Trucks at Work

Greening to save

On-site renewable energy generation has been extremely efficient and successful for FedEx, and we are continuously looking for new investments.” -Mitch Jackson, director of environmental affairs and sustainability, FedEx Corp.

You‘re probably sick to death of hearing about the many “green initiatives” going on in the freight world - including ones mandated by law, such as the commercial truck emissions rules here in the U.S. Yet “going green” is becoming a bigger and bigger deal for carriers and shippers alike because it‘s increasingly becoming a way both can save a lot of money - especially in terms of reducing energy consumption.

Take Memphis-based FedEx Corp. for example. Its FedEx Express subsidiary is building its first solar-power equipped freight hub outside the U.S. at the Cologne/Bonn airport in Germany - a building slated for completion in 2010. Equipped with new ramp, freight and sort facilities with a fully-automated sort system that will cover a floor space of approximately 50,000 square meters, the Cologne hub will also incorporate a 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar power system that should generate approximately 1.3 gigawatt hours of electricity per year - equivalent to the annual consumption of 370 households. Solar panels fitted to the roof of the new ramp and sort facilities will cover a total surface area of 16,000 square meters, FedEx said.

Remarkably, this isn‘t the first “solar-powered” hub FedEx has built. In August 2005, FedEx flipped the switch on a solar-electric system at its Oakland, CA, hub which has in three years produced more than 3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) energy, avoiding the release of more than 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. FedEx noted the solar power system can provide approximately 20% of the Oakland‘s facility‘s total electricity needs and can meet 80% of its

The company‘s LTL trucking arm, FedEx Freight, recently completed the installation of solar-electric systems at terminals in Whittier and Fontana, CA, which generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of power, avoiding the release of 2.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

But, as everyone knows, solar power technology ain‘t cheap. On average, it costs about $40,000 to equip a single family home with a solar array large enough to generate significant amounts of energy - an investment that can be hard to recoup over time. However, a new study by Professor David Roland-Holst at the University of California in Berkley figures that energy efficient technology and policies can, over time, reap some significant savings.

Roland-Holst recently wrapped up a study of the California‘s energy-focused policies over last 35 years to determine what - if any - economic benefits resulted from such efforts. Based on his research and applying it to the future, he said that if California improves energy efficiency by just 1% per year, proposed state climate policies will increase the gross state product (GSP) by approximately $76 billion, increase real household incomes by up to $48 billion and create as many as 403,000 new jobs.

“Our analysis provides solid evidence that California's legacy of energy policy has grown the economy, created jobs and put billions of dollars into the pockets of consumers,” said Roland-Holst. “At this pivotal moment in history, as global markets teeter on the financial edge, our study reveals the economic power of energy innovation and efficiency.”

His study - “Energy Efficiency, Innovation, and Job Creation in California” - examined household reductions in per capita electricity use between 1972 and 2006. As household consumption is the most powerful driver of economic activity in the state - representing over 70% of GSP - household expenditure patterns are the leading determinant of state energy dependence and employment. Roland-Holst said several things stood out from his energy research:

-- Over the past thirty-five years, forward looking energy efficiency policies created 1.5 million jobs with a total payroll of over $45 billion, and saved California consumers over $56 billion on energy costs.

-- The same efficiency measures resulted in slower (but still positive) growth in energy supply chains, including oil, gas, and electric power. For every new job foregone in these sectors, however, more than 50 new jobs have been created across the state's diverse economy.

-- The economic benefits of energy efficiency innovation have a compounding effect. The first 1.4% of annual efficiency gain produced about 181,000 additional jobs, while an additional one percent yielded 222,000 more. It is reasonable to assume that incremental efficiency gains will be more costly, but they have more intensive economic growth benefits.

-- The size and distribution of potential growth benefits that result from the increase of merely 1% in energy efficiency justify significant commitments to explicit incentives for competitive innovation and investment in the discovery and adoption of new efficiency technologies. These technologies offer win-win solutions to the challenge posed by climate change for the state's industries and consumers.

The whole point here, I think, is that there‘s serious money to be saved by becoming more energy efficient. And in this cash-strapped world we‘re living in now, saving a buck here and there could really make a difference going forward.