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Sunday, 14 February 2010
The IPCC Argument
Topic: Green Business

I have been following some of the recent news about the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). First they goofed up on Himalayan Glaciers incorrectly stating their disappearance, now it is about how much of Netherlands in under water. It is an embarassing moment for a body that was given Nobel prize. First of all, I dont believe that their intent was wrong but it is clear that they have compromised their integrity. This is a black mark that will take a long time to wash out. I am a big supporter of keeping our environment clean and sustainable, but I dont support the institutions that malign the cause by leading the cause and running it aground! There is no recourse to losing integrity and IPCC has done exactly that. There are two short term side effects of such mistakes - people will stop believing that our planet is at risk and secondly, they will stop trusting anyone who tries to be good and works for a more sustainable environment. IPCC should just be dissolved and the torch should be handed over to a more responsible body which is more accountable.


Posted by praneymittal at 9:26 PM PST
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Thursday, 22 October 2009
Berkeley Plan for the entire nation - Great Start but be cautious
Topic: Green Business

I recently read in the news that Berkeley's plan for financing the Solar panels is being adopted at a national level. Overall, it is a great start for a nation with the rising energy prices and towering unemployment. But this has the drawback that was typically seen in the nation's telecom infrastructure. Consumers have little incentive to go solar since the prices of the solar or Wind tech still remains very high compared to a montly bill. The administration should make an effort to make it a phased adoption because the early adoptors of this plan will likely see their investment wash out in 5-7 years since the mass production will bring the solar panel prices down drastically. Secondly, the solar panels should be produced indigenously in order to make a real impact on the economy. The solar panels being associated with a home value also makes it difficult to sell the home and reduce options for the purchaser who may want to try newer panels for the new home. Anyway, as the details of the plan become clear, it will be interesting to see how administration makes the policies.


Posted by praneymittal at 10:06 PM PDT
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Sunday, 28 September 2008
Economics of a solar powered rickshaw
Topic: Green Business

There has been some recent buzz around the development of solar powered rickshaws. They will particularly help the rickshaw pullers in the south asian nations where they barely make a living after putting in entire day of hard physical labour. The biggest challenge with the adoption of solar technology for low end applications is the high entry level price. Most examples on the internet regarding the economics of such applications start with a solution and then try to make sense of the cost. My belief is that such a solution has to start with the economics of the problem first.

In India, there are at least a million rickshaw pullers. A typical rickshaw costs about $100 and a typical rickshaw puller makes $6 - $8 on a good day. Most of these are male adults between 18 - 60 years of age and there are some older ones too, but they dont make as much money. They are day workers and work all days. So, basically, in a typical month they make $ 150 - $200. This number is much lower in many impoverished areas.

For a technology that can benefit them, it has to bring a productivity increase at least equivalent to the cost of the technology. If we thought of upgrading the vehicle to a new one, it will be out of reach of most, since the vehicle will cost over USD 1500. It will give them more leverage to charge higher prices, but it will be hard to justify the cost.

I believe that they would be more willing to buy a kit instead that puts up a solar panel on the passenger roof and fits an electric motor in the rear panel to provide the assistance while pulling. Any battery would add to the cost and weight and should be considered optional.

A very basic Solar Panel BSP10 comes for 140 USD and I believe it can be further brought down to USD 100 for mass production. It is not the best in energy capabilities and can add 25% to the productivity of the puller when coupled with a small electric motor which will cost about 50 USD. An installation cost of USD 10 - 20 is reasonable if the installation is simple enough. After adding other overheads, a solution can be devised for USD 200 including installation.

Such an amount can be microfinanced from the several microfinance websites in play on easy terms. Lets say that this has a potential to increase the earnings of this person by 20%, so, he makes an additional USD 40 per month. Then he should be able to pay the loan within six months including interest from additional income. This is of course assuming that he will be taking the market away a little bit from competition.

I am willing to invest some time in thinking through and investing my time in this, if it turns out to help the mankind.

Posted by praneymittal at 12:25 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 28 September 2008 3:36 PM PDT
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Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Oil Prices: Do you see a pattern?
Topic: Green Business

There is a predictable pattern happening in oil prices. Some four years back, around the election time, the oil prices bucked the trend and went significantly down. I am not a big believer in the conspiracy theories but I am seeing the same pattern this year. The oil prices went to historical highs and now are coming back on track. The oil industry is saying that the forces of American demand are bringing the price low. Ok, that's not how I understand the industry. The last time I checked, this industry does not care for demand growth as the supply is controllable at a short notice. OPEC can shut off a few oil wells and the supply and demand will be in an upside down situation again.

I believe that the gas prices going down has more political reasons that any mathematical reasons provided by industry analysts. Did someone go tell the OPEC that this is an election year, so, don't mess with the prices? Do you smell a smoking gun?

On the other side, I am happy about the demand going lower. This will improve US lead on the alternative technology landscape. I have also read the reports from AAA saying that we have driven zillions of less miles for our vacations. But I can't help noticing that many people are driving high mileage cars. Overall, this trend will help reduce the demand of gas. But there is still a lot of ground to cover when it comes to the alternative fuel technologies.They are still not making the solar charged air planes as yet:-)


Posted by praneymittal at 8:11 PM PDT
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Thursday, 4 September 2008
Good news for the hybrid lovers!
Topic: Green Business

Honda is doing some wonders. They announced today a long anticipated news. They are launching a competition to Prius and it has the name of their famous hybrid Insight. It will likely be priced at $19K, a notch below prius but will defintely command a premium. The expected fuel efficiency is unknown but my best guess is that it will be 60 something. They have experimented with the same chassis for FCX Clarity concept car and now, launching it as competition to Prius. Honestly, it looks cooler than Prius. This will be first of the several under $20K hybrids Honda is launching this year.

It is actually nice to see the Hybrid market getting hotter. It will drive the price premiums down and make the cars more affordable to normal people, not just early adopters. The HOV lane stickers are all exhausted, so, they dont save the commute time anymore. But with gas prices nearly doubling in past three years, buying a hybrid still helps the wallet.

Posted by praneymittal at 9:36 PM PDT
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Sunday, 1 June 2008
Reusable Paper: Is paperless office next?
Topic: Green Business

As I printed a 5-page document that would live for next 1 hour,  I started feeling guilt for the fallen tree. This set me to think if we could develop a piece of paper that could be printed over and over again, it would not only save the environmental impact of using the paper, it would also save the impact of producing the paper.

I started looking out for available technologies and found this link from the Gartner Symposium. A Xerox VP is demonstrating a technology that his team recently developed and I am extremely pleased. The idea that I have been thinking about is a reality much sooner that I thought. The price points for this paper would still remain high since it uses expensive photo chromatic technology, but with the economies of scale, it may become affordable in next 3-4 years.

So, think about that pile of forgotten paper near your office printer, those maps, coupons, manuals - that paper can live to see another day again. I congratulate Xerox on this achievement.

Disclaimer: I do not work for Xerox directly or indirectly.

Posted by praneymittal at 11:14 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 1 June 2008 11:48 AM PDT
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Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Excited about Hybrids
Topic: Green Business

I have been a long term critic of the hybrids but today is a good day, I learnt about few hybrid car coming our way - Volvo is designing ReCharge - a  plugin hybrid and it seems to be a fun car. Of course, valley is breeding the Tesla which I often see going up and down on Highway 101, then there is the fleet of Priuses which are increasingly clogging the carpool lanes. The most interesting development that I am looking forward to is Honda's commitment to make Hybrids affordable. I recently read a news article where Honda's Top US executive relayed his commitment to control the Hybrid costs to $1900 above the normal cars. I believe it will be very helpful in improving people's will to buy the cars. The government is already doing the job by letting the gasolene price rise, so, economics of the roads is changing. I really see the gas prices touching $6-7 in two years based on the prices in rest of the world that we trail by 3-4 years. So, for the first time, the cost equation is turning in favor of hybrids. I will definitely buy one when I am on the lookout for my next vehicle.

Posted by praneymittal at 9:27 PM PDT
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Saturday, 19 April 2008
Wanted: A green disruptive innovation and a Thomas Edison for Environment
Topic: Green Business

I have always wondered what made America successful vis-a-vis countries where government controls everything. The great formula for the success here is that thinking independently is promoted. An independent brain is a playground for innovation.

We need innovations for environment protection that will change the face of the world. We need innovations that will buck the normal trend of incremental innovations and give us an edge over controlling carbon emissions and using fossil fuels, that innovation will bring us into 21st century (okay okay I know we are already there).

The other important thing that makes companies in this country so great is the fact that they are run by smart people without much interruption. There is enough room for experimenting with strategies without getting too nervous. These CEOs have led the innovation by companies since Thomas Edison's discovery of electric lamp laid the foundation of GE. I believe that the 21st Century company of the magnitude of GE will come from a new Thomas Edison who would comeup with a life changing disruptive innovation in the environment area.

Then, we also need the Envrionment control across the planet to be run like a company too. The topline is defined by production of energy and bottomline being defined by the usage of energy. The CEO of company will focus on increasing the topline by increasing the production of clean energy and decreasing the bottomline by bringing up the efficiency of transportation and utilities. And yes, this person has to be a great visionary. We do not need the senators and congressman defining the policies while they do not have a complete understanding of the environment. Most of them are political people and are better focussed only on politics.

May be I am just day dreaming ....

Posted by praneymittal at 10:07 AM PDT
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