The number of American businesses with formal green programs in place increased 54 percent last year according to new research from Buck Consultants(a subsidiary of Xerox). Of about 120 businesses surveyed — including hardware and other technology firms, government offices, consultancies, non-profits, hospitals, and the makers of consumer packaged goods — 69 percent said they took deliberate measures to improve their environmental and social impact in 2010.
What motivated companies to go green, officially?
Fifty-eight percent said they started their programs to create “community goodwill,” and 46 percent said they did so to improve stakeholder perception of their business. During the recession, however, 78 percent of companies with green programs came to view cost savings as the top, desired return on investment.
Over 90 percent of companies realized cost savings as a direct result of their green programs: 78 percent of them saved on electricity, 68 percent on heating and cooling, 68 percent on paper, and 60 percent saved on water. About 9 percent of companies with formal green programs said they failed to save money thanks to their initiatives in 2010.
Spending may have exceeded savings in some cases; big-ticket items like electric vehicles for company fleets, or the installation of solar canopies and rooftops, and building-wide, networked lighting systems that use sensors and LEDs (light emitting diodes) can cost a company in the short-term, for example, but lead to savings on fuel or electricity over the longer term.
The Clean Energy Ministerial gathers ministers from around the globe to discuss policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, which in turn improves energy efficiency, expands access to and enhances supply of clean energy.
“There can be no solution to climate change and energy security globally without carbon capture and storage,” stressed British energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne during the meeting in Abu Dhabi.
Carbon capture and storage technology captures carbon dioxide from point power plants and other industrial facilities, and injects it deep underground.
The Zero and Net-Zero Energy Buildings + Homes report by Building Design+Construction, published by Illinois-based SGC Horizon L.L.C., suggests that further developing current net-zero energy building designs and harnessing support from concerned government agencies will help address the country’s overall energy consumption.
Energy efficiency and conservation
A net-zero energy building is a building with greatly reduced operational energy needs. It is highly energy efficient with no adverse energy or environmental impact. A net-zero energy building must be capable of producing at least as much energy from renewable sources within a year to compensate for what it draws from the grid.
The International Energy Agency is calling for 312 billion dollars in fuel subsidies to be scrapped in a bid to promote clean energy sources, according to a report presented in Abu Dhabi.
“More aggressive clean energy policies are required, including the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and implementation of transparent, predictable and adaptive incentives for cleaner, more efficient energy options,” said the Clean Energy Progress Report.
Fossil fuels currently attract 312 billion dollars in consumption subsidies, versus $57 billion for renewable energy, it added, without specifying which countries were to blame.
“Even if countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) somehow drove their emissions to zero, on today’s path, emissions from non-OECD countries would still lead to environmental disasters on an epic scale,” it said.
According to the same source, renewables are gaining traction, but demand for fossil fuels is growing even faster.
“Despite the tremendous growth seen in this sector, demand for traditional fossil-based energy has outpaced demand for clean energy,” the report said.
“For the past decade, coal has been the fastest-growing global energy source, meeting 47 percent of new electricity demand,” it said.
The report noted that there are signs that austerity measures adopted by some governments are weakening support for renewables.
But “achieving sustainable energy goals will require a doubling of all renewable energy use by 2020”, it said.
But the emirate, which sits on some 95 percent of the country’s oil, also aims to be a centre for renewable energy, through projects such as Masdar City, which is to be powered solely by renewables.
Abu Dhabi was confirmed on Tuesday as the permanent seat of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
In as much as policies can drive the growth of renewable energy in every state, it takes time before their effects can be felt. Using a time-lag analysis, the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified how states’ policies in 2005 generated more renewable energy only in 2007.
In its report State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy, the laboratory also stressed the impact of contextual factors in renewable energy development – sociological, economic, political and geographic.
Despite these factors, though, the United States has shown growth in green development, with several states asserting dominance in certain sectors.
Since hydroelectricity accounts for more than half of the renewables that the United States produced in 2007, setting it aside will be helpful in analyzing how states fared in other sectors.
California dominated green energy production, excluding hydroelectric, in terms of megawatt hours generated. The state, which led the country in biomass, geothermal and distributed solar megawatt-hours generated, chalked up nearly 25 million MWh of green energy produced. The figure surpasses by more than half what Texas generated at more than 10 million MWh.
On that day, conditions must have been ideal for renewable energy production, but even on any given day, Spain is cranking out some clean energy. Spanish power transmission company Red Electrica reports that in 2010, renewable energy sources supplied 35 percent of all of Spain’s electricity, which means the country surpassed its goal of having 30 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2010 and has almost hit its target of 35.5 percent by 2020 way ahead of schedule.
Last year, coal-fired power in Spain dropped 34 percent and gas-fired power dropped 17 percent leading to a 20 percent cut in emissions.