This Week in Cleantech is a new, weekly podcast covering the most impactful stories in cleantech and climate in 15 minutes or less. Produced by Renewable Energy World and Tigercomm, This Week in Cleantech will air every Friday in the Factor This! podcast feed wherever you get your podcasts.
This week’s episode features Floodlight News investigative reporter Mario Alejandro Ariza, who reported on how utilities used money to influence civil rights leaders in the South.
This week’s “Cleantecher of the Week” is Scott Kubly, who last week shared an introspective post about the challenges and joys of launching, and leading, a cleantech company. Nominate your picks for “Cleantecher of the Week” by emailing the show.
This Week in Cleantech — Jan. 12, 2024
Despite inventing key clean energy tech in the 20th Century, the West failed to capitalize on its early lead, allowing China to dominate the sector. Now, Western countries have agreed to leverage “de-risking” strategies — or ways to maintain trading ties — to protect global clean energy supply chains with China. The piece’s author, Henry Sanderson, points out that Western leaders believe in incentivizing clean energy through subsidies, which is ineffective in competing with China. He argues that this strategy could lead to an investment shift to the highest bidder rather than to who is making the best sustainable technology, wasting taxpayer money and slowing the energy transition.
U.S. government researchers found that property values drop 11% when a new wind farm is announced within 1 mile of a home. But, property values rebound to their pre-construction levels within just a few years after the wind farm is built. And those neighbors immediately benefit from their communities seeing jobs, economic activity and for decades from the ongoing tax revenue. This impact is predominantly observed in proximity to urban areas, with rural areas experiencing a comparatively lesser effect.
A few years ago, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory surveyed wind farm neighbors. It found that 51% of those living with a half-mile radius of a wind farm had a “very positive” or “positive” experience. LBNL recently found that houses located within a half-mile of a utility-scale solar farm experienced just a 1.5% decline in resale prices when contrasted with homes between 2 and 4 miles away.
Wind and solar power developers have faced rising interest rates and supply chain issues. Natural gas prices have jumped during the global energy crisis as well. This has led investment firms to put billions toward something different — energy efficiency. More specifically, companies and technologies that reduce energy waste on assembly lines in office buildings and farms.
Emma Champion, an energy transition analyst from BloombergNEF highlights the need to both build more energy infrastructure but also enhance how efficiently we use our energy in the first place.
Watch the full episode on YouTube
Thirteen percent of carbon pollution in the U.S. is caused by residential and commercial buildings. Up to this point, policies penalizing building owners for excessive carbon pollution have been embraced by four states and nine cities. Now, a metropolis filled with skyscrapers is entering the mix — New York City. This is huge considering two-thirds of New York City’s carbon pollution comes from buildings.
Annual financial penalties are at $268 per ton of CO2 equivalent over an individual building’s limit for violators, and this goes into effect January 20th. Over the next 16 years, those financial penalties will get progressively stricter. Some developers and landlords are fearfully preparing for the costs of taking out gas-burning heaters and retrofitting older structures, but others are looking forward to the money savings on their utility bills.
Policies like this encourage carbon management in new construction, making buildings low-carbon or even carbon-negative from the start.
Power companies have been paying millions to civil rights leaders and their groups in the South since at least 2009. Former Florida state representative Joe Gibbons, associated with the Energy Equity Alliance, received funding from power company consultants to oppose rooftop solar projects.
Black civil rights leaders in the Southeast, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), were targeted by power companies to gain support and divert attention from environmental harms disproportionately affecting Black communities.
Consulting companies, such as Matrix LLC, worked on behalf of major power companies to influence Black leaders through tax-exempt groups engaged in political activity. The payments from power companies to civil rights groups have been criticized for compromising the organizations’ independence and advocacy for environmental justice.