Posted by: Jill Bunting /
March 11, 2013 /
in Smart Grid
This week's indicator is 67 billion kilowatthours, which is the difference between summer and winter residential electricity demand, according to the Energy Information Agency. This "peak" is more than twice as large as the seasonal peaks for commercial customers, and nearly four times as large for industrial customers. These findings show the critical need for demand response programs targeted at residential customers, a space where vendors are beginning to offer more sophisticated solutions.
By Dan Saccardi
I recently concluded a yearlong experiment to track what I eat on a daily basis, not to count calories but to measure—and manage—my environmental impact.
As a sustainability consultant, I've counseled clients that "you can only manage what you measure," but I've not as rigorously applied this adage to my personal life. So, to borrow another adage, I decided to practice what I have preached.
GreenOrder at SXSW Eco
From engaging employees in company sustainability efforts to getting consumers to recycle, creating an environment that makes people change their actions can unlock huge potential. As part of our partnership with SXSW Eco, GreenOrder has brought together experts in the field of behavior change for an interactive panel led by GreenOrder Principal Michael Ellis.
Here's a sneak peek of the unique perspectives featured on our panel, "Why Should I? Approaches to Drive Behavior Change."
Posted by: Mathew McDermid /
December 19, 2011 /
In New York City, there is an ever-evolving debate surrounding various green-painted stripes crisscrossing the city; otherwise known as bike lanes. One of NYC’s many urban sustainability initiatives to build a “Greener, Greater New York,” bike lanes are intended as a means to encourage alternative transportation and reduce vehicle use, with numerous benefits such as improved air quality, reduced noise pollution and reduced congestion.
However, the bike lanes haven’t been without challenges: claims of business being harmed (though areas where walking/cycling are given primacy can boost retail sales 10-25%), parking spaces lost, pedestrians claim of reckless cyclists, cyclists claim of inattentive pedestrians, and that the green-painted lanes are just plain ugly. Discussion and argument and ways of addressing concerns has been thick: a New York Times Room for Debate discussion has various worthy suggestions, ranging from better enforcement to redefining the legal relationship between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
However, prescriptive measures aside, there is a fundamental need for a change in mindset. To enable changes in physical infrastructure, we need to build cultural infrastructure. The way we think, educate, behave and reward needs to support the transformational energy, environmental and infrastructure changes underway as we transition to a low carbon economy. Rules, laws and physical landscape can help inform our thinking and behaviors, but social and cultural norms of human behavior are, arguably, the biggest challenges to a more sustainable future. If we cannot change the cultural infrastructure, physical infrastructure changes will only go so far. Such cultural challenges are being confronted across economies: electric vehicle manufacturers are tackling range anxiety, a product of a car-dependent culture; while consumer goods producers wrestle to rethink planned obsolescence and life-cycle impacts, a product of a disposable consumption-based economy. These are issues rooted not just in physical, but cultural infrastructure.
"The single greatest way to change the world is overcoming cynicism."
This was the challenge laid down by Lord Michael Hastings in the opening keynote of the 2011 Net Impact conference and it caught me unawares.
Is cynicism really the biggest barrier to solving global issues? Is our distrust of others’ apparent motives stopping each of us from taking action?
Throughout the conference, CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders shared lessons they’ve learned from business and life experiences that can help us overcome cynicism and drive purposeful change:
What if we weren’t afraid to fail?
Failure with a capital F discourages risk taking and prevents us from achieving disruptive innovation. That topic was a major theme this month at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum.
Nicole Boyer, Managing Director at Adaptive Edge, pointed out that Silicon Valley is one of the few places where failure is expected, accepted, and even embraced. If a venture capital firm is considering investing in a startup and that startup hasn’t failed at all, it raises a red flag. If a startup hasn’t failed what has it learned?
What if the whole country adopted this perception of failure, not as a worst-case scenario but rather as a way for companies to experiment, learn and innovate? "I want 100 people failing, I want 1,000 people failing, I want a million people failing," John Wilbanks, then VP of Science at Creative Commons, said. "It costs almost nothing to start a failed software company, it costs almost nothing to start a failed web apps company, but it costs an enormous amount to start a failed sustainability company. And we need to change that, so we can have the same amount of money going in and a lot more innovation coming out."
This sentiment was echoed in brainstorm sessions during the forum. Boyer asked the audience to call out ways to make their companies more innovative. The term “failing forward” was offered as a way to reframe failure, encourage risk taking, and bring the startup spirit to the rest of the business world.
Could collaboration be the "carbon-free jet fuel" the sustainability community needs to propel forward at a faster rate? Collaboration was a major theme of the 2011 GreenBiz Innovation Forum (IF11), which I attended last week in San Francisco.
For many in the corporate world, collaboration is a “scary” concept especially for those with MBAs. Traditional corporate strategy curricula have stressed competition as the pathway to profitability using concepts such as game theory or two-party, zero sum games. Strategy tactics using the competition lens allow for only one winner who takes all after a stealthy battle that often involves “tit-for-tat” tactics (and millions in wasted dollars). The conventional wisdom was that if you tracked your opponent’s moves, you could begin to guess corporate behavior which would eventually lead to a set of micro-strategy preemptions or responses. This sounds exhausting.
There is still a time and a place for competition in business, however, many of the notable presenters at IF11 made the case for bucking conventional corporate strategy isolationism and taking the leap of faith toward collaboration. Not just for the sake of collaboration, but because it made good business sense.
A short while ago, GreenOrder welcomed Professor Michael Gerrard to our New York office as the speaker for our weekly seminar series. Professor Gerrard, Director of the Columbia Center for Climate Change Law, is an accomplished environmental lawyer with over 30 years of experience under his belt. Needless to say, he is a thought leader on all things environmental law and policy-related, with an incredible understanding of the policy landscape, and a keen sense for upcoming policy trends.
Professor Gerrard spoke to the GreenOrder team about 15 significant new or upcoming environmental policies we should watch out for, covering everything from on-bill financing for residential energy efficiency projects, to changes in flood plain mapping practices.
We noted that some of these policies might be particularly important for business leaders to understand and prepare for. These policies fall under three main buckets: more disclosure, regulation of green claims, and requirements for disaster planning. The following policies -- which are at various stages of fruition -- could fundamentally change the way we do business in the coming years.
In late June, GreenBiz hosted VERGE, an intriguing roundtable discussion among top executives about how vehicles, information, buildings, and energy all fit together and what the convergence of these technologies might mean for the future of business and society.
The meeting highlighted some very cool innovations waiting to be unleashed, and also exposed a major opportunity: improving how we enable people in a user-friendly manner to help create the kind of future VERGE technologies enable.
Amidst the brilliance in the room, it became clear to me that at the current pace technology is advancing, it is only a matter of time before we have access to all the data and gadgets we need to address our future energy challenges. A full list of the transformative technologies has been chronicled here. My personal favorite is the platooning concept that will allow vehicles to drive themselves on freeways in close proximity to each other at fast speeds thereby curbing their carbon footprint, all while you relax and watch DVDs of the Giants winning the World Series in 2011.
An optimistic vision, yes, but even the most promising innovative technologies will not reach their full energy saving and carbon-reducing potentials unless we create a culture that is dedicated to meaningful change. In order to do that, we must overcome one key obstacle: people.
I have a confession to make. When most companies come to me to demo their latest energy management gadget or app, I love them ... for about a week. Then my interest fades.
I've been working on energy efficiency for 20 years and care deeply about the issue, but this raises the question: Is it possible to get large parts of the population to engage -- and stay engaged -- in energy efficiency?
By Catherine Potter
More and more utility companies, including those that operate in markets without customer choice, are waking up to the power of customer-centricity. Even regulated utilities with captive customers need to delight their customers to drive meaningful growth. That’s because the primary source for growth is not in delivering undifferentiated electrons to captive customers, but in delivering innovative services that customers choose to opt in to (or out of).
Many utility companies take comfort in the fact that a majority of their customers are “satisfied.” But unpacking the details behind this seemingly reassuring data is essential, and requires examining the extreme ends of their customer satisfaction curve, not the middle. Here are two topics every forward-thinking utility executive should know how to tackle:
all swimming in data. It's no longer just having the data that matters;
these days, the real value is in knowing how to slice it and interpret
the results. If only there were an app for that...
Last week the EPA announced its Apps for the Environment challenge, formally inviting developers to design apps that will pull from the agency's troves of data
and translate the numbers into more useful formats. The purpose,
according to the EPA, is "to engage the software developer community to
create new and innovative uses of the EPA's data for the benefit of the
public." The challenge runs through the middle of September, and winners
will be honored at an event in Washington, D.C., and have their apps
featured on the EPA's website.
By Michael Ellis
Last month, Joel Makower, executive editor of the GreenBiz Group, wrote that green marketing is over. His conclusions, similar to those of a recent study by OgilvyEarth, ignited impassioned commentary among green consultants and marketers.
But it hasn’t gotten broader attention--which may be a good thing, since Joel’s argument is easy to misinterpret. Indeed, as Joel importantly points out, marketing green is thriving in many ways and evolving rapidly; just a narrow slice of the practice is fading away.
While Joel doesn’t directly define green marketing in the piece, his
implicit definition is narrow. “Green marketing… is aimed at getting
people to buy stuff that is better for the environment,” he writes. It
focuses on a “more just and sustainable world;” any marketing that
focuses on non-environmental aspects of a product (e.g., hybrid cars’
convenience) isn’t “green marketing”. Furthermore, Joel points out that
“the business-to-business landscape is wholly different. A wide range
of things companies buy… are being marketed effectively for their
On April 21st, leaders in sustainability and tech gathered together for the third annual Green:Net conference in San Francisco. The conference explored issues at the intersection of green and IT, and a central theme that emerged is the need and opportunity to provide consumers with better and more insightful information about energy.
David Crane, CEO and President of NRG Energy, commented on the challenge of making energy tangible for consumers. He stated, somewhat in jest, "Consumers can't see, smell, or conceptualize our product, and if they touch it, they die." His point: if we want consumers to be cognizant of their energy use, they must first be able to visualize what a kilowatt actually is.
On Thursday, February 17th, Andrew Shapiro will be speaking at the The Economist: Ideas Economy's Intelligent Infrastructure conference on the cultural infrastructure that is necessary to support technology innovation. Follow Andrew's appearance at the event in real-time on Twitter #IdeasEconomy.
In advance of the conference, as part of their ongoing look at infrastructure, The Economist asked Andrew and other speakers to deliver a "Flash interview" -- three short questions relevant to the events' themes. Andrew's interview, re-posted here, originally appeared on the Ideas Economy blog.