Incentives – The Catalyst to 100% Energy Independence

By Gino Bernardi

PV Solar

PV Solar

 

There is no doubt that government subsidies increase the adoption rate of sustainable construction.  Everyone is attracted to “free money.” Some subsidies can significantly affect the financial outlook on projects such as photovoltaic (PV) solar installation. For example, there are some reports of PV solar projects achieving internal rate of returns greater than 20%, which would not have been possible without the subsidy. The most exemplary government subsidy in this regard is Germany’s Feed in Tariff program. Germany’s policies became the status quo of the PV industry. They were so powerful that many financial analysts and economists believe that the financial collapse of the PV manufacturing industry was triggered after Germany began scaling back their Feed in Tariff program in 2010. That is an extreme example of a government subsidy which had such a profound effect on adoption that it created an artificial and unsustainable glut of global PV modules.

From data collected up to 2010, the volume of PV solar capacity in Germany was 17 gigawatts (GW), while Spain’s volume was 3.7 GW (2010 Solar Technologies Market Report). Most surprising, is that Germany’s total level of solar radiation is comparable to that of Alaska. Surely, Germany would not have achieved such a huge level of PV capacity without their popular Feed in Tariff program. All of these facts are important because they clearly demonstrate the power that regulatory action has over adopters of clean technology.

This particular example has shown how incentives do speed up the adoption rate of sustainable technology, but would a slower adoption rate be fast enough without incentives? The answer to that question requires a step back in history at least 10 to 20 years ago.  Sustainability is not a new concept. We have had an understanding of sustainability for quite a long time now. It was once referred to as socio-environmental-economic impact. Furthermore, we have been well aware of the global warming trend (a likely derivative of unsustainable construction) for the last 20 years or so. Yet, 10 – 20 years ago solar panels were more like tech toys for scientists, while the US was spending a huge amount of time, money, and focus on securing unsustainable foreign energy. Developing energy “at home” was not on the priority list.

The result of this lack of regulatory incentives demonstrably led to slower adoption of clean technology relative to today’s adoption rate. Whether it be considered too slow is likely still up to debate by critics on both sides. Personally, I find the improved quality of sustainable technology a major improvement over the past alternatives. I would like to see a future of 100% energy independence and until that day happens, the adoption rate will never be fast enough.

Push to be a Technology Company and a Publishing Company

By Kelly Gibson

Executive Using Cell and Computer

When I was in high school, my dad plugged a phone line into our computer and, voila, we were connected to the internet. But in 1995, there really wasn’t much out there. Actually, there were 23,500 websites, but I don’t remember much more than clunky search engines and a ton of discussion forums.

In the late 1990s businesses decided they all needed a website. Most were form-based and contained a few pages of contact information and their locations. The sites weren’t pretty – lots of bright colors, many different fonts, pixilated images – all competing for your attention.

In the 2000s, businesses decided their websites needed to stay updated. The downside was most companies made longer websites with more tabs and just added to their many pages of information.

Around this time the first smartphone came out. The first BlackBerry was released in 1999, followed by Android in 2003. Larger companies began to develop a second website, a simpler mobile site that could be viewed on a much smaller screen. Other companies began to follow suit as smart phone and tablet usage continued to rise. This year, in fact, marked an information access shift. Smartphones are now the primary access point for people to the internet.

Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter began entering the mainstream business climate in the mid to late 2000s. Social media conferences began popping up everywhere to teach marketing, communications and sales professionals the business case for using social media. I was able to attend a few of these seminars. At one such program earlier this year the speaker said, every company must be a technology company and a publishing company. Not only does a firm need to have a strong website, but they need to be writing and posting articles. Expectations are high. Smaller firms and business-to-business firms such as ourselves are judged the same as large company sites as we are all consumers.

So I wondered, how do businesses, especially small businesses without a website or social media department, find the time to post on several social media sites in their already busy day?

Our solution at GRAEF has been to enlist the help of marketing, administration and technical staff as bloggers. Like the old adage, many hands make light work. Though many social media experts teach how important it is to have one company voice, having representative voices from different areas of our firm really does speak to the full service of our firm.

At GRAEF, we are still learning about social media and how to best connect with clients and potential clients. Technology will continue to bring us to new ways to communicate and reach clients and we must adapt to stay relevant.

Ten years ago, I didn’t have internet at my house. I didn’t order anything online. I didn’t have the consumer confidence. Whereas today, I do the majority of my shopping online- clothes, shoes, books, and even food.

Technology changes, people change and business development changes in a cyclical fashion. And while I probably won’t ever be the first one using the latest technology, after a little trial and error, I always enjoy using and evolving with it.