Category Archives: California Innovators Series

From Stalk to Stover: Edeniq is Innovating to Provide New Fuel for Your Gas Tank

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDFs Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

The vast majority of Californians put ethanol in their car – it makes up about ten percent of every gallon we buy at the local filling station (not including diesel). This means that every year, drivers in the Golden State use about 1.5 billion gallons of this alternative fuel. Such widespread use of this fuel begs the question: What is ethanol’s environmental profile, and is everything being done to produce it as efficiently as possible?

Over the years, a great deal of effort has gone into answering the first part of the question, and the answer is: it depends on many factors. Water use, land use, and fertilizer use are all factors associated with growing ethanol feedstocks (typically corn) that can influence whether the fuel is an environmental winner. Aquifer depletion, unsustainable land clearing, and fertilizer run-off are just a few of the potential problems that can emerge when ethanol production is performed in a short-sighted manner. Similarly, feedstock type, biorefinery efficiency, and ethanol yield per ton also matter and can impact whether ethanol helps from a climate change standpoint. Cumulatively, each of these factors can influence the environmental profile of California’s third-most widely used fuel. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Leave a comment

Powering Up: How Three Companies Are Energizing the Electric Bus Industry in California

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDFs Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley have bad air pollution.  Sure, it’s not the 1970’s style pollution that doctors say was like smoking two packs a day, but California is still home to the top five most polluted cities nationwide.

Who: BYD America, Green Automotive, and Motiv Power Systems, three companies that each employ between 25 and 75 employees in California, and work to facilitate the use of electric buses in the state.

What: BYD America and Green Automotive manufacture heavy-duty electric vehicles, and Motiv Power Systems builds electric power systems to electrify buses.

Where: BYD America is based in Lancaster, Green Automotive is in Riverside, and Motiv is located in Foster City.

Why: All three companies are dedicated to expanding the use of clean, cost-effective transit buses, shuttle buses, and school buses in order to benefit the economy, environment, and public health.

The most significant offender is the state’s transportation sector, responsible for significant ground level ozone and nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Indeed, in too many California cities, the city buses and school buses are still powered on diesel fuel and spew harmful pollution into the air – further degrading the already compromised air.

Enter AB 32, a program that has created an entirely new way of thinking about transportation pollution and is resulting in powerful alternatives and new companies that offer a different approach to mobility.

BYD Ltd., Green Automotive, and Motiv Power Systems – are three companies working to accelerate the growth of electric buses and cost-effectively reduce pollution.

BYD Ltd., originally founded in 1995 to build batteries for small electronics, has significantly expanded their portfolio in recent years to include electric buses. They’ve opened an American factory in Lancaster and have already made inroads in that market by selling transit buses to Antelope Valley Transit and Los Angeles Metro, and recently showcased a new bus that runs up to 24 hours on a single charge. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Jobs, Transportation| 5 Responses, comments now closed

Turning Lemons into Lemonade: How Two Companies are Turning Your Trash into Low Carbon Fuel

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204By Tim O’Connor and Chloe Looker

EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Modern society makes a lot of garbage. The decomposition of organic material from garbage in landfills releases methane gas, a potent global warming pollutant.

At the same time, the modern transportation system is powered mostly by fossil fuels and also releases global warming and toxic air pollution. Today, two companies are turning rotting lemons (garbage) into lemonade (low carbon fuels for cars and trucks), and are showing that AB 32 creates a powerful incentive for new ideas and innovations.

Although the ultimate solution to the problem of waste generation and pollution from landfills must include reduction of waste going into the landfills, the fact of the matter is landfills aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate| 1 Response, comments now closed

A Sustainable Urban Forest Takes Root in Santa Monica

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Across the globe, trees in urban centers provide more than just curb appeal – they improve the quality of life and provide critical services like better air quality, reduced climate pollution, decreased urban heat and lengthened roadway life. These benefits amount to significant economic value– the USDA estimates that the 3.8 billion trees in U.S. urban forests represent a green infrastructure investment valued at $2.4 trillion.

According to Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, there are more than 3,400 communities, home to over 135 million Americans, which have community forest programs. Chances are, if you live in a major city, there is an urban forest program caring for the trees in your community.

Who: Public Landscape Division, Public Works Department, City of Santa Monica, California.

What: Santa Monica has planted over 1,000 trees and is piloting an advanced urban forest tree inventory and maintenance work order enterprise system. Their new software covers tree selection, planting and monitoring and enables Santa Monica to account for carbon sequestered in public trees.

Where: Santa Monica, California

Why: Santa Monica can improve its overall Urban Forest management while contributing to a healthier, climate smart city.

Unfortunately, maintaining the quality and cost-effectiveness of urban forest programs has remained a challenge for many towns and cities, as budgets and personnel are often stretched thin.  As a result, according to a 2013 report by the USDA, many of California’s municipal forest programs need improvement, and in fact, some are failing.

Enter Santa Monica, California, a modest-sized city of 8 square miles and home to approximately 90,000 residents. Located just west of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica is home to surfing, celebrity hide-aways, and perhaps some of the more forward-thinking environmental policies in the state. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets| 1 Response, comments now closed

How an Innovative Partnership is Cutting Refrigerant Pollution and Creating Profits

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32.  Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

Refrigerants are modern day inventions that allow us to keep our ice cream cold and our homes comfortable. These gases are used everywhere from kitchen refrigerators to cooling systems in grocery stores and food warehouses to air conditioning in homes, office buildings, data centers, and cars. While refrigerants have become essential to modern society, most are very harmful to the environment when released into the atmosphere. Refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as F-gases, are greenhouse gases thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Who: EOS Climate was founded in 2008 and has more than 20 full-time employees. JACO Environmental is a leading appliance recycler in the U.S., with a network of over 30 collection facilities around the country, including two in California that employ 60 people.

What: EOS creates economic incentive for companies to responsibly manage refrigerants across their lifecycle. In partnership with JACO and other global sustainability leaders, EOS is preventing emissions of millions of tons of greenhouse gases.

Where: EOS is headquartered in San Francisco. JACO has facilities in Hayward and Fullerton.

Why: EOS aims to transform business as usual by treating refrigerants as financial assets rather than consumables. AB 32 has given EOS a foundation for this business innovation and economic opportunity.

Over the past 50 years, global population and economic growth has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand for refrigeration and air conditioning worldwide. As a result, a significant amount of leaked refrigerants have reached the atmosphere. Further, the common practice of sending retired equipment to recycling centers and landfills, many of which are not equipped to properly dispose of refrigerants, has meant that most refrigerants are released during end-of -life practices. EOS Climate  and JACO Environmental are aiming to solve this problem.

Based in San Francisco, EOS Climate was founded in 2008 by Presidio Graduate School classmates Jeff Cohen, Todd English, and Joe Madden, as an outgrowth of their MBA program in Sustainability Management. Their idea was to create economic value for organizations that properly manage refrigerants and other F-gases. EOS’s solution was to develop a scalable system to recover and destroy CFC refrigerants from older equipment, which could be financed through the generation and sale of Verified Emission Reductions in California's cap-and-trade program under the Ozone Depleting Substances offset protocol.

By working through AB 32, EOS has avoided millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, bolstered California’s recycling industry, and helped accelerate a transition toward more climate-friendly technologies. With venture backing from Firelake Capital and partnerships with companies like JACO Environmental, CleanHarbors, and Hudson Technologies, EOS is proving that AB 32 gives companies the tools to make fighting climate change a winning business model.

Photo credit: EOS Climate

Photo credit: EOS Climate

"We figured out a way to help cut climate pollution while making a profitable company. Without AB 32, CFC refrigerants would continue to be released from aging equipment and the climate benefits would not have been possible" says Todd English, VP of Operations at EOS. "The rise in refrigerant emissions threatens the progress the world is making to cut other greenhouse gas emissions. We wanted to make a company that could move the needle by showing that alternatives are out there – helping cut emissions while growing jobs. I think we've demonstrated that it can be done… and we are just getting started. We recently launched the Refrigerant Asset System (RAS) which expands our initial approach of using markets to drive economic and environmental outcomes to address the entire refrigerant lifecycle across multiple industries and sectors."

One sector that EOS has seized upon is appliance recycling. By working with JACO Environmental, they are changing the way refrigerators are collected, handled, and recycled. In the partnership, JACO collects fridges and sends them to specialized facilities like the ones in Hayward and Fullerton. There, the fridges are taken apart and the refrigeration gases inside are sucked out, collected, cleaned, and measured. The gases are then further processed and transported to a certified destruction plant. According to JACO, the removal of a single aging refrigerator or freezer can prevent up to 10 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases from entering the atmosphere. EOS and JACO estimate that together they have prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road annually.

Photo credit: JACO Environmental

Photo credit: JACO Environmental

“Recycling refrigerators and freezers in an environmentally friendly way is something my company is very good at. The partnership with EOS is good business, and has given us more opportunities for growth.” says Michael Dunham, Director of Energy & Environmental Programs at JACO. “We aren't doing all this just to stop climate change. We are doing it because it's good business, and the fact that AB 32 says the state has to cut greenhouse gases has helped us expand year after year. Our experience in California, in conjunction with our partnership with EOS, means we are poised to transform the way we approach refrigerator lifecycles across the United States.”

With their rising ‘Refrigerant Revolution’ Refrigerant Asset System, and a growing list of customers and partners, EOS Climate has created a business model that drives economic and environmental outcomes while helping the Golden State reach its aggressive climate goals and bolster its position as the global hub of innovation.

Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series. Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices. 

 

Read more on our California Innovators Series:

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Offsets| 1 Response, comments now closed

Community Fuels: Changing the Face – and Impact – of the Fuel Industry

EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32.  Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

If one were to look around the room at a biodiesel or petroleum industry conference, they would quickly realize that the majority of attendees are male.  This is something that hasn’t escaped the notice of Lisa Mortenson, CEO of Community Fuels, who jokes that her gender makes her stick out at such events. Unique as it is that Community Fuels has a female leader, this is just one way that the company is changing the face of the alternative fuel industry.

Community Fuels is helping to make biodiesel a viable solution in California, by combining exciting research, quality production, and strong business practices. Biodiesel, a renewable alternative to traditional diesel, is made from raw materials (feedstocks) such as vegetable oils and animal fats, rather than fossil fuels. By virtue of its lower emissions profile when compared to standard diesel, biodiesel is helping California achieve its AB 32 and Low Carbon Fuel Standard greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals – and, in turn, the biodiesel industry is benefitting from those policies. “Groundbreaking California policies like AB 32 and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard drive Community Fuels’ growth,” says Mortenson. “Without strong policy support, companies like Community Fuels wouldn’t have the confidence to develop and build new businesses to displace a portion of fossil fuels with clean, renewable fuels like biodiesel.”

Who: Community Fuels, founded in 2005 and in production since 2008, has 25 full-time employees.

What: Community Fuels produces some of the highest quality and innovative biomass-based diesel fuels available. Their plant is operating at 10 million gallons per year of biomass-based diesel fuel with further expansion underway. Fuel is sold in bulk to the petroleum industry for blending with traditional diesel.

Where: Community Fuels operates a bio-refinery, laboratory and clean fuel terminal at the Port of Stockton, California.

Why: Community Fuels is dedicated to producing high-quality biodiesel for blending that lowers harmful GHG emissions, grows the state’s economy, and reduces dependence on foreign oil.

Long before Governor Brown’s plea for Californians to reduce their gasoline consumption, the founders of Community Fuels recognized the damaging pollution caused by traditional fuel and that biodiesel was an efficient alternative fuel that had the potential to scale and greatly reduce harmful emissions. The founders looked not only at California’s strong policies as a reason to open up shop within the State, but also at public sentiment — where they saw growing support of renewable, clean fuel. Mortenson is one of the co-founders and has served as CEO since the company was formed in 2005.

Community Fuels is the first, and currently only, producer in the nation to earn both BQ-9000 producer and laboratory certifications – industry-recognized third party accreditations of quality control procedures for fuel production and analytical laboratory capabilities.  This has contributed to Community Fuels’ reputation for quality and integrity, which has assisted the company in selling the majority of its biodiesel in bulk to petroleum companies and refiners who demand high quality products suitable for commercial-scale distribution and use.

Lisa-please work

Lisa Mortenson, CEO of Community Fuels

The petroleum companies typically blend the fuel with petroleum diesel, using 5% or less biodiesel. Mortenson believes that this low-percentage blend is attractive to petroleum companies and consumers because it requires no change to existing infrastructure – the marketability of this end product, according to Mortenson, “results in a large sale volume,  substantial amounts of displaced foreign oil and wide-scale greenhouse gas emissions reductions”.  The combination of these attributes means the biodiesel produced by Community Fuels spurs indirect job growth (by increasing the need for workers across the supply chain), helps to grow California’s economy, and goes a long way towards shaping a cleaner environment.

Community Fuels is constantly researching new feedstocks including unusual materials such as meadow foam seed oil, and has partnered with other companies like Solazyme to process algae oil.  Mortenson reports that every feedstock it uses is carefully vetted to ensure quality, scalability to a wide market, and compliance with a range of regulatory and sustainability standards.  Community Fuels also commits to using feedstocks that are co-products of other industries such as soybeans, canola, animal fats, recycled oils, and the co-products from ethanol plants.

Pano 1It is clear that Community Fuels is dedicated to creating a cleaner environment and a healthier state economy.  A series of grants received from federal and state agencies are both recognition of Community Fuels’ valuable work and a way for the company to continue its contributions to California.  EDF looks forward to seeing Community Fuels further its efforts to expand, innovate, and lead the alternative fuel industry as part of California’s clean energy economy.

 

Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series.  Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices. 

 

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs| Comments closed

California’s Innovation Story: Real People, Real Solutions

EDF’s Innovator Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32.  Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.  

Time and again, the people of California have affirmed  that pursuing policies to cut climate pollution is critically important for the health of current and future generations.  At the same time, history has shown it to be much harder to implement environmental policies if there is a perception that economic health will suffer.  The ultimate goal is well-designed public policy that delivers environmental, health and economic benefits together.

In 2006, the state legislature took the environmental and economic paradigm to heart when it passed California’s global warming law, AB 32, creating a fundamental promise that cutting pollution and growing the Golden State’s prosperity will go hand in hand.  Today, California business and community leaders are proving that promise to be a reality – and new stories are regularly emerging to show it.  Our new AB 32 Innovator Series will work to capture these stories, bringing the companies – and people behind them – into light.

One of the reasons AB 32 has succeeded has been its ability to use market-based programs to cut pollution, allowing for both environmental and economic progress.  Economic, government and academic experts have long suggested that well-designed market-based programs are the best tools for achieving pollution reductions because they inspire businesses to identify and apply new and innovative solutions.  These solutions are often cheaper and faster at cutting pollution than prior methods, resulting in reduced compliance costs and rapid pollution declines.

For example, in a 2012 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, it said this about a market mechanism used in AB 32 (cap and trade):

“Facilitating innovation in “clean” technologies may be the key to achieving climate change stabilization without dampening economic productivity…CTPs [cap and trade programs] have several attributes that support clean technology innovation.”

For a concrete example of the possibility that innovation provides, think back to the acid rain problem of the 1990’s.  Sulfur pollution was spewing from major coal-fired power plants across the U.S., degrading forests, lakes and architectural landmarks at a threatening rate.

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a cap-and-trade regulation to help solve the problem, most experts thought installing expensive scrubbers and equipment upgrades across the U.S. was the solution.  As a result, power companies across the U.S. predicted runaway costs and facility closures.   However, when faced with the opportunity of a market-based solution and its inherent signal to innovate, a simple low-cost solution was developed by these same companies: find lower-sulfur coal and bring it to the power plants by train, rather than using high-sulfur coal located closer by.

Through this simple innovation, compliance costs were 80–90% cheaper than initially estimated.

Unfortunately, most economic models and regulatory implementation scenarios are ill-equipped at predicting innovation because it tends to happen in ways people don’t expect.  If it was easy to predict how and when ground-breaking ideas occur, they would have already been applied.   As the acid rain example shows, innovation can, and does, take many forms. Accordingly, by documenting the development and implementation of innovative solutions as they emerge, the true potential of policies like AB 32 can be realized. This is the essence of our new California Innovators Series.

In California, AB 32 is helping to develop groundbreaking solutions, proving that the state’s climate policy mission of protecting the economy and the planet can be realized.  EDF’s Innovator Series will recognize several of these bold solutions throughout the year in an effort to distinguish the companies positively impacting California’s landscape and inspiring future innovators to come.

Please note, EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series.  Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices.

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs| Comments closed