Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Rose E. McKinney-James - National Clean Energy Summit 4.0. August 30, 2011
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you, live from Las Vegas, Nevada. We're at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, the Future of Energy, put together by the Center for American Progress and friends. And with me is Rose McKinney-James. She's an Energy Works consultant, with McKinney-James and Associates, and a managing principal of Energy Works Consulting. Rose, welcome to the program.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Thank you, glad to be here.
Thom Hartmann: You mentioned when we were talking before that you work in, principally, in solar and everything from large scale to distributed.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Yes.
Thom Hartmann: First of all let's define distributed solar power.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Well distributed is the aspect of solar that allows a consumer to install a renewable energy system on their home. They can remain connected to the grid through the utility but then they benefit from the power that they're producing directly, so it's what we see on rooftops, on commercial installations and residential.
Thom Hartmann: And if they produce a surplus they can sell it back.
Rose E. McKinney-James: That is correct.
Thom Hartmann: Now, back, I don't know 15, 20 years ago, thereabouts, my wife and I were seriously looking at putting solar on our roof and I forget which state we lived in. It was either Michigan or Georgia. But at that time in that state it was illegal to put solar on the grid. The excuse that they used is that you know if a power line goes down and a technician touches what he thinks is a cold line he could get shocked from your solar system. I understand that there's a million technological ways around that and it was basically just an excuse to keep people out of solar. What's the status of those kind of laws around the country?
Rose E. McKinney-James: What you will find in many, many states including Nevada now is that there are statutes and ordinances that preclude the ability of anyone to interfere with your right to install the solar. In many instances it was a safety issue according to utilities. So we worked on interconnection, rules to make sure that that was no longer an obstacle. For others it was esthetics and so we worked with homeowner associations and sometimes it's a challenge. What you deem to be beautiful and useful your neighbor may not agree with. But we've worked collectively to come up with a suite of policies that deal directly with that and I think you'll find that in most states that has now been addressed.
Thom Hartmann: Then, that's interesting, there's no federal policy on that though?
Rose E. McKinney-James: That's a good question. Not that I'm aware of. I think this is a state by state, sort of land use…
Thom Hartmann: The old tenth amendment stuff.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Exactly, exactly.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. And maybe, maybe appropriately should be, I just don't know. As a consultant, as a consultant to business and to government, I'm curious what's, what's your best advice, you know? If somebody comes to you and says you know we've got some money, we're thinking of starting a business, we think that green energy is a place to go, or there's a company that we're thinking of buying or getting into, how do we do it or you know, what are the challenges with regard to marketing, manufacturing, all those kind of things?
Rose E. McKinney-James: Look, my best advice is, as a small business person, to find your sweet spot. Because in this, a new green economy, there are so many opportunities. We talk a lot about the installation of renewable projects but also around energy efficiency. And that is simply using technology to reduce the amount of energy that you use. In your home, in your business, everything from a PR specialist to a mechanic can find an opportunity in this economy. And there are people who are currently working in this arena who are available to help with the training. We've seen a significant issue around the loss of jobs in the construction industry in Nevada. And many of those individuals are now available to go through training programs so that they can begin to install not only renewable energy systems, but as I said they can work in buildings that are now using Energy Star appliances and making adjustments to their air conditioning, to improve the overall quality of their life but most importantly to be more efficient in their use of energy.
Thom Hartmann: Right. And is there money to be made here? I mean we've got millions and millions of unemployed people in America. Are there entrepreneurial opportunities?
Rose E. McKinney-James: There are many entrepreneurial opportunities. As I said, one example I'll give you is someone who is already involved in providing services for cooling and heating. They are working with traditional equipment and traditional machinery. To be able to think through the opportunity to use more energy efficient appliances and find a niche for your current customer base and then expand that customer base, it seems to me that that is the true opportunity for the entrepreneur, the person who is able to think beyond what their current scope is.
Thom Hartmann: Right. I have a friend who actually has, the son of a friend, who in Vermont, who has built a very nice little business, just insulating people's homes. Now he's not, his original thought was to go into solar, and in fact they live in a house that's off the grid so he knows the technology. But you know boot strapping a business, a one person business, which has now become a multi person business, boot strapping a business, he started out with the small stuff. And what he found was just getting one of these contraptions that show where the infrared, you know where the…
Rose E. McKinney-James: Correct, just to be able to show where you're losing energy. Sure.
Thom Hartmann: you know, where the heat is… yeah exactly. That with this contraption he could go, he could show people exactly what was wrong with their houses, he could fix it, he could make a good living at it and he's growing this business. It seems that in the United States we waste almost as much money, or as much energy, as you know we need to be generating. In Norway, you know, they're now developing, they've got homes now where you can heat the home with a candle in the middle of the winter. It's just really quite remarkable.
Rose E. McKinney-James: It's sad. I think we have become a culture that is accustomed to convenience and sometimes, I hate to use the word lazy, but as you see the true opportunity to save money, I think the average person is really interested in holding onto their revenue. And when they see the ability to do that and there are so many opportunities through energy efficiency to do so. And let me just say I would much prefer to have an energy efficient building before I install anything else. Because that is so fundamental. So we are wasteful but I am beginning to see a turn around, I am delighted to see a turn around because consumers are beginning, I think, to ask the difficult questions and thank goodness there's some answers out there for them.
Thom Hartmann: I see LEED certification, L-E-E-D certification, I don't think I've walked into, or I think I've probably walked into six or eight buildings in the last two weeks where they've got these plaques out in front, you know, LEED certified gold, LEED certified silver, LEED certified, you know. What does that mean?
Rose E. McKinney-James: Well LEED stands for Leadership in Energy Efficient Design. And the U.S. Green Building Council has set up a set of standards. And they're fairly rigorous standards that result in your ability to receive the certification at silver, gold and platinum. We actually have a couple of platinum buildings in the United States. But the emphasis is on the materials that you use, the efficiency of your appliances, the efficiency of your cooling and heating. Right down to the materials that you use for your carpeting and the like. All of those things factor in. And unless you can affirmatively demonstrate that you've taken those steps you don't get the certification. So we're seeing more of that, that's a good thing.
Thom Hartmann: So is this just kind of you know friendly marketing stuff or is this…
Rose E. McKinney-James: Oh no this is so much more.
Thom Hartmann: they're seriously…
Rose E. McKinney-James: This is very serious. The building that we're in, here at City Center at Aria, is a sustainable LEED gold building. And this is, in the hospitality industry, quite a feat to be able to use materials and meet that standard. And it was done partly in response to just the leadership of this organization but more because the customers were asking for it.
Thom Hartmann: Oh interest. You mean like I call up my hotel and I say are you energy efficient?
Rose E. McKinney-James: That's correct.
Thom Hartmann: Wow.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Ask our convention and visitors authority. There are some conventions that will not come to Las Vegas unless they can be assured of that.
Thom Hartmann: Oh well that makes perfect sense, with a convention. With an individual consumer, probably not.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Exactly. And individual consumers too. They do, they'll call and they'll find out.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, well I, you know, I'll call a hotel and say do you allow smoking in your rooms and if they say yes then I don't stay there because it…
Rose E. McKinney-James: It's the same expansion of that culture, that's exactly it.
Thom Hartmann: So it's growing, it's becoming a national trend. That's absolutely remarkable. We're talking with Rose McKinney-James, she's an Energy Works consultant with McKinney-James and Associates. Rose, what's, if you could control or influence policy in the United States and policy makers, what would you be, if you could sit down with the president of the United States or with the leaders of congress and say here's what you all should be doing, I mean, these are the steps that need to be taken. What would those be?
Rose E. McKinney-James: I would love to see a national policy that establishes sort of a clean energy standard. As a business person I want to know that I can do what I need to in Nevada, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. I want there to be a clear standard, a set of expectations, around what clean energy is going to mean so that we have the ability to say to those businesses that we're encouraging to be a part of this new economy, that there's some predictability. And that's what a business needs. Predictability, ultimately means profitability.
Thom Hartmann: So, let's, and what about the price of carbon? It seems to me like the externalities, we're not paying, or Exxon Mobil isn't paying for it, we are. We're paying for the cancers, we're paying for the asthmas, we're paying for the environmental damage, Exxon Mobil isn't. Should we change that?
Rose E. McKinney-James: And that, so that standard has to capture, it must capture and provide some guidance around how we deal with the reduction of carbon, the reduction of green house gases. And we need to have that on a federal basis. That is what I think will provide the consistency and the predictability that we're looking for.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Absolutely. Rose, thanks so much for being with us today.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Thank you. I enjoyed it very much.
Thom Hartmann: It's been a pleasure to meet you.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Nice to meet you.
Thom Hartmann: And thanks for the great work you're doing, keep it up.
Rose E. McKinney-James: Thank you.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.