Central Vermont Public Service March 30, 2006The Ultimate in Recycling: Four more farms plan CVPS Cow Power” generators, receive grantsRUTLAND CVPS Cow Power” is on the moooove, with four Vermont farms receiving CVPS Renewable Development Fund grant offers totaling $666,000 to defray the cost of building new farm based electric generating systems to support the states largest renewable energy program, Central Vermont Public Service announced today.Farms in Sheldon, Fairlee, West Pawlet and St. Albans will receive the grants from the CVPS Renewable Development Fund, set up in 2004 to encourage farm owners to develop new renewable generation and provide new manure management options.These grants will help develop about 8,400 megawatt-hours of clean renewable energy right here in Vermont, CVPS President Bob Young said. Thats enough energy to supply 1,395 average homes using 500 kWh per month.CVPS Cow Power” is the nations only direct farm-to-consumer renewable energy program, working with dairy farmers who want to process their cow manure and other farm waste to generate electricity. More than 2,500 CVPS customers have enrolled in the program so far, which provides farms with new manure management options, environmental benefits and income. The process reduces emissions of methane, which is roughly 20 times more effective as a greenhouse gas at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.The reduced methane from these four farms will provide an environmental benefit equivalent to taking xxxx??? cars off the road, CVPS spokesman Steve Costello said.The four farms include:” Montagne Farms in St. Albans, two farms owned by Dave Montagne, with 1,200 cows expected to produce 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year;” Green Mountain Dairy in Sheldon, owned by Brian and Bill Rowell, with 1,050 cows expected to produce 1.7 million kilowatt-hours per year;” Newmont Farms in Fairlee, owned by Walter Gladstone, with 1,020 cows expected to produce 1.4 million kilowatt-hours per year;” And Deer Flats Farm in West Pawlet, owned by Dick and Rich Hulett, who plan to use surplus crops and 270 cows to produce 3.6 million kilowatt-hours per year.The farms need Vermont Public Service Board approval to interconnect the generators, but all hope to be on-line later this year. CVPSs first Cow Power producer, Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, has been generating energy for over a year, serving as an example to other farms. The Audet family, which operates Blue Spruce, says they have a new revenue stream, eliminated over $60,000 in bedding costs annually by using dry solids left over from the digestion process, and substantially cut fuel bills by using waste heat from the generator to heat the office, the milking parlor, and hot water used for washing the milking equipment.Cow Power has done everything wed hoped it would do for us, and more, Earl Audet said. Its given us new income stream, reduced our costs, provided us options for handling our manure, and virtually eliminated the odor of manure spreading.CVPS customers can sign up to get all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through CVPS Cow Power”. Customers pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour for CVPS Cow Power”, which goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isnt available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. Farm-producers are also paid 95 percent of the market price for the electricity sold to CVPS.To generate the biogas fuel, manure is held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cows stomach, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components of the manure, creating biogas while killing pathogens and weed seeds. The biogas, which is part methane, fuels an engine/generator, and the energy is put onto CVPSs power lines for delivery to customers.
Despite this momentum, my post-holiday glow quickly disappeared after reading the IPE article ‘Keep politics out of pensions’ by Daniel Ben-Ami. It seems to suggest the state of retirement incomes in the UK, particularly low balances, is due to the fact pension funds and asset managers spend too much time on ESG issues. At a more fundamental level, Ben-Ami posits that consideration of ESG issues, climate change and other external factors are in some way a drag on economic growth and hence the returns generated for beneficiaries.First, to suggest the state of UK retirement savings has anything to do with ESG considerations is clearly wrong. For that, you need to look at policy, design and regulation. Over the last decade, we have seen a slow move away from defined benefit to defined contribution (DC) funds, and a move to provide pensions for all employees, not just the luckiest by dint of employment. We need to remember that auto-enrolment for workplace pensions only commenced in the UK in 2012 at a rate of 2%, and the system is still in transition, with an increase to 8% only coming about in 2018. There are no mandated rules for matching additional contributions, and there are no mandated portability rules. Anyone who knows anything about retirement incomes knows the average worker in a DC fund needs to make contributions of 12-15% of salary on average across his working life to be able to retire with a comfortable pension.In addition, in the UK, we see the problems of investment management fees for retirement products being too high, excessive intermediation, too many funds and too much complexity. However, a national pension system has to start somewhere, and, no doubt, some of these issues will be addressed as it matures. The establishment of NEST was a good starting point.The wider question, however, needs to be addressed. To suggest a young 25 year old joining a pension fund today doesn’t need her fund to address the long-term material risks arising from issues like climate change, environmental sustainability, resource depletion or supply-change risks is a failure to understand what will drive value creation to 2050 or 2060 when our young worker may be retiring. A quick glance at the corporate philosophy of Unilever may provide a glimpse of how a UK-listed global corporation with a diverse footprint is balancing the risks and opportunities posed by these externalities to help ensure its licence to operate, and that shareholder value remains strong in the decades to come.There are many studies – most notably from Arabesque Asset Management/Oxford University, Mercer, Harvard University and others – which present hard data to show that consideration of ESG factors actually leads to investment outperformance, which is why investors are taking keen notice. At the end of the day, these are investment issues – they are not political issues except to the extent politicians often fail to address long-term risks in markets simply because they are often focussed on short-term issues that will help their re-election.Pension funds, however, are here for the long term, investing on behalf of a multi-generational group of stakeholders trying to match liabilities over a rolling lifetime of member horizons. Many pension funds in the UK are leading the way when it comes to responsible investment – to help, not hinder, their returns.Finally, anyone who doubts the benefits of looking at ESG considerations needs look no further than Volkswagen, a once-respected company that has lost market share, reputation and shareholder value, a stark example that all investors should heed.Fiona Reynolds is managing director at Principles for Responsible Investment Fiona Reynolds, managing director at Principles for Responsible Investment, responds to recent ‘Keep politics out of pensions’ article by Daniel Ben-AmiReturning to London from a few weeks’ holiday on the beach in Australia, I was reflecting on the state of responsible investment globally and feeling that, although there is work to do, there have been some changes in perception and a renewed recognition of the value of taking a long-term view on value creation, sustainability and risk management.In December, at COP21 in Paris, we witnessed the first concrete global agreement on climate change, with more than 180 country-based climate plans submitted to the UNFCCC. What set these climate talks apart was the significant role investors played throughout the summit and the importance of institutional capital as an integral component to countries implementing the investment inherent in their emissions plans. And it is not just in the climate sector where change has been occurring. In the US, where the acceptance and implementation of responsible investment has traditionally lagged behind Europe, the Department of Labour last October came out with some clarifying statements that ESG considerations in investment decision making is consistent with fiduciary duty. This decision dovetails with a growing body of research, which demonstrates that a sustainability-focused investment agenda can lead to market outperformance.
When the USC administration raised next year’s tuition by $2,006, Emily Wan heard all the reasons for this change. Wan, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, understood that the University needed to pay for increased student services and fund a large financial aid pool, all explanations Provost Michael Quick gave in a press release on March 1. But for Wan, the increase still caused financial difficulties.“There is a large portion of us who do not receive financial aid,” Wan said. “Of that large portion, a lot of us do not have the means of paying for it all [tuition]. A lot of us are not rich enough, wealthy enough to pay for the entire amount.”Although USC’s tuition increases are at a five-year average low, the anticipated 3.9 percent increase for the 2017-2018 school year is slightly higher than the average increases of 22 comparable universities across the nation. A Daily Trojan survey found that for the upcoming school year, the average increase in tuition at the universities will be 3.70 percent.These data indicate that USC’s increase is not unusual among its peer universities, and as a statement from the University pointed out, tuition only covers 78 percent of undergraduate education costs. But despite the use of this increase to fund student and academic services, in addition to instruction expenses, many students are still hit hard by higher costs and a lack of aid.Funding financial aidData from college websites Jenny Chung and Steven Kramer | Daily TrojanAccording to the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, published in-state tuition and fees between 2006 and 2017 at public four-year institutions increased at an average rate of 3.5 percent per year beyond inflation. During the same time period, average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year colleges rose by an average of 2.4 percent per year. USC’s increase is higher than the College Board’s findings and the average of the 22 universities surveyed. According to the University, this increase is due to rising costs for technology, salaries and academic services. “Along with most universities, our costs related to educating students increase every year,” the University said in a statement sent to the Daily Trojan on April 20. “Among those costs are instruction expenses — including faculty salaries and benefits — student services, and academic support. And even with the increases, undergraduate student tuition still does not cover the full costs of education.”In the March 1 press release, Quick stated that USC also hopes to mitigate costs for students through a large financial aid pool. The Financial Aid Office could not be reached to confirm whether increasing financial aid opportunities was the direct reason for the tuition hike. But although USC spent $528 million on financial aid in the last year, and over half of all students receive some form of financial assistance, many students still struggle to pay their expected family contribution every year. Struggling studentsSome students have even been forced to consider dropping out of school or taking a break from college because of USC’s steep price tag. That’s exactly what sophomore architecture major Steven Montoya had to do last semester after his family members realized they could not afford what the University expected them to pay. “After the financial aid package had been applied for my first year, I only had to pay about $2,000, but it turns out that amount is very hard to deal with for my family,” Montoya said. “It came to a point where having to pay that amount was too difficult, so I had to declare a leave of absence last semester.” Montoya declared the leave of absence as a last-resort option.“I didn’t [appeal the financial aid award] because I felt like I had done everything I could to help mitigate the costs,” Montoya said. “I feel like if I had asked them again, they would probably say something under the lines of, ‘You should consider private loans,’ which I definitely don’t want to do because of the interest rates being higher and because they don’t have the flexibility of paying them back like the federal loans do.” Montoya, who is switching from the five-year architecture program at USC to the four-year program, hopes that next year’s tuition increase does not put him in the position where he must take another leave of absence and further postpone his graduation. “With this recent financial aid increase, I guess it’s going to be a little harder for me,” Montoya said. “I really don’t want to have to [take a leave of absence] again. It interrupts your whole academic path. Even though I am switching over to the four-year program, I know I am still going to graduate with the rest of the five-years. You have a certain pathway you’re going down, and with that leave of absence, you’re just like side-winded.” The absence of aidEven though Wan is in a different financial position than Montoya, she is also concerned about USC’s tuition increase for the 2017-2018 school year, because she has taken out loans to pay for her education. “I do not receive any financial aid from the school, nor do I receive any federal work-study or anything of the sort,” Wan said. “So the only money that I’m getting is loans that I’ve applied for and gotten and will be paying off for many years. Just because I do not receive any financial aid does not mean I can afford to pay the entirety of the tuition.” Wan represents the portion of students at USC who are not affected by the University’s goal of mitigating tuition costs with financial aid.“I am taking out a lot of loans, and by Nikias or the administration raising the tuition prices, they are basically just forcing me to pay more,” Wan said. Although Montoya and Wan are in different financial situations, they both agree that the University’s financial aid system can do more for students and their families. “The best thing for [financial aid] to do is to really be very sensitive to what families are going through,” Montoya said. “Every family, when they apply for financial aid, [is] going through hardships sometimes. You know, not everyone has the same income levels or the same degree of privilege.” Natalie Balladarsch contributed to this report.