Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category


Random Thoughts from the Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Chairman & Executive Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle-King County

Several different topics to discuss this week…

On the global warming front, the Obama administration’s rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants has been upheld by the Supreme Court in large part. The requirement for cuts, coupled with the flexibility in the rule, may be the driver for either cap and trade programs or carbon taxes. In another interesting development, the State of California signed a nonbinding agreement with Mexico to cooperate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While some see this as an attempt to spur action on the national level, others are more cynical, and criticize Governor Jerry Brown for allowing “fracking” and being too close to the fossil fuel industry.

Elsewhere, the world-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was set back by Australia’s decision to rescind the carbon tax. Based on current trends, Australia’s GHG emissions will have increased by nearly 20% in the two decades ending in 2020. Read More…


Guest: Obama’s regulatory cap-and-trade does not work for Washington state

WASHINGTON state is one of the cleanest, greenest states in the country, and its use of renewable energy is a source of great pride.

But drastic energy regulations could cause Washington families to see higher energy bills. And those higher bills, coupled with a weakened economy, would hurt moms and dads already struggling to make ends meet.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced proposals that would require Washington state to cut its carbon emissions by a staggering 72 percent — a rate higher than anywhere else in the nation.

While coal makes up just over 3 percent of the state’s energy production, the stringent methodology behind the EPA’s calculations treats Washington as a top emitter. The state’s residents are being penalized, even though Washington is leading the way when it comes to clean energy. It just doesn’t add up. Read More…


Random Thoughts from the Chairman | May 29

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

By Steve Gerritson, WCTA Chair & Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County

As you may know, the WCTA is sponsoring a series of lunches with speakers on the subject of carbon. The first session dealt with the science of climate change; the second with federal and state regulation. In the second session, USEPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran announced that the Obama administration would set CO2 emission limits on coal-fired power plants, but would allow the states to decide how best to accomplish the reductions. He was unable to provide more specific information, since the policy will not be announced formally until next week, but according to the New York Times today, the President will use an executive order to require states to cut carbon emissions by up to 20%. Among acceptable methods for compliance would be adding more renewable energy sources, energy efficiency technology, or a cap and trade program which could (and probably would) cross state lines. Read More…


Insider Briefing on Controversial New EPA Rules

By Eric Viola, WCTA Public Policy Analyst

May 22, 2014 – Seattle, WA.  In anticipation of the EPA’s comprehensive and controversial proposal on carbon pricing across the nation, WCTA President Tom Ranken joined in a meeting on Thursday with more than two dozen members of the energy policy community. Among those present were Governor Inslee, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Regional EPA Administrator Dennis McLerran, and former EPA Administrator Bill Ruckelshaus. At the heart of the conversation was the EPA’s highly anticipated proposal in pursuit of section of 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Read More…


Clean energy is working in Ohio but may come to a halt after 2014

green-usa-8542220Ohio utilities admit that clean energy standards are saving money. In filings to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the power companies admit energy efficiency programs alone have netted Ohio consumers more than $1 billion in savings to date, and will result in more than $4.1 billion in savings over the program’s life.

Ohio utility American Energy Power (AEP) argued energy efficiency “is an important resource for the state of Ohio, AEP Ohio, and its customers, continuing to be important as future fuel and commodity prices remain volatile and environmental regulations become more stringent.”  Even First Energy, the leading proponent of S.B. 310, admitted that for every $1 spent on energy efficiency programs, its customers save over $2.

The standards, in fact, are advancing competition and providing consumers with choices about what forms of energy they can purchase. What S.B. 310 advocates are doing is strangling that competition and choice.

They also are hurting Ohio consumers. According to calculations by professors at Ohio State University (OSU), the proposed scuttling of the state’s clean energy laws would force the average Ohio family to pay over $500 more on their electricity charges, and the average business would pay an additional $3,000 annually. Read More…


Commentary – So Who’s Still Funding Early-Stage Cleantech?

Gold Coins and plant isolated on white backgroundBy Rob Day, originally published by Green Tech Media

Rob Day is a Partner with Black Coral Capital, based in Boston.  He has been a cleantech private equity investor since 2004, and acts or has served as a Director, Observer and advisory board member to multiple companies in the energy tech and related sectors. The views expressed on this blog are those of Rob, not necessarily the views of any of his colleagues and affiliated organizations. Contact Rob at

I’m generally an optimist, and there’s lots to be optimistic about right now in the cleantech sector. I’ve never seen a stronger group of startups in the sector as I see right now, with many fast-growing companies poised to do great things. It’s what we’re going to be highlighting at the NextWave Greentech 2014 conference on August 5th in Menlo Park — last year’s conference sold out, so get your ticket today so you don’t end up on the waitlist like a bunch of disappointed folks did last year.

That said, I have to say I was surprised when I did a little research project recently to figure out who’s funding Series A and B rounds for cleantech startups. You see, my distinct impression from talking with entrepreneurs and VCs in the sector was that very little at the early stage was getting funded. But when I looked at the details in a popular deals database, for rounds above $2 million in size, I was pleasantly surprised to see over 60 such rounds recorded so far this year in North America alone! If there are so many early-stage deals getting funded, all’s good, right?

And then I started looking through the details.

What I did was to look up all of those deals’ press releases and/or Form Ds to see the revealed details. And some caveats here — it’s always very incomplete information (unreported deals, selective information in press releases, etc). But I was interested in a few patterns I found, and I thought readers might be interested in them as well.

So who’s funding cleantech startups right now? Read More…


Commentary – Inslee’s climate effort will face steep odds

Olympia,WABy Patrick Mazza, Seattle Crosscut

After months of quiet conversations between leaders in Washington state government, environmental NGOs and other key climate-related interests to shape a climate policy proposal, the deal is now on the public table. Gov. Jay Inslee will pursue a carbon cap-and-trade program in the state Legislature next year, with specific details to be nailed down by a task force appointed by the governor.

Inslee’s climate plan announced April 29 includes a number of other measures for clean fuels, coal plant shutdowns, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and clean technology. But the carbon market is the biggie, and the one most likely to run up on the shoals of political and climate reality.

The governor and his allies want to replicate climate policy successes in other states, although those took place in a starkly different political climate. The two carbon frameworks in existence in the United States, the California cap-and-trade system and the Northeast states Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade for power plants, were products of unique moments.

The climate policy successes were genuine bipartisan efforts backed by centrist Republican governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and, in the Northeast, George Pataki of New York. They emerged in the 2003-05 period, when the economy was soaring on the housing boom. Like the boom, the bipartisan moment has passed. Republicans have hardened the lines against any kind of carbon pricing.

Read more>>


Random Thoughts from the Chairman | May 13

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

Steve Gerritson, Vice President of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County, Chairman

In my last column I wrote about two trends: a growing reliance on science and technology in our everyday lives, coupled with a growing ignorance about science among the public. Where will these two trends take us?

Dependence on something not well understood is frustrating, because one’s actions are limited by an unknown and unrecognized authority. Thus the initial impacts of these two trends will be (and already are being seen) in the realm of public policy. Climate change is the obvious example, but there are other examples (the trend away from vaccination comes to mind). We are also seeing an increase in the number of disputes over the meaning and use of statistics, a denial of cause-and-effect relationships between development and endangerment of species, even a denial that smoking can increase one’s risk of lung cancer. The internet, a great source of information, is also a repository of myth and ignorance masquerading as fact.

Less apparent, but perhaps more frightening, is the growing inability of government to respond swiftly and successfully to disasters, natural or otherwise. The causes of this are complex, but are rooted in the inability of policymakers to take steps to avoid problems. Once something happens, whether the problem is Hurricane Sandy or an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it has been made much worse by neglect of the causes.

Unfortunately, this trend is not likely to be reversed any time soon. Look for the next set of problems to involve safe drinking water, as “fracking” and other practices – perfectly legal practices – contaminate aquifers, streams and groundwater. These practices are not limited to large corporations. Many of us dispose of unwanted medicines and toxic chemicals down the sink or storm drain.

As always, comments are welcome: The next column will be more positive – I promise.


Washington Cleantech Makes a Mark at the World’s Largest Industrial Trade Fair

There were 180,000 participants this year at the world’s largest industrial trade fair:  The Hanover Messe.  This is a report from this year’s show in Hanover, Germany, April 7-11, 2014, written by Andrew Crowder, Business Development Manager, Washington State Department of Commerce.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the Opening Plenary Session of the Hanover Messe


The Hanover Messe is the world’s largest international trade show for industrial technology. Over the years, it has evolved into a major industrial, political, and policy event. Even years, such as 2014, are smaller years for the Messe, because the Wind Energy and Motion, Drive and Automation sub-shows are not held. Even so, there were approximately 5,000 exhibitors and 180,000 attendees over the five days of the Messe, with over 100 countries represented. Ninety-three per cent of the attendees were business visitors. The primary language was German, but English was a close second. Read More…


Powerit Solutions – Hannover Messe Show Highlights Industry 4.0 Vision

Powerit Solutions

Hannover FairEnvision a factory where everything—equipment, systems, processes—is connected wirelessly to everything else, machines react automatically to unexpected changes in production, resource use is relentlessly efficient, and advanced analytics enable workers to understand and manage complex supplier networks that are integrated with plant systems.

That’s “Industry 4.0,” a buzz topic at the April 7­­–11 Hannover Messe 2014 industrial automation trade show in Germany. We can’t pretend to have taken in everything at this massive show, which attracted more than 180,000 visitors from more than 100 countries and spread across 20 exhibit halls, but Industry 4.0 was a consistent theme for major global automation companies. A high-tech strategy focused on the “smart factory,” Industry 4.0 was developed by the German government and formally presented at Hannover Messe 2013. (In case you’re wondering, Industry 1.0 was mechanical production, 2.0 was mass production with electricity and 3.0 was the introduction of automation.)

This year, companies were ready to run with the idea. Siemens, for instance, showcased its Data-Driven Services offering—a way to maximize plant performance through the collection and analysis of the facility’s production, energy, and asset data. Siemens sees itself at Industry 3.X right now and predicts that it will take up to another 20 years to realize its Industry 4.0 vision:

“In intelligent factories, machines, raw materials, and products communicate within an ‘Internet of things’ and cooperatively drive production. Products find their way independently through the production process. The objective: highly flexible, individualized and resource-friendly mass production.”

Another major player, ABB, touted its work on interconnecting systems and automating processes so that eventually a company could receive an order, enter it in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, see all the components required, get a quote for the energy needed, and reorder its production schedule if needed.

For the Powerit team, it was exciting to see that our vision of pushing the boundaries of energy management so that optimal energy use is effortless and universal dovetails neatly with the Industry 4.0 concept. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to make it happen.

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