Value of Solar Tariff

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission has been holding public hearings on the value of residential rooftop solar and this morning I stepped forward with the following statement to the commission.

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My name is Craig Ruark, and I have been a resident of Las Vegas since 1975. Currently, I work as a freelance writer and have written several articles that have appeared in the Las Vegas Business Press, on the topic of Net Metering and rooftop solar. The following represents my views and not necessarily those of the Business Press.

I am here to discuss the basic issues.

First of all, NV Energy from 2006 to 2011 has spent $4.3 billion to build, expand or buy eight power plants, more than doubling its generating capacity to 5,862 megawatts. That is a huge investment to bring reliable energy to the citizens of Nevada. And even today, NV Energy continues to invest the funds necessary to maintain the transmission lines and infrastructure that makes up the local grid.

The complaint that NV Energy has about rooftop solar customers not paying their fair share for the grid is legitimate. One of the problems that NV Energy faces is that they must plan the amount of power that they generate based on the needs of all customers in the valley regardless of whether they have solar or not. The reason for this is they never know how much solar energy they will be receiving from the residents at any given time. One home with a seven kW system might contribute four kW of that energy to the grid, and another may contribute one kW back to the grid. The variables are dependent upon the time of day, the number of resident’s home during those times, and the amount of electronics in use, in addition to air conditioning comfort preferences.

The electronic components that make up the power grid do not like power spikes and surges. So when NV Energy generates power based upon the number of connections, and solar starts throwing a few thousand extra kilowatts back into the system there is a problem.

That said, the other side of the coin is that distributive generation is far more efficient than building more centralize power plants. And when calculating the contribution made by residential and commercial rooftop solar the PUCN needs to take a number of things into consideration.

  • It reduces the need for expensive new power plants and transmission lines;
  • less energy is lost in transmission because much of the power is used right where it’s generated;
  • it requires no fuel and so provides a hedge against future fossil fuel price increases;
  • the kilowatt hours produced by solar does not require water
  • and it could allow utilities to meet state renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals without paying for utility-scale solar and wind farms.

The recent passage of SB374 shifted responsibility from the Nevada Legislature to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate what is called the “Value of Solar” (VOS) tariff and establish new guidelines for connecting rooftop solar to the grid.

This may be a logical solution assuming that the PUCN attaches a proper value to the energy generated by residential and commercial solar.

To make this work, all solar customers would purchase all of their energy from the utility company at the utility’s retail rate which includes all of the costs of power production and/or the purchasing of power, as well as, the transmission and distribution of the power.

Second, the solar customer feeds 100% of its generated power into the grid and is compensated by the Utility, based on an established VOS rate in dollars per kilowatt hour. The VOS calculation generates a long-term leveled value rate that is looked at annually, based on factors that may include:

  • Utility variable costs (fuel and purchased power)
  • Utility fixed costs (generation capacity, transmission, and distribution)
  • Distribution system and transmission line losses
  • Ancillary services (to maintain grid reliability)
  • Environmental impacts (the reduction of carbon and other pollutant emissions)

With those factors in consideration, the value may not be the current 11.6 cents that are being paid under net metering, but it is far more than the 3.1 or 5.5 cent numbers proposed.

By instituting these two items, the utility company now has a constant base of power that is provided by solar and can then plan appropriately the amount of power that is needed from their central plants and purchased from the grid.

The goal of the calculation process is to estimate the total value of a unit of solar energy generated in the distribution grid, at or very near the point of consumption thus eliminating long distribution charges and limiting transmission line losses for a more efficient method of energy production. The result is a conservative estimate of the cost that the utility would face for a unit for energy with the same character as that generated from a local commercial solar facility.

In other words, the residential solar customer also becomes a source of power generation for the utility, and as such, the total amount of power generated can be more accurately calculated and relied upon for servicing all of the utility’s customer needs. This is greatly different from the current Net Metering system where the solar customer bleeds off power for their own needs and then pushes any excess power (in unknown and inconsistent quantities), into the grid causing spikes and fluctuation that wreaks havoc with the utility’s transmission and distribution equipment.

Under the VOS tariff system, the solar customer is billed for their energy use exactly as all other customers within the utility. They, however, will have an amount deducted from their monthly bill based on the amount of energy they produced and sold to the utility. One advantage that the VOS tariff system might give to the homeowner is the ability to secure better financing for the installation of their system based on the long-term projection of income.

One variable on the investment side is that each year, a new VOS tariff would be calculated using current data, and the new resulting VOS rate would apply to all customers entering the tariff during the year. Changes such as increased or decreased fuel prices and modified hourly utility load profiles due to higher solar penetration could be incorporated into each new annual calculation.

And finally, I would like to point out that the PUCN has published a document titled Choosing Wind or Solar. In that document, there is an analysis to “Determine how much energy the system could potentially produce, in kilowatt-hours in a year.” The mathematics assumes a 6-kilowatt system x 8,760 hours in a year x 24% efficiency based on inclement weather, cloudy skies and of course darkness at night for a total of 12,614 kWh per year multiplied by $.13 equals an annual savings of $1,640 off your energy bill.

This is a straight calculation without net metering.

The flaw in that calculation is that 80% of that energy is generated while children are in school, parents are at work, and the household is fairly quiet. Most residents have their air conditioners turned to a higher temperature so as not to waste energy; the television is off as are most of the lights, etc. So in reality, depending on the time of year, and the outside temperature, the home is generating an abundance of energy that is not being used. Without some sort of compensation such as net metering or Value Of Solar Tariff, the homeowner is not receiving near the value in the PUCN example and therefore the payback of the system is far greater than the 11 years used in the example.

Without fair compensation for rooftop solar, the proposition becomes a 30 to 40-year payback and for residents in particular that is not a doable situation.

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A Very Sustainable Birthday Present

On May 28, 2015 I celebrated my 60th Birthday. It passed without much fan fair, a simple dinner with a friend at the Tommy Bahama restaurant along with two tickets to the Smith Center to see James Tormé in the Cabaret Theater on Saturday the 30th.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and coolest gifts that I have ever received in my 60 years of having birthdays came from my sister, Pam, in Austin, Texas.

Here we must take a short pause in my story for a brief history lesson; it helps if you read this with an Irish accent or perhaps imagining Sean Connery reading aloud:

Several years ago, Pam and I had discovered that we had both been researching the family history. I had been documenting my findings in a Word document, but she was more advanced plotting her findings on Ancestry.com.

The Ruark name has roots and history dating back to the 12th century and is mostly Irish and English and can be found throughout history in various transformations, O’Roark, O’Rourke and Rook being the most dominant. In early days, our land was in Leitrim County, Ireland

The family was at its height in the 12th century, when Tigernán Ua Ruairc was king of Ireland900Bréifne. In 1256, a great battle was fought between the O’Rourkes and the O’Reillys near Ballinamore. This led to the division of Breifne between the O’Rourkes and O’Reillys. The Bréifne region was split into East Bréifne and West Bréifne. The Ó Ruairc kings (O’Rourke) maintained lordship over West Bréifne (mainly Co. Leitrim). The Kingdom of Bréifne region was part of the kingdom of Connacht up until the time of Queen Elizabeth I. In that time, it was shired into the modern counties Cavan which became part of Ulster and Leitrim remaining a part of the province of Connacht The ÓRuaircs were effectively lords of Breifne O’Rourke through the turbulent 16th century.

By the way, Breifne is said to derive from an obsolete Irish word meaning ‘hilly’, a description that describes the topography of this part of Ireland

Now back to my 60th birthday present from my sister.

So after returning from a breakfast meeting with my editor, I find a box at my door. It is rather light and sort of flat with the Amazon.com logo. Inside were birthday cards from my mother and sister. Pam had also written a letter; that was sealed in her card.

When I opened the letter, I immediately noticed the stylish letterhead. It was from Lady Pamela J. Ruark, Lady of Glencoe and addressed:

Dear Lord Craig,

 Happy Birthday? You’re probably wondering why such an unusual gift and how in the world I even thought of it; well, I’m going to tell you.

 A little more than a year ago I checked out a website that intrigued me.  I could own land in Scotland for a small amount of money and legally be called a lady. Ha! I thought that’s the only way Mom would ever get one out of me, so I investigated it further. Suffice to say I bought an “estate” and can now be legally known as Lady Pamela. However, I didn’t tell Mom because I knew she’s laugh at me – now that I have told her, I can say I was right.

 What really drew me to buying the land is the conservation aspect – the fact that hundreds of people own the land so that it’s impractical for a company to come in and try to develop it. That, and to say I own land in Scotland. Come on, let’s be real, that’s just way too cool! So I bought a plot of land for you too. With your LEED certification and your writing skills, I thought that this might make an interesting subject to write about.  Perhaps a story by Lord Craig Ruark could be perceived as gimmicky but it would certainly catch the eye.

 I told Mom that I thought you would enjoy this gift, even if it wasn’t something you’d buy, because of your interest in genealogy. Actually, you have two plots as they were running a special with I bought yours, probably to complete the last of the Glencoe plots.  You have a 3’x3’ plot in a new section called Lochaber and a 1’x1’ plot in Glencoe. I have a 3’x3’ in Glencoe – which when you really think about it is only about enough space for two people to stand side by side! The website is http://highlandtitles.com.

 I know this is probably the most unusual gift you’ve ever received, but at least it’s yours in perpetuity or until you sell or bequeath it away! I really hope you like it.

 Love,

 Lady Pamela

In the box was a black folder with a Tartan plaid stripe from Highland Titles.

Highland Titles 02

Inside the folder, a separate deed to each property, identification cards, and a document showing that a tree had also been planted in my name…a donation to Mother Earth and Father Time.

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Along with the deeds and other paperwork, is a Scottish Landowner’s Handbook, that HT Handbookamong other things, talks about the titles of Laird, Lord & Lady.

The owner of a Scottish estate is styled “Laird.” The dictionary definition is simply “one who owns land in Scotland.” A Laird is said to hold a lairdship. A woman who holds a lairdship in here own right is styled with the honorific “lady.”

 Laird is not a noble title, but a ‘corporeal hereditament’ (and inheritable property that has explicit tie to the physical land) and cannot be bought and sold without selling the land. It does not entitle the owner to sit in the House of Lords and is in this sense the Scottish equivalent to an English lord of the manor.

The Glencoe property is located on a bluff overlooking Loch Linnhe. The road below is tree lined which makes for a beautiful drive but does not allow for a view of either the bluff above or Loch Linnhe below.

Glencoe Property

Glencoe View

The Lochaber property is much more open and is located on the east bank of Loch Loyne.

Lochaber Property

My property is just inside the first row of trees.

Lochaber view 2

According to the letter from Highland Titles, thousands of landowners visit their properties each year. In fact, I read about an annual convention of landowners. To make each landowner’s stay more enjoyable, Highland Titles has partnered with a variety of local service providers “who will be glad to offer you preferment when you visit.” VIP privileges can be found at http://experience.ht.

One of the places on the list is this wonderful old world hotel called The Ballachulish (I would give you a phonetic pronunciation but I haven’t a clue).

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So what can I do with this extraordinary gift? According to my landowner’s handbook, I am entitled to visit anytime I please. I can take a walk in Glencoe Wood, take photographs of my “estate” and picnic by the river. I will be able to enjoy bird watching, fungi spotting, and country pursuits in a tranquil setting. I am also welcome to plant a tree or scatter ashes. I can also display the Arms of Glencoe and wear the Glencoe Tartan (perhaps I will learn firsthand, what they wear beneath those Scottish Kilts).

Regardless of what I do, I am now…with gratitude to my sister…a conservator of a small piece of nature.

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Green Tips for Existing Buildings

By Craig A. Ruark

You don’t need to build a new office building to become green. In fact, building a new building is quite counter-intuitive to the basic premises and mantra of being green, “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” The following are suggestions that require a time investment and perhaps a modest upfront cost but will help your company become more environmentally friendly and in some cases, put money back in your pocket. You can start with the simple things at the top of the list and work your way down. However, no matter how simple the task it can quickly fall apart if you don’t engage every member of the office staff, from the top all the way down, and make them part of the environmental plan. By sponsoring “green” activities outside the office and encouraging employees to develop their own green ideas, you can also build teamwork and communication that will translate into other aspects of your business.

Recycling is perhaps one of the simplest ways you can contribute to a cleaner environment. However, in order for this program to be successful, it must be convenient for all employees by issuing desk side paper recycle bins, as well as centralized recycle containers. Make sure that items that can be recycled are actually recycled – office paper and cardboard, plastic, glass and many other items are recyclable in addition to batteries and computer equipment. Items that are wet, such as paper towels in the restroom or your lunch waste, is not recyclable and should be thrown away. According to Tracy Skenandore of Republic Services Las Vegas, “We can provide a free waste stream audit of your business and provide educational handouts and signage for employees or tenants that will help with implementing a recycling program. In most business cases, recycling can be a cost effective and affordable option.”

Printer Ink cartridges are expensive, but you can save money by recycling your old printer ink and toner cartridges and not contribute to landfill waste. Local office supply stores offer discount credits when you turn in your used printer cartridges for recycling and if the cartridge can be refilled they will do it for nearly half the price of a new one.

Go Paperless, recycling is great but in reality the mass of paper and waste that many companies accumulate on a daily basis is unnecessary. Make a stand and use your company as an example of how green business can be done. Take advantage of the small opportunities to go green – use email rather than the Post Office and save files electronically rather than printing them, and if you must, then print double sided.

Office Cleaning operations have a huge impact on the environment. In the United States alone, 6 billion pounds of cleaning chemicals are consumed annually along with 4 ½ billion pounds of paper, 35 billion plastic trash can liners and millions of pounds of discarded janitorial supplies and equipment. Consider using green chemicals that contain fewer toxins and lower Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), as well as cleaning techniques that save money and waste for janitorial products. The next time you are buying cleaning products or equipment, consider how long the product can be used and the type of container it comes in, and consider using recyclable microfiber clothes instead of paper towels. In addition, by using entryway mats you can keep 80 to 90 percent of dirt out of the building, increase the lifespan of flooring and can also save on cleaning costs.

Indoor Air Quality can affect employee productivity and your energy bill as well. Have maintenance personnel keep a log and regularly check air vents to clear them of debris such as papers and dust buildup at the same time they replace the air filters to ensure good indoor air quality. According to ENERGY STAR, it takes as much as 25% more energy to pump air into spaces if vents are blocked. Whether you have adopted a Green Cleaning system or not, you will also want to restrict the use of air purifiers, chemical air fresheners, and candles, as they add chemical pollutants and ozone into the air. Some offices also ask employees to minimize the personal use of colognes and perfumes as they may be irritating to some individuals

Conserving Electricity is another way to lighten your environmental footprint, as well as save money. “Lighting,” according to Jennifer Turchin, of Coda Group, a Las Vegas-based architecture firm; ”accounts for over 40 percent of a typical office buildings’ electricity use in our Southern Nevada climate zone, and addressing lighting efficiency can have a huge impact on energy efficiency and a business’s bottom line. LED lighting can typically save 30 percent or better compared to fluorescent lighting and lasts years longer – saving additional money on maintenance costs.“ In addition to changing out bulbs, easy to install room sensor switches are available at your local hardware store. These sensors automatically turn lights on when you enter a room and then off when a room is not in use.

“In addition,” said Turchin, “a typical desktop computer with monitor uses 200 watts per day and, while this might not seem like a lot, if computers are left on overnight, even in sleep mode which uses half the power, this could add approximately $30.00 per computer to your power bill annually. If you have lots of computers, this can really add up and is just one example of a plug load that can be reduced through education of your employees.”

Solar Heat Gain is a huge issue in our solar heavy climate,” said Turchin. “One of the best ways to deal with this in buildings is with a white or light colored roof. This will ensure that solar heat is reflected away from the building instead of being absorbed into it. White roofs can reduce summer energy use anywhere from 10% to 40% depending on the surface you are replacing.”

Energy Loss through Office Windows can account for 10 to 20 percent of a building’s heating and cooling costs. Check the caulking around windows to make sure there is a good seal and consider window treatments such as shades with good R-Value and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient factors that can reduce your heating and cooling costs.

Posted in Business, Energy, Green, Green Energy, Indoor Air Quality, Recycling, Sustainability | Leave a comment

The Children Are The World

Feed the ChildrenThe other night my wife and I were watching television when a familiar humanitarian plea appeared.  There was the face of a little girl, saddened and dirty from hunger and poverty, the underlying lyrical song…”The children are the future”…and a voice over by some current day celebrity, a crackle in her voice, as she spoke about the millions of children around the world who are suffering.

My wife looked at me and said; “Really!…I don’t mean to be crass, mean hearted, or cruel; but how long have we been sending money to help save these children?…Thirty, forty, or fifty years and we still have a problem?…With all of the technology, innovation, and experience we have, why are we still doing this?…Seems like we need to change the way we are doing things.”

I looked at my wife and said; “You are absolutely right.”

We talk about Corporate Social Responsibility, and a whole lot of “Green” certifications that not only protect the environment but the farmers and workers in foreign nations that pick and process crops, sew and manually manufacture goods, yet the faces of starving children still stream across our television screens.

Massive amounts of money is spent by consumers, charitable organizations, companies, and governments in efforts to solve problems yet, they still exist and are compounded almost daily by forces of nature, war, and population growth.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…teach him to fish and you feed him for life.”

Are we just giving or are we teaching?

How do we change this cycle?

Is there an answer?

Posted in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Globalization, Green, Investor Relations | Leave a comment

Corporate Social Responsibility…Where has it gone?

There have been a lot of comments about last night’s State of the Union address by President Obama.

One of the issues that the President has put on his agenda is current Federal Minimum Wage rate that businesses are obligated to pay their employees.  Of course this subject has raised the cackles of the Republican Party who think that there is too much government intervention into business already and is trying to reduce it even more.  The Democrats for the most part back the plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour, which based upon a 40 hour work week would equate to an annual gross pay of 21,008, up from $15,080.

FYI, the 2013Federal poverty guideline is an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four. This is the most commonly used statistic. Add $4,020 for each additional person to compute the Federal poverty level for larger families. Subtract $4,020 per person to compute it for smaller families.

I agree with most people that Government should not be trying to generate jobs or be involved in the process of employment.  Government should focus on the original intent of the Constitution.

However, a lot has happened since the writing of the Constitution in 1776; technology and population growth are two key factors.  In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the entire population was self sufficient, they plowed their own fields and grew their own food.  They hunted and trapped for meat and fur that they used for nourishment and warmth.  Whatever extra bounty they had from their efforts they sold or traded for things they needed and could not make for themselves.

When the nineteen hundreds came around we saw the industrial revolution.  People were brought hired in mass by factories to build things and these factory workers were then, in a sense, slaves to the companies that built the factories.  Factory profits were high and wages were low.  Workers lived pay check to pay check.  Enter the Unions who fought for the workers for fair wages and benefits.

After the stock market crash and the Great Depression, things started looking up for the American workers and throughout the 50’s and 60’s the middle class started building a little nest egg as corporate profits rose, so too did wages and benefits in appreciation of a job well done.

The 70’s were a bit rough with a few minor economic hiccups that economists call “market corrections.”

The real problem began in the 80’s when computer technology and automation began to replace human labor.  At first it was in the name of efficiency, accuracy, and speed.  But when corporate America found that they could increase profits by decreasing human overhead, then the layoffs started.

The 90’s were all about the “bottom line” and when cheep labor was found in Asia, most of the physical labor was shifted overseas leaving only administrative and high level jobs, sitting at a computer, the only real permanent employment available for the American worker.

Those people without the higher education skills were then forced to find other labor type jobs.  Enter the ever growing fast food and retail industry.

Fast food jobs used to be entry level positions for teen age workers to earn a little extra spending money.  But as more and more adults found themselves unemployed they turned to McDonalds, Burger King and other retailers for employment.  These adult workers not only displaced the teen age job seekers but were willing to work for the same teenage wages just to have an income.  With 40 hours worth of pay, they were barely getting by.

But a forty hour work week was hard to come by as corporations found that they could again reduce overhead by limiting workers to fewer than 30 hours per week and not be required to pay for insurance.  The result, a growing workforce of under employed and under insured that could not properly feed or care for their families.

Many of these workers sought to work two jobs in an effort to bring in enough money but that attempt was thwarted when their current low pay employer would not assign regular hour shifts but instead required them to be available, as needed, for any shift and making it impossible to know from one week to the next the hours that they would be working.

So what is the solution?  Just like the growing drug problem of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s; or the predatory interest charged by so called banks or loan company’s; there needs to be some sort of intervention to help bring workers back to their feet.

It is clear that corporations are only interested in their bottom line profits and pleasing their shareholders/investors and will continue to do whatever is needed regardless of how adversely it affects the workers.

Enter the Federal Government who must now referee and try to regulate something that the private sector should be doing on their own out of concern for their fellow mankind.  But alas, Corporate Social Responsibility is not a bottom line balance sheet item.

Both the growth in population and automation has lead to a disproportionate number of available full time jobs for the number of workers in need of jobs…and that gap continues to grow wider.

Posted in Business, Constitution Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Employee Relations, Ethics, Government Incentives, Investor Relations | 2 Comments

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Food Choices

Buy Local, Buy Organic

FarmersMarket_H

When you choose organically grown local foods, you avoid the pesticides that can cause health issues. Organic produce is also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. By choosing wild-caught and free-range fish and grass-fed beef and lamb, you can avoid foods that are injected with hormones and other chemicals. Eating whole food and avoiding processed foods can reduce your intake of fat, sodium and sugar — which can cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic health conditions.

To help you make more sustainable seafood choices, visit http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx and download their free Seafood Watch Pocket Guide.

Get involved in your local food co-op. Food co-ops are people working together for better food, stronger communities and a healthier world.

A new study, Healthy Foods Healthy Communities: The Social and Economic Impacts of Food Co-ops (commissioned by the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and the ICA Group), quantifies the impact food co-ops have as compared to conventional grocery stores. The study’s compelling results demonstrate the many ways that food co-ops do well while doing good.

Some ways food co-ops make a stronger community and a healthier world:

  • They strengthen the local economy
    • The economic impact that a grocery store has on its local economy is greater than just the sum of its local spending, because a portion of money spent locally re-circulates. For example, food co-ops purchase from local farmers who, in turn, buy supplies from local sources, hire local technicians to repair equipment, and purchase goods and services from local retailers. According to the study, for every $1,000 a shopper spends at their local food co-op, $1,604 in economic activity is generated in their local economy—$239 more than if they had spent that same $1,000 at a conventional grocer.
  • They create community
  • They provide a reliable marketplace for local farmers, artists, and other entrepreneurs
  • They are an educational center
  • They promote healthy eating
  • They engage in environmental stewardship
  • Grocery stores—co-ops and conventional alike—generate a significant amount of waste. What sets retail food co-ops apart is what they do with that waste. According to the study results, co-ops recycle 96 percent of cardboard, 74 percent of food waste and 81 percent of plastics compared to 91 percent, 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively, recycled by conventional grocers.

 

For information on Farmers Markets in the Las Vegas area check out this web page http://www.naturalawakeningslv.com/VEGA/Eat-Well/Local-Farmers-Market-CSA-Guide

how does your grocery store checkout_FINAL_11x14

Infographic Source: Stronger Together.coop

 

Posted in Business, Collaboration, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Environment, Green, Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainability, Waste Minimization | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Profits over Employee Compensation

A ''Now Hiring'' sign is seen in the store front window in Miami, Fla.

A ”Now Hiring” sign is seen in the store front window in Miami, Fla.

What is the future for people who perform unskilled labor at a minimum wage?  Will they be able to earn enough money to live a comfortable life?  Or has corporate profitability destined these individuals to become modern day slaves who never get ahead.  I was listening to a story on NPR’s program Marketplace where they explored such a question.

Stephanie Luce is a labor sociologist at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. She has studied union movements around the world and co-authored, with the Retail Action Network, a study based on surveys of retail workers in New York titled Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short.

During the study they found that; “Among low-wage employers — retail, hospitality, food service — employers are requiring their employees to say they’re available for a full-time schedule, even when they know they’re never going to schedule them for full-time.”

“Managers are asked to schedule based on customer-flow, on weather, on trends in the economy, and to change the schedule day-to-day,” says Luce. “They don’t want employees that are going to say ‘I can’t come in, I have another job.’ They want employees that’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll come in if you need me. I won’t come in if you don’t need me.’”

“I was just reading a retail consulting report,” says Luce, “that said this was the main area in which businesses could achieve profit — using labor-scheduling technologies. Employers want to reduce their cost. It was excess inventory in the ‘90s. And now it’s excess employment. This is a way for them to cut down on labor costs, and in theory shift it from a fixed cost to a variable cost that could shift with consumer demand.”

For the full story go to; More people need second jobs, fewer can find them and then tell me what you think.

Posted in Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Employee Relations, Ethics, Sustainability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Green Energy and its Cost

English: The , also known as the Green Mountai...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been of late, numerous articles and comments made about green energy, wind and solar in particular, and the viability of those energy sources to dominate the now prevalent natural gas and coal power generating plants.  Much of the concern is over the cost to generate equal amounts of green energy and the cost burden to the consumer.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the “levelized cost” of new wind power (including capital and operating costs) is 8.2 cents per kWh.  Advanced clean-coal plants cost about 11 cents per kWh, the same as nuclear. But advanced natural gas-burning plants come in at just 6.3 cents per kWh.

But a new report by George Taylor and Tom Tanton at the American Tradition Institute called “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity” asserts that the cost of wind power is significantly understated by the EIA’s numbers.

Taylor explains that he started with 8.2 cents per kWh, reflecting total installation costs of $2,000 per kw of capacity. Then backed out an assumed 30-year lifespan for the turbines, which increases the cost to 9.3 cents per kwh. Then after backing out the effect of subsidies (On January 1, 2013 the federal production tax credit on wind investments expired), allowing accelerated depreciation for wind investments you get 10.1 cents.  Next, add the costs of keeping gas-fired plants available, but running at reduced capacity, to balance the variable performance of wind — 1.7 cents. Extra fuel for those plants adds another 0.6 cents. Finally, tack on 2.7 cents for new transmission line investments needed to get new wind power to market. The whole shebang adds up to 15 cents per kwh.

Whether you stay with the costs offered by the Energy Information Administration or opt for the Taylor numbers, the bottom line is that it is still more expensive to develop green energy over the current natural gas natural gas technology.  That is, assuming that we continue to source enough natural gas to keep the cost as low as it is today.  As with anything else, the amount of supply –vs.- demand controls the price.

But, most people base their assumptions of the amount of available natural gas on the current demand rates and then use those numbers to predict the availability into the future, say 30 or 50 years.  What they don’t consider is population growth. It is predicted that by the year 2050 there will be over one billion persons living in the United States (possibly up to 5 billion if current legislation to lift immigration limits passes congress), and a total world population of ten billion.  That is a lot of people demanding a whole lot of energy.  Can the natural resources keep up –I don’t think so.

So how do you plan now for the future?  The obvious answer is green/renewable energy.  Large wind farms placed in the right areas (e.g. coastal areas and interior parts of the U.S. with natural thermal convection climates), can generate tremendous amounts of electricity.  But it is true that winds are not consistent so some sort of storage or back-up generation to augment wind generator inefficiency is needed. In addition, wind farms for the most part are in areas of sparse population so major infrastructure must be developed to move the electricity to populated areas.  With those pitfalls in mind, I ask; is the concept of generating electricity from a central power source and distributing it to the masses outdated?  Should we instead be concentrating on individual sources of electrical generation through the use of Photo Voltaic technology and placing systems on as many roofs as we possibly can in the next decade?  Perhaps a neighborhood or subdivision could co-op a system in the same way they pay homeowner fees for other amenities, and therefore eliminate long runs of distribution lines and the line-loss attributed. According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.

No matter the solution, there is no doubt that there will be costs involved.  But, if we begin implementing changes now and continue to gradually increase the amount of green/renewable energy over time, the costs will be spread out and the pain to both the public utilities and the public will not be as great.  On the other hand, if one day twenty years from now you wake up and find that you are running out of natural gas and oil and must scramble to build new infrastructure, the costs will be nearly insurmountable.

Even if you begin using the current “inefficient” technology of today, you are miles ahead of the game then you would be to wait another ten years for technology to improve.  It is far easier to upgrade existing technology then it is to implement new technology and its accompanying infrastructure.

Part of the green energy debate also concerns government subsidy programs and many critics are against spending money on solar and wind projects or the associated research and manufacturing companies.  However, if you look back over time, the government has been the driving force behind many of the things that we take for granted today.  It was the Federal Government that funded the construction of the Trans Continental Rail Road. It was also the Federal Government that funded the construction of the interstate highway system and other minor highways that are used to deliver people and products from one area of the country to another. Take a look at all of the things developed by the government for military use or to explore space, that we now use every day as a matter of convenience (e.g. microwave cooking, cellular communications, GPS, high definition video, anything made of plastic, and so much more).  But all of this current technology and infrastructure took decades to become as affordable and efficient as they are today, and for the most part,the only reason these products did evolve is because their initial invention investment was either completely or partially funded by the government and then made available to the public.

It was our fathers and grandfathers and perhaps even our great grandfathers that we must thank, for it was those men who helped pay for and build the world that we live in today.

All in all, I find it very odd that we are in this day and age arguing about costs as opposed to how to move forward toward the future and advancing green technology.  But then again, it seems that today it is all about the “bottom line.”  Businesses today are making higher profits than they have ever posted in the past, but to get these profits they are eliminating or at least minimizing overhead costs to the detriment of the employees.  Companies are eliminating positions, as well as, paying lower wages (and in some cases eliminating benefits), to the existing workers to perform the same jobs.  And as we move toward the next decade there will be an even further decrease in available jobs as technology continues to advance beyond repetitive labor functions.  These company’s should start caring a little less about the bottom line and a little more about the future if they expect to continue doing business for another 50 or more years.

With all of that said, perhaps I should be asking myself; why should I really care if we start implementing green technology today?  In fact, perhaps it is good that you are not raising my electric bill to pay for wind or solar power.  I am 58 years old and I am still working but why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s future..  My wife and I do not have any children so why should it matter to us, what happens to this earth 40 or 50 years from now.

In reality it is hard to, in good conscious, to continue to focus a blind eye on the environment. Perhaps advocacy for sustainability will be my only legacy.

Posted in Business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),, Environment, Ethics, Government Incentives, Green, Green Energy, Photo Voltaic, Price of Gas, Price of Oil, Solar Energy, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Cleaning Tips

When you’re organizing your spring cleaning keep in mind that switching to green cleaning products will improve your health, lessen adverse environmental impacts and save money.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the 2,863 most commonly used chemicals only 7% have complete toxicity data and 43% have NO toxicity information available.

Here are a few green cleaning recipes:

OVENS:

  • Sprinkle baking soda ¼ inch deep over the bottom of your oven. Spray with water until thoroughly damp, but not flooded. Let sit overnight, add water as necessary to maintain dampness. In the morning, the white baking soda residue left behind is easily wiped off, unlike commercial oven cleaner residue that is intensified the next time you use your oven.

GLASS CLEANER:

  • Mix warm water with either white vinegar or lemon juice in a spray bottle. Reduce waste by using a soft cloth or newspaper instead of paper towels (and they leave a better finish).

FABRIC RINSE/SOFTENER:

  • Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the washing machine’s rinse cycle to remove detergent completely from clothes, eliminating that scratchy feel. This will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar!

DETERGENT BOOSTER:

  • To reduce the amount of laundry detergent you need to use, add baking soda or washing soda, which softens the water and increases the detergent’s power.

FURNITURE:

  • Combine 2 teaspoons olive oil, 20 drops of pure essential lemon oil and ¼ cup white vinegar in a spray bottle. Mix well and apply using a soft cloth.

WOOD FLOORS:

  • Apply a thin coat of equal parts oil and white vinegar and rub in well, or;
  • Combine 1/8 cup liquid soap, ½ cup white vinegar or lemon juice, ½ cup fragrant herbal tea and 2 gallons warm water in a large bucket. Mop as usual.

AIR FRESHENERS:

  • Set out cedar blocks, an open box of baking soda or sachets of dried flowers and herbs.
  • Simmer whole spices like cinnamon sticks, cloves or allspice in water on the stove top.
  • Diffuse essential plant oils like lemon verbena and lavender.

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER:

  • Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water, or;
  • Mix 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water.

ALL-PURPOSE DISINFECTANT:

  • Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons white vinegar, ¼ teaspoons liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and 3 cups hot water.

TUB AND TILE:

  • Mix 1 & 2/3 cups baking soda, ½ cup liquid castile soap and ½ cup water. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar, or;
  • Use half a lemon with a sprinkle of baking soda on it.

To clean your garbage disposal

  • Make vinegar ice cubes. Just put 1 cup distilled white vinegar in an ice cube tray, fill the balance with water, and freeze. Once frozen, drop a couple down the disposal (or put in the snow cone machine) and run it. The vinegar helps disinfect and the ice helps remove any food stuck on the blades.

To clean your microwave

  • Place some lemon slices in a microwave safe cup or bowl with 6 ounces or so of water. Heat on high for 3 minutes, let sit for 3 minutes (without opening the door), and then open and wipe clean. Crusted food should lift easily and your microwave will smell lemon fresh without hormone disrupting phthalates.

Soft Scrub Alternative

  • Dr. Bronner’s Rose Liquid Castile Soap and baking soda. Use this combination as a soft scrub for sinks and counter tops, and also to clean your toilet. Just mix them until you get a consistency you like. Place them in a old squeeze bottle and stir with a chop stick. If you are cleaning your toilet, just squirt under the rim and let sit. After 5 minutes or so, follow up with some vinegar and let foam. Then flush.

Shopping Tips:

Green Seal LogoLook for products with the Green Seal. Green Seal, Inc. is the only organization that comprehensively evaluates non-toxic products.

READ LABELS. Companies are not required by law to list all product ingredients so only purchase brands that advertise full ingredient disclosure so you know what you’re bringing into your home.

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