Clean Power Blog


When Eric Graham walked through the doors at the 2013 Boston Cleanweb Hackathon, his intentions were strictly business.

Working at the time for Next Step Living, a sponsor of the event, Graham’s role at the Hackathon was managerial and observational. He was there to ensure things ran smoothly, and to watch the area’s best innovators at work. He didn’t know that within a few hours, he’d be out there on the floor with them.

“I didn’t plan to compete,” Graham said. “It just happened.”

Graham formed a team, and together they developed an idea: use crowdsourcing and smartphone software to allow building occupants to report issues -- like cold drafts and broken light fixtures -- to the appropriate building managers in real time.

Their idea won.

The Boston Cleanweb Hackathon, an event organized by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in partnership with Greentown Labs, is an annual technology competition where big thinkers from across the tech sector converge. The challenge: create a new, user-friendly digital application to help consumers and businesses use energy and natural resources more efficiently, and do it all in a single weekend. 

This year’s Hackathon kicks off at 6 p.m. on April 10th at WeWork South Station in Boston. The winning teams will receive cash and other prizes.

Last week, a new report from the International Energy Agency gave us all a bit of good news: in 2014, for the first time in 40 years, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely regarded as the primary contributor to climate change, did not rise.

It’s cause for celebration, to be sure, and the data hints that efforts to reduce carbon emissions -- legislative pushes, educational campaigns, business incentives -- could be making headway. But current emissions levels remain dangerously high. And despite the rise of renewable energy, carbon-emitting fossil fuels still provide 87 percent of our global energy supply.

So what can we do to ease the pressure on our environment? Renewables are essential to our energy future. Energy efficiency measures have proven simple and cost-effective. But if we want to achieve our emissions reduction goals, we can’t look away from fossil fuels. Instead, we need to face them head on.

Enter carbon capture and storage, or CCS, a process by which carbon dioxide, or CO2, is removed from power plants using chemical processes and transported via pipeline for permanent storage deep underground.

When people think of New England, they think of two things: the American Revolution, and seafood.

The character of New England is forever tied to the ocean. The Hub boasts being one of America’s original port cities. From clam chowder to lobster, New Englanders have always enjoyed the benefits of a healthy, thriving marine economy.

But due to changes in the environment, those resources are increasingly threatened by a process dubbed by some scientists as the “evil twin of climate change”: ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification occurs when seawater pH drops below natural levels. When carbon dioxide, or CO2, is released into the air, the world’s oceans absorb nearly a quarter of it, particularly oceans in colder climates like New England’s. CO2 reacts with water molecules to form carbonic acid, resulting in a lower pH.

CO2 emissions have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for energy. In that time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that surface ocean waters have become about 30 percent more acidic.

By the year 2100, NOAA estimates that ocean acidity could rise by a whopping 150 percent; higher than it’s been in 20 million years.