Electrification of Transport Refrigeration for Idle Reduction: Technical Assistance Case Study in EPA Region 10

Substantial diesel fuel is burned by idling diesel engines to cool transport refrigeration units on trucks and trailers to keep temperature-controlled cargo at proper temperature while parked at distribution centers, cold storage warehouses, freight terminals and other goods movement facilities. Technical assistance was provided to reduce costs associated with idling and diesel fuel use in parked transport refrigeration units (TRUs).

Northwest Industrial Energy Efficiency Summit coming to Portland

3rd Annual Northwest Industrial Energy Efficiency Summit

Bringing industries and partners together to support and advance industrial energy efficiency

Find out how your industry peers use energy efficiency as a competitive advantage.  Hear real-life energy savings success stories (and challenges) from industry personnel.  Case study examples include:  Strategic Energy Management; Quick Starts to Energy Efficiency; Emerging Applications of Existing Technology; and Energy Information Systems.

Network with companies who are implementing energy efficiency programs and projects; share and lean from their experiences.

Connect with energy services providers about technical and financial opportunities to help you save energy.

You should attend if you are involved in plant operations, plant engineering, energy management, sustainable practices, energy efficiency programs, services or products, or are interested in industrial energy efficiency.

Date:  January 19, 2011

Location:  Oregon Convention Center – 777 NE MLK, Jr. Blvd., Portland, OR 97232

See here for additional information about the Energy Summit or send an email

Portfolio Approach for Energy Efficiency

A portfolio approach for energy efficiency was the topic of the keynote speech by Marty Sedlar of Intel at the second day of the Future Energy Conference in Portland.  An apt topic on Earth Day, Sedlar shared Intel’s commitment to sustainability by managing operations responsibly, designing products for energy efficiency and the environment, promoting sustainability initiatives, and solving environmental challenges with technology.  Intel views this as just good business sense.

An interesting fact I learned about Intel is that Intel is the single largest corporate purchaser of green power in the United States, putting the company at the top of EPA’s latest Green Power Partners top 25 list and also at the No. 1 spot on EPA’s Fortune 500 Green Power Partners list.  This is a commitment to sustainability, rather than just lip service.  Many other details were shared on Intel’s portfolio approach to energy efficiency.

Another point of interest was the requirement to Intel’s suppliers for a business plan for reducing carbon as an ante for doing business with Intel.  Similarly, a carbon reduction plan is becoming a requirement from more and more of Intel’s own customers too.  

Earlier this week I shared how sustainability is rippling throughout the supply chain with Wal-mart’s supplier sustainability assessment initiative, impacting suppliers by imposing a similar requirement for a sustainability plan to incorporate greenhouse gas reduction goals in addition to other sustainability measures.

These are two examples of sustainability and social responsibility initiatives moving beyond a company and into their supply chains on both the upstream and downstream sides of the supply chain. 

How many other such examples might there be?


Sustainability Ripples throughout the Supply Chain

Sustainability promulgates throughout the supply chain, particularly if Wal-Mart’s Chairman Pulls a Long Supply Chain Toward Sustainability.  A friend just forwarded this piece from the New York Times on Wal-mart’s influence on promoting sustainability throughout the supply chain.

Ultimately, Wal-Mart wants the suppliers to measure the environmental impact of their products and make the data available to consumers on store shelves — a bonanza for climate consultants, given how many suppliers are reached by the long arm of the world’s dominant retailer. Scott says the layered effort is about using sustainability to lower costs, which he views as connected.

Coincident with this article, I can attest to the “bonanza for sustainability consultants” as I’m working with a small, local company in regards to Wal-mart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment to provide my professional services to help develop a formal sustainability improvement plan for a small business.  Yet I’m also wondering if “one size really fits all” as my client is a fairly small company with less than 30 employees.  Although I’m a strong believer that cutting waste and improving efficiency has a positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, I’m also a firm believer in right-sizing with respect to sustainability.  

For instance, matching the right process, the right material, the right scale, etc. is appropriate for sustainability – thus avoiding waste and minimizing impacts.  However with a large customer like Wal-mart strongly advocating their Supplier Sustainability Assessment initiative to all suppliers, large and small, can the small guy afford to do it the same way as the large companies?  

That’s exactly the task I’m being engaged to resolve.  Stay tuned for my findings.

Innovation, not just Insulation

Bill Gates wrote about the challenges of reducing carbon, where he concludes “Conservation and behavior change alone will not get us to the dramatically lower levels of CO2 emissions needed to make a real difference. We also need to focus on developing innovative technologies that produce energy without generating any CO2 emissions at all.” 

I found this content here, along with a long string of comments.  A key factor is innovation in transportation and electricity.  Here is a link to Gates’ piece on climate policy:

People often present two timeframes that we should have as goals for CO2 reduction – 30% (off of some baseline) by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

World Leaders Debate Global Issues At Clinton Global Initiative

I believe the key one to achieve is 80% by 2050.

But we tend to focus on the first one since it is much more concrete.

We don’t distinguish properly between things that put you on a path to making the 80% goal by 2050 and things that don’t really help.

To make the 80% goal by 2050 we are going to have to reduce emissions from transportation and electrical production in participating countries down to zero.

You will still have emissions from other activities including domestic animals, making fertilizer, and decay processes.

There will still be countries that are too poor to participate.

If the goal is to get the transportation and electrical sectors down to zero emissions you clearly need innovation that leads to entirely new approaches to generating power.

Should society spend a lot of time trying to insulate houses and telling people to turn off lights or should it spend time on accelerating innovation?

If addressing climate change only requires us to get to the 2025 goal, then efficiency would be the key thing.

But you can never insulate your way to anything close to zero no matter what advocates of resource efficiency say. You can never reduce consumerism to anything close to zero.

Because 2025 is too soon for innovation to be completed and widely deployed, behavior change still matters.

Still, the amount of CO2 avoided by these kinds of modest reduction efforts will not be the key to what happens with climate change in the long run.

In fact it is doubtful that any such efforts in the rich countries will even offset the increase coming from richer lifestyles in places like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, etc.

Innovation in transportation and electricity will be the key factor.

One of the reasons I bring this up is that I hear a lot of climate change experts focus totally on 2025 or talk about how great it is that there is so much low hanging fruit that will make a difference.

This mostly focuses on saving a little bit of energy, which by itself is simply not enough. The need to get to zero emissions in key sectors almost never gets mentioned. The danger is people will think they just need to do a little bit and things will be fine.

If CO2 reduction is important, we need to make it clear to people what really matters – getting to zero.

With that kind of clarity, people will understand the need to get to zero and begin to grasp the scope and scale of innovation that is needed.

However all the talk about renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade tends to obscure the specific things that need to be done.

To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.

My point is not to denigrate efficiency. Slowing the growth of CO2 ppm is of course a good thing. And there are of course lots of cheap, and in many cases self-funding efficiency gains to be made.

We should at the least fix market barriers and dysfunctions that prevent these gains from being realized. That’s just being smart.

But it’s not enough to slow the growth of CO2 given the strength of demand driven by the poor who need to get access energy. And, we have to actually stop it at some point.

No amount of insulation will get us there, only innovating our way to essentially 0-carbon energy technology will do it. If we focus on just efficiency to the exclusion of innovation, or imagine that we can worry about efficiency first and worry about energy innovation later, we won’t get there.

The world is distracted from what counts on this issue in a big way.

Innovation will take longer and be more unpredictable than conservation and efficiency.  Markets need to be revised to account for externalities and remove barriers for developing and deploying clean technologies.  All play a role but we can’t dimmish the time nor efforts to develop and implement zero net GHG energy technology (if such a thing exists). 

Let’s get started……

The Carbon Bathtub Metaphor

I came across the Carbon Bathtub metaphor on climate change in the December issue of National Geographic Magazine while waiting in a doctor’s office.  As I like analogies and visual representations of big ideas, I found this one a great representation of the complicated dynamics in our atmosphere.  As this representation shows:

It’s simple, really: As long as we pour CO2; into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub.


In a quick read you can review the above graphic and read a short narrative explaining The Carbon Bathtub in National Geographic Magazine, The Big Idea.

The Carbon Bathtub is a systems dynamics representation of Stocks and Flows.  Accordingly, just stabilizing carbon dioxide is insufficient given the constraint of the rate at which the tub drains. 

For a more in-depth explanation of social implications, see Understanding Public Complacency about Climate Change.  Or for a much lengthier academic version, see Understanding Public Complacency About Climate Change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter.  Both are written by John D. Sterman and Linda Booth Sweeney.

Portland Oregon Works to Develop Best Practices for Electric Vehicle Adoption

 In an earlier post I shared my brief reflection as a participant and facilitator in the recent “EV Roadmap: Preparing Oregon for the Introduction of Electric Vehicles.”   After reading this piece written by Trip Hyde and originally published in Gas 2.0, I felt this was a good summary of the event:

While many are suffering burnout from the overwhelming amount of EV discussion as of late, the conference hosted by Portland State University and Portland General Electric last month was different.

Called “EV Road Map: Preparing Oregon for the Introduction of Electric Vehicles,” the event was one of the first to set the stage for real rollout and testing of citywide electric vehicle adoption.

The conference brought together many of the area’s electric vehicle stakeholders to discuss and begin planning for EVs in the region. These stakeholders included OEMs such as Nissan, Toyota, and smart USA, as well as Portland General Electric, local business associations, the local university, many city and county leaders including the Mayor of Corvallis, OR, charging station providers, and fleet managers.

Read more

Smart Grid Course being offered again at Portland State University

Once again Portland State University will be offering the ground-breaking course “Designing the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities”  this Winter and Spring terms (2010) through the Executive Leadership Institute.  I was fortunate to have taken this two-term course series on the Smart Grid when it was first offered January – June of 2009 and I found it to be of immense value in learning about sustainability issues and the smart grid.  The Smart Grid has many different meanings and it is rapidly evolving; I found the course an excellent learning experience for future ventures.


This two-term course series examines a set of emerging concepts, technologies, and models of system planning and delivery for electricity that are expected to transform the nation’s century-old, centralized power grid into a climate and alternative-energy-friendly “Smart Grid.” The course series stresses a cross-disciplinary approach, deepening individual areas of expertise in the context of teamwork. Each quarter will build on progress from the previous quarter. It will include lectures, active learning strategies, individual and group projects, class presentations from guest speakers and seminar participants, field trips, and a closing conference. For detailed course information, please visit www.pdx.edu/eli/smartgrid

Class Dates and Location:

Winter Term (January 12 – March 16, 2010) – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm – 9:40 pm

Spring Term (March 30 – May 8, 2010) – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm – 9:40 pm

This class is available for graduate credit or as non-credit professional development. In either case, you should register for both terms as the second term builds upon the material discussed in the first term.

For more information, visit www.pdx.edu/eli/smartgrid, or register online.

Many ways of Visualizing Sustainability

A great picture can be better than lots of words, especially when depicting big concepts.  Conveying sustainability is a challenge as it means so many things to different folks.  The common definition of “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations” is a start, but what does that really mean?

Take a look at Computing for Sustainability’s collection “Visualizing Sustainability” for images and graphics to convey sustainability concepts and frameworks – up to 179 images at present.  There are many ways of depicting sustainability as shown in all of these different diagrams.  One of my favorites so far is IDEO’s Product Lifecycle model (listed as number 52), included here: IDEO_Product_Life_Cycle

I like the way IDEO’s Product Lifecycle model represents an entire supply chain, including inputs (materials and energy) and outputs (products and waste) throughout the complete lifecycle while also including the concept of closed-loop flows (like a simplified version of Cradle to Cradle).  Of course the real world is much more complicated than this picture, yet this image presents a clear framework to visualize sustainability and reflect on how to make a positive impact. 

What’s your favorite sustainability framework or graphic?

Sustainable Communities are Built to Last

What is a sustainable community?  A colleague of mine sent me this video, Built to Last.  This is a great video segment to help define the concepts and characteristics of a sustainable community in visual ways, reinforcing one aspect of sustainable design in the context of a community: protecting the natural environment by improving the built environment.

Besides “New Urbanism” I wouldn’t get too hung up on just this one label.  There are many other names besides New Urbanism, all sharing common elements of sustainable communities.  As a long-time resident of Portland Oregon, much of this has become commonplace to myself.   Likewise in Europe and other areas throughout the world many of these elements are well known.  I invite comments to share other examples.