COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for entrepreneurial approaches to climate change

By Jeffrey York, The Conversation


Jeffrey York, a professor of sustainability and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, suggests that entrepreneurship could be the solution to the climate crisis.

  • Environmental entrepreneurship offers solutions that create ecological and economic benefits 
    • Being an environmentalist and a businessperson helps entrepreneurs recruit a broader range of people, inviting in environmental champions and small business experts
    • Environmental entrepreneurs focus more on values and family, rather than just government policy and economics
    • The political divide on climate change is blurred and more green building adoption occurs when there are more entrepreneurs present
  • York suggests that new business ventures can help rebuild an economy focused on long-term environmental sustainability and economic stability

The Climate Center’s Business for Clean Energy (BCE) network is an association of over 70 businesses that are collaborating to find opportunities to build a climate-safe California. The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign recognizes that sound policy is critical to supporting businesses that can drive the needed innovations for the transition to a decarbonized economy.

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UBS exits arctic oil, coal mines and tar sands projects

By Dieter Holger, The Wall Street Journal


UBS Group, one of the world’s largest banks and previously Europe’s fourth-biggest coal-mining financier, announced it will no longer finance new offshore oil projects in the Arctic, thermal coal mines or oil sands on undeveloped land after pressure from investors and environmentalists.

  • Outside of investor pressures, UBS says its investments in carbon-related industries are falling
  • UBS hit its three-year sustainable-investment goal one year ahead of schedule, which is based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals
  • The bank’s sustainable investments rose to $488 billion last year, becoming 13.5% of its invested assets
  • Around 115 banks and insurers have placed restrictions on thermal coal and other big banks are divesting from companies that are not planning to meet Paris Agreement standards
  • However, UBS’ policy doesn’t exclude onshore oil or gas projects in the Arctic

The Climate Center’s Business for Clean Energy program includes member banks and financial firms that are committed to divestment for rapid decarbonization.

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The world’s most profitable hedge fund is now a climate radical

By Edward Robinson and Nishant Kumar, Bloomberg


British billionaire Chris Hohn of  TCI Fund Management is pushing companies to provide transparency on their carbon emissions and ultimately reduce their environmental impact.

  • Hohn is threatening to call on investors to fire managers and oust board members who do not make promises to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Hohn is also asking banks to stop lending to companies that are ignoring the climate crisis
  • Though Hohn is making calls for emissions reductions and has recently donated to the climate movement Extinction Rebellion, TCI still has investments in industries utilizing fossil fuels
  • Hohn believes that the economic risks of climate change are enormous

The Climate Center’s Business of Clean Energy program helps businesses find ways to become more climate-friendly.

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Oak Creek, Corvallis OR, by Maddie Maffia

The water protection industry employs more people than coal or steel. Trump is changing that.

by Nick Mott, NPR


  • An estimated half of wetlands across the country and 18% of streams will not have federal protection with the new rollback of water regulation
  • The wetland mitigation industry fears their jobs could be lost due to these new environmental rollbacks 
  • Many wetlands have been restored with the help of “mitigation banks” that pool investor money and work on large scale restoration projects

We at The Climate Center are focusing on California, the world’s 5th largest economy, to enact the emissions reduction and sequestration policies necessary for rapid decarbonization.


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Aerial view of fracking wells.

IEEFA update: Bankruptcies multiply for fracking sector

by Kathy Hipple, IEEFA, January 28, 2020


Forty-two companies within the United States that have fracking based portfolios filed for bankruptcy in 2019:

  • In total, the aggregate debt of these companies was $26 billion
  • The fracking sector struggled due to overproduction, gas and oil prices, and increasing debt throughout the past 5 years
  • Moody’s Credit Rating assesses that the fracking industry never recovered from oil price slumps in 2015-2016

With the cost of renewables in steep decline, The Climate Center has laid out a roadmap that leaves natural gas behind in favor of 100% renewables with a vast network of community microgrids for resilience. See our new policy roadmap for state legislators.

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Clean up cars and cement industry to reach California’s climate goals, report says


  • “California’s current climate policies won’t cut greenhouse gas pollution enough to meet the state’s goals.”
  • “A new report says cleaning up cars and the cement industry could help.”

by Rachel Becker, CalMatters

California won’t meet its ambitious climate goals in 2030 unless more drivers trade gas guzzlers for clean cars, and heavy industry like cement producers reduce their pollution, according to new research.

In a report released today, climate policy think tank Energy Innovation concludes the best-case scenario for California is that it cuts climate warming pollution about 36% below 1990 levels by 2030. The worst case is about 30% — and neither meets the 40% cut baked into California law.

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New Mexico Senate passes 100% carbon-free electricity target

by Julian Spector, Greentech Media

New Mexico has joined the drumbeat of states pushing for a transition to clean electricity.

The state Senate passed the Energy Transition Act (SB 489) late Wednesday night in a 32-9 vote. The ETA would impose a “zero carbon” electricity standard on public utilities by 2045. The bill also ramps up interim renewables targets, including 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040.

For the bill to become law, the House has to approve it before the legislative session ends March 16. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already said she supports it. Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM), the state’s largest utility, also supports the measure.

“Senate Bill 489 is bold, comprehensive legislation that will establish the state as a national leader in both renewable energy and address the causes of climate change, providing a pathway for a low-carbon energy transition away from coal and providing workforce training and transition assistance to affected communities,” the governor wrote in an op-ed this week.

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Geothermal: Tax breaks and the Google startup bringing earth’s heat into homes

by Lyndsey Gilpin, Insideclimate News

During one bitter cold winter in upstate New York, Matt VanDerlofske spent $4,000 on fuel oil to heat his drafty, two-story home for the season. That was twice what he typically paid, and he had to cancel family vacations to afford it.

“I never wanted it to happen again,” he said. His solution was an unusual choice for a homeowner in the U.S., but one that’s gaining interest: He had a hole drilled hundreds of feet into his backyard and a geothermal heat pump installed by Dandelion, a startup energy company conceived at X, Google’s innovation lab that’s now part of its parent company, Alphabet.

Underground, below the frost line, the Earth is consistently around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Geothermal heat pumps use that temperature to keep buildings comfortable by circulating fluid through a set of pipes that runs through the earth and then connects with a heat pump. The result is much more efficient heating and cooling with clean energy than commercial air conditioning and heating systems—and much lower emissions.

Right now, a tiny percentage of U.S. homes use geothermal heat pumps, according to Xiaobing Liu, a geothermal researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; about 500,000 buildings in the commercial sector use the technology.

Dandelion is trying to expand that market for geothermal heating by lowering the price, and it just got a big boost from the federal government.

On Friday, Congress voted to extend a 30 percent federal tax credit for geothermal heat pump installations. With state incentives included—a $26,000 system in New York would qualify for a $6,000 state rebate—the federal tax credit would drop the cost enough to make it more competitive with traditional heating and cooling.

European countries have been using geothermal heating for decades, as this energy-efficient home in Germany does. In Sweden, 20 percent of buildings use geothermal heat pumps. China has a goal to replace 70 million tons of coal with geothermal heating by 2020. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Like solar power, geothermal heating cuts monthly energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for homeowners who would otherwise rely on expensive, high-emissions fuel oil. “This is more energy efficient than any other HVAC heating and cooling technology,” with about 20 to 40 percent of energy savings compared to regular heating and cooling systems, Liu said.

“In the past, it’s been an inaccessible technology for normal homeowners,” said Kathy Hannun, a civil engineer and chief executive officer of Dandelion. “It was very expensive, the process is hard to navigate, there’s not a lot of data around system performance, and traditionally the industry has suffered from quality issues.”
“We’re trying to overcome those obstacles,” she said.

Home Geothermal: How Does It Work?

Dandelion became an independent company last summer and installed its first 20 home geothermal systems in New York in 2017. It’s running pilot projects in the state as it builds a marketplace and experiments with both backyard geothermal and systems that can serve entire communities.

At VanDerlofske’s home, installers drilled a hole 500 feet underground, then inserted a pipe called a “ground loop” that loops back up and stretches 10 feet across the yard in a shallow trench to his basement, where it hooks up to a heat pump the size of a washing machine. (Other homes have horizontal loops built in long trenches that are shallower but still buried several feet below the frost line.)

Water mixed with an antifreeze solution is pumped through the pipes, where it adjusts to the Earth’s temperature, as Dandelion explains. In the winter, that solution comes into the house at the warm, below-ground temperature. Then coils inside are heated further, using electricity, warming the air, which is pumped through ductwork as central heat. In the summer, the system transfers heat from the home back into the earth.

“It’s a lot simpler than the old system,” said VanDerlofske, whose basement had housed an old 250 gallon oil tank. His house now stays a comfortable 69 degrees through the winter, but the heat is drier than he expected, he said.

Even with the need for electricity to run the system, VanDerlofske is paying less than half of what he paid to heat his home with oil. In November, he spent $114 on electricity compared to $240 on oil a year earlier; in December he paid $182, compared to $480 the prior year.

The Northeast and the Midwest currently have the higher rates of geothermal adoption. Government buildings in Michigan and schools in Illinois are using geothermal heating systems. Jasper County, Missouri, cut its natural gas budget from $5,400 to $800 after geothermal heating was added to the county courthouse. On the West Coast, where drilling regulations are stricter, it’s less common.

European countries have been using geothermal to heat residential and commercial buildings for decades. In Sweden, 20 percent of buildings use geothermal heat pumps. China also has a goal to replace 70 million tons of coal with geothermal heating by 2020.

The No. 1 Barrier to Adoption

Like other renewable sources as they were first being developed, the cost of geothermal has been prohibitive—which is why Dandelion is playing an important role in the U.S., said Ryan Dougherty, chief operating officer for the industry group Geothermal Exchange Organization.

“They are aggressively attacking the number one barrier to broader adoption,” he said.
Dandelion recently announced plans for a community-wide geothermal project that could further lower costs for homeowners. It would power homes and buildings in Rhinebeck, New York, with the geothermal loop running several feed below the earth’s surface beside the main road, where homeowners could connect to it, avoiding some of the drilling expense.

The tax credit extensions for residential and commercial geothermal heat pump installations should also help. Congress voted to make the credits, which lapsed last year, retroactive to the start of 2017; the credit allows homeowners to get back 30 percent of the cost if the system was installed between 2017 and 2020, then 26 percent in 2021, and 22 percent through 2022.

“This credit reinstatement gives the geothermal heat pump industry a shot in the arm and much needed parity with other renewables,” said Dougherty, whose Geothermal Exchange Organization has been intensely lobbying Congress since the temporary credits expired. “It makes geothermal that much more competitive with conventional HVAC technology.”

As more geothermal system manufacturers enter the market and more homeowners and businesses use it, the costs are expected to decline.

Geothermal has also led some homeowners to add other renewable energy sources to take the power bills down even lower. Next year, VanDerlofske plans to install new rooftop solar panels, which will shave even more money off his electricity bills.
“I’m really excited about what that will bring,” he said.