Zero Emission Laws Make a Difference

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles, Energy | Posted on 16-05-2015

Recently I’ve participated in a series of discussions regarding the viability and results of passing Zero Emission laws. For those that don’t know what these are, about 10 States in the USA have passed such laws regarding what percentage of electric vehicles must be sold in a state by car companies. They either make the quota or pony up substantial dollars when they don’t. Part of why Tesla reduces its losses each year is because other car companies must buy “carbon credits” from them for each car they produce.

In Quebec, at this time, there is a debate about how to proceed with such a law in order to force car makers to bring more inventory to the market. The view is that car makers (other than Tesla) are slow-boating sales in Quebec which clearly they do. For example, neither VW nor Mercedes make their EV’s available in Quebec. They sell them in “compliance states” where they are forced to do so first. Eventually, we may see those cars here, but it will be a long time coming.

Several associations which are organized for the purpose of promoting electric vehicles take differing views. Electro Mobility Canada doesn’t believe in consequences for car makers. Even the EV association of Quebec (AVEQ) used to be against such measures, again through a partnership with a car company which was offering incentives to its members. They have since switched their views. Frankly, I don’t really care what the associations believe. Any EV association which does not fully back laws either by helping to craft or promote them, is beholden to forces which are counter to its original intent. Management of these groups should reconsider their views, lest they become irrelevant to the discussion.

Personally, my view is that incentives for car dealers (who lose service revenues with EVs), salespeople (who must spend far more time educating customers about EVs) and consumers, should all be incented financially. Car makers who are not exclusively making EVs will also take far more time than the market may want. Therefore I would exclude them from any discussion (except for Tesla which supports such laws). The car makers provide a conflict of interest which is obvious to all. They will lobby to slow down most Zero Emissions initiatives unless its something which does not include any consequences for low or no sales of EVs.

Some people point to Norway as an example of how to promote EVs. No consequences to car makers and tons of sales. Well hold on a second…you pay gigantic taxes to buy a gasoline car in Norway and the price of gas is off the charts due to high taxes. If those people were being honest, they’d admit that the population of Quebec is not going to accept to pay double the sales taxes on cars or gas than Ontario. Just not going to happen.

This is why I won’t join any association which does not fully back a Zero Emissions Law. Now we can have differences of opinion of what that law should be doing, yet I have no time for assocations which do not clearly support one version or another.

My personal preference is to combined incentives with consequences. Car makers who put NO EVs into the market, should pay a flat rate per car. The fact that they’ve chosen to stay out of the EV market is their decision and their consequence. I say give them two years following the passing of a law to get up to the sales needed. They will promote cars accordingly, assign marketing budgets to make it happen, and ensure that inventory is easily accessible. If after two years a car company has not reached the agreed numbers, they start to pay. This gives them time to prove that consequences are not necessary, while holding them to a “fire” which ensures that they do all necessary to achieve reasonable levels of sales.

Final word…I am against the politicization of the discussion. I’ve read facebook posts where people blame the federal system and say that an independant Quebec would be cleaner and free to pass such laws. Baloney. Quebec could pass such a law today if it wanted. It just have to have the votes in the National Assembly. I wish people wouldn’t use every excuse under the sky to make it about Canada. This is about a choice of how to ensure clean air and pure water for our children. Let’s make the right choices.

Hybrid Energy Innovations Round Up

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Posted by sass | Posted in Energy | Posted on 13-05-2015

Further to my original post on the hybrid energy conference in New York about a month ago, we’ve now had available the presentations which were made.

What I found most interesting is the consistent message by various presenters that things had to change in how utilities were viewed. In almost every presentation was a consistent theme that the role of utilities was changing and yet they are often stuck with legacy investments that they still are looking to recapture. This is what is causing many jurisdictions to either act slowly or to be counter to progress in the distributed or even off-grid realities they are facing.

One example is Florida where its now illegal to go off-grid. Imaging, a state run by a Republican governor not allowing people to make their own power choices. We know this kind of status won’t last long yet the reality of being tied to utilities that don’t want to move quickly is one of the challenges of the DG industry. Exceptions such as California, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, are precisely what gives hope that things are changing. Of course, announcements such as Tesla’s are game-changing as well. The amazing amount of orders received already (reservations) by Tesla for its home station is incredible in more than just revenues, it changes landscapes and forces issues to be looked at by a groundswell of popular support.

You can find the presentations made at the conference at http://www.hybridenergyinnovations.com/2015-presentations/ for further reference. Conference presenters were kind enough to share this with the public and I believe its a great wealth of thought and information. The conference organizers did a great job of bringing a variety of presenters to the event and it was obvious by how attentive all of the attendees were to the presentations.

Second time around…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Community | Posted on 11-05-2015

I seem to be having a few “deja vu’s” recently and it gave me pause to think this weekend about how history can repeat itself when we don’t learn the lessons of the past sufficiently.

I am today faced with similar corporate “forks in the road” as I was many years ago when I led ICP to go public. Developing IP (intellectual property like patents and trademarks) in addition to a pipeline of sales requires investments which can often only yield paybacks years thereafter. Doing it “on the skinny” is what we’ve done for three years and while we’ve all eaten well and had rents paid, there are moments of challenge which I won’t give more detail on here.

On the personal side, I’ve met some amazing people in the past year and that tells me I am being rewarded for the conscious changes made. The key for me is to look back at what I learned and, funny enough, I find that when I look both professionally and personally, I can see parallels in the lessons. Here are just a few which occupied my thoughts the most:

1. Know thy partners

It is incredible how excitement can overwhelm prudent thought in the selection of partners in all areas of life. Clearly, the lessons of past will lead me to understand and know a partner better than I did when deciding to “take a plunge”. Yet, I also believe that partners reflect us and that we attract them, so by no means do I fault any partner of the past, they were simply my mirror. I see the type of partners that I am attracting today, and I can’t help but smile. I guess I’d say I once was a “hare in a Porsche”, and now I’m a “turtle in a Tesla”… :)

2. Know thyself

What I have learned in these past few years is much about ownership and accountability. To refute my own faults of past, to not shore them up, change myself or choose a partner who may compliment areas of weakness would be to repeat past experiences which would not serve well. It’s what I call “dropping the mask”, owning it all with integrity, and choosing change. I know where I am strong today, and I now know where whatever the endeavour (personal or professional) I’d best either take the time to strengthen myself or to leave it to someone else to handle that can do it better.

3. Give to gain

The challenge of  small business environments is how the owner(s) feel(s) everything is on their shoulders. It’s like being a parent. Getting into partnership, again personal or professional, gives us a chance to share loads, and yet only turns out well if we bring an open attitude and let go of the reigns we previously held in order to not only validate but to elevate our partners. Lao Tzu’s ultimate statement on leadership is that the truest of leaders are blind to the people who work with them. I can’t claim to have reached anywhere near that pinnacle professionally yet I continue to aspire and work on it. Personally, I see it as a partnership of “different equals”, each with their own challenges and abilities, creating a greater unit together than they’d be apart. Of course, on the personal side, at this stage of life, there are realities to work into priorities in all circumstances (aka kids, homes, families, businesses,etc…), yet even then, working on the same principle of “giving to gain”, everything can be considered and worked around. Second time personal relationships have an inverse likelihood of failure to second time businesses. Why is it that so many learn the lessons professionally yet fail to do so personally? (80% of second relationships fail while a strong majority of second businesses blossom). I’ve concluded that it’s because the biggest error in getting into personal relationships based on “what am I getting” is the most often repeated premise which causes the rampant failures while a business partnership often has clearer parameters which people take the time to often spell out in a contract. You don’t get “honey, you take out the garbage and I feed the cat” as clear personal relationship parameters, though there are broader ones that are often agreed.

4. Manage Expectations

Whenever we start a new relationship, whether personal or professional, we must beware of the tendency to over-promise. Many love the excitement of taking a company public or of a new romance, yet the fact is that there are no shortage of challenges that will come into play. Turning them into opportunities to grow is the key to how together with new “partners” obstacles are turned into positive events and are managed to everyone’s relative contentment. My favourite answer to questions these days is “I don’t know”. Because truly, I really don’t have all the answers. I have far more questions. The search for the answers is a wonderful journey. Admitting we don’t have them all is a good step to mutual success.

5. Be True

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that if we don’t speak our minds about something which bothers us we are essentially dooming the relationship, be it professional or personal. Approaching issues with integrity and transparency allows for partners to know exactly what is ailing and how together you can fix things. I’ve always said that identifying issues is easy, working on solutions is where the real work is. Always bring solutions to a table of discontent and you’ll turn that table into one of joy and satisfaction a lot sooner.

So folks, those are five things are lessons of past which I believe would serve anyone well, hence my sharing them today. This post was my lunch break from a major initiative which will likely change the landscape for our company, just as my new residence (and OK, yes, I’ll admit…the T car too :) ) is providing to me personally at this very same time.

We often get what we deserve, though sometimes we simply have to wait for it a bit longer. The universe is never wrong, it knows when we are ready. Good or bad, “I don’t know”…its just a such an awe-inspiring journey and I can’t wait until tomorrow…

Walking the Talk of Clean Air…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles | Posted on 25-04-2015

There is a drive in Quebec (pun intended) for a zero emissions law which would force car makers, much like in 11 states in the US, to sell a minimum number of electric vehicles as a percentage of sales in order to help reduce carbon emissions caused by transportation.

This proposed law penalizes car companies that don’t meet the standard. I happen to feel that an incentive approach would work better for the following reasons:

1. Consequence-based action is only OK in the void of alternatives which incent positive behavior.
2. We can rally car dealers, salespeople and car buyers to be on the same team with the right financial and other incentives (car pool lane, lower registration costs).
3. The majority of Quebecois (and Canadians) don’t believe we have an environmental problem.

To me the critical point is the last one. “Fix a pain point” is the term used by venture capitalists when urging entrepreneurs where to look for something worth investing in. The fact that we don’t feel the pain here is a major deterrent to politicians getting behind a zero-carbon initiative which penalizes participants who don’t reach a certain threshold. Given this reality, my belief is that if we incent car salespeople by a fixed commission bonus per EV they sell, car dealers with a fixed margin bonus per EV that rolls off their lot, and consumers with a variety of incentives being financial and other, we can be far more effective in achieving the same goal.

There are many lobbies that will fight a zero-emissions law which penalizes, namely: car makers, big oil, etc. We can get rid of their objections by focusing on positive change and consequence to changes in behavior.

While the end goal remains the same, we may simply differ on how we believe it can be achieved. As for me, I’m glad to report I’ve finally taken the Electric Vehicle dive and plan to recharge it using solar energy on the roof of my next home this summer….

How using different language can help us unify around environmental initiatives.

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community | Posted on 14-04-2015

I had an interesting lunch with a cousin of mine in NYC last week. He is a proud Republican (nothing wrong with that ;) ) and does not agree with any of the so-called “climate change fanatics”. His view is that the science is on both sides of the argument. As the conversation went on, I began to wonder whether or not he had a very good point in that the verbiage used by the “Treehuggers” was as extreme as those protecting coal jobs in Kentucky, which is to say non-inclusive and of dubious character.

What would happen if we were to find language and purpose around which we could unite? What would happen if the conversation was not about “climate change”, which creates discord, but about health, clean air and water. When I used those words, he agreed whole-heartedly. So perhaps he is right…the left is using language which is actually of a “fascist” nature in trying to over-regulate. What if regulation wasn’t geared towards some sort of questionable goal? What if regulation was to help our kids have clean air, clean water, clean lungs and a clean earth to live on when we are all dead and gone? Would the ensuing benefits to the “climate” not come, although through a different path?

I believe it is well worth looking at another paradigm shift. We used to talk about global warming. Then we moved to climate change. What if we simply talk about a “clean earth policy”? Who could be against that? And what if that policy helped industry create jobs through the pursuit of technologies which helped deliver on that goal? I know that to some this may seem like semantics, yet language is so powerful a tool in the creation of unity that I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t right about the methodologies of “liberals”…perhaps the environmental guys are acting like fascists in dictating rather than unifying?

Show me the money. That’s what industry wants. It’s what a healthy economy wants. So why not show how investments in such technologies which can deliver a “clean earth” will yield greater rewards/returns than investments in dirty energy. Let’s drop the world renewables. Let’s just call them clean and dirty. In Australia, they use the term “black energy”. Maybe that’s not politically correct in North America. Can we generate new suggestions to create a greater width of population and political interests which would support the “end-game” together?

Thoughts welcome…dirty air and water…not so much.

The new Energy Currencies

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community, Energy, Leadership, Renewz | Posted on 06-04-2015

I’ve been invited to speak at the upcoming Smart Grid Conference at UOIT (University of Ontario, Institute of Technology) in Oshawa, Ontario, to be held between Aug 17-19th, 2015.

The new millenium and its energy, currency and carbon realities are game changers for how transactions will occur. Direct from your iphone to mine, money will transfer immediately. Gone will be the days of payment lags, inefficient transfers or high fees. Technologies are changing how we will transact for energy on all fronts. Metrics of a new generation will be different from the older one. You can find my abstract here at http://www.sege-conference.com/Speakers/sass/sass-talk.pdf

Hybrid Energy Innovations Conference Comes to NYC

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Posted by sass | Posted in Energy, Uncategorized | Posted on 01-04-2015

Hybrid Energy Innovations 2015 gives you the big picture on the dramatic transformation sweeping the energy industry

Historically, different segments of the energy market have been warring with each other, and a silo and zero-sum mentality have been pervasive in the industry. Now, a better and more compelling energy model has started to gain favor – hybrid energy, which offers greater benefits by blending together the attributes of many diverse renewable energy sources and fossil fuels, as well as combining energy storage. Essentially, hybrid energy affords a flexibility and versatility in energy production and distribution that is truly needed to propel the industry forward. Hybrid energy is changing the energy equation.
Next week I’ll be attending the Hybrid Energy Conf in New York city to report on the novelties in the energy sector which are going to shape how we produce, store, use and re-sell energy into the future.
Hybrid Energy Innovations 2015 provides a unique platform for participants to:

-Gain special insights into the innovative tools, techniques and strategies that are revolutionizing the energy industry
-Learn more about successful and far-reaching examples of hybrid energy products, projects and technologies
-Network with a wide range of key players in hybrid energy
-Help shape the future of this dynamic market

I’ll be reporting my findings after the conference next week. Stay tuned for pics and comments.

We don’t need to save the planet for the planet.

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Leadership, Uncategorized, World Events | Posted on 28-03-2015

I made this statement earlier this week at an engineering faculty research day in Ontario. Having been someone involved in solar power since 1988 when the other people involved in the industry were treehuggers and scientists, I can tell you that there were quite a few raised eyebrows in the crowd.

Nevertheless, I went onto explain that mother earth is completely capable of taking care of herself. When she feels the need to expel us due to our excesses, she will. In fact, she may even have her own agenda and not care what ours is. When the world cycle brings about floods or another ice age, we’re done for. Period. No quesitons asked. Nothing to do but leave.

So what is the fuss about burning fossil fuels and why do I maintain that we must move to all renewable energy and all electric cars? My answer is that while Earth will decide in the big picture, our contribution to her decision can be positive for us or not. If we wish to extend our lease, its only by loving Earth that she will allow it. When we send carbon emissions into the atmosphere, we are telling “her” that we don’t care. So if we don’t care, why should “she”. Gone be with you I’d say too!

The reality is that we are affecting the globe in terrible ways. Whether its waste or fumes or poisons in the water, we are destroying the very being that graces our lives with what we need to survive. And each decision we take will affect how fast we are expelled.

So when you hear me saying “we can’t save the planet”, its because I truly believe that we can’t. All we can do is do the right things to extend our time here.

What is the right question?

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Posted by sass | Posted in Leadership | Posted on 25-03-2015

Tomorrow I will speak before a few hundred masters graduates at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, in Oshawa during their Research Day.

I asked myself what I wanted to get across to these young researchers, each hoping to create the next widget, software, hardware or process which would revolutionize our world. They come wide-eyed and open minded to the possibilities and opportunities before us, but only as much has their childhood rearing and educational path permitted.

So I decided that the theme of this elocution would be about how we often ask ourselves the wrong question. Just this morning, the receptionist at our business centre told me of a research paper which had absolutely no perceived value for her. I understood where she was coming from. I told her that we cannot pretend to fully understand the motivation of each researcher, nor who they might have been working for. It is often the case that an agenda that is unseen is present when looking at how research is conducted.

So tomorrow, my theme will be about how academia and industry often ask different questions to the same scenario. The difference of viewpoint is often not reconciled leading academia to develop things based on parameters unimportant to industry and for industry to view academia as a simple “option to support” rather than “need to support”.

I hope that what I have to say resonates and makes a difference to just one student in the audience. That is one of the measures of my success through which I will keep on smiling.

Sass

PS. Tomorrow, after the conference is over, I will post the attachment of the presentation for anyone’s viewing.

When the road meets the roof…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community, Electric Vehicles, Renewz, Solar Technology | Posted on 23-03-2015

renewz established a phrase long ago, “road to roof”. This was meant to convey the possibility of energy and transportation to meet and work in concert, something never before possible with gasoline powered vehicles.

Today, much research is being conducted on how mobile power vehicles can work in concert with grids (micro, nano, macro, whatever…) to manage energy. We have concepts such as “transactive energy” being touted, where energy is a currency, bought and sold on spot and future markets just like any currency exchange. Will bankers who specialize in currency be the energy managers of the future? Their skill sets in managing currency swaps would certainly be an interesting asset for companies engaged in such power/energy transactions.

And what to make of consumers, who will be driving those electric vehicles capable of bi-directional power, where the reserves in the cars could be used either to power their homes, provide emergency backup in times of grid-outages or even play in the concerto of power management on the grid, offering the potential to car owners to make money off their cars rather than see dwindling value through their depreciation. You getting a picture of an energy and transportation mix in the future that looks nothing like our past?

We can therefore not be surprised when companies like Virgin, Apple and Google are getting into the transportation game. We can understand why Tesla’s Elon Musk has a vision of mobile and stationary power, working hand in hand with rooftop solar, become more important than the distribution companies who will be simply become conduits, like a highway, or if they are really ahead of the curve, learn to manage the whole concert with the various players providing the tools to create, manage or store energy.

The future of clean power is bright and inescapable. I don’t look at it from purely a climate change optic, that would be slightly thin in view. Rather we should consider how we can empower areas that have no grids, that have no capability of stable power, so that communities everywhere can tomorrow have clean transportation mated with reliable, local, storable and clean renewable energy sources. That’s the future I have dreamed of and why every who knows me understand what I mean when I say that I’m living a dream…