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Home arrow Blog arrow Seeking Alternative Energy Solutions

Seeking Alternative Energy Solutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Aart de Geus, Carl Guardino   
Tuesday, 17 October 2006
This year, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group looked at our long-term mission of reducing traffic congestion, supporting public transit, improving energy efficiency, enhancing our environment and increasing housing through smart-growth policies. Monday, October 16, 2006

John Muir said nearly a century ago, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

That's the good news. It means that each of us can address overwhelming challenges, complex issues and diffuse responsibilities by taking action. It means we can do it both right now and right here. And it is especially true, and convenient, as we look at what we must do as individuals, businesses, communities and governments to develop alternative-energy solutions to tackle issues ranging from reducing America's dependence on foreign oil to taking on global climate change.

That's why this year the Silicon Valley Leadership Group looked at our long-term mission of reducing traffic congestion, supporting public transit, improving energy efficiency, enhancing our environment and increasing housing through smart-growth policies. Taken together, we realized it is a very strong foundation for regional leadership to reduce greenhouse gases.

As a result, our board of directors, representing more than 200 employers and a quarter-million Silicon Valley employees, this year developed a 14-point initiative on climate change.

Our initiatives call for both short-term and long-term strategies. We're focusing on measurable and concrete actions by both individuals and organizations, as well as policymakers at all levels of government. We're urging changes in personal choices and changes in public and private investments. We're looking for voluntary commitment and collaborative solutions. And we are looking for others to join us in this call to action, because this is a global challenge that requires leadership in every community and region.

To launch an innovative action agenda today, Novellus Systems will host the inaugural "Alternative Energy CEO Summit," a call to action at the individual, corporate, community and public-policy levels. Novellus CEO Richard Hill and President Sass Somekh, with no direct business interest for their company, are passionately committed to executive action. With luncheon keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., more than 200 CEOs and senior officers will explore innovative ways that Silicon Valley citizens can impact positive change in each area of this issue.

Take transportation. Please. We have long been advocates to reduce solo-driven vehicles, bring BART to Silicon Valley, and encourage alternate commuting such as bicycles. We've aimed at relieving traffic congestion and improving quality of life for residents and employees. But this combination also takes cars off the road, which means less fuel burned, cleaner air and less dependence on fossil fuels.

Our energy policies intersect with our transportation goals, with similar benefits. We're calling for more hybrid and electric vehicles, and we're asking local businesses and institutions to help create markets with their fleet decisions. For instance, Hyperion Solutions' CEO Godfrey Sullivan offers their global employees a $5,000 bonus if they buy an automobile that gets at least 45 mpg. To date, more than 150 employees have voted with their pocketbooks to make a difference. For every 25 employees who purchase a hybrid, we collectively save a tanker-truck's worth of fuel per year.

We're asking business and government to share information and best practices to reduce energy use and develop renewable alternatives. We're looking at innovative approaches to use our collective strength to achieve essential changes that reduce greenhouse emissions with greater public involvement.

We are already a regional leader to create homes that families can afford, but now our housing policies incorporate advocacy for "green building" practices. These practices, in homes or businesses, include sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Green building is becoming a new standard because it reduces the costs for homeowners and businesses over the life of the facility while saving natural resources.

There certainly is a critical role for government to demonstrate leadership to reduce greenhouse gases. Despite progress this year in Sacramento on greenhouse gases, however, we can't wait for government to create regulations that affect business operations. We have to act ourselves, as business leaders, to make a quantifiable difference now. Our future depends on it.

In California, and Silicon Valley, we know that "green is gold." In 2005, venture-capital investment in "green and clean tech" exceeded $1.6 billion, with $3 of every $10 flowing to California companies. Green and clean tech companies are those working on technologies good for the environment, including capturing solar energy and hybrid vehicle technology. Simply put, innovation spurs job creation, economic prosperity and environmental protection.

As Muir pointed out, it is all connected. Business success, quality of life and a sustainable environment are not in opposition. They are related, and we can make positive progress in each area together. Each of us. Here. Now. That's the necessary truth that, fortunately, is also convenient.

Aart de Geus is CEO of Synopsys and the immediate past chair of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). Carl Guardino is CEO of SVLG. www.svlg.net.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 October 2006 )
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