Written by Rob Perks

Visit NRDCs Switchboard Blog


The clean energy economy is upon us — but will the U.S. heed the call?

That’s the gist of today’s Washington Post story with this stark headline: Asian Nations Could Outpace U.S. in Developing Clean Energy.

 

Excerpt:

President Obama has often described his push to fund “clean” energy technology as key to America’s drive for international competitiveness as well as a way to combat climate change.

“There’s no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy,” he said on June 25. “The only question is: Which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America.”

But the leaders of India, South Korea, China and Japan may have different answers. Those Asian nations are pouring money into renewable energy industries, funding research and development and setting ambitious targets for renewable energy use. These plans could outpace the programs in Obama’s economic stimulus package or in the House climate bill sponsored by  Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and  Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

In due time fossil fuels will be gone — no one can dispute that.  So why is it that so many people — including an alarmingly high number of those serving in Congress — would rather waste time and energy denying the clear and present danger of climate change and resisting the solutions promised by a clean energy future?

[UPDATE: This just in…A new Harvard study finds that wind energy potential is considerably higher than previous estimates by both wind industry groups and government agencies.]

In my mind I can see a television commercial with just an hour glass on screen and this narration:

“Oil is running out.”

“Coal is running out.”

“Whether we like it or not, fossil fuels are going the way of the dinosaurs.”

“But we know that the wind and the sun will never run out.  And we can generate power from these natural, safe and limitless sources.”

“It’s time to move beyond the dirty energy of the past and embrace reliable clean power for the 21st century.”

“As a nation, we need to do this…before time runs out.”

Let’s all remember that America is a nation built on the foundation of freedom, independence and self-sufficiency — and those values must be at the heart of our strategy for energy policy.  We shouldn’t be losing ground in the world economy, buidling up massive trade deficits to pay for foreign oil.  It’s time we commit ourselves as a nation to develop clean, safe energy from the sun, wind and other natural sources that will create millions of jobs and rebuild our manufacturing base.

It just so happens that the best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is also the way to end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and protect the Earth we leave our children.  Let’s get back to building things again, starting with wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say ‘Made in America.’  After all, we have led every technological revolution of the last two centuries — electricity, railroads, the telephone, automobiles, the television, computers — and there’s no reason we can’t lead this one.

I have to question the logic (and patriotism!) of those politicians who would do the bidding of polluting industries — Big Oil, Big Coal, Nukes — when those dirty and unsafe technologies offer only short-term energy generation benefits at an extremely high cost to our heath, air and water, and climate.  The sun, the wind, and the geothermal energy at the core of the Earth provide a limitless supply of clean energy — our scientists can harness them and our workers can build them.  Our leaders should harness — not hamper — the greatest source of power we have in this country: American ingenuity.

The fact is, we already have wind and solar technologies that can dramatically cut our reliance on dirty coal plants that create most of the pollution that is poisoning our lungs and damaging our atmosphere.  What we need now are leaders who can build on this progress by partnering with business to develop and deploy innovative energy technologies that will recharge our economy and create jobs. 

As Thomas Friedman wrote in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”:  “[T]he ability to develop clean power and energy efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country’s economic standing, environmental health, energy security, and national security over the next 50 years.”

The story in the Washington Post today is yet another wake-up call.  We shouldn’t need countries in Asia or Europe or South America to show us how to compete in the emerging markets for efficient appliances and alternative fuels.  We need leaders with vision and courage who will invest in technological breakthroughs that will once and for all end our reliance on oil and spur manufacturing jobs that can’t be outsourced.  That way, America can start exporting clean energy instead of jobs.

As a nation, we have a choice to make.  Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between clean, new energy sources and economic prosperity.  The choice is between accepting the status quo by holding tight to the dirty energy of the past or boldy embarking on the path to safe, reliable clean energy — an investment which promises both immediate and long-term gains. 

At this important juncture in our history, what choice will our elected leaders make?  It’s up to each and every one of us to help them make the right decision.

This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

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Thursday July 16, 2009

In just a few short years, the Garden State has become the Sunshine State

BY JOE TYRRELL
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

As Congress wrestles with national energy policies and gubernatorial candidates tout their plans here, New Jersey officials say the state deserves credit as a leader in promoting solar power.

In just a few years of coordinated efforts, New Jersey has gone from a non-factor to number two among the states in solar installations connected to the power grid. While far behind California, New Jersey currently generates about twice as many solar kilowatt hours as number three Colorado.

While applauding the gains, many in the industry also say the state, like the nation, has fallen well short of performance goals. New Jersey rose to the top of solar charts in a period when there was little competition from other states.

Now, as the federal government begins to pay attention to renewable energy, New Jersey is in the midst of a challenging transition away from an easy to understand program, which gave rebates to install solar power cells.

The new program shifts the focus away from consumers to utility companies and investors by creating a marketplace for renewable energy credits. The concept has its supporters, though many are more hopeful than confident.

Still, at a time when solar businesses believe the technology is on the verge of a belated boom in the United States, recent New Jersey statistics wowed some attendees at a recent industry conference in Philadelphia.

“Making this even more remarkable is that in 2001 New Jersey had only six” solar cell installations connected to the power grid, compared to more than 4,000 today, wrote Bob Haavind of Photovoltaics World.

His report can be viewed here.

During the session, the state’s top regulator, Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox, proclaimed that when it comes to government policy, New Jersey is “the best place to do solar in the country.”

Around the country, many in solar trade groups and businesses credit New Jersey for showing what a small, partly cloudy state can do to grab its place in the sun.

“Obviously what they have been doing has worked,” said Monique Hanis, director of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C.

“What makes New Jersey stand out is the specific language in the state’s energy master plan, calling for the generation of 2.1 percent of its electricity to be coming from solar in 2021,” said Neal Lurie, director of marketing and communications for the American Solar Energy Society of Boulder, Colo.

Closer to home, though, reactions are more muted.

The rebate program “came out of advocacy” by solar power proponents, “it was not a BPU idea,” said Delores Phillips, the society’s Mid-Atlantic executive director.

Even with improving technology and rising costs for fossil fuels, the cost of solar power remains higher than those dirtier energy sources. Solar advocates maintain other forms of energy benefit directly and indirectly from government subsidies, such as state funds to decommission nuclear facilities, or cleanups of coal ash landfills.

New Jersey’s small spurt of solar power materialized during a BPU rebate program that turned out to be too popular for the board’s limited financial commitment. The initial surge in applications eventually bogged down as the release of funds slowed.

So the board decided on an innovative approach, creating financial instruments, solar renewable energy credits, or SRECs. The idea is that investors buy credits from solar producers, each pegged to 1 megawatt of power. The investors help producers expand, while reaping benefits from energy sales to utilities.

“We’re all looking to see how it’s going to make out,” Hanis said.

Compared to the rebates, grants or tax credits offered elsewhere, New Jersey’s approach is more ambitious but “still a little bit vague for some people,” she said.

“It’s not really tried and tested,” Phillips said, adding it requires two inter-related factors to success.

To be attractive to investors, SRECs need to be based on reliable values, meaning utilities must contract for long-term power purchases, she said. To serve those utilities, the investments must finance enough power to meet their requirements for more clean power, she said.

Judged on that basis, “New Jersey’s program is good, but only half as good as they said it was going to be,” said Edward O’Brien, a partner in McConnell Energy Solutions of Wilmington, De. Last year, instead of a projected 90 megawatts of solar power, the state was at 45, the result of continuing uncertainty over credit values, he said.

The theory is simple, O’Brien said. While not completely supplanting the mom-and-pop approach to solar panels, securitizing the solar marketplace should put it on the same funding as other major energy sources.

“Why are you out putting solar panels up on your house, which is hard to do, instead of buying five kilowatts worth of solar power from some producer?” O’Brien said.

In practice, though, the SREC system “has not been fully thought out,” he said.

Added to the current recession, investors are cautious because of America’s patchwork of energy policies and regulations, which vary from state to state, O’Brien said. States have not helped by altering programs, he said.

“Every state is different, and every state has a bait-and-switch,” O’Brien said.

Still, he is optimistic that New Jersey will regain its momentum, and others in the field view the problems as a hiccough in the growth of solar power.

In the short-run, “there could be a shake-out” during the transition from rebates, said Rick Brooke of Jersey Solar in Hopewell. But 25 years in the business and a number of false dawns, this opportunity looks golden.

As long as the state SREC market allows small systems to participate, people who installed solar panels on the roofs of their homes or businesses still have a chance to participate, Brooke said.

Moreover, people in the industry are expecting good things from the energy bill making its way through Congress. Nearby states have launched incentive programs, whether inspired by New Jersey or California, which has roughly two-thirds of the nation’s grid-connected solar systems, Brooke said.

“It’s a good time to be in the business,” he said. “The state is committed to it, they have goals. People are moving ahead with it. Before, the interest came and went, but now it’s here.”

Rebates and SRECs are not the only way to support the growth of solar power. This month, Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie each highlighted their support for renewable energy.

Democrat Corzine was able to announce the availability $20 million in federal grants for projects at public institutions in the state. Christie promised to create a new agency to promote clean energy technology and jobs, and would remove those functions from the BPU.

The Republican’s approach seemingly echoes Phillips’ complaints about the board’s “antiquated” procedures and primary purpose to regulate rates. But she said members of her association “were very underwhelmed by Chris Christie’s plan,” because it looks at the big picture and avoids the nitty-gritty.

While the Corzine Administration has set laudable goals for increasing clean energy, Phillips said most of the growth in solar power can be traced to his predecessor, former Gov. Jim McGreevey. There’s been “some stagnation” in state efforts since then, she said.

“Everybody likes to talk about clean energy job creation, but nobody explains how they’re going to do it,” she said.

Whether the New Jersey approach catches on remains uncertain. Around the nation, some communities are coming up with their own answers. Many solar advocates are looking beyond America to more successful programs abroad.

For more information on state incentives for renewable energy, visit njcleanenergy.com.

Our Perspective:

NJ has made great strides to join the alternative energy evolution. Not to say it is perfect, but for the first time people can see an acceleraed return on their investment that makes sense.

Rebates for systems under 5okw and the REC program has allowed funding to help underwrite these investments. Add the Federal incentives of a 30% tax credit and accelerated depreciation and the market is positioned to take off.

Would you like to know more? Contact us 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com.

We can provide an overview of your return on investment and help to develop the opportunity and make it become a reality.

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

CHARLES BABINGTON | May 27, 2009 06:26 PM EST | AP

President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed solar energy as a cost saver for a major Air Force base, one stop on a Western trip devoted to raising political money and promoting his economic policies.

Obama’s aides had mocked reporters for making a fuss over his first 100 days in office, but the president was eager to assess the first 100 days of his $787 billion economic stimulus package.

It has “saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” he said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.”

The White House job claims are difficult to verify because they are based on estimates of how bad the economy might have been without the stimulus rather than actual employment data. The country has lost 1.3 million jobs since February, a figure the Obama administration says would have been far higher if not for the recovery effort.

Obama also announced more spending for renewable energy after touring a large field of solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas. The sun-powered cells provide a quarter of the base’s power needs, Obama said, speaking in a large hangar warmed by the desert heat.

“That’s the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day,” he said, and it will save the Air Force nearly $1 million a year.

Obama said more than $467 million in stimulus money will be used “to expand and accelerate the development, deployment and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.”

The president sandwiched the midday event between two political fundraisers: one on Tuesday night in Las Vegas for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and one set for Wednesday night in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Committee.

At Nellis, Obama addressed 400 people, including Air Force personnel, civilian workers and families living on the base.

The base’s $100 million public-private solar power system covers 140 acres and generates more than 14 megawatts of electricity.

As he departed the hangar, Obama bypassed his limousine and walked a quarter-mile along the tarmac to examine fighter jets, chatting with Air Force personnel as he went.

Our perspective:

Solar is the new energy growth maket. For the first time, with Federal and State incentives, the investment is solar finally makes sense.

To find out more how you can make solar your solution email george@hbsadvantage.com  or call 856-857-1230. We will review your opportunity and discuss the financial options available.

ANGELA CHARLTON | May 28, 2009 05:01 PM EST | AP

PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it’s time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.

After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is back on the job,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.

What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.

Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.

She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.

“We have to get in the race now _ and win it,” she said. “I don’t expect a moving backwards because of recession.”

At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn’t aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.

Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.

Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ “that’s a revolutionary message for our country,” she said.

For a long time, she said, “People didn’t even expect the EPA to show up” at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.

“Now it seems like every day we’re rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air,” she said.

She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.

The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.

Our Perspective:

It is good to hear the administration making positive comments about our energy’s future. Alternative energy is a growth business and the correct path for insuring our future energy indepenence.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Would you like to know more about the financial opportunities that drive this investment. Feel free to contct us.

May 15, 2009, 8:15 am

SolarKirk J. Condyles for The New York Times Not all homeowners associations approve of this sort of thing.

John Wood, a homeowner in Woodbury, Minn., wanted to put solar panels on his roof. Last month, his homeowners association rejected his application.

“I felt extremely disappointed,” Mr. Wood said by telephone.

He added: “It made me think that homeowners associations are in place to do only one thing, and that is to maintain the status quo, and they have no interest in any sort of change whatsoever.”

Al Rudnickas, the president of the board of the Wedgewood Association, the homeowners’ group, said that the board was open to less obtrusive technologies like solar shingles. But in this case, “The feeling of the board was that what was proposed wasn’t aesthetically pleasing in keeping with the standards of the community,” he said.

Mr. Rudnickas said that the association invited Mr. Wood to submit a modified application, but Mr. Wood — who is the first homeowner in the association to apply for solar panels — said he was not sure whether he will do so.

Mr. Wood’s case, first reported in the Woodbury Bulletin, has echoes around the nation.

 

In Somerset County in New Jersey, a homeowner was ordered to take down 28 panels.

In California, another homeowner, Marc Weinberger, sued his homeowners association last year after his efforts to put solar panels on his roof were rejected.

Mr. Weinberger and his lawyer, Michael McQueen, have since told Green Inc. that their motion for summary judgment was granted, and Mr. Weinberger installed a system early this year.

In another California case, Marty Griffin, a homeowner in Santa Clarita, applied to put solar panels on a hillside on his property. The association said no, but he went ahead anyway and got sued.

The litigation has been under way for more than a year. Mr. Griffin says the association did not respond in a timely way to his application; a lawyer for the association, Ricardo Cestero, told Green Inc. that Mr. Griffin “did not follow correct procedures.”

Mr. Griffin details his saga, including legal documents, on his Web site.

For solar installers, the roadblocks can be frustrating. John Berger, the chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based firm that designs and installs solar systems for homes, said that the homeowner associations’ prohibitions had already cost him more than $1 million in business.

“It is a big problem,” he said.

Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would prevent homeowner associations from banning solar panels, and similar laws are already in place in a dozen or more states, according to the Database of State Initiatives for Renewable Energy — including Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, among others.

Mr. Wood said he planned to contact his state legislators in the hopes of enacting this type of law in Minnesota.

The laws, however, are rarely comprehensive, as some of the California cases suggest.

Rusty Haynes, a project manager at the North Carolina Solar Center, which manages the D.S.I.R.E. database, said that some applied only to new construction, and others might be vague or limited in scope.

In Arizona a few years ago, a homeowner was challenged over the color of her panels (they were apparently too dark), despite a state law intended to smooth the process.

Has this happened in your community? Is this an issue for you? Feel free to comment below, or e-mail george@hbsadvantage.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

BY LISA CORYELL
Special to the Times

EWING — It may have been God who said “Let there be light,” but it was a couple of business- savvy local church leaders who found a way to turn that divine gift into a money-saving venture for their congregation.

Grace Cathedral Fellowship Ministries church on Calhoun Street has plugged into the sun with a $600,000 solar energy system expected to cut church energy costs in half.

“Parishioners are strained by the economy and churches have cut costs where they can,” said Ronald Cobbs, chairman deacon of the church. “God will do a lot for us, but we have to some things our selves. Churches have to have good business sense.”

Installed by Trinity Solar of Freehold, the 95.13 kilowatt system is expected to produce approximately 120,000 kilowatt hours per year for the church — the largest solar energy system on any church in Mercer County.

The system is expected to generate enough energy to reduce church utility costs by about $40,000 a year. Church leaders say they expect to reap another $70,000 each year by selling Renewable Energy Credits to electricity providers in the state.

“We believe within six years we’ll have this system paid for,” said Bishop Jerome Wilcox, church pastor.

The giant solar panels needed to harness the sun’s energy sit cheek-to-jowl on the rooftops of the sprawling church sanctuary and an adjacent fellowship hall. A massive “inverter” on the north- side of the sanctuary changes the energy from DC power to AC power.

“We use what we need and what we don’t need goes back to the grid for PSE&G to use,” Cobbs said.

While the financial savings are a blessing, the ecological impact is divine, Cobbs said.

“We see the significance of going green,” he said. “If we can take the energy from the sun its much better for the environment.”

Ewing Mayor Jack Ball congratulated Wilcox on the completion of the new system, which is expected to be up and running in the next few days.

“Bishop Wilcox has done some wonderful work in this community through the years and the installation of this clean, environmentally- friendly energy system demonstrates his ongoing commitment to his fellowship and the community at large,” Ball said….

Our perspective:

Bravo! We are currently speaking to 3 different churches regarding the possibility of installing solar.

Maybe God is leading the charge afterall!!!

Should you be intersted in learning more about your own solar solution or solar possibility, give us a call. 856-857-1230.

You mail also email  george@hbsadvantage.com 

We can show you how to structure your solar investment and take advantage of all the federal and state incentives.

NEWTON, Iowa — President Barack Obama, standing Wednesday in the shell of a once-giant Maytag appliance factory that now houses a wind energy company, declared that a “new era of energy exploration in America” would be a crucial to leading the nation out of an economic crisis.

With pieces of wind turbine towers as a backdrop, Obama touted the small manufacturing firm as a success and as a step toward reducing the United States’ reliance on polluting fuels. But as the president on Earth Day set a goal for wind to generate as much as 20 percent of the U.S. electricity demand by 2030, legislation to make that a reality faced a challenge back in Washington in the Democratic-led Congress.

“The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy,” Obama said in a state that launched him on the road to the White House with a surprise upset over one-time rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“America can be that nation. America must be that nation. And while we seek new forms of fuel to power our homes and cars and businesses, we will rely on the same ingenuity _ the same American spirit _ that has always been a part of our American story.”

It’s an American spirit, though, that has been damped with economic downturn and financial crisis.

The president left Washington for a few hours Wednesday to visit this small Iowa town, which took a huge economic hit when Maytag Corp. shut its doors in 2007. The Maytag plant employed some 4,000 in a town of 16,000 residents in jobs that paid about $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

In its place is Trinity Structural Towers, a 90-person manufacturing firm that makes parts of wind turbines the president hopes to expand on land and at sea through the government’s first plan to harness ocean currents to produce energy.

O”Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy,” Obama said. “The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.”

In Washington, the president’s plan to increase alternative energy sources and create environmentally friendly jobs hit some snags despite Obama’s fellow Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reinforced Obama’s message in testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.

The administration’s draft bill is designed to help stem the pollution blamed for climate change by capping greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by mid-century.

The White House wants to see movement on the legislation by Memorial Day. To help that along, aides said the president plans to personally make his case that the costs of dealing with climate change can be reduced dramatically by adopting programs that will spur energy efficiency and wider use of non-fossil energy such as wind, solar and biofuels.

In Newton, Obama proclaimed that “once-shuttered factories are whirring back to life,” although the facility he toured is a shadow of what it replaced here about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

“Today this facility is alive again with new industry,” Obama said, while noting that “this community continues to struggle and not everyone has been so fortunate as to be rehired.”

Trinity now employs about 90 people _ hardly the replacement Newton so desperately needs.

“We’ll never have another Maytag,” said Paul Bell, a Newton police officer who also serves in the state legislature. “Maybe we shouldn’t have had a company here that the majority of people worked for. We put all of our eggs in one basket.”

Recognizing the challenges remaining in Newton and scores of towns like it coast-to-coast, Obama quickly added: “Obviously things aren’t exactly the same as they were with Maytag.”

With the same root in realism, Obama acknowledged the United States’ energy policy will not change instantly, given the country’s reliance on oil and natural gas.

“But the bulk of our efforts must focus on unleashing a new, clean-energy economy that will begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, will cut our carbon pollution by about 80 percent by 2050 and create millions of new jobs right here in America, right here in Newton,” he said.

But it won’t come quickly. The United States imports almost 4.9 billion barrels of oil and refined products annually. That is raw energy that cannot be replaced, one windmill at a time.

Instead, Obama urged bold thinking _ and spending _ to address climate change and energy supplies.

“So on this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America,” he said to applause.

Obama also pushed personal responsibility, calling on every American to replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent. The president also said the leaders of the world’s major economies will meet next week to discuss the energy crisis.

In Landover, Md., on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden marked Earth Day by announcing that $300 million in federal stimulus money will go to cities and towns to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Westley in Landover, Md., contributed to this report.

Daniel C. Esty

Posted April 20, 2009 | 03:50 PM (EST)  As reported in Huffington Post Green

Talk has begun to turn to the new economy that will emerge from the present collapse. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has suggested that the current crisis is not just a recession but a fundamental “reset” of how business gets done. And Time magazine has taken up this theme with a reset cover story. But there has been little discussion of exactly what changes – in principles and practices — should be made so that we rebuild our economy on firmer foundations. As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it is a good time to commit to “sustainability” as a centerpiece of a revitalized regulatory system.

For the past three decades, debate has raged over whether and how to deregulate. But while markets offer the prospect of promoting innovation, growth, and prosperity, few now believe that capitalism is self-correcting or that the private sector needs only minimal supervision. From the demise of Lehman Brothers and AIG to the skullduggery of Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford, the signs of inadequate regulation and market failure surround us.

Two particular forms of market failure underlie the meltdown of the past year and make sustainability the right touchstone for our regulatory reset efforts:

• Externalized costs and risks
• Incomplete information

Both of these problems require that we rethink our approach to regulation — and re-establish the fundamentals of our economy on a more sustainable basis. And note that this principle should apply broadly, not just in the financial arena.

We need regulations which ensure that companies cannot structure their operations so that any upside gains accrue to their owners (or worse yet their managers), while risks or costs get shifted onto society as a whole. In the banking sector, rules against over-leveraging are urgently required. The recently released Turner Report in the UK outlines the first steps in this direction that should be taken. More generally, financial reporting rules must be designed to expose hidden risks and externalized costs.

We should likewise insist that companies which send emissions up a smokestack or out an effluent pipe cease their pollution or pay for the harm inflicted on the community. In our “reset” world, economic success cannot come at the price of harms imposed on the public in the form of contaminated air and water or risk of climate change. Thus while we lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy, let’s similarly adopt rules that provide for a sustainable environmental future. This will require overhauling the traditional approach to environmental regulation which countenances way too much in the way of externalities by offering “permits” up to a certain level of harm.

President Obama’s call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions represents a good first step in the “no externalities” direction. But let’s broaden the push and make polluters pay for all the harm they cause. If companies — and each one of us in our personal lives — had to pay for our waste and pollution, behavior would change. Putting a price on harm-causing creates incentives for care and conservation — efficiency and resource productivity.

More importantly, these price signals will drive a market response. Companies that are positioned to help others reduce their waste or cut their emissions will find customers eager for their goods and services. And where no easy solutions are available, harm charges will motivate “cleantech” innovation as inventors and entrepreneurs recognize the prospect of making money by solving environmental problems.

In parallel with a commitment to internalizing externalities, we must adopt transparency as a watchword. Market capitalism does not work without adequate information about economic actors. This reality has been understood in theory, but now needs to be advanced in practice. Government has a critical role to play in establishing the terms of disclosure about companies, markets, products, investment vehicles, and more. Public officials must also be empowered to ensure that disclosures are complete and accurate.

Well-designed reporting rules make it easier to spot externalized costs or risks and harder to hide malfeasance. Widely available metrics also facilitate benchmarking across companies, which offers a mechanism for assessing performance, highlighting leaders and laggards, and spurring competitive pressures that drive all toward better results. Studying the leaders offers an important way to identify best practices in everything from corporate strategy to pollution control. Likewise, outliers (such as those who make 10% returns year after year without fail) can be isolated for special review and scrutiny.

Such transparency would make it easier to refine our compensation systems to reward superior performance and real value creation. Carefully constructed disclosure rules could help, on the other hand, to unmask mere financial engineering, which should not be credited with outsized rewards.

There is a great deal of work to be done to re-establish prosperity across our country and the world. Smart regulation can channel corporate behavior and individual effort toward sustainable economic growth — that is durable because it rests on solid underpinnings not hidden risks or externalized costs.

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with appointments in both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the co-author (with Andrew Winston) of the prize-winning book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (just released in a revised and updated edition published by John Wiley). A former Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Esty advised the Obama Campaign on energy and environmental issues and served on the Obama Transition Team.

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s long-stalled solar-rebate program for homeowners and small businesses will soon have funding – an infusion of cash that could result in the creation of scores of “green” jobs.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority board voted unanimously yesterday to borrow $30 million to get the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program under way.

Enacted in July as part of Gov. Rendell’s $650 million Alternative Energy Funding Act, Sunshine is expected to provide rebates of 35 percent to help cover the cost of buying solar-power systems.

“Time is of the essence,” said George Cornelius, chairman of the seven-member authority board and the state’s acting secretary of community and economic development.

The DEPartment of Environmental Protection, which will administer the Sunshine Program, expects rebate applications to be available within two weeks.

“We think this is the front edge of a huge development of renewable energy in Pennsylvania,” said Dan Griffiths, deputy secretary at the DEP.

Those are inspiring words to Jeremy Klotz, 44, of South Philadelphia, who traveled to the state capital yesterday along with 30 other solar contractors to urge the authority to approve funding for Sunshine.

Klotz was laid off three weeks ago from a solar company that had hired him months ago in anticipation of Sunshine funds that never came.

Solar-contracting companies throughout the state had hundreds of thousands of dollars in installation jobs and planned hires on hold because homeowners and small businesses were reluctant to commit to solar projects without assurance that state help to offset the cost was, indeed, on the way. An average 5-kilowatt residential system costs $35,000 to $40,000.

“If this [funding] had passed, I might be working right now,” Klotz told the authority board prior to yesterday’s vote.

A quick polling of his colleagues in the audience revealed at least 350 installation projects on hold because of uncertainty over when – if ever – Sunshine funds would become available, Ron Celentano, a principal with Celentano Energy Services in Wyndmoor, told the authority board.

 

‘Dire need’

“We are in dire need of this money,” said Celentano, who is also vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

Rising from the back row, a soft-spoken Wes Checkeye, a 24-year-old part-time solar installer at Heat Shed Inc. near Quakertown, told the board he was “looking forward to a solar future – if that’s possible.”

In all, the legislature allotted $100 million for Sunshine. The Commonwealth Financing Authority, an independent agency established to administer Pennsylvania’s stimulus packages, anticipates issuing a number of bonds over the next few years to fund the Sunshine program entirely, as well as other alternative-energy programs the state intends to launch.

The authority intends to go to market to finance Sunshine’s first funding infusion the first week of May, said executive director Scott Dunkelberger.

 

‘All those green jobs’

That was a good-enough assurance for Kira Costanza of Collegeville-based Sunpower Builders, which has about 40 contracts with potential customers sitting in a drawer and about a half-dozen planned hires that have been in limbo.

“We’re thrilled,” Costanza said of yesterday’s funding vote. “This is going to create all of those green jobs everybody’s been talking about.”

Within a month, that will mean the rehiring of an administrative assistant, an electrician, and a plumber at Open Sky Energy Systems in Swarthmore, said Michael Matotek, chief operating officer.

The company was formed a month or two after the legislature approved the Sunshine program. With rebates still unavailable by January, Matotek said, “we had to let everybody go.”

After the vote, he told Klotz he’d like him to consider working at Open Sky.

Said an elated Klotz: “I’m going to go celebrate my daughter’s 13th birthday.”

Our perspective:

The long awaited door has been opened. Governor Rendell approved this measure in July 2008, from there it had to be defined.

This is a small but necessary steps. The bill is designed for residential and small businesses. It will not prove to be the be all…end all.

PA has to take significant steps if it wishes to jump start a program needed to address the growing demand for energy. We are faced with a dilemna. Demand is growing   1 1/2% a year. We are unable to meet this growing demand in the next 8 to 10 years with our existing facilities.

I do not believe that people will accept rolling brown outs as a possible solution to meeting this growing demand. Incentives are needed to open the gates to larger facilities / businesses. Providing a ROI that will not only make sense but also allow us to meet this demand.

Let us know your thoughts?

Should you be interested in knowing more of how to set up the proper financial structure needed to take advantage of Federal and State Incentives…email george@hbsadvantage.com 

Austin, Texas, is getting closer to its self-imposed goal of using more renewable energy, and creating jobs in the bargain. The Texas-sized solar plant being planned would be the largest in the Unite States, according to Austin Energy.

The Council approved an agreement under which the City’s municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, will purchase all of the electricity produced over a 25-year term by a 30 megawatt (MW) solar project to be built on city-owned property located about 20 miles from downtown Austin.
Gemini Solar Development Company, LLC, one of 15 companies competing for the massive project, will construct, own and manage the solar facility. The project of photovoltaic solar panels will span approximately 320 acres, producing energy each year sufficient to power about 5,000 homes. Austin Energy will pay about $10 million per year for the power.

The solar project represents a major step towards fulfilling a Council goal to develop 100 MW of solar capacity for Austin by 2020. The Council also has set a goal that 30 percent of the power delivered to customers by Austin Energy by 2020 will come from renewable resources. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 and completed by the end of that year. The project will result in at least 600 local construction jobs.

 

The Austin American-Statesman said that critics remain — they’re worried about the financial
aspects of the plan, like how much the power will cost.

By unanimous vote, the council approved a partnership with Gemini Solar Development Co. to build and operate the facility and sell all its power to Austin at $10 million a year for 25 years. City officials say it would help them get closer to the city’s goal of using more renewable energy.
Other questions remain that critics said they would raise at the meeting. The city won’t say how much the power from the plant would cost, although most estimates are around 16.5 cents a kilowatt hour — more than most other types of power. Even that calculation is foggy, though, because federal tax credits could reduce the construction cost, thus making the electricity cheaper. But the city isn’t sure how much cheaper. The credits weren’t factored into Gemini Solar Development’s pitch.