Energy Policy Now: The Local View of Fracking

Featuring Daniel Raimi is a senior research associate at Resources for the Future, where he focuses on energy and climate policy. He also teaches energy policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and is a faculty affiliate at the University of Michigan Energy Institute.

January 17th, 2018

The view of Americans on the environmental and economic implications of fracking continues to be sharply divided a decade after the shale revolution began. But the author of a new book, The Fracking Debate, finds more nuanced perspectives in wellhead communities.

The shale revolution in the United States is now more than a decade old.  In the intervening years, energy companies have tapped vast, previously uneconomical oil and natural gas resources through a suite of technologies, including hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, and horizontal drilling. The results have been dramatic. Today the U.S. is a leading producer of oil, and the top global supplier of natural gas.

But the shale revolution has also bred controversy as the country has struggled to balance fracking’s economic and environmental impacts. Those for and against fracking have often gone to great lengths to promote their views. Along the way, previously quiet communities, from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, have struggled to accommodate waves of drilling rigs and energy workers.

Guest Daniel Raimi spent several years traveling the country to get to know the communities where fracking takes place. His travels led to a new book, The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution. In it Raimi seeks to relate the perspective of communities, and citizens, on fracking’s front lines, and provide unbiased answers to some of the biggest questions surrounding fracking.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

 

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Building a Green Empire

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By Julie Spitkovsky, Netronix, Inc.

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand.  Raising awareness, sharing information and cultivating interest about indoor air quality are important tools for building design professionals to exploit at the start of the design process to achieve optimal indoor air conditions from the start of a project through building occupancy.

Getting people to break habits is extremely difficult.  Paul Scialla, Founder and CEO at Delos explains, “Our built environments can shape our habits, regulate our sleep-wake cycle, drive us toward healthy and unhealthy choices, and passively influence our health through the quality of our surroundings.  We spend 90% of our time indoors, and by incorporating a variety of healthy design, construction and operations strategies through evidence-based programs such as the WELL Building Standard, we have a profound opportunity to advance human health, well-being and productivity for everyone.”  

“Our built environments can shape our habits, regulate our sleep-wake cycle, drive us toward healthy and unhealthy choices, and passively influence our health through the quality of our surroundings.”

Occupant health is a clear economic incentive. In 2007, a study by Mudarri and Fisk estimated that annual costs of asthma attributable to dampness and mold exposure in homes were between $2.1-4.8 billion. By 2014, studies in the health sector revealed reductions in mortality rates, bloodstream infection rates, and medicine consumption in green hospitals, compared to conventional hospitals, indicating that some of these effects could occur because of improved IAQ. Fewer sick days, reduced employee turnover, and fewer medical errors are compelling incentives to design spaces that incorporate evidence based research findings.  

MATERIALS MATTER

Consumer products and building materials emit dangerous gases like VOCs, Formaldehyde and Carbon Dioxide, influencing indoor air quality.  Many of these types of compounds were not present half a century ago. According to the EPA, examples of consumer products and building materials that are also sources of indoor air pollution include office furniture, flooring, paints and coating, adhesives and sealants, wall coverings, office equipment, wood products, textiles, and insulation.  In 2010, the World Health Organization established guidelines for maximum thresholds of Formaldehyde at .08 ppm, though there are few guidelines for other gases, environmental conditions and particulate matter (the WHO only first identified particulate matter as an indoor pollutant in 2006, explicitly recognizing the limited availability of resources). Indoor air quality (IAQ) is enhanced by using materials that have negligible carcinogenic or chemical emissions, are installed with minimal VOC-producing compounds, offer moisture resistance, and require simple, non-toxic cleaning methods and products. Today, more consumer products and building materials are being studied and certified as low chemical-emitting materials in an effort to control and achieve good indoor air quality.  But is this enough?

ENERGY BUNNIES

One premise for green building design is its impact in the energy sector. Today buildings account for 41% of US energy consumption, with nearly half of that usage coming from the commercial sector. Designers have control over energy consumption and indoor air quality factors such as materials, systems, ventilation, the environmental control scheme, and layout. In 2016, the percentage of firms with over 60% green certified projects reached 18 % and is estimated to triple to 37% by 2018. Under LEED standards, Gold Rated buildings earning 39 points are estimated to reduce environmental impact by 50 percent, while Platinum Rated buildings earning 52 points are estimated to reduce environmental impact by almost 70 percent.

VENTILATION MATTERS

Historically the connection between buildings as repositories and gateways of resource flow and air pollution was difficult to measure.  In office buildings, over 1/2 of end use energy expenditures come from heating, ventilating and cooling.  One of the challenges with flushing ventilation, bringing in outside air at night when the building is unoccupied to cool down the building or remove heat, is the re-introduction of outdoor pollutants and generation of new pollutants.  The reaction between outdoor air and indoor materials is a break in equilibrium at the surface of materials causing the emissions of new pollutants, otherwise absorbed by building structures.  Well-ventilated work spaces proved to have lower levels of  CO2 correlating with decreased levels of worker anxiety and increased levels of productivity.  More specific findings in support of the mounting evidence demonstrating the relationship between Indoor Air Quality & productivity tells us there is 61% higher cognitive functioning in green buildings that meet occupant health and energy efficiency standards set by LEED and 100% higher cognitive functioning in buildings with twice the ventilated air rate required for LEED certification (+Green Plus Buildings).  

“…heightened levels of Carbon Dioxide over the course of a school year can have detrimental physical effects on children’s developing respiratory system.”

According to Bruce White, Vice President of Airthinx, Inc. “We are starting to see, and have a clearer picture of  the health effects of indoor contaminants like PM 1, PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, CH2O, VOC’s on building occupants. We see from recent studies out of Harvard, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, USGBC & IWBI, what elevated levels of CO2 alone can do to students and building occupants. Specifically, in children, elevated levels of CO2 can cause wheezing and levels over 1,000 ppm can result in a 10-20% increases in days away from school. That alone affects the school not only in lower test scores, but also in funding from the US Department of Education on attendance levels. More importantly, the prolonged exposure to heightened levels of Carbon Dioxide over the course of a school year can have detrimental physical effect on children’s’ developing respiratory system.”

HOLISTIC APPROACH

A poor indoor environment causes occupant discomfort, health problems and poor performance.  Building system performance directly impacts maintenance frequency, equipment life, and energy usage. Understanding the process and possible IAQ endpoints (moisture control, drainage, ductwork protection, HVAC production, use of low VOC building materials, minimum ventilation) encourages improved building design. For example, a life cycle assessment (LCA) addresses the impact of a product through all of its life stages. By executing sustainable design in architecture, there is an opportunity for long-term value through modifiable building systems over the life-cycle instead of least-cost investments.

The impacts of evidence based design, a once value added anomaly, are now a requirement for competitive practice.  Occupants heightened exposure to the availability of data & metrics, conditions them to demand more assured outcomes on expensive building projects.  Architects are in a position to make collective and informed choices that will have a broad impact in the aggregate, such as advising about emission testing protocols to ensure test results can be translated into real world use cases. For example, under LEED, designers can earn up to 15 points for implementing indoor air quality measures.

SMART SENSORS

When considering the options available for indoor air quality management, the exclusive reliance on cleaning the air with filtration systems may not be enough. Air filtration cleaning method results rest on the assumption that ‘dirty’ contaminants are eliminated. Rather, the systems selectively remove some pollutants but not others, and generate new pollutants when the systems are not properly maintained. A reliable counterpart and solution is continuous monitoring of air quality levels in any infrastructure, preserving the integrity of the measurements, producing never before seen analytics and information, and creating better indoor environments, everywhere in the world.  In this way, space planning can be more intuitive and give future projects a greater chance of success.   

Building a collective understanding of the indoor air quality problem and its ecosystem, creates opportunities to make informed decisions and inspires actions to transform indoor spaces. 

Mr. Valentine Lehr, of Lehr Engineering in New York weighs in, “As a consulting design engineer, I am aware that the best intentions and latest technology often fail when needed maintenance and constant monitoring are neglected.  At the heart of this is the cost and effort of monitoring these systems and validating proper operation, both tasks which require human input.  Further, while devices to monitor air content have been available, these are usually singularly specific, expensive and need frequent calibration. In that regard, the Airthinx monitor is a significant development and improvement.  It’s low cost, easy installation, ability to monitor multiple potential contaminants and ease of integration with BMS and specialized monitoring/alarm centers allows for an unprecedented number of devices to be installed, and the original design intent to be fully maintained, assuring high IAQ.”

The solution, developed by Netronix’s IoT platform, guarantees the highest standards of security, reliability, and scalability of the network, and enables quick deployment of devices in commercial, retail & residential buildings with simple, affordable integration into any built environment. Each Airthinx IAQ device has nine built-in sensors (PM 1, PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, CH2O, VOCs, Temperature, Humidity, & Pressure), measuring air quality with industrial accuracy, at a fraction of the cost, making air quality monitoring financially feasible at room level.

“Its low cost, easy installation, ability to monitor multiple potential contaminants and ease of integration with BMS and specialized monitoring/alarm centers allows for an unprecedented number of devices to be installed, and the original design intent to be fully maintained, assuring high IAQ.”

The advantage of a portable device that fits in the palm of a hand with data available instantaneously from a mobile phone, iPad or desktop is accessibility to information, anytime, anywhere.

Knowledge is power!

 

Improved Metrics for Minimizing Business Risk Impacts

December 4th, 2017

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We have seen evolution of sustainability goals from targeting operational areas in environment and energy to focusing on all-encompassing goals around the community and employees. Thanks to the initiatives at leading brands, the metrics catering to supply chains and products are also poised to be mainstream. This is important because over 50 to 70% of environmental impacts come from the upstream value chain for consumer product companies. In addition, uncertainty in value chains can morph into unexpected issues in quality, safety, emissions, or labor and lead to consumer and investor dissatisfaction.

In Feb 17, I posted a related blog on Wharton IGEL on analyzing goal-setting at consumer product companies using pivot goals data. With Vertaeon’s focus in data analytics and measurement of business impacts, our objective was to identify past core areas and undertake some level of sector and company benchmarking and gap identification that could yield higher visibility into goal-setting.

This preliminary assessment indicated a primary focus on operational goals at leading CPG companies. While product and supply chain goals are increasingly becoming part of sustainability initiatives, we concluded there was room for further adoption. In addition, heterogeneity in consumer expectations has not yet fully translated to goal-setting or reporting. Recent studies indicate consumer expectations are expanding along other dimensions such as risk & compliance and social justice. These broader expectations suggested disconnects between corporate sustainability reporting and stakeholder interests.

There is continuous progress in metrics measurement via new tools and methods — an area of focus in the SB New Metrics 17 Conference. How can we utilize the extensive data that comes out of measurement to quantify impacts to each value chain block and, by extension, your organization? In 2017, Vertaeon launched a web-based, integrated, supply chain analytics platform that seamlessly connects and aggregates data from disparate sources of information on goals set by thousands of companies. Our goal is to deliver a clear, cohesive view of the entire value chain (supplier and market), on multiple attributes ranging from environmental impacts and carbon footprints to compliance, social and governance risk factors. This, combined with operational aspects such as spend analysis, can deliver a comprehensive picture on performance, potential risks, and KPI prioritization.

Where can this improved transparency and impact quantification help? We think in cost reduction via operational efficiency improvement opportunities, revenue generation via new product designs and brand value via mitigating potential red flags in supply chain. As a sponsor of SB New Metrics 17, we are looking forward to seeing you in Philadelphia during November 13-15 and discussing this further!

This blog was  originally posted on November 15th, 2017 on the Sustainable Brands website,.

Rekha Menon-Varma
Co-Founder and Managing Partner
Vertaeon LLC

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Energy Policy Now: India’s Now or Never Climate Opportunity

Featuring Radhika Khosla, fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, India and India fellow at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Oxford.  She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Energy Initiative, and a former staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

November 29th, 2017

Mass migration to India’s cities will triple the size of its built environment by 2030, driving up energy use and carbon emissions. An expert on India’s energy sector looks at the country’s efforts to balance development and climate impact.

Few countries face the challenge of balancing economic development and climate change as acutely as India, and in no other country is this balance likely to directly impact the lives of so many people.

Over the next decade, some 200 million rural Indians will move to urban centers.  Many will join the middle class, creating new demand for goods and energy while tripling the size of India’s built environment. At the same time, rising temperatures and the desertification of India’s agricultural regions will challenge the country’s ability to feed itself.

Energy Policy Now guest Radhika Khosla, visiting scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, looks at India’s growing demand for energy, and at how the development decisions the country makes today will to a large extent lock in place its energy needs and climate impact for decades to come.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

20 Questions on Leadership

Sergio Corbo

SVP Marketing & Communications, Veolia North America

November 26th, 2017

 

LEADERSHIP

  1. What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

A leader gives direction: WHAT should we do? A manager tells you exactly HOW you should do it.

  1. What motivates you to be a leader?

The team. Working together to grow the business. 

  1. What is the most difficult part of being a leader?

Being tough. I don’t like it. It is not me. I do it because sometimes is needed to get the team back on track. When I am tough I feel like I am a manager, someone that has to tell people HOW to do their job. I prefer to lead.

  1. What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?

I show up. I say yes and then figure it out. If I want my team to be great I have to be the first to try. Truth is, they are all better than me.

  1. Describe a time you influenced without the authority of being the manager.

Every day. Every day we all have to carry forward tasks with no direct authority. We do it by talking to people, we socialize the ideas, the vision and then we figure out a way to make it happen. Together. 

MAINTAINING VISIBILITY AND NETWORKING

  1. What was your biggest challenge from a corporate function standpoint when you transitioned into the CMO role? And how did you go about resolving?

Someone told me that leadership is a LONELY experience. I dwelled on the concept. I almost saw the point. Over time I realized that leadership is something that at times required to be ALONE, to think, to build the vision, the direction. When I am alone I synthesize and come up with a plan. If I am clear with myself I can be clear and inspiring to others. The time alone helps me with that.

  1. As a CMO and someone who is inherently visible, how do you make a point to maintain that visibility and also get to know your employees at all levels of the organization?

Yes. I always walk the alleys. I like to meet people and learn their stories, their motivations. It is inspiring. There are so many people that believe in what we do. Success starts from there. If I believe it I can definitely make it happen. 

  1. How have visibility and networking impacted your career?

Visibility is a double-edged sword, so I don’t particularly seek it. It just happens. Networking is paramount: without the network, I can never achieve anything. The power of US is infinitely greater than the power of just me. 

  1. What sort of leader would your team say that you are?

I don’t know! Energetic, PASSIONATE, FAST. I value speed over precision. I have the luxury to be free from precision in the role I have. To be a growth leader you have to lean forward, accept imperfections. Of course, I would never sacrifice the basics. Safety is paramount to our business. So, in the case of safety only one outcome is acceptable: zero injuries.

COMPETITION

  1. Is competition among a team healthy? Why or why not?

It depends. Healthy competition focused on elbowing each other into greatness, into results for the Customer, is very good. WE ALL RISE, we all get better.

  1. What advice would you offer in a competitive situation, when everyone wants to make a name for themselves?

Don’t focus on yourself. Focus on the Customer. The true competition is with yourself. Do something that makes you better and help others, which, in business, is the Customer. 

SUCCESS

  1. How do you measure success?

In its most distilled version, business success happens when we make money. I make a point of this. I am now a functional leader. I don’t have a P&L. However, we are all part of making money here. I work every day to be part of it. I always ask myself what things do I need to do to help the Customer and make money for the Company. 

MANAGING TEAMS

  1. How do you go about gaining commitment from your teams?

Commitment is gained every day by inspiring the team to do something meaningful. People want to win, they want to do the right thing. If they understand WHY they are much more prone to do it. They will know HOW to do it much better than me. I lead with WHAT, I gain commitment with WHY and then I let them take the lead on HOW.

  1. How do you encourage the development of your employees?

Education. I value education. It may be because of the teaching of my parents: learn every day something new, it may be useful. In truth, there is no magic in it: the biggest value of education is the personal experience. It makes you THINK. And when people think, they come up with very interesting things that make our world better. At Veolia, we live this every day: we are here to make the world better and make a living in the process. How inspiring!

  1. How did you a handle a time when you had to make an unpopular decision?

I raised prices for my business. We were alone. No competitor followed. The sales team thought I was crazy. I took the time to explain why we were doing it. I found people that agreed, that saw the logic. I enlisted them for help. Together we reached out to customers. Some customers understood. Then few more. Then many more. It was a great snowball effect.

GENERAL

  1. Explain a time when you had to make a decision without all the relevant facts.

Every day. If I wait for ALL the relevant facts out customers will be gone. I try to get as many as possible of the relevant facts in the shortest possible time. Then I go forward with a decision.

  1. How can a leader fail? Tell me about a time when you failed as a leader.

A leader fails when he/she does NOT LISTEN. Years ago, I wanted to make changes in my team because we were not moving fast enough. The team tried to convince me otherwise. I was NOT LISTENING. So, I went ahead: I pushed hard. I saw the team change. Turn dark. I was losing them. I called everybody and asked them to tell me again what they had tried to explain the first time. This time I listened. I apologized and changed my mind. It turned out great, but it was a tough lesson. I had pictured myself as the conductor of an orchestra. For the first time in my life I realized something that had been in front of me all along: the conductor does not make a sound. It is all about the orchestra. The team. They make the magic.

  1. Given that you have reached the pinnacle position of CMO, what are your plans for future career growth?

I want to do something good. I have this thing in me about kids and STEM. I want to leave something valuable for the next generations. STEM is the single biggest tool for success in life. Being in a company so rooted in applied science as Veolia is the right place to learn how to do it. 

  1. What is the most significant change that you brought to an organization?

I mentioned that success in business is measured in terms of profit. I was very successful the time I helped the business make $100 million in price increase without any loss of market share. That money was all profit. 

  1. We’ve asked all the professional questions, but what do you like to do in your free time and how do you make sure there’s a balance?

I exercise. I sweat it out to stay healthy and happy. I love art, music from rock, to country to classical. I go to the opera. I meet friends: we walk around town and dwell into endless conversations about changing the world. I ride my bicycles. I always say that home for me is a place when I have a bike. I have three in Boston!

Penn’s Green Fund Supports Innovative Light Automation

By Elizabeth Main, Sustainability Coordinator, University of Pennsylvania Facilities and Real Estate Services and David Mazzocco, Associate Director for Sustainability and Projects, Wharton Operations

17 November 2017

Penn’s Green Fund, created in 2009, is an initiative of Penn’s Green Campus Partnership to seed innovative ideas in environmental sustainability from members of the University community. The Green Fund welcomes ideas from students, faculty and staff about ways to improve the University’s environmental performance in support of the goals and objectives outlined in Penn’s Climate Action Plan.

Since its creation, more than 59 sustainability projects have received funding through Green Fund grants, ranging in topic from waste minimization to sustainable transportation, and from improvements to the campus landscape to energy conservation.

One recent project recipient is InstaHub, a multi-disciplinary student initiative comprising Wharton undergrad Michael Wong and Dayo Adewole and Matt Hanna from the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). They developed a battery-powered device with occupancy sensing capabilities that attaches over existing toggle light switches for instant light automation. The goal is to help Penn achieve the Climate Action Plan 2.0 goal of 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2019 through integrating a simple light automation solution. Wharton Operations, Penn Residential Services and SEAS co-sponsored their Green Fund application.

In addressing the problem of leaving lights on in unoccupied residential and small commercial spaces, the team looked to develop a cost effective, simple solution. Where conventional occupancy sensors are a possible option, installation costs to retrofit existing switches can account for more than 50% of the project cost. Instead of removing and rewiring to replace the toggle light switch, the device simply adheres to the faceplate over the existing switch.

To prove the effectiveness of the device, the grant funded a pilot to test prototypes in University student residence halls and staff offices. Current installations include five Wharton Operations staff offices with plans to install 25 prototypes in student lounges of four residence halls. The office installation also includes a data logger to measure changes in energy usage. The team hopes to gather early support and build a strong feedback loop to understand areas of improvements.

As the Fund’s goal is to foster innovation in environmental sustainability, one measure of success is recognition of the recipient’s efforts. InstaHub also received a PennVention award as well as interest by outside institutions to pilot their device.

Do you have a project that would support Penn’s environmental objectives, but need financial support to implement? Please visit the Green Fund website to learn more and submit an application!

Energy Policy Now: Distributed Energy’s Wholesale Opportunity

Featuring Ari Peskoe, Senior Fellow in Electricity Law at the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Policy Program Initiative

November 14th, 2017

Distributed energy resources – namely rooftop solar and, increasingly, battery storage – are becoming an increasingly important part of the U.S. electricity system.  Their next big step may be participation in wholesale electricity markets, the traditional domain of large-scale generators like nuclear, natural gas, coal and, more recently, wind power.

Yet the rules that govern competitive electricity markets were designed with big, traditional generators in mind, and significant rule changes will be needed before distributed energy can meaningfully participate.

In the latest episode of the Kleinman Center’s Energy Policy Now podcast, Ari Peskoe, Senior Fellow in Electricity Law at the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Policy Program Initiative, discusses the wholesale opportunity for distributed energy, and offers a look at the market and policy hurdles that currently prevent their participation in wholesale markets.

Ari Peskoe is a Visiting Scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and Senior Fellow in Electricity Law at the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Policy Program Initiative.  Earlier, as an energy attorney, he litigated cases before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

A Founder With a Vision: Triple Bottom Line Sustainability at Virgin Group

Co-Authored by Joy De Bach (Virgin Atlantic, Regional Commercial Director, East Region), Gabriela Salas (Virgin Atlantic, Global Sales Executive, East Region), & Karen Titus (Delta Air Lines, National Sales Account Executive, Global Sales)

October 18th, 2017

Being a billionaire has afforded Sir Richard Branson many opportunities in life, but after decades of disrupting some of the world’s biggest industries, his latest passion projects have less to do with flying planes and mobile phones and more to do with saving the world.  As employees of Virgin Atlantic and Delta (Virgin’s partner airline), we were fortunate to be able to see Richard at the Authors@Wharton Speaker Series yesterday, and were once again reminded of what an entrepreneurial spirit and compassion for the environment and human rights can do to change the world.

Having recently experienced the devastation of Irma on his Necker Island residence, climate change literally hit Richard, his family, and his employees with the strength of a hurricane.  But rather than dwell on the negative, he spoke of rebuilding infrastructures throughout the islands to come back better than ever before, and views climate change as ‘one of the great opportunities for this world’, encouraging the business sector and entrepreneurs globally to tackle the issues of global warming.

When asked by host, Professor Adam Grant, what his next venture will be, Sir Richard emphasized that he’s setting his sights on the future, focusing on non-profit initiatives to tackle carbon emissions, global human rights, and creating sustainable fuels, just to name a few.  Now, you might think that a mogul with three airlines in the Virgin portfolio which guzzle fuel crossing oceans and continents and saving the environment shouldn’t necessarily be in the same sentence, however Richard and his Virgin Group are achieving just that.  Just take a look at some highlights from the 2017 Virgin Sustainability Report:

  • 8% reduction on total aircraft emissions from 2015 to 2016
  • Continuation of partnership with LanzaTech to create the world’s first commercially viable, low carbon jet fuel from waste carbon gases
  • Installation of solar energy powering an entire secondary school campus and two water systems in Kenya
  • Review and refresh of Virgin’s Responsible Supplier Policy based on international standards of human rights
  • Announcement of a further investment in efficient aircraft with 12 A350-1000s to become part of our fleet from 2019

Yesterday, we were reminded of what a cool boss we have.  We’ve been fortunate to work for and with a man whose vision and compassion could one day further revolutionize the way people travel, consume energy and communicate, as he’s already done for decades.  For the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow, who were able to see Richard speak, we hope some of them heard his rallying cry and will join him in changing the world.

 

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Energy Policy Now: The Future of the EPA and Clean Power

Featuring Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator

October 7th, 2017

This week the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy honored former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with its annual Carnot Prize in celebration of her contributions to environmental policy and to securing a sustainable energy future during her tenure with the EPA.  While visiting the Center McCarthy sat down with the Energy Policy Now podcast to discuss the direction of the EPA under current Administrator Scott Pruitt, likely legal challenges to Pruitt’s effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan, and the larger issue of climate denial in Washington.

The Energy Policy Now podcast, now in its second season, offers insights from Penn experts, industry and policy leaders on the energy industry and its relationship to environment and society. 

Economic and Health Benefits of Sustainable Innovation in Health Care

By Philip Susser and Govind Mattay; Posted October 2nd, 2017

With the devastating impact of climate change beginning to hold a more tangible space in the global consciousness, there is an ever-pressing need for the healthcare sector to innovate and adapt to a new era of environmental accountability. While accounting for 17% of the GDP, the US health care system is also responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, 12% of acid rain formation, 9% of criteria air pollutants. The population health impact of these perverse environmental contributions are staggering. A 2016 study found that 470,000 disability adjusted years of life (DALY’s) were lost associated with health care related pollution. To put that in context, preventable medical errors resulted in a similar number of DALY’s lost – a source of mortality that has historically received much negative press, and was consequently addressed in the Affordable Care Act.

The major challenge that stems from this particular source of morbidity and mortality is that the health care system is inherently complicated, with a supply chain that includes many different products coming from a wide variety of producers. Other industries have had an easier time adjusting due to the greater simplicity of their production processes. These industries have successfully addressed issues of supply chain management by creating certain “indexes” to track the impact of their products on the environment. The Higgs index, developed in 2012, is used by fashion and footwear companies to track a product’s environmental impact. Mindclick, a supply chain sustainability company, is working to develop a similar system for the healthcare system.

A culture shift in medicine requires hospital executives to recognize the immense health, environmental, and surprisingly, economic benefit of moving towards more sustainable health care delivery. Hospitals have begun to take steps to incorporate sustainability into their models by lowering anesthetic gas waste, minimizing food waste, single use reprocessing devices, and reducing operating room packaging. A 2012 commonwealth fund showed that up to $15 billion in savings could be achieved by taking measures such as these. It will be increasingly important to eliminate the commonly held misconception that these types of measures increase costs — and are only meant for brand image —, and solidify that they in fact dramatically reduce operating costs.

The reprocessing of single-use medical devices has proven to be very successful in both reducing environmental footprints and operating costs for hospitals. Single-use medical devices include surgical instruments such as scalpels, forceps, and scissors, as well as cardiac catheters, pulse oximeters, and tourniquet cuffs. The disposal of these devices is highly regulated and incurs costs that are up to 10 times greater than the disposal of regular waste. Instead of disposing single-use devices, many hospitals are deciding to send them to third-party vendors that reprocess the devices by sterilizing, testing, and repackaging them. The reprocessing process is also highly regulated by the FDA, which ensures the safety of using the reprocessed devices. Many devices can be reprocessed multiple times. Once reprocessed devices can no longer be used, most are recycled instead of being sent to a landfill. The beneficial effects of this practice are enormous. For a 200 bed hospital, reprocessing can eliminate up to 15,000 pounds of landfill waste and cut costs by a million dollars per year.

Hospitals have also begun to focus on reducing energy consumption, as current estimates indicate that hospitals use about 8% of the nation’s energy. Since lighting contributes to a significant portion of hospital’s energy costs, many are beginning to look toward alternative, efficient options such as LED lighting. Hospitals have also invested in annual infrared scanning inspections to identify faulty electrical circuits, which can unnecessarily consume energy. Up-front investments such as these can significantly reduce energy consumption to both reduce costs and improve sustainability for hospitals in the long-term.

The Healthcare Sustainability Club aims to educate future leaders in healthcare about the detrimental environmental effects of current practices and to introduce potential methods to improve the environmental impact of the healthcare industry. Our goal is to get students from a variety of backgrounds to begin to discuss the economic and environmental benefits of sustainable practices. We want future physicians and hospital executives to prioritize environmental sustainability and to innovate new ways to improve our environmental impact.