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Renewable Energy in Colorado: Nederland is gladly going 100% renewable

The quiet town of Nederland, Colorado, with roughly a couple thousand residents, has committed to a bold action that presents a competitive challenge to the rest of the state, as well as the United States—maybe even the world. They’re aiming for 100 percent renewable energy use by the year 2025. It may be just one little town. But if its bold action is successful, it could have a bold impact across the country as other towns and cities adapt their tactics. With such a fact, advancing renewable energy in Colorado is indeed off to a great start!

Details on Renewable Energy in Colorado

The move to go green is quite popular in Colorado, with Aspen already ahead of the pack—most particularly, on the matter of renewable energy in Colorado. The skiing capital shifted to renewable energy—which includes wind, solar and geothermal heat—in 2015. This detail makes Aspen the third city within the U.S. to do so. The first two cities were and Greensburg, Kansas, and Burlington, Vermont.

a photo of a map of Nederland, Colorado with a background of shadowy illustrations of solar farms and wind farms, all in relation to the discussion about renewable energy in Colorado
The town of Nederland is aiming for 100 percent renewable energy use by the year 2025.

Notably, in Colorado, the city of Pueblo is targeting 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, while Boulder is aiming to go completely green by 2030. Nederland, for its part, is charging forward by setting their target date to 2025. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, the city committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy after passing a unanimously approved city resolution. The Board of Trustees also voted to have their deadline set five years earlier than any other cities within the U.S., citing urgency. The city’s current energy provider is Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-Minnesota based utility holding company, which has 3.3 million electric customers and 1.8 million natural gas clients in various areas, including Colorado.

Xcel Energy and Nederland

Since 1998, Xcel Energy has been offering sustainable energy alternatives to its clients and the communities it serves. To accomplish this, it has facilities which generate electricity from solar and wind energy. According to reports, over 2.3 million electric and natural gas clients have converted to energy-efficient programs, for households and businesses, as of 2015.

Xcel Energy is also offering incentives for its customers to install solar panels. The city of Nederland and its close to 2,000 residents hope to explore different options with the company in order to achieve their target.

Reducing Environmental Footprint

Aspen and the rest of the cities which have gone green were motivated to reduce their environmental footprint, as well as become an inspiration to the rest of the world. Most of them formerly relied on coal for energy but have since shifted to a healthier combination of wind and solar.

In a surprise move, California is also joining the green movement. While known as the third biggest gas- and oil-producing state, California is now looking at renewable energy in order to reduce pollution and cut carbon emissions within its cities. The state’s goal is to produce and use 60 percent renewable energy by the year 2030 and become 100 percent dependent on renewable energy by 2045. It also aims to create new jobs in the renewable energy industry.

Currently, 33 percent of the state’s electricity is imported from other sources. At the same time, 6 percent of its power is sourced from coal. Compared to the state of Hawaii—which has also committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045—, California has a huge population. This detail means it will need to lay down massive infrastructure in order to sustain the power requirements for its cities, businesses and industries.

Renewable Energy in Colorado and Oher States: Making A Bold Impact

Still, the collective efforts of Nederland, Aspen, California and Hawaii are not only admirable, but they are also considered bold and innovative. These communities and their leaders have taken a strong stand toward a sustainable energy future. And this move veritably involves taking concrete measures to achieve their goals within the set deadlines and on top of working alongside local governments to ensure a smooth transition.

Taiwan’s Electricity Shortage: Economic Crisis May Occur

On August 15th at 5 pm (Taiwan time), 668,000 homes, multiple office buildings, commercial establishments, and city streets experienced sudden darkness because of an electricity shortage. Phone lines also went dead for a few hours as the rapid pace of this highly industrialized city, which supplies technical components to the biggest companies in the world, came to a grinding halt.

Considering the number of factories and industries operating in Taiwan, you’ve got an economic crisis waiting to happen should the electricity shortage continue.

Officials for the Taiwan Power Corporation (TaiPower) stated that six units at the Datan Power Station in Taoyuan, located at the South of Taipei, tripped due to human error. They lost four million kW of power – a loss, so massive Economics Minister Lee Chih-Kung had to resign.

Fortunately, airports, railways, and motorways were unaffected. However, traffic was brought to a standstill in some areas. Additionally, there were reports of people being trapped inside elevators and supermarkets when cellular phone signals failed.

Officials were able to restore electricity in the city after four long hours. The outage affected 17 cities. If Taiwan continues to burn as much power as it currently does, it is on its way to a major power crisis.  According to reports, power consumption rose in Taiwan days before the electricity shortage. The heat index soared to 38 degrees Celsius, which caused people to increase air conditioning usage inside their homes and offices.

Taiwan, the Power Guzzler

Quartz Media reports that Taiwan imports more than 98% of the energy it uses, which is mostly fossil fuel. Taiwan also has three nuclear power plants that source about 6.25% of its power supply.  Considering they are geopolitically isolated, it is unwise for Taiwan to rely on imports this heavily. Taiwan needs to take bold action to avert a crisis.

Electricity Shortage

TaiPower has been reminding the public, since January, that energy supplies are dangerously low. While the power company admitted fault and blamed human error for the massive electricity shortage, it was said that they issued a “red alert” warning before the incident. This was due to the heatwave, causing operating energy reserves to fall to a critical 1%.

Considering the number of factories and industries operating in Taiwan, you’ve got an economic crisis waiting to happen should the electricity shortage continue. The eye-opener here is that Taiwan, much like the rest of the world, has an outdated power infrastructure. They’re not capable – yet – of shifting to renewable energy sources since the state-run power company cannot raise how much they charge the public.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is vehemently against nuclear power and favors renewable energy alternatives. Nuclear isn’t a viable option for Taiwan, as its location makes it prone to earthquakes and natural disasters. The President earlier pledged a 20% increase to renewable energy by the year 2025.

The problem with choosing the renewable energy option is that this will require updating Taiwan’s power grid because it cannot currently accommodate wind and solar energy. Such upgrades would cost Taiwan some serious money, which would either come out of additional taxes or reluctantly increased power prices for the public.

Interestingly, parts of mainland China have been able to secure their footing when it comes to renewable energy. Thousands of wind turbines and solar panels have been installed in remote provinces within the last few years, to reduce urban smog. It has been said that China now has the most significant renewable power capacity in the world.

Taiwan is a separate issue. Unless it does something significant to fix its power system, four-hour of electricity shortage could become a recurring nightmare. Two things can be learned from this: citizens need to reduce the power they consume, and leaders need to consider alternative power sources before electricity shortage crash their economy severely.

Amazon Private Label Brands Experienced Huge Growth

In recent months, Inc., the Seattle-based e-commerce and cloud computing tech giant, invested heavily in their private label business. It’s a bold action to increase margins and secure spaces in the marketplace with vertical control.

Brands like Lark + Ro (women’s clothing), Buttoned Down (men’s shirts), and Amazon Essentials (staple clothing) all made the top ten; however, the kids clothing brand Scout + Ro was the most impressive year-over-year increase at 542%.

While products under their private labels aren’t easily recognizable as Amazon-made, they have been winning over an impressive number of customers; according to a recent report by 1010data. Most notably, the Amazon brands experiencing major growth are AmazonBasics, Amazon Elements, Scout + Ro; as well as devices like Kindle, Echo, and Fire TV.

1010data, a top analytics firm, regularly tracks Amazon’s private label businesses. According to their insights, Amazon’s private labels only made up 2% of the total units sold (excluding subscriptions and marketplace) in the first half of the year. However, the figures rose to 12% during Prime Day, the company’s summertime version of Black Friday, exclusive to Amazon Prime members.

Amazon is hardly the only company that has approached private label business methods. Lever Ponds, a Canadian subsidiary of Unilever, has private label products that rival Procter & Gamble’s. Walmart has countless brands such as Simply Basic (beauty and health), No Boundaries (clothing line), Sam’s Choice (retail food brand), Ol’ Roy (dog food), and many more. Target has attempted to conquer the private label sector time and again, recently adding exclusive brands such as Goodfellow & Co (men’s clothing), Project 62 (modern home furniture), and A New Day (women’s mix-and-match apparel). Grocery chain Trader Joe’s has a number of phantom brands as well; however, their private label Crispy Cookies was an alleged rip-off of Pepperidge Farm’s Milano cookies, which resulted in a lawsuit and negative press.

Amazon Phantom Brands, Real Results

So what separates Amazon from the rest? The main reason their phantom brands are performing phenomenally is because they put themselves in direct competition, and in large numbers. The astounding number of products and brands alone is more than people realize, and a majority of them have had at least some sort of success.

AmazonBasics has led in performance so far this year, as their line includes a large collection of “everyday essentials,” including batteries, pet supplies, office accessories, (non-Alexa) Bluetooth speakers, and a wide range of home goods. Overall, these account for about 2,000 products, pulling in over $200 million in sales in the first half of 2017.

Fashion plate of Amazon Private Label Brand

AmazonBasics was followed closely by the company’s private label electronics. Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle topped the list; respectively earning $120 million, $110 million, and $75 million in the same post-Prime Day time period. Based on the report, this group accounted for a combined 55% of the private label sales. Echo, Amazon’s voice-commanded smart speaker, has doubled their sales, up 101% year-over-year. Kindle Fire’s sales were even more remarkable, and nearly tripled with a 184% increase year-over-year.

Amazon Elements, one of the older private labels, is famous for its baby wipes. The household group recently expanded to include health supplements, and has subsequently contributed to the group’s $9.5 million sales in the past half year.

Amazon has developed successful lines of private-label clothing as well. Brands like Lark + Ro (women’s clothing), Buttoned Down (men’s shirts), and Amazon Essentials (staple clothing) all made the top ten; however, the kids clothing brand Scout + Ro was the most impressive year-over-year increase at 542%.

The e-commerce giant shows no signs of slowing down either, as a recent Quartz report revealed, Amazon has a number of new trademarks for currently unreleased private label brands. This bold strategy is a calculated one; private labels cater to Amazon’s bottom line of gaining better margins, regardless of whether these brands are marketed as their own or not.

Skills Gap In America: The Reason Why Employers Struggle To Find Right Candidates

Employers have reported difficulty in finding workers to fill approximately 6 million job openings. How can this happen when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 7.5 million people are unemployed and millions more are underemployed?

Should the private sector have a bigger role to play in solving this problem? Surprisingly, the private sector already spends over $164 billion each year to educate and train employees!

With those numbers, it seems like we should have a 0% unemployment rate.  So, what’s causing these employment challenges to remain a consistent issue? Most signs point towards a skills gap, which can be defined as the difference between the employer’s qualifications and the skills gap of employment-seekers have.

However, it is not so much a skills gap, as it is a skill and interest mismatch.

According to Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder, “The skills gap between the number of jobs posted each month and the number of people hired is growing larger as employers struggle to find candidates to fill positions at all levels within their organizations.” Ferguson labels this inability to find qualified workers as on average, a “nearly million-dollar problem for companies.”

To understand the impact of the problem, CareerBuilder surveyed representative samples of employers and employees across all private sector industries. Respondents point to a series of adverse effects, including productivity loss, higher employee turnover, lower morale, lower quality work, inability to grow the business, and revenue loss.

Additionally, the Department of Labor reports the labor force participation rate is declining and is significantly lower for segments of the population with a high school diploma.

The Manufacturing Institute points to three types of skill gaps in today’s workforce:

  • Lack of individuals with essential employability skills; including basic math, communication, reading and reading comprehension, collaboration, and problem-solving
  • Shortage of workers with specialized skills needed to fill trade positions
  • Lack of applicants with necessary STEM

Solving the Skills Gap

It makes sense that to address the problem; someone needs to focus on boosting interest as well as providing proper education and training. Will that someone is the government through improved public education and workforce development programs? Or could it be private industry, which so desperately needs the skilled workforce?

For starters, in spite of states spending over $630 billion per year for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States, it’s evident that the current public education system is failing to fill the gap.

job seekers and their skills gap

Unfortunately, if we look to the federal government to solve this problem, it is unlikely we will receive much help. Annually, the federal government provides funds to states for workforce development programs covered under The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). For the program year 2016, $10.5 billion was given to the states to pay for these programs.

Writing for The Hill, Opinion Contributor David Muhlhausen notes that on November 8, 2016, when most people were focused on the presidential election, the U.S. Labor Department quietly released an embarrassing report. The report concluded that all of the federal government’s primary job-training programs are relatively ineffective. This results in a significant deficiency between the training people receive and the training required to land high-demand jobs.

Should the private sector have a more significant role to play in solving this problem? Surprisingly, the private sector already spends over $164 billion each year to educate and train employees!

In spite of spending a combined $800 billion a year while working independently, the private sector, educational institutions, the government, and training providers are still missing the mark. Perhaps it’s not so much the amount of money being spent but how that money is being spent.

To enact successful change, there needs to be a bold collaboration among stakeholders—a consolidated, focused effort buying into one shared vision. It is critical to put the proper systems in place, to provide a well-educated and trained workforce who will meet societal and industry needs, both today and tomorrow.  Furthermore, the educational system needs to be re-engineered to produce student outcomes that address these needs. This improved education includes greater STEM emphasis and the addition of ‘soft skills.’

Additionally, private industry can partner with local schools to promote manufacturing and STEM expertise (in exciting ways). They can begin by providing classroom resources—like lesson plans, videos, and field trip opportunities.

Ultimately, the government and private sector need to join forces and declare trench warfare, to effectively fight the growing skills gap.