Archive for Sustainability

Energy Efficiency Saves Billions in Maryland

Baltimore, MD—Maryland electric customers will save more than $4 billion due to energy efficiency improvements made at homes and businesses through a successful Maryland program, according to a first-of-its-kind study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The study, co-authored by a former Maryland Public Service Commission energy analyst, highlights how the first phase of EmPOWER Maryland has yielded substantial economic growth and environmental benefits across the state.

EmPOWER Maryland, enacted in 2008, created energy efficiency programs that are offered through the state’s five largest electric utilities. The program helps homeowners and businesses save energy, partly by offering incentives and technical assistance for adding insulation, sealing air leaks, and installing more efficient appliances. It also facilitates efficient commercial lighting and other improvements at industrial facilities.

ACEEE’s study reveals that EmPOWER Maryland has produced significant benefits, including:

  • More than $4 billion in savings in total customer bills over the life of the improvements, which were made between 2008 and 2015;
  • $1.81 in benefits for every dollar spent on energy efficiency measures as a result of lower wholesale prices for energy, savings from reduced need to build new power plants and power lines, reduced air pollution, and reduced need for electricity production;
  • Total lifetime energy savings of more than 51 million megawatt hours, equivalent to the electricity used by 850,000 residential customers over five years;
  • Reduced emissions of nearly 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, more than 34 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 78 million pounds of sulfur dioxide over the lifetime of the programs.

The full study can be viewed at: http://aceee.org/research-report/u1701

“EmPOWER Maryland is an unqualified success story for the state,” said Brendon Baatz, study co-author and utilities policy manager at ACEEE. Yet despite its achievements, Baatz believes the program’s future is not guaranteed: “With Phase One of the program complete, Maryland regulators must now renew their support for EmPOWER Maryland so that consumers and businesses can continue to reap the benefits of lower utility bills and cleaner air.”

“EmPOWER has proven critical for helping us improve the energy efficiency of our affordable multifamily properties, which lowers utility costs and provides healthy homes for our residents” said Trisha Miller, sustainability director for WISHROCK. “At Windsor Valley Apartments, EmPOWER helped fund efficiency improvements that are expected to reduce utility bills by as much as 20% per year. Without EmPOWER, the upfront costs of making these upgrades can be prohibitive in the affordable housing industry.”

The first phase EmPOWER Maryland aimed to reduce per capita electricity usage 10% and peak electricity demand 15% by 2015. The Maryland Public Service Commission, in its annual report to the legislature in 2015, concluded that state utilities achieved 99% of the per capita consumption goal and 100% of the per capita demand reduction goal.

Due in part to the EmPOWER Maryland program, Maryland now ranks as the ninth most energy-efficient state in the nation, according to ACEEE.

An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump on Clean Energy

Smart Solar EnergyDear President-Elect Trump,

For nearly two decades, we’ve been tracking and chronicling the transition to a clean-energy economy. While we know that we don’t see eye-to-eye with you on all of the issues, we wanted to send you the following “open letter” to update you on the clean-energy business opportunity, and what you might do as president to enable a massive infrastructure build out which supports American jobs and home-grown energy.

First, let us lay out some of the significant facts and figures regarding the transition to clean energy that’s taking place in the U.S. and across the globe:

  • Global investments in clean energy have grown from $62 billion in 2004 to $329 billion last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  • In the U.S., clean energy, in the form of solar and wind power, now represents the largest share of new additions to electricity capacity. In 2015, wind, solar, and geothermal sources represented nearly 63% of all electricity capacity additions across the country, outpacing natural gas at 34%.
  • Many of the largest, most iconic U.S. corporations, such as General Motors, Google, Nike, and Walmart, are now working to achieve 100% renewable electricity in all of their U.S. and/or global operations. Companies that have reached at least one of these goals include Apple, Kohl’s, and Microsoft.
  • Five states now have mandates and target years to get 50% or more of their electricity from renewable sources. And clean energy deployment crosses the red state/blue state divide. In fact, among the top 10 states last year for percentage of clean-electricity generation, six voted for you in the 2016 presidential election (Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Idaho), and four for your opponent.
  • Americans of all political stripes resoundingly support clean energy. In the latest poll from Pew Research released last month, 89% of Americans favored expanding solar power, and 83% supported expanding wind farms. Backing this up, on Election Day pro-solar policies passed in Nevada, where voters moved forward a constitutional amendment that could break up utility NV Energy’s monopoly, and Florida, where voters rejected a measure that would have prevented third-party ownership of solar.

Read more…

Victory for America’s Youth

Lawsuits on Climate ChangeThe Constitutional Climate Lawsuit against U.S. to Proceed
Eugene, OR – The federal court in Eugene, Oregon decided in favor of 21 youth plaintiffs in their “groundbreaking” constitutional climate lawsuit against President Obama, numerous federal agencies, and the fossil fuel industry. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken completely rejected all arguments to dismiss raised by the federal government and fossil fuel industry, determining that the young plaintiffs’ constitutional and public trust claims could proceed. Now, the 21 plaintiffs, who range in age from 9-20, are preparing for trial in what is believed to be a turning point in United States constitutional history.

In determining the complaint to be valid, Judge Aiken’s ruling contained these passages:
“Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it.”

“Although the United States has made international commitments regarding climate change, granting the relief requested here would be fully consistent with those commitments. There is no contradiction between
promising other nations the United States will reduce C02 emissions and a judicial order directing the United States to go beyond its international commitments to more aggressively reduce C02 emissions.”

“[The defendants and intervenors] are correct that plaintiffs likely could not obtain the relief they seek through citizen suits brought under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or other environmental laws. But that argument misses the point. This action is of a different order than the typical environmental case. It alleges that defendants’ actions and inactions – whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty – have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.”

Read More→

Businesses Support Clean Power Plan

This is an interesting article for us here in Arizona where our Senators have sued to stop the Clean Power Plan. The leading businesses understand the value of the Clean Power Plan to the economy, communities and jobs. Our Senators seem to place more value on the benefits to dirty power and the contributions they make to their political campaigns.

Tech titans Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as global brand companies Ikea, Mars, Adobe and Blue Shield Blue Cross Massachusetts told a U.S. court Friday that they need the federal Clean Power Plan for economic reasons.

In two separate Amici Curiae briefs filed in U.S. Circuit Court supporting the EPA’s plan for reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 32 percent, the corporate giants said without a “national carbon mitigation plan,” they face “undesirable business risk,” energy price volatility and higher costs.

With these arguments, the businesses seem to have flipped prospects for the Obama administration’s centerpiece climate change policy, which only a month ago looked dim after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to delay its enforcement.

Since the eight companies collectively employ about 1 million people, account for nearly $2 trillion in market capitalization and are major energy consumers — the tech companies alone use 10 million megawatt hours of electricity a year — they have clout.  

Read more here.

Walmart & Eggs?

Walmart to Purchase Only Cage-Free Hen Eggs By 2025

Walmart announced last week it plans to source 100 percent of the eggs it sells at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in the U.S. from cage-free suppliers by 2025. That’s big news, especially considering the company is the largest grocer in the country. But what exactly does cage-free mean?

If you’re picturing happy flocks of chickens scratching away for insects on a sunny hillside somewhere (the kind of images egg companies love to adorn their cartons with), you’d be wrong. Cage-free facilities can still be industrial-scale chicken farming where thousands of hens spend their lives indoors in what many would consider cramped conditions.

Walmart will require all their egg suppliers to be certified by United Egg Producers and compliant with the trade organization’s Animal Husbandry Guidelines. The UEP—which represents U.S. chicken farmers who own about 95 percent of the country’s laying hens—updated its guidelines this year, including the standards for cage-free operations. Based on the guidelines each hen should be allotted between 1 and 1.5 square feet of space and 6 inches of elevated perch space, and 15 percent of the usable floor of the hen house must be a scratch area. This setup allows the birds to exhibit some of their natural instincts such as dust-bathing, scratching, perching, and wing flapping. There’s no provision that the birds be allowed outdoors. Read More→

10 Reasons to Go Local

1.  Local Character and Prosperity

In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

2.  Community Well-Being

Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

3. Local Decision-Making

Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4.  Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy

Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

5.  Job and Wages

Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6.  Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7.  Public Benefits and Costs

Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8.  Environmental Sustainability

Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

9.  Competition

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10.  Product Diversity

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

© Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Reprints: If you’d like to reprint this, you may request permission to do so by emailing us. Please identify yourself, your business or organization, and your location, and describe how you intend to use the 10 reasons.

Meet the Sustainability Innovators

Meet the innovators, organizers, and visionaries who will lead us toward a more sustainable future, in the coming year (and beyond). Click Here…

Ideology > Humanity

You can’t write about the drinking water debacle in Flint, Michigan, without first recognizing the depth of the tragedy. For more than a year, an entire city was exposed to the risk of lead poisoning. Of the people we already know have been poisoned, more than half are children under the age of six. Those children will suffer neurological damage for the rest of their lives. Long after you and I are gone, some of them will still be living a life diminished. No matter what happens now, that cannot be undone. No overdue apology, no grudging mea culpa, no release of emails, and no state-of-emergency declaration can undo that damage. Take a moment and imagine how you’d react if you were that child’s mother or father.

That terrible fact makes it all the more infuriating that this disaster can’t be called an accident. Instead, it was the inevitable result of a callous and reckless disregard for human life — specifically, the lives of the people who live in Flint, most of whom are black and many of whom are poor. When Governor Rick Snyder released 274 pages of heavily censored emails about the crisis this week, the cruel arrogance on display only made you wonder about the redacted parts that were so much worse they couldn’t bear to make public. Here’s how the New York Times summarized the released portions:

A top aide to Michigan’s governor referred to people raising questions about the quality of Flint’s water as an “anti-everything group.” Other critics were accused of turning complaints about water into a “political football.” And worrisome findings about lead by a concerned pediatrician were dismissed as “data,” in quotes.

The consequences for the people of Flint, though, are but one especially horrible example of what is happening to minority and low-income communities everywhere and every day. Pick any type of pollution — then look to see who is the most exposed and the most harmed. Take lead, for instance. Although lead exposure had declined overall, African American children are five times more likely to be poisoned than white children. Why? In part because the neighborhoods where they live are more likely to have been exposed to lead when cars still used leaded gas. Decades later, children are still paying a price.

Governor Snyder and his Department of Environmental Quality are rightly being castigated not only for ignoring the problem but also for actively denying, in the face of all evidence, that Flint’s water was contaminated. But their culpability for this tragedy extends even further. Before Flint’s water was compromised, its democracy was.

Read more…

Privilege, Pathology and Power

by Paul Krugman, New York Times

Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

And it’s obvious, even if we don’t have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It’s not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically self-regarding and unconcerned with others.

So what happens to a nation that gives ever-growing political power to the superrich?

Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence — in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.

But it’s also true that those empowered by money-driven politics include a disproportionate number of spoiled egomaniacs. Which brings me to the current election cycle. Read more…

The Sustainable Spirit

Finding Balance as Part of the Whole

Dawn is just cresting the mountain ridge as you hike silently up to your favorite spot, a perch where you can see – unseen by other hikers. Here, you position yourself to meditate. The golden rays paint the rocks, and trees glisten with their own energy. You reach out to embrace the view. Suddenly, it feels as if your spirit leaves your body and becomes a part of all around you. Then, just as suddenly, you are back inside your own skin wondering what just happened.

You had a transcendental experience, leaving this “mortal coil” to join with all that is the universe, to become one with creation. It is an awe-inspiring experience that may last for only an instant but leave its impact for a lifetime.

If you are lucky enough to have had an experience similar to this, you have had a vision of the world as it truly is…where everything is connected to everything else. As Martin Luther King said, “we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny…” This is the core tenet of sustainability, understanding that we humans are not the masters of the Earth. We are part of and connected to everything that exists. When we understand this most basic concept, all that we do to pursue sustainability becomes almost self-evident. Read More→