Environmental Entrepreneurs- Bob Keefe

Environmental Entrepreneurs- Bob Keefe

Entrepreneurs are the job engine in the United States. Many of the companies founded by today’s entrepreneurs have products or services addressing environmental needs. New technologies almost always gain traction through the work of stubborn entrepreneurs, including solar, wind, electric vehicles and energy storage.

Public policies that encourage these new technologies are critical to their success in the market. Without policies such as the solar investment tax credit, net metering, renewable portfolio standards and the wind production tax credit, the solar and wind industries would be a fraction of their current size.  And when these new technologies gain traction with customer economics better than previous energy technologies, adoption of these new technologies accelerates. Just look at how wind, solar and batteries are surpassing fossil fuel energy sources.
These public policies generally do not sprout spontaneously from the minds of politicians. Instead, they are suggested, developed and advocated by public policy organizations. And when it comes to environmental policies for entrepreneurial companies, Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, is one of the leading voices. E2’s members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created over 600,000 jobs, and managed over $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.

Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we engage with Bob Keefe, E2’s Executive Director, to learn about the genesis of E2, their successes working at the intersection of jobs, economy and the environment; and their plans for the future.

DOE Continues Solar & Storage Progress

DOE Continues Solar & Storage Progress

In today’s accelerated and politicized news cycle it is easy to confuse White House pronouncements with the policies that government employees are actually implementing. The U.S. has about two million hard working government employees (disparagingly referred to as the “deep state”) who are dedicated to their jobs and following well-established laws and policies.

There is perhaps no better example of this dedication and progress than the 100,000 people at the Department of Energy (DOE). Although based on recent events I would say EPA employees are in the running for the hardest working and politically least recognized branch of our government. But I digress.

As a result of long established policies and investments, the U.S. is continuing its worldwide leadership in energy and efficiency technology. Although we could obviously be doing a lot more on many dimensions, it is not complete gloom and doom. Once new energy technologies prove they are better and cheaper, no amount of political backsliding can bring back the old ways of doing things. We are no more likely to resort to heating our homes and offices with wood than we are to replace LED bulbs with short-lived, hot and energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs (regardless of the affects they may have on our complexion).

For 2019 Congress authorized $35 billion in funding to the DOE – more than the $30 billion the President recommended. This $35 billion will be spent as follows:

  • $15b for the National Nuclear Security Administration — basically for weapons and cleanup from past nuclear programs (almost half of the DOE’s budget)
  • $7.2b for environmental management
  • $6.6b for pure science
  • $5b for energy programs – of which $2.5b is for energy efficiency and renewable energy, $1.3b for nuclear energy research, $1b for fossil fuel research and the rest for miscellaneous programs.

The good news is that the DOE is continuing great research into a broad range of renewable energy technologies. The even better news is that there are almost a hundred thousand people hard at work at the DOE striving to make solar, storage and newer technologies better and cheaper – regardless of temporary political headwinds. To learn more about the work being done by the committed people at the DOE, please tune in to this week’s Energy Show.

2020 Solar Policy Hindsight with Adam Browning

2020 Solar Policy Hindsight with Adam Browning

The United States is a representative democracy. Citizens vote for politicians who, theoretically, advocate for their needs: things like better healthcare, lower taxes, cleaner air, and new technologies such as solar. But one cannot check off the “solar” box on a voting ballot. Instead, we have to vote for elected officials whom we trust will work on solar policy on our behalf.

Vote Solar was founded in 2002 by Adam Browning and David Hochschild to bring solar into the mainstream by helping to shape solar policy. Among the policy wins that Vote Solar has achieved includes incentives (tax credits and rebates), modernizing our electric grid, expanding access to solar and storage technologies across all economic sectors, and advocating for solar + storage friendly electric rates.

Polls across the U.S. show that solar and renewable energy rate 90% and higher in the minds of voters . The challenge is turning that latent voting power into actual political power. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Adam Browning, Vote Solar’s Executive Director, explains how their advocacy efforts have achieved so many solar wins to date — along with the hard work we all have ahead of us as we make solar a mainstream energy source throughout the U.S.

Electrifying Buildings with Jeff Byron

Electrifying Buildings with Jeff Byron


California was the first state to set aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Senate bill 32, AKA Cap and Trade, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. We are well on our way to meeting these goals, and happily a dozen other states are pursuing similar paths. In 2018 Governor Brown issued an executive order to go even further: achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 and negative greenhouse gas emissions afterwards. The Governor and Legislature have allocated more than $6 billion dollars — collected from the Cap and Trade Program — to fund the transition away from polluting fossil fuels.

Greenhouse gas emissions come from a variety of sources: 40.6% transportation, 25.8% industrial processes, 12.6% commercial (mostly buildings), 11.9% residential, and 9.2% from agricultural and forestry. As a result of previous policies, most significantly renewable portfolios standards, solar and wind — we have hit most of our goals in the electricity generating sector. Excellent progress is also being made in transportation, most notably with electric cars. California is also making progress in the commercial vehicle segment by incentivizing electric buses and trucks.

Nevertheless, almost 25% of our GHG emissions still come from buildings: natural gas for space heating, hot water heating, clothes washing and drying, cooking, and pool heating. New construction standards, both for commercial buildings and residences, will almost completely eliminate natural gas in new buildings. However, natural gas appliances are embedded in our existing homes and commercial buildings, and many of these buildings will be with us for another hundred years (if they are not under water by then).

It’s a big job to change out the appliances in our current building infrastructure. To learn more about these challenges and realistic solutions, please Listen Up to This Week’s Energy Show as we speak with Jeff Byron. Jeff served as the Commissioner at the California Energy Commission for 5 years and more recently a member of the Cleantech Open and Band of Angels. Jeff actually walks the talk, and currently lives in a net zero carbon emission home.

Energy Investments with Shawn Kravetz

Energy Investments with Shawn Kravetz



The yield curve for certain types of debt is inverted, suggesting that there may be a recession on the horizon. Economists are worried, and their fears trickle down to mortals like us.

BTW, the yield curve plots the interest rate on the vertical axis and term of the debt on the horizontal axis. Normally, long term interest rates are slightly higher than short term rates because, as Yogi Berra said, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” In other words, uncertainty about the future implies higher interest rates. But when the yield curve slopes downwards in the future, that implies that rates in the future will be lowered to counter a nearer-term recession.

So there is a lot of volatility in the stock market…not only due to interest rates, but also related to uncertainty about trade, an upcoming presidential election, and the overall state of our economy. Many of our listeners to The Energy Show invest in what they know the best: energy — including solar, EVs, wind and fossil fuels. So if you are investing in the energy industry, or just depending on it for your career, what are our prospects?

My guest on this week’s Energy Show is Shawn Kravetz, President of Esplanade Capital, LLC. Shawn and I have crossed paths many times, going back to  at Akeena and Westinghouse Solar. His firm is based in Boston, and manages capital for families, private investors and institutions with a focus on superior long-term capital appreciation, especially in the energy industry. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show for Shawn’s insights into energy investments and our overall economy.



The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal

This week’s Energy Show is about the Green New Deal. Candidly, I’m all for the “green” parts, and not so enthusiastic about some of the “new deal” parts. The Green New Deal, formally called House Resolution 109 — 14 pages in all — is definitely a conversation starter. I sincerely hope that it gets our country re-focused on clean energy and good paying jobs for the 21st century.

Basically, the Green New Deal is a set of proposed economic stimulus programs in the United States with a goal of addressing climate change and economic inequality. The “Green” part refers to proposals to reduce the impact of climate change. It deals primarily with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and technologies that reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I’ve been working in the solar and the energy efficiency industries since 1977, so I believe that an “all of the above” approach gives us the best chance to avert the most negative effects of global warming.

For those of us who coasted through U.S. history in high school, the “new deal” part refers to a set of social policies, economic reforms and public works projects. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed through the New Deal in response to the Great Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration and the Social Security Administration are all legacies of the New Deal — and these policies created jobs for people who needed work. If you go camping in national parks, you may still see log cabins bearing the CCC logo.

Fast forward to 2007 when journalist and author Thomas Friedman coined the term “The Green New Deal.” The concept bounced around and evolved for a dozen years until Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released the Green New Deal resolution on February 7, 2019. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss both the energy and socioeconomic objectives of the Green New Deal.