|Innovation and green energy that save companies money may be the best way to curb greenhouse gases—good old pragmatism. Many investors are no longer willing to bet on the long-term risks of relying on coal, oil or gas. Renewables such as wind and solar have become increasingly cost-effective energy sources.
In Time (December 12, 2014), Richard Branson of Virgin Group says “we need to aggressively deploy a lot more renewables—wind, solar, geothermal—in the power sector, in heavy industries like mining, in the built environment and transport,” as well as increase energy efficiency. Countries need to learn from each other, coordinate efforts and help developing countries get more access to renewables. China and India are doubling their commitment to clean energy. And no matter who is in the White House, America is competitive and wants to be on the winning side.
Recent examples of innovation and pragmatism include the following:
- In 2015, for the first time, more renewable capacity was created worldwide than conventional fossil-fuel generation. And the International Energy Agency expects that renewable energy will grow by 42% globally by 2021. (Time, December 12, 2016)
- Kohl’s envelopes advertise: “Kohl’s is LEED-ing the way with more than 40 million square feet of LEED certified space.”
- As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is seeking to reduce emissions in its operations by 18% by 2025 and will work toward adding zero waste to landfills in key markets such as Canada and the United States. The company also plans to be powered by 50% clean and renewable energy sources. (Akron Beacon Journal, November 15, 2016)
- Tesla and Solarcity have developed solar roof panels that don’t stick out. The roof panels harness the sun’s power but do not look like traditional solar panels. They will be available this year, but pricing has not yet been announced. (Time, December 5, 2016)
- Google expects that in 2017 it will have amassed sufficient renewable energy to meet all of its electricity needs throughout the world—and its energy needs are immense given all the offices and data centers that the company runs. The company, however, won’t be able to power operations solely on wind and solar because of regulations and complicated power grids. “But it may be able to offset every MW hour of electricity supplied by a power plant running on fossil fuels with renewable energy.” (Akron Beacon Journal, December 7, 2016)
- The Breakthrough Energy Coalition has announced a $1 billion investment fund to support new energy ventures. Members of this group include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberk, George Soros, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and Richard Branson. They have jumped into the alternative energy race. (Akron Beacon Journal, December 12, 2016)
Finally, Michael Bloomberg says in Time (December 28, 2016) that in climate change, as in many other areas, where Washington fails to drive progress, cities will act. Washington sees climate change as partisan, but mayors
of both small towns and big cities, see it as a reason to clean the air, save money on energy, build modern infrastructure, protect themselves from extreme weather and attract new businesses…. I am confident that no matter how the EPA is run, and no matter what laws the next Congress passes, we will meet the pledges that the U.S. made as part of the international agreement signed in Paris… cities and businesses and citizens will continue to reduce emissions… They recognize that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can make their communities healthier places to lie and work…. Over the past decade, Congress has not passed a single bill that takes direct aim at climate change. Yet at the same time, the U.S. has led the world in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions…. To find out where the country is heading, don’t follow the national headlines. Get involved locally. That’s where the action is.