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On November 20, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on Bringing the solar system home… and making it smarter :

I really like the idea of using small scale solar energy as a way to provide electricity to homes in off-grid towns, primarily in developing countries. My primary concern is the large up-front cost. You mentioned that BBOXX can shut the system off if payments are missed, but that doesn’t answer the bigger issue of how they will generate any revenue if not up-front payments can be made in the first place. Is BBOXX doing anything to make these systems more accessible. Those in need of electricity are likely the same as those unable to pay the $330 upfront cost.
Another concern surrounds continued maintenance. I wonder if BBOXX provides any maintenance service, and if so how this is economically viable given the remote locations of many of the users. If not, I worry that the installations may fall into disrepair and may no longer be usable.
I would be curious if it is possible to have one larger system service a small village, or at least multiple households. This could reduce costs for every individual and also reduce the maintenance pressures for BBOXX.

On November 17, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on Improving care for those who cared for us :

What an important type of digitization. Falls are incredibly dangerous for the elderly, many resulting in serious injuries or death within several years. My primary concern is the cost of this new technology. A wearable device can be be made easily accessible to the masses. Can this highly technical router be made, maintained, and monitored affordably? (I am remembering Becky’s $18,000 meatball) I believe that it could be beneficial for Emerald to start talking to insurance companies early to determine if they can establish relationships. It appears like there is significant potential value in this new digital technology and costs will be an important factor in determining whether it can be widely disseminated.

On November 17, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on TaskRabbit: Say to No to Chores :

I would argue than an important part of the TaskRabbit operating model is that its operations are hugely human capital-intensive. Compounded with the fact that TaskRabbits business model relies heavily on localized network effects, it could be very difficult to repeatedly scale operations in different locations. There may also be large local variations, and TaskRabbit may need to consider shifting the business or operating model based on local conditions. For example, in some geographies it may be more important to build trust between the buyers and suppliers. Therefore, I would hope that Task rabbit carefully assesses any adjustments that may need to be made to the operating model before entering new markets.

On November 16, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on Disrupting Textbooks with Digital Content :

Is there still a place for more traditional textbooks in education? I would argue yes, at least for the immediate future. I worry that if McGraw Hill and other major textbook publishers are pouring their resources into digitization that traditional textbooks will continue to decline. Is McGraw Hill doing anything to revitalize their core business and improve their non-digital content. I understand the immense benefits of the digitization of education. However, there is not widespread access to these resources. My concern the gap in education quality could increase if more traditional textbooks are ignored in favor of digital technology. However, perhaps this would be a short term problem as access to technology is classrooms becomes more ubiquitous.

On November 16, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on If the couch don’t fit, you don’t have to commit :

It is true that people are increasingly purchasing furniture online, but I am concerned about whether Wayfair’s operating model fits its price point. Once one graduates from the Ikea days, furniture can become a significant investment. And as much as we have progressed into a digital purchasing world, for a several thousand dollar investment in living room furniture I believe that people are still going to want to see and feel the furniture that they plan to buy. As such, I am concerned that the exclusively online operating model might not be the best bet for furniture with higher prices. AR/VR technology might be able to help assuage this problem, but I don’t think that it will solve it.

That said, I think that for the lower priced items Wayfair has an excellent business and operating model, and the AR/VR will make it a batter user experience. I like your suggestion about providing interior design recommendations. It would also be beneficial if they could implement a program that allow your to place different pieces of furniture in a mock-up of your own home to better visualize how different pieces would fit together.

On November 5, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on A spoonful of climate change? :

I believe that Kellogg’s climate change strategy overlooks one of the most important inputs required for Kellogg’s products: water. Climate change will have a profound impact on water demand and availability; by 2030 water demand is forecast to exceed water supply by 40% (Henderson et al. 2016). More than 25% percent of water use in the United States is used for irrigation/agriculture. Kellogg’s climate change plan MUST tackle how it will address significant water strain. You note that they plan to implement water reuse projects in 25% of their plants, but this statistic is vague and does not speak to how Kellogg’s plans to adapt the impact that climate change will undoubtedly have to agriculture thanks to stressed water resources. Furthermore, the agricultural industry will fundamentally change as growing seasons and geographies shift in response to changing temperature and weather conditions. These water-related elements, not the incremental GHG emissions from cereal production, are the primary issues that Kellogg’s must address in the face of global climate change.

Henderson, Reebecca, S Reinhart, P Dekhtyar, A Migdal. Climate Change in 2016: Implications for Business. HBS N2-317-032.

On November 5, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on BHP Billiton: Unearthing a response to climate change :

During my career as an environmental consultant I performed an environmental review (required to receive operating permits) for a BHP Billiton Coal mine located on the Navajo Nation in the United States. The mine was directly connected to a coal fired power plant. Our Environmental Review for BHP Billiton included a first-of-its-kind analysis of the social costs of carbon, even though no Federal, tribal, or state rules or regulations currently limit or curtail emissions of GHGs from the project. One of the most difficult elements of the analysis was determining an appropriate discount rate, especially because of the very long time horizon of mine operations. Monetizing the costs and benefits of GHG emissions is also exceedingly difficult. Despite the uncertainties, BHP Billiton took the initiative better understand the social cost of carbon associated with their coal mine project.

On November 5, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on Arrivederci Arabica: How will Starbucks respond to a future coffee crunch? :

I think that it is admirable that Starbucks has renewable energy targets, but I am most curious about the climate change impact of transporting massive volumes of coffee beans around the world. Transportation accounts more more than 25% of American’s energy use, and the vast majority of transportation is fueled by petroleum (LLNL 2015). I would curious to know if the bar chart above addresses emissions from transportation. Furthermore, i would be surprised is Starbucks offsets 100% of its transportation GHG emissions with RECs. I think that this is an important next step for Starbucks to address.

In addition, deforestation causes significant GHG emissions. It is important to note that Starbucks is committed to ethically sourcing coffee. Part of their ethical sourcing commitment is to ensure that coffee growing does not result in clear cutting forest lands.

(Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) 2015. Energy flow charts. Available online at:

On November 5, 2016, Molly Middaugh commented on Impact of Climate Change on Vail Ski Resort :

It was interesting to hear about how Vail is transforming its resorts into a recreation mecca, not just a ski mountain.

It is important to remember that climate change will not simply reduce snowfall during any given season, but rather that is will contribute to more extreme weather events. This could include warmer winters with less snow, but it could also include significant winter blizzards (remember snowmagedon!) or awesome levels of snow fall. So Vail cannot simply plan for reduced snowfall and shorter seasons. Instead there will be a large degree of uncertainty for Vail. This uncertainty is also affect lift ticket sales because customers may be less willing to plan expensive ski vacations in advance if the conditions will be completely unpredictable.

I find it interesting that despite all of the climate change related challenges that Vail faces they have been on a “shopping spree” recently, purchasing Whistler for $1 billion in 2015, mountains in Tahoe CA, as well as others. This is a risky investment in the face of climate change. Perhaps Vail is trying to diversity its investments so that at least a portion of its resorts will have a good snow year.

This is a very interesting post on an interesting company. I believe that one of the reasons that NRG has been struggling over the last several years is because to their investors they appear to be a big company with an even bigger identity crisis. Is NRG a renewable energy company? A conventional energy Company? What are their values, and what do they stand for? It does not appear that NRG was presenting a clear message to investors, and therefore NRG lost its trust, credibility, and money. I agree with Crane’s message to employees “that the clean energy future is going to happen is, at this point, inevitable.” It will be interesting to see if it is possible for an energy company to successfully create a diverse portfolio of renewable energy and conventional energy assets and maintain investor support. This question will be put to the test with oil companies, which will inevitably need to transition towards cleaner energy sources over the next several decades to not become irrelevant.