The narrative on energy is one of possibility and progress. Recent events on the international climate calendar, from the seventh annual Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) to EE Global have brought energy productivity issues to the forefront of low carbon solutions conversations. The players include national leaders, corporate advocates and innovators, collaborating on the opportunity of our lifetime: provide affordable and reliable global energy for all.
Renewable energy has been part of our energy mix for over a century, but digital, technical, social and financial innovation are changing how we buy, produce and consume electricity, and making it possible to achieve 100 percent renewable power. Through the RE100 campaign, The Climate Group, along with partner NGOs under the We Mean Business coalition umbrella, is lighting the path for companies to transition to 100 percent renewable power in their electricity supply. Launched at Climate Week 2014, the campaign has 65 members playing a key role in the U.S. advanced energy market, now worth over $200 billion. Opportunities for cleaner technologies continue to grow and the industry has developed into a dynamic economic force: wind and solar technicians are two of the fastest growing job sectors, and 724,000 people were employed in the clean energy sector across America as of 2014 and 9.4 million globally. Within the last year, solar PV revenue grew 21% over last year, wind was up 75%, building efficiency grew 11%, and energy storage multiplied over 10 times year-to-year (source).
Renewable energy and energy efficiency were key elements of the conversation at this year’s CEM. Hosted by the State of California, the 2016 Ministerial focused on opportunities for a more productive energy future, contributing new models, financing strategies and policies to address energy demand and efficiency opportunities. At the Energy Productivity Pioneers side event to CEM7 hosted by ClimateWorks, The Climate Group and the EP100 Campaign, and Energy Unlocked, government, academic, and industry leaders gathered to discuss innovations to increase energy productivity across various technologies and sectors. The participants focused on highlighting the valuable solutions-oriented work taking place within the sector, as well as the collective desire to achieve significant progress in lowering carbon emissions and overall impact on the environment. During the EPP event, US policy experts and government officials discussed the need for a domestic energy bill and stronger measures on issues such as storage capacity and building codes. Voices from international governments and companies also emphasized the value of new strategies to incorporate energy efficiency into energy access efforts, such as more widespread implementation of micro grids and smart meters. Seven months after the Paris agreement, public and private drive towards a solutions-based and energy efficient approach to achieve a 2-degree future is only continuing to grow.
Through keynotes from US and international government representatives, and a roundtable panel discussion between corporate sustainability leaders, facilitated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Ethan Zindler, participants in the EPP event also shared perspectives on innovation. Molly Webb of Energy Unlocked emphasized the benefits of smart meters and using “big data” to establish a two way communication between consumers and utilities and deliver energy at the times when it is most in demand.
New companies are also aspiring to fill the gaps in clean energy technology and access through innovation. Prateek Saxena from Tech Mahindra highlighted projects to bring “micro-hydro” electricity to areas where batteries are not an option. The startup arm of the Indian company is implementing its third project in the Philippines, and is initiating new projects in remote areas of the Himalayas. Additionally, Apunam Sharna of EV ride-sharing program Evercar discussed the company’s successful launch in LA, and the path to scaling all-electric ride-sharing programs to new markets. For both of these pioneering companies, as well as many of the other companies and government officials present at the event, batteries and storage represent a significant area for growth which could alter the landscape when it comes to implementing energy efficient technologies. California, New York and Hawaii have the most energy storage, and 315 of the Fortune 500 companies have storage facilities in their companies. Stronger policy initiatives in this area remains a significant way to further develop investment in energy storage.
CEM also highlighted Governor Brown’s climate leadership in California, including passing a bill focused on storage capacity, could enable valuable progress towards California’s goals of 50% renewables in the energy system, doubling building energy efficiency, halving oil use in transportation, and reducing methane, carbon and HFC emissions, all by 2030. Government, corporate and NGO participants in the EPP side event, and the CEM7 conference all emphasized the need for related national legislation to accomplish similar climate-related policy achievements.
This political leadership has inspired well established companies to take decisive action to make already successful and celebrated products more efficient and sustainable. During CEM, many of these companies called for stronger policies encourage further innovation nationwide. In California, representatives from established corporations shared successes in adapting established products and structures to become more energy efficient. Lara Birkes, CSO for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) highlighted innovations such as HPE’s new “Moonshot” server, which is significantly more energy efficient, and the new Apollo 8000, a water-cooled server; both of which exemplify precisely the sort of innovation needed from major companies. Ingersoll Rand’s Dave Regnery presented similar successes, such as their work in lowering HFCs and refrigerants emissions and making their products more efficient and safe for the environment. Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls, a member of the EP100 campaign, emphasized the value of a systems approach to energy productivity- both as it pertains to making a building system more energy efficient, resilient and sustainable, and in altering company-wide behavior to change how energy is used.
The possibilities for the future of energy productivity are limitless. Through cross sectoral collaboration and changing policies, new leaders are joining the ranks for established brands, all demonstrating agility to develop low-cost solutions to power the future efficiently.