16 New Year’s resolutions for the green economy in 2016 – Part two

In the second part of edie's 2016 green business wishlist, we look forward to business model shake-ups, new water-saving technologies and Tesla's hotly-anticipated foray into the UK's energy storage market.

The holiday season is now well and truly over, but if you’re experiencing post-celebration blues, it’s time to cheer up because 2016 is going to be a big one for the green economy.

As we saw in the first part of this feature, COP21 and the circular economy package have provided a solid foundation upon which sustainable businesses can continue to prosper and begin to leave their unsustainable competitors in the dust.

Of course, the year won’t be without its challenges – the establishment of the UK’s fifth carbon budget off the back of a barage of punitive green policy changes stands out among the crowd. 

But if we can achieve just a few of the resolutions set out in the second part of this list, then 2016 could be a year to remember for all the RIGHT reasons.

2016: The green business wishlist (part two)

Read part one here — 

9) Prepare for the energy storage ‘megashift

“2016 will also be the year in which the reality of energy storage will be accepted and the UK will see large strides towards realising the technology’s potential.” That’s the view of James Court, the head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Agency (REA).

Court may not have to wait long for this transition, as Tesla is expected to release its domestic Powerwall battery pack in the UK in ‘early 2016’. Elon Musk’s firm also announced plans to roll out its utility-scale Powerpack system in the Republic of Ireland in 2016.

While the Powerwall is expected to save domestic users energy and money, Musk predicts even bigger things for the Powerpack.

He said the system would allow power plants to ‘buffer’ – operate at the average energy demand – storing energy at periods of low demand, then releasing it at peak demand.

“In principle, you could shutdown half of the world’s power plants if you had stationary storage,” he said.

And 2016 could be just the beginning for battery packs. Costs are expected to fall 40% over the next five years and tech start-ups like Moixa, Victron Energy and Powervault are set to take on Tesla in what’s being labelled the ‘storage wars’.

10) “Personally adopt a Sustainable Development Goal”

Why don’t you make like the CEO of the unofficial ‘most sustainable business in the world’ and adopt one of the SDGs as a personal resolution.

For example, if you want to support Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, then you can start by installing solar panels alongside a Tesla Powerwall battery.

11) Abandon outdated business models

“The business model of the 20th century that considers the services rendered by nature to be free, available and infinite is dying,” according to Philippe Joubert, chair of the Prince of Wales EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change in Brussels.

That transition was evident in 2015 from several large corporations. Both Kingfisher and IKEA have indicated a strong desire to move towards the sharing economy and servitisation, as a “natural progression” of their business models

DIY retailer Kingfisher plans to offer more skills-based solutions combined with tool rental schemes, while Ikea is running a new project to educate its customers how its products can help them save energy.

WRAP’s chair Julie Hill pointed to Argos’ new gadget trade-in scheme as the type of project that could become more widespread in 2016.

“Argos believes consumers want the service, and as a consequence expect an increase in customer loyalty, footfall and spend,” she says. 

“I hope and expect an increase in this type of activity in 2016 and it’s where WRAP’s efforts will be focused­­ – providing the evidence, knowhow and expertise to help businesses understand the benefits of circular business models and then implementing them. So watch this space!”

12) Take water security seriously

By 2050, climate change will see around two thirds of the world’s population living in ‘water-scarce’ areas, compared to just 7% at present.

Currently, around 90% of all freshwater is used by agriculture and industry and stresses are expected to increase as the population grows and more people move to a ‘Western’ diet. 

This growing water stress will affect all areas of human activity, from food supply, to business value chains to energy generation. It could even be the cause of international conflicts.

The Institute of Chemical Engineers’ director of policy Andy Furlong said last year: “It is clear that current production methods are unsustainable and there are genuine risks of food shortages, rising food prices, droughts and social unrest for future generations unless we make more efficient use of water.

“There are solutions, but these will require political will, major investment and lifestyle changes.”

The early indications in 2016 is that business is ready for the challenge. Twenty-seven companies including GSK, Saint Gobain, Veolia, Danone and Diageo launched a new coalition called the Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change, which aims to reduce risks related to the quality and availability of water.

Actions will include water impact measurement and reduction; reporting and transparency; collective action within river basins and taking stewardship of water use through the business value chain.

The Mariott and Premier Inn hotel chains also got in on the act recently, announcing large reductions in water consumption thanks to technological innovations.

13) Embrace clean transport

The electric vehicle sector is expected to develop at ‘breakneck’ speed over the next 10 years, according to a new report from analysts IDTechEx Research.

The Electric Vehicle Forecasts, Trends and Opportunities report states that a $500bn market looks set to be created by 2026 as the entirety of the transport sector undergoes some form of electrification.

Those looking for a spark point for this electrification can point to Volkswagen’s Dieselgate snafu, which was followed by a flurry of green announcements from manufacturers. Volvo and Toyota were among those announcing wide-ranging electrification plans in the aftermath of the scandal.

The REA’s James Court adds: “2016 will be a crunch point for renewable transport, with decisions over the amount and nature of renewables in our fuel key to whether we hit our 2020 targets.”

On a broader scale, it’s worth looking out for developments from Elon Musk’s Hyperloop – a vacuum-packed tube which can propel trains up to 330mph, using solar panels for energy. Hyperloop Technologies is building a test-track for the idea in Nevada and expects to begin full testing in early 2017.

14) Support the global financial system’s green transition

In the words of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): “2016 looks set to be the year of green finance.

“Across the world, a quiet revolution is underway in public policy and private institutional innovations for a more sustainable global financial system”.

Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, is launching a fossil-fuel-free index, while insurance giant Axa, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, has pledged to divest from coal. Fellow insurance giant Allianz also pledged to reduce its exposure to coal.

The global green bond market has also grown from $36.6bn of new issuance in 2014 to $38.35bn as of mid-November 2015.

The influential Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney is also calling for change, saying that a delayed transition to low-carbon would increase risks to financial stability.

Continuing this trend in 2016, campaign groups like Avaaz are calling on business to join the global divestment movement which now includes institutions with assets worth more than $3.4trn.

15) Make green buildings the new normal

Globally, the building sector consumes more than one third of the world’s energy and, in most countries, is the largest source of GHG emissions.

The movement to reduce these emissions however, was given a major boost by COP21, both in terms of the overall agreement, and the specific pledges made by construction and property companies.

Day four at the Paris conference was Buildings Day, and it was marked by the launch of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, which aims to scale up the sector’s attempts to decarbonise.

Eighteen countries and more than 60 organisations are part of the Alliance and the World Green Building Council (WGBC) celebrated its inauguration by committing to a ‘global market transformation’  with two goals by 2050: net zero carbon new building and the energy efficiency retrofit of existing stock.

John Alker, the campaign and policy director at the UKGBC, told edie: “The broadly positive outcome from COP21 is likely to have a major impact on the mood music around sustainability in 2016. It should give business far greater certainty that action on carbon globally has genuine momentum behind it.

“The explosion of interest in health and wellbeing will also show no signs of letting up in 2016. We will see more consumers starting to demand homes with better air quality, shoppers preferring retail spaces with more greenery, and corporate occupiers seeking out offices that maximise productivity.”

16) Get the fifth carbon budget set ASAP

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is required to sign the UK’s fifth carbon budget (covering 2028-2032) into law by the end of 2016. The Government must propose an emissions reduction for the period and get that target approved in Parliament by that date.

The UK’s climate watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), suggested in November that the target should be a 57% reduction over 1990 levels.

Whatever figure the Government eventually sets, the point of the carbon budgets is to push the UK towards its target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

Aldersgate Group director Nick Molho told edie that the sooner a target is set, the better.

He says: “The UK government should rapidly adopt the fifth carbon budget in 2016 and deliver a plan for meeting both the fourth and fifth carbon budgets in a way that is timely, cost-effective and generates supply chain benefits for the UK. 

“This requires in particular a clear set of new policies to increase ambition in the energy efficiency and low-carbon heat sectors as well as continued support for low carbon power stations including renewables and CCS.” 

Read part one of edie’s green business wishlist here

Luke Nicholls & Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie