arguably, this chicken-and-the-egg problem is exactly why
government exists. Left on its own, the market will slowly respond to the need
for a charging infrastructure, but in the meantime, consumers will moderate
their purchase of PEVs. In the absence of intervention, it could take years for
a broad charging network to develop, and even longer before PEVs truly become
mainstream. This is why PEVs, despite the technology being available for
decades, haven't moved beyond Innovators. But with the possibility of
mass-produced PEVs on the horizon, we face a golden opportunity for the PEV
transition to begin. This transition can be secured by the intervention of
Well-run municipal governments are often invisible to their
residents. Munis are responsible for zoning, permitting, and the general
planning and maintenance of basic public infrastructure. Thus, they have strong
control over the deployment and shape of that infrastructure. Additionally, the
Early Adopter crowd for an advanced, environmentally-friendly technology like
PEVs often tends to be educated professionals. These are the type of employees
and citizens that businesses and cities generally wish to attract. Installation
of PEV infrastructure and development of PEV-friendly policies will help
attract and retain these individuals.
For PEVs, charging stations will need to be deployed in three
categories of locations: homes, public spaces (e.g. downtown parking areas,
stadiums), and private spaces (e.g. corporate employers, malls). In all cases, permitting processes need
to be developed to ensure that stations meet basic quality and safety
standards, and don’t adversely impact the local electric grid. Municipal
governments can help accelerate PEV adoption through more direct incentives, as
well. This could include tax incentives for families who purchase PEVs or for
employers who invest in charging stations for employee parking. It could also
include direct installation of charging stations in high-traffic public spaces.
However, municipalities could also choose to postpone
addressing PEVs. As a result, citizens and businesses may choose to move to
adjacent, PEV-friendly jurisdictions. Or more likely, they'll choose to install
their own infrastructure using their own standards, creating a chaotic jumble
of charging stations and unpermitted electrical equipment that could be a
nightmare to later sort out.
Given the level of investment made by the automotive
industry in PEVs, it looks certain that the transition to PEVs will begin in
earnest within a few years. Cities need to be prepared to support their
residents and businesses who wish to invest in PEVs. They can start by joining
with their state DOTs, as well as regional organizations focused on
coordinating cross-jurisdictional PEV policy, to develop common permitting and
planning processes. They can also start conversations with their local utility
to begin planning for the impact on the grid. And they can go even further by
budgeting for city-owned charging stations and tax incentives for charging
Right now is a critical point in the development of PEV infrastructure.
Without local government intervention, charging station infrastructure will likely
be slow to develop, inhibit consumer adoption, and end up a chaotic mess of
conflicting standards. But if municipalities step up and take a progressive role
in advancing this infrastructure, they can accelerate adoption and help shape a
more orderly, sustainable future.
news should be more widely published. After all, our living/breathing space is
finite and deteriorating. We’re aware of global warming, that governments
around the world are attempting to decrease use of fossil fuels, that utilities
are attempting to include renewable energy in their mix of power, that
businesses and individuals are all thinking about how they can reduce energy
usage. Many people recognize earth’s environment is fragile and we should
adjust our behavior so as not to reach a point of irreversible environmental
damage. Why then, are most of the major newspapers in the U.S. not publishing
"environment” sections to keep readers more informed?
Of the 25
largest circulation newspapers in the U.S., only three, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Pittsburg
Post Gazette, have "environment” sections. In the New York Times, "environment” is a sub-section of "science.” In the
Los Angeles Times, "science &
environment” are sub-categories in "U.S. news.” In the Pittsburg Post
Gazette, "environment” is a sub-category in "news.”
papers in large metropolitan areas with smaller circulation, the results are
similar. The papers generally have these sections: home, news, sports,
business, science, technology, lifestyles, entertainment, and classified. True,
if someone wanted to follow environmental news, they could scour the news,
business, science, and technology sections for environmental stories. Or one
can go to a number of environmental online sites and small single subject
publications. But shouldn’t "environment” be a section unto itself in our
There are a few regional newspapers that do have easier-to-find
environmental news: San Jose Mercury News,
San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Business Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Houston Business Journal, although its
section is focused more on the business of energy than the consumption and
reduction of energy usage. We think about what we read. If we don’t read about
the environment, do we think about it?
Author: Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp
Professor of Economics, Harvard University; Director, Taubman Center for State
and Local Government; Contributing Editor, City Journal; Blogger, "Economix,” New York Times
by: The Penguin Press, NY, 2011
In Triumph of the City, Mr. Glaeser writes
brief city histories and celebrates the great "tall cities” of the world—New
York, Chicago, Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He believes tall cities (as determined
by building height) are part of the answer to reducing climate change
worldwide. His narrative of the rise of cities and modes of transportation is interesting,
easy reading. Mayors of growing
and large cities, members of planning commissions, environmentalists,
conservationists, and preservationists will find stimulating—and at times disturbing
and bordering on the impossible—ideas regarding sprawl versus glass canyons.
Here are a
few of Glaeser’s statements (from different sections of the book): "Cities are better for the environment
than leafy suburbs.”…. "Average people are barred from living in central Paris
just as surely as if the city had put up a gate and said that no middle-income
people can enter.”…."Limiting high-rise development…guarantees high prices.”….
"Keeping Mumbai flat also ensures longer commutes….”…."City dwellers consume a
lot less gas than suburbanites.”…. "It would be a lot better for the planet
if…urbanized populations lived in dense cities built around the elevator,
rather than in sprawling areas built around the car.”…. "Assessing the full
environmental cost of preventing construction in California would make that
state’s environmental policies look more brown than green.”
Overall, Triumph of the City prods the
self-satisfied environmentalist to rethink "leafy,” making an important
contribution on how to combat climate change.
A main conclusion from the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee (EAAC) Economic
Impacts Subcommittee (members listed below) is that the net impact of AB 32 on
the California economy will be small. Another conclusion: Inattention to
leakage leads to overestimation of the emissions reductions achieved. As a
result, it biases toward
underestimation of costs per ton of emissions reduced.
by threats to the environment, the economy and public health, California has
made strong commitments to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that
contribute to climate change. One milestone was the enactment of the California
Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32 (Núñez, 2006). AB 32
set a binding emissions target of 1990 levels by 2020.
Air Resources Board (ARB) issued its Scoping Plan in December 2008, identifying
73 measures. Included among these is a cap-and-trade program, a program that
engages market forces to achieve desired emissions reductions. When
implemented, California’s cap-and-trade program would extend to industrial and
other sources accounting for about 85% of the state’s GHG emissions.
EAAC was asked to advise the ARB as to the best ways to allocate emissions
allowances (emissions permits) under the cap-and-trade program.
recommends that the ARB rely principally, and perhaps exclusively, on
auctioning as the method for distributing allowances. …Auctioning has several
attractions, including price discovery in the market and transparency in the assignment
of allowance value. In contrast with free provision, auctioning yields revenue
and thereby can reduce the extent of the government’s reliance on ordinary
taxes for financing expenditures; this can help reduce the overall costs of AB
recommends that the ARB employ free allocation only for the purpose of
addressing emissions leakage associated with energy-intensive trade-exposed
industries, and only in circumstances where the alternative of some form of
border adjustment is not practical. The EAAC’s initial finding is that addressing
leakage through free allocation would require a very small share of allowance
value. (Leakage = emissions associated with imported fuels or other products).
of … changing circumstances implies that the ARB’s commitments should be easily
adaptable to changing circumstances and conditional on the absence of regional
or national climate efforts.
price, sealed bid (single round), double auction is a strong candidate for the
choice of auction design, and it is a good default choice in the absence of
compelling reasons for choosing an alternative.
may want to conduct a bidding procedure to select a third-party vendor to run
6.4 Provision of Allowance Value
5. The State of California should devote allowance value to
several different purposes, including: preventing adverse impacts of AB 32 to
certain individuals, communities, or businesses; financing various investments
or other public expenditures; and directing the value to citizens in the form
of financial transfers ("dividends”) or reductions in California income or
6. The EAAC recommends that sufficient allowance value be
conferred to low-income households to avoid disproportionate adverse economic
impact of AB 32 on such households. Such conferral should be accomplished
through financial transfers rather than through subsidized energy prices. The
EAAC recommends that households with income below 150% of the poverty line be
regarded as low-income households. It is important to consider the impact of AB
32 as a whole, not just the impact of the cap-and-trade component. … The required financial transfer would depend on the extent
to which the costs of AB 32 are passed through to consumers through higher
electricity bills, increased fuel costs, and indirect impacts on the prices of
goods and services.
Businesses The EAAC
believes that the state should not support industry profitability per se.
AB 32 can lead to lower profits in some industries and higher profits in
others. In some publicly held companies, AB 32 may lead to a reduction in stock
prices, a reflection of expected reductions in profitability. Similarly, the
value or sales price of some privately-held California companies may decrease.
To a significant extent, these stock prices or values have already been
affected by the anticipation of AB 32, and many stockholders or owners have
already sold their shares or companies at a loss. Awarding allowance value to
current owners will not benefit these prior sellers. Moreover, it is not at all
clear that the state should absorb the risks associated with ownership by
exceptions to this general approach seem warranted. First, many private
companies are relatively small, and it may be that small businesses could use
some assistance in making the transition required under AB 32. In particular,
such firms typically lack capital and ready access to the financing needed to
invest in energy efficient equipment and greener production processes.
Transition assistance for these purposes would be an appropriate investment
option under Recommendation 10.
Leakage to other States Second, as
noted in Section 5.1.4, preventing leakage is crucial to achieving the
environmental goals of AB 32. Energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries in
California may lose market share to lower-cost, out-of-state competitors if
they try to recoup their increased energy costs under AB 32 by raising prices.
This implies leakage; reduced emissions due to lower production at facilities
in California are offset by higher production and emissions elsewhere,
undermining the environmental integrity of the AB 32 program. The EAAC believes
that it is important for the ARB to address leakage. In addressing leakage the
ARB would mitigate or prevent adverse impacts on output and profits in these
industries. (Leakage: The
transfer of production or capital, and with them emissions, outside a
jurisdiction due to a difference in regulation).
Spending Allowance Value
9. To meet
the objectives of AB 32, the EAAC recommends that the ARB devote a significant
share of allowance value toward financing public and private investments. The
investments to consider include those oriented toward achieving low-cost
emissions reductions (both directly and through investments in clean tech
RD&D), adaptation to climate impacts, environmental remediation,
improvements to disadvantaged communities, and job training. …The EAAC also
recommends establishing an independent Investment Advisory Board to assist in
screening potential investments and investment vehicles that meet the
recommended criteria. The ARB should also respond to AB 32’s directive that
public and private investments be devoted "where applicable and when feasible …
toward the most disadvantaged communities in California…” (California Health
and Safety Code §38565).
EAAC formed an Economic Impacts Subcommittee, whose members are listed
Cargill Chair in Energy Economics, Iowa State University
Lawrence Goulder, EAAC
Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics and Director,
and Energy Policy Analysis Center, Stanford University
Christopher R. Knittel
Associate Professor of
Economics, Chancellor’s Fellow, University of California,
Director and Senior
Economist, Center for Continuing Study of the California
Nancy E. Ryan
Director for Policy and External Relations, California Public
Nancy D. Sidhu
Chief Economist, Kyser
Center for Economic Research, Los Angeles County
James L. Sweeney
Science and Engineering, and Director, Precourt Energy
‘The Fun Theory’ – have you heard of it? I hadn’t until my
colleague Letha Dawson forwarded a link to the ‘Piano Stairs’ video
on YouTube (see embedded video above).
The video starts at the bottom of an escalator and set of
stairs in a busy subway station in Stockholm. Everyone uses the escalator.
Then, this question is posed: "Can we get more people to
choose the stairs by making it fun to do?”
you see next is a sequence of guerrilla engineering: five guys putting down tape,
another guy setting up a video camera, paper and wires being attached to the
stairs. Finally, a sneakered-foot tests the sound by stepping on one of the
stairs. Fast-forward and the stairs have been transformed into a set of piano
comes the true test. First, a woman walking down the stairs—the sound of each
step for all to hear as if she were walking her fingers down the keys of a
piano. Two women who are about the
take the escalator instead take the stairs. And so it continues. In all,
according to the video, 66 percent more people than usual take the stairs
instead of the escalator. And, they’re clearly having fun in the process!
It’s not until the end of the video that you find out it’s
an initiative sponsored by Volkswagen. Volkswagen has set up a site with more videos
and ideas submitted for ‘The Fun Theory Award.’ In their words, "[the] site is
dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to
change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the
environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters
is that it’s change for the better.”
So, why are we sharing this with you? What do we think is so
interesting and important about it for business professionals working toward
environmental sustainability and executives in the clean technology industry?
Well, apparently it works, right? And it makes sense. If
something is fun, people are more apt to do it. Achieving greater environmental
sustainability and penetration of clean technology solutions will require changes
in peoples’ behavior. So the questions we pose to you are these: how can we use
fun to advance sustainability? And, how can we use ‘the fun theory’ to
facilitate adoption of renewable energy and other cleantech products on a
Posted By AltaTerra Editor,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a preliminary
draft version of its greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade regulation in 2009, with the
next draft due out in April. The CARB is scheduled to review the final draft in October 2010, with the rule to go into effect early in
preliminary draft regulation includes:
Requiring sources of GHG emissions
to manage their emissions under an aggregate declining emissions cap.
Starting the program in 2012 with
about 600 of the state’s largest GHG-emitting stationary sources (primarily
industrial sources and electricity generators), along with electricity imports.
Including emissions from
transportation fuel combustion and from small fuel combustion sources by
covering the suppliers of natural gas for residential and commercial combustion.
Requiring a minimum number of
allowances to be auctioned at program start.
Allowing limited use of high
quality offsets outside of capped sectors to cover a portion of the overall
Establishing clear rules for
emissions trading, monitoring, and enforcement.
information go to: www.arb.ca.gov/cc/capandtrade/capandtrade.htm
Submitted by Letha Dawson, Principal Analyst, AltaTerra Research
Today, we are happy to announce our collaboration with Renewable Energy World (renewableenergyworld.com). Renewable Energy World is a primary source of information for many of us working in clean energy and green power. We are particularly excited about Renewable Energy World's new blog section, to which they are inviting a number of guest experts to contribute. Look for blogs from AltaTerra Research.
As part of our collaboration, we'll also be contributing articles to be published in Renewable Energy World's In Focus section, such as this week's "Rebound: US Photovoltaic Market Growth through 2010." We'll address market entry, product innovation, commercial customers and other issues of interest to the industry.
At AltaTerra Research, we believe that the world of green business is too big and important to try to create a 'walled garden.' As facilitators of an open network, we collaborate with other environmental-mission organizations, content purveyors and event organizers to ensure that the sustainability community and our customers have access to some of the best choices.
Renewable Energy World is, in our experience, the best online news source in the field.
We look forward to the unfolding of our collaboration with the entire Renewable Energy World staff over the coming months. For their ongoing support and conversation this year and earlier, we thank Jim Callihan, Oliver Strube, Jennifer Runyon and Peter Andersen.
Wal-Mart’s unveiling of a sustainability index at their July "Sustainability Milestone Meeting” is shining a spotlight on supply chain management and product lifecycle analysis (LCA). Comprised of 15 questions, the index asks each of Wal-Mart’s suppliers to evaluate themselves on how they are addressing environmental and social issues, ranging from reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste, and water usage, to ensuring responsible sourcing of materials and business practices along their own supply chains. While the index has been variously hailed and criticized, most analysts agree that the world’s largest retailer throwing its weight behind such an initiative has the potential to affect change across many companies’ operations and product development. In fact, Wal-Mart's approach is likely to emerge as a de facto standard in defining and enforcing corporate environmental responsibility.
What does this mean for solar?
On the plus side, Wal-Mart has already set an example for using photovoltaic power, and perhaps now more of their suppliers will follow that lead as they work to reduce their GHG emissions. At the same time, however, solar companies can and should expect to come under increasing scrutiny for their own product sustainability. This would of course be especially true for any company that might seek to sell do-it-yourself solar kits or plug-and-play PV systems through Wal-Mart in the future. These companies would be obligated to complete the index survey. Other companies should also be prepared to come under increasing scrutiny as general concerns with supply chain management and product lifecycle are brought into sharper focus. In fact, it may be an interesting exercise for all solar companies to look at Wal-Mart’s 15 questions and think honestly about how you would answer them.
Traditionally, solar companies have enjoyed being solution providers for corporations that are working to reduce their carbon footprints. Among electricity generating technologies—and particularly when compared with traditional electricity generation—solar power certainly offers significant environmental benefits, including a small carbon footprint and short energy payback time. Yet, opportunities for improvement remain at every link of the supply chain, from material sourcing to cell processing, module manufacturing, system design, distribution, siting, installation and product disposal.
The consumer and regulatory pressures will differ by value chain stage, location and other issues. However, at some point in time, those companies that do not make a Wal-Mart-type commitment are likely to be harshly judged for failing to align their practices with the values attributed to them as vendors of environmentally-friendly products and services.
Some solar companies are already public about their efforts in this area and are making progress toward greater sustainability. Among these companies are module manufacturers who are focusing on product lifecycle, with particular emphasis on how products are disposed of when they reach life’s end. The module recycling programs of First Solar and Deutsche Solar AG are profiled in the March/April 2009 edition of Renewable Energy World Magazine.
Although the recycling processes of these companies differ, the rooting of their programs in deeper commitments to and strategies around sustainability is essentially the same. In the article, Karsten Wambach, who oversees lifecycle assessment and recycling for Deutsche Solar, is attributed with saying that "the company (Deutsche Solar) was conceived with an environmental policy along the whole value chain, and is fundamentally concerned with optimizing the entire process on an economic and environmental basis.” Lisa Krueger, Vice President of Sustainable Development at First Solar, is attributed with saying that "the company’s (First Solar’s) policy of ‘Product Life Cycle Management’ or extended producer responsibility formed part of its earliest foundations.”
These comments indicate that the first step for other manufacturers is developing an overall sustainability plan, followed by analyzing the lifecycle of their product(s). A recent whitepaper by Deloitte—which was published following the announcement of Wal-Mart’s sustainability index—provides an introduction to lifecycle assessment and describes a few different approaches.
This is the first event in AltaTerra’s Solar Industry and Sustainability Series. The series recognizes that the intersection between corporate environmental sustainability and clean technology is as much about the companies that offer green products and services ensuring that they are as environmentally sustainable as possible, as it is about Fortune 1000 companies installing green power solutions. In shedding light on this topic, the series reflects one of the ways in which AltaTerra takes an integrated approach to corporate environmental sustainability and the commercial marketplace for clean technology solutions.
We’ve all been hearing a lot about "green jobs.” Today, a simple Google search on "green jobs” returns 2,150,000 results. (Once this blog is posted, it will be at least 2,150,000+1). Of those results, 2,060,000 were posted within the past year.
Typically, when we hear about green jobs, it’s in the context of green energy jobs—solar, wind, green buildings, etc. In recent weeks, however, I’ve been noticing a shift in the conversation in some circles from green jobs as green energy jobs to green jobs as all jobs, meaning that every employee in every department of every organization has the opportunity, and perhaps even the responsibility, to positively impact their organization becoming more environmentally sustainable.
Of course, green business leaders are not an entirely new phenomenon. Like green jobs we’ve been hearing about the increase in Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) (AT&T just hired their first) and related positions for a couple of years now. Even executives who don’t bear a "sustainability” title have led sustainability initiatives in a number of different industries. (As Pat Tiernan pointed out in a recent AltaTerra web conference on sustainability strategy, environmental sustainability has become a concern for all industries.) This kind of c-level support, whether it be from a CSO or other executive, is vital to the success of green initiatives. While all programs may not be initiated at the c-level, grassroots efforts are likely to flounder if they are not embraced by the top ranks, or if a culture that values sustainability does not exist. By the same token, CSOs or other executives who initiate programs can’t achieve company-wide results on their own. Therefore, at least part of the job of CSOs and sustainability managers must be to educate and engage other employees.
While engaging employees in environmental sustainability initiatives may also not be a new idea, I have been struck by the number of articles and reports that have come out over the past couple of months about the potential for all jobs to be green jobs, with a focus on middle management and rank and file employees.
In "Clicking, at Last, on ‘Don’t Print’,” New York Time’s journalist Lisa Belkin relates her own experience of making her job more "green,” and discusses a number of other employee-driven initiatives at other companies.
In a recent column on Environmental Leader, Kent Fairfield of Fairleigh Dickinson University argues for "the engagement of employees at all levels to unleash their energies to co-create the organization’s future.”
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) published "The Engaged Organization” in March of this year in response to what they see as the "third phase (of corporate environmentalism) in which leading companies recognize that greening their products and operations is a source of value and that all employees must be engaged in the effort to ensure its success.” The report examines the various ways in which companies are approaching employee environmental and sustainability education and engagement.
So, why the focus on all jobs as green jobs? For one thing, there is growing recognition of the environmental impacts of day-to-day employee decision-making at all levels of an organization. When employees start making decisions with the environment in mind, they can help reduce the company’s carbon footprint and improve the company’s bottom line, and companies are starting to realize this.
In "The Engaged Organization,” the NEEF found that 75% of the 1300 professionals surveyed work in companies where employees are educated about corporate environmental sustainability goals. Furthermore, 65% look for environmental sustainability knowledge during the hiring process, while 78% believe that such knowledge will become increasingly important for job seekers over the next 5 years.
Last week, Net Impact published "Making Your Impact at Work: A Practical Guide to Changing the World from Inside Any Company." The guide is based on case studies of "social intrapreneurs” in a variety of job functions who have spearheaded environmental and social responsibility efforts within their companies. It provides a resource for socially and environmentally minded people in any job and any industry to add sustainability initiatives to their daily activities.
But what about people who aren’t passionate about social issues or the environment? How to reach out to employees who are not already interested in the environment or sustainability issues is a question posed in "The Engaged Organization,” which remains to be answered.
While exploring this question likely requires further thought, research and a blog post of it’s own, one possible answer lies in making sustainability personal—an approach often illustrated with the example of Wal-Mart’s Personal Sustainability Project. In personalizing sustainability, the scope and definition of sustainability may broaden beyond what we might think of as "green” initiatives. For example, a number of participants in Wal-Mart’s program set goals related to wellness, including losing weight and quitting smoking. While perhaps lying outside the scope of traditional environmental sustainability (and I’ll admit, some of the connections to sustainability took me a while to identify and appreciate), I have little doubt that less cigarette smoke improves air quality, and a recent study of the environmental impacts of obesity suggests that populations with higher obesity rates emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) by producing more food and using more fuel for transportation. This implies that losing weight can benefit the individual and the environment.
By making sustainability personally meaningful, employees who were previously uninterested in sustainability, might also become more interested, motivated and open to support further organizational greening efforts.
According to the article, "Solar Power Industry Remains Hot in California”, the state’s Million Solar Roofs program was inundated with a record amount of rebate applications from August through December 2008. AltaTerra has heard from installers and integrators that their backlog was as big or bigger than it has ever been in late 2008. Molly Tirpak Sterkel, Director of the California Solar Initiative, who was interviewed for the story, says that when the final numbers come in, they expect to see a near doubling in installed solar from 2007 to 2008 – from 81 MW to as much as 150 MW.
What are the drivers of this growth? The article cites the new federal tax credit, which does not cap at $2000 as its predecessor did, as well as the agonizing process to renew the tax credit. The argument goes that when renewal was in doubt, growth was spurred by the rush to complete projects and take advantage of credits before they expired at the end of 2008. When the credit was renewed, and made more attractive for residential buyers with the removal of the $2000 cap, growth was again spurred by consumers lining up to take advantage of the new credit. Further drivers cited include the state rebate program, innovative financing options, and increasing consumer concern about climate change.
Also similar to community programs, solar EPPs should be attractive to solar companies seeking to ramp up residential sales and improve sales efficiency. Furthermore, solar EPPs offer an opportunity to educate large groups of employees in their place of work and to leverage internal programs and communications at participating companies and organizations. Employers are also very interested in these programs as they recognize and seek to reduce their carbon footprints and engage their employees in those efforts. This includes employers taking steps such as installing solar on their facilities, as well as encouraging employees’ to take steps to reduce their individual impacts both at work and, increasing, at home, for example through home solar installation. The ability to combine commercial and residential sales is fairly unique to solar EPPs -- both the employer and employees are potential customers. Indeed, offering commercial customers a discount program for employees is where many solar EPPs start. Such offers have been well received by employers who seek to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability and offer more perks for their employees.
Through ongoing research, we are continuing to learn more about the emergence of solar EPPs, as well as other "green” employee benefits and programs to engage employees on environmental issues. For our initial report: Solar Employee Purchase Programs: Will Corporate Customers Take It Home, we interviewed a number of solar companies that are offering programs, as well as participating employers. Many of the programs we learned about started, are focused, and/or have seen greatest success in California, largely due to strong state incentives, consumer and corporate awareness, high electricity prices, and the large number of solar industry players in the area. If the article in The Mercury News is anything to go by, the time is ripe for more solar EPPs to come online and for the growth potential of the residential market, at least in California, to be realized.
***Join AltaTerra on Wednesday, January 28th at 8 am Pacific/11 am Eastern for a one-hour online presentation about solar EPPs. For more information and registration, please click here.***