Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category
Washington 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.
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.
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.
Four new nuclear reactors are under construction in the U.S., the first plants to be built in 30 years. Yet U.S. Secretary of EnergyErnest Moniz says when it comes to nuclear power in the U.S., “the long term trajectory remains quite uncertain.”
Moniz speaks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson on a wide range of energy issues and says he expects wind, solar and other renewables to make up 30 to 40 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.
On the importance of nuclear power to the U.S. energy future
“Nuclear power, clearly, is one of the important so-called zero-carbon options. It does not emit carbon dioxide, obviously, as does fossil fuel combustion. So our view remains that A, we need to go to a low-carbon energy system over these next 10, 20 years. The solutions for a low-carbon system will look different in different places. Some countries, including industrial countries, will not have nuclear. Others will continue to grow it because it is one of the low carbon options, and different societies have different public attitudes but they also have frankly just very, very different core energy resources. So it will be multiple solutions in multiple places and nuclear power, I expect, will be part of that mix.” Read More…
By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Chair, Vice President, EDC of Seattle & King County
Those of us in the field of clean tech (including just about everyone reading this newsletter) spend a lot of time thinking about change, particularly the change associated with new technology. It’s easy to get excited about the potential of a new energy source or a way to reduce the amount of fuel required to run an engine. Yet we often forget that there are those who support the status quo, sometimes for selfish reasons but sometimes with legitimate concerns. And because it is ultimately the market that will decide, it is usually the economics, rather than the technology, that is the driving force behind change.
It follows that the easiest change to accept is an incremental one, because of which no party is injured – for example, the shift from rotary to push-button phones. Such examples are rare, however, and the more usual case is when a new technology pushes aside an old one. Electrification is now taken for granted, but one hundred years ago, as electric power began to become available, it made possible the use of appliances like refrigerators. The widespread adoption of electric refrigerators destroyed an entire industry, that of preserving, and later making and delivering ice. It seems silly now, but at the time it was quite disruptive. Read More…
By Tom Ranken, Originally published by the Spokesman Review
In Washington, innovation is more than just a buzzword. Washington was recently ranked as the most innovative state in the U.S. in a Bloomberg report that cited Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing as leaders in the development of new technologies. Washington’s clean technology sector is also part of our innovation economy, with three Washington companies recently receiving global awards from the Cleantech Open and the Global Cleantech Clusters Association.
The Cleantech Open supports and fosters entrepreneurs with ideas that address energy, environmental and economic challenges. The GCCA is a business competition that endeavors to make clean tech initiatives global and provides a gateway for companies to gain exposure to investors and markets. These organizations recently recognized companies across Washington as world leaders.
Helion Energy, based in Redmond, is developing a commercialized form of fusion energy, a carbon-free process similar to what powers the sun and stars. Helion’s technology is capable of producing energy without generating waste. Helion received the top prize in the Cleantech Open’s Energy Generation category as well as the People’s Choice Award. Read More…
By Tom Ranken, President & CEO, Washington Clean Technology Alliance
In cleantech, as in other sectors, startups are key.
The role of early stage companies in innovation has been well established. Small companies have the ability to create world-class expertise in a very focused area. They are flexible enough to change direction before a large company can call a meeting. And as Clayton Christensen notes in the Innovator’s Dilemma, emerging markets can be enormously important to a small company, but of little interest to their large brethren.
Small businesses account for about two-thirds of job creation. They employ half of all working Americans.
Even more importantly, “America’s true engine of job creation is not small businesses broadly defined, but rather new businesses.” According to a 2009 Kauffman Foundation study, “over the period 1980 to 2005, businesses less than five years old accounted for all net new job creation in the United States.”
The key to job growth is the company that employs five workers today—and grows to 300 in five years. Read More…
As we approach conference season, with the cost of living at the top of the political agenda and green policies under attack for their cost, energy policy is guaranteed to stay in the political spotlight. Although there is a broad consensus on the measures in coalition’s latest energy bill, the dividing lines at the next election are starting to emerge. Labour are advancing towards ever tighter regulation of the “big six” suppliers, taking greater political control of the sector but also creating huge barriers to entry. Under Labour we could expect the six to shrink even further.
On the other hand, Conservatives are forging an agenda to encourage competition, innovation and greater consumer choice by attracting new entrants into the market, banking on more competition, diversity and choice to deliver a better deal for consumers.
When the UK electricity sector was privatised in the 1990s, one vast state-run monopoly became a teeming market of new firms, competing for the business of the British consumer. Thirteen years of Labour government put a stop to that. By 2010, just six energy companies controlled over 90% of the UK sector. So where do we go from here? We certainly need big, successful national energy players, with balance sheets capable of supporting huge investment in new UK energy projects, as well as of helping us compete in the global race for jobs and growth. Indeed, Britain can lead the world in offshore wind and new nuclear. But technologies such as these are an important part of a diverse energy mix, not the entire recipe.
(Greg Barker, originally published by The Guardian)
Originally published Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 4:08 PM
When the county’s $20 congestion fee on car tabs expires next year, Metro may have to cut bus service by 17 percent, which is why Metro is looking to the Legislature to allow the car-tab fee to continue or to provide another option for local revenue.
Metro’s financial problems are mostly a result of four factors: Fares cover less than 30 percent of operating costs, so more riders mean more subsidies; sales taxes that provide most of Metro’s subsidies have fallen flat; Metro serves too many high-cost, low-density routes that are politically difficult to cut; and 82 percent of Metro’s operating costs are for salaries and benefits, which are also difficult to modify. Read More…
Earlier this week, the Advanced Energy Economy held its “Pathway to 2050” summit, focused on how California can best achieve – and exceed – its energy goals over the next several decades. While the focus was on the Golden State, many of the implications apply to other states as well, particularly since all were in agreement that the path to 2050 is going to be chartered by the states, not the federal government.
Discussions throughout the day touched on such topics as energy efficiency, renewable energy, advanced transportation, and energy financing, among others. The points that struck me as most salient include:
- Energy efficiency – often hailed as the “low hanging fruit” in absence of federal renewable energy policy – is on the cusp of a transformation, according to Lauren Casentini, chair of the California Energy Industry Council. Once viewed as a cottage industry centered around a widget-based approach (think CFL light bulbs and EnergySmart™ appliances), energy efficiency is evolving into an integrated market focused on analytics-driven programs that reach the right customer at the right time to motivate behavior change. For example, clean tech darling Solar City announced its in-home software platform in late June, on the heels of the President’s Climate Action Plan.
- Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) have become ingrained in many parts of the country; next up for many in this space is advocating for Clean Energy Standards that support growth of clean technologies beyond renewable energy that can have a direct impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- The term “flexible grid” was used more than once, by both renewable energy companies and a major utility player. California may very well have enough renewable energy to achieve or even exceed its 33% RPS, but we must rethink our grid design and communications to successfully accommodate variable energy generation. Germany was pointed to as a leader in managing its grid in a flexible way.
- The key to taking many of these advanced energy technologies mainstream is exactly that – they must become just another product that first and foremost help a company increase profitability and customer attraction and retention, with efficiency and sustainability as secondary benefits.
A common theme throughout the day is that technology is ahead of policy, and that clean tech entrepreneurs – busy with business plans, R&D, and pursuit of financing – could do a better, more unified job of delivering their compelling stories to policy makers. For this audience, it’s about jobs and economic growth. Once California can back up its leadership story with solid economic proof points, other states will likely follow in our path.
On May 13th, less than two weeks ago, I, along with Steve Marshall, Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy Solutions (CATES), Jan Greylorn associated with the Washington Clean Technology Alliance, and Jeff Esfeld of VIA Motors, were in the Rotunda Room of the Washington State Capitol Building for a transportation “rally” as part of the kickoff for the special legislative session. It was a packed room filled with legislators, Governor Jay Inslee, WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson, government officials, lobbyists, and interested parties. Read More…
This is a commentary that I wrote for Crosscut on the controversy about the exclusion of gays in Scouting. Outside my role with the WCTA, I serve as vice chair of the council of the Magnolia United Church of Christ. I was Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 80 for five years. My son, JT, and I are Eagle Scouts. My wife, Melissa, works for the Boy Scouts. (My daughter has absolutely nothing to do with Scouting — including a determined objection to camping of any kind.) Source: Tom Ranken, Crosscut, May 6, 2013.
My church, the Magnolia United Church of Christ in Seattle, has conflicting legacies. It has been an open, affirming church accepting of gay people for decades. It has had several leaders that are gay.
It has also been the sponsor of Boy Scout Troop 80 and Cub Scout Pack 80 since the 1940s.
Read the full story here. Please comment!