Are Ecological Footprint Tools Useful for Small Business?

Many people have seen recent reports suggesting that the “ecological footprint” of humanity is rapidly outstripping the earth’s capacity to support us. Most of these reports are based on the work of the Global Footprint Network, a decade-old not-for-profit organization that “provides tools and programs to help countries thrive in a resource-constrained world.” By enabling the calculation of per capita measurements of the demands our lifestyles place on the earth, the Ecological Footprint tools help us see how we stack up to other jurisdictions and which areas of our lifestyles place the greatest demands on the planet. It’s easy to imagine how countries, states/provinces, municipalities, individuals – or even corporations with a global reach – could find value in footprint analysis. But what about small business?

Here are three reasons why Ecological Footprint analysis can be useful to small business, but this particular analysis is not sufficient if you want to have a positive impact on the environment through your business:

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Green Energy in the Electoral Crosshairs

Ontario’s Green Energy Act is attracting considerable attention in the run-up to the October provincial election. At issue is the Act’s contribution to increasing electricity prices in the province, with critics saying renewable electricity is responsible for about half of the recent and projected cost increases. Supporters say there’s no way that renewable energy is having that big an impact since the total amount of “green” generating capacity coming on stream is only a couple of percentage points which couldn’t possible play that big a role in electricity prices expected to rise by about 10 per cent a year in the next half decade.

In the midst of an election campaign — which is already under way — the truth may be hard to find. The sticker price of 80 cents a kilowatt hour for small solar PV generators is a shocker for many of us, but keep in mind that price only applies to a small percentage of the renewable energy projects moving through Ontario’s Feed-In-Tariff program. Most projects receive considerably less: 44.3 cents for solar PV between 10 kw and 10 MW, 13.5 cents for on-shore wind, and 10.3 cents for landfill gas. And keep in mind that of the 17,291 MW of electricity which could come on stream under the FIT program, 10,450 MW (60 per cent) is expected to come from wind and 4,989 from solar PV. Those residential roof-top installations that dot the countryside and bring the 80 cents/kWh total 265 MW — less than two per cent of the total renewable energy likely to come on-stream in the next few years. If we still believe in basic math, it’s hard to see how these little projects could make much of a contribution to the electricity price hikes we are seeing.
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Green Revolution or Green Rebellion?

Originally published February 17, 2010:

There have always been a few — well more than a few — people interested in being greener. My working definition of “green” is living, working and playing in ways that have less environmental impact. These days, most of the green attention is going to energy. Alternative, renewable, clean, sustainable: choose your adjective.

The attention is understandable given the amount of air time climate change has received in the past few years. And while the focus on green energy may have pushed other important environmental issues into the shadows (water being one…), some analysts suggest we’re missing the main point behind green energy of late. Some suggest we are moving from green revolution to green rebellion. Read more

Net, Net, What’s It Going to Cost (Or Save) You?

Originally published January 23, 2010:

Just looking at the latest newsletter from Hydro One (the publicly-owned corporation responsible for Ontario’s electricity grid). Rural “hydro” customers like me get their electricity directly from Hydro One rather than through a Local Distribution Company (read: your local town/city utility).

This newsletter tells us about the upcoming switch to Time-of-Use pricing for electricity. TOU pricing means that the price you pay for electricity varies depending on the time of day it is used. Ontario can only move to this type of pricing because it has spent several years installing “smart meters” that track useage by time. Read more