Saturday, February 23, 2008

Investing in Energy Productivity

When I look at the rapid fundamental transformation needed in energy policy to achieve IPCC recommendations for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions and then look for evidence of these changes taking place, it is hard to be optimistic. It seems we are shoveling coal faster and faster on a runaway train when we know there is a bridge out around the bend.

So it was with some sense of hope that I read the new report by McKinsey & Company, The Case for Investing in Energy Productivity.

This report offers a new a way to frame the policy debate by offering strategies to make money while also significanty reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The authors have also offered a new phrase, "energy productivity," which causes a reframing of the old energy efficiency or conservation paradigms. Much like refocusing one's eye while looking at a Magic Eye picture, this opens up a whole new vista of opportunities to bring divergent causes together for the common good.

Can we invest our way to a more stable climate? If so, everybody wins. Let's get started!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Signs of the Greening of Indiana

In a few weeks, a walk in a Hoosier woodland will reveal the first signs of Spring as new green growth pushes up through the brown detritis of seasons past.

Can Indiana's economy perform the same miracle of new life, pushing new cleantech industries up through the rotting asphalt of boarded up factories? This miracle has already occured in similar rustbelt states like Pennsylvania, but can it happen here in the state Forbes ranked 49th among "America's Greenest States?"

Let's explore a few of the first signs of the Greening of Indiana.

Indiana Wind

When you look at a wind map of Indiana, you see at least six counties with marketable wind resources. What you will also see on that map are transmission lines that interconnect several states and major metropolitan areas. We have the resource, the means of transport, and the nearby markets. That is why we also have several wind companies designing and installing million-dollar wind turbines in our corn fields, employing Indiana contractors, and paying leases to Indiana farmers. By this summer, 200 megawatts of wind will be online with a total of 2000 megawatts in some stage of planning in Indiana. New wind is already cheaper than new coal, according to eye-opening presentations by Larry Flowers of Wind Powering America and Jeff Anthony of American Wind Energy Association. If you have made a trip along I-65 lately, you have probably seen some of the gigantic components in transit. Some of those components are coming from overseas, but they could be made right here. World demand for wind turbines is such that it takes 18 months to get an order filled, if you have the connections. Manufacturing capacity cannot keep up with demand. This is potentially a huge part of Indiana's future economy, both as a supply of clean, inexpensive, pollution-free, renewable energy and as a manufacturing opportunity, not to mention a boon to farmers who can lease their land for wind and still farm it. The Indiana Wind Working Group is planning a two-day symposium, June 17th and 18th, 2008, at the Indianapolis Convention Center, to help make the connection between manufacturing opportunity and capacity.

The Legislature could greatly accelerate that process and create hundreds of new jobs by doing what 24 other states have already done, enact a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires our utilities to get a percentage of their power from renewable resources. That should be an urgent issue for all legislators concerned about the health of taxpayers, the health of our economy, our energy security, our competitiveness and the full employment of our workforce. It's time to diversify our energy portfolio. A bill in the House to do that, HB 1102, was one vote short of a constitutional majority to pass out of the House.

Green Buildings

At the beginning of 2007, there were ten Indiana projects registered for the LEED Green Building Rating System (out of 8500 in the rest of the land) and there were 80 Indiana Chapter members. By the end of the year there were 86 registered projects and 220 members in Indiana. Many of those members traveled to the Greenbuild International Conference in Chicago in November, where attendence was more than double the previous year's record number of 13,000 in Denver. We are still behind our neighboring states, but gaining. Over $2 billion in building projects in Indiana are currently in some phase of design or construction using LEED as a benchmark. House Bill 1280, Energy Efficient Buildings, passed out of the House and moved on to the Senate for consideration, where it was amended to a summer study committee. That bill called for public projects in Indiana to be designed to LEED or equal green building standard, which would save taxpayers millions of dollars in energy, health and productivity savings, improve the health of building users and the environment, while also creating new jobs. Ball State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, Butler University, University of Evansville and other institutions of higher learning in Indiana are leading the way with LEED projects in progress. The Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen College has been certified and it is the first LEED Platinum level project in Indiana.

The following Indiana College and University presidents have signed on to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment: Ball State University - Jo Ann M. Gora, President (a member of the Leadership Circle); Franklin College - James G. Moseley, President, Goshen College - James E. Brenneman, President; Indiana State University - Lloyd W. Benjamin III, President; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology - Gerald S. Jakubowski, President. That's leading by example and practicing what you teach!

Indiana Renewable Energy Association

This new industry web site and blog posts impressive blow-by-blow accounts of key Indiana renewable energy legislation and they have excellent explanations of complex topics like netmetering and renewable energy standards. If you provide a level playing field with legislation you open the floodgates to investment from the world-wide renewable energy industry. If not, many of these investors will look elsewhere first, like #32 Pennsylvania. Go to this web site to see how your legislators voted on these issues and let them know your opinion.

INdiana Sustainability Alliance

Founded by a couple of young Ice Miller LLP attorneys, Alex Forman and Paul Jones, the INdiana Sustainability Alliance was created to, "bring together business leaders, policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, developers, scientists and other professionals in the fields of sustainable development, green building, renewable energy, water management, and clean technology."

They are starting off with a bang for their first event, March 19, 2008 (at Ball State UniversityCollege of Architecture Planning Indianapolis Center, 50 S. Meridian St.,Indianapolis), with Michael J. Walsh, PhD, Executive Vice President of Chicago Climate Exchange, the world's first voluntary, legally binding integrated trading system to reduce emissions of all six greenhouse gases, with offset projects in North America and worldwide. You may still be able to register for this event, but hurry, over 200 people have already signed up! The event starts at 5 p.m. with the speaker, followed by networking and light food at 6 p.m.