Demonstrating Success Key to Green Revolution, Climate Researcher Says

Fleet management, alternative fuels, green IT and innovative projects lead the way to achieving state's climate control goals.

by / March 18, 2009

The state of the global climate is worse than scientific models predicted, said Daniel Kamen, professor and founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Use Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. But the good news is there has been an explosion in the number of megawatts generated by renewable energy during the last few years. What troubles Kamen, however, are long-term predictions that Earth will run out of atmosphere before it will run out of available hydrocarbon sources of fuel. Market forces, he predicts, will not drive investment in clean alternative energy, but in refinement of exceedingly dirty fossil fuels, such as Alberta shale oil. So there is a need for government to set tough environmental standards, such as California has done in AB 32, to drive investment in alternative energy.

Two factors will drive clean energy use and the "green revolution:" good policy and innovative technology, Kamen said. California has already taken the lead on implementing leading environmental standards legislation. Now it needs to adopt the technology and implement those plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And in order to encourage that, agencies need to document and share experiences in reducing the carbon footprints of their operations.

The California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters is the greenest skyscraper on the West Coast, said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams. The building, which cost $4 million to outfit with energy saving-technology, is carbon neutral and saves the state $1 million per year by taking advantage of technology including solar panels, smart lights and the purchase of power from renewable resources.

Greening Transportation: Fleet Management and Alternative Fuel Vehicles
About 40 percent of California's green house gas emissions come from cars, trucks and other modes of transportation. Making a major dent in carbon emissions will take a combination of extensive public outreach and incentives and appropriate regulation, but there are things state, city and county agencies can do to do reduce the environmental impact of their operations and realize economic savings as well. Sacramento County heavy fleet manager James Collins shared the mix of the county's fleet with attendees at the Green California Summit in Sacramento this week.

Both the county of Sacramento and California Department of General Services are implementing fleet management systems. The state's system will allow it to identify vehicles in its fleet and reduce the time agency personnel spend gathering data for reports. Departments spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down inappropriate use of vehicles, Kathy Hicks, chief of fleet administration for DGS, said.

The state's fleet management system already has data from 62 of about 130 state agencies in it. The deadline for having all the data in the system is April 1st, which the department intends meet.

In addition to implementing a fleet management system, DGS is looking at revising regulations that require agencies to put 6,000 miles on a vehicle every six months in order to demonstrate a business need for it and others that don't contribute to achieving the state's climate change goals. The state is also looking at leasing vehicles instead of buying them. Hicks said that would allow the state to leverage a greater mix of alternative fuels in its fleet.

The state's parks and recreation department is moving from sport utility vehicles to trucks.

Hicks noted that the state has a mandate from various pieces of legislation to use alternative fuels in its vehicles but the fueling infrastructure doesn't exist for the alternatives like it does for conventional fuels.

Sacramento County uses a mix of alternative fuel vehicles in its heavy-duty fleet. Electric motors work great for forklifts, floor scrubbers and aerial lifts but aren't

yet viable for on-road vehicles, James Collins, Sacramento County's heavy duty fleet manager, said. Collins is optimistic that electric forklifts and other such machinery will last a lot longer than its gas-powered predecessors.

Collins noted that the county hauls 800,000 gallons of garbage a year, waste that could be used to fuel the county's fleet of trucks.

Green IT
Information technology on the desktop and in the data center is responsible for two percent of global greenhouse emissions -- the same as the airline industry. And that's not going to get any better according to recent estimates from Forrester and the Gartner Group. The sector's energy use is expected to grow 150 percent by 2020. So the real contribution of IT to the greenhouse gas problem in reducing emissions from other sectors.

But there is still significant room for reducing the energy used by operating computers and other IT equipment. Sixty six percent of power consumption in offices occurs during nights and weekends when staffs are absent, said Ryan Kanzler, an environmental strategy manager with HP. Kanzler noted that soon more money will be spent on energy than computer hardware. Turning off computers overnight and during the weekend will contribute to consuming less energy. Server virtualization is another tool that can reduce energy consumption. "A lot of low hanging fruit can be picked from the data center," Shell Culp, chief information officer, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), said.

Since 45 percent of energy savings will occur on the desktop, it's important to institutionalize the focus on sustainable computing.

The average office worker in the U.S. prints 10,000 sheets of paper in a given year. Duplex printing-or printing on both sides of a sheet of paper-can cut paper consumption in half. Digital records management that eliminates the need to print a document all together is also a good strategy for reducing an agency's carbon footprint.

Other printer-releated strategies nclude power management, network printing and recycling the printer at the end of its life.

The state is working on developing "ingredient labels" that would give technology buyers a better idea of the ecological impacts of products on the environment, Culp said. One source for this information right now is

California's Green Leaders

Nine Agencies from around California  were recognized at the conference yesterday. Sonoma County was recognized for initiatives including reduced energy use in buildings, greening the county's fleet and the installation of a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell. The state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was recognized for an effort to recycle over seven tons of fire hoses and reuse them in chimpanzee cages. The Department of Motor Vehicles was recognized for highlighting sustainability in its corporate culture.

Sustainability can be tough, but it is no long merely a nice marketing gimmick. Paying attention to environmental sustainability with its attendant cost savings may even play a critical role in pulling the United States out of the depression.