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What’s on the Schedule for Cop15? Lunch

Michael Kanellos: November 30, 2009, 2:42 PM

Putting together conferences is never easy. Speakers come up with unusual, exacting requests at the last minute. And the bigger the conference the more fluid the schedule becomes.

Cop15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place next week, however, takes fluidity to a new level. Here is what is currently listed on the overview schedule:

Monday, December 7: Opening of the Session. Organizational Matters. Lunch Break.

Tuesday, December 8: Opening. Lunch Break.

Wednesday, December 9: Plenary, Informal Groups, Lunch Break. Plenary.

Thursday and Friday: Informal Groups, Lunch Break.

The link for the meetings schedule currently comes up blank.

Nonetheless, the conference is expected to be a watershed moment for green technology. Various world leaders will speak at the event. Denmark also remains one of the globe's premier centers for greentech development. Giants like Danfoss and Vestas are based there and various universities have set up tech transfer programs.

Green Giants: Lockheed Martin to Flesh Out Green Strategy Wednesday

Michael Kanellos: November 30, 2009, 2:32 PM

You know green has gone mainstream when military contractors talk about it.

Wednesday, Lockheed-Martin executives will outline the company's strategy with regard to alternative energy, energy storage, and efficiency. (More at this link here. We initially said tomorrow. We regret the error.)

Lockheed, Bechtel and other mainline contractors have long been on our list of alternative energy companies to watch. Although startups often come up with innovative, clever ideas, it will be up to these large outfits to transform the concepts into reality. They are the only ones with the technology, talent, time and money. Lockheed has employees who've spent more time in land use hearings than probably all of the solar startups put together.

So far, Lockheed hasn't seen unimpeded success. It signed, and then cancelled a deal to build at 290 megawatt solar farm with Starwood. Clearly, though, that's not the last deal for the company.

As a result, expect to see green become a barbell market: A lot of small companies competing to get acquired or sign strategic alliances with large companies. And in the middle you'll see First Solar.

Video: Test Driving the 2010 Tesla Roadster

Michael Kanellos: November 30, 2009, 12:10 PM

Tesla Motors gave us the Sport edition of the 2010 Roadster for an afternoon, now here's the video.

Like most people that get behind the wheel and don't have to plunk down the $128,000 plus on the purchase price, we loved it. It handles well, accelerates rapidly and nearly everyone stares when you come to a stop at the intersection. We also had a few people try to race us. In terms of acceleration, nothing came close. We let a guy in a Mustang pass us, but that's only because I am a terrible driver and didn't want to go past 85 miles an hour. It took him a long time to overtake us too.

One of the more interesting aspects of the car is how the company is trying to blend sedan comfort with sports car zip. The company has discovered that many consumers now use it as a daily commuting car. Thus, it inserted expanding pellets into the doors to reduce sound. That way you can take conference calls. The Sport can do zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, or faster than the 3.9 seconds it takes the regular Roadster. Firmware included in the car's system also optimizes the acceleration. The firmware, which comes in the Sport, is probably the biggest difference between the older and the newer Roadster. (We drove the Roadster Sport.) Between zero and 20 miles an hour, it moves fairly fast, but once it hits 20 the acceleration climbs. The first time you gun it, you get thrown back in your seat at the 20 mile per hour mark.

And don't worry about charging. Costco and other places are installing free electric charging stations.

New Source of Household Heat: Data Centers

Michael Kanellos: November 30, 2009, 11:54 AM

In our never-ending quest to popularize waste heat as a new energy source comes this bit of news:

Finland's Helsingen Energia plans to build a data center underneath a cathedral and capture and channel the waste heat into the municipal heating system. Although the data center will be relatively efficient, it will still generate about the same about of energy in the form of waste heat as a wind turbine. The heat effectively gets sucked into water pipes, which snake through homes around Helsinki. Waste heat isn't free – you have to install equipment to capture it – but it's relatively constant. The sun goes down, but computers never stop (except, of course, in an Omega Man-like future).

You probably don't know it, but you live in the dawn of the Golden Age for waste-heat research. The U.S. consumes around 100 quads (100 quadrillion BTUs) of energy a year and 55 to 60 quads get dissipated as waste heat, according to Arun Majumdar, the UC Berkeley professor who now runs ARPA-E, the advanced projects group inside the Department of Energy. Besides, you've already paid for it. Quite simply, it's power delivered but not exploited for a productive purpose. A variety of startups in the U.S. will soon release products that will more efficiently capture and convert heat or allow notebooks to run longer. You can read about a whole mess of them here.




Cal Inches Closer to Launch Cap-and-Trade

Ucilia Wang: November 25, 2009, 2:17 PM

California regulators have released a draft plan for a program to steadily reduce greenhouse gas emissions and force businesses to limit their emissions and pay for permits if they emit above limits.

The draft plan, issued by the California Air Resources Board, aims to help the state to achieve its legislative mandate to cut emissions to the 1990 levels by 2020. The state has taken other steps to achieve this goal, such as by requiring utilities to provide more renewable electricity and nudging carmakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The proposal to cap emissions and allow trading of permits to pollute is arguably more controversial than some other measures, largely because any cap-and-trade program could impose greater costs on a wide range of industries and, ultimately, consumers.

Congress has been wrestling with climate change bills that would include carbon cap-and-trade, and results have been mixed. An early idea to auction off all of the permits didn't muster enough support in the House, which passed its bill in June this year. Utilities, automakers, oil refineries and other major sources of emissions all vied to get free allowances initially.

The U.S. Senate is debating its own version of the climate change bill now.

California began working on its own cap-and-trade plan after passing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The state has drafted the proposal in conjunction with a consortium of western states and Canadian provinces.

Under the proposal, the state would auction some of the permits at the start of the program. The program would initially target the largest sources of emissions, such as power plants and oil refineries. The state also would allow a limited use of carbon reduction projects for companies that want to use them to offset their emissions.

Each allowance is good for a compliance period set by the state and must be surrendered at the end of that period.

California would gradually limit the amount of permits it issues to force companies to reduce their emissions.

The state plans to start running the program in January 2012. 

Why the U.S. Should Lead on Climate Policy

William Brent: November 25, 2009, 7:59 AM

Make no mistake, climate policy is good business.

The ongoing buffeting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has received from a slew of leading corporate giants is a clear signal that opposing climate legislation, as the Chamber has repeatedly done, is now perceived as bad business.

The reasons are clear. Put simply, the country that sets the most aggressive and enlightened policy goals for clean energy will have a distinct business advantage over others. Why? Because those policies will allow the countries (and businesses) that adopt them to drive down costs, and thus scale the clean technologies that will power our future, i.e., make a lot of money while doing good. Those countries that fail to adopt such policies will be relegated to mere consumer status, i.e., spending money while doing nothing. (The U.S. currently squanders $1 billion a day importing oil.)

And aside from generating new clean growth, such policies also bring with them lower health care costs, lower national security risk and lower food security risk – all good business decisions.

Put even more simply: If our national and state policymakers don’t get their act together quickly, China will eat our lunch. Positive steps have been made in Washington, D.C. The passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside tens of billions of dollars for clean energy, clean transportation and clean building. And the American Clean Energy and Security Act adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives moved us closer to a framework that would benefit the growth of a clean economy.

Building a clean economy is no longer some feel-good mantra for a bunch of treehuggers. It is a practical and rational goal with massive economic and business implications. Already, China is storming ahead of the U.S. in adopting policies that will result in a $1 trillion annual clean tech market by 2013.

We can either compete for this market, or surrender it to other nations and businesses based in those nations.

As the Senate begins deliberations on climate and energy policy, some members of Congress are still under the misguided impression that putting a price on carbon is an ideological ping-pong ball. It is not. It’s an opportunity for the U.S. to either take a place as one of the leaders of the global clean energy industrial revolution that is at our doorstep, or be a spectator.

Without these policies in place, we will fall further and further behind domestic and international competitors. Getting strong federal policy is key to Washington state’s success, but business and public leaders need to come together on an action plan that will make the state even more competitive. Some key elements include: protecting and enhancing our state standards that require use of renewable power and greater efficiency, developing financing tools and policy that allow us to maximize clean energy investments, and removing disincentives for utility initiatives and investments. We also need to make growth of clean energy jobs and companies a priority. Our businesses, research institutions, and state and local governments need to work together with a sense of urgency and purpose.

The U.S. has prided itself for the past century for leading the world in business innovation. It now has a chance to lead again as we prepare for a race to stabilize our climate, but it is time for action.

Failure to act is bad business.

A former foreign correspondent, William Brent is a public relations exec at Weber Shandwick. He started the firm's cleantech practice. More can be found at

Super Hot Solar Thermal, Solar Buildings in DOE-Israel Development Alliance

Michael Kanellos: November 24, 2009, 3:54 PM

When it comes to high tech, Israel can be thought of as a branch office of Silicon Valley.

Nearly every major tech company – Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. – has built facilities in the country and actively recruits engineers at universities like the Technion. Several Israeli startups have also been swept up by multinationals. The country even has its own venture capital community with strong links back to the 650 area code.

Naturally, the same sort of relationships have already started to migrate to green tech. Better Place is a U.S.-Israeli venture, for example, and VCs looking for water deals often start there.

To further foster the process, the Department of Energy and the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures have decided to collaborate and will provide $3.3 million in grants to four companies. One is HelioFocus, a novel solar thermal company (read more here). HelioFocus, which grew out of research at Israel's Weizmann Institute, has created a six-story high parabolic dish that will concentrate the sun's energy onto an optical receiver at its center. The proprietary receiver in turn converts the light into a stream of hot air that can reach 1,000 degrees Celsius. The hot air then gets funneled through a gas turbine rejiggered for solar power. While many are skeptical whether the world needs another solar thermal technology (solar thermal actually can be competitive with fossil fuel power in the right circumstances), HelioFocus says its dish will take up less real estate.

Another is Tigo Energy, which specializes in software and electronics for solar (see video here). It will participate in a building integrated photovoltaic project.

And then there's Mississippi's SmartSynch, which will work with Motorola Israel on a smart grid management platform.