Archive for February, 2008

stop global warming cold: YES! says we can

cover of current YES mag

RU a big fan of YES! mag? No? Checkout their latest "Climate Solutions" issue.

YES! takes head on the question: What solutions are up to the scale of the crisis?

Using a combination of the best science plus an assessment of the most powerful actions available, YES! shows that solutions are within reach.

"We can make the shift to renewables, phase out reliance on coal and oil, get much more efficient about our energy use, and change some well-worn habits—the solutions are ready", says YES!

And we've done it before. Let’s do it again! ‘K den…do wot?

Published by Ken on February 27th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | 1 Comment »

water, water neverwhere…and who does it belong to?

who gets the water?

Maude Barlow, a.k.a. "Canada's Ralph Nader", wants us to consider that third sphere-- equity-- when we think about the global water crisis (via common dreams).

See, the water issue is not just about cost and's also about access. And inequitable access to water, especially with increasing corporate control of water-- "poses one of the greatest threats of our time to the planet and to our survival", says Barlow.

She's right, you know. We ain't gonna get'r done on the sustainability front without the sort of "new covenant on the right to water" Barlow's advocating.

Published by Ken on February 26th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

running the numbers: how to green our energy sooner

plan do check act

Can we talk about KIUC’s Strategic Plan and its target of 50% renewables by 2023?

IMHO, we should have no trouble exceeding that goal and making our energy cheaper at the same time…raising the bar even higher.

I see three ways to get’r done. First, dramatically cut our energy use through efficiency initiatives. This is the only way to cut our costs in the short-term.

Second, get much more aggressive in lining up power supply partners, to ensure timely action by ‘green’ energy entrepreneurs. And, third, invest directly in ‘green’ generation and storage tech, to capture the full benefits of a distributed system.

Published by Ken on February 25th, 2008 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

wot’s up with energy storage: on paradigm change

renewable energy storage

KIUC's Strategic Plan is correct to focus on smaller generating facilities, IMHO. Why? Because going 'green' is about energy sources that are both renewable and distributed.

We're looking for small scale power sources literally all around our island. And, to enable such a distributed system, we're gonna need new energy storage tech.

Interestingly, the inventor of "bucky balls", Richard Smalley believed that energy storage is simply too big a problem to address on the gigawatt scale. Instead, says Smalley, "if you imagine attacking the energy storage problem locally, at the scale of a house or a small business, the problem becomes vastly more solvable" (via matternetwork).

Published by Ken on February 25th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Energy | Comments Off

energy leadership for Kauai: on raising the bar

follow me cover from Tom O'Connor's book of irish humor

Leave it to Larry Feinstein, my good buddy, to find words that fit this morning's mood.

As you may know, he writes frequently about exemplary leadership for the Farm Bureau, and works with green energy entrepreneurs.

Now, didja see the "we're in this with you" letter from KIUC's Board in the local paper today?

Here's wot Larry had to say:

"You know it's funny. Goals get set by the State or whomever, and KIUC is interested in towing the line, but not leading, as in 'what do we need to do to satisfy some arbitrary number of 50% renewable and nothing more?'

Published by Ken on February 24th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comments Off

Apollo and TGI to grill KIUC candidates on green energy

stokes 4 kiuc slogan

"Tough questions", said my wife Sue Dixon, upon seeing the list promulgated by Adam Harju, editor of The Garden Island (TGI), who will host a forum for KIUC Board candidates next Thursday. (She should know...she once held his job).

Turns out, Adam got some of the questions from Apollo Kauai, whose Chair, Ben Sullivan, is a candidate for the KIUC am I.

Good then. Let's dig into the tough questions our electricity coop faces as peak oil looms, global warming accelerates, and electricity rates skyrocket.

The key questions focus on KIUC's new strategic plan, that calls for 50% renewable energy by 2023.

Published by Ken on February 23rd, 2008 tagged Energy, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

sustainability council ignores counsel on sustainability

eye on 2050 sustainability plan

Try as we might, we couldn't persuade the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability folks to ditch the word 'balance' in favor of 'integrate' in its definition of wot we're actually talking about.

Richard Morse calls it a "losing battle", noting that the legislation now making its way into law "has probably reached its apogee of nonsense" (via eyeon2050).

That's right, SB2833 still calls for "a balance between economic, social and community, and environmental priorities", as it sailed through Senate hearings yesterday.

Says Morse, this bill's "seemingly confused author is apparently trying to pin down a palatable definition that every one can get into."

Published by Ken on February 22nd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

the greening of economics: as if people and planet matter

green economics

You paid for the water. It's your lawn. So wot's up with Las Vegas enforcing rules about not running sprinklers in the middle of the day?

As one angry homeowner yelled at the water inspector, “You people and all your stupid rules—you’re trying to turn this place into a desert!”

This illustrates "ideas about how the world works that don't accord with reality", says Tom Prugh...and "such ideas can be unhelpful" (via worldwatch). Doh!

Prugh notes that this is "especially true of mainstream economics", and he turns a hopeful eye toward 7 "reforms that would make economics truer, greener and more sustainable".

Published by Ken on February 22nd, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

tropical heat gets few in hot water: why not?

rooftop solar water heater installation

At an effective rate of $0.42 per kWh, you'd think Kauai households would be lining up to covert their water heaters to solar. Not.

Never mind that our island could avoid generating 20% of our electricity if every household did so.

And never mind that the economics of converting are a slam dunk...wot with a 35% state tax credit, an $800 incentive payment from KIUC, and immediate energy savings of nearly $1,000 annually, this puppy virtually pays for itself.

(corrected...) Still, the best estimate is that perhaps only 1/3 of Kauai households heat their water with solar. Wot's up with that?

Published by Ken on February 21st, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comments Off

wot’s not to like about warming: on naming our challenge

global warming beach party

John Holdren is sick and tired of 'global warming'...not because there's an argument about it or because he wants it to go away. He worries it's a suboptimal phrase.

Holdren prefers "global climate disruption", and I tend to agree.

Says Harvard’s Holdren, "we've been anesthetized by this term" (via dot earth).

"Global warming is a misnomer," says Holdren. "It implies something gradual, uniform, and benign. What we’re experiencing is none of these." He recently urged the AAAS to substitute for this too-comfortable pair of words.

Wot do you think? Are we capturing the essence of our sustainability challenge here?

Published by Ken on February 21st, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

EKC versus IPAT: does affluence cut our footprint?


For some time, economists have been reassuring environmentalists that countries get 'greener' as they grow richer.

Not so fast, says Thomas Dietz in a new test of this hypothesis (via edgeofchaos).

Their study looked at variables that explain bigger footprints, and found that "increased affluence apparently exacerbates rather than ameliorates impacts", says Dietz.

Wot's worse, "when combined with population growth, affluence will substantially increase the human footprint on the planet."

Dietz' finding? By 2015, global footprints and affluence will grow 34% while population increases by 18%.

Fact is, our American footprint is still growing. So much for that theory.

Published by Ken on February 19th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

wot’s the footprint of solar PV? small enough

solar PV payback

Some folks rightly note that photovoltaic panels are not exactly 'zero carbon' energy generators, since the production of panels is fairly energy intensive.

Now, KIUC's online newsletter reports that the research has been done...and the results are favorable (via questline).

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study to determine the energy payback, which is the amount of time the PV system must operate in order to recover the manufacturing energy consumed.

Turns out, solar panels produce more energy in their lifetime than is required to produce them. Much more.

Published by Ken on February 19th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, Energy | Comments Off

on lithium storage for driving energy: there’s enough

lithium growth trend

Now that I've switched to lithium-ion batteries for my transport energy, it's prudent to ask whether there's enough lithium for everyone to do the same.

Fortunately, Stuart Staniford has looked into this, and he's fairly sanguine (via oil drum).

Why? Staniford incorporates a lot of variables to get the 'big picture' regarding lithium and energy storage, and examines world reserves of lithium versus wot’s required for 4 billion vehicles.

That's right! As population climbs from 6 to 9 billion, the number of vehicles will climb from 1 to 4 billion…which is why the supply of lithium is a key question.

Published by Ken on February 19th, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking, Transport | Comments Off

on boosting cycling with bike-sharing initiatives

bike sharing sprouts in many cities

Ride sharing is kewl, yet it's still about cars and fossil fuels. So, wot about bike sharing?

Turns out, other cities are already commiting significant resources to make it much easier for folks to switch away from cars to bikes for more of their local transport.

Take Tucson, for example, where a new "City Cycle" bike sharing program puts bikes and helmets at 8 downtown locations where workers and shoppers can check them out (via tucson citizen).

Or London, where they'll spend $975 million to get 1-in-10 trips made by bike, and save some 1.6 million tons of CO2 per year (via treehugger).

Published by Ken on February 18th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Transport | 1 Comment »

renewable energy for Kauai: SusHI posts in review

renewable energy for Hawaii

As you know from tracking my sustainability stuff, I'm persuaded that nothing is more important than than switching away from fossil fuels, and KIUC is a crucial lever in this transformation.

Yet, neither Kauai nor the other Hawaiian islands is gonna get’r done without a much broader awareness of energy issues and a deeper sense of responsibility for our personal part in the global warming challenge.

We need to know about the tough choices facing our electricity coop, about alternative fuels for producing and using energy in the islands, and about the new insights regarding our energy choices that come from systems thinking.

Published by Ken on February 18th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

toward a new energy economy: Kauai’s abundant renewables

KIUC renewable energy tech assessment 05

Three years ago I got the shock of my life, when KIUC's renewable energy consultant reported our island could be 100% renewable from a number of sources (via KIUC).

Until that moment I thought this a pipe dream. I should have known better. Where better to beat oil addiction than a tropical island, wot with lots of sun, wind, waves and water?

Still, this new reality has not fully sunk in among KIUC members, though we're now moving toward energy independence at a modest rate.

If Kauai had virtually unlimited inexpensive energy from renewable sources, wouldn't that change , like, everything?

Published by Ken on February 17th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

sharing seeds, planting ideas for Kauai biodiversity

regenerations botanical garden on kauai

Here's a way kewl Kauai event for those who care about promoting our island's biodiversity.

One of my sustainability seminar participants, Paul Massey, who runs Regenerations Botanical Garden, is co-sponsoring a community seed and plan exchange on March 1st.

Says Massey, we want to "simplify the concepts of plant conservation so everyone can understand and utilize them, and provide conservation-grade plants to a network of volunteers, for planting in a wide variety of private and public spaces."

Most importantly, Massey aims to keep volunteers involved in maintaining each plant’s life history on a user-friendly, publicly-accessible website.

Published by Ken on February 16th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

peddling pedaling…for footprint’s sake: on ebike love

ken stokes rides an ebike

Wot do we know about the 'ecological footprint' of cycling and wot does an electric motor add to this footprint'?

These are questions I promised to address when I got my new ebike a few weeks ago, and here we go.

Right off the top, we know that a 5-mile commute by regular bicycle has a footprint of only 2,103 sqft (.05 acres), versus 5,186 sqft (.12 acres) by bus and 54,679 sqft (1.25 acres) if driving in a car alone (via

Yet, how much energy does an electric-assist bike use? How much does it cost to charge?

Published by Ken on February 16th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | Comments Off

good news in KIUC emissions: trending down

KIUC emissions and power trends, click for larger

Never mind that KIUC's electricity generation is a long way from green. At least it's emissions have been moderating in recent years, following the switch to naptha as a fuel source.

Since 2002, power sold has grown by 9% while emissions have declined by 2% (via email).

Yeah! Oh, and it's not just the fuel switch that's making a difference. Our new Kapaia generator is much more efficient than our largest unit at Port Allen.

According to KIUC's data submitted with its IRP, Kapaia's naptha unit has a generating efficiency of 41% versus Port Allen's diesel unit at 24%. So far, so good.

Published by Ken on February 15th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off

footprinting your firm w/o frying your financials

footprint scanner

Sheesh, why didn't I think of this? Where was this footprinting tool when I needed it?

In my work with Maui Land & Pineapple 3 years ago, we documented the ecological footprint of their operations.

The toughest part was compiling records of physical quantities of materials to match their records of expenditures.

Now, Sustainability Planning Partners offers a tool that obviates that mind-numbing step (via triple pundit).

SSP looks at the footprint of each commodity sector, and calculates your company's share of expenditures in that sector.

Published by Ken on February 14th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | Comments Off