On January 8th the New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced the city would divest $189 billion of its pension funds from fossil fuel companies and $5 billion of fossil fuel industry funding was to be retracted. After five years of community pressure, a lawsuit against 5 major oil companies was filed for climate related damages. The city is sending a clear message that “the fossil fuel industry is to blame for our warming climate“.
A wide sentiment is spreading, and lawmaker’s constituents are using their voice to overpower “Big Oil’s” lobbyists. Voters are demanding a change in the energy industry, asking for the reduction of our dependency on fossil fuels, while supporting more sustainable methods of producing energy. Businesses are joining in on the efforts to reduce oil dependency by finding ways to increase the efficiency of their current manufacturing and logistical processes, while investing in and purchasing “greener” equipment to replace outdated ones. One challenge that we face is our ability to modify the current infrastructure to be compatible with renewable energy technology. One way lawmakers can help is by providing tax credits or deductions for companies making the switch to more renewable technologies.
Companies Making an Impact
There are many examples of companies making changes towards implementing a more energy efficient supply chain and product. Hapag-Lloyd, a shipping firm, is aiming for a 20% carbon emissions reduction by 2020. The company plans to participate in the reduction of the global shipping industry emissions figures, as well as pledging to purchase more efficient ships. The way to solve the current sustainability issue is by increasing the efficiency of the products that are currently in use through modification, and overtime replacing old technology with products that are able to run on renewable energy resources. Another example of a company making headlines is Siemens Gamesa, which announced that it had successfully connected 5,000 MW to the Indian electric grid since first entering the company’s wind market in 2009.
First Solar has announced that it plans to open a new solar module manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio. The 1.2 gigawatt factory will produce the company’s Series 6 thin film PV modules, which are exempt from the solar tariffs that are plaguing their competitors who manufacture products overseas. In December, Tesla confirmed that they will begin producing solar tiles at their Buffalo Gigafactory. Tesla’s solar Gigafactory is expected to produce 1 gigawatt of annual capacity by the end of 2019, and 2 gigawatts at some point in future. Lockheed Martin is aiming to create a flow battery system that will allow renewable energy to be stored and used. The challenge with existing flow batteries is that they are made of toxic materials like vanadium and zinc bromide, which are also extremely difficult to recycle. Lockheed Martin’s flow batteries are made of water-soluble electrolytes (or equivalents) making them much more earth and recycle friendly.
The renewable energy industry has been growing over the past decade, and in 2015 it reached nearly 10% of the global energy consumption. However, to achieve a truly sustainable energy system, global energy consumption needs to more than double to 21% by 2030. Although wind and solar deployment has accelerated, this goal is still out of reach under current policies.
What Can Be Done to Support the Switch to Renewable Energy?
Financial institutions can increase funding and provide more credit to companies that are in the renewable energy industry. They can also create CRS (corporate socially responsible companies) and Renewable technology ETFs to make it easier for individuals to support companies. Do you have any ideas of how we can boost the transition? If so, comment below!