Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category


Random Thoughts from the Chairman | April 17

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

At the WCTA’s quarterly Board meeting on April 16, we were joined by Congressman Adam Smith, who came not to speak to us but to hear from us. Everyone appreciated his presence and his willingness to listen, but some of what he said in response to comments gave us pause. For example, he observed that most people, even those who support efforts to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions, have no clear idea what “global warming” really means. Further, most will respond by asking what the short-term costs are, and because there are short-term costs that are not offset by short-term gains, they will oppose taking action. Finally (and this is no surprise to anyone), the issue is overwhelmingly political. While his observations are no doubt accurate, they are nonetheless disturbing. He seemed to imply, in effect, that the more complex and long-term an issue, the less likely it is that a democracy is able to deal with it. Read More…


Mitigation of Climate Change – Part 3 of the new IPCC report


By Brigitte Knopf, published on Real Climate

Global emissions continue to rise further and this is in the first place due to economic growth and to a lesser extent to population growth. To achieve climate protection, fossil power generation without CCS has to be phased out almost entirely by the end of the century. The mitigation of climate change constitutes a major technological and institutional challenge. But: It does not cost the world to save the planet.

This is how the new report was summarized by Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, whose report was adopted on 12 April 2014 in Berlin after intense debates with governments. The report consists of 16 chapters with more than 2000 pages. It was written by 235 authors from 58 countries and reviewed externally by 900 experts. Most prominent in public is the 33-page Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that was approved by all 193 countries. At a first glance, the above summary does not sound spectacular but more like a truism that we’ve often heard over the years. But this report indeed has something new to offer. Read More…


Myths and realities of clean technologies | McKinsey & Company

Gold Coins and plant isolated on white backgroundApril 2014 | bySara Hastings-Simon, Dickon Pinner, and Martin Stuchtey

The world is on the cusp of a resource revolution. As our colleagues Stefan Heck and Matt Rogers argue,1 advances in information technology, nanotechnology, materials science, and biology will radically increase the productivity of resources. The result will be a new industrial revolution that will enable strong economic growth, at a much lower environmental cost than in the past, thanks to the broad deployment of better, cleaner technologies and the development of more appropriate business models. But how do we reconcile this bold and heartening prediction with recent challenges experienced by cleantech, the general term for products and processes that improve environmental performance in the construction, transport, energy, water, and waste industries? Over the past couple of years, many cleantech equity indexes have performed poorly; in January 2014, the American news program 60 Minutes ran a highly critical segment on the subject. The former chief investment officer of California’s largest public pension fund complained in 2013 that its cleantech investments had not experienced the J-curve: losses followed by steep gains. It’s been “an L-curve, for ‘lose,’” he said.

So, is cleantech failing? In a word, no. Rather, the sector has experienced a cycle of excitement followed by high (and often inflated) expectations, disillusionment, consolidation, and then stability as survivors pick up the pieces. We’ve seen this before with other once-emerging technologies, such as cars, railroads, elevators, oil, and the Internet. Much of cleantech is just leaving its disillusionment or consolidation phase. For example, in transport, Tesla Motors is looking good; Fisker Automotive went into bankruptcy in 2013. In energy, SunPower is making healthy margins and SolarCity raised $450 million in 2013, but over a hundred other solar companies are gone. The shakeout is brutal—and typical. It has weeded out weaker players, making the industry as a whole more robust. Despite the rough patch, annual growth is at double-digit rates. Read More…


Random Thoughts from the Chairman | April 1

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

GLOBE 2014

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Board Chair

Every even-numbered year the GLOBE Foundation of Vancouver, BC, hosts a clean technology conference and trade show. For the past five shows, the Seattle area has had a delegation that has either exhibited at or attended the trade show. (Part of the fun of going has been the bus ride up and back.) Clean technology companies, and many countries, sponsor booths, and attendance is a good way to keep up with the latest developments in clean tech from around the world.

This history of attendance over an eight-year period points out how the field of clean technology has changed in the relatively short time that clean tech has been considered a separate field. In 2006 and 2008, most of the exhibitors were developers of wind farms and solar arrays, with some other energy-related companies and a few organizations (publications and associations), either in country pavilions or their own booths. Most of the European countries had large booths, and were handing out directories of the many clean tech companies within their borders. Read More…


Legislators doing state no favors by actions

By Jon Talton, Originally published by Seattle Times


It is not true that the recent session of the Washington Legislature failed to accomplish anything.

In fact, legislators delivered a sledgehammer to state competitiveness by killing the nearly 20-year-old research and development incentives that have helped Washington keep up with rivals worldwide.

Lawmakers also energetically torpedoed investment in transportation projects that are essential to moving freight and ensuring a strong export economy.

This provoked Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, to write, “We’ve lost one of the few tools to attract and grow new businesses in the technology sector, and our transportation infrastructure continues to decline without sufficient resources.”

Indeed, $74 million in state incentives over the past nine years resulted in $443 million in outside money, along with billions more in research grants for life sciences.

Much of this funding would not have been obtainable without the state priming the pump.

Then there were the sins of omission. Most notable were the failure to restore university funding to prerecession levels and kicking the can down the road on K-12 education moneys to meet the requirements of the McCleary court decision.

Overall, with admirable exceptions, most lawmakers seem to lack any sense of government’s essential role in keeping Washington ahead in a highly competitive world. Read More…


AAAS Launches Initiative to Recognize Climate Change Risks with Report “What We Know”

This article was originally published by AAAS.

As the largest general scientific society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) believes it has an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one.  Therefore, AAAS is announcing the launch of a new initiative to expand the dialogue on the risks of climate change. At the heart of the initiative is the AAAS’s “ What We Know” report, an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.

Nobel laureate Dr. Mario Molina, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and co-chairs, Dr. Diana Wall, distinguished professor of biology and director at Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and Dr. James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard, chaired the climate science panel that generated the report.

The report provides three key messages for every American about climate change:

  • Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.
  • We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
  • The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

Read more…

Please start the conversation and leave your comments below.


Random Thoughts from the Chairman | March 18

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Board Chair

I recently met with a representative of a company that makes lubricants and fuel additives. He came with a barrage of test results and certifications by the USEPA as to the efficacy of their products (which, by the way, offer considerable fuel savings for both diesel and gasoline vehicles). Yet he was unable to gain any traction with fleet operators here. Since his products are being sold all over the world, he could not understand the reluctance with which he was greeted in Seattle. “I thought this was a green city,” was his comment.

Although the reasons for this reluctance are complicated, part of the problem – and probably a large part – is that the well has been poisoned by past experience. There are many fuel additives on the market, all claiming to do wonderful things. Most of them are useless, according to independent testing agencies. Therefore the natural inclination is to assume that the next additive to come along is no different – even if it is. My advice to him was to stress the lubricant (synthetic lubricants are well accepted and proven to perform). Read More…


5 Things You Need to Know About BC’s Carbon Tax Shift

Commentary by Alan Durning and Yoram Bauman, Originally published by Sightline Daily

When British Columbia enacted a carbon tax shift in 2008, many thought other jurisdictions would follow soon with their own ways of cashing in their carbon. Seven states and four provinces were working out the details of a huge carbon cap-and-trade market called the Western Climate Initiative. Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were campaigning for president with promises of clean energy on the double quick; Senator Obama even pitched carbon pricing in his stump speech. Ottawa was murmuring about following the lead of Washington, DC, with a carbon cap or tax of its own.

Then history took a turn: financial collapse, bailouts, Tea Party, climate science denial, 2010 midterms, the fiasco at Copenhagen. The front in the war on climate disruption shifted from grand policy to fighting Keystone XL, coal trains, and other dirty-fuel infrastructure. Momentum abated for comprehensive laws at the state, provincial, and federal level that would gradually but persistently wean companies and households from fossil fuels by charging a small but rising fee for carbon pollution. Read More…


What is Cleantech??

A literature review by Michelle Ranken:  Clean technology attempts to reduce negative environmental impact by offering competitive returns to customers and investors.  It introduces new technology and business models to provide solutions to climate and resource challenges.

Cleantech is often used interchangeably with “green tech,” a term coined in the 1970s. They should not be confused for one another, however, as cleantech provides solutions to global challenges while simultaneously offering attractive returns, whereas green tech presents limited opportunity for such.   Cleantech also has greater financial sustainability and broader market economics.

Cleantech spans over eight different sectors, which include clean energy, energy storage, efficiency, transportation, air and environment, clean industry, water, and agriculture.

In Washington State specifically, The Prosperity Partnership defined cleantech as “one cluster with a strong and growing base of employment across Washington State.” Read More…


Green Bank Academy Held in Washington, D.C. Feb. 6-7

Green Bank AcademyWashington state moved a step closer to creating a green bank when state officials attended the Green Bank Academy, which was put on by the Coalition for Green Capital (CGC) in Washington, D.C. February 6-7.   I led a five person delegation to the event where we heard best practices of the 13 states currently involved in the national green bank movement.

A report from Chris Ajemian of Chris Ajemian Consulting, March 6, 2014.  Chris is the Washington state representative of the Coalition for Green Capital and a business development and government affairs consultant.

Reed Hundt, Coalition for Green Capital

Reed Hundt, Coalition for Green Capital

Green banks are state funds that provide low cost finance for clean energy technology projects such as residential or commercial solarization or energy efficiency retrofits.  The need for such funds grew out of the estimation by CGC that a nationwide conversion to a low carbon economy would cost $2-3 trillion and that a

lmost all of that sum will have to come from the private sector.

CGC saw that state green banks could play a crucial role of leveraging that private capital.  Through a public-private partnership, a low cost tranche of government funds can enhance the lending power of community based commercial and nonprofit lenders.  Those lenders can then offer rates that lower overall project cost for consumers or businesses who could otherwise not afford loans for solarizing or energy efficiency retrofitting.

Green banks can encompass any set of programs a state wants, including financing innovation rather than deployment of existing technologies, but the key principal is that of a public-private partnership approach to financing rather than through government subsidies.   When loans are paid off, the lender is able to reinvest the funds in new projects.

Chris Ajemian

Chris Ajemian

Additionally, securitizing large groups of loans introduces further efficiency into financial markets.  When  groups of loans are sold off as batches and later securitized, the costs drop for everyone.

Green banks can also help standardize financial tools in solarization and energy efficiency.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is pioneering much of this work.

Connecticut and Hawaii have created green banks that are open and are actively making loans.

California and New York have announced major efforts that combine existing clean tech lending programs and are moving toward public-private partnerships.  Here in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee’s revolving Clean Energy Fund demonstrates interest in financing clean energy and could become the basis for a state green bank.

The Green Bank Academy was conceived by CGC’s national leadership Reed Hundt, former FCC Chairman, and Ken Berlin, a retired Skadden Arps partner.  Mark Muro, a Seattle native, represented the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and other national organizations such as the National Resources Defense Council also attended.  Cong. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland announced legislation for a national green bank.

Events & Meetings