25 November 2013

Number 9 Dream and a Note of Thanks to Readers

Nine years ago yesterday I wrote my first blog post here The Green Skeptic. Some 900+ posts later, my come more slowly and less frequently as other forms of writing and communication have usurped the blog's domination, but it's still chugging along.

As John Lennon sang in his song "Number 9 Dream" from his 1974 LP, Walls and Bridges:

"So long ago
Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?
I know, yes I know
Seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me..."

Nine years does feel like a dream. I never dreamed I'd still be publishing this blog nine years later, even on a less regular basis than some years.

A lot has changed in nine years, but one thing remains steadfast: my appreciation of you, my readers.

You come from 10 countries (according to Google Analytics), with the United States, France, and China topping the list, followed by the Ukraine, Germany, and Russia; then the UK, Belgium, Slovakia, and Hong Kong.

An eclectic list, indeed. If your country is represented or if it is not, please let me know.

Of the 940 or so posts I've written here (or at least since May 2007, when Google Analytics started tracking my posts) the most popular is one that I posted over three years ago on the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers. It's being chased by a couple of recaps from Cleantech Alliance events, my "Take-Aways" from the Aspen Environment and Global Philanthropy forums of a few years back, and book reviews for Amy Larkin's ENVIRONMENTAL DEBT and Mark Tercek's NATURE'S FORTUNE, posted earlier this year.

The inclusion of the last two posts on my all-time, top 10, leads me to believe you are still finding relevance in what I write here, which encourages me to keep going -- and perhaps to focus more directly on book reviews and lessons learned from events in the marketplace.

As The Green Skeptic starts its 10th year, I will keep in mind the words I wrote to mark our seventh year together, "I want to thank you again for reading. I hope to keep up my end of the bargain moving forward with good, informed writing about the issues, a healthy skepticism about both hyperbole and hysteria and, most of all, a respect for you, my readers."

Happy Thanksgiving (or "Thanksgivukkah," as we're saying this year).

"Ah! böwakawa, baby, poussé, poussé," as John Lennon sang it. (And if anyone knows what he meant by that phrase, I wish you'd post it in the comments!)

18 November 2013

Know Your Audience (and Its Bite Size), Say Corporate VCs to Cleantech Entrepreneurs

Grant Allen of ABB TechnologyVentures
"Get your stuff together before you meet with us," said Grant Allen of ABB Technology Ventures to an audience of entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate leaders gathered at the offices of Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia last Thursday. "Do your homework. We're quite clear on our web site what we do. And make sure you have a crisp, compelling script, and a strong, committed management team."

This sentiment was echoed by Michael Smith, head of Constellation Technology Ventures at Exelon. "You need to know your audience," Smith said. "Talk to us like an energy company. We're looking for ways to keep Exelon relevant."

The event, "Energy Giants: Looking for Innovative Investments," was jointly sponsored by Pepper Hamilton and the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic, and featured Sumit Sarkar of NRG Ventures, in addition to Smith and Allen, on a panel that I moderated.
Michael Smith of Constellation
Technology Ventures

"Large companies aren't good at innovation," Allen offered, "our goal is to be a thorn in the side of internal R&D."

Sarkar suggested that the venture arms of corporations can sometimes be nimbler in response and are constantly scanning for technologies that offer improvements.

Each outlined what they look for in a company and how much they want to invest, their “bite size.”
There was, of course, some discussion about capital "light" companies or technologies, but given the range of their investment thresholds -- from $3M-$250M -- they understand the need for some capital outlay.

While traditional Venture Capital (VC) has been pulling out of the sector, corporate VC (CVC) has picked up some of the slack.

In 2012 for example, according to a recent study, of the total $6.46B investment in the sector, $2.7B came from corporates, up from $2.55B in 2010 and $1.7B in 2006. Q2 of 2013 saw CVC rise to 14% of total venture investment in the sector vs. only 8% in Q1. And 107 CVCs made an investment in the sector in the 1st half of 2013, versus 148 in all of 2012.

Sumit Sarkar of NRG Ventures
Corporate VCs are a little less risk averse than traditional VCs, in part because such companies are full of engineers who can scrutinize a technology's before an investment is made, but there seemed to be consensus that if the technology enables an existing technology perform better, it is going to be worth a look.

All three investors agreed that networking and investment pitch events can serve as a feeder for companies, but having an executive sponsor is best. 

The entrepreneurs in the room, representing everything from energy storage to software that helps increase the efficiency of long-haul truck drivers, seemed to nod in understanding or agreement.

At the cleantech CEO Retreat that I help manage for EY’s Global Cleantech Center this fall, a recurring meme developed around elephants dancing with mice. As small companies (the mice) began to dance with corporates (the elephants) either as strategic partners, customers, or investors.

Some of the concerns for the mice, obviously, were around how not to get crushed while dancing with elephants. But from the elephant side, how can mice get noticed and have something relevant to share?

Hopefully, the panelists at last Thursday’s event helped alleviate some of the stress between species on the dance floor.

(Disclosure: the author is co-founder of the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic.)

29 October 2013

Energy Giants: Looking for Innovative Investments

Join me as I moderate this panel on corporate investors looking for innovative technologies that fit their corporate strategies. Hope to see you there.   

Energy Giants: Looking for Innovative Investments
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Large and forward-looking corporations want to be on the ground floor of the next wave of energy innovation. Corporate investors are looking for innovative technologies that fit within their corporate strategies. In addition to financial assistance, these corporate investors are also assisting to commercialize technologies within the large and changing energy markets. Learn about this and more by attending this informative and lively dialogue in which industry experts will address these and other key questions. Sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP's Energy Group and Emerging Company Group and the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic, this session examines the recent resurgence in corporate venture activity in the energy space - particularly among Fortune 500 companies - and the many new players involved in the industry. Join us to learn more about this complex and important topic.

5:30 - 6:00 p.m. Networking and Registration
6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Program
7:00 - 7:30 p.m. Networking

Pepper Hamilton LLP
3000 Two Logan Square
Eighteenth and Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA  19103

Welcome & IntroductionThomas P. Dwyer, Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP

Scott E. Anderson, Global Marketing Director, Cleantech, Ernst & Young LLP
Co-Founder, Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic

Grant Allen, Senior Vice President, ABB Technology Ventures
Sumit Sarkar, Director, NRG Ventures
Michael Smith, Vice President, Head of Constellation Technology Ventures at Exelon

Contact Kristen Clark at clarkk@pepperlaw.com or 412.454.5049 with questions.

CLICK HERE to register for this event.

(Full disclosure: I am co-founder of the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic.)

30 September 2013

3rd Annual EY Cleantech CEO Retreat Underway

EY Cleantech CEO Retreat Underway
Today starts the 3rd Annual EY Cleantech CEO Retreat, an event I've managed for the past two years and which we, EY's Global Cleantech Center, hosts at the Carneros Inn in Napa, California.

This two-day Retreat is designed to be an intimate, facilitated dialogue between peers working in all sub-sectors and concentrations from the broad spectrum that is cleantech.

Included are emerging company entrepreneurs focused on energy efficiency, new ways of financing clean energy development, producing alternative fuels and even more efficient ways to use traditional fuels.

Some of the companies attending include Elevance Renewable Sciences, LightSail Energy, OriginOil, Energy Points, and WegoWise.

In addition, we bring into the fold some of the most innovative companies fostering sustainable solutions or investing in the companies and business models for a sustainable future.

Among the corporations are Nike, SunEdison, WiTricity, Tecsis Brazil, and CLP India.

We're excited to be hosting this event again this year and look forward to a couple of days full of stimulating dialogue about the issues facing cleantech companies today -- from capital raising to working with corporations as partners and customers, from helping US government agencies reach their renewable energy targets to seeking opportunities in emerging markets like China and India.

And, of course, we look forward to the good food, wine, and landscape that Napa and the Carneros Inn provides.

We couldn't do it without our sponsors, including Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Goodwin Procter, Heidrick & Struggles, Silicon Valley Bank, and Steelcase, who provided the furniture for our unique event. Additional support came from the Aspen Institute's Energy & Environment Program.

For more on this invitation-only event and other programs and thought leadership from EY's global Cleantech Center, go to ey.com/cleantech.

18 September 2013

In Case You're Wondering Why The Green Skeptic Hasn't Posted in Some Time...

As the season turns from summer to fall, it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that I've neglected The Green Skeptic and its readers for too long -- my last post was August 2nd.

But there's good reason! 

In addition to the usual summer vacation (those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram will have seen my tweets from Martha's Vineyard), back to school, and the Jewish holidays, which I've been fortunate enough to enjoy with my fiancee, Samantha, I've been cooking up a few other things -- besides delicious meals.

First, is EY Cleantech's upcoming CEO Retreat in Napa, California, where we'll welcome over 80 cleantech CEOs, corporate, and government leaders  representatives. It's a very exciting event and I've had the pleasure of organizing and managing it for the second straight year. You can read more about it (and read last year's report) HERE.

Second, I've begun work on a new book of nonfiction that pulls together stories of cleantech innovation and my own insights on the sector, which will be of interest to readers of The Green Skeptic. (More on that later, I hope.)

And finally, this fall, the Aldrich Press is publishing my first full-length collection of poetry, FALLOW FIELD. The book consists of 45 poems, representing my best work from the past quarter century, and you can order your signed copy of FALLOW FIELD here:

Small Buy Now Button

Here is what others have said about this collection, FALLOW FIELD:
“Scott Edward Anderson’s poems honor the reality that the things of the world – rye grass, fall warblers, ravens, owls, ‘Sargassum drifting/ in a pelagic wave,’ lovers and sourdough bread – speak to and for our innerness. Here the sense of place is not simply a matter of geography, but of feeling one’s way into that sense of becoming that makes one’s path clear. The book’s fourth section is comprised of poems that beautifully embrace the very human need to join the inner and outer, a territory defined, as the poem titles suggest, by ‘Becoming,’ ‘Shapeshifting,’ ‘Cultivating,’ ‘Mapping,’ and ‘Healing.’ Guided since childhood, as the book’s closing long poem relates, by nature’s teaching, Anderson is devoted to finding the words for what it means to dwell mindfully among others on the wounded earth.”
                                                            –Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Rope: Poems
“I was impressed by Anderson’s engagement with nature — especially the way in which his lyrical lines sketch the profound relationship between humans and their environment.”
                                                             – Jonathan Galassi, author of Left-handed: Poems
For those of you not familiar with my poetry, it is rooted in nature and grounded in what Robert Hass called the “strong central tradition of free verse made out of both romanticism and modernism, split between the impulses of an inward and psychological writing and an outward and realist one, at its best fusing the two.”  (Hass, Introduction to Best American Poetry 2001)

I studied with Hass and with Gary Snyder, along with the late Walter Pavlich, and received some great mentoring and advice from poets Alison Hawthorne Deming, Donald Hall, Colette Inez, and Karen Swenson, as well as wonderful friends and readers.

My poetry is informed by a deep engagement with the natural world, attuned to the smallest details and complexities of nature and our experience of place. Attentiveness and mindfulness are critical to my method of working, both as the poem first evolves and later, through the often rigorous process of revision.

I believe poetry is the most direct language with which to approach our place in the world and reconnect us to nature. By nature, I mean not only the natural world, but also the built environment; not only the processes and causal powers of the physical world, but our immediate experience of the spiritual and the non-human.

For the past twenty five years, I have been building a body of poetry that tries to achieve my goal of writing that is open, approachable, and eminently readable, at the same time that it is intellectual and revels in the joy of language. FALLOW FIELD represents the best of my poetry over that time.

Order your signed copy of FALLOW FIELD below:

Small Buy Now Button

02 August 2013

Review: ENVIRONMENTAL DEBT by Amy Larkin

There have been a number of books about business and the environment over the past five years.

Most follow the same formula: explain the environmental issues and problems we're causing as a species, point to a few success stories -- especially about good corporate citizens who are taking steps to reduce their impact, and outline a prescription for a path forward toward a solution.

The books tend to resemble each other, too, as if book jacket designers and marketing staff have done their market research. Typically, there's a fringe of grass along the bottom edge with a plant growing out of it and some denomination of money, either as blossom or as the potting material that nurture's both ecological and economic growth. (Yawn.)

Amy Larkin's Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy is no different, but it stands as a complementary volume to Mark Tercek's Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Larkin, a self-proclaimed environmental activist and "revolutionary in a suit," is former solutions director with Greenpeace. She has enviro street-cred, but has also been in enough boardrooms to know how to achieve corporate compromises.

Larkin has done great work, some of which she highlights in her book, and she continues to serve as a consultant with companies wrestling with how to address their environmental footprint.

Hers is a strong, credible voice for focusing on solutions, while not ignoring the intractable problems.

She's direct and forthcoming about some of the challenges facing the environmental movement, especially in trying to convince the public that there is a better, albeit harder way.

That better way is outlined by her Nature Means Business framework (NMB), which is also, curiously, the name of her consulting firm.

The NMB Framework is simple (thankfully):

1.) Pollution can no longer be free and can no longer be subsidized.
2.) The long view must guide all decision making and accounting.
3.) Government plays a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction.

Larkin stops short of prescribing a cure beyond this three-part framework.

In fact, she's set up a web site and a kind of Changemakers-style competition called transitionagenda.org with the conflict resolution organization RESOLVE in order to allow readers to continue the conversation, offer their own ideas, and possibly, via crowdfunding a la Kickstarter, fund those ideas.

Either Larkin has a lot of faith in her readers or her editors wanted there to be a life for Environmental Debt beyond the book. It's an interesting concept and I'm curious to see whether it works.

Ultimately, a book like this will only make a difference if it gets into the right hands and at the right time.

The revelation that caused Ray Anderson to transform his Interface flooring company came from his reading of Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce.

Lee Scott and Rob Walton overhauled Walmart's supply chain and business operations after touring biodiversity hotspots with Pete Seligmann of Conservation International.

As Larkin writes, her "greatest hope is that Environmental Debt promulgates new ideas into the culture that in turn change our understanding of business."

And, perhaps, she didn't have to add, change the way we do business.

I hope the right people read this book.

31 July 2013

July Hiatus: Chris Nelder's Tribute to Randy Udall

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. Earlier this month, my pal Chris Nelder wrote about Randy Udall for SmartPlanet. Udall passed away at the age of 61 while on a solo backpacking trip in Wyoming's Wind River Range. 

I recall Udall's cogent, smart, and somewhat snarky comments on pricing energy in conversation with Jim Rogers of Duke Energy at the Aspen Environment Forum back in 2009, where we were both speaking.  

Here is Chris's tribute, in part. You can go here to read the full version:

Randy Udall: An energy hero’s journey by Chris Nelder

Randy Udall by Dan Bihn

Randy Udall had a unique talent for expressing complex realities and befuddling data in a simple, tangible way that anyone could understand; for being able to step back from the immediate issues of the day and put them in a larger, clarifying perspective.

So when I learned last week that he had died on a solo backpacking trip in the Wyoming wilderness, it was a crushing loss. Randy was one of my heroes: a wonderful man who was a hugely important and helpful friend, mentor, sounding board, and teacher to me over the past several years. He was a gifted writer and a compelling speaker. It’s hard to believe we’ll have no more of his words.
He certainly contributed much to mine. It was Randy who, preferring to be credited anonymously as “a perspicacious friend,” said this in my article on “energy independence“ in February 2012: “The masses (and the cheerleaders) love this story because it is one of Abundance and Manifest Destiny in this Exceptional Country of ours.” That phrase expressed beautifully what the shale mania is really all about. A student of human nature, Randy had an unerring ability to detect the emotional underpinnings of our rhetoric about energy and our destiny, and bring it back to earth.

He never doubted that the engines of human activity were redlining, and that we had entered a period of extreme, even existential challenges where “the politics of energy has to surrender to the physics of energy.” He had no doubt that peak oil was a real and a serious issue we would have to confront in the very near future, as the decline of a handful of mature giant oil fields eventually overwhelmed new additions from the thousands of new wells being drilled every year. And he put his shoulder to the wheel in response, co-founding the U.S. chapter of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), and co-hosting its first conferences.
Over the past several years, I was lucky to exchange emails every few days with Randy and some other fellow energy geeks. (Some of them wrote this touching tribute.) In a kind of ongoing workshop, we passed around data and charts and observations, working through arcane details, trying to detect the reality of our energy situation amidst a growing crescendo of industry propaganda.

Read the complete tribute here.

More about Chris Nelder.

30 July 2013

July Hiatus: Gregor MacDonald's TerraJoule

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. My pal Gregor MacDonald recently launched a new subscription publication called TerraJoule.us, a monthly newsletter covering macro trends in global energy. Gregor is one of the smartest thinkers and writers I know on macro trends in energy. Here's a description of his latest issue and how to purchase it:

Each issue of TerraJoule.us contains: a Main Essay, a Model Portfolio, a Data Brief, and a link to a Downloadable Podcast. Gregor Macdonald, Editor. For a more detailed description of each issue’s contents, please see the Subscribe section.
This month’s publication, King Grid, examines the emerging relationship between global growth and the power sector. As the global economy struggles through energy transition at lower levels of GDP, the powergrid is advancing.
Can the global powergrid grow at a faster rate than the global economy? Ecological economics generally suggests a steady correlation exists between growth in energy demand, and, growth in economic output. If so, we should expect the economy to be unable to grow faster than energy demand. However, during our present energy transition, when so many users have been kicked off liquid BTU, it may be possible that some of this stranded demand will step forward, and push growth of the powergrid to above trend levels. Surprisingly, this may be possible during a time of sustained, economic weakness in OECD economies.
The July issue also includes the next round of changes to the Model Portfolio:
The stock market correction and bond rout should provide a continuous window in the Summer months to accumulate other ETFs targeted. IXC is starting to look particularly attractive as major components like BP and Shell are off their highs. Meanwhile, given the devastation in utility ETFs, owing to the back up in rates, the global utility ETF, JXI, also looks attractive.
To purchase, please follow the link below: Gregor.us

26 July 2013

July Hiatus: Howard Lindzon on The Best Trade of His Life

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. Here's Howard Lindzon on The Best Trade of His Life. Love the line: "Not all trades are for money. Sometimes you just need to really change things up, even when they are going well."

San Diego/Coronado – The Best Trade of My Life

I talk a lot about stocks, markets and investing, but the best trade of my life was a move.
In the summer of 2009, Ellen and I picked up a rental sign off a lawn on B. Avenue on Coronado and walked into the house and made an offer. The kids were at summer camp. We would have some explaining to do.
We had not rented our home in Phoenix, had not thought through schools,logistics, friends and family, but it just felt right.
That trade set in motion some fantastic things.
We became renters ourselves and a one car family. I walked to work. The kids learned to ride bikes and walked to school.
In 2010, despite the math of renting over owning, we bought a home. The month we bought, turned out to be a low in housing. I had to sell some Buddy Media stock in order to buy the home, because neither my dog Bagel nor I qualified anymore for a loan (that was a bad trade within the trend of the big trade :) ).
Not all trades are for money. Sometimes you just need to really change things up, even when they are going well.
What was your best trade and/or a trade you are looking to make?
Howard Lindzon is co-founder and CEO of StockTwits and he blogs at HowardLindzon.com

25 July 2013

July Hiatus: Andy Swan's "Make Some Noise"

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. Here's Andy Swan on "Make Some Noise":
Make some noise
When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the facts are against you, pound the table.
Some ideas don’t work.  The market isn’t ready for them or doesn’t want them.  You can tell when every “sale" is a grind.  The plow is just too heavy.
Admit it:  You’re already dead.
That’s when you get a little crazy.
  1. Radical shift.  Not to the product (if you think it’s good)…but to the process.  Break the rules. Complete change of target, price or distribution system.
  2. Make some noise.  Get loud.  Every piece of momentum gets a touchdown dance.  See who dances with you.
  3. Lever up.  Put everything into the one thing that works.  Everything. 
There is no excuse for a startup dying quietly.  
That’s pride.  Newsflash— she isn’t gonna dance with the guy slinking off in the corner.
Die loudly.

24 July 2013

July Hiatus: Jack Ricchiuto's "Mindful Leadership"

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. Here's Jack Ricchiuto on "Mindful Leadership":

Mindful Leadership: The Key To High Engagement Organizations

imageIt’s interesting that we have two kinds of leaders today. We have those who actively create cultures of engagement and those who actually engender disengagement.
What makes the difference? Is it their pedigrees or salaries, personality types or track records? Is it the obvious or a more subtle chemistry of factors?
We now have compelling evidence that our quality of attention is the key differentiating factor in how we learn, work and live. It is equally true for how people lead.
High engagement leaders are mindful leaders.
Mindful leaders live in the present. They pay attention to the uniqueness and possibilities of each moment. Clear that now is the only time they ever have, they exude a sense of presence that is contagiously engaging, buoyant and realistic.
The practice of presence gives them an agile sense of timing and an inspiring sense of perspective. They are flexible without being distracted and passionate without being myopic. They treat change as inevitable and vital.
Unmindful leaders live in the past and future. Their sense of timing is regularly off. They come across as somewhere between distracted and obsessed. As much inauthentic lip service they deliver otherwise, they treat change as the enemy to their illusion of power.
They stay untrustworthy with unspoken agendas and unrealistic in expectations because they don’t live in the present. Unmindful leaders squander an unproductive amount of time planning and reporting because these excuse them from accountability in the present.
Mindful leaders get measurably more done because they are continuously engaged in the present. Even their sense of planning and reporting has the character of presence.
The world of an unmindful leader is a world of drama and dogma. The world of a mindful leader is a world of discovery and difference.
Mindful leaders treat conversations as opportunity spaces for action. They are always making agreements, generating and testing options, initiating and completing things. Regardless of agenda, duration or location, their meetings have a palpable feel of accomplishment and engagement. They do not allow people to unmindfully postpone the possible in self-fulfilling excuses about the impossible.
Unmindful leaders see vision as the assumptive delegation of action into the future. They think they’re demonstrating leadership by treating conversations as spaces for endless discussing, defending and dictating. Their meetings result in more meetings. Communication around them remains consistently fractured, fictional and frustrating.
Mindful leaders ask great questions that move people from uncertainty to creativity and talk to action. Unmindful leaders see conversations as opportunities to convert others to the narcissism of assumptions.
Mindful leaders engage people’s strengths, passions and connections. Unmindful leaders are consistently uninterested in these because their priority is fixing people’s weaknesses, deficiencies and differences.
Mindful leaders are regularly seen engaging by walking around. Unmindful leaders don’t have to look up from their screens and meeting tables because they remain intrinsically uninterested in the present.
Mindful people have little tolerance for unmindful leaders because their unmindfulness creates a culture of disengagement.
Unmindful people prefer the disengagement of unmindful leaders because it entitles them to a lack of accountability they prefer. Their refusal to share authentic feedback enables their disengaging leaders to conspire in the illusion that their unmindful leadership is responsible for what people achieve in spite of it.
Fortunately, there is an emerging genre of leaders who doubt the value of the unmindful model. They have an intuition that, even though unmindful leadership is normative and incentivised, it doesn’t create an environment that brings out the best in people. They seek to become more mindful in their approach to leadership.
They have a sense that the engagement of mindful leadership has far more benefits and fewer costs than disengagement from unmindful leadership.
The good news is that becoming a more mindful leader is completely possible because everyone already has all requisite skills.
We now have solid evidence that mindful leaders outperform unmindful leaders on every dimension of performance, development and interaction. The key to high engagement organizations is mindful leadership.
Every organization, school and community needs to demand nothing less.
Jack Ricchiuto is a writer, engagement artisan and author of “Abundant Possibilities: The Power Of Presence In An Intentional Life” released this month. More: JackRicchiuto.com

24 June 2013

Is NYC's Climate Resiliency Plan Too Shortsighted? Geophysicist Klaus Jacob Thinks So

"We have to have a long term view to create meaningful short term solutions," so says Klaus Jacob, research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Jacob warned of New York's vulnerabilities to severe storm flooding long before Sandy and has emerged as a central figure in discussions about post-Sandy New York City.

In an interview with City Atlas, Klaus Jacob talks about flood risks, managed retreat, and taking a long-term view on resilience design. Read more about Jacob's response to NYC's new Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency report here.

New York City's plan, "A Stronger, More Resilient New York," contains actionable recommendations for rebuilding communities in the wake of Sandy, as well as increasing the resilience of the city's infrastructure. It can be downloaded here. 

Jacob feels that some of the recommendations in the report are dangerously unsustainable because they’re based on short-term assumptions, making climate adaptation even more difficult for future generations. The uncertainty in long-term projections should be actively considered to build a New York that can respond to a range of future scenarios.

"I’m not making any projections what NYC will look like in 50, 100, 200 years," Jacob imparts. "But I don’t want to create solutions now that I know will not survive for those time horizons. That's all I'm saying. Future generations will have to deal with their own problems. But we should not create liabilities now for them." 

Here's the video interview from TheCityAtlas.org:

21 June 2013

Tesla's Elon Musk Shows Why Electric Cars Are the Future, Today

Last night in Los Angeles, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, Inc, staged a brilliant show in an attempt to convince skeptics of electric vehicles that charging, or in this case swapping, EV batteries is easier than filling your gas tank.

He did it by simultaneously swapping the battery of a Tesla Model S car on stage, while a colleague filled his Audi at the fastest gas station in LA, which pumps at 10 gallons per minute, according to Musk.

The comparison was shown on screen via remote video feed with a timer running overhead.

Not only did the gas-powered car take longer than one battery swap, but two, as Musk rolled out a second Model S and swapped its battery well before the Audi's tank was full and the transaction completed.

Musk failed to mention that the swap was also less expensive than the gas filling, but he probably didn't want to rub it in.

It was a brilliant piece of showmanship, which is causing some to refer to Musk as the new Steve Jobs.

Here is the video. Watch it all the way through and watch it again, if you still have any doubts.


19 June 2013

Cleantech In Da House (Brooklyn's House, That Is)

NYU-Poly's MetroTech Campus
“Brooklyn is in the House” or Cleantech is in Brooklyn's House, I should say.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and New York University’s Polytechnic Institute (NYU-Poly) announced yesterday they will open a 10,000-square-foot cleantech incubator in 15 MetroTech in downtown Brooklyn.

There’s room for 20 cleantech startups in the incubator, including those focusing on energy efficiency and technologies that enhance New York City’s resilience in the face of climate change.

Last fall’s Superstorm Sandy helped focus the city’s attention on where the gaps are in its own ability to weather such storms, and heightened awareness about technologies that can mitigate such impacts, as well as reduce the causes.

Downtown Brooklyn is becoming something of a hub for the tech economy across the river from Manhattan with its Silicon Alley. The area even has a new moniker: “Brooklyn Tech Triangle.”

"Harnessing NYC's leadership in data and information technology, local entrepreneurs are developing new business models and technologies to help solve global urban problems, from energy efficiency to climate adaptation," David Gilford, assistant director of NYCEDC, told me via email.

NYU-Poly and NYCEDC already operate a cleantech incubator, New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy (NYC ACRE), which I’ve written about before on The Green Skeptic.

The new space will have room for more cleantech startups, including those in manufacturing, as well as cleanweb.

"We're really excited about this next phase of our growth, and the opportunity to work with great partners like NYCEDC, NYSERDA, Con Edison, National Grid and others," said NYU-Poly's innovation and entrepreneurship director Micah Kotch. "There are massive challenges to be solved around climate and energy, and we want to empower entrepreneurs to be part of the solution.

The doors of the NYC Clean Technology Entrepreneur Center will open in the fall of 2013.

18 June 2013

With Artisan Exchange, Collaborative Economy Meets Specialty Foods Movement

Co-working works well for techies, freelancers, and artists -- why not for small food businesses?

That's what Frank Baldassarre and Artisan Exchange are trying to answer out in their West Chester, PA, manufacturing and distribution center.

Frank, Green Skeptic readers will recall, was the idea man behind e3bank, which wanted to be the first triple bottom line bank in the country.

When e3bank ran straight into the collapsing economy, a market weary of banking, and socially responsible investors without any capital, Frank had to pivot.

Frank Baldassarre's a survivor. As a banker, he's lived through the S&L crisis, the dot-com bubble, and the latest market downturn.

"I've seen these cycles before," he told me last Friday during a tour of his new venture. "And I really believe we're starting to see signs of real recovery."

Frank's wife and brother-in-law run Golden Valley Farms Coffee Roasters, which owned a 27,000-square-foot building where it housed its coffee service products and supplies. (Golden Valley has offices and roasting facilities at one end of the building.)

"Basically, the bulk of our facility was full of paper cups, lids, straws, stirrers, and stuff like that," Frank said. "You have to sell a lot of paper cups that have little or no margin to make enough to cover overhead."

Increasingly, the company focused on its core competency, Frank offered, "importing, roasting and distributing world class Fair Trade, organic coffee and shade-grown coffees."

At first, Frank tried to lease or sell the extra warehouse space, but there wasn't much call for light manufacturing in the region and there were no buyers for such a large space.

Frank and his family like to eat locally, healthy, and well; a combination that had them running around to specialty shop in the region.

Simultaneously, Frank began to wonder how all these food manufacturers with specialty, small batch products were able to survive. Many were working out of their homes, isolated and alone, and didn't have access to the commercial facilities that would make their business scalable.

With the expansion of the slow, local, and organic specialty food market, Frank hit upon an idea. He had an empty space; the market had a need. Why not combine the two?

Thus Artisan Exchange was born.

Dividing the space into 120-square-foot "blocks," Artisan Exchange rents the spaces to small-scale, individual food manufacturers -- from heirloom cakes to hot sauces, from cheese spreads to bake-at-home pizza and gelati -- providing the entrepreneurs access to a centralized, commercial-grade sanitation facility, shared retail space in the form of a year-round weekly market, and the kind of collaborative,"you're not alone" atmosphere that co-working spaces engender.

In addition, Artisan Exchange collectively markets the tenants under their own banner, which helps attract customers to the weekly marketplace at the site and makes advertising more affordable for the individual businesses. Artisan Exchange is exploring cooperative buying for supplies and materials the entrepreneurs need to create their products.

A year ago, Artisan Exchange opened its doors to its first member-tenants. Now, with one of the original tenants, a pasta maker, having outgrown its walls, the space is almost fully subscribed. There are plans for a brewpub, as well as a full commercial kitchen, and that's only the beginning.

Frank Baldassarre solved Golden Valley's real estate problem with an entreprenuerial solution that provides an affordable environment for entrepreneurs committed to producing hand-crafted, sustainable foods.

Now, that's a delicious idea.

For more of the flavor of Artisan Exchange, check out this video from WCTV:

29 May 2013

Power to the People: EY's Renewable Energy Index Ranks Country Attractiveness

For the past ten years, Ernst & Young has published a quarterly index analyzing the attractiveness of countries around the world for developing renewable energy.

Called the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (or RECAI, for short), the index has provided a barometer of the renewable energy sector.

Established in 2003, the quarterly publication ranks 40 countries for their "attractiveness" of renewable energy investment and deployment.

The latest edition of the RECAI cites energy demand, natural resource, technology costs, access to finance, and global competitiveness as key influences for investors.

Global annual clean energy investment totaled US$269b in 2012, representing a five-fold increase on 2004, according to the report. And the sector is now becoming competitive with more traditional fossil fuel energy sources.

New and improved technologies, such as cheaper, more efficient solar panels, biomass boilers, and even small wind turbines, are those technologies cited by the Index that allow energy users to generate their own power where and when they need it.

This "democratization" of energy sources provides greater flexibility when it comes to energy generation and management.

The latest RECAI includes a revised, updated methodology reflecting shifts in investment drivers and the sector's maturing since the report’s creation 10 years ago.

An increased focus on the role renewable energy plays in each country’s energy mix, energy supply and demand, and the cost competitiveness of renewable energy, are some of the changes reflected in the new methodology, according to its editors.

As with other country attractiveness indices, EY has also adopted an increased emphasis on the economic and political stability of each particular market.

"Market fundamentals, such as energy demand growth, security of energy supply and the affordability of renewable energy, feature as some of the most prominent drivers of renewable energy growth today," says RECAI's chief editor Ben Warren.

"Our revised methodology allows us to analyze each market's investment attractiveness much more effectively by considering these factors and weighting them accordingly," claims Warren, who serves as Ernst & Young UK Energy and Environmental Finance Leader and Global Cleantech Transactions Leader.

The revised index sees the US regain the top spot in terms of attractiveness, as high barriers to entry for external investors realign China into second place.

Despite that change, the RECAI finds prospects for growth for the sector in China remain strong with continued GDP growth, increasing energy demand, and the ongoing strategic importance of the sector to the local economy providing solid foundations for the future.

You can download the latest RECAI at www.ey.com/recai

(Disclosure: The author is marketing director for EY's Global Cleantech Center, which is one of the sponsors of the RECAI.)

09 May 2013

Tesla "S" Garners Consumer Reports Best Car Rating...Ever

Tesla Model S
The Consumer Reports headline reads, "The Tesla Model S is our top-scoring car"

"There, we said it," CR goes on to say. "The Tesla Model S outscores every other car in our test Ratings. It does so even though it's an electric car. In fact, it does so because it is electric."

They were impressed with the car's "excellent handling, a comfortable ride, and lots of room inside. Plus, it has a front trunk where other cars' gasoline engines would be, in addition to its large rear cargo space."

The engine delivers "impressive power, right now, and it is impressively efficient. The Model S uses about half the energy of a Toyota Prius every mile, and it has more than twice the range—about 200 miles—of any other electric car we've driven."

"Inside," CR notes, the Tesla S, "looks like something Marty McFly might have brought 'back from the future' in place of his iconic fusion-powered DeLorean." They liked the giant iPad-like control panel in the center of the dashboard and how everything worked better than they expected.

"So is the Tesla Model S the best car ever?" CR says it comes close, especially if "your needs are confined to the Tesla's driving range" and ultimately determined "the Model S is truly a remarkable car."

An impressive review for an impressive vehicle. Check out CR's video: Tesla S video. Kudos to Elon Musk and Tesla Motors.