Cameras, Drones and Lasers: How They're Tackling Oil and Gas Pollution

DroneWaPo2-small

Heath Consultants' methane-measuring drone

Dr. Jason Gu was still a graduate student when he developed the technology behind SenSevere, a start-up that creates laser-based gas sensors for use in heavy industry and power plants. Today, he’s working to apply this technology to methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, making him one of the many entrepreneurs developing solutions to tackle the problem. His fascination with innovation isn’t just making his clients more efficient—it may also be saving the planet.

The hidden cost of methane

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a powerful pollutant responsible for a quarter of the global warming we feel today. The oil and gas industry releases 7 million tons of it into the atmosphere every year through emissions from oil and gas fields and associated pipelines, resulting in over a billion dollars’ worth of wasted American energy resources. And, toxic chemicals like benzene, a known carcinogen, can accompany methane emissions, posing a potential threat to public health.

“The industry is beginning to become more sensitized to the fact that methane is an aggressive greenhouse gas,” said James Armstrong, president of Apogee Scientific, a Colorado-based methane mitigation company. For more than 15 years, Apogee has manufactured a methane detection system that uses a vacuum and infrared sensors and can be mounted to trucks, ATVs and helicopters to identify leaks in the field. “If you find the leaks and repair them, you’re not only helping the environment…you’re extending the resource.” Read more

The Business Case for Hiring an Energy Manager

by Jacob Robinson, Program Coordinator, EDF Climate Corps

Here’s a provocative thought: energy managers are worth more than their weight in gold.

We often use that expression in a figurative sense—in this case, to emphasize the value of a dedicated energy manager, whose sole mission is to find financial and environmental efficiencies in a strategic way throughout an organization’s operations and mission. But could it be literally true?

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Doing the math

With the average global body mass of a person being 62 kilograms and the current price of a 1 kilogram gold bar hovering around $39,000, an individual’s weight in gold is roughly $2.4 million dollars.

As part of EDF Climate Corps, graduate-level fellows spend 10 to 12 weeks uncovering opportunities for smart energy management, identifying an average of $1 million dollars in savings per fellow. Considering what a year-round employee could do, the annual value to an organization might top $4 million.

Making the case for management

If you’re putting together a budget request for an energy manager (or integrating energy responsibilities into existing positions) and drawing up a job description, this calculation is just a starting point. The business value of energy managers and integrating energy management into existing positions can be fruitful year over year, regardless of an organization’s maturity level at which they are addressing energy management.

Further, new technologies, funding mechanisms and incentives are constantly entering the market, requiring a dedicated set of eyes to analyze the most strategic opportunities.

Read more

4 Ways to Invest in the Low-Carbon Economy

by Peter Sopher, Policy Analyst, Clean Energy

career-544952_640-300x211Citigroup Inc. recently pledged $100 billion for lending, investing, and facilitating deals related to sustainability, renewable energy,  and climate change mitigation. This is yet another sign that global capital markets are enormously interested in delivering capital into clean, renewable sources of energy. But you don’t have to be Citigroup to invest in the clean energy future.

The industry’s rapid growth presents an interesting diversity of  long-term opportunities for individuals like you and me who might be looking to make investments in a low-carbon economy.

Fueled by an increased demand for solar and wind energy, clean energy investment last year beat expectations, rising 16 percent to $310 billion worldwide, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Fortunately, this robust growth is representative of a general upward trend in clean energy investment over the past decade.

Although the vast majority of this money is coming from governments, corporations, and private equity and venture capital firms, people of all income levels can consider whether it is right for them to add clean energy to their investment portfolios. And, you don’t need millions in the bank to make these types of investments – any investor can consider whether to put their money to use  through the four financial instruments described below. Read more

EPA Relaunches SaferChoice Product Labeling Program

by Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., Health Scientist

SaferChoiceToday, the EPA Design for the Environment Program (DfE) Safer Choice program (formerly, the safer product labeling program) unveiled its newly redesigned family of three product labels. The voluntary Safer Choice program seeks to recognize and bring consumer awareness to those products whose chemical ingredients represent the safest among those within a particular chemical functional class (e.g., solvents).

Today’s milestone is the result of a public process led by the EPA DfE program to solicit feedback on a new label that better communicates the goals and purpose of the program. After more than a year, and 1,700 comments and six consumer focus groups later, the new labels will be arriving soon to a store shelf near you.  Read more

Clean Energy is Just Smart Business for Leaders like Apple, Google

by Peter Sopher, Policy Analyst, Clean Energy

Apple and Google have changed our lives forever, both because of their technological innovations and sheer size as global corporations. Now, they’re aiming to reshape the energy landscape.

apple-google againThis month, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market.

These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects.  So, why are they doing this?

For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations. Read more

EDF+Business at a Conference Near You: September 2014

Each month, EDF+Business rounds up a list of top corporate sustainability conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Corporate Partnerships Program will be speaking, attending or exhibiting, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.

Read more

The Benefits of Stringent Trucking Standards

by Kate Rack, marketing & communications intern

The Obama Administration is developing new fuel economy standards for trucks, and last week, Ceres and Environmental Defense Fund hosted a webinar outlining how implementing strong federal standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks would be truly a win-win situation.

Our organizations, along with other leaders, are calling for strong standards that cut fuel consumption by 40%. A recent analysis of such standards shows that they would reduce both greenhouse gas emission levels and expenses to ship goods via freight.

EDF helps freight logistics professionals on the journey to greener freight

Why make truck efficiency a priority?

Currently in the U.S., the trucking sector is the fastest growing single source of greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services, which equates to over half a billion tons of GHG emissions. It is essential that as fuel efficiency standards for cars becomes more stringent, trucks follow suit, especially since 70% of tonnage shipped within the U.S is by truck. In particular, retail and consumer products are the largest consumers of trucking in the United States. Chances are, the computer screen that you are using right now to read this blog post was brought to you on a truck!

Read more

Don't let those water savings go down your company's drain

Think of all the times you've turned on a faucet and no water came out…

I'll be the first to admit I can't remember the last time this possibility even crossed my mind. The truth is we take water for granted, and don't stop to question its seemingly unlimited abundance.

Recently we've seen clear signs that it is time we pay attention.

The damage caused by the 2012 U.S. drought cost the country over $35 billion— and similar droughts are projected to hit the country over the coming years. McKinsey has also estimated that in just 20 years, demand for water will be 40 percent higher than it is now. This would inevitably result in increased water costs for everyone—including companies.

Despite the imminent and serious business risks associated with water shortage, too few companies are taking concrete steps to protect themselves.

In a report released in October 2012, KPMG  found that while 76 percent of the world's top 250 companies addressed water issues in their corporate responsibility reporting, less than 40 percent demonstrate any long-term plans to manage their water usage, including strategies for reducing and treating water consumed.

KPMG found that the mining sector had the highest rate (100 percent) of reporting on water reduction and treatment strategies. The consulting firm projected that other water-intensive sectors such as agriculture and the oil and gas industry (in which less than half of companies interviewed reported having reduction and treatment plans) would be next to face rising public pressure around managing their water usage.

Yet even businesses outside of these water-intensive sectors can significantly benefit from focusing on their water footprints. For example, commercial buildings are a sector ripe with water reduction opportunities that can save companies water and money now. While at first glance they might not seem like very large users of water, buildings across the U.S. consume on a daily basis 47 billion gallons of water—the equivalent of about 71,000 Olympic-sized pools.

In order to develop approaches to help unlock these untapped opportunities, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) teamed up with AT&T in 2012 with the goal of identifying significant opportunities to reduce water use in building cooling systems. In addition to mitigating risk, our pilot projects with AT&T bear out that effective water management can also lead to cost savings.

How can your company get started?

The first step is to understand your water use. The Water Score Card Guide, released jointly by AT&T and EDF, helps you with just that. The Score Card, the first in a series of tools we will be releasing over the next few months, gives facilities a score for their water management efforts by shedding light on water usage and then prioritizes the opportunities for water conservation.

The Score Cared created the foundation for AT&T’s water program efforts. Using a similar Score Card in AT&T's energy program helped the company realize $86 million in annualized energy savings by tracking the implementation of 8,700 projects in 2010 and 2011.

The toolkit also contains easy-to-understand visuals about the importance of water and best practices in water efficiency at facilities.  It can be accessed in its entirety at www.edf.org/attwater.

Blackstone's Solar Program Demonstrates Power of Network Effect

Our hat's off to Blackstone, which recently announced a new solar program. This development has the potential to cut energy costs by 10 percent and improve environmental performance across all the firm's real estate assets and portfolio companies, which have aggregate revenues of $116 billion.

Smart Energy Capital will oversee installation of rooftop solar panels and systems at Blackstone portfolio companies. Third-party investors will own, operate and maintain the panels, which will provide low-cost solar power to portfolio companies via long-term energy purchase agreements.

We've written before about the importance of building internal ESG management capacity, and highlighted the growing number of private equity firms doing just that.  Blackstone spotted this opportunity because of the expertise of Don Anderson, the firm’s chief sustainability officer, and there’s no doubt that this deal will help provide a very attractive ROI.  Just as joint purchasing and centralized insurance negotiations cut costs for portfolio companies, so do these kind of solutions that benefit portfolio companies, investors and the environment.

What’s most exciting about this program is the demonstration of the network effect that private equity firms can create by sharing tools and resources that can cut across numerous portfolio companies in different geographic areas, industries and sectors to achieve similar cost savings and environmental returns. This project is an excellent example of two best practices identified by our recently released ESG Management Tool with regard to internal expertise and network.

The free Excel-based tool defines for the first time the practices necessary to build a successful ESG management program and a framework to assess, analyze and improve ESG management at private equity firms of all sizes.  We believe that use of the Tool will lead to more cutting-edge environmental programs like Blackstone's solar effort across the private equity sector.

Join EDF, adidas Group, Ingersoll Rand January 22 for a GreenBiz Webinar

The EDF Climate Corps Team invites you to join us in ringing in this new year efficiently on our GreenBiz Webinar “Dismantling the Barriers to Energy Efficiency.”

Dial in at 1pm ET on January 22 to learn how EDF Climate Corps can take your company’s energy management system to the next level, no matter where you are now.

Click here to register.

Each year, Environmental Defense Fund works deep within dozens of companies to bolster smart energy management through EDF Climate Corps. To date, the program has identified an average of $1 million in energy savings at each participating organization. Along the way, EDF has learned quite a bit about how companies make decisions around energy investments, and the best practices for overcoming common implementation barriers. And we want to share these learnings with you.

Joel Makower, Executive Editor of the GreenBiz Group, will moderate. Speakers include:

  • Gwen Ruta, Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
  • Scott Tew, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability (CEES), Ingersoll Rand

Keep in mind; if you are interested in signing up to host an EDF Climate Corps fellow in 2013, you should turn your application in by Friday, January 11 to be featured in our January press release.

Contact Scott Wood at swood@edf.org for further information.

Happy holidays and cheers to endless energy innovations in 2013!

–          The EDF Climate Corps Team