Why referral programs struggle (and what to do about it)

first_imgPeople like to share. We share in many different ways, across many different mediums, about a variety of topics. Ideas and information spread from one person to another, and along the way we often add our opinions and make a message uniquely our own.This type of “word-of-mouth” communication has existed since our earliest days. Whether it was the best place to hunt for a boar, the best fishing hole, or the best credit union to use, we all love to share ideas, information and advice.For marketers, the transmission of a brand message via word of mouth is tied closely with our use of social media today. The impact and power of word of mouth can be shown in the effectiveness of a good referral marketing program. However, most credit unions do not get the benefit they expect from a referral marketing program. Why?For the answer, we can turn to the psychology behind word of mouth communication: why do people share? With whom do they choose to share? How do they share?The Psychology of Word of MouthI recently read an article from the Journal of Consumer Psychology on word of mouth communication and was reminded of most important psychological reasons behind how we share. (I won’t go through all of these functions in this article, but will break down different pieces in future articles and blog posts. You can check out the article here for an in depth review: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057740814000369)For any individual, sharing content or information serves one (or more) of 5 key functions: impression management, emotion regulation, information acquisition, social bonding and persuasion. These functions tend to serve the individual sender, rather than the receiver of the message. The audience, as well as the method of transmission, can also significantly impact the effectiveness of the message.The researchers found that the stronger the tie with our audience, the more emotive and persuasive we can be. The weaker the tie, the more time we spend carefully crafting our message in attempt to control how we are perceived by that audience.  This is particularly true when sharing with individuals we know only casually, as we do not have a lengthy life history to fall back on should the audience disagree with what we are saying. In addition, the brands we associate ourselves with are critically important in shaping our online and offline persona, making us careful about what we share publicly on a site like Facebook where we typically foster a larger number of relationships with weaker ties.Another significant factor in information-transmission is whether this is shared online or offline. As we often tell our clients, the majority (80%+) of referrals still happen via an in-person, word of mouth exchange. But this is changing rapidly. As social media tools and real time communications continue to permeate our lives, more and more people are communicating and sharing online. Case in point, my 76 year old dad just got an iPad and is using it to FaceTime with my 4 month old niece. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!In addition, there are definitely some interesting differences in online vs offline communications:Online, and therefore “written” communication drives people to talk about more interesting products and brands, receiving more online discussion, with messages in a more positive tone. Written communications often enable people to transmit a deeper level of knowledge that can be more permanent, referenced and can seem more important or serious in tone.Offline, or “verbal” communication encourages people to discuss topics that are top of mind, requiring the information to be accessible. Verbal communications also tend to drive more social bonding, reinforcing a more shared view of the world. This enables two or more people in an in-depth conversation to get on the same page faster, and often more persuasively.So what does this all mean for your referral program?Referral marketing programs, when done right, are tremendously successful, and a very low cost method of acquiring new, highly loyal members. Yet most credit union referral programs struggle for a few key reasons:The programs only run for short periods of time as campaignsThe program is difficult to find, or buried deep on a websiteThe program is not communicated consistently to membersFew social media channels are available for referralsNo method of recording “offline” or true word-of-mouth referralsConsistent and PersistentThe most successful referral programs have a holistic approach to capturing referral behaviors, running consistently and persistently. This means that the program is straightforward, easily understood by members and consistently marketed to the member across a variety of channels (web, social, email and in-branch). The program must also be persistent: the program should not simply be a short-term campaign designed to quickly boost member acquisition. Rather, the tenure of the program will lead to better results.Why? Your members may not always be in a position to refer your credit union “right now”. Without trust that the program is persistently up and running, they will lack the confidence required to make that referral when the time is right for them. Plus, reminding them of the program on a regular basis keeps it top of mind.Regular communication of your referral program reminds your members that the program exists, that there are rewards available to them, and they can give back to their credit union by participating. After all, they are with you for your community.Accessibility – Online and OfflineHaving the program be accessible, and easy to find on your website thus makes it easier for members to make a quick referral. Even better, a mobile-optimized referral system enables your members to make referrals instantly and easily in any situation. Having the program equipped to share via many social channels also increases the reach of the referral message, while exposing your credit union’s brand to your member’s friends and family – a tacit recommendation that has value all its own.Finally, the Referral Holy Grail is ensuring your program can capture and record verbal referrals in branch, or even through your call center reps.Now when you consider strong ties and weak ties, combined with online and offline communication differences, it becomes clear how a holistic approach to referrals can capture the majority of situations where referrals occur. And most importantly, this approach actually influences and drives referrals to happen.A consistently marketed program will drive individuals to make referrals on a more regular basis. In many situations, a simple touch point from your credit union can notably impact direct online referral behavior. This is particularly true when a member has made a successful referral and received an award, significantly driving their motivation to refer again.Offline – aka in the “real world” – a program that is top of mind and persistently available gives members confidence they can provide a referral instantly when they are having that conversation with a colleague about how much they hate their big bank. After singing the virtues of your credit union, all they have to do is pull out their Android or iPhone, and quickly make a referral.As the level of marketing noise in the market place has gone up dramatically, consumers increasingly turn to friends and family for personal recommendations. In fact, Nielsen reports that consumers are four times more likely to make a purchase when recommended by a friend. This proves word of mouth marketing and referrals are here to stay, continuing to provide more value as our inboxes and Facebook feeds are cluttered with news, posts, ads and photos of cats. Not that anyone can resist a cute cat photo now and then!We want to hear from you!We have recently launched a short survey for Credit Union marketers, which includes a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card! Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CU_Mktg 61SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Rob Goehring Rob Goehring is the CEO of RewardStream, a leader in automated referral marketing solutions for credit unions, financial services and telecommunications companies. Rob has 20 years experience leading high growth … Web: www.rewardstream.com Detailslast_img read more

ITB BERLIN 2019 – What does the future hold for us?

first_imgThe world’s largest “think-thanks” about tourism has just ended. He gave us materials to think and write for a whole year. After years of monitoring, I can say that trends are announced here that will only become “mainstream”. Just when you get used to the new situation, a new change is already announced… IT MAY SEEM TOO SCIENTIFICALLY, BUT THESE CHANGES ARE COMING In general, there is pressure to reduce long-distance travel and increase short journeys for which multimodular transport systems can be used: rail + car shearing, bike shearing. In the future, buildings should be built of wood, not reinforced concrete (wood is renewable, trees absorb CO2, and the use of wood as a building material does not produce as much CO2 as the use of reinforced concrete). The number of trips is growing from year to year due to low prices (economy), increasing connections in air transport (availability), digital technology (ease of booking). Travel has become an integral part of every man’s life, even a necessity of life. On this basis, the tourism sector with ancillary services is making strong progress.On the other hand, there are growing demands to reduce the number of passengers in some destinations due to “overtourism”. New taxes are being introduced, such as passes to enter the city; representatives of the luxury tourism segment emphasize that travel is not everyone’s right but only someone’s privilege. LIFE ON THE SCALE The World Tourism Organization promotes the development of sustainable and responsible tourism, tourism that benefits the local community, that preserves the environment, cultural heritage, traditions and people in the local community. Then again, there are observations from some circles that family accommodation, in the community, is harmful, that it has a devastating effect on the tourism industry and that it encourages “overtourism”. But that’s why corporations are building beautiful, environmentally friendly resorts in destinations where there is a lack of capacity, they are building new cruise ships because everyone wants to sail into the Grand Canal in Venice… Mankind is rapidly wasting the time left to repair the severe consequences of excessive CO2 emissions. Everything looks like a reconstruction of major accidents in the documentary series “Minutes to Disaster”. Tourism is one of the causes, but also the losers of climate change. One of the world’s greatest experts on climate impacts, Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Hansach Schellnhuber, director emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was very specific in his presentation. Global warming is melting the ice, raising the sea level, and thus the beaches are disappearing, and in the future all the big cities on the coast. As a result, the most attractive attractions for travel disappear. EXISTING TRENDS AND THE FUTURE To stop global warming at + 1,5 degrees Celsius, we need to halve CO2 emissions every ten years. If we do not achieve this, crossing the critical limit of 2 degrees Celsius will activate that almost unbelievable scenario of the disappearance of the current coastal belt on all continents. The cuts are very painful. Especially for the tourism industry. The introduction of alternative fuel for ships (LNG as a transition fuel, reintroduction of wind power, etc.), reduction of the number of flights on intercontinental routes and the abolition of short flights between cities in the same country are requested. A large investment is required in connecting Europe by high-speed rail. Global warming is also affecting the Gulf Stream, which is losing intensity and direction. If this changes significantly, the coasts of Western Europe will be hit by severe cold. Due to rising sea temperatures and higher acidity (CO2 that dissolves in the sea), coral reefs are disappearing. All this affects life and tourism. Tourism, on the other hand, is to blame for 8% of global CO2 emissions, with the largest emissions coming from aircraft and large ships. One large ship emits an amount of CO2 equal to that emitted by as many as a million cars. SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE TOURISMcenter_img CONTRADICTIONS For some time to come, the volume of tourist traffic will grow according to current trends. Especially after Chinese companies set out strongly to conquer the Western market. However, by force or favor over the next ten years, tourist flows could return to the regional context. Leading German climatologists and economists agree. There are many other reasons besides “overtourism”, “plastic pollution”, the extinction of coral reefs, but also trade relations among the biggest “players” on the world stage that affect the future of tourism. GOOD NEWS FOR CROATIA WHAT EXPECTS US IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS? Good accessibility by road from the largest emitting tourist markets for Croatia is certainly a great advantage. The ecological transport transition has hit road transport the hardest, the results are optimistic and we need to build our future tourism strategy on that. From Berlin for HrTurizam.hr, Nedo PInezić, www.nedopinezic.com Summing up the impressions from this year’s ITB, I try to define some unique conclusion. However, to make it easier for myself and you, dear readers, to explain what is going on, I have decided to break down that final message. From 1860 and the beginning of the first industrial revolution until 2020, the planet “raised” its average temperature by 1,5 degrees Celsius. Professor Schellnhuber compares such a “small” increase in temperature to an increase in body temperature. This increase indicates a disease that the body is fighting. A larger increase in temperature entails more severe consequences, too high a temperature leads to death. The same thing happens with the earth. The increase in temperature affects the intensity and frequency of the “jetstream”, a “wavy wind” that blows at an altitude of 20.000 meters above the ground at a speed of 300 km / h from west to east. Changes in this wind bring intense periods of drought, heat or heavy rainfall with hurricanes, floods. The German car industry is already following the agenda presented by Prof. Schellnhuber. It is planned that by 2030, as many as 30% of cars in traffic will be electric cars. Cars will be less and less bought by private persons, but an innovative system of “car sharing” will be used. Increasing taxes on CO2 are also envisaged, which could affect airlines and, indirectly, air travel. Ships already have to gradually switch to alternative fuels, primarily LNG. The entire tourism sector is required to adopt a “Less CO2 strategy”. So far, something similar is happening with the disposable plastic removal plan (large hotel chains, cruising companies ().last_img read more

Joseph Mariathasan: ESG investing – beyond virtue signalling

first_imgSource: IcelandAn Iceland store in Fulham, LondonIt was certainly successful as an ad campaign, as by early December 2018 figures from industry newswire PRWeek showed that the advert had been viewed 65m times across social media and Iceland’s own channels, making it “one of the most viewed Christmas campaigns of all time”, according to PRWeek’s report. Moreover, it appears its success helped to shift the dial in how consumers perceive the brand, as well as providing an uplift to sales.Banning palm oil completely, however, is actually quite bizarre. Making supply chains sustainable is the key to ending large-scale tropical deforestation, declares lobby group Global Canopy, and even Greenpeace declares that palm oil can be grown without destroying rainforests.Palm oil itself is the most efficient source of vegetable oil, providing – according to some estimates – a third of the world’s vegetable oils from just 10% of the land used for all oil crops. Replacing palm oil with other edible oil sources may require five times the land currently being used for palm oil, according to this column from the Oxford Student newspaper. It is five times more efficient than both rapeseed sunflower oils and up to nine times more efficient than corn and soya.Banning widely used commodities altogether is a nuclear option that should only be undertaken when strictly necessary. What matters is that commodities are sourced from ethically aware companies that produce them in a sustainable and responsible manner. One investment theme that will only grow stronger in 2019 is that of incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.Few fund managers are willing to stand up and declare that they do not take ESG criteria into account, but how many actually move beyond ‘virtue signalling’?ESG advocates often argue that such investment policies and approaches make sense because ESG-focused funds outperform – but proving those results may be a red herring. Companies themselves are under increasing pressure – and rightly so – to take ESG issues seriously, but to do so may require a more detailed approach to analysing supply chains than headline-grabbing actions with questionable motivations. Frozen food company Iceland made headlines in April 2018 when it announced a ban on the use of all palm oil in its products by the end of 2018. It also produced an advertisement based on a shortened film from campaign group Greenpeace highlighting the detrimental impact of palm oil plantations on the environment, closing with the emotive phrase: “Dedicated to the 25 orang-utans we lose every day.”Was this the actions of an enlightened firm driven by the desire to ensure impeccable ESG credentials? Or was this just a cynical marketing strategy of virtue signalling guaranteed to hit the headlines and encourage the ethically minded to switch their weekly shopping to Iceland?center_img Credit: Bishnu SarangiA palm oil plantation in Karnataka, IndiaNot only does that provide valuable income to, in many cases, poor communities across the globe, it also encourages the growth of sustainable and ethical practices in agriculture and mining through the pressure that global consumer companies can apply to the companies in their supply chains.Ensuring that commodities are obtained from acceptable sources, not banning them, must be the key. Determining the nature of the sourcing of products may have been a problem in the past but is certainly not the case now.There are many organisations that have focused on looking at supply chains in detail and the required information is available online. Trase, for example, uses publicly available data to map the links between consumer countries via trading companies to the places of production in unprecedented detail. The results can be quite surprising.For ESG investing to succeed as a strategy, what is required is less of the virtue signalling and public posturing, and more real analysis of supply chains and decision-making based on encouraging behaviour by companies that is ethical, sustainable and fair to all their stakeholders.Rather than banning the use of palm oil – or, indeed, any other agricultural produce – the world would be better off if more attention was paid to global supply chains with entities involved in every step sharing the responsibility for placing commodity production on a more sustainable footing.last_img read more

FAI chief ‘should face questions’

first_img Press Association Members of the Oireachtas sports and tourism committee, which is due to meet on Wednesday, have suggested FAI chief executive Delaney should appear before them to answer a series of questions over the matter, which sparked global headlines last week. Committee chairman, Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony, told the Irish Independent: “There are governance issues arising here and the FAI does receive taxpayers’ funds. This will be considered by the committee members.” Reports of the payment, which was described in the confidentiality agreement between FIFA and the FAI as an “inducement”, initially emerged last year, but it was confirmed for the first time by Delaney and then FIFA last week. The governing body handed over the cash to head off the prospect of legal action over the Republic of Ireland’s heartbreaking 2009 World Cup play-off defeat by France, during which Thierry Henry’s blatant handball during the build-up to the decisive goal was not spotted by the match officials. Another committee member, Labour TD Michael McCarthy, said: “The arrival of five million euros into the FAI coffers in 2010, a time of nationwide financial distress, appears to have gone unremarked. “How was such a large sum of money handled and transferred, and how does it relate to accounting practices generally? These are just some of the questions which arise and the public are entitled to answers. “That is why I believe the FAI should provide the committee with the answers it needs.” The calls echoed that of Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis, who said earlier in the week: “It is in the best interests of the FAI and football as a whole that the Oireachtas Committee and Mr Delaney can meet for a frank discussion on this payment rather than allow rumours and doubt to grow over the actions of our national football association on the international stage.” The story overshadowed preparations for Sunday’s historic friendly against England, the first in the city for 20 years, which ultimately unfolded as a drab 0-0 draw. Manager Martin O’Neill did his best to side-step the issue at his pre-match press conference on Saturday, and was equally unforthcoming after the game as he turned his attention to this weekend’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland. He said: “I’ll discuss it sometime, okay? I haven’t the time to do it really here. Do you know what? I will when it’s done and dusted. “Absolutely, I’ll just put my seal of approval or disapproval on it. Seriously.” center_img John Delaney could be called before an Irish government committee to explain how FIFA’s controversial five million euro loan to the Football Association of Ireland remained under the radar. last_img read more

Shaban sent off as Swaziland holds Uganda’s Hippos

first_imgMuhammad Shaban of Uganda (l) celebrates goal with teammates Shafiq Kagimu of Uganda (c) and Stephen Mukwala of Uganda (r) during the 2017 COSAFA U20 football match between Uganda and Swaziland at Arthur Davies Stadium, Kitwe on 8 December 2017. COURTESY PHOTO/CosafaMedia/BackpagePixCOSAFA U20: Swaziland 2  ?? Uganda 2CECAFA: South Sudan 1  ?? Uganda 5Kitwe, Zambia | INDEPENDENT & AFP | Swaziland threw group A of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships open by picking their first point in 2-2 draw with highly fancied Uganda.While the result kept Uganda top of the group, they got a big blow when their lead goalscorer Muhammad Shaban was sent off after a second caution.Shaban had scored the two goals as Uganda’s Hippos beat African champions Zambia in the opener on Wedneday, and had struck one of the two goals today against Swaziland.Only the top team in each pool and the best runner-up advance to the semifinals that will be played on December 14.FRIDAY’S RESULTSGroup CAngola 0 Namibia 1 (Mungendje 14’)Group AUganda 2 (Shaban 30’, Okello 52’) Swaziland 2 (Tsabedze 24’, Mamba 90’)Malawi 0 Zambia 0STANDINGSGroup A                           P            W          D           L            GF         GA        GD              Pts Uganda                            2            1            1            0            4            2            +2              4Malawi                            2            1            1            0            3            2            +1              4Swaziland                       2            0            1            1            4            5            -1              1Zambia                            2            0            1            1            0            2            -2              1Group B                           P            W          D           L            GF         GA        GD              PtsSouth Africa                   1            1            0            0            2            0            +2              3Egypt                                1            1            0            0            1            0            +1              3Mozambique                 1            0            0            1            0            1            -1              0Mauritius                        1            0            0            1            0            2            -2              0Group C                           P            W          D           L            GF         GA        GD              PtsNamibia                          1            1            0            0            1            0            +1              3Lesotho                           1            0            1            0            0            0            0              1 Share on: WhatsApp ****Uganda mauls South SudanHolders Uganda thrashed South Sudan 5-1 to secure their first victory in the Cecafa Cup in Kakamega on Friday.Kampala City Council forward Derrick Nsibambi grabbed a brace while Milton Karisa, Hood Kawessa and Nicholas Wadada added a goal each to tear South Sudan to shreds in their Group B clash.The defeat condemned the Bright Stars to their second straight loss after going down 3-0 to Ethiopia in their first match on Tuesday.Uganda rose to the top of the table level on four points with Burundi, who thrashed third-placed Ethiopia 4-1 on Thursday.Karisa and Kawessa put Uganda into the early lead with two quick goals in the 7th and 10th minutes before Atak Lual pulled one back for the Bright Stars after 26 minutes.Nsibambi stretched the Ugandan lead on the half hour after being set up by Allan Kyambadde.Nsibambi, who spearheaded Uganda’s second half display of extraordinary power, added his second of the match in the 58th minute and had a hand in the fifth goal, scored by Nicholas Wadada four minutes from the end.Uganda play Ethiopia in their final group match on Sunday.Uganda Cranes XI: Benjamin Ochan (GK), Nico Wakiro Wadada, Isaac Muleme, Timothy Awany, Bernard Muwanga (Captain),  Ibrahim Sadam Juma, Allan Kyambadde (75′ Daniel Isiagi), Derrick Nsibambi, Muzamiru Mutyaba (45′ Tom Masiko), Hood Kaweesa and Milton Karisa (67′ Paul Mucureezi)center_img Zimbabwe                      1            0            1            0            0            0            0              1Angola                             1            0            0            1            0            1            -1              0TOURNAMENT STATSMatches Played: 8Goals scored: 15Biggest victory: Zambia 0 Uganda 2 (Group A, December 6)Most goals in a game: 5 – Swaziland 2 Malawi 3 (Group A, December 6)GOALSCORERS3 goals – Muhammad Shaban (Uganda).2 – Lyle Foster (South Africa), Order Mamba (Swaziland), Patrick Phiri (Malawi), Muzi Tsabedze (Swaziland).1 – Hussein Abdelkader (Egypt), Peter Banda (Malawi), Enzo Mungendje (Namibia), Allan Okello (Uganda).last_img read more

Florida mother arrested after attempting to kill her three children

first_imgAuthorities in Hialeah are reporting that they have arrested a 31-year-old mother after she attempted to strangle her three young children.The incident was reported Saturday night on the 1300 block of Palm Avenue.According to the report, Ailenys Carmenate brought her 6-month-old into a bedroom with  her 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter and told them to go to bed. She then locked the door and turned out the lights. While the children laid in their beds, they heard Carmenate tell someone on the phone that she killed her 6-month-old.The older children then found their mother pressing her elbow to the infant’s neck.  That’s when the 9-year-old jumped up and began pulling her mother’s hair and biting her in an attempt to stop her.Carmenate’s boyfriend and the father of the 6-month-old Roy Montano was in the shower at the time, but heard the commotion coming from inside of the room. He then went to go find out what was happening and found that the door was locked.Eventually the 12-year-old was able to unlock the door and let Montano inside of the room.When Carmenate saw Montano had gotten into the room, she switched positions and began strangling the 6-month-old with both hands. Montano tried to push Carmenate off of the baby but Carmenate’s grip was so tight that the baby fell with her. Montano was eventually able to free the baby but by that time, the baby was unconscious.Montano then fled the scene with the baby and the two other children attempted to follow.  Carmenate, however, managed to grab the 12-year-old and began strangling him. 9-year-old began fighting her mother and the 12-year-old managed to get away. That’s when Carmenate began strangling the 9-year-old. Eventually the 9-year-old was also able to escape.The 6-month-old was said to have suffered a head injury and had strangulation marks around her neck while the 9-year-old suffered similar marks.Carmenate was immediately taken into custody. She has since been taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center where she faces charges of child abuse, kidnapping and attempted murder.last_img read more

Spartans track, swimming standouts commit to colleges

first_imgRed Bluff >> Track and cross country runner Naomi Renfroe and swimmer Julia Brandt celebrated the last day of school Thursday by signing letters of intent to attend Vanguard University and Lewis and Clark College, respectively, on athletic scholarships.Renfroe got her start running 5K events when she was 12 and focused on long distant events while a student at Vista Middle School. That passion extended into high school, where she ran the 3,200M, 1,600M and 800M events on the track team and 5K …last_img read more

Black cutworm and armyworm counts on the rise

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Last week, both Purdue University and the University of Kentucky reported high black cutworm catches. In addition, UKY caught a large number of armyworms in one of their traps.  Both of these moth species migrate into our area, lay eggs, and the developing larvae can be significant pests of corn and wheat.Black cutworm—Females like to lay eggs in fields with heavy weed cover; weeds like chickweed are especially favored by black cutworm. As these weeds are killed by tillage or herbicide, the larvae move to emerging corn.  Unfortunately, there aren’t good “pre-control” options.  Although there are some hotspots for egg laying, these predictions are far from exact. Insecticidal seed treatments do not offer much protection, and tank-mixing an insecticide with early burn-down has limited efficacy if scouting has not been done to see if larvae are present.  Instead, we recommend rescue treatments which are very effective in controlling damage.  If more than 3% of corn are showing damage, corn is in the V2-V6 stage, and larvae are less than 1 inch, treatment may be needed. We will provide updates over the next few weeks as planting begins (hopefully…) and if damage is reported.Armyworm—Females like to eggs in grasses, especially wheat, where egg hatch occurs over a couple of weeks.  As the larvae develop, they can defoliate wheat plants, leading to yield loss. If corn is planted into wheat fields or other grassy cover, then, like black cutworms, armyworms can also move onto corn.  Again, like black cutworm, the best way to control armyworm is scouting and rescue treatments. We rarely see economic damage from armyworm, except in outbreak years and it is too early to know if this year is an outbreak. We will provide updates over the next few weeks.last_img read more

Germany’s Bioenergy Villages

first_imgThe notion that a village can produce as much energy as it consumes is not new in Germany, nor is it exclusive to this country that has set aggressive targets for renewable energy use. In the mid-1990s, for example, the Austrian village of Güssing began implementing strategies to use local biomass to produce electricity and heat, and the Danish island community of Samsø installed wind turbines to meet its electrical needs.In recent years, however, the idea of Bioenergiedörfer, or “bioenergy villages,” seems to have captured the public imagination in Germany. Last month I attended a conference called “Bioenergy Villages 2014” that provided a great overview of the bioenergy village movement in Germany. Energy security and affordabilityAlthough bioenergy villages have characteristics in common with one another, they may differ widely in form. As one speaker at the conference put it, “The commonality of bioenergy villages is their broad individuality.” In other words, there is not one prescription for success. Bioenergy villages vary in organizational structure, raw materials used, technology installed, and financing models employed. However, these communities tend to have common goals.The most frequently expressed motivation for developing a bioenergy village is to ensure the future availability and affordability of energy supplies. Second on the list is to keep money in the local economy. A quote that surfaced several times during the conference comes from 19th century German cooperative pioneer Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen: “Das Geld des Dorfes dem Dorfe” — “the village’s money to the village.”While environmental concerns certainly play a role in the development of bioenergy villages, surveys reveal that the potential environmental benefits — particularly with regard to climate change — tend not to be the most compelling motivator for many people. RELATED ARTICLES Germany’s Plus-Energy TownVäxjö, Sweden, is a Model of Sustainability Could we do it here?What lessons do Germany’s bioenergy villages hold for the U.S.? I have been pondering this question with regard to my own community and region. I live in a section of the Connecticut River Valley that was once characterized by thriving manufacturing communities — the so-called Precision Valley. I see similarities between the villages — some of them struggling — in New Hampshire and Vermont with which I am familiar, and many of the rural villages I have seen in Germany — especially those in the former East Germany.The challenges of translating Germany’s success with bioenergy villages to New England are admittedly substantial. Germany’s rural villages tend to be very compact, surrounded by open farmland. Americans like to spread out. Although the German government has not specifically targeted bioenergy villages for financial support, many of the Energiewende’s programs encourage investment in the renewable energy systems on which bioenergy villages are based.Technologies that are common in Germany, such as biogas installations (roughly 8,000 to date), village-scale cogeneration plants, and district heating systems, have not been widely implemented in the U.S. Lower retail electricity prices in the U.S. make cogeneration potentially less attractive, and the availability of natural gas has undoubtedly hampered development of the biogas industry.Culturally, Germans generally seem to value consensus and cooperative action more than we do in the U.S. This cultural bias can be seen in the realm of national politics as well as in local communities.Despite the differences between Germany and the U.S. in the geographic, political, technological, and cultural landscapes, the fundamental lesson that I take from Germany’s bioenergy village movement is that success is possible, and even likely, given sufficient commitment from residents. The details of historic New England villages becoming net positive producers of energy will undoubtedly differ from those of Germany’s Bioenergiedörfer, but the compelling benefits will be similar. Every year, thousands of visitors descend on Jühnde to be educated and inspired. These days the town produces over twice as much electricity as it consumes. The citizens are now participating in an electro-mobility pilot project that is exploring ways to use the excess power to serve local transportation needs.The examples of Jühnde and other early adopters of the bioenergy village concept have encouraged communities throughout Germany to pursue similar strategies. During the past nine years, the knowledge base to support the development of bioenergy villages has grown rapidly. The local and region-wide economic benefits of these villages have also been well documented. There are currently about 150 communities in Germany that are officially registered as bioenergy villages. Hundreds more are in the planning phases. ARTICLES BY ANDREW DEY A Construction Trade Fair in GermanyVisiting a District Heating Plant in AustriaA Visit to a German Home CenterA German Deep-Energy RetrofitGermany’s Energy RevolutionAn Energy-Efficiency Conference in Germany Coming up with a definition for “bioenergy village”Determining the precise number of bioenergy villages in Germany is difficult because there is not a single, broadly accepted definition of the term, and because communities are developing their capabilities rapidly. On a website called “Toward the Bioenergy Village”, Germany’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture lists the following criteria for bioenergy villages:At least 50% of the community’s energy needs (electricity and heat) are supplied by locally produced bioenergy (typically silage plants and/or wood chips);Local citizens are actively involved in developing the ideas and making the decisions;The biomass used as a resource is owned at least partially by the villagers, and is grown and harvested locally, in a sustainable manner;Other renewable energy sources may supplement the generation of power and heat from biomass;Energy efficiency and energy conservation measures are regularly considered and implemented;Value is created locally, and the benefits extend regionally.A complementary framework for defining bioenergy villages is provided by one of the organizations that sponsored the conference, the Institute for Applied Resource Management. This organization views the development of bioenergy villages in terms of the following five pillars:Electricity production;Heat production;Energy efficiency;Land-use management;Civic engagement. Phased developmentBioenergy villages are typically developed in phases. In its recently published “Guide to the Practical Implementation of Bioenergy Villages” (Bioenergiedörfer: Leitfaden für eine praxisnahe Umsetzung), Germany’s Institute for Renewable Resources (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe) lists these phases as:Initiation;Preliminary Planning and Groundwork;Detailed Planning and Construction;Operating and Optimizing;Further Development.The initial idea for a bioenergy village may come from individuals, from a group within a village, from an agricultural cooperative, or from a local business. The initiators undertake a preliminary assessment of the energy needs of the community, and the potential for these needs to be served by renewable resources. Local residents are surveyed to gauge their interest in participating, and to clarify their motivations. Ideally during this initial phase, a foundation of trust within the community is recognized and strengthened.Specific questions that are addressed include:Does the village have sufficient biomass potential to sustainably support the production of electricity and heat, without competing for other important needs?Is there strong interest among the residents to be connected to a district heating network?Are there large heat sinks within the community, such as a swimming pool, a school, large town buildings, or industrial facilities that could be integrated into the network?Are infrastructure projects such as street improvements, water/sanitation upgrades, or fiber optic installation being planned that could be combined with the burial of district heating pipes?On what areas should a feasibility study focus, how should the study be funded, and who within the community will oversee that process?center_img Andrew Dey’s background includes carpentry, contracting, and project management. For the past six years he has provided construction consulting services to clients in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. He is passionate about retrofitting existing buildings — including his own house — for greater energy efficiency. His blog is called Snapshots from Berlin. Feasibility studyThe “Detailed Planning and Building” phase typically starts with commissioning a comprehensive feasibility study that forms the basis of ongoing planning. The feasibility study outlines the extent of the heating network and the capacity of the heating plant. It includes financial, technical and environmental parameters such as annual operating costs, ROI, pipe dimensions, transmission losses, cost increases, and CO2-savings. The calculations include an estimate of the cost of the heat to be supplied to buildings on the network.In Germany, such feasibility studies might cost €15,000 to €30,000 ($20,000 to $40,000), and take three to six months to complete. While the feasibility study is underway, financing for the project can be lined up. Based on the feasibility study, agreements are executed with the biomass suppliers, the contractors who will build the energy production and distribution systems, and the consumers of the heat and power. With the appropriate contracts in place, the design and engineering are finalized, and construction can begin.“Operating and Optimizing” a village-scale energy system requires ongoing training of personnel, troubleshooting issues that arise, and adjusting the system for optimal performance. As new buildings are constructed and more resources become available, additional buildings can be connected to the district heating network. Improvements to the efficiency of system components are also made — for example by reducing the heating requirement of buildings in the village, or improving the efficiency of pumps.“Further Development” takes many forms, including the implementation of innovative technologies and programs (process heat for commercial/industrial use, eco-tourism, electro-mobility, etc.), the installation of photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines, the construction of additional biogas generators and cogeneration plants, and region-wide outreach and education. How big an investment is required?Data available from bioenergy villages that have been operating for years are available to help guide these initial discussions. For example, the time-frame required to plan and implement a biogas generation plant coupled with cogeneration and a district heating network is typically two to four years.The initial capital investment for such systems may be between 0.5 and 4 million Euros ($700,000 to $5,500,000). The capital that a village cooperative typically invests is between €50,000 and €500,000 ($70,000 and $700,000). The price that a building owner might pay to connect to the district heating system ranges from €0 to €12,000, with an average cost of about €4,000 ($5,500).Typically between 50% and 80% of the buildings in a village are connected to the district heating network. Heating costs for residents connected to these networks have been ranging from €100 to €400 ($140 to $550) per year. In terms of land-use, between 100 and 500 hectares (between 250 and 1,200 acres) of forest are required when forestry waste is used to fuel a central boiler, and between 50 and 300 hectares (between 125 and 750 acres) of cultivated land can supply a biogas generator with the silage plants that are typically combined with manure. These numbers are wide-ranging because they depend on a variety of factors such as the size of the village, the configuration of the buildings, and the resources available.During the “Preliminary Planning and Groundwork” phase, working groups are typically formed to focus on specific areas such as management, technology, biomass, financing and communications. The working group on management develops models for owning and operating the energy systems, and establishes the appropriate legal entities.The technology working group researches options, visits existing bioenergy installations, and narrows the choice of technologies.The biomass working group confirms with local producers the sustainable supply of biomass, and develops logistics for harvesting, storage and delivery.The financing working group investigates subsidies and grants, contacts local banks, and assesses the potential for direct investment from members of the community.As skillful communication is a cornerstone of successful bioenergy villages, the working group on communications develops and implements a communication plan that encourages participation, emphasizes transparency of process, provides educational resources, and addresses specific concerns of the residents. Allaying local concernsWhile these phases provide a convenient outline for planning the development of a bioenergy village, the reality is not so neat or predictable. Challenges to the process — both legitimate and ill-informed — can arise at every stage. Doubts will be raised about the projected costs, the efficiency and reliability of the installations, the potential environmental impacts, and disruption due to truck traffic.The Bioenergiedörfer movement in Germany has accumulated a wealth of experience to allay these concerns. Additional guidance is provided by studies of bioenergy villages that have identified common factors contributing to success, including:One or more Zugpferde (“draft horses”) — citizens who tirelessly champion the project;A strong sense of community spirit and trust;Clear and frequent communication, and transparent processes;Broad and strong engagement of community members;A comprehensive and reliable feasibility study;Efficient and determined planning and implementation;Relatively low connection costs to the district heating system;Resultant heating costs that are competitive with (or lower than) the status quo.One additional success factor is the ability of bioenergy village residents to see their community as a role model that can instruct and inspire other villages in the region and beyond. Several presenters at the conference suggested that a critical mass of experience and capability is being reached that could significantly accelerate the development of bioenergy villages.However, this optimism was tempered at the conference by pointed references to the government’s current discussions about revising the law that provides financial incentives for renewable energy production — the so-called EEG 2.0. In order to try to curb what many perceive as unsustainable increases in the retail cost of electricity, the government may cut some of these incentives. Biogas installations and cogeneration plants are seen as potential losers in these negotiations. A village that produces twice as much power as it consumesThe first village in Germany to be officially recognized as a bioenergy village was Jühnde, in the state of Lower Saxony. In 2005, a cooperative within this village of 780 inhabitants and 450 cows built a biogas production facility fueled by silage plants and manure. The gas from this plant is burned in a communally owned cogeneration plant that provides electricity and heat to buildings in the village. Eventually a wood chip-fired boiler was added to the district heating system to provide supplemental heat (see Image #2, below). Scaling the conceptAs the number of bioenergy villages in Germany increases, attention is increasingly being paid to scaling these efforts to regions, towns, and cities. The conference presenters showcased a number of towns and cities that have built on the concept of the bioenergy village. These larger communities typically have multiple cogeneration units fueled by biogas and natural gas that provide heat and power to neighborhoods and to complexes of buildings such as hospitals and schools. Photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines often contribute to the supply of locally produced power.In addition to being broadened geographically, the concept of bioenergy villages is being recognized as having diverse demographic benefits. I was struck at this conference, as I have been at others here in Germany, by the way in which themes relating to social justice are brought into discussions about renewable energy and energy efficiency. (Any American who thinks that Obama is a socialist should try living in Europe for a while).Like many other countries, Germany is seeing a general migration of young people from rural to urban areas. By creating jobs and fostering innovation, bioenergy villages provide opportunities for rural youth. The conference presentations highlighted numerous examples of villages that have been re-energized and re-capitalized through their own efforts.At the other end of the demographic spectrum, retirees in these villages are often living on fixed incomes that have been outpaced by increases in the cost of electricity and heat. Stabilizing the cost of utilities is particularly helpful to the elderly and the poor, who spend a relatively high proportion of their income on these basic necessities.While the measurable benefits of bioenergy villages are well-documented, a less tangible but oft-mentioned outcome is the sense of empowerment that is shared by the villagers. Communities take pride in creating their own electricity and heat, in reducing Germany’s dependence on foreign energy suppliers (read: Russia, lately), and in helping to achieve the goals of the country’s ambitious Energiewende, or Energy Transition.last_img read more

School Water Often Goes Untested for Lead

first_imgSchools in 35 states are not required to test their drinking water for lead,  research by The Center for Green Schools has found. In the remaining 15 states and the District of Columbia, testing may be encouraged rather than required, and not all states require that parents be notified of the results, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) said. The report, “Perspectives on State Legislation Concerning Lead Testing in School Drinking Water,” said that federal laws do not offer any protection to students from possible exposure to lead in water available at school. State laws that address the issue are very recent, the USGBC said in a release, with the earliest law enacted in Ohio just two years ago.RELATED ARTICLESIs Your Drinking Water Safe?Is There Lead in the Water of Your Green Building?Piping as PoisonStudy Finds EPA Lax in Protecting California WaterManaging Lead Paint Hazards Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin that can hinder brain development in children. Federal law requires that regulated water systems test both the supply and representative outlets for contaminants, but it does not require local authorities to test water in the schools. The Center for Green Schools, part of the USGBC organization, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued guidance for reducing lead exposure in schools, but makes it voluntary. “The result of the existing federal regulatory framework is that without state action — whether administrative or legislative — many school outlets will not be tested for lead,” the report says. “Without identifying and addressing elevated levels that may be present in schools, any exposure of students and staff to lead will continue unabated.” The report notes that a 2006 recommendation from the EPA suggested that remediation begin when lead is found in concentrations of 20 parts per billion (ppb). But a rewrite of the “3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water” announced last month has no specific remediation trigger. Instead, schools were directed to consult with local and state authorities and emphasized that there is no safe level of lead for children, according to the report. A survey by the U.S. Government Accountability Office this year said that 43% of school districts had tested water for lead. Forty-one percent had not tested, and the remaining 16% didn’t know one way or the other. The Center said that the 16 testing laws it reviewed are a “promising start” and offer an opportunity to other states to find “even better, more efficient” ways of ensuring students are not exposed to lead.last_img read more