Today in Cleantech

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program has been put on hold — not by wealthy polluters or right-wing ideologues, but by a judge upholding a lawsuit saying the law doesn’t go far enough. In a decision well-forecast by a March ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith on Friday enjoined the California Air Resources Board from moving forward with its carbon cap-and-trade system set to start in January 2012. Created by AB32, the law that seeks to return the state to its 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020, the cap-and-trade program would have been a landmark for the U.S. in setting terms and prices for carbon trading. But in holding up a lawsuit from environmental and advocacy groups, Goldsmith found the state hadn’t looked at all available alternatives, such as carbon taxes or outright bans on emissions, that could work better to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, those alternatives are politically unfeasible, making it unclear just how the plaintiffs in the case expect their argument to lead to a better outcome for the people they represent in low-income areas disproportionately affected by local sources of pollution. The state has said it will appeal the ruling, which doesn’t effect other aspects of AB32, such as the state’s renewable portfolio standard calling for one-third renewable energy by 2020, or its low-carbon fuel standard for in-state vehicles.

Today in Cleantech

California’s new greenhouse gas reduction law is rolling toward implementation, and that means big emitters — like utility Pacific Gas & Electric — have to start planning for it. Earlier this week, PG&E picked Carlsbad., Calif.-based Enviance to help it meet its needs under California’s AB 32 Mandatory Reporting Regulation, meant to establish both reporting systems and technology platforms for big emitters to participate in carbon markets, cap-and-trade mechanisms and the like. There are a lot of carbon accounting startups out there — Hara just landed $25 million, and SAP and CA are among the big enterprise software vendors tackling the market. But most of them rely on data from other sources, and rarely go out to oil and gas wells, refineries, industrial boilers and other such real-world emitters to collect data. That’s what Enviance does — founded in 1999, it has a customer list that includes CH2MHill, Chevron, Georgia Power, Southern Co., AEP, DuPont and Valero. Most companies aren’t going to want to spend so much money on real-world sensors and data collection. But for those that do, getting this deep-dive view will be critical — and there’s little doubt their data will be making its way up the corporate chain of command, so to speak, to end up in disclosure statements with the SEC or voluntary carbon reporting groups like the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Today in Cleantech

French electronics giant Schneider Electric and energy and American carbon and energy software startup Verisae rolled out their “Demand Response 2.0” platform yesterday — and it could provide a challenge to traditional demand response providers. The idea is to link utilities and customers in a cooperative exchange, managed and marketed by Schneider and using Verisae’s “Sustainability Resource Planning” software. Importantly, it talks about not only “load shedding,” or dropping power in response to emergency DR signals, but also “load shaping,” or using variable time-of-use or peak prices to optimize power use for both profit and efficiency. Verisae is working with some 46 customers, including Dutch grocery store chain Ahold and British chain Tesco’s US subsidiary Fresh & Easy, to monitor and manage lights, refrigerators, HVAC systems and other devices, and Paul Hepperla,VP of product strategy, told me back in April that they were looking at demand response as a new service. It’s the reverse of how demand response market leader EnerNoc has moved, starting with hundreds of DR customers and acquiring carbon accounting, energy efficiency and sustainability planning startups to augment and add revenues from them. But Schneider — which has a huge customer base but a bit of a slow start to the smart grid compared to coequals like General Electric and Siemens — could provide some serious competition.

Today in Cleantech

Boom times for the enterprise carbon accounting (ECA) market? According to a report from Groom Energy, an energy efficiency consulting and engineering firm, startups like Hara and established players like IHS stand to make a mint as the burgeoning ECA market witnesses a 600 percent increase in software purchases by 2011. And the biggest winners? Firms that take a blanket approach to tracking carbon emissions, according AMR Research analyst Stephen Stokes.

Copenhagen Boosts Tech Companies’ Green Plans

This week, the big news in the world of green has been the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15), and Green IT companies are seizing the opportunity to show how they’re offering tools to support the policymaking underway. One area, central to the COP15 climate talks, on which IT can have an enormous impact is measuring greenhouse gas emissions using carbon accounting technology.

Autodesk to Give Away Carbon Management Tool

ADSK_logo_L_blk_webA bevy of companies now offer flashy software packages for tracking an organization’s carbon footprint. But engineering software developer Autodesk (s ADSK) believes existing solutions don’t do enough to tie international climate targets (i.e., the IPCC’s 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2050) to a company’s own emissions reduction goals. In fact, there hasn’t been a way to calculate how much a company should strive to shrink its carbon footprint based on the global climate goals until today, says Autodesk’s Emma Stewart, with the unveiling of Autodesk’s Corporate Finance Approach to Climate Stabilizing Targets, or C-FACT. The “methodology,” as Autodesk calls it, is free and described in a white paper, also published today.
“We talked to companies, even sharp, leading companies, and most said they set their emissions goals to be just slightly ahead of their competitors or at what just looked good,” said Stewart, the senior program lead for Autodesk’s sustainability initiative. “There wasn’t a rhyme or reason to it.” With C-Fact, which Autodesk used to set its own emission reduction targets, the San Rafael, Calif.-based firm is advocating for companies to calculate their climate goals based on revenue.
Read More about Autodesk to Give Away Carbon Management Tool

How to Put Sustainability On the Books

Corporate social responsibility reports are often a company’s beachhead effort on sustainability, and most focus on relatively easy-to-achieve metrics, such as employee volunteerism rates, corporate giving and supplier diversity. Advocates say even this kind of transparency can spur companies to further action. That’s the logic behind the Global Reporting Initiative, which provides a framework for companies to evaluate their own CSR reports. The GRI Framework doesn’t give points for good or bad outcomes, however; companies earn points simply for disclosing information.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. CSR data is notoriously complex. Putting together a report can mean pulling data from environmental health and safety departments, community and education programs, philanthropic giving records, supply chain partners and operations records. Historically, companies have pulled that data into Excel spreadsheets to create new data sets for CSR reports. But as stakeholders — and shareholders — show more interest in sustainability concerns, companies are beginning to eye more sophisticated software to help them manage and report that data.  Read More about How to Put Sustainability On the Books