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Category: Global Energy Trends

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Why is Renewable Energy Important to Me? by Verna Badenhorst

What is “renewable energy?” Currently the largest part of the world’s electricity supply is produced from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These traditional energy sources hold various challenges including but not limited to rising prices, growing environmental concerns over the climate change risks and a limited supply of fossil fuels.

Current Renewable Energy Landscape

Governments, businesses, and consumers are increasingly supporting the development of alternative energy sources and new technologies for electricity generation. Renewable energy sources such as solar, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric and wind power generation have all emerged as potential alternatives which address some of these concerns. As opposed to fossil fuels, renewable energy sources are generally unlimited in availability.

One of the most rapidly growing renewable sources of electricity is solar power. Solar power generation has several advantages over other forms of electricity generation: Solar energy does not require any form of fuel to work. Although there is variability in the amount and timing of sunlight over the day, season and year, a properly sized and configured system can be designed to be highly reliable while providing long-term, fixed price electricity supply.

Potential Benefits of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy

Solar power production generates electricity with a limited impact on the environment as compared to other forms of electricity production. Solar panels can be added as the need arises. With more and more technological advances in solar power, it is fast becoming a viable alternative is conventional electricity supply.

The harsh reality of constantly rising energy prices and constant blackouts for the rest of our lives is staring us all in the face. So there has never been a better time to invest in solar energy for your home. With the increasing costs of regular electricity, finding an alternative energy solution is becoming more and more crucial. With the supply of fossil fuels soon not being able to meet the demand it is now time to find a better alternative. With the advances that have been made in renewable energy the cost is no longer prohibitive. And the next time electricity prices increase, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Financial savings aren’t the only reason why homeowners go solar. There are many benefits of going solar, including saving huge amounts of money on electricity bills, you can add tens of thousands of dollars in tax free equity to your property, cleaning up the environment and supporting U.S. energy independence.

The Federal Tax Credit, which is available in all states, also offers an incredible 30% reduction in solar installation cost. But it shrinks to 22% in 2023. Two years may seem far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. So, the time to invest in solar energy is now.

Solar power is one of the most environmentally friendly energy solutions. With little to no impact on the environment it is the ideal choice for supplying power to homes and businesses. With global warming becoming more apparent every year it’s time now to start making a difference by switching to a cleaner source of power.

With energy costs on the rise, rooftop solar can save you money every month. It puts you in control since the rates for solar don’t fluctuate like they do with utility companies. Instead of making the electricity company richer every month, you can rather invest in your own home.

In a large study, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (https://www.lbl.gov/) looked at the value of homes with rooftop solar. They quantified it based on homes sold across eight states, and over a fifteen-year period.

One of the findings was that home buyers consistently pay more for homes with solar installed. In fact, the homeowners who invested in solar made back at least as much they spent buying the system. Plus, homes with solar installed spent less time on the market.

The bottom line is that in terms of renewable energy, Solar energy is:

  • Inexpensive
  • No money up front
  • 100% Financing
  • 30% Tax Credit
  • Quick ROI
  • Clean, renewable, good for your wallet and good for the planet.

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by Energy Consultant, Verna Badenhorst. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content. If you would like to learn more about the work Verna is doing, feel free to check out her Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100087851139652 

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NIGERIAN ENERGY LANDSCAPE IN 2022

Nigeria EnergyNigeria is Africa’s energy giant. It is the continent’s most prolific oil-producing country, which, along with Libya, accounts for two-thirds of Africa’s crude oil reserves. It ranks second to Algeria in natural gas (energysustainsoc.biomedcentral.com). Before I go on, I must warn you that these promising traits take a turn as you keep reading.

Nigerian Energy Resources: Bitumen and Lignite

Most of Africa’s bitumen and lignite reserves are found in Nigeria. In its mix of conventional energy reserves, Nigeria is simply unmatched by any other country on the African continent. It is not surprising therefore that energy export is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Also, primary energy resources dominate the nation’s industrial raw material endowment.

Several energy resources are available in Nigeria in abundant proportions. The country possesses the world’s sixth largest reserve of crude oil. Nigeria has an estimated oil reserve of 36.2 billion barrels. It is increasingly an important gas province with proven reserves of nearly 5,000 billion m3 (energysustainsoc.biomedcentral.com).

This is where the surprise comes in as Nigeria continuously suffers from an inadequate supply of usable energy due to the rapidly increasing demand, which is typical of a developing economy. Nigeria’s energy need is on the increase, and its increasing population is not adequately considered in the energy development program. The present urban-centered energy policy is unevenly distributed, as cases of rural and sub-rural energy demand and supply do not reach the center stage of the country’s energy development policy.

People in rural areas depend on burning wood and traditional biomass for their energy needs, causing great deforestation, emitting greenhouse gases, and polluting the environment, thus creating global warming and environmental concerns. The main task has been to supply energy to the cities and various places of industrialization, thereby creating an energy imbalance within the country’s socioeconomic and political landscapes.

Nigeria’s Energy Capacity

Nigeria’s grid has an installed capacity of roughly 12,522 megawatts, but due to poor infrastructure, it is only able to deliver around 4,000 megawatts most days, according to the US Agency for International Development.

Nigeria’s national electricity grid has collapsed more than 200 times in the last nine years, regularly resulting in widespread blackouts. There are also health risks from the emissions of inefficient petrol generators, which are widely used in Nigeria. It is estimated that electricity generator sets consume $22 billion worth of fuel yearly.

The grid collapsed twice in March 2022 within 48 hours. There are a number of factors to explain this situation and thus inform what needs to be done about it. They include insufficiently trained personnel, deficiency in local manufacturing, poor utility performance, theft of grid equipment, weather, gas supply, insufficient funding and the age of grid infrastructure (Theconversation.com).

Hungry for energy, millions of Nigerians put up with noisy, smoky petrol-fueled generators to power their lives. In some situations, the amount of electricity supplied to the grid is lower than the electricity demand. When this occurs, an automatic load shedding plan is activated. But if this fails, the generators switch off one after another until there is a complete collapse of the national grid.

In Nigeria, the system mismatch occurs frequently because demand is regularly beyond available power allocated to distribution companies at certain periods.

The buoyancy of Nigeria’s energy outreach has really taken a turn as you can see from the above information. It is ironic that the most prolific oil producing country suffers from such terrible power struggles. In order to ensure the sustainability of energy supply and subsequently the sustainable economic development of the country, the government has to intensify the further implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. As observed in quite a number of successful countries promoting renewable energy, such as Germany, Denmark, and Japan, a strong and long-term commitment from the government is crucial in implementing any kind of policies which will lead to the development of renewable energies, in particular, and a sustainable development, in general (energysustainsoc.biomedcentral.com).

It’s a movement that has already begun. Hopefully, the Nigerian energy landscape can make an auspicious return that lives up to her great name.

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer and Energy Consultant, Teminijesu Ojo. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content. You can find more information from Teminijesu on her Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100087631274569.

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Sustainable Spotlight: For Days (4 the Planet)

The past few decades we have been living in a “throw away” society—from fast fashions to electronics, from vehicles to food and everything in between. Today we are going to take a deeper look into the fast fashion side of throw away culture and a company that is working to move us toward sustainable clothing.

Chile’s Atacama Desert: Where Fast Fashion Goes to Die

If you are unsure of what exactly fast fashion is, it is a type of fashion that is mass produced, extremely cheap, and on store shelves quicker than one can blink. Fast fashion has made consumers believe that we need to shop more and more to stay on top of current trends. This mindset has turned shopping into an everyday hobby rather than a seasonal event we looked forward to.

The idea behind fast fashion is to get current trends on the shelves of stores as quickly as possible so consumers can buy them up while still at the height of their popularity, and after a few wears (once the trends have changed) consumers discard these clothing items and the cycle starts all over again. This linear and destructive textile economy has led to a toxic system of overproduction and overconsumption, making the fashion industry one of the largest polluters in the world.

Fast Fashion Turning Ghana into Toxic Landfill

In 2018, in total 17,000 tons of textiles were generated, and out of everything that was produced only 2,500 tons were recycled; the remaining 11,300 tons ended up in the landfill. This means that about 85% of all textiles end up in landfills, most of these contain extremely toxic dyes that are either seeping into the ground or into our water. To put it bluntly, the average American throws away about 82 pounds of clothing a year!

Over the past few years, clothing companies have started to look at their fashion practices and have begun modifying them to be less wasteful and less harmful to the environment while other companies have begun creating 100% sustainable and recycled fashion.

Cue For Days.

For Days is a closed loop men and women’s sustainable fashion brand that was founded by Kristy Caylor and Mary Saunders in 2016. Their brand sells trendy and versatile clothes for everyone. All their items are 100% recyclable and produced in a zero-waste system.

Sustainable

They truly cater to the environmentally conscious consumer while helping to keep clothing out of landfills and supports the efforts to make the world more sustainable. The brand uses 100% recyclable materials, which helps the customer save 700 gallons of water every time they send in an item to be upcycled.

Sustainability is their number one principle. They use the highest quality eco-friendly materials while minimizing waste with reusable packaging which leads to company wide carbon offsets.

“We strongly believe that all fashion businesses must take responsibility for what happens to clothes after our customers love them and wear through them. Our job is to figure out how to make participation in the circular economy an easy, seamless and rewarding experience for all fashion lovers.” – Kristy Caylor, Co-Founder and CEO of For Days

 

 

How it works:

For Days will take back any of its clothes and either upcycle or recycle those materials into something new. And as a reward for returning your clothes (and keeping them out of the trash), they will give you store credit.

Don’t have any For Days clothing yet?! You’re in luck! They also accept all other unwanted or forgotten clothing you may have in your closet, regardless of brand or condition. All you have to do is order a Take Back Bag from their website, (you will instantly receive $20 Closet Cash Credit to shop with them) fill it up with any clothing or scraps you have and send it back to them. For Days will take it from there! With your items either being downcycled, recycled, or resold to partners that service lower income communities.

To date, For Days has 6.9 million pound of CO2, 9.45 million gallons of water, and 875,000 pounds of clothing waste from landfills. In 2019, they participated in the Los Angeles Renewable Energy Program and committed to the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles, and in 2020 For Days was officially a certified carbon neutral company.

Outside of creating an incredible and sustainable circular economy for fashion, they also support the Ellen McArthur Foundation, which also advocates for a circular economy model that keeps products and materials in use while designing to reduce waste and pollution. They have also partnered with beam so that 1% of every purchase is donated to a nonprofit of your choice, from Every Body Texas to SurfRider Foundation, to the Loveland Foundation and more!

For Days has been featured in Vogue, Fashionista, Inc. and Forbes magazines.

If you’re looking for someplace to send your clothes rather than let companies like goodwill profit off of your closet check them out! Even if you’re not looking to rehome some of your closet, they sell affordable clothing that will not only look good, but feel good too—physically, financially, and ethically.

What you buy is what the industry becomes. You have the power to change the way clothes are made. Shop sustainable.

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint (Part 3 of 3)

Thanks for coming back for the final portion of this blog series! In the previous two posts we have discussed a few different ways to lessen your company’s carbon footprint—switching your company fleet to electric vehicles, installing solar panels, repurposing old buildings for your company needs, and looking into banking intentionally. The last, but not least, way you can reduce your ecological impact on the world is to switch over to sustainable packaging. I know some company’s offer services instead of products, and in that case buying from companies that use sustainable packaging whenever possible. Let’s dive in!

5. Use Sustainable Packaging

Cutting out single use packaging is paramount to reducing your carbon footprint in today’s world. From plastic bubble wrap to Styrofoam, single use plastics to cardboard, the materials used in product packaging plays a role in our daily lives and impacts the environment in a negative way. Our culture has become reliant on convenience and cheap and quickly made products, which makes it difficult to lead a zero-waste life. Using ecofriendly packaging in your companies’ operations is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Carbon FootprintIn 2018, the EPA reported that containers and packaging make up 28.1%—that’s 82.2 million tons—of total waste generation. Out of the 82 million tons generated, landfills received 30.5 million tons of packaging waste that year and 10 million tons of it was plastic containers and packaging.  The packaging materials that end up in the landfills are lost forever as a resource leading to more environmental waste.

Another report done by the Organisation Economic Cooperation and Development in 2022, estimates that the total amount of global waste will almost triple by 2060, two-thirds of it being made up of short-lived items such a plastic packaging. Aside from that, plastic leakages are expected to double by 2060, furthering concerns about plastic pollution in our soils and marine ecosystem.

We can do our part in helping to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills or in the oceans by switching to eco-friendly packaging. There are a few things to look for when it comes to choosing packaging that is sustainable. Some things to pay attention to when shopping around for ecofriendly packaging are:

  • Raw or 100% recycled materials
  • Choose paper over plastic

Paper is renewable and biodegradable, which makes it a great place to start.

  • Look for FSC certified paper

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies that any product that has come from a forest has been sourced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way.

  • Paper with safe non-toxic dyes

Steer clear of toxic dyes like petroleum-based ink, and dyes that are natural and non-toxic such as soy.

  • Aim for acid-free paper

If you use paper for packaging, look for paper that is acid free; not only does it last longer than acid-based papers but it can also be reused more often.

  • Avoid excess packing materials

Less is more in today’s world, especially when it comes to packaging. If you need to use more materials, try to use materials that can be reused instead of new packaging.

To really go the extra mile, aim for truly compostable synthetic alternatives to packaging, while it is more difficult to find truly biodegradable packaging it is out there. Instead of using stryofoam you can use corn foam; which is biodegradable, water dissolvable, and even edible. It can be used to make biodegradable packing peanuts and is also an excellent alternative to bubble wrap.

If you’re packaging breakables, try using mushroom packaging such as, MycoComposite. It’s made from mushrooms and it’s C2C Certified, flame and water resistant, and also biodegradable. You can also look into packaging that has been recycled packaging that is compostable! Some other forms of ecofriendly packaging are corrugated packaging, glassine packaging, and cellulose packaging; which is a great alternative to plastic packaging because cellulose is biodegradable and compostable!

Some of these options may cost a little extra but look at it as an investment to humanity’s future while creating a loyal customer base. PackHelp found that 30% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that deliver on sustainability claims and 37% prioritize sustainability when making purchasing decisions. Keep that in mind the next time you are packaging your products or purchasing products from other companies.

By switching to sustainable packaging or buying from companies that use sustainable packaging you’re taking a step in the right direction of reducing the number of materials that end up in landfills and our environment. Using packaging that can be reused creates a circular economy around the packaging, which extends its life cycle and usability.

 

I know there are plenty of additional ways to reduce your carbon footprint, these five were ones that I felt to be the most important from a company viewpoint. Some of you may be asking ‘why do I need to reduce my carbon footprint?’ The reality of the situation is that climate change is too extreme to ignore anymore and the links between climate change and greenhouse emissions is too evident.

By lowering your carbon footprint, you can help contribute to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  When companies start reducing their ecological footprint, consumers will follow suit and start taking steps to reduce theirs. If you are curious to know what your companies or even your own personal carbon footprint looks like, you can find out here. Hopefully these tips have helped to start your journey to living a net-zero life. With our powers combined, we can save the world!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

 

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5 Ways to Quickly Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back everyone! On our previous blog post, we discussed the first two ways to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint—transitioning your company fleet from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles and installing solar panels—today we will touch on two more ways that can quickly reduce your carbon footprint.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, getting to net zero will take everyone working together to achieve this goal. Once businesses—from small businesses to large corporations—start exhibiting these behaviors, it will be easier for their customers and competitors to follow suit.

Now, the third way to reduce your footprint is by repurposing existing office spaces. This is one of my favorites and we will dive further into this one in a future blog post.

3. Reuse Existing Office Spaces

 Most people never think about what goes into creating a building from the ground up, but a vast amount of energy goes into a building creation—from extracting and processing raw materials required for construction, to hauling and disposing waste from a job site—also known as “embodied energy.” This embodied energy is projected to make up 49% of the total carbon emissions of global new construction between now and 2050, according to Architecture 2030.

Adaptive reuse instead, focuses on taking a building that’s past its prime and renovating it for new purposes in line with current technological and social needs. If we want to make our cities more sustainable, adaptive reuse is one of the best strategies that we can implement. It also bridges the gap between the old and the new to create more unique and memorable spaces.

NYC – the historic Farley Post Office Building transformation into the new Moynihan Train Hall—a part of the Penn Station redevelopment

By choosing to adaptively reuse buildings, we are actively bypassing the cost of demolition and construction while extending the lifespan of already existing resources. A Deloitte blog post states that “compared with a new construction, adaptive reuse and restoration can be 16 percent cheaper in terms of construction costs and take 19 percent less execution time.”

Climate change has made adaptive reuse a more viable option, now more than ever before. It is also a compelling one in terms of business and finance too. On top of saving costs, there are also federal tax initiatives for creating sustainable and economically valuable alternatives to new construction thanks to the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

In a report on the global status of buildings and construction, The International Energy Agency found that the building and construction sector worldwide emitted 39% of all global carbon dioxide emission in 2019. On top of that, according to ArchDaily, it could still take anywhere from 10 to 80 years to zero out the carbon costs that come from construction even if choosing to build with energy efficient technology.

Carbon emissions are not the only thing that makes construction problematic; waste from a new build is also a massive issue. For example, when a 50,000-square-foot commercial building is torn down, about 4,000 tons of material end up in the landfill. Aside from that, demolishing a building wastes its initial investment, and a building can only be considered truly sustainable if it is in use long enough to justify the resources used for its creation.

Retrofitting existing buildings to meet high-performance standards is the most effective strategy for reducing near- and mid-term carbon emissions, the most important step in limiting climate disruption.”Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist

In 2014, the construction and demolition industry generated 534 million tons of debris, based on Dorma Kaba’s recent research; and a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report shows that building related construction and demolition debris accounted for 26% of all non-industrial waste generated in the United States.

“As more cities each year pledge to cut carbon emissions, adaptive reuse is an essential component of sustainable development. Creative solutions to renew the buildings we already have will make the difference in the fight against climate change.” – Frank Mahan, Design Principal, Adaptive Reuse Practice Leader at SOM, an innovative architectural firm.

It’s not that it doesn’t take energy and resources to restore an existing building — but rather, that it takes far less of both compared to constructing a new building and when we shift our thinking from “new is best,” to “reuse what’s left;” we are actively considering the environmental impacts associated with demolition and building anew. So, let’s put our hard hats on and tackle this together!

4. Bank Intentionally

When thinking of how to reduce your carbon footprint, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not who you bank with; especially when looking at climate solutions and environmental justice. Oddly enough, intentional banking is one of the easiest and most effective ways each of us can quickly create positive impact.

By banking intentionally, consumers can choose a bank that favors investing in renewable energies and socially responsible businesses over businesses that are destructive to the environment, like fossil fuel companies. These banks pledge their commitment to sustainability principles and align themselves with environmentally conscious customers and investors; helping them to fund a low-carbon future.

Banks play a major role in the American economy; each year trillions of dollars flow through them to fund the growth of various industries—whether that industry or company invests in fighting climate change or worsening climate change. Where banks decide to give their loans helps determine the direction of the economy, and to some extent, the future of our societies.Carbon Footprint

In 2020 alone, natural disasters accounted for about $210 billion in damages around the world. The challenges brought about by climate change and the pandemic have led to increased calls for banks to take a greater role in addressing where money is flowing to.

Climate change has been a top agenda for several banks. A growing number of financial institutions have realized that financing fossil fuels, and other projects that harm the environment, is bad for their long-term future. An Ernst & Young report found that in 2020, 52% of banks considered climate change as a key risk to their business within the next five years. Climate change development – such as the wildfires in Australia, winter storms in central Texas, the unprecedented London heatwaves, and the historical flooding in Pakistan – have created a sense of urgency that impact the growth or business and threaten company and client assets.

Banking on Climate ChaosConsider looking into which banks finance fossil fuel companies and instead, banking with one that supports green financing, fights climate change and aligns with your own personal values. By doing this, you are ensuring that your deposits are being put towards building the tomorrow you want to live in.

There are a few groups of banks that have come together to help align customers and investors with banks and financial institutions that are working toward a sustainable future. One of these groups is The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). The GABV is a network of independent banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social, and environmental development. You can find a bank that invests in fighting climate change and aligns with your personal values by visiting their website in the link above.

Another group that has come together to help the banking and financial sector is The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). The UNEP FI was created when six banks came together at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit with the same concerns regarding sustainability and the state of the global climate. There are now more than 450 financial institutions that are members of the UN’s largest partnership with the finance industry. In the past year, member banks have given 113 million customers access to financial services and advised over 15,000 companies on their climate strategies.

By choosing to bank with financial institutions and demanding that these institutions uphold environmental standards; you’re not only helping people and the planet, you’re also helping secure the future of financial stability. With their cooperation, banks can help to finance companies, projects, and loans that support a green economy and help reduce our carbon footprint. Their role should not be underestimated when working towards a more sustainable future.

Becoming more environmentally sustainable requires us to redesign our company’s business models and turn towards the adaptive reuse of buildings and learning to bank intentionally to forecast the future. These two ways of reducing our carbon footprint have shown that this decade is critical to the determination of the future of this planet and it’s in our hands to act now and provide a sustainable and responsible framework for other companies to follow.  The last part of this blog series will be posted Monday, so make sure to check back for the final tip on reducing your company’s ecological footprint.

 

 

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint: Part 1 of 3

Now, more than ever, our world is being impacted by climate related mega disasters, due to extreme climate change. We as a whole, need to act quickly to lessen our carbon footprint to save the planet, otherwise there will be dire consequences.

Over the past two weeks, five areas across the United States alone, have experienced flooding that happens once every thousand years. Areas in Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, Mississippi and southeastern Illinois have been inundated with historic levels of rainfall. According to the Washington Post, this amount of rainfall usually has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; it has happened in five different areas in less than two weeks!

This type of flooding and other massive natural disasters is not uncommon for people to experience anymore. Natural disasters have been gradually getting worse while becoming more frequent as global temperatures continue to rise, in fact the United States experiences the highest number of natural disasters every year.

Carbon FootprintTo reduce the number of natural disasters and lessen their impacts, we need to balance the carbon equation. Per the Paris Agreement, the United States has pledged to eliminate its emissions and work towards capping the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 before climate change turns calamitous. If we fail to reach this goal the natural disasters happening around the world will be amplified to biblical proportions.

There’s good news though, we as consumers and businesses can help to reach this goal! It will require radical and rapid changes across the entire American economy, but by working together to reduce our ecological footprint we hold the keys necessary to counteract climate change.

According to Seth Godin, best-selling author of The Carbon Almanac, states that “it’s not too late.”  He believes we can start to solve the problem of reducing our carbon footprint with businesses leading the charge in sustainability and ecological innovation and technologies. With businesses spearheading this revolution, consumers will start to follow suite until it’s a normal idea to support companies that are backing green initiatives.

Building businesses that create more demand for carbon-zero products or services is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but there are ways you and your company can quickly take steps in the direction of reducing your carbon footprint. By supporting sustainable causes and ideas, we can all start building a sustainable and hopeful future.

In today’s blog post, we are going to look at the first two ways you and your company can start reducing your carbon footprint!

1. Buying Electric Vehicles

Our first way to help shrink your ecological footprint is to look into switching fleet vehicles your company currently uses from gas to electric, especially if those vehicles put on a lot of miles in a year.

Transportation is a growing source of global greenhouse emissions that is helping drive climate change. A PBS article on global warming states that, “in 2019, 23% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from transportation and contributed to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”

Not only can switching to electric vehicles cut emissions by 60% over fossil fuel vehicles, but they can also save an average of 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide! Since electric vehicles do not have tailpipes, they emit nothing when operating, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most models can go more than 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

In other great news, EV batteries can now be recycled! The Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched the first lithium-ion battery recycling center, The ReCell Center, in hopes of creating a profitable method to improve recycling rates and reduce the reliance on supplies from foreign countries. Recycling EV batteries reduces the production costs by 10 to 30% along with reducing emissions, waste, and the need for new materials.

Outside of government incentives that lower the price of purchasing electric vehicles, they also have a lower operating cost. The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center states that “the operation and maintenance costs of EV’s averages about 3 cents per mile and they achieve their best fuel economy during stop-and-go driving conditions.”

While some companies don’t need a fleet of vehicles; the ones that do have fleet vehicles should take consideration into moving the company fleet to electric. There are a wide range of electric vehicle options available from your typical run of the mill electric vehicle to off-road EVs, forklifts, mowers, tractors, school buses, and public transit.

If we work towards transforming how we fuel our transportation needs, electric vehicles could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 80 to 90% of current levels by 2050!

2. Installing Solar Panels

The second way to reduce your carbon footprint is to harness the suns energy by installing solar panels. What’s cool about solar energy is that it’s completely renewable and one of the cleanest sources of energy out there.

The best part about shrinking your carbon footprint with solar energy is the reduction for demand of fossil fuels and less greenhouse gas emissions are produced. By going solar, users can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also found that widespread adoption of solar energy can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions.

Solar energy is becoming one of the fastest growing sources of sustainable energy. According to the International Energy Agency, “solar and wind energy account for almost 10% of total electricity generation.” The U.S. is now the third largest market in the world for solar energy. 23.6 gigawatts of solar were installed in the U.S. in 2021. The United States receives so much solar energy that an array of solar panels in the Mojave Desert could generate a year’s worth of our energy needs in a single day.

In fact, solar power will account for almost half of United States’ new electricity generation this year. At the beginning of 2022, The U.S. Energy Information Administration expected solar generating capacity to grow by 21.5 gigawatts, which would surpass last year’s 15.5 gigawatts of solar capacity additions, with many of these additions in Texas (6.1 gigawatts, or 28% of the national total).

Not only is solar energy great for the environment, but it’s beneficial to its users too! Solar energy is the most affordable source of energy in the world and the coast of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008. In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt; it’s renewable counterpart—wind—was $1.66/watt.

Aside from solar energy being extremely affordable, there are also incentives to switch to solar power. Users can receive 30% system costs back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit, along with receiving Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by selling any excess energy produced to utility companies.

In order to reach our goal in 2050 set out by the Paris Agreement, almost 90% of global electricity generation needs to come from renewable sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70%.

 

Now that we’ve covered the first two ways you and your company can decrease your ecological impact, come back Saturday for the second portion of this post! I’ll be detailing three and four in how to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

Lots to Celebrate: Black History Month 2022 is Here!

Each year in February, we celebrate the important legacy and contributions that Black Americans have made in this country, which have too often been overlooked. Given the current war on history, and decades of historical white-washing where African American stories and inventions were buried within the dates they were written, it does take some effort to overcome these challenges and discover African American history for yourself. However, as this writer will testify, it’s an important part of our own country’s makeup and given modern technology and the preservation of documents, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself on these fundamental truths about our collective history.

This year could prove to be one of the most significant Black History months to date, as President Joe Biden has vowed to nominate for the first time in our nation’s history, a Black woman to the Supreme Court, tackling inequality head-on – both through physical representation, and actual judiciary power.

I’ve seen several infographics since the announcement was made, however I think this one by @SlyngCartoons really helps to put this historical precedent into context:

Black History Month: Benjamin Slyngstad (@SlyngCartoons) / Twitter

Infographic by Benjamin Slyngstad (@SlyngCartoons)

I like using tools like these that really help to paint the full picture in an easily digestible and visual way. Focusing on the info-graphic itself for just a moment, we can see that there has never before been a Black woman on the Supreme Court, even though according to the US Census, Black Americans make up roughly 13.4% of the entire US population (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221).

Of the total number of our nation’s Supreme Court justices since it’s inception, only 2 out of 120 have been Black – meaning that less than 2% of all Supreme Court justices have been Black, even though historically the African American population was much higher than 2% of the total US population. All that said, it’s safe to say that if we want a Supreme Court that’s truly representative of the people of this country, it’s long past time to elect the first Black woman to this office.

In terms of political representation, another key figure you may have heard of is current Vice-President, Kamala Devi Harris. Not nearly enough has been written about her historical candidacy and election to Vice-President, however being the first woman to achieve this role is nothing short of incredible, and she’s done a ton of work to further American progress on the world stage within her short time in this role thus far.

Focusing for a minute just on the importance of representation, let’s again turn to a familiar format – the infographic – which shows all of the former and current US Vice-Presidents, and demonstrates just how many female, and/or Indian, and/or Black Vice-Presidents we’ve had prior (I’ll give you a hint, the answer is none):

Black History Month: Kamala Harris

Thanks to ABC News, you can check out the infographic and accompanying news segment, here: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/kamala-harris-make-history-vice-president-75353167. According to senate.gov, there have been 51 total Vice Presidents in the US, and since only one has been a woman, and a woman of color, we can say that once again, less than 2% of those who have held this office have been Women or Black Americans – and looking again at US Census data, we know that this is certainly not representative of the total US population (51% of the US population is female; and 13.4% of US population is Black per the 2020 census; here: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221).

To learn more about her accomplishments prior to becoming the first Black, female VP in US history, check out the following links:

Now let’s review what her responsibilities have been, and what she’s done in this role to date. For starters, in order to measure her progress we need to know what Vice-presidents are typically responsible for – and thanks to Senate.gov, we know the following:

“During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the vice president’s role has evolved into more of an executive branch position, and is usually seen as an integral part of a president’s administration. The vice president presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote may be needed.

When the vice president is absent, the president pro tempore presides over the Senate. Junior senators fill in as presiding officer when neither the vice president nor president pro tempore is on the Senate Floor.”

https://www.senate.gov/general/Features/Part_1_VP.htm#:~:text=Other%20than%20to%20succeed%20to,except%20with%20the%20senators’%20permission.

This helps us to frame her accomplishments as Vice President in a more accurate lighting – and makes her work thus far all the more impressive.

Black History Month: Kamala HarrisFor example, the following link discusses five key areas in which Harris has made notable achievements while in office:

1) helping our central American allies in addressing migration; 2) ensuring that Biden’s nominees are confirmed in the Senate, including “Rachael Rollins, who is now the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Harris also broke a tie to appoint Catherine Lhamon as assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education”; 3) providing the tie-breaking vote on the American Rescue Plan; 4) becoming the First Acting Female President of the United States during a temporary transfer of power while President Biden underwent surgery; and finally making progress on Universal Voting Rights (https://blavity.com/5-major-accomplishments-from-kamala-harris-in-her-first-year-as-vice-president?category1=news&category2=politics&item=2).

It’s safe to say that in terms of racial makeup, our political offices and general population percentages have not aligned, however given the that the 44th president was a black man from Chicago, Barack Obama, and that our current Vice-President is a Black-Asian Senator from California, Kamala Harris, it appears we’re starting to trend in the right direction.

This month, we’ll focus on so much more than the racial makeup of the Supreme Court and Presidential and Vice-presidential offices – including inventions and key figures from the Black community that helped the United States become the country that it is today. We’ll once again delve into the important historical inventions pertaining to modern-day electricity and/or home improvements, but also explore African American history, outside of the energy-lens we normally focus on. So keep an eye out, and as always, feel free to add more context in the comments section!

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On 11/19 Build Back Better Passes in the House

Build Back Better Passes in the House

Thanks to our partners at ACORE, there has been a lot of excellent work done in order to help pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes key legislation around renewable energy. Just this past week, this important package was passed the in the House of Representatives, and many hope to see it pass the Senate and head to the President’s desk for signature in the coming weeks. For a quick read on what is actually in this bill, please check out the following summary from ACORE regarding the Build Back Better bill, and which key elements they’re most excited about seeing addressed within it (directly below).

 

Highlights of the House Build Back Better Act Reconciliation Package

Media ACORE

Reflecting a deal reached between the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the bill includes five years of PTC and ITC extensions from 2022 through 2026, after which the Wyden tech-neutral clean energy production and investment credits will apply.

    • The solar PTC is revived and extended through the first five years, after which broader credit optionality across qualifying technologies applies.
    • There is a new ITC for energy storage through the end of 2026, followed by a comparable incentive for energy storage technologies in the Wyden regime.
    • There is also a new ITC for regionally significant transmission lines that are placed in service before 2032.

“Full value” credits are defined as a 20% base credit, with an 80% bonus credit for compliance with prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. (For example, the ITC base credit would be 6%, with the remaining 24% available as a bonus credit for complying with prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements). This bifurcated credit structure applies to the PTC and ITC, as well as the Wyden tech-neutral extensions.

  • There is a 10% bonus credit for qualifying energy properties that meet the bill’s domestic content or energy community requirements.
  • Additionally, there is a 10% bonus credit for solar, wind and battery storage projects that qualify for the Section 48 ITC and deploy in low-income communities. There is also a 20% bonus credit for deploying in qualifying low-income residential building projects or low-income economic benefit projects.
  • There is a new clean hydrogen PTC whose value scales based on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to steam-methane reforming. No credit is provided for facilities t
    hat start construction after 2028.
  • There is a 100% direct pay election for PTC and ITC technologies. (Note: the value of the direct pay election begins to phase down in 2024 and zeroes out completely in 2026 for projects not meeting specified domestic content requirements related to iron and steel, and manufactured products).
  • The 25D residential solar credit is extended at full value through 2031, phasing down in 2032 and 2033. The definition of the 25D credit is expanded to include energy storage technology, and the 25D credit is made refundable starting in 2023.
  • The 48C advanced energy property credit is revived, and new domestic manufacturing production credits are established for qualifying solar and wind components produced and sold before 2027, phasing down by 25% a year until the credits become unavailable for components sold in 2030 and beyond.
  • An additional $30 billion for the DOE Loan Program Office to guarantee loans under the Section 1703 program.
  • $2 billion for grants and loans for long-distance and offshore transmission lines, and for upgrading interties between interconnections.
  • $800 million in technical assistance and economic development grants to facilitate the siting of interstate electricity transmission lines.
  • $100 million for planning, modeling and analysis of a nationally connected grid, including a Macro Grid.

 

Copyright © 2021 American Council on Renewable Energy, All rights reserved.

 

For the direct text from the Build Back Better bill, feel free to check out the pdfs on the following link: https://budget.house.gov/build-back-better-act, and let us know in the comments what you think!

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Living Sustainably, Since We May Soon Have N0 Choice

Sustainable Living

We’ve discussed how to live sustainably on this blog plenty of times – just check out the following links to see what I mean:

However, we’ve really only mentioned the ‘Why’ to this question a couple of times, so this week we’ll dig a little deeper on why we recommend working and living sustainably, and just what it means to do so.

What is Living “Sustainably”?

To learn more about this movement and where it first began, we consult the help of UNICEF to explain what sustainable development looks like and how we can achieve it. Check out the link, here: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/guide-sustainable-living/35821.

The most simple definition I can think of is that ‘Living Sustainably’ involves consuming as little energy via fossil fuels as possible, to undergo your normal daily routines (I specifically mention fossil fuels here because if you use a renewable energy source such as wind, solar, or hydro-power, you can still live sustainably even if you consume a lot of energy).

Why Live Sustainably?

Climate change, climate change, climate change! If you haven’t heard this phrase by now, you must be living in a hole, because newsrooms, science labs, classrooms, and the workplace – have all been inundated with this phrase and the insundry implications that accompany it. Take a look at our previous blog posts on the subject to get an idea of what Climate Change is, and why it’s occurring: https://suntexllc.com/?s=climate+change.

Living Sustainably is Cheaper

Though I’ve worked in green energy for a few years now because of my own personal desires to “make the world a better place,” most people choose to ‘Go Green’ because it’s actually cheaper for them financially! How is this possible? Read the following article to see why, however in many times the simple answer is that you’re using less, and choosing a more efficient means of producing energy for consumption when you do – Eco Friendly Home Improvements.

SustainablyLiving Sustainably is Greener

Of course, as I already mentioned, even if you’re a traazillionaire, and your goals do not include saving money, living sustainably is much greener, and therefore healthier for the environment. By using fewer fossil fuels, or using fossil fuels more sustainably, you’re actually reducing your own carbon footprint, thereby mitigating some of the greenhouse gases and other types of pollution in the environment, all on your own!

How can you measure your own carbon footprint? For the answer to that question, we turn to Nature.org to help us out: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint.

Living Sustainably is Cooler

While I don’t always adhere to the latest trends, I do think it’s important to note that one common reason why people may paint the exterior of their homes, or adorn more and more Christmas lights in their display each year is the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Understandably, this thought might just make you cringe a little – after all, we’re all unique individuals living our own lives, right? Of course it can be a bad thing, if it leads to debt or buying things you don’t need – check out the following article to see what I mean: Keeping Up with the Joneses is a Terrible Pursuit.

However this psychological phenomenon is something we are all guilty of to an extent, and while it can have some negative implications, it’s not always a bad thing. The following article explores where this phrase came from, and what it really means: How the Jones Effect Can Help Brands Better Understand Consumers.

Particularly as it pertains to not buying material goods, but living sustainably and minimally, this trend is one that can be helpful for your pocketbook, as well as de-cluttering your space and mind (see Marie Kondo’s method of de-cluttering your home and your life: https://konmari.com/about-the-konmari-method/), so I for one hope this trend remains for a long time, so that hopefully, we won’t be forced to live sustainably by climate change.

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Climate Change: Oh No! What on Literal Earth Are We Going to Do Now?

ClimatePerhaps you’ve heard this phrase – in particular if you’ve been following this blog I would hope you’ve heard the words “climate change” at least a time or two (see previous blogs, here: https://suntexllc.com/?s=climate+change). Maybe you even have an idea about what it is, or what it will mean for your personal future and the future of those around you. However it’s important to note that this isn’t just a buzz word designed to increase your blood pressure, and it’s not something we can just sweep under the rug either. Climate change is here, and it will get worse before it gets better.

There are lots of ways to determine that climate change is happening – from the flooding experienced all over the world (see London in 2015, https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/uk-winter-20152016-floods-one-century%E2%80%99s-most-extreme-and-severe-flood-episodes#:~:text=The%20highest%20ever%20recorded%20rainfall,(cubic%20metres%20per%20second)…New York Subways in 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/21/20976248/mta-floods-test-nyc-subway-climate-change-equipment-flex-gate..Bangladesh, annually, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201201-bangladesh-the-devastating-floods-essential-for-life, and the list continues), to raging wild fires that engulfed much of the U.S. (and Australia in 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-50951043) and have devastated several different species of plants and wildlife in the area still recuperating from the last fire season.

Since we’ve discussed these phenomenon in previous blogs, I won’t spend much time focusing on the actual weather effects that climate change is already bringing us each year – instead, I’d like to focus on something that is seemingly much smaller, with a potentially even greater impact: bumble bees.

A few years ago I met someone during my time in the U.S. Peace Corps that kept repeating the phrase, “save the scorpions.” Naturally, I thought she was nuts.

“Scorpions?! Have you ever met a scorpion in real life?! They’re not exactly nice creatures,” I would say, and I think most people would agree we should avoid them at almost all costs. However, having learned a little more about what she was trying to tell us, I understand now what she meant: that human developments can/will/and is already having a devastating impact to many different species, and whether or not we even know what these species do to benefit the earth, we might just wipe them out before we ever even learn about them. Hence her chant, “save the scorpions.”

While they’re only marginally better company, I would suggest that “Save the bees” would be my variation of this chant. You probably learned in first grade or so, that bees are pollinators, but what does this really mean? To engage the experts, I navigated to pollinator.org for a little help; here’s what I found:

Climate Change

Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.

Pollinating animals travel from plant to plant carrying pollen on their bodies in a vital interaction that allows the transfer of genetic material critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants – the very plants that

  • bring us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts,
  • ½ of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials;
  • prevent soil erosion,
  • and increase carbon sequestration

This nearly invisible ecosystem service is a precious resource that requires attention and support – – and in disturbing evidence found around the globe, is increasingly in jeopardy.” (https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators). The web article outlines exactly what it means to “pollinate,” and why this is so very important to our lifecycle – keep reading on to learn more.

Which brings us to the main point of this article: bumble bees are disappearing, and rapidly. Check out the following USA Today article to learn more about this phenomenon, and which states are feeling the impacts first: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/10/14/american-bumble-bees-disappeared-8-states-face-extinction/8448637002/.

Some of you may be thinking, “but there are plenty in other states, why not simply migrate them over?” and the answer of course is two-fold: 1) bees only live 28 days (https://www.gopests.com/how-long-do-bumblebees-live/#:~:text=The%20Bumblebee’s%20Lifespan&text=Like%20all%20bees%2C%20bumblebees%20don,their%20queen%20can%20last%20longer.)!

So, if you want to help them move to a new home, you’d better be quick about it because they’re not exactly able to wait for the close of escrow before they take to their new hive. 2) the issue is not that they simply don’t enjoy living here, but that they no longer can live in these areas – thanks to rising temperatures (or natural disasters like fires and floods), and in large part thanks to unsustainable fertilizers damaging the environments in which they live.

Maybe it sounds alarmist, but if we run out of bumblebees, we may run out of food, and while I too enjoy the occasional processed food, there won’t be anything at all to process if the bumblebees are all gone. What will you do to make sure the bumblebees stay? Please share your experience in the comments below – you may be our last hope to “Save the Bees!”

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