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Renewable Energy 101: Say Hello To Geothermal

Geothermal energy is simply the use of the heat from the earth we live on.

Generally, it’s captured by pulling hot water and steam from beneath the surface and once the heat energy is utilized, returning it in the form of warm water to be heated again.

Many regions of the world are already capturing geothermal heat for a sustainable source of energy to replace our reliance on fossil fuels. Geothermal plants account for more than 25% of the electricity produced in both Iceland and El Salvador (source).

Like other sustainable energy sources, the main cost for geothermal power is in the initial investment phase of building the plants.

However, running and maintenance costs are minimal because there’s no fuel used, and therefore no purchasing, transport, or cleanup costs involved in the operation of the plants. The cost can be recouped in a few years via a 30%-60% heating bill savings and a 25%-50% savings on cooling costs. (source) Because the hot water and steam utilized is renewable, scientists have surmised that with proper reservoir management of the steam and water levels, the energy potential in geothermal reservoirs will last literally billions of years. (source)

Because geothermal energy is predictable, it is an excellent resource for a base load of power which can be relied upon with remarkable accuracy.

This is not the case with solar and wind, which are weather dependent.

Geothermal capabilities can be harnessed on a grand scale, such as in Reykjavik, Iceland (pop. 118,000), where virtually every building is heated with hot spring water from the earth.

Both large and small systems can be installed depending on the needs of the property owner, and such a reliable source can reduce traditional energy costs significantly. (source)

Geothermal plants are not only beneficial as utility suppliers, but as direct power refineries for industries such as milk pasteurization and agricultural processing, and gold and silver mining facilities, and temperature regulation at fish farms. There’s also the potential for crop irrigation improvements around the western half of the United States, relieving a burden on rural water co-ops, private water conveyors, and the Western Area Power Administration. (source)

Benefits to local and rural economies are also realized through federal and state royalties paid by geothermal plants.

The Department of Interior’s Office of Natural Resources reported in 2013, geothermal power suppliers were responsible for around $15 million in royalties and rents from federal lands used for geothermal production. (source)

While geothermal power may not be as widely available due to location specific requirements such as proximity to volcanic and geyser activity or tectonic plate movement, the areas that are conducive to geothermal power can significantly benefit from the infrastructure advantages of well-paying jobs, influx of property taxes, and reduction of traditional power usage and savings on traditional utility bills through a resource more reliable and potentially more sustainable than fossil fuels—the earth itself.


PETER KRULL IS A REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISER. INFORMATION PRESENTED IS FOR EDUCATONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT INTEND TO MAKE AN OFFER OR SOLICITATION FOR THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF ANY SPECIFIC SECURITIES, INVESTMENTS, OR INVESTMENT STRATEGIES. INVESTMENTS INVOLVE RISK AND UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, ARE NOT GUARANTEED. BE SURE TO FIRST CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED FINANCIAL ADVISER AND/OR TAX PROFESSIONAL BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ANY STRATEGY DISCUSSED HEREIN.

Renewable Energy 101: The Power of Wind

As an option for sustainable alternative power resources, wind energy is in the forefront as a viable choice. It is a renewable resource, so the supply will never deplete, and unlike conventional power plants, wind turbines or wind farms produce no pollutants or greenhouse gases.

Wind energy is captured by windmills or wind turbines, which look like large fans with blades that can be as large as a football field. The wind turns the blades, which generates kinetic energy used to turn turbines attached to generators. The generators convert the motion of the turbines into electricity and feed into the power grid.

Small businesses or private residences can also harness wind energy with much smaller turbines connected to the power grid.

If the business or resident uses less energy than the wind turbine produces, it can actually result in credit from the power company.

Because wind energy is a drought resistant crop, farmers and ranchers have been taking advantage of its production as a way to supplement income alongside their planted crops and keep the land their families have worked for generations.

According to the Department of Labor, “wind turbine technician” is the fastest growing job in America.

As of January 2016, wind energy supports 88,000 high-paying American jobs, 21,000 of which are manufacturing.

The initial investment in a wind turbine, while having drastically decreased in the last 10 years, is still significant, with site preparation and installation of the machinery responsible for 80% of the cost. However, on a life-cycle cost basis, wind turbines are much more competitive than other technologies because there is no fuel to purchase and ongoing operating expenses are minimal.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is the projected health benefits of wind energy.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, as of 2015, wind energy produced $7.3 billion a year in public health benefits by cutting pollutants that contributed to asthma attacks and other lung diseases.

Drawbacks, however, include the weather-dependent nature of wind. The wind doesn’t always blow when electricity is needed, and the way the energy is harnessed, there’s currently no way to store power in times of surplus to be used in times of shortfall.

It is also not feasible for the power to be supplied over long distances. Those benefiting from wind farms are limited to the location where the wind blows strongest.

This, however, isn’t necessarily prohibitive, given highly populated coastal communities can benefit from offshore wind farms, like one being built off the coast of Long Island, just recently approved by the Long Island Power Authority in January 2017.

The goal is to add low-carbon energy sources to the power mix by producing 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind, enough to power 1.25 million homes and add high paying jobs while combating climate change. (Source)

With current estimates putting wind energy potential at ten times greater than the current US electrical consumption, wind energy, in combination with other forms of renewable energy, could be the wave of the future.


PETER KRULL IS A REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISER. INFORMATION PRESENTED IS FOR EDUCATONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT INTEND TO MAKE AN OFFER OR SOLICITATION FOR THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF ANY SPECIFIC SECURITIES, INVESTMENTS, OR INVESTMENT STRATEGIES. INVESTMENTS INVOLVE RISK AND UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, ARE NOT GUARANTEED. BE SURE TO FIRST CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED FINANCIAL ADVISER AND/OR TAX PROFESSIONAL BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ANY STRATEGY DISCUSSED HEREIN.

Renewable Energy 101: Hydro Power

Hydroelectric power, or hydropower, is the kinetic energy created by moving water captured by turbines and converted to electricity by generators.

Hydropower is actually one of the oldest forms of power production on earth, dating as far back as ancient Greek farmers using it for mechanical tasks such as grinding grain.

Paddlewheels were used in everything from mills and factories to boats built to cruise down the Mississippi River.

Hydropower is the product of damming up a river or lake and controlling the flow of that water through the dam. Used in conjunction with rainwater storage and proper management of the flow, hydropower harnesses a renewable resource that can’t be depleted.

Unlike wind and solar power, hydropower can be stored for times when the burden on the power grid is greatest.

Water can be pumped from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir during times of low power usage—like overnight, when power consumption is at its lowest—and released again to the lower reservoir during times of high consumption, where the volume of water released can generate more kinetic energy to transfer to the power grid via the generators.

While the infrastructure to build hydropower is extensive, maintenance and technological improvements over time are easily done, making it a heavy investment up front but cost effective in the longer term. With an average lifetime of 50 to 100 years, hydroelectric plants can benefit generations, and have the ability to go from zero power to maximum output very quickly, making them ideal backup systems for sudden changes in demand, such as power supply interruptions due to weather.

All 50 states have some form of hydroelectric capacity already in place, with places like Washington State getting 70% of their entire power supply from hydropower.

Eleven other states get more than 10% of their capacity from hydropower. (source) Dams can also produce recreational opportunities, with the lakes formed by the reservoirs providing ideal destinations for fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and other outdoor activities. Reservoir water can also be used for irrigation, and the dams themselves are often considered tourist attractions, like the Hoover Dam.

While the environmental impact of the placement of dams is a very important consideration, teams of environmental engineers can be brought in to assess how to minimize this impact. The implementation of fish ladders and fish elevators help reduce or eliminate changes to the migratory and feeding habits of those dependent on the water being used in the dam system.  Dams can (and do) control flood prone areas to keep people safe.

Less than 3% of the United States’ dams are set up for hydropower (source).

This leaves room for expansion of already existing infrastructure through renovation rather than new construction that will further impact the environment, and in the long run, hydropower runs far cleaner, is more controllable, and has the potential to provide much more than the 16% of total electricity function it produces today (source).


PETER KRULL IS A REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISER. INFORMATION PRESENTED IS FOR EDUCATONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT INTEND TO MAKE AN OFFER OR SOLICITATION FOR THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF ANY SPECIFIC SECURITIES, INVESTMENTS, OR INVESTMENT STRATEGIES. INVESTMENTS INVOLVE RISK AND UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, ARE NOT GUARANTEED. BE SURE TO FIRST CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED FINANCIAL ADVISER AND/OR TAX PROFESSIONAL BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ANY STRATEGY DISCUSSED HEREIN.

Renewable Energy 101: Get to Know Solar

The first thing to come to mind when the words “clean energy” are used is solar power.  Solar power simply means taking the energy emitted by the sun and converting it to electricity through the use of solar panels. Harnessing the power of the sun was one of the first ways people considered as a power alternative to the traditional power sources derived from coal and natural gas for the purposes of lowering greenhouse gases and our dependence on the finite stores of fossil fuels.

The sun’s rays produce two possible power alternatives to fossil fuels: heat and light.

Heat is best used in thermal systems reliant on temperature to run. The heat produces both hot water and hot air for commercial and residential heating, and can also be used to generate power through steam or sterling engines.

Light is used in photovoltaic (photo = light, voltaic = produces voltage) systems, which convert the light to energy. This conversion is the main area industry leaders are turning to for advancement of the solar power industry today.

As with wind energy, the investment in solar power is heavy upfront.

However, advancements in the technology used to produce more efficient solar panels, coupled with the current tax incentives, energy bill cost savings, and increased market value of the property once panels are installed, the cost is an investment worth considering.

According to The Appraisal Journal, the selling price of homes has increased by more than $20 for every dollar decreased on the energy bills of the properties. Additionally, studies in California through Clean Power Research show over the lifetime of a solar energy system (30 years), homeowners will save an average of $40,000, and the cost of installation of a solar energy system has come down 75% since 2009. The national average purchase and installation price of a solar energy system is between $12,000 and $20,000, with a 25-year warranty. (Source) Maintenance, once the system is installed, basically comes down to cleaning the panels once a year.

Considering the sun emits enough energy in one hour to power the global population for a year, solar energy is perhaps the most obvious way forward in the initiative to replace fossil fuels and our dependence on them. A new report by the US Department of Energy (source) states that solar power employed 43% of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while all three fossil fuels (coal, gas, and oil) combined for only 22%. Slightly less than 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, while fossil fuel generation had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000 jobs. The boom in the solar workforce can be associated with construction work focused on expanding solar power. Coal employment has fallen 53% over the last decade, while during the same period, electricity generation from natural gas has increased 33% and solar generation has expanded 5000%.

Solar energy is rapidly becoming the future when it comes to powering our increasingly electronic lives.

Human Resources Just Got Greener With Conscious-k

Krull & Company recently introduced Conscious-k, a new 401(k) solution for business owners and human resources personnel.

“We want to help companies create sustainable legacies and a value that goes beyond the bottom line,” says Pete Krull, founder of Krull & Company. “You have to give back to your people by offering a benefit that reflects who your employees are beyond the office.”

As a socially-responsible investment firm, Krull and Company extended their services with Conscious-k as a specific answer to a common question for business owners: when and how does a company set up a customized retirement plan? Market research showed that business owners and human resources would often avoid setting up a retirement plan option for employees because they either believed they didn’t have the right number of staff, or they felt overwhelmed by options.

A 401(k) plan allows employees to defer pretax dollars for their own retirement savings. These plans can be set up with or without an employer match and, in addition to a match, can allow a discretionary employer contribution each year.

“You want a retirement plan that’s easy to setup and explain to employees, but for talent retention, you have to offer something extra to that benefit,” says Krull. A fossil-fuel-free 401(k) portfolio can reflect this generation’s priorities, he explains.

“Employees want a fund that will help them save up for the future, but will also contribute to the world and make sure it’s still in great environmental shape when they’re ready to retire.”

For more information, visit Conscious-k.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Catherine Campbell, Marketing and Communications

828-335-0787 // info@brightplanning.com

877-235-3684

Should Your Church Divest?

In the 21st century, religious congregations and committees must face the necessary integration of creation care with their commitment to stewardship. This isn’t a question of if, it’s a question of how. Simply having awareness of environmental and social issues is no longer an option for stewardship. Awareness needs to shift to tangible results by actively caring for the world in which we live.

Recently, there have been multiple opportunities for denomination leaders to consider taking their commitments to stewardship one step further in their fiduciary priorities. By divesting their investments from fossil fuel portfolios, they can then reinvest to sustainable and responsible investments. These actions often set a precedent for individual congregations to follow suit with their priorities for creation care and church finances.

On an individual congregation level, it can be challenging to serve on a finance committee when there are differing opinions and feedback on how church funds should be disbursed and appropriated. This slows the process for prioritizing investment changes to months, even years.

Finance committees have a main responsibility: to financially do what is in the best interest of the congregation.

This charge can extend beyond simple “dollars and cents” to reset the congregation’s intentions about the types of investments that are owned.

One philosophy gaining major traction in the wake of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical ‘Laudato si’ is the concept of selling fossil fuel investments and reinvesting in sustainable and responsible investments.

Most traditionally managed endowments only have to reallocate about 8% of their portfolios to accomplish this shift, and can still maintain competitive returns.

Our team launched ReVest to help congregations navigate this process of shifting investments so they’re more closely aligned with their 21st century priorities in creation care and stewardship. Check out this video featuring Susannah Tuttle, director of NC Interfaith Power and Light (NCIPL) and Pete Krull discussing the concept of ReVest.

Pete Krull’s interview on Green Guy Radio

Eric Moncrief

Eric Moncrief

 

I had the honor of being the guest on the Green Guy Radio Show last week with Eric Moncrief. Had a great time discussing responsible investing, fossil fuel divestment, sustainability and more! Please take some time to listen to the show and share with your family and friends.

Presbyterian Church USA Misses the Mark on Fossil Fuel Divestment

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) had a chance last week to make history. During their General Assembly, the denomination delegates were presented with the opportunity to make changes to the investments of the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Foundation and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, by divesting from fossil fuel companies. Unfortunately, the “overture” to divest was defeated despite the committee’s recommendation in favor.

PCUSA decided instead to take a “middle ground,” and to engage with fossil fuel companies through shareholder advocacy. Now shareholder advocacy has proven to be an effective tool for issues such as corporate governance, lobbying, pollution, human rights and equality. But never has advocacy been effective at changing the fundamental business model of a company. The idea that by engaging with oil/gas/mining companies and urging them to be better corporate citizens will change their behavior is naïve and a fools errand. Big Oil is not going to stop producing, refining and distributing oil because a few shareholders ask them to stop.

In my opinion, divestment is the only response to fossil fuel companies – both as a means of protest for their actions and as a fundamental investment move. The risk that fossil fuel companies currently present because of stranded assets and commodity volatility make them a questionable investment – especially for fiduciaries who oversee these institutional investments. PCUSA had the opportunity to make a major statement to the world that fossil fuel companies’ business of changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere for profit is unacceptable – a description that 350.org’s Bill McKibben has used often.

Perhaps the bigger opportunity was the potential to reinvest those fossil fuel assets into sustainable and responsible companies – companies focused on alternative energy, energy efficiency, battery and storage technology and other cutting-edge technologies. And while the adopted overture included the phrasing “consider an increasingly more diversified energy sector in their overall investment portfolios,” it is simply not strong enough – and is toothless without divestment.

I have been involved with this process as I served on three panels over the past year focused on Presbyterian divestment – two for the Western North Carolina Presbytery and one for Presbyterians for Earth Care. This decision is very disheartening, especially considering the need for bold actions. The climate will not wait for another General Assembly in two years.

On the positive side, the fossil fuel divestment movement continues to gain considerable ground as other churches, colleges and non-profits have made the commitment to divest. At a time when bold and decisive actions are needed, these organizations are to be applauded. Not to mention the countless individuals who have taken the step to remove fossil fuels from their individual accounts, trusts and retirement holdings.

I have no doubt that the PCUSA General Assembly will be faced with the same divestment overture in 2018, and with the work of Fossil Free PCUSA, Presbyterians for Earth Care and others, hopefully it will receive the consideration it deserves. In the meantime, individual congregations and parishioners can make their own divestment decisions – and reinvest in sustainable solutions. The climate won’t wait for talk. Visit www.divest-revest.com for more information on fossil fuel divestment for people of faith.

Bold Moves: Making An Impact Through Investments

On September 3rd, we welcomed Vincent Stanley of Patagonia and Leslie Samuelrich of Green Century Investments to Asheville for our Krull & Company Lecture Series at Warren Wilson College.

We are excited to share the event with you now!

Make sure to check out the rest of our site, including our Fossil-Fuel-Free investments.

Contact Us for a complimentary consultation to see how you can make YOUR Impact!

The Papal Encyclical & Interfaith Power and Light Collaboration

Align your Investments with your Faith Values

At Krull & Company, many of our clients are people of faith – they make aligning their investments with their values a priority. That’s why it is so important that we recognize the potential impact of the Pope’s Climate Change Encyclical, Laudato Si, for what it is: a call to action for people of all faiths to recognize our human impact on the planet and to begin taking steps today to make environmental and social responsibility a priority.

In alignment with that priority, we are proud to be collaborating with both the Georgia and North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) organizations to offer socially and environmentally responsible investing solutions, including fossil-fuel-free options.

We held a strategic planning call recently with Kate McGregor-Mosley, Executive Director of Georgia IPL and Susannah Tuttle, Executive Director of NC IPL to lay out how best to work together. We are pleased that both executive directors understand the importance of moving beyond their traditional scopes of energy efficiency consulting and retrofitting for congregations. We all believe that the way your endowment and personal monies are invested matters – and that by making a change to a more responsible portfolio, you are choosing to be better stewards of our small and fragile planet, while maintaining competitive investment returns at the same time.

The Pope’s Encyclical specifically addresses the importance of taking action, “A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers…Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act” (Chapter 6, Part 206)

Krull & Company’s solutions help put these principles to work

These solutions work well for divesting congregational endowment monies from fossil fuels and reinvesting into more sustainable companies. Typically, this entails reallocating about 8 percent of the endowment (the current S&P 500 energy allocation) into Krull & Company’s Green Sage Sustainability Portfolio. Green Sage is our Signature fossil-fuel-free equity portfolio focused positively on companies with sustainability as a product, service or core tenet of the business.

Members of congregations can also participate and have an impact as well, through our diversified socially and environmentally responsible portfolios. As an investment management and financial planning firm, we have helped many individuals align their investments with their values, including brokerage, trust and retirement monies.

And, as a 1 Percent for the Planet member, Krull & Company is a financial supporter of both Georgia and North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light organizations.

Krull & Company, LLC is a Certified B Corporation in Asheville, NC. We are a leading socially and environmentally responsible investment management and financial planning firm. Contact us for more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation.