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…

Are things always as obvious as we believe?

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Posted by sass | Posted in Community, World Events | Posted on 14-01-2015

As I picked up my daughter from school today I decided to pay particular attention as to whether or not I could guess people’s religion by what they were wearing. Some cases were simpler than others.

Then I asked myself which one of these people believed their religion was license to commit murder. My decision was that there was little likelihood that any of them thought that way.

Then I asked myself whether or not in the history of mankind almost every group I had identified had not people within its group who used the justification of protecting their way of life for the use of violence. Every group I had identified had.

I don’t believe that the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo had anything to do with Islam. However, Islam today has everything to do with terrorists. There is no coincidence that at this moment in time, most “terrorist” acts against defenceless civilians are committed across the world by so-called “muslim” extremists. Somehow, their leadership has sold the poorest of the poor, the most hopeless men and women, that defending their religion meant killing “infidel” innocent men, women and children. At some point in history, jewish and christian, sikh and other leaders all have done the same, somewhere on earth.

If the police are “following the money” to see who is at the core of the acts in France, I have no doubt they will stop at the middle east, at the doorstep of some terrorist organization. But wait a minute…that organization needs a flow of money to support it. Its money needs a bank. In fact, it needs many banks to make it flow. Its needs an organizational structure, hence it has overhead costs. It needs arms, hence it has a supplier or more likely, multiple suppliers.

The imams who are spewing the venom in their madrassahs, mosques or other gathering places need to eat. They need funding for their activities. Someone has to believe that they serve a purpose in order to send them the money. They offer no service to the public but for their sermons of hate of others.

The interconnectedness of it all makes me stop and wonder if we really see the whole picture when we watch the news or go online to CNN’s website. I think not.

The big picture comes back to power, money and control. Bill Clinton called ISIS “a bunch of hoodlums”. He was referring to the fact that they grabbed oil-producing areas to get money. And so I wonder..in who’s interest is their existence?

So here comes the controversial Sass at you…

Defence isn’t needed when there is no offence. When oil prices plummet who is hurt? We could say Canada, Russia, Venezuela, Iran in the past…but now we can add ISIS. If you want to squeeze a group which has built an entire infrastructure on the basis of oil revenues what better way than to let prices plummet to the bottom of the barrel? You would have the added benefit of squeezing Russia for its act against Ukraine, squeezing the newest american producers who used high levels of debt, to reduce the glut of supply. Isn’t the drop in oil looking more and more genius every second?

Are the people who seem to be on opposite sides actually somehow partners? The division of man was not something created by G-d. It was created by man. It was created by people who sought to emphasize our differences rather than our commonalities.

So let’s all stop throwing rocks at each other for just a minute and wonder who benefits from the promotion of belief that any group is better than the other. It is men of power who need the hate to justify their positions. It is men of greed who use conflict to fatten their bank accounts.

I may sound like a utopic child (and my mother has certainly been asking me to grow up for many decades now) yet I remain convinced that goodwill and love are the most powerful things we are born with and that if we fight our ways back to those principles, the world will automatically become a better place. I just think that we are reduced to simplistic analysis when we stop at the view of the media. Its easy to just say things out loud to be heard. Lord knows there have been times, even recently, when I wished I had engaged my brain before my mouth.

So when it came to the most prevalent topic on earth today in our media, I did not write JE SUIS CHARLIE anywhere. I refrained because I wanted to give some thought to what I’d really like to write. I do understand the rush to write all the different labels of all of the different groups of people that were affected by the terrible events in France, yet when I finally settled down with my thoughts, I came to the conclusion that what I will always be able to stand behind is…

JE SUIS HUMAIN.
I AM HUMAN.

A life is a life…whether Arab or Israeli, Muslim or Jew….

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Posted by sass | Posted in Community, World Events | Posted on 13-07-2014

A life is a life. There is no life on earth that was not created in G-d’s image. What is going on in the world are tragedies in every corner.

When it comes to the Israeli-Hamas conflict (note my careful choice of words), there is a glaring difference in how each side is handling themselves. One side is doing what it can to avoid human life costs, while the other is doing what it can to increase the cost to human life. By no means am I commenting on the validity of Palestinian claims for a homeland. They have gone far too long without one and there is no doubt in my mind of the human suffering they have endured at the hands of other Arab countries or Israel. Nevertheless, when rockets purposely target civilians, and when their own population supports such tactics, there is little that one can counter with to tell Israel to stop. It has a right and duty to defend its people, and while the citizens of Gaza can be extremely right in their claim that there are other forms of aggression (economic, border control, etc…) there is still absolutely no excuse for supporting rockets flying into civilian areas purposely.

The difference between this time around and the previous outbursts has nothing to do with 4 teens dying (3 Israeli and 1 Palestinian). The difference is that this time Hamas will not have the support of Egypt. At some point, Hamas will run out of ammo. As it nears the tipping point of what percentage of its arsenal it wishes to retain, that’s when you will see movement on truce talks.

My prayers are for all of the humans suffering through this time, Palestinian and Israeli. May the real leaders on both sides stand up and be heard louder than those who choose the war drums.

The energy world as we know it…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Energy | Posted on 13-07-2014

Much has been written (and I won’t repeat or regurgitate) about the changing landscape for the energy industry and how its mimicking what happened to the telecom industry decades ago. While I do agree that revolution (as opposed to evolution) is around the corner for utilities, I don’t think that their response has nor will be quite the same as that of the telecom industry.

In the case of the telcos, a seismic shift occurred as a result of drastic improvements in technologies such as cellular. No longer were phones attached to a wall, they were attached to your belt, bag, pocket or hand. The difference is highly consequential to the speed and method of shifting which will occur in the energy industry. The over 3000 utilities are so entrenched in a manner of doing business, and there has been no disruptive energy technology which has yet appeared to thunder-strike their MO. Rather, what we’ve seen is a gradual embracing of distributed power (ie. solar rooftops) which does mean the utility companies sell less power, yet has not wrenched from their control the ability to affect the transmission of that power to and from residences or commercial buildings. So the effective control remains with utilities, while their revenue streams are going to start seriously dwindling as the shifts continue from centralized power to distributed generation and storage. As they become aware of dwindling revenues, they will seek either to make up for them with new “fees” or some will actually innovate and develop new business models.

The challenge from a consumer perspective is that the “new energy” companies like Solar City and others have to fight hard for every new client against state legislation, utility intervention and old-style ignorance. They are succeeding, as we see by the increased penetration, yet not at the rate which was so mind-blowing with telcos, that many entrenched providers disappeared or were consolidated. One could argue that having 3000 utilities is a good thing in America, as it creates lots of opportunity for new business models to emerge. That would be true if they were innovators. Utilities are traditionally “reactors” who will change when they must, not because they are forward-thinking. They set their rates, ensure they have sufficient energy, do some maintenance, repairs after storms or accidents, and go to sleep just fine every night. Its a rather mundane existence which they are quite happy to keep living.

It will take a disruptive technology to make it so that utilities are forced to evolve at the same rate as telcos did. Right now, I don’t see that force emerging until someone like Elon Musk drastically cuts the cost of storage or a new technology makes it to prime time. So for the moment, we must continue to bear down and keep the yardstick moving forward, as slow as it may seem for some of us. There will come a day when we can choose our power provider, or even become it completely. It could be Google Power, Apple Power, Virgin Mobile Power or a host of new brands that come onto the scene and who know how to treat a customer right. And when that happens, even the word “utility” won’t be relevant any longer.