February 6, 2010

By Saul Griffith

There is little evidence that we will solve the
environmental challenges of our time. Individuals
too readily allow responsibility for the solutions to
fall on larger entities like governments, rather than
themselves. I find one very significant reason for
hope amidst this largely hopeless topic. We are
learning to measure consequence. Galileo said
something akin to “measure what is measurable,
make measurable what is not.”  We are slowly gaining
expertise in measuring our impact in terms of carbon,
energy demand, water use, and toxicity production.

Why is this hopeful? Now that we can say
definitively that even the production of a soda bottle
has a measurable (if tiny) increase in greenhouse
gases, it’s hard for a thinking individual not to
acknowledge that they are working against the things
they say they want. After a century of isolating the
product or service from its resulting impact, the tide
is turning. We are making consequence visible. We
will witness the first generation who can truly know
the impact of everything they do on the ecological
support systems that surround them.

My hope is that we will use this knowledge wisely.
We will put aside old ideas of what is good and bad
for the environment and ourselves, and will
quantitatively make the changes we need with new

The Road to a Greener Navy: 10 Facts on the Navy’s Quest for Alternative Fuels

January 25, 2010

The Road to a Greener Navy: 10 Facts on the Navy’s Quest for Alternative Fuels

1. The Department of Navy consumes 1.3 billion gallons of fuel per year and is the second largest consumer of fuel in the Department of the Defense (US Air Force is 1st, Army is 3rd).

2. Every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil increases Navy fuel costs by almost $300 million.

3. The Navy has set aggressive goals to reduce its reliance on oil, including a 10% annual increase in alternative fuels use by base support vehicles and equipment.

4. Over 3,000 Electric and Natural Gas vehicles are currently in use on Navy bases. Electric and Natural Gas vehicles might be the most efficient land-based alternative energy solution since they require no conversion from the form in which they are produced or mined and are naturally transportable.

5. Alternatives to petroleum-based fuel are endless. Pond scum (algae), non-food crops, biomass, wastes and CO2 are among the many energy sources currently under study.

6. Algae fields can produce 6,000 gallons of oil per acre. A land area of 500 square miles (21.5 x 21.5 miles or 2 times the size of Washington, D.C.) could yield enough oil to meet all of the Navy’s annual fuel needs. In comparison, US oilfields currently occupy 40,000 square miles.

7. Biofuels derived from algae and the oilseeds of the Camelina sativa plant will be used in the Navy’s “Green” Hornet and “Green” Ship initiatives.

8. More than 200,000 gallons of algae- and camelina-based fuel will be delivered to the Navy for test and evaluation. These sources will be the first liquid alternatives to petroleum to be certified for future use.

9. The first Navy aircraft engine to run on bio-fuel was successfully tested this month (October 2009) at the Naval Air Warfare Center Patuxent River, Md.

10. First flight of the Navy’s F/A-18 “Green” Hornet will take flight in the spring of 2010. The camelina-based biofuel will be blended in a 50-50 mix with standard, petroleum-based JP-5 jet fuel.

Courtesy of Amy Behrman, NAVAIR Corporate Communication

How to Secure the Smart Grid?

January 6, 2010

The honest answer is that we don’t know yet. It’s hugely complex and very different than IT security.

Smart Grid: New Views on Countermeasures

December 9, 2009

This is a great article by the Smart Grid Security Blog on how traditional IP security needs to be reinvented for the Smart Grid.

The evolution of the Smart Grid, and most notably the introduction and expansion of IP-based internetworking into the traditionally SCADA, and often proprietary, world of utilities is bringing a new series of threats to the Grid, as we have been writing about for some time now. Much of our blogging in the past year has focused on it: on the threats, on the similarities, and on the insufficient attention we believe the problem has received. Read more =>

Leap-Frogging to Smart Grid Success: Lessons from the Telecommunications Industry

December 9, 2009

By Bob Lento
President Information Management, Convergys

Having done it the hard way (learning from our own mistakes), we highly recommend the easy way (learning from the mistakes of others). In that regard, the telecommunications industry may be one of the best places to look for best practices in how utilities can use the Smart Grid’s real-time information from millions of devices like smart meters. By mimicking what telecommunications does today to manage peak loads and help with low credit score customers, we can leap past decades of learning experiences. Read more =>

Efficiency is the best public policy

December 7, 2009

Financial Times, 3 December 2009 – Governments around the world could make rapid, substantial and relatively cheap cuts to carbon emissions by pursuing energy efficiency in place of more ambitious, but expensive, technological solutions, says a new study.

Smart Grid: IPv4/IPv6 and ITU are key standards

December 2, 2009

The latest draft of the NIST report includes very good news: the addition of IPv4 and IPv6, and the addition of ITU (communications over power lines and other wire types) to the list of “standards identified for implementation” for Smart Grid.

Download the draft report here:

The California Experiment

November 4, 2009

The California Experiment Lays the Path to Creating an Energy Efficient Economy
by Executive Director Daniel T. Colbert at the Institute for Energy Efficiency, UCSB

Thirty five years ago, before anyone else got it, Art Rosenfeld got it. He understood that energy efficiency was going to be the most important cog in reinvented energy machinery not only for his own State of California, but for the world. Head of California’s Energy Commission since its creation in 1974, Rosenfeld’s work in reducing energy consumption has been so effective that while per capita energy usage in the United States has increased by 50%, California per capita usage has stayed flat. This data, dubbed the “Rosenfeld Curve” in his honor, has inspired other states and the federal government to achieve similar savings by imitating California’s programs. California’s energy efficiency programs have saved taxpayers a total of $56 billion since the Commission’s inception.

America’s founders understood the value in letting states experiment with their own ideas and programs. However, this value is only realized if successful programs are replicated elsewhere and failures abandoned. California’s experiments in energy efficiency, while not always rewarding, have been successful in aggregate and should be adopted more broadly throughout the country. Meanwhile, three groups in California – the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UC Santa Barbara, the Center for Energy Efficiency at UC Davis and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University – are leading the next charge on the energy efficiency front. Stay tuned for more California successes leading the nation.

Click here to read “The California Experiment“, an article by Ronald Brownstein in the Atlantic which inspired this commentary.

Pass the Buck – the biggest challenge to commercial building energy efficiency is in the lease

November 3, 2009

“What’s the ROI?” I was asked this question recently by the CFO of a large REIT. I was in their office selling the benefits of a web-basd enterprise energy and environmental management solution for their nationwide properties. I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. And the fact is that the ROI is a two to three year payback and a 5 to 15% annuity. A very respectable ROI for any investment.

However, the challenge to creating meaningful energy efficiency for most commercial buildings is the fact that only a small population own and occupy their own buildings. Most commercial buildings are owned by a REIT or landlord and then lease the property to occupants. The REIT can’t justify the investment in energy efficiency because they get to pass the buck — its the occupants that pay the utility bills and common area charges. The occupants can’t justify the investment in energy efficiency because they don’t lease the building long enough to see the ROI on capital improvements. It’s only building owner-occupants who can justify the investment. If we’re going to make a dent in the 70% plus electricity use and 45% carbon emissions generated by commercial buildings, we’re going to need to resolve this issue.

What do you think the right solution is?

Does LEED need to measure up to survive?

October 14, 2009

In business, there’s the plan and then there’s the execution of the plan. In buildings, there’s the design and then the efficient operation of the building. In business we monitor our performance to plan via real-time measurements such as P&L and cash flows. We can only manage what we measure. In buildings, we need to take the same step and actively measure our operating performance and control our costs using web based enterprise energy and environmental solutions. Otherwise, the LEED design is like a business plan without a P&L statement. What do you think?

Read more