It’s time for legacy institutions to do their part and implement more environmentally friendly practices.
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As the world embraces the Paris Climate Agreement, legacy institutions have no choice but to embrace the mission to go green.
The climate crisis is hardly ever a pleasant topic to discuss. Global greenhouse-gas emissions currently stand at over 10,000 million metric tons of carbon. At this rate, climate change stands to displace two billion people worldwide as a result of rising ocean levels, cost the global economy billions of dollars and lead to 250,000 deaths per year before the year 2100. The list of harmful effects is endless and justifiably led to public outcry in recent years, pressuring industries to go green and be more environmentally responsible. One of the biggest questions remains: Who’s to blame?
The blame game
Between expert opinions, industry narratives and public sentiments, people are pointing fingers in different directions, but one good look at the data reveals the clear perpetrators-in-chief. Close to 100 investor- and state-owned fossil-fuel companies are responsible for around 70 percent of the world’s historical emissions. The numbers speak for themselves, highlighting the need for more effective clean-energy solutions.
Then again, many would argue that blame shouldn’t solely be placed on fossil fuel companies, as wealthy countries also tend to contribute toward global warming significantly. The U.S. alone has emitted more CO2 than any other country — by as much as a quarter of all emissions since 1751. By comparison, despite China’s huge rise in emissions over the past decade, emissions per person still sit at less than half of that from the U.S.
This, in turn, brings us to the energy-consumer level, and here, there is also room for the blame game. Out of a total of over 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide produced globally, the average American household only produces 8.1 metric tons. Once we get past the average, however, we see that the wealthiest tenth of people consume about 20 times more energy overall than the bottom ten, wherever they live. This puts the blame on the social elites, with their multiple cars, huge mansions and jet-setting lifestyles.
Amid the spats and the outcry, the world is now waking up to the climate change threat and moving to counter it. The Paris Agreement, one of the most recent landmarks for climate action, calls for a massive shift of the global economy toward renewable-energy sources, such as natural gas, wind and solar power. This has sparked a frantic search for solutions that are greener and more sustainable, ones that address the climate crisis more effectively.
The new renewable-energy ecosystem
Assertive but isolated initiatives, such as minimizing the use of plastic straws and promoting public transportation, do make a difference, but ultimately have minute effects when considering the sheer scale of greenhouse-gas emissions. What we need is comprehensive, industry-level change embracing sustainable innovation across a plethora of sectors. The energy industry, as noted before, is a sphere where this need is the most urgent, and it’s no surprise that renewable energy is now one of the hottest topics of discussion among entrepreneurs, policy makers and consumers alike. As such, innovations are emerging across four primary dimensions of global power systems:
- Enabling technologies. This refers to technologies, such as electric-vehicle charging, that play a key role in facilitating the integration of renewable energy. Blockchain companies are also stepping up to provide a new level of sophistication to energy supplies, as seen with WePower, Power Ledger, The Brooklyn Microgrid and The Sun Exchange.
- System operation. This refers to companies that provide innovative ways of operating the power grid, with solutions that expand the use of renewables, not just for power generation, but for other purposes as well. Renewable technology can do more than that — Nostromo, for example, offers an ice-based, thermal-energy-storage solution to make traditional building-cooling systems more environmentally friendly. Legacy chillers tend to exert a large amount of energy throughout the day just to cool the water used to provide air conditioning. Nostromo’s technology leverages literal blocks of ice to supplement the water chillers used to cool buildings, opening the door to reduce the overall energy consumption of buildings and even entire cities.
- Business models. This refers to innovative models that enhance the flexibility of systems and incentivize the further integration of renewable-energy technologies. Notable examples include energy-as-a-service and pay-as-you-go models.
- Market design. This refers to new market structures and changes in regulatory frameworks that encourage flexibility and value services in a renewable-based power-energy system. Notable examples include time-of-use tariffs and net billing.
Now is the time for business leaders, policy makers and industry drivers to stop pointing fingers and take action. Instead of spending time and resources on shifting accountability, it would be best to step up and take on renewable-energy initiatives to cut emissions and do their part in fixing the climate crisis.