UN Climate Change Conference COP19 – World Ready For Climate Change Deal

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Nov 11-22, 2013) kicked off in Warsaw, Poland with an enhanced sense of urgency in the shadow of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines.

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19 (photo – UNFCCC/Jan Golinski)

In her opening address, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the 19th session (COP19) participants from 195 nations that “the world is ready” for a climate change deal.

Figueres said there is a groundswell of climate action, not just for environmental reasons, but also for energy, economic, security and governance reasons. Figueres noted that public support and political will now favor climate change action.

One of the main issues that will take center stage in the negotiations over the next 10 days is the way forward on the establishment of the $100 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF is one of the key components of the international climate change agreement. Developed countries have agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to fund efforts made by developing countries to tackle climate change.

The framework for the fund is almost done, and the pledging process is scheduled to begin in Sept 2014.

Another key point of discussion will be about laying the groundwork for the international climate action agreement that UNFCCC participants agreed to establish by 2015 when they met a couple of years ago in Durban, South Africa. This agreement is now scheduled to be put in place at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd D. Stern explained what the United States is doing, and what they hope to achieve from the climate change negotiations at COP19.

Stern said the U.S. has or will provide $2.7 billion in public climate finance for Fiscal Year 2013 in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries.

Apart from the UNFCCC negotiations, there are a significant number of high-profile events being held in Warsaw timed to coincide with COP19.

The U.S. Center, a State Dept. initiative, has put together a packed program schedule at Warsaw involving various federal agencies and departments including NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT, DOS, USDA, USAID and others to highlight their climate change programs.

In fact, the U.S. Center also has one event in its lineup sponsored by the California Governor’s Office. The session on “Local Leadership Creating Resilient Communities” will focus on how significant progress is being made on resilience through the State of California’s emerging collaboratives at the regional level, and through local government leadership.

This session will highlight work being done on climate change throughout the U.S., and explain options that can be translated as a platform for communities worldwide.

Florida Mulls $5M Incentives To Lure Project With 400 Jobs

An as yet unnamed multinational company is planning an expansion of its office space and workforce, and Lee County, Florida is one of the contenders.

Lee County, FL

Lee County, FL (photo – lee-county.com/wikipedia)

The company, whose identity is being kept secret by the Lee County EDO, is identified in official county documents only as Project #LC-13-09-01.

They plan to invest $24 million and create 400 new jobs by 2020. The company is primarily engaged in gathering and reporting marketing and public opinion data.

If the incentive agreement is finalized, the company will build and equip a new 120,000-square-foot building for use as office space.

They plan to invest at least $6 million in 2014, another $12 million in 2015 and round it off with $6 million in 2016 for a total of $24 million. Around $4 million of this will be used to purchase equipment.

The 400 new jobs being created will pay average annual wages and benefits worth $62,933, which includes $53,789 in wages and $9,144 in benefits. By comparison, the average wage in Lee County last year was $38,627.

An economic impact study of the project was undertaken by Dr. Gary Jackson, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at the Lutgert College of Business, Florida Gulf Coast University.

The study shows that the project would create an additional 424 induced and indirect jobs, adding up to a total of 824 jobs for Lee County by 2020.

The annual economic impact of the project will reach around $152 million once the investment and job creation commitments are fulfilled.

To secure this project, Lee County and Florida are jointly working out a package of local and state incentives worth around $4.95 million to balance the appeal of lower costs at two other competing locations the company is considering.

The incentives being offered tax refunds under Florida’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund Program. The State of Florida would be providing $1,920,000 as QTI incentives, with Lee County putting up a 20 percent local match of $480,000.

Apart from the QTI tax refunds, the company would also get $1,000,000 grant award as a local incentive from Lee County under the Lee County FIRST program. The State of Florida will chip in with another $750,000 paid through the Quick Action Closing Fund.

Global Energy Conference on Energy Security and Sustainability

The Global Energy Conference on Energy Security and Sustainability is scheduled to be held at the UN headquarters in New York on Dec 11-12, 2013.

Global Energy Conference, NY

Global Energy Conference, NY (photo – globalenergyinitiative.org)

The conference is organized by Global Energy Initiative, a not-for-profit organization based in New York City.

The conference is an invitation-only affair, with a capacity of 500 attendees including industry leaders, academics, non-profits and government officials.

The speakers lined up for the event include, among others:-

-        Dr. Carolyn Kissane, Professor and Academic Director of the Center for Global Affairs at NYU-SCPS;

-        Dr. Andrew Yager, former head of the UN’s Water, Energy and Strategies branch in the Division for Sustainable Development;

-        Ed Crooks, US Industry and Energy Editor at the Financial Times;

-        Celia Wade-Brown, the Mayor of Wellington, NZ;

-        Dr. Roel Swierenga, founder and chairman of the European Hansa Green Tour Foundation; and

-        Dr. Michael Webber, Professor and Associate Director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

This event is being held in response to the UN declaration of the decade from 2014-2024 as the “Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.”

Dr. Dinesh Kumar, president of the Global Energy Initiative, says in his welcome message that while supporting and furthering the UN’s goals, the conference is committed to promoting an ongoing conversation aimed at encouraging innovation, concerted action and collaborations that support sustainable energy initiatives.

Many of the sessions at the two-day conference are therefore aimed at discussing and establishing the vision, priorities, and action plans necessary for achieving sustainability for all, and about fostering the public-private partnerships necessary for executing these action plans.

For instance, one of the sessions on the first day is about “How Technological Innovations are Driving Success.” There will be a World Mayor’s Panel on urban sustainability, and an Ambassadors’ Panel on energy security.

One session will discuss “corporate social responsibility and the sustainable energy landscape.” Another one focuses on financing the energy systems of tomorrow.

What: Global Energy Conference on Energy Security and Sustainability

When: Dec 11-12, 2013

Where: UN Headquarters 777 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017

Veterans Day Brings Rush of Job Creation and Training Programs

Monday, November 11, 2013 is Veterans Day, and it’s not just about platitudes. Veterans Day this year brings a rush of job training and job creation programs for veterans from both the private and public sectors.

Jobs for Veterans

Photo – senate.gov

Seattle, Washington-based Starbucks Coffee Company announced a hiring strategy focused on veterans and active duty spouses, with the aim of filling at least 10,000 positions in the next five years.

Starbucks will also open five Community Stores in n U.S. joint base locations, and provide funding to local non-profits supporting veterans reentering the workforce.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. likewise plans to provide veterans with training for tech jobs. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy will provide a 16-week software development training and testing courses to active duty service members transitioning into the civilian workforce.

Microsoft will begin the training this year as a pilot program in Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, followed by an expansion to key bases in California and Texas, and then to additional locations next year.

This Microsoft Academy was inspired by the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” legislation which became law in 2011. It allows service members to get started with the post-military employment process before their separation from the military, making the transition to non-military jobs more seamless.

Service members who complete the course will be hired for an entry-level job in software testing by Microsoft or the program administrator Launch Consulting.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Commander H. Charles Hodges Jr. said unemployment rates are higher for veterans because it’s not always easy for service members to understand where their skills apply outside the military.

In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory announced that November 10-16 would be “Employ A Veteran” Week.

In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad is scheduled to unveil a major jobs initiative called “Home Base Iowa” for attracting veterans to Iowa.

At the federal level, members of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus introduced the bipartisan United We Stand to Hire Veterans Act (S.1637).

This bill, if passed into law, would require the consolidation of federal online employment services into a single federal portal. It will make it easier to connect veterans with government employment services, and the portal will additionally offer assistance such as resume services for veterans.

Suitable Technologies Selects Kansas City for Expansion

Palo Alto, California-based remote presence technology company Suitable Technologies, Inc. announced plans to open an international support office in Kansas City, Missouri.

Suitable Technologies Beam telepresence

Suitable Technologies Beam (photo – KCADC)

Suitable Technologies is the maker of Beam, a telepresence solution that combines a video conferencing system with a movable transportation platform on wheels that can be controlled remotely.

Suitable Technologies Inc. CEO Scott Hassan “beamed in” remotely from the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto to the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) office.

KCADC is the regional economic development agency that covers the 18-county Kansas City metro straddling both Kansas and Missouri.

Suitable Technologies will hire a handful of new employees at the  office in at City Center Square, 1100 Main Street. Hassan said they are looking forward to bringing local talent on-board as the business grows.

According to research published by ABI Research, the global market for consumer robots is expected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2017, with the security/telepresence segment taking a significant share of this market.

After an extensive site selection process, the company narrowed down the list of suitable locations to Kansas City and Austin, Texas. Hassan said they chose Kansas City because of its central location and the access it provides to tech talent from the 20 universities in the area.

KCADC President and CEO Bob Marcusse said Suitable Technologies was initially attracted to the Kansas City area by the presence of Google Fiber, and the city subsequently made a good impression on the company’s decision makers to seal the deal.

Google’s first foray into providing high-speed fiber connections with internet speeds at up to one gigabit per second was in Palo Alto, when it launched a free trial in a single residential community. However, Google chose the Kansas City metro over 1,100 other cities (including Palo Alto) for Google Fiber’s first city-wide installation.

The dividends from that win now include a Silicon Valley company choosing Kansas City for its first office outside the Valley.

The Suitable Technologies project was secured by KCADC working together with other regional partners including the Kansas City EDC; the City of Kansas City; Missouri Partnership; KCnext; Kansas City Power & Light; and real estate firm Cassidy Turley.

EDA Awards $1.1M Grant for Statesboro, GA FabLab and Incubator

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded Georgia Southern University and the City of Statesboro, GA a grant of nearly $1.1 million for an expansion of the University’s City Campus to establish the FabLab and Innovation Incubator.

Statesboro, GA FAbLab and Incubator

Statesboro, GA FAbLab and Incubator (photo – georgiasouthern.edu)

The EDA’s $1,097,360 grant enables Georgia Southern and the City of Statesboro to renovate two buildings and create a business incubator with office space and a fabrication laboratory that will have 3D printers and other equipment to support advanced manufacturing.

Locating an incubator and a Fab Lab within the same space combines support for innovation and entrepreneurship with the sequential commercialization process.

The idea is based on the FabLab pioneered at MIT by Dr. Neil Gershenfeld to enable low-cost manufacturing of “almost anything.”

This Fab Lab model has since been successfully replicated at universities all over the U.S. and the world. The Statesboro FabLab is the first one in the State of Georgia.

Charles Patterson, Ph.D., vice president for Research and Economic Development at Georgia Southern, said many of their faculty and students are engaged in entrepreneurial activities creating inventions, technologies and devices which the university can license, patent and spin off into companies.

The City of Statesboro pitched in with the remaining $800,000 commitment for the $1.8 million project, in order to facilitate purchase of the two buildings that will house the Fab Lab and incubator.

The expansion of the City Campus includes space for the Statesboro office of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership, and the Bureau for Business Research and Economic Development (BBRED).

The announcement was made by U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who said this was a huge opportunity for Georgia Southern to break out and become a leader in business development.

Rep. Barrow said it was also an opportunity for small businesses to find the resources they need to compete and grow, and an opportunity for the community to show how you can come together and create conditions that help businesses grow.

Georgia Sothern University President Brooks A. Keel, Ph.D., likewise said that it was a golden opportunity to help build new businesses in the community, generate new jobs and put more people to work.

Automotive Supplier REHAU Plans R&D Center in Cullman, AL

Automotive supplier REHAU, Inc. announced plans to establish a new technical center adjacent to their manufacturing facility in Cullman, Alabama.

AL Gov. Robert Bentley at REHAU Cullman announcement

Gov. Robert Bentley at REHAU Cullman announcement (photo – Alabama Governor’s Office)

REHAU will invest in between $2 and $3 million to construct the 20,000-square-foot technical center, which will be the company’s first R&D facility outside Germany.

The company plans to use this space for automotive component and systems design initiatives, which will then be introduced into REHAU’s production processes in Cullman and all over the world.

REHAU was founded in the Town of Rehau, Germany, but is now a global company headquartered in Muri, Switzerland.

Reiner Leifhelm, CFO of REHAU Automotive and also a member of the REHAU Automotive Executive Board, said their previous technology development projects had all been executed out of R&D centers in Germany, and then shared with the Cullman engineering and production teams.

He said that locating the new technical center in Cullman will centralize their efforts to streamline productivity and help keep more jobs related to REHAU’s North American automotive business in the Cullman region.

REHAU also plans to use the new center as a training venue, and is working on how their training department (REHAU Academy) can establish synergies with regional high schools, technical colleges and educational institutions that provide professional trade skills.

The Cullman R&D Center will house 45 engineers, along with other employees. Overall, REHAU is adding 140 new jobs in Cullman, and now has more than 700 employees in Alabama. The company has 17,000 employees in 170 locations around the world.

REHAU’s Cullman plant supplies bumper assemblies to the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc.(MBUSI) plant in Vance, Alabama. REHAU recently won a new contract from MBUSI to develop and produce bumper assemblies for the Mercedes M-Class and C-Class vehicle lines. The Class-C Sedan is scheduled to be added to the MBUSI assembly line in Vance in 2014.

As a result of this contract, REHAU announced a $115 million expansion earlier this year with 200 new jobs. This investment and the 200 jobs created are separate from this latest announcement of the R&D Center and 140 new jobs.

Albert von Pelser, plant manager of the REHAU Cullman plant, attributed their success to the employees in Cullman and their international network, and the ongoing support from the Cullman Economic Development Agency, the City of Cullman, and the Industrial Development Board of Cullman.

FAA Releases UAS Integration Roadmap, Privacy Policy

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its inaugural Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Roadmap outlining the efforts that must be made to safely integrate civil UAS into the nation’s airspace.

FAA UAS Integration Roadmap

FAA UAS Integration Roadmap

The Roadmap outlines the approach the FAA plans to take to ensure that widespread usage of UAS is safe in terms of accommodation, integration and evolution.

In terms of integration, the FAA’s main goal is to set forth the requirements that UAS operators will need to comply with as access to airspace increased over the next 5-10 years.

The Roadmap provides everything from new and revised regulations to policies, guidance material and training, and an understanding of the systems and operations that support routine UAS flights.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said they were dedicated to moving this exciting new technology along as safely and quickly as possible.

The FAA plans to select six test sites by the end of the year. Critical research will be conducted at these test sites on how best to integrate UAS into the national airspace, and establish what certifications and navigation qualifications must be set for UAS operators.

Timed to coincide with the publication of the Roadmap, the FAA also sent to the Federal Register the final privacy policy requirements that the six UAS test sites chosen by the FAA will need to follow. Highlights from the requirements are:-

1. Test site operators must maintain records of all UAS operating in their site;

2. Test site operators will have to ensure that every UAS operator in their site has a written plan detailing the intended use and retention of the data collected;

3. Test site operators will have to conduct annual reviews to verify compliance, and then share the outcomes in a public forum and provide an opportunity for the public to provide feedback.

Furthermore, test site operators must make their privacy policies publically available, and establish a mechanism to receive and consider public comments about said policies.

In addition to the Roadmap, the Joint Planning and Development Office’s (JPDO) ‚ÄúUAS Comprehensive Plan: A Report on the Nation‚Äôs UAS Path Forward‚Äù was also released. JPDO was created to manage the partnerships required for bringing Nextgen online. Nextgen is the name for the¬†satellite-based air traffic control system that will replace the current ground-based system.

The plan details how multiple federal agencies are working together towards the same objectives and approach for achieving safe UAS integration into the NAS, and outlines how the FAA’s UAS ConOps (Concept of Operations) initiates the process of factoring in UAS into the implementation of NextGen.

According to an economic impact report published by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), there will be a $13.6 billion economic impact and 70,000 new jobs will be created in the three years following UAS-NAS integration.

By 2025, this benefit will grow to more than $82 billion in economic impact and more than 100,000 jobs will be created.

Office Depot, ADM Incentive Packages Move Forward in Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee has approved plans for incentive packages to be offered to Office Depot Inc. and agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland to ensure both companies establish their headquarters in Illinois.

Illinois Capitol

Illinois Capitol (photo – Nikopoley/Wikipedia)

The bills will still need to be approved by the Illinois House, and then be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. If the packages are approved and accepted by the two companies, Illinois stands to gain hundreds of new jobs and safeguard thousands of existing jobs.

Decatur, IL-based Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE:ADM) is planning to open a new global headquarters and relocate 100 jobs to this new location from Decatur. They will also be creating another 100 new jobs at the global headquarters.

ADM Vice President of Government Relations Gregory Webb said they have a preference for Illinois because ADM has 17,000 employees in North America, out of which 4,500 are in Decatur.

The incentive package offers around $1.5 million per year for 15-20 years to ADM to get them to locate the new headquarters in Illinois, most likely in Chicago.

However, the bill modifies the company’s plan a bit and offers incentives for 300 new jobs. Apart from the 200 jobs the company plans to house at the new headquarters, the bill sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar additionally calls for ADM to create 100 new jobs by relocating these jobs from out of state facilities to Decatur. ADM would also be required to fill 100 positions annually in Decatur over the next five years.

ADM has already said it will retain 4,400 jobs in Decatur, which will be designated as its North American headquarters.

As far as Office Depot is concerned, the issue is where the headquarters of the new Office Depot Inc. (NYSE:ODP) created by the $976 million merger of based Boca Raton, FL-Office Depot Inc. and Naperville, IL-based OfficeMax should be located.

Both Florida and Illinois are competing for the Office Depot headquarters, with 200 high-wage administrative jobs and $150 million in capital investments hanging in the balance. Not to mention the future of the 2,050 existing jobs in Naperville and another 1,700 jobs in Boca Raton.

Office Depot already has a performance-based incentive package deal with Palm Beach County and Florida that rewards the company for creating new jobs. Florida is considering enhancing this package to secure the headquarters project.

Illinois is offering Office Depot an incentive package that works out to $53 million over a 15-year period, in return for the company agreeing to invest $150 million and retaining the 2,050 jobs in Naperville, and bringing 200 new administrative jobs to Illinois.

ACEEE Report – State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its seventh annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks states based on energy efficiency policies and programs.

 

ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard (photo – aceee.org)

Massachusetts topped the charts for the third year running, based on its continued commitment to the implementation of the Green Communities Act of 2008.

This law continues to spur more investments in energy efficiency by requiring utilities to save a growing percentage of energy every year through greater efficiency.

Governor Deval Patrick said Massachusetts continues leading the nation in energy efficiency because they consciously made the choice to shape their own future, rather than leave it to chance.

Gov. Patrick added that they will continue to focus on policies that create jobs while decreasing dependence on imported energy sources and protecting the environment by reducing emissions.

The top states in ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard are (in the order of their ranking) – Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois.

This is the first time Illinois is showing up in the top ten on this list. Connecticut also moved up from sixth place and broke into the top five after passing a comprehensive energy bill (Public Act 13-298) earlier this year that authorized a doubling of energy efficiency program opportunities to help businesses and residents in the state reduce their energy bills.

The leading states in building energy codes and compliance were California, Washington and Rhode Island.

Mississippi was one of the few states that showed a huge improvement in their ranking, courtesy of laws passed this year by the Mississippi Legislature mandating an energy code for commercial and public buildings. With the help of this law, Mississippi began implementing lead-by-example programs in public buildings.

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is also president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said Mississippi was proud to be the most improved state in ACEEE’s State Scorecard. Presley added that they looked forward to seeing Mississippi emerge as a regional leader in tapping the vast economic benefits of energy efficiency.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are leading states in terms of energy efficiency programs and policies targeting the utility sector. California leads the way in energy-efficient transportation policies, along with New York.

California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister said California continues to earn its reputation as an energy leader by instituting the most advanced energy efficiency standards in the nation, and for pushing the envelope on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs.

McAllister said these standards have helped California ratepayers save more than $75 billion since 1975, protected the climate by reducing emissions, and grown the economy with local jobs.

Read the full ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard – Download (pdf; free registration required)

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