How to Grow Green Jobs – Business 101

By: Jackie Prince Roberts

In his recent feature story for the Washington Post, “Retrained for green jobs, but still waiting on work,” Michael A. Fletcher implies that there’s no future in green jobs because a few people in Florida can’t find them. But if you look at other parts of the country and across the world, it’s evident that green jobs are, in fact, growing.

The answer to green jobs is Business 101.  Just like any other industry, businesses in the clean energy sector need more customers before they can hire more workers.  Clean energy businesses are finding customers in California and New England, and also abroad across Europe, China and Brazil where a commitment to reducing carbon air pollution is strong and growing.  But places like Florida have not moved down this path. While they’re delivering training, they’re not creating customers and thus, no jobs.

Today, more than ever, we need both strong public policy and the private sector to create customers for a clean energy economy. Companies like Walmart are realizing that clean energy is a good strategy for their business, and in so doing are helping create “green jobs” that really are new and improved manufacturing jobs.

Walmart plans to install thin film solar panels on 20 or more of its facilities, becoming a major customer for First Solar, Inc., a manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio.  First Solar recently announced two new plants that will create 600 new manufacturing jobs a piece.  On top of these new manufacturing jobs, Walmart’s project will also create employment opportunities at SolarCity, the company that will install and maintain the solar panels at the Walmart sites.

The federal stimulus package has also helped.  In a recent Frost & Sullivan survey of clean energy companies, 63% said the Recovery Act has had a positive impact on their sales.  Of the businesses surveyed, 31% plan to hire people in 2010.  Still, the Recovery Act was just a down payment – seven out of 10 businesses said that if the U.S. passed new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the business would increase sales.

As Michael Eckhart of the American Council on Renewable Energy notes in his letter to the editor about Fletcher’s story, “any journalist can shoot at a young industry for lack of jobs. The personal computer industry in 1980 had few jobs, the cellphone industry in 1985 had few jobs, the Internet industry in 1995 had few jobs and, yes, the renewable energy industry in 2010 has few jobs – but all were and are experiencing tremendous growth. They are set to employ a major percentage of U.S. workers in the future.”

The concept of building a new market sector is not flawed: the clean energy investments will pay off for us now with green jobs and provide a healthier planet for our children. But without a strong commitment here in the U.S. to limit pollution from dirty sources of energy, we won’t get the demand that leads to green jobs.  It isn’t a question of whether the green jobs will be created; it’s where they’ll be. Unless places like Florida get on board, it’s pretty clear that Americans won’t be finding these jobs here in the U.S., but may be able to do so in places like China and Europe.

Santa's Green Sleigh Ride

With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston – the likely original authors of The Night Before Christmas, we  present a revised edition focusing on Santa’s greener way to get around. 


'Twas the night before Christmas, and all during the day,
The elves were preparing Saint Nick’s new fuel-efficient sleigh.
The reindeer still wondered how the sleigh was driven;
But with a hybrid-system and new body, extra power was given.

The body was updated with new carbon fiber,
Less weight meant more presents could be delivered by the driver.
The elves made aerodynamic improvements too;
So with less wind resistance the sleigh really flew.

The reindeer were ready, and in really good shape.
No tape on a knee; no need for a cape.
Lichen and grasses were their vegetarian diet,
So carbon footprint concerns all became quiet.

The elves also made sure Santa drove with great care,
Telematics were added to monitor speed in the air.
GPS was provided to keep him on track;
No more wayward miles to get him out of whack.

By traveling at night, congestion he would avoid.
No traffic jams for him, only open roads to enjoy.
When Santa stopped at houses; idling was a no.
In fact, the reindeer preferred the cold and the snow.

Jack-rabbit starts, the old man knew not to make.
Instead slow and steady was Santa’s take.
On distracted driving he was not remiss;
For texting while flying was easy to dismiss.

Once the presents were all delivered, “To the North Pole!” he exclaimed,
Driving his new sleigh with fuel-efficiency gained.
Laughing and shouting while he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Greening Santa's Supply Chain – The Search for Energy Efficiency Opportunities at the North Pole

By Terry Foecke, managing partner of Materials Productivity LLC, a consulting firm that helps companies integrate environmental excellence with manufacturing improvement.

The challenge of “greening” supply chains begins with an overview of products, processes and energy use. Some products like office furniture, rugs and kitchen goods are manufactured in a steady pull throughout the year.  Others — holiday lights, BBQ grills and toys — are made and shipped in madcap seasonal bursts. During certain busy seasons, energy use is not just intense, but also frequently wasteful.

With that in mind, we ventured to examine the most expansive of seasonal operations to see what we could find: Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole. 

This effort was inspired by a recent article by Dan Gilmore in Supply Chain Digest reviewing Santa’s North Pole operations. The article highlighted the Workshop’s impressive logistics performance in moving vast amounts of goods during a miraculously short time span. Several retail industry leaders were also mentioned as having visited Santa’s Workshop to learn from the logistics masters. 

So if some of the best in the retail business had something to learn from Santa on logistics, perhaps we could learn from the “green” side of their activities. The North Pole is, after all, a difficult location for energy conservation. Here’s what we discovered:

Location, location, location…

Heating, cooling and ventilation of facilities are a large part of energy use in any operation. This poses some big challenges for operations at Santa’s Workshop, which for historical and corporate branding reasons has concentrated its physical plant in one of the coldest regions on the globe.

Cooling at the North Pole is never an issue and the jet stream at this latitude does a masterful job of providing airflow for ventilation. Spot heating using electrical resistance heating is provided in a few key locations like product storage and the paint touch-up rooms. Overall, room temperatures seem perfect — somewhat magically so — even though management couldn’t point us to any thermostats or provide much data.

Process Energy

Santa’s Workshop long ago abandoned its vertically-integrated approach to manufacturing, outsourcing most production to…well, they wouldn’t share that information with us.  So this reality, combined with a reliance on animal power like reindeer, made a normalized metric for energy use hard to calculate.

But based on our experience, process energy use is typically quite limited in an elf-driven, assembly operation to lighting, conveyors, a few small air compressors, some shrink-wrap machines and testing cabinets. But once again, hard data was difficult to find and our guides could not point us to one electricity or gas meter.  We were assured repeatedly, “It’s just not significant.” 

This is a mammoth operation with global reach, so we started to get excited about the real potential for energy efficiency we must be about to unearth. We followed our checklist devotedly through assembly and packaging, and our efficiency-seeking hearts quickened when we stumbled upon some light manufacturing devoted to repairs to goods damaged in transit.  “Oh, that,” a production manager says, “We hardly ever need to do repairs. Everyone tries their hardest for Santa.” Once again we heard, “It’s just not significant.”

Base Load

One of our favorite targets for energy use optimization is improving the generation and use of compressed air. Santa’s Workshop has skinny plastic tubes snaking everywhere, full of pressurized air to use for everything from drying glue to blowing snow off the floor. 

One of my colleagues, looking for a regulator to see if the air pressure can be dialed back, not only failed to find a single regulator, but she also couldn’t locate an air compressor anywhere. So we added “compressed air mystery” to our agenda for the debrief.

Close-out session

Even at this busy time, Santa’s Workshop managed to gather an impressive team for the debrief, including Santa himself. We went over our suggestions: optimized lighting, especially where candles are in use; motor maintenance; conversion to variable-speed drives on lines that handle both dainty jewelry and weighty entertainment centers; infrared ovens on the glue drying operations. 

But we were stumped when it comes to any sort of benefit/cost estimates.  We had no hard data, and management had been reluctant to show us the sources of energy production or supply. Santa repeatedly waved off this frustration, repeating yet again, “It’s not significant!” and stressing the value of high spirits, goodwill, warm hearts and other platitudes.

While we’ve heard this from management before, we simply cannot afford to underestimate the significance of every energy efficiency opportunity, big or small. It all adds up. We will continue building this relationship in hopes of drawing Santa’s Workshop into an honest, open discussion. Similar to many other factories around the world, there is too much energy efficiency potential at Santa’s Workshop to just give up.

Here’s to big energy savings and greener global chains in 2011 and beyond!

EDF's Energy Efficiency Elves Give You the 12 Tips of Energy Efficiency

“They know when you are sleeping. They know when you’re awake. They know if your lights are on or off, so switch ‘em off for heaven’s sake!”

Utilities don’t take time off from monitoring your energy usage during the holidays. You know to switch off your decorative lights and turn down your heater to lower energy costs at home during this time of year. But don’t forget the area where energy reduction efforts can have the greatest impact – your business.

In the spirit of the holiday season, EDF’s Climate Corps team wanted to share our top 12 energy tips to help your business be an energy efficient one all year long. (We didn’t have time to set this to a tune, but feel free to hum along).

1. Consult Employees. Employees are often aware of energy opportunities in their immediate work areas. Tap into your existing workforce to seek out areas where your company can improve. For example, Cummins provides a 12-week-long energy training course for its employees before sending them out on all-day treasure hunts to search for  energy savings in its offices.

2. Mine your organization for expertise. While no one person is likely to be an expert in every area of energy management, you can learn a lot by seeking out knowledge from your facilities managers, engineers and LEED Accredited Professionals. Our Climate Corps fellow at PepsiCo found internal expertise to be his most important resource during his time there.

3. Install PC power management software. According to a survey of large offices by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, more than 50% of desktop PCs are left on overnight. Installing PC power management software is an easy way to ensure this equipment isn’t drawing energy when not in use. See what our Climate Corps fellow recommended for PCs at eBay.

4. Evaluate the occupancy of lit spaces. Lights are all too often left on in unoccupied areas, costing your company unnecessary energy fees. Our Climate Corps fellow at AT&T found lights in certain spaces to be on roughly half the time, while the spaces were occupied less than ten percent of the time. She recommended occupancy sensors that would lead to an 80% savings in electricity use.

5. Set your thermostat back. The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a study stating “by turning your thermostat back 10 – 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save about 5% – 15% a year on your heating bill—a savings of as much as one percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.” See what our Climate Corps fellow at News Corp. did  at a Dow Jones printing plant.

6. Install solar window films. Such films can reject up to 60% of solar heat coming through windows in summer and help retain it in the winter, which keeps your HVAC system from working overtime. See what our Climate Corps fellow at Alcatel-Lucent suggested for keeping the heat out.

7. Appoint an energy officer. Our Climate Corps fellows at The JBG Companies say “if you don’t have an energy officer, you’re company is probably wasting energy…and money.” Energy officers allow your company to stay current on energy technologies, communicate across the firm, incorporate energy efficiency into the planning process and implement projects.

8. Analyze information with the right tools. The DOE provides a number of tools to help companies implement and evaluate energy projects. Our Climate Corp fellow at Verizon analyzed data center energy management issues using the DOE's DC Pro tool to identify potential savings of 4.4 million kWh per year.

9. Question whether your building is operating as designed. Only 5% of existing buildings have been commissioned. Our Climate Corps fellow at Xerox recommended retrocommisioning, which typically saves a company about 5-15% in energy costs.

10. Expand successful initiatives across your portfolio. While translating energy projects across SunGard’s portfolio of data centers, our Climate Corps fellow at SunGard recommended laying the groundwork one data center at a time. Although  the experience of one business unit does not necessarily translate directly to another business unit, companies can reap significant savings by sharing best practices and success stories across sites.

11. Translate that stack of electric bills into meaningful data. Look for kWh usage and kW demand figures on your electric bills. Carefully review your local utility’s rate plan and separate usage and demand, paying attention to areas of particular interest – service charges, meter reading, etc. Our Climate Corps fellow at Sunrise Preschools dissected the company's energy bill and discovered savings almost instantly.

12. Hire a Climate Corps fellow. One of the simplest, quickest ways to find energy saving opportunities for your company is to hire a Climate Corps fellow. Just last summer, our fellows found a whopping $350 million in energy savings at 47 companies. Plus, they can help with numbers 1-11 above. We are currently accepting company applications for 2011. Apply now!

Wishing you a warm and wonderful holiday season – complete with oodles of energy savings!

–    The EDF Climate Corps Team

How did that get here?

It’s a question that I’ve found myself asking at lot these days: “How did that get there?”  The phone my wife recently purchased was flown in from China and arrived to our house on a truck. It arrived two days after she ordered it; though she insists that she didn’t purchase the expedited shipping option.  The snow tires I ordered from an online clearing house arrived via truck. They were shipped out of a regional distribution center in, I believe, Connecticut. They were probably trucked there too.  Time from me clicking “purchase” to them being at my door: three days.

I find myself asking the same question when I’m browsing through stores.  Those USB drives I recently purchased: were they flown in from Asia or did they go by ocean freight? The slacks from Bangladesh that I recently picked up? I hope they weren’t flown over too.  Clearly, though, a truck drove them that last mile to the mall.

Goods movement, freight, logistics – call it want you will; regardless of name it’s the source of a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.  Eight percent of U.S. emissions are from moving stuff from “A” to “B” (and then from “B” to “C” and so on). While accurate global figures on emissions from goods movement are hard to come by, it’s probably a comparable amount globally too.

For any given product, transportation is likely a relatively small component of its overall lifecycle environmental impact. A Wall Street Journal article last year noted that transportation was responsible for “less than 5% of the carbon footprint” of Timberland shoes and “came in fourth, behind manufacturing the glass bottles and producing the barley and malt” for six packs of Fat Tire Amber Ale.  And, while many of us remained concerned about “Food Miles,” transport accounts for only about 11 percent of the food system's emissions.

Of course, 5% here, 11% there and soon you’re talking about real numbers: probably a couple gigatons annually.  It’s because of the size of this overall contribution that I’ve been tasked with exploring ways Environmental Defense Fund can challenge companies (both logistics providers and consumers of their services) to increase the carbon efficiency of freight operations.

At the most basic level, the solutions can appear easy:  build more time into the system and then use slower, more carbon efficient modes of transportation.  And, yes, there is a direct correlation between the carbon efficiency of a mode and its cost: the more polluting the higher the cost. Of course, when things get down to brass tacks, it gets a lot more complicated. Longer lead times require higher inventory levels, which increases costs and risk. There also are very real capacity and infrastructure challenges in some of the less carbon intensive modes.  It’s clear, though that what matters more than the distance traveled is the journey itself.

Building off the work of many in the logistics industry, we’ve pulled together a collection of tactics that shippers can employ to improve the environmental performance of their freight choices. Being a big believer in the importance of performance metrics too, we’ve noted free, online calculators were companies can assess the impact of various routes and modes. These are just the first steps in our journey to help develop a cleaner, more efficiency future for freight.

The Walmart Chronicles: Energy Efficiency Ain't Rocket Science, But It Could Use a Boost

Two years ago, I sat in a crowded ballroom in Beijing and listened to incoming Walmart CEO Mike Duke say, "By 2012, our goal is for the top 200 factories we source from directly in China to achieve 20 percent greater energy efficiency."

It was music to my ears. Even though my organization, Environmental Defense Fund, was one of the key stakeholders working with Walmart, and I had already made several trips to China to help the Walmart team shape the commitment, I was still a bit astounded. This could change everything, I found myself thinking. When Walmart speaks, suppliers listen, and other retailers and brands tend to follow. My thoughts were confirmed by a flurry of BlackBerry action from suppliers in the room. They must have gotten the message.

Well, sort of.

Since the announcement in October 2008, EDF has been working closely with Walmart and its suppliers on the ground in China to meet that goal. We've been in over 300 factories and here's what we've found: Walmart is off to a decent start with its Chinese factories, but for the program to be impactful and meet its potential, it needs to up its game. Dedicating sufficient resources to get the job done would be a good place to start.

Here's the good news: The opportunities for improvement are even larger than we envisioned — it's not unusual for us to find savings of up to 60 percent in many factories — and the payback periods for upgrades are absurdly short. We never recommend a project with a payback period longer than two years, and many of the recommendations we make have simple returns on investment of less than six months.

Our perspective all along has been that energy efficiency ain't rocket science. Solutions to radically reduce energy using mature technology are readily available. The trick was to better understand how such technologies could be applied in the context of Chinese manufacturing for export, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises.

And for the most part, we've figured that out. From toy factories replacing outdated air compressors to furniture makers installing motor maintenance programs, suppliers are finding substantial value in rooting out energy efficiency. One production engineer even exclaimed "Work here is fun again!" when we asked him how it was going.

I've outlined one particular case of how easy such projects can be on the EDF business blog, but can say with confidence that such experiences are not unique. Using simple checklists and data from similar factories, we can evaluate the biggest energy saving opportunities at manufacturing sites very quickly, and have trained a few amazingly dedicated young Chinese Walmart associates to do so as well — this is their country after all and they want to make it a better place. Industry accounts for 68 percent of all electricity use in China (compared with 32 percent in the United States) and 70 percent is from coal-fired power plants. Such changes can go a long way towards driving China's low-carbon future.

That's the beauty of EDF's partnership approach — Walmart has the leverage, we have the know-how.  When we have momentum, it's pure magic.

Now for the not-so-great news: Despite the huge possibilities and proven benefits, energy efficiency in supplier factories still seems to be viewed as extracurricular by Walmart managers. It is not, in the lexicon of the Walmart world, seen as a "core activity" and not given the priority it needs. We've had several fits and starts getting this program off the ground. For a time, we'll have several of those young, talented associates pushing hard to improve the performance of suppliers — and seeing very promising returns — only to have them peeled away when "more pressing" issues arise.

Resources at the notoriously frugal retailer are always tight, and several consecutive quarters of declining sales generally don't help. So when push comes to shove, "core activities" get the attention, sometimes at the expense of earlier priorities.

We get it: When you're the biggest retailer in the world, you've got a lot going on. There are lots of pressures to get everything right, loads of risks to manage, and eyeballs glued to your every move. Priorities need to be balanced. But here's what doesn't make sense: Leaving lots of money on the table when aggressively going after it also happens to solve a huge global problem.

And herein lies the missed opportunity. In our estimation, it would require only minimal additional human resources and a few key structural changes to knock this program out of the park and truly transform the way energy is managed in Chinese factories. Stronger mandates for supplier participation, the introduction of key metrics and a system for metering progress, as well as incentives for good performance would all go a long way towards the meeting the commitment.

So while many suppliers are making substantial progress on energy efficiency, and Walmart will probably achieve its goal of 200 suppliers reducing energy 20 percent by 2012, it has not been the stampede we'd hoped to see. That could change, however, and we're optimistic that it will. Walmart leadership is far too savvy to let an opportunity this good slip through its fingers.

This content was originally published by

One person's cost, another's opportunity

By Gernot Wagner

Transitioning into a new, low-carbon energy future costs money. No doubt about it. Yet the flip-side of cost is opportunity.

Pew just released a new study on Global Clean Power: A $2.3 Trillion Opportunity. Is this just a smart attempt at rebranding the inevitable, or is there more behind this?

Costs now, savings later

Cash flow graphFirst, a quick qualifier on costs. Yes, investing in low-carbon technology costs money upfront. It's also true, though, that many investments in clean technology reap savings later.

The up-front capital expenditures for wind, solar, nuclear, and other low-carbon technologies are large. But operating costs are much cheaper than using fossils fuels (and I'm not even including the costs of climate change from carbon emissions, which have long been socialized).

CapEx OpEx tableThat still doesn't make the transition a freebie, but it makes it much cheaper over time. McKinsey has run the numbers. Global net incremental capital expenditures for a clean energy future are significantly lower than upfront capital investments, once we consider operational cost savings.

These operational cost savings could, in fact, be called "opportunities." But that's not what the Pew report has in mind. It refers to the actual costs.

Cost = Opportunity ?

Higher costs imply more money changing hands. So costs do, in fact, equal opportunities in a very real sense for anyone on the receiving end of the transaction.

If you decide which career to pursue, you may well want to opt for renewables instead of, say, petroleum engineering. Your chance of landing a job is much greater. The former will add many more jobs in the foreseeable future. And once you are in a particular industry, you want as much money to come your way as possible. (Of course, a scarcity of petroleum engineers would imply a salary premium for the few who do opt to study a 19th century technology.)

That is different from society's and especially the government's perspective, where cost minimization is de rigueur. That's also what makes market incentives—a cap on carbon emissions—so crucial: it unleashes private investment dollars without government spending.

Investment + Recession = Opportunity

But even the social picture changes completely once we find ourselves in a situation we are in right now.

In a recession, with lots of spare capacity and industry literally sitting on $1 trillion in idle cash, creating incentives for more spending is exactly what we want to do as a society.

Investing in renewable energy, of course, has the added benefit that it also comes with an enormous social benefit—by decreasing the now socialized costs of carbon emissions. That's one cost we definitely want to avoid.

This content was originally published by EDF's Market Forces blog on December 9, 2010.

EDF and GE Partner on Local Energy Savings Projects

In a world of uncertainty, energy efficiency may be the only sure bet, zero-risk investment.  If you look for energy efficiency opportunities, you will find them—and you will save money.  Period.

That’s why GE refers to its energy efficiency-process as the ecomagination “Treasure Hunt.”  And, with help from GE and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), hunting for treasure is exactly what the City of Orlando did last month.  A dedicated team of city, GE and EDF employees spent 2-1/2 full days, including a Saturday while the annual Florida Classic football game was going on, combing Orlando’s 70 plus-year old Citrus Bowl Stadium for opportunities to save energy.

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Welcome to EDF Business

This fall marked Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) 20th year partnering with business for strong environmental and bottom line results. We’re highlighting this moment with a new website, EDF Business, which replaces the EDF Innovation Exchange site. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create change within a company, and we’re using this site to share these best practices with business around the world.

In addition to our new URL, we have as a new twitter “handle”, EDFbiz (which replaces EDFix). Please follow us on Twitter as we share stories about organizations of all shapes and sizes – and the people who make them successful – as they work to embed environmental innovation into all that they do.

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We Are All Going to Be Naked Soon: Radical Corporate Transparency

"We are all going to be naked," says my friend Andy Ruben in an intriguing TED talk, "so you might as well get buff." Referring to transparency in the corporate supply chain, this statement is pretty radical coming from a senior executive at Walmart. Despite its size and the fact that it is publicly traded, until recently Walmart had a reputation as one of the world's most insular companies.

Yet what Andy is talking about is a seachange in the retail supply chain. Not only do consumers and stakeholders have access to more information about their purchases these days, Walmart managers are also looking deeper into their supply chain than ever before.

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