A seasoned technology executive, Udi Merhav founded energyOrbit after 15 years spent designing and implementing e-commerce and IT solutions.
The Western U.S. is realizing unprecedented heat waves and fires, while the East Coast endures relentless hurricanes, compounding yearslong environmental catastrophes. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has wrought a health crisis unlike any seen in 100 years.
But, I’m already observing businesses and organizations seizing the opportunity to command a holistic movement exacting sustainable positive change. I have renewed enthusiasm that great minds have compelling, innovative ideas about our direction, rooted in how we become more energy efficient to reduce environmental impact. A Lawrence Livermore National Labs and NRDC report concurs.
What can keep us on a clean energy track, and what will get businesses and residents on board?
A Living Environmental Experiment
Environmental disasters further reveal that climate change can threaten our existence. Unchecked, climate change could cost the U.S. $500 billion yearly by 2099, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment. This provides opportunities to live this experiment by adapting in real time, resulting in environmental change.
Covid-19 has us rethinking how we live, with social distancing and wearing masks as means of minimizing the spread of the virus. Working remotely has contributed to a retreat of greenhouse gases (GHG), given reduced fossil fuel use for transportation and manufacturing. We’re getting a firsthand look at what can happen with clean energy initiatives. Some employees will have the option to work from home permanently.
The pandemic also has us considering jobs. Millions of workers — 1 in 8 — are jobless, according to August 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with some jobs never returning.
Climate Change And Global Warming
A World Meteorological Organization report notes we may pass a 1.5⁰C global warming limit, set by the Paris Agreement, before 2024. The report does not take into consideration the changes in greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions due to Covid-19, but that’s not enough to set us on a permanent path yet.
Many businesses and organizations have been stepping up their energy efficiency programs and incentives over the last several years, such as what’s happening in New York State. These include broader electrification projects for heating and cooling residences as well as office buildings.
With fewer people going into offices and more people working from home during the pandemic, this is an ideal time for your business to explore technologies with less reliance on GHG-causing fossil fuels. Adding solar energy and battery storage solutions to clean energy offerings increases the likelihood that consumers will find options to benefit your business financially, as well as the environment.
National, State And Local Policies
Nationally, I’ve seen a staggering lack of will to focus on clean energy, and the effects are happening now. The good news: States, provinces and local entities, including grassroots organizations, are creating tangible GHG reduction initiatives. Clean-energy economy demand-side management (DSM) portfolios, the space in which my company operates, include renewables, battery storage and energy efficiency. With more energy efficiency, renewables and storage become more effective.
While there have been setbacks to previous administrations’ environmental advancements, big thinking continues. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has put the environment on his platform, committing to $2 trillion in clean energy programs and halting power plant carbon emissions by 2035.
Many state and local governments are enhancing and enacting measures to move clean energy initiatives toward a sustainable future. California, for example, is targeting a reduction in GHGs, a primary climate change factor. As covered in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s report examining technologies to create “negative carbon emissions,” that approach may involve biofuels plus carbon capture to produce hydrogen, land management to sequester carbon, and/or direct air capture.
This fall, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order for all new passenger vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2035. This measure is to help reduce GHGs by moving away from fossil fuels. Public-private coalitions also are expanding, such as “Roadmap to Decarbonize California’s Buildings” with the goal to reduce emissions by more than 20% by 2020 and by 40% by 2030.
From many organizations and agencies, there are promising solutions with positive environmental effects, including pollution reduction through less fossil fuel reliance, while advancing more electrification uses, known for cleaner energy.
Canada’s government is considering adoption of various clean energy programs, with a focus on addressing environmental impact, creating jobs and educating businesses and individuals on how to effect change. These include building retrofitting and green building workforce training.
What Businesses And Individuals Can Do
Innovative solutions have arisen from unique partnerships that take into account the need for cost-effective energy efficiency efforts linked to today’s new challenges. For example, some drug manufacturers are using more energy efficient equipment to reduce their carbon footprints.
For real change, I believe we need continued, behavior-modifying incentives, plus motivating, easily implemented actions for economic impact. To shift paradigms, we need public/private sector partnership, residential/business support, governmental leadership, and developed and undeveloped world collaboration. Our best hope: Raise the collective bar to pursue a global clean energy economy for future generations. In an ideal world, in an effort to maximize decarbonization of the economy, the implementation of energy efficiency measures will be a precursor to renewables.
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