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Marty Pickett of the Rocky Mountain Institute outlines what it takes to win the Green Challenge

21 May 2014
Marty Pickett of the Rocky Mountain Institute outlines what it takes to win the Green Challenge

With just under two weeks to go until the deadline for the Postcode Lottery's Green Challenge, juror Marty Pickett, Managing Director, General Counsel and Trustee of the Rocky Mountain Institute, shares her thoughts with The Climate Group on what the judging panel looks for when selecting the winning low carbon business idea.

1. How did you become involved with the Postcode Lottery’s Green Challenge and for those who aren’t familiar with the challenge, could you briefly explain it?

At Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), we’ve been honored and privileged to be a beneficiary of the Dutch Postcode Lottery for the past six years. Their funding support is critical to our ability to transform the global energy system for a clean, prosperous, and secure future. It has been such a pleasure partnering with the Dutch Postcode Lottery, becoming friends with the passionate staff there, and being invited to serve as a juror on the international Green Challenge for the past five years (where an added benefit has been meeting and collaborating with other jurors like The Climate Group’s Jim Walker). With a prize of €500,000, the Green Challenge is open to entrepreneurs from around the world who have an innovative idea for reducing greenhouse gases and a solid plan for how to bring the technology to market.

2. The competition aims to attract innovative entrepreneurs whose business models cut carbon, but what can the average individual do to address their own carbon footprint?

There are so many opportunities for individuals to cut their own carbon footprint, and the best way is to first reduce energy use. At home, weather stripping, caulking and insulation work together to save energy, improve the comfort of your home, make it quieter and save money. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) save more than 2/3rds of the energy of a regular incandescent. Better yet, purchase LED bulbs. Although a bit more expensive, LED’s last longer and the price is going down each year as the manufacturing technology continues to improve.

Use a programmable thermostat like Nest to automatically reduce your heating or cooling when you need it least, and use Energy-Star efficient appliances. Then, add solar panels to your roof to supply the remainder of your energy needs with power from the sun.

Drive less, walk more, cycle, carpool or take public transportation when commuting. Keep your tires properly inflated. Swap your combustion-fuel engine car for an electric or hybrid electric vehicle. At your workplace, turn off electronics when not in use; those “energy vampires” can consume thousands of pounds of CO2 a year.

3. What criteria are the judges of the Postcode Green Lottery looking for when selecting the winning entry?

As a jury, we are challenged with selecting winners from a field of five or six very deserving finalists. Over the years, we have developed a set of excellent criteria to help us objectively evaluate each entry:

  • Proposed reduction of greenhouse gases
  • An executable business plan that can be realized in two years
  • Creativity and disruptiveness to the status quo
  • It offers a way to empower citizens
  • The team’s leadership, passion, and entrepreneurial execution skills
  • What impact the prize money will have on the project’s success

As a juror, it is always inspiring to learn about the entries and experience the passion of the teams, all of which give me great hope for the potential to solve our climate challenges for future generations!

4. At the Rocky Mountain Institute, you campaign for the transition to efficient and renewable energy. In your opinion, what form of clean energy has the most potential and how can we scale it up?

RMI believes that energy efficiency is an abundant economic resource and that saving energy is cheaper than buying it. In 1985, we coined the term “negawatt” to popularize this concept of saving energy. Today, wringing far more from energy is becoming an ever bigger and cheaper resource, because its technologies, designs, and delivery methods are improving faster than they’re so far being adopted.

Across all energy uses, efficiency and renewables now offer effective, reliable, and affordable replacements for fossil fuel. In addition to wind, biomass and hydropower, we see distributed resources, particularly solar photovoltaics, as a key solution to creating a clean, resilient and secure future. To scale this up, we need business, government and civil society to stop investing in and incentivizing the status quo and to instead make smart choices that create and support the core industries of the new energy era.

5. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of alternative energy and how can we overcome it?

For decades, widespread progress on scaling efficiency and renewable energy solutions has been held back by lack of a coherent vision, pervasive political gridlock, and a focus on short-term gains rather than a long-term outlook in the business sector. In its book, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, RMI offered a practical guide to a more competitive U.S. economy by 2050 that identifies opportunities for job creation and growth for the nation, ending our addiction to fossil fuels with the power of efficiency and renewables.

Our energy dilemma is pervasive; solving it requires a whole-system approach. It requires the power, speed, and scale of markets—enabled and sped by innovative public policies when possible—to drive solutions that can be implemented now and that benefit everyone. It requires collaboration and leadership, a role that RMI has enthusiastically embraced for more than three decades.

6.  Your background is in community development and town planning. Looking to the future what do cities and urban environments need to do to ensure resilience against the extreme weather incidents that are the product of climate change?

By investing now in efficiency and renewables, communities can reduce outflows of cash for decades to come while increasing local investment in efficiency, distributed solar power, and smart grid technologies. Some specific things communities can do to be resilient in the face of extreme weather events include:

  • Reduce energy demand through efficiency, demand response, and other strategies
  • Scale up distributed generation, including solar and microgrids
  • Build out an electric vehicle infrastructure to enable two-way power flows to the grid
  • Pilot battery storage technologies
  • Deploy smart grid technologies

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is open to sustainable start-ups worldwide and you can enter by logging on to before June 3.

Interview by Alana Ryan

Image courtesy of Postcode Green Lottery

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