Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

November 19, 2020 by  
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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy? Jim Robbins Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published on Yale Environment 360 . Saudi Arabia is constructing a futuristic city in the desert on the Red Sea called Neom. The $500 billion city — complete with flying taxis and robotic domestic help — is being built from scratch and will be home to a million people. And what energy product will be used both to power this city and sell to the world? Not oil. The Saudis are going big on something called green hydrogen — a carbon-free fuel made from water by using renewably produced electricity to split hydrogen molecules from oxygen molecules. This summer, a large U.S. gas company, Air Products & Chemicals, announced that as part of Neom it has been building a green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia for the last four years. The plant is powered by 4 gigawatts from wind and solar projects that sprawl across the desert. It claims to be the world’s largest green hydrogen project — and more Saudi plants are on the drawing board. Green hydrogen? The Saudis aren’t alone in believing it’s the next big thing in the energy future. While the fuel is barely on the radar in the United States, around the world a green hydrogen rush is underway, and many companies, investors, governments and environmentalists believe it is an energy source that could help end the reign of fossil fuels and slow the world’s warming trajectory. “It is very promising,” said Rachel Fakhry, an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Experts such as Fakhry say that while wind and solar energy can provide the electricity to power homes and electric cars, green hydrogen could be an ideal power source for energy-intensive industries such as concrete and steel manufacturing, as well as parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to electrify. “The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking,” Fakhry said in an interview. “Green hydrogen can do that.” Europe, which has an economy saddled with high energy prices and is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, is embracing green hydrogen by providing funding for construction of electrolysis plants and other hydrogen infrastructure. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. “It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonized economy,” the European Commission wrote in a July strategy document. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology never has gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. They argue that widespread adoption of green hydrogen technologies has faced serious obstacles, most notably that hydrogen fuels need renewable energy to be green, which will require a massive expansion of renewable generation to power the electrolysis plants that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is also hard to store and transport without a pipeline. And right now in some places, such as the U.S., hydrogen is a lot more expensive than other fuels such as natural gas. While it has advantages, said Michael Liebreich, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in the United Kingdom and a green hydrogen skeptic, “it displays an equally impressive list of disadvantages.” “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” Liebreich wrote in a pair of recent essays for BloombergNEF. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” In spite of these problems, Liebreich wrote, green hydrogen still “holds a vice-like grip over the imaginations of techno-optimists.” Ben Gallagher, an energy analyst at Wood McKenzie who studies green hydrogen, said the fuel is so new that its future remains unclear. “No one has any true idea what is going on here,” he said. “It’s speculation at this point. Right now it’s difficult to view this as the new oil. However, it could make up an important part of the overall fuel mix.” Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. Two atoms of hydrogen paired with an atom of oxygen creates water. Alone, though, hydrogen is an odorless and tasteless gas, and highly combustible. Hydrogen derived from methane — usually from natural gas, but also coal and biomass — was pioneered in World War II by Germany, which has no petroleum deposits. But CO2 is emitted in manufacturing hydrogen from methane and so it’s not climate friendly; hydrogen manufactured this way is known as gray hydrogen. Green is the new kid on the hydrogen block, and because it’s manufactured with renewable energy, it’s CO2-free. Moreover, using renewable energy to create the fuel can help solve the problem of intermittency that plagues wind and solar power, and so it is essentially efficient storage. When demand for renewables is low, during the spring and fall, excess electricity can be used to power the electrolysis needed to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Then the hydrogen can be stored or sent down a pipeline. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. Such advantages are fueling growing interest in global green hydrogen. Across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, more countries and companies are embracing this high-quality fuel. The U.S. lags behind because other forms of energy, such as natural gas, are much cheaper, but several new projects are underway, including a green hydrogen power plant in Utah that will replace two aging coal-fired plants and produce electricity for southern California. In Japan, a new green hydrogen plant, one of the world’s largest, just opened near Fukishima — an intentionally symbolic location given the plant’s proximity to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It will be used to power fuel cells, both in vehicles and at stationary sites. An energy consortium in Australia just announced plans to build a project called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Pilbara that would use 1,743 large wind turbines and 30 square miles of solar panels to run a 26-gigawatt electrolysis factory that would create green hydrogen to send to Singapore. As Europe intensifies its decarbonization drive, it, too, is betting big on the fuel. The European Union just drafted a strategy for a large-scale green hydrogen expansion, although it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. But in its $550-billion clean energy plan, the EU is including funds for new green hydrogen electrolyzers and transport and storage technology for the fuel. “Large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions,” the European Commission wrote. The Middle East, which has the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, is angling to be a major player in green hydrogen. “Saudi Arabia has ridiculously low-cost renewable power,” said Thomas Koch Blank, leader of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Breakthrough Technology Program. “The sun is shining pretty reliably every day and the wind is blowing pretty reliably every night. It’s hard to beat.” BloombergNEF estimates that to generate enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of the world’s energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates now from all sources and an investment of $11 trillion in production and storage. That’s why the focus for now is on the 15 percent of the economy with energy needs not easily supplied by wind and solar power, such as heavy manufacturing, long-distance trucking and fuel for cargo ships and aircraft. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a green hydrogen facility that can generate as much as 1,200 normal meter cubed (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, opened in Japan in March. Source:  TOSHIBA ESS The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft. But Airbus, the European airplane manufacturer, recently released a statement saying that significant problems need to be overcome, including safely storing hydrogen on aircraft, the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure at airports, and cost. Experts say that new technologies will be needed to solve these problems. Nevertheless, Airbus believes green hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonizing air transport. “Cost-competitive green hydrogen and cross-industry partnerships will be mandatory to bring zero-emission flying to reality,” said Glen Llewellyn, vice president of Zero Emission Aircraft for Airbus. Hydrogen-powered aircraft could be flying by 2035, he said. In the U.S., where energy prices are low, green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas, although that price doesn’t factor in the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The price of green hydrogen is falling, however. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. A major driver of green hydrogen development in the U.S. is California’s aggressive push toward a carbon-neutral future. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, is helping fund the construction of the green hydrogen-fueled power plant in Utah. It’s scheduled to go online in 2025. A company called SGH2 recently announced it would build a large facility to produce green hydrogen in southern California. Instead of using electrolysis, though, it will use waste gasification, which heats many types of waste to high temperatures that reduce them to their molecular compounds. Those molecules then bind with hydrogen, and SGH2 claims it can make green hydrogen more cheaply than using electrolysis. California officials also see green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for diesel vehicles. The state passed a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 to promote electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Last month, a group of heavy-duty vehicle and energy industry officials formed the Western States Hydrogen Alliance o press for rapid deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure to replace diesel trucks, buses, locomotives and aircraft. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. “Hydrogen fuel cells will power the future of zero-emission mobility in these heavy-duty, hard-to-electrify sectors,” said Roxana Bekemohammadi, executive director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance. “That fact is indisputable. This new alliance exists to ensure government and industry can work efficiently together to accelerate the coming of this revolution.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100 million investment to help develop large, affordable electrolyzers and to create new fuel cell technologies for long-haul trucks. In Australia, the University of New South Wales, in partnership with a global engineering firm, GHD, has created a home-based system called LAVO that uses solar energy to generate and store green hydrogen in home systems. The hydrogen is converted back into electricity as needed. All these developments, said Blank of the Rocky Mountain Institute, are “really good news. Green hydrogen has high potential to address many of the things that keep people awake at night because the climate change problem seems unsolvable.” Pull Quote Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Wind Power Solar Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology has never gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. Photo by petrmalinak on Shutterstock.

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

November 19, 2020 by  
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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021 Heather Clancy Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:00 A group of 16 nonprofits dedicated to inspiring climate action has much to give thanks for this week. With little fanfare other than a lengthy Instagram post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $791 million in donations from the Bezos Earth Fund — his $10 billion commitment to funding scientists, nonprofits and “others” that have made it their life’s work to fight climate change. For those of you keeping score, Bezos created the fund in February, although not much is known about who is behind the scenes running things — there’s isn’t even a public-facing web site. This is the first batch of grants bestowed by the organization.  Many of you will be familiar with the organizations that made the cut, and I see no reason not to list them all because they deserve as much attention as possible these days: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund , ClimateWorks Foundation , Dream Corps Green For All , Eden Reforestation Projects , Energy Foundation , Environmental Defense Fund , The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice , Natural Resources Defense Council , The Nature Conservancy , NDN Collective , Rocky Mountain Institute , Salk Institute for Biological Studies , The Solutions Project , Union of Concerned Scientists , World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund . The big green NGOs — EDF, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and WRI — made out really big, each snagging $100 million. For perspective, EDF’s budget is usually about $230 million annually, so this is not an insignificant sum of money for any of these organizations. Poking more specifically into where the money is dedicated tells us a lot about where we can expect big corporations to prioritize climate action during 2021. With that in mind, here are three of my takeaways from Bezos’s big bets. 1. Climate equity and environmental justice is getting much-needed funding   Five organizations chosen for the grants this week are explicitly focused on addressing climate change through the lens of environmental justice. Three of them — the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, The Solutions Project and The Hive Fund — are receiving $43 million each. I love that all of these groups are laser-focused on local communities and people of color. The Solutions Project, for example, has pledged 95 percent of its funding to the BIPOC community, with 80 percent designated for women-led organizations.  An organization I’ll be researching more closely next year is NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group that received $12 million. I should also mention that climate justice also permeates the other grants. NRDC, for example, will be using its grant to help advance climate solutions at the state and community level that “strengthen equity and justice at the heart of climate advocacy.” And The Nature Conservancy is using a big chunk of its fund to protect the Emerald Edge old-growth forest in the United States and Canada in collaboration with Indigenous and tribal communities there.   I have to be honest, I’ve been somewhat discouraged over the past few months when I’ve asked corporate sustainability professionals how they’re embedding racial justice considerations into their strategies. While there have been some really meaningful commitments — including Microsoft’s vow to include environmental justice as part of its renewable energy strategy or Apple’s Racial and Equity Justice Initiative — the vast majority of companies I’ve asked outright are struggling with blending justice into their environmental strategies. That needs to change, and these investments have me greeting 2021 with newfound optimism. 2. Anticipate more attention to the potential of ocean carbon sequestration Nature-based solutions for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide were the rage this year, and that sensibility is scattered across the press releases issued by the recipients. The Salk Institute, for example, is getting $30 million for its Harnessing Plants Initiative, focused on the soil sequestration of the world’s six biggest food crops, including soybeans and corn.  But it isn’t all about the land. The money is also supporting a big WWF program to protect and restore mangroves, small trees that grow in the brackish waters along coasts, in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar and Mexico. What’s more, it includes funds for another solution that is capturing more attention as we stare into 2021: seaweed farming. According to advocates , kelp beds sequester five times more CO2 than terrestrial leafy greens such as kale or lettuce. There’s a movement brewing to use seaweed as a feedstock for fuel alternatives; it’s also finding a place on menus, including at fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, and a role in packaging (such as Loliware, which is making seaweed straws). Note to self: Learn more about seaweed and mangroves. 3. Don’t underestimate the potential of satellites in the fight against climate change  EDF’s grant is largely focused on launching the MethaneSAT , a network for locating and measuring methane pollution around the world and sharing it to ensure accountability.  It should not be lost on any of us that aside from being the CEO of one of the world’s largest retailers and tech companies, Bezos is behind Blue Origin, one of the private space companies that hopes to put people back onto the moon. It’s only natural that he’d explore extraterrestrial climate solutions. EDF isn’t the only organization benefiting here: WRI will be using its grant to develop a satellite-based network for monitoring carbon emissions as well as changes to forests, grasslands, wetlands and farms.   Here’s hoping that all of these initiatives find it much easier to get off the ground under the Biden-Harris administration, which has made addressing climate change — and cultivating clean economy jobs — one of its four priorities. And just think, “only” $9 billion more to allocate from the Bezos Earth Fund. That’s an inspiring sum of money. Topics Innovation Social Justice Climate Tech Equity & Inclusion Carbon Removal Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Emerald Edge, the largest intact coastal rainforest on Earth, spans 100 million acres through Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It will benefit from the first set of grants by the Bezos Earth Fund.

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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up

November 2, 2020 by  
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How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up Deonna Anderson Mon, 11/02/2020 – 00:05 California — as well as the rest of the United States and, in some cases, the rest of the world — is facing three major crises right now: the COVID-19 pandemic; the climate emergency; and racial injustice.  “We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system, in our economy,” Kate Gordon, director at the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, said during a keynote panel last week at the VERGE 20 conference. “A priority for us at the state is to get a handle on the pandemic because, honestly, without getting a handle on the pandemic and the current fires, we can’t move forward as a state.” So, how is California building resilience in both its rural and urban communities? Let’s start with a local approach. Laying the groundwork for an equitable future Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs was part of the conversation with Gordon during VERGE 20. “As mayor of Stockton, the focus is really on equity and understanding that everything we’re talking about from the pandemic of COVID-19 to the issues with climate change and wildfires in this state … [is] really about people,” Tubbs said, adding that inequality and racism in the U.S. are not abstract notions. We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary, he said, to “understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity.” Stockton is an inland city in California’s Central Valley, where the median income is $51,318, according to the U.S. Census . Of the estimated 312,000 residents, about 20 percent live below the poverty line. Before the pandemic, Stockton had been running an 18-month pilot universal basic income program , which gave 125 residents who live at or below the median income line (around $46,000) $500 per month, with no strings attached , meaning they could spend it however they want. At the end of May, Tubbs announced that it would be extended until January . “[And we] now have 30 other mayors throughout this country who are saying a guaranteed income or basic income is a part of a strategy for COVID-19 response, part of a strategy that’s responsive to inequality and also a part of a strategy that’s responsive to climate change,” Tubbs said.  Gordon also pointed to the need for a just transition, which she defined as the same thing as high-road economic development, which typically prioritizes well-paying jobs and environmental sustainability. “We’re talking about a transition to a more sustainable, resilient and equitable economy that provides pathways into that economy, for underserved communities. And for folks who have been left out, frankly, of the current economy,” she said. Greening the entire economy Gordon noted that instead of embracing strategies that replace or displace jobs in the current economy with green jobs, there needs to be a more explicit focus on greening the entire economy. “The entire economy needs to be powered by cleaner energy and cleaner technologies,” she said. “That is a major opportunity across every sector and every region, of the state, of the country, of the world.” And as the economy goes green, people who make decisions need to engage communities in being part of the solutions because the needs of each community will vary, said Tubbs and Gordon. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. “I really see this conversation about just transition, honestly, as an opening to a more bottom-up community-driven economic development approach here in California and everywhere, frankly,” Gordon said. California has a program called Transformative Climate Communities (TCC), in which communities most affected by pollution are able to choose their own goals, strategies and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address local air pollution. Tubbs said that during Stockton’s TCC planning process, one of the main issues that came up was the high cost of utility bills and the challenge of converting to solar. Renters can’t arbitrarily install solar panels on properties that they don’t own. And if residents did own a home, they might not be able to afford it. He said Stockton is looking forward to working with the state to figure out what it can do to provide more community solar opportunities as an option. Just like rooftop solar doesn’t work for everybody, plugging in an electric vehicle in a home garage doesn’t work for everybody. Gordon said that Kern County, California’s third largest county with about 900,000 residents , is a great example of a place struggling with EV infrastructure financing. Like Stockton, Kern County, known for agriculture and crude oil production, is inland and part of California’s Central Valley. Banks don’t think the county is a place where people will want EVs. But California is banning the sale of gas cars over the next 15 years, so every county needs a strategy. “That’s a place where we in government can step in and say, ‘Hey, can we derisk that? Can we provide some loan guarantees? Can we help you out there, because we need to expand these options throughout California?’” Gordon said. “These are not just options for our big coastal cities.” Pull Quote We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. Topics Community Resilience Policy & Politics California Equity & Inclusion VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Sundry Photography  on Shutterstoc.

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A vote for clean energy

October 16, 2020 by  
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A vote for clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 10/16/2020 – 01:45 I recently joined the most impressive group of clean energy leaders I’ve known, and it happens to have come together in support of Joe Biden for president. The network: Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B).  It includes more than 9,500 clean energy professionals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. There are entrepreneurs, engineers, policymakers, technicians and investors. There are thought leaders I’ve long admired and business leaders that have made clean energy more accessible to all people. Clean energy professionals as a voting bloc CE4B is evidence that the clean energy sector is, perhaps for the first time, a significant voting bloc in the United States.  Before the start of the COVID crisis, the clean energy sector employed nearly 3.4 million Americans in all 50 states. In 42 states, more people are included in clean energy than in the fossil fuel industry. If mobilized, these millions of Americans could have a major impact in this and future elections.  CE4B shows that support for clean energy as a voting issue is already widespread. The self-organizing, all-volunteer effort has more than 25 active state teams and organized more than 100 grassroots events, which collectively have raised more than $2.6 million on behalf of the Biden campaign.  The executive council is more than 50 industry leaders, including household names (for energy nerds) and representation from major companies, including Kate Brandt of Google, Jigar Shah of Generate Capital, Kate Gordon of California’s Office of Planning and Research and Jon Wellinghoff, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Why get political now? We don’t write about politics much at GreenBiz (although I’m sure regular Energy Weeklyians have a sense of my personal politics).  Much about this presidential contest is outside of the purview of my job as an energy analyst. But when it comes to accelerating the adoption of clean energy, I would be remiss to not call attention to what may be the starkest difference in energy platforms in American history.  If I may simplify the two men’s stances, Donald Trump’s energy policy looks backward to the energy that powered our past, and Biden is looking forward to the fuels of the future. I’m not going to dive into either candidate’s specific platform; others already have written much on the topic. Rather, I’m here to highlight that candidates who support clean energy policy are also supporting economic, climate and social justice policies.  Clean energy policy is economic policy As the economic fallout of the COVID pandemic is coming into focus and the job creation is leveling off, the clean energy transition represents an opportunity to put Americans back to work.  First, clean energy is more jobs-rich than fossil fuels, meaning more people are employed per unit of energy created. A 2010 study found that for every $1 million invested, oil and gas would create roughly five jobs, while wind and solar would create 13 or 14 jobs.  Second, clean energy jobs are distributed. While dirty energy is usually centralized — think coal miners in West Virginia or roughnecks in North Dakota — clean energy manufacturers, technicians and installers are needed in every community, and provide options at every skill level. According to E2, all but two of America’s 3,007 counties are home to clean energy jobs.  Third, prioritizing clean energy gives America a chance to be a global leaders in advanced energy technologies. Getting ahead of the innovation curve means the country could be exporting technologies as other nations race to meet climate goals. Which I find a lot more exciting than trying to prop up dinosaur industries.  My two cents: if you are worried about the economy, supporting candidates that understand the jobs potential in the clean energy sector is a smart move.  Clean energy policy is climate policy  Scientists agree that the next decade will be critical to addressing climate change and avoiding the worst of its economic impacts and human toll.  So it makes sense that voters are beginning to see climate as a voting issue. A recent poll from Pew Research shows that 68 percent of likely voters rank climate as “very” or “somewhat” important, up from 44 percent in 2009. Luckily, the same policies that will create clean energy jobs will curb energy-related emissions. While energy is not the only source of climate-changing emissions, it is a sector that has carbon-free solutions today, meaning it must rapidly decarbonize to give us a chance at a safe climate future.  We’re already seeing the economic impacts of extreme weather across the country and world. Politicians that work to curb the worst impacts of climate change are working to curb the human and economic tolls.  Clean energy policy is social justice policy Like so many other issues, those most affected by pollution from dirty energy are low-income communities and communities of color.  If you’re Black in America, you have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma, and are more likely to have (and die from) heart disease, all linked to living with dirty air. Nearly one in two Latinx people in the U.S. live in counties where the air doesn’t meet EPA smog standards. People of color are more likely to live near highways, airports, power plants and refineries.  That all takes a toll on health, economic potential and quality of life. Supporting a just energy transition is synonymous with supporting marginalized communities to become more resilient, prosperous and healthy.  Clean energy technologies — the same that uplift the economy and address climate change — can help all communities thrive. Politicians who understand that are taking the realities of environmental racism seriously.  Vote Clean energy is a rare issue that is win-win-win: it uplifts the economy, creates jobs and helps curb climate change. The only downside is incumbent energy powers need to get out of the way.  Of course, the sector isn’t perfect. Clean energy advocates are working hard to not replicate the same inequities or unintended consequences as the old, dirty energy sources. But I, for one, am ready for political debates about how to best create energy systems for the future, rather than debate if we should stay in the past.  And, no matter what your political ideology is, if you’re a U.S. reader, vote in whatever way you can. It’s what being American is all about.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Social Justice Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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A vote for clean energy

A vote for clean energy

October 16, 2020 by  
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A vote for clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 10/16/2020 – 01:45 I recently joined the most impressive group of clean energy leaders I’ve known, and it happens to have come together in support of Joe Biden for president. The network: Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B).  It includes more than 9,500 clean energy professionals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. There are entrepreneurs, engineers, policymakers, technicians and investors. There are thought leaders I’ve long admired and business leaders that have made clean energy more accessible to all people. Clean energy professionals as a voting bloc CE4B is evidence that the clean energy sector is, perhaps for the first time, a significant voting bloc in the United States.  Before the start of the COVID crisis, the clean energy sector employed nearly 3.4 million Americans in all 50 states. In 42 states, more people are included in clean energy than in the fossil fuel industry. If mobilized, these millions of Americans could have a major impact in this and future elections.  CE4B shows that support for clean energy as a voting issue is already widespread. The self-organizing, all-volunteer effort has more than 25 active state teams and organized more than 100 grassroots events, which collectively have raised more than $2.6 million on behalf of the Biden campaign.  The executive council is more than 50 industry leaders, including household names (for energy nerds) and representation from major companies, including Kate Brandt of Google, Jigar Shah of Generate Capital, Kate Gordon of California’s Office of Planning and Research and Jon Wellinghoff, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Why get political now? We don’t write about politics much at GreenBiz (although I’m sure regular Energy Weeklyians have a sense of my personal politics).  Much about this presidential contest is outside of the purview of my job as an energy analyst. But when it comes to accelerating the adoption of clean energy, I would be remiss to not call attention to what may be the starkest difference in energy platforms in American history.  If I may simplify the two men’s stances, Donald Trump’s energy policy looks backward to the energy that powered our past, and Biden is looking forward to the fuels of the future. I’m not going to dive into either candidate’s specific platform; others already have written much on the topic. Rather, I’m here to highlight that candidates who support clean energy policy are also supporting economic, climate and social justice policies.  Clean energy policy is economic policy As the economic fallout of the COVID pandemic is coming into focus and the job creation is leveling off, the clean energy transition represents an opportunity to put Americans back to work.  First, clean energy is more jobs-rich than fossil fuels, meaning more people are employed per unit of energy created. A 2010 study found that for every $1 million invested, oil and gas would create roughly five jobs, while wind and solar would create 13 or 14 jobs.  Second, clean energy jobs are distributed. While dirty energy is usually centralized — think coal miners in West Virginia or roughnecks in North Dakota — clean energy manufacturers, technicians and installers are needed in every community, and provide options at every skill level. According to E2, all but two of America’s 3,007 counties are home to clean energy jobs.  Third, prioritizing clean energy gives America a chance to be a global leaders in advanced energy technologies. Getting ahead of the innovation curve means the country could be exporting technologies as other nations race to meet climate goals. Which I find a lot more exciting than trying to prop up dinosaur industries.  My two cents: if you are worried about the economy, supporting candidates that understand the jobs potential in the clean energy sector is a smart move.  Clean energy policy is climate policy  Scientists agree that the next decade will be critical to addressing climate change and avoiding the worst of its economic impacts and human toll.  So it makes sense that voters are beginning to see climate as a voting issue. A recent poll from Pew Research shows that 68 percent of likely voters rank climate as “very” or “somewhat” important, up from 44 percent in 2009. Luckily, the same policies that will create clean energy jobs will curb energy-related emissions. While energy is not the only source of climate-changing emissions, it is a sector that has carbon-free solutions today, meaning it must rapidly decarbonize to give us a chance at a safe climate future.  We’re already seeing the economic impacts of extreme weather across the country and world. Politicians that work to curb the worst impacts of climate change are working to curb the human and economic tolls.  Clean energy policy is social justice policy Like so many other issues, those most affected by pollution from dirty energy are low-income communities and communities of color.  If you’re Black in America, you have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma, and are more likely to have (and die from) heart disease, all linked to living with dirty air. Nearly one in two Latinx people in the U.S. live in counties where the air doesn’t meet EPA smog standards. People of color are more likely to live near highways, airports, power plants and refineries.  That all takes a toll on health, economic potential and quality of life. Supporting a just energy transition is synonymous with supporting marginalized communities to become more resilient, prosperous and healthy.  Clean energy technologies — the same that uplift the economy and address climate change — can help all communities thrive. Politicians who understand that are taking the realities of environmental racism seriously.  Vote Clean energy is a rare issue that is win-win-win: it uplifts the economy, creates jobs and helps curb climate change. The only downside is incumbent energy powers need to get out of the way.  Of course, the sector isn’t perfect. Clean energy advocates are working hard to not replicate the same inequities or unintended consequences as the old, dirty energy sources. But I, for one, am ready for political debates about how to best create energy systems for the future, rather than debate if we should stay in the past.  And, no matter what your political ideology is, if you’re a U.S. reader, vote in whatever way you can. It’s what being American is all about.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Social Justice Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond

October 16, 2020 by  
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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond Elisa Niemtzow Fri, 10/16/2020 – 01:00 Business as usual for the luxury industry is over. 2020 brings with it the end of a positive growth cycle, as analysts expect global luxury sales to contract 25-45 percent in 2020 , with a recovery that could take up to three years. And yet, the coronavirus pandemic, for all the havoc it has wrought on the industry, has pushed the sustainable business agenda even further, forcing business leaders to reevaluate their role in society and better articulate their value, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of corporate purpose and the way they contribute to the world.   Recent months have revealed several fragilities and also several strengths as the luxury industry navigates its future. Companies demonstrated the depth of their commitment and a certain financial resilience by shifting production lines to manufacture hand sanitizer and masks or forgoing government aid to demonstrate social solidarity. Brands have reimagined design and distribution of products in a context of lower sales volumes and digital acceleration. The crisis also has multiplied the insecurity of some workers and left some precious material supply chains, such as cashmere and exotic skins, even more vulnerable.   As luxury fashion brands adapt and survive in the “new normal,” they can drive a renewed vision of the luxury business that demonstrates how to decouple volume growth from value growth. They can seize opportunities to strengthen resilience and further set the example when it comes to long-term value creation, business transformation and progressive leadership. To drive innovation and demonstrate leadership in the years ahead, luxury leaders should consider these three opportunities: 1. Deepen luxury’s value proposition Luxury brands can deepen their value proposition by further embedding efficiency, sustainability and inclusion into business models and practices, building on the new approaches that the pandemic accelerated. Designers are streamlining collections, focusing on evergreen best sellers and incorporating upcycling, regenerative materials and use of dead stock (French) in collections. Meanwhile, digitization is accelerating efficiency and agility. Design teams are working together online and using virtual sampling. Showrooms and fashion weeks have gone digital. And brands are hurrying to transfer business to online outlets. Supply chain experts argue companies can make less product and increase margins as they reduce waste (via better inventory management), better connect supply and demand (via strengthened omni-channel programs) and optimize understanding of client needs and trends (via enhanced client data). For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial — less environmental impact, more financial resilience and, potentially, redistribution of investment across the supply chain to benefit primary raw material producers and workers upstream. For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial. Optimized distribution of value creation is important in a context where the pandemic has rendered raw material and manufacturing workers more vulnerable. For example, the Sustainable Fibre Alliance raised the alarm of COVID-19’s considerable consequences for the economic security and well-being of cashmere goat herding families. In the case of exotic leather, a controversial material prior to the pandemic according to animal rights activists, conservationists recently have raised their voice about the necessity of protecting the benefits to species, people and ecosystems generated by this trade. At the moment, luxury brands are still struggling to develop the business cases and financially support all of these actors. One promising mechanism to explore is a “reverse-sourcing” approach whereby value chain actors for a specific raw material pilot interventions to drive positive change and then connect the dots to create a traceable, sustainable supply chain. In one example, this approach allowed vulnerable suppliers who committed to improved environmental and social practices to broker a long-term contract with a global beauty company at a premium — enabling investment in long-term sustainability while the beauty brand achieved the security of a traceable, sustainable supply chain. Additionally, luxury brands can leverage sustainable finance mechanisms and growing investor interest in ESG to partner on long-term value creation. Following on the heels of Prada, Burberry, Moncler and other players outside the sector, Chanel made its first public offering on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange in September. Its sustainability bond will support business transformation including raw material extraction, regenerative agriculture and innovation across its supply chain. This announcement is notable as it signals the emergence of a deeper value proposition and the importance of communicating this value to key stakeholders. 2. Build on luxury’s predisposition for circular and regenerative practices Over the last several years, the industry has adopted several circular economy initiatives, such as the CEDRE recycling platform  (French) initiated by LVMH, support for innovation via Fashion for Good and training designers on circular economy principles. Yet huge barriers still exist to scaling an efficient luxury fashion circular ecosystem — whether it’s closing the loop on certain product categories such as luxury leisurewear and sneakers, which have shorter lives than typical luxury items; acquiring sustainable, regenerative materials in sufficient quality and quantity (such as leather); or fully embracing the idea of producing fewer new items, including encouraging the multiple lives of products and brand-controlled secondhand markets (as Gucci has just done with The RealReal). Further, as luxury companies make their way in the “new normal,” there is a strong rationale to focus on the third leg in the circular economy stool: regenerating the natural and agricultural systems they rely on for their high-quality natural materials . With 60 percent of species and ecosystem functionality lost, the clock continues to tick. In 2021, the Convention on Biological Diversity will launch a new 10-year strategic plan with the Business for Nature coalition driving business support for policy changes and new targets. Additionally, late last month, an informal working group, Task Force on Nature-related Disclosure, was launched. The work will take several months but signals an expectation of increasing accountability for companies and investors related to their impacts on nature. Luxury brands are well-poised to demonstrate leadership on this and other aspects of the circular economy. Luxury brands also can explore two newer areas: first, assessing their performance against a comprehensive set of circularity indicators to focus on circular economy practices across entire operations and increase robustness of efforts. Second, brands can explore how to take a people-centered approach to circular fashion systems which ensure that as new infrastructure and business models are created, they are inclusive and fair for people from the outset. 3. Demonstrate socially progressive leadership As described above, in the urgency of initial responses to the coronavirus, luxury companies relied on their financial resources and business infrastructure to contribute to their workforce and local communities. Against the profound upheaval transforming our world, luxury leaders have significant opportunity to continue using this power to drive positive change. Doing so will help to preserve the social acceptance of luxury and create the stable operating environment needed by all businesses. Earlier this year, BSR published a report discussing five principles for business action to contribute towards creating a 21st century social contract that supports economic prosperity and social mobility. While the luxury industry can contribute to all principles, it is well-placed to focus on contributions to developing stakeholder capitalism, an approach to business strategy focused on long-term value creation and based on a multi-stakeholder model. Specific actions luxury companies can take include: ensure that corporate governance structures, including board and executive leadership, are inclusive and consider the interests and perspectives of all; pay their fair share of taxes; and align policy advocacy, participation in industry associations and monetary contributions with environmental and social objectives. What’s next Given luxury’s outsize influence on society, luxury brands and their leaders have significant opportunity to build on their efforts and demonstrate the behaviors we need to drive resilient and thriving societies. When will we see every luxury CEO’s bonus dependent on achieving Scope 3 climate targets, paying a living wage in supply chains and achieving zero product destruction? Thriving in the “new normal” will take nothing less than bold leadership such as this. Pull Quote For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial. Topics Circular Economy Fashion Collective Insight BSR Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off LVMH’s partnership with CEDRE centers on finding second-life uses for its products.

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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond

This is why investors want financial regulators to tackle climate risk

August 24, 2020 by  
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This is why investors want financial regulators to tackle climate risk Ravi Varghese Mon, 08/24/2020 – 01:15 To understand economic crises of the recent past, present and future, there may be no finer teacher than Michael Lewis. Many readers will be familiar with Lewis’s book “The Big Short,” which documented how excesses in global credit markets spawned a worldwide financial crisis. But a later book of his — “The Fifth Risk” — best explains why we were unprepared for the current pandemic and why we need a different approach to deal with threats such as climate change.  Lewis’s thesis is simple, but profound: Dealing with catastrophic risks is the purview of government. In particular, the U.S. government bears the unenviable burden of “the biggest portfolio of such risks ever managed by a single institution in the history of the world.” Some of these risks spring readily to mind — financial crises, hurricanes and terrorist threats, just to name a few. Others, such as a global pandemic, previously might have seemed too far-fetched to be worthy of serious consideration. Lewis warns that these risks are “like bombs with very long fuses that … might or might not explode” in the distant future. Climate change falls squarely in this category. It is far easier to mobilize resources and public support to combat a spreading virus than to make investments and formulate policy which might only reap rewards decades from now. It is even more challenging when multiple government agencies are involved, requiring the hard, thankless work of endless coordination. This was one lesson of the financial crisis: it wasn’t always easy to know which government entity had regulatory oversight of a complex cast of financial actors and a dizzying array of exotic instruments. Similarly, a threat such as climate change permeates so many elements of society and the economy that it’s hard to know who should do what. Thankfully, a timely new report from Ceres, a Boston-based sustainability organization, has eliminated some of that hard work. ” Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk ,” produced by the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, exhorts U.S. financial regulators to take proactive steps to understand climate change. Appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. The report offers 50 specific recommendations to seven federal financial regulatory agencies, as well as state and federal insurance regulators. Broadly speaking, Ceres calls for regulators to assess climate impact on financial market stability, increase oversight where climate change creates risk, and foster greater disclosure from companies and financial intermediaries.  Investors should cheer these ambitions. That’s why we joined more than 70 other signatories , including investment firms with more than $1 trillion of assets under management, in supporting a Ceres-led letter backing this initiative. As a signatory, we believe the logic is unshakable: Prudent regulation, enacted with a long-term perspective, can ensure that capital is funneled to sectors aligned with a future where global temperature rise is limited to 2 degrees Celsius. Investors are already concerned about stranded asset risk in large swathes of the economy, such as energy, utilities, transportation and infrastructure. To reduce this risk, regulators in the U.S. can benefit from joining their international peers in forward-thinking organizations such as the Network for Greening of the Financial System (NGFS).  Furthermore, appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. Questions abound over the efficacy of stimulus spending in the ongoing pandemic. Long-term planning helps ensure that spending is implemented in a thoughtful manner, with maximum return wrung out of every dollar. The fiscal implications of climate change, meanwhile, are already appearing. As Ceres points out, recent research suggests private mortgage lenders are already shifting riskier mortgages to government-sponsored entities. Most investors surely will balk at the notion of privatized gains and socialized losses.  In “The Fifth Risk,” Lewis is unstintingly effusive about the dedication and caliber of government employees he encountered. But even if regulators were to adopt all of the Ceres recommendations, they would not make headlines for their actions. That, perhaps, makes their work all the more important. As Lewis reminds us, “it’s the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about most.” Armed with this new report from Ceres, financial regulators can help investors worry a little bit less.  Pull Quote Appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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This is why investors want financial regulators to tackle climate risk

Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

August 13, 2020 by  
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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business Joana Kleine Jäger Thu, 08/13/2020 – 01:45 Remember the time when milk was delivered to your door in reusable glass bottles? If not, you were probably born during the plastics-era, which began about 50 years ago. Until the 1980s, glass or cotton bags were the go-to packaging materials for many products, such as milk and flour. Today, plastic has taken over. In 2018, 40 percent of the 360 million tonnes of plastics produced globally were converted to packaging. Prized for its durability and ultimate convenience, the plastic addiction from business to consumer is proving hard to shift. But the increasing presence of post-consumer plastic littering the natural environment is a sobering reminder of the extent of damage our love affair with plastic has delivered. Ultimately, we cannot fix this with recycling alone. Alternative materials and models such as bio-based packaging and reuse offer a prime opportunity to extend the lifetime of valuable materials and deliver financial savings to businesses. The case for reusable packaging If we succeed in building and scaling reuse systems, they will outperform single-use systems. This not only benefits the environment but also businesses. About 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material ($83 to $124 billion annually) is lost to the economy after a very short first-use cycle. Most of it ends up in our environment. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. In contrast, research and on-the ground experiences with reusable packaging by Searious Business, a solution provider for zero plastic waste practices, show yearly financial savings of up to 30 percent compared to throw-away versions. Thus, reusable packaging is not only key to achieving a circular economy and solving the plastic pollution problem, but also equally presents untapped business potential. To grasp this potential, business must explore collaborations and capacity sharing to achieve wide-scale success and profit. Benefits of teaming up Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Replacing single-use with reusable packaging may seem straightforward — technically speaking. Most reuse concepts, such as “bring your own” are rather simple. However, our current packaging system is geared toward single-use packaging. Take the food sector, for example. In today’s fast-paced world, ready-made meals are the preferred option for many consumers. Producers parcel ready-made food in small portions in thoughtfully designed packaging, which ends up in the bin soon after consumption. Reusable packaging provides an environmentally friendlier, financially viable alternative: Together with three major retailers, Searious Business has identified opportunities to reduce carbon footprint by 43 tonnes per year through reusable food containers. Financial pay-offs have appeared within eight months. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. However, these results cannot be achieved alone. They require close collaboration with waste management players, cleaning facilities and logistics companies. Where the packaging was previously disposed of, the retailer needs to arrange collection points, ensure timely collection by the cleaners and likewise timely return so that the packing can be reused. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model, so that the system is well used and adequate scale can be realized to make a successful change. Numerous stakeholders need to engage in coordinated actions to reduce plastic waste and gain financial benefit for all parties involved. For reuse platforms to be financially viable and make an impact, scale up through collaboration and capacity sharing is inevitable. How to get started As the above example demonstrates, collaborations are crucial for reuse endeavors. But how can a business get started? Circle Economy’s guide for collaborations in a circular economy directs businesses through the process of identifying attractive partners and establishing successful partnerships. The impact organization found that in scoping a potential new collaboration, businesses first need to understand the local context, market and material flows. This includes relevant legislation, consumption habits, the distance to sourcing and the existing reuse infrastructure, which can vastly differ between locations. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Once a business has a clear vision for the future, it needs to assess which capabilities and resources are needed to reach this vision and what can be filled internally. Gaps identified can be filled by partners. Crucial roles a partner can take Based on the gaps identified, businesses can determine which type of collaboration they need to make the circular transition happen. To illustrate this process, we identify three major roles that a reusable packaging partner can take on, as well as five significant characteristics. 1. When McDonald’s and Burger King joined food delivery platform Deliveroo, they did not only want to meet evolving consumer demands for mobile ordering. They also recognized the benefits of serving as each other’s impact extenders. When competitors collaborate to reach common goals, they can learn together, overcome hurdles, increase volume and scale, share investments or establish standardization of packaging. Such “coopetition” is often pooled under reuse platforms such as Deliveroo. 2. Businesses looking to introduce reusable packaging also can partner with companies that serve as promoters, and help to make reusable packaging accepted and ordinary (again) — or even desirable — through marketing campaigns. Social enterprise Dopper, known for its reusable water bottles, has collaborated with the Amsterdam-based Van Gogh museum to create a Special Edition of their bottles with prints of the famous painter’s works. 3. Returnable packaging schemes such as BarePack meal containers in Singapore and RePack packages in Europe work much in the same way that library books are borrowed, enjoyed and returned. With both consumers and businesses recognizing their environmental and financial benefits, these schemes are gaining market share and increasingly becoming part of our daily lives. Here, we see how businesses tapping into the potential of product-service-systems and product-life-extension business models can serve as use-phase-supporters or businesses seeking to introduce reusable packaging. As reuse system operators, BarePack and RePack support businesses with elements such as (reverse) logistics, cleaning and refilling. What makes a winning partner Deciphering the gaps that your business needs filled is the first step, but the nitty-gritty is crucial too: certain characteristics that can amplify your partnership also should be on your radar. Partnering companies should aim to find a strategic fit: your vision on circularity aligns and your market, context and geographical fit. While knowledge exchange collaborations might operate globally, geographical proximity is needed to ensure resource efficiency and profitability when implementing reusable packaging on the ground. Reusable packaging is a playground for innovation, so creativity is a desirable characteristic: out-of-the-box thinking and novel business models. Open communication and collaborative learning are also important as they can enable joint progress towards successful reuse models and uncertainties can be reduced. Partners should also show alignment with the mission. Being on the same page in terms of sharing interests and benefits will result in flexibility. Finally, circular economy collaborations are characterized by mutual dependence and long-term goals. Therefore, a partner should show commitment in terms of wanting the change and investing resources. Pull Quote The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Contributors Willemijn Peeters Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Plastic Circle Economy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Reusable packaging comes in many forms. Shutterstock Oleksandra Naumenko Close Authorship

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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

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