There is No Planet B: Green Energy
“Let us face it - there is no planet B”, famously uttered French President Macron while addressing US lawmakers last month. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon used similar language in 2014 during a historic climate march in New York City. They raise a strong point, which is that continuing to rely on finite resources like coal, oil, and natural gas for our energy needs will lead to environmental destruction and social degradation. Rather than remain complacent about our current cycle of reckless production and consumption, we should be working towards ways to preserve “Planet A” not just for our own generation, but for the many more to come.
While the call to “go green” has been in vogue recently, the concept of environmentalism has been around since the 19th century. Green activism gained momentum in the 60s & 70s; millions were inspired to adopt more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible lifestyles after groundbreaking films like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and high profile environmental disasters like the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. 2016 saw the signing of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, binding 196 nations in a promise to combat carbon emissions, yet there is still much work left to be done. So how can businesses (especially startups) work towards ensuring healthy life on our planet so that we don’t have to migrate to Mars?
The answer lies in GREEN ENERGY, which has the potential to reverse our negative impact on Earth and slow the effects of climate change. In contrast, non-renewable sources of energy are exponentially exacerbating the effects of climate change. Burning coal and oil pollutes our air and creates greenhouse gases. Deforestation of trees for their wood accelerates climate change and obliterates animal habitats. Given these outcomes, is it a good idea to trust traditional sources of energy that perpetuate a cycle of environmental catastrophes?
Also known as “renewable energy”, green energy utilizes renewable sources of power such as wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy to keep our homes lit, our vehicles moving, and maintain our current lifestyle. Businesses especially see the promise in this new type of energy. This isn’t a trend that will just go away once it’s no longer hip; in fact, relying on “business as usual” in terms of energy isn’t sustainable and will continue to perpetuate inequality throughout all levels of society.
The International Energy Agency predicts that Earth will be relying on green energy for 40% of its energy demands by 2040. Quickly developing areas in Asia like China and India will be the main drivers of this change as they look for cheaper ways to create energy. Solar and other renewable energy sources show great promise to become incredibly cost-effective, which opens the door to enticing new business solutions that will not only make our world a better place to live in, but also bring in profits.
For instance, recent developments in Moldova carry promising implications for how green energy and blockchain technology could interact to revolutionize the energy sector. Currently, the small Eastern European country must import 75% of its energy, leading to skyrocketing energy costs. To remedy this, the UNDP has partnered with the Technical University of Moldova to introduce affordable solar energy that is crowd-funded via cryptocurrency. Ordinary citizens will be empowered to purchase ownership of solar panels and can profit off the energy they produce. The CEO of Sun Exchange explains the incentives of this approach as such, “It reduces the costs of going solar dramatically for the end user and makes it easy for anyone in the world to own a solar cell anywhere in the world and, from it, make a steady source of sunlight-powered income”. If this initiative is successful, it could be replicated at a larger scale to encourage the faster adoption of sustainable energy sources in developing economies. This example showcases how tech startups can enable communities to jump hurdles that previously hindered energy innovation.
While major corporations are beginning to see the light about turning to green energy, young startups are not waiting around for them. One of the most popular business models for energy startups involves combining blockchain’s ledger system with solar panel production. New ways of integrating these green technologies into the energy grid are being devised all over our dear Planet A. Fast Company has a neat resource that indexes the most innovative companies by sector or location. Their section on the energy sector is worth checking out for current or aspiring energy startups. One alternative to solar panels is Dandelion’s approach to making geothermal power available for more households at a similar or lower cost to solar power.
Green Energy is of the three themes of the 2018 Urban Innovation Challenge: Citypreneurs startup competition, which will be held on October 31. As such, we are searching far and wide for innovative young entrepreneurs who have solutions to revolutionize the energy sector. We’re offering two competition tracks to increase the program’s inclusiveness: the Seed Track for startup newcomers, and the Growth Track for more established startups (check out our previous post for more details).
Applications to the competition open on June 1 and last until August 29. To really catch our attention, your business model should take into consideration the interlinked nature of the UN SDGs. Indeed, we must find sustainable power solutions to get around our cities more efficiently and protect vulnerable members of society. These solutions will come from green energy initiatives spearheaded by young people like you who will inherit Planet A. For more information, check out our website.