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What’s New in Sustainability & Clean Energy in 2017

What’s New in Sustainability & Clean Energy in 2017

Source

Aries Clean Energy

Publication Date

December 11, 2017

Let’s take a look back at this year’s energy events -- As markets shift and industries get disrupted, it is important to see which swells turn into big waves and which rides fizzle out

What’s New in Sustainability & Clean Energy in 2017

2017 has been a year of major changes. The world does not look the same as did at the beginning of the year.

As the time comes to take stock, give thanks, and wind down, it’s also time to stay on top of what’s happening in the world of sustainability, particularly in clean energy.

Here’s a look at the topics reported on by GreenBiz, one of the leading sustainability publications today, for the second half of 2017.

 

Sustainability Category

% of Articles

Renewables (Solar, Wind, Hydro)

13%

CSR / Sustainable Companies

13%

Climate / Climate Risk

10%

Circular Economy

8%

Cities

8%

 

As markets shift and industries get disrupted, it is important to see which swells turn into big waves and which rides fizzle out. Blockbuster is no longer renting movies for a reason.

As an innovator in clean energy, we keep a pulse on the what’s happening in the world of sustainability so we can continue to add value to our customers. As we tracked the top stories for the year, we share them with you so you can also stay ahead of the curve.

The Circular Economy is gathering steam

Rather, the potential of the circular economy is building.

What is the circular economy?

It is a shift in systems thinking in response to the linear and unsustainable “take, make, and dispose” system of production and consumption.

The circular economy attempts to design less waste and keep resources in the system as long as possible. For example, Philips is moving away from solely relying on selling lighting. Instead, they sell lighting as a service and provide fixtures, upgrades, and data tracking to their large customers. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focused its efforts on the circular economy. It spearheads the CE100 innovation program and corporate member groups to accelerate innovation towards what they claim is $2.4 trillion opportunity for economies and companies.

Unilever is one of the companies leading the charge with a commitment to “accelerate their efforts towards the circular economy.” One goal as part of their Sustainable Living Plan 2017 is:

By 2025 all of our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Waste Management is another company fully embracing the circular economy future. Why has WM taken this approach? Customer demands. In the early 2000s, about 25% of WM’s revenues were in landfilling – helping companies take their trash to the landfill. But with so many customers establishing zero-waste goals, they knew their business model was at risk. Now, about half of WM’s revenues come from recycling and sustainability consulting services. They work with companies to design products that last longer, are more recyclable, and are made sustainably.1

The Closed Loop Fund has deployed $30 million in low-interest loans to circular economy initiatives and helped unlock another $90 in from traditional investors.

We’re particularly excited about shifts towards the circular economy because we find waste streams that have negative economic and environmental value – that is, they were heading to a landfill – and turn them into clean energy. In fact, because gasification is a triple turnkey solution for waste, energy, and emissions, we feel it is going to play a big role in the circular economy.

2017 – A great year for renewable energy

Energy regulation and policy are facing new pressures

Rhode Island is helping make way for innovative clean energy solutions. Their Power Sector Transformation initiative “represents perhaps the most complete assessment of the utility model and regulatory changes needed to transform the power sector in the right direction.” The state, along with many stakeholder groups, is assessing the outdated energy regulatory system to make way for more solutions, providers, and options.

As renewable energy swells, energy regulation and policy are being forced to shift. Now, with multiple actors generating and supplying electricity, the centralized model dominated by large utilities is under pressure. One reason is that decentralized energy supplies can make electrical systems more resilient. For example, “based on experiences during Superstorm Sandy, New York state has established a $40 million grant to create at least 10 microgrids as business model templates as part of a focus on distributed generation in the future energy system as a means to strengthen resilience.”

Walmart launches major emissions Project Gigatron

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, launched Project Gigaton to encourage suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 gigaton (1 billion tons) by 2030. This reduction in emissions is like removing 211 million gas-powered passenger cars off the roads for a year.

Despite the good news, more needs to be done

In November, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the World Energy Outlook 2017. Two factors are butting heads, while promising to throw the energy industry into a large phase of disruption: Decarbonization and rising energy demand.

The report estimates that by 2040 global energy demand will be 30% higher than today. Without improved energy efficiency, the increase would be twice as high.

Not surprisingly, renewables and clean energy are expected to be the biggest movers to fill demand. In fact, in the next 20 years half the amount of coal power plants will be built than in the last 20.

Climate progress becomes energized

Despite the progress being made on the renewable energy front, the International Energy Agency’s base case scenario shows that globalenergy-related carbon emissions will increase by 5% by 2040 – a large enough increase to see severe impacts from climate change. The rise is mainly attributed to an expected increase in emissions from oil use and a 20 percent climb in industrial emissions coupled with global economic growth.

Over 190 countries have commitments to reduce carbon emissions. More than 9,500 businesses are part of the U.N. Global Compact. And the We Are Still In Network since has expanded to more than 2,500 subnational actors, including more than 1,700 U.S. businesses and investors, representing more than 127 million Americans and a combined GDP of $6.2 trillion. These signatories have pledged to help the U.S. meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, regardless of the shifting policies in Washington.

In fact, in the months leading up to the withdrawal from the climate accord, Walmart signed an open letter encouraging continued participation in the Paris Agreement. Why? Simple: Like many business leaders, Walmart understands that embracing renewable energy and other climate solutions can foster growth and cut costs at the same time. For example, Walmart has saved over $1 billion since 2005 simple by doubling their fleet efficiencies.

Evolution brings opportunity

These developments from 2017 are opportunities for your businesses and your cities.

As you bring the year to a close, have you answered these questions?

  • Are you poised to capitalize on the circular economy?
  • Are you reducing your waste streams?
  • Are you deploying renewable energy to reduce costs, price fluctuations, and emissions?
  • Are you building a climate-resilient business or city that will continue to attract customers and citizens in a decarbonizing world?
  • What’s next?

A look at the full data from GreenBiz and their sustainability-related stories for the year.

 

Sustainability Category

% of Articles

Renewables (Solar, Wind, Hydro)

13%

CSR / Sustainable Companies

13%

Climate / Climate Risk

10%

Circular Economy

8%

Cities

8%

Materials

5%

Buildings

5%

Finance

4%

Sustainable Dev / Clean Economy

4%

Water / Ocean

4%

Food / Food Waste

3%

Alternative Vehicles (Leaf, Tesla, etc)

3%

Carbon Pricing

3%

EMS (Energy Management Systems)

3%

Ecology

3%

Recycling

2%

Conservation

2%

Sustainable Design

2%

Innovation

2%

Fossil Fuels

2%

Efficiency

1%

Other “Clean Energy”

1%

Battery Storage

1%

Carbon Storage

1%

Thermal

0%

Nuclear

0%

 

1 Philips, Waste Management transition to the circular economy (https://www.greenbiz.com/article/philips-wm-transition-circular-economy)

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