Net-zero: Collaboration or bust
As world leaders outline their policies to end the fossil fuel era within three decades, the heat is on to electrify cities and all aspects of our lives by turning completely to renewable energy sources.
But the big picture is complex, requires several sustainable answers, and despite the dedication and urgency, will not be resolved quickly. Transformation takes time and it will be a huge effort – on a global scale. Decarbonisation is also only one contributor to a more sustainable world.
The good news is that there are smaller pieces of the puzzle that even today can achieve great things. And whilst businesses and homes are already adopting practices that enable a better life in a better world, there are also innovative solutions on the horizon that can and will contribute significantly to achieving a more efficient and sustainable planet.
But what else needs to be considered to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius?
Our first blog in this 3-part series explores the need for collaboration to realise the decarbonisation of society.
The Importance of Collaboration
“No single technology alone can achieve net-zero.”
Directives, commitments and installing solar panels can help, but to truly drive our global efforts forward collaborative and cohesive strategic partnerships are required. These could and should be between any party that can play a role in achieving net-zero: between governments and businesses with suppliers, industry bodies, local communities, customers, and employees…for example.
Ultimately there is no one-size-fits-all approach to help decarbonise society. And no single company can solve the energy challenge alone. It should not be just a tick-box exercise: carbon offsetting is only a Band-Aid fix. We need to act on the carbon emissions themselves. Fortunately, there has been a huge undertaking in recent years to address just this – and collaborations focused on achieving net-zero are fortunately on the rise.
One Net Zero Building Block is…. Smart Cities
Across the world, projects are being developed that seek ways to reduce carbon emissions from the ground up. Construction firms are working together with energy suppliers as well as energy- and IT-technology companies to comprehensively address the many different angles a project has.
Take the efforts underway to help decarbonise society at Future Living Berlin, Germany. This smart city located in an area called Berlin-Adlershof, features a smart quarter complex with 90 apartments, ten commercial units and a community area. It opened its doors to residents in Spring 2020 and marks the start of an unparalleled, CO2-saving energy solution and multi-generation living model in central Europe.
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” – Unknown, An ancient Chinese proverb
Future Living Berlin has been realised by a Partner Network led by the investor and social housing company GSW Sigmaringen. Contributing strategic partners have addressed topics such as energy focusing on green and sustainability aspects, multi-generation living and accessibility as part of their social and inclusive focus, and smart & connected living. Here, the partnership approach has enabled solutions that go beyond a standard green energy solution. By merging innovative approaches from vastly different areas into a functioning whole, an innovative new way of connected, social, green living had started.
Most notably in the energy area, Panasonic has been working closely with GSW and the green energy company Polarstern. The 17 hectares city quarter development project uses the locally generated energy to about 90% and thereby is not a burden on the grid and its stability. The space heating and warm water concept focuses on a green and sustainable supply provided by 17 Panasonic heat pumps. Electricity for the heat pumps is generated by the 600 Panasonic PV panels on the roof of the buildings.
Panasonic has been working closely with its strategic partner, Polarstern, to test its new Energy Management System based on smart algorithms to manage the energy infrastructure intelligently and efficiently. This system controls optimise energy created and can achieve an improvement of energy used by up to 15%.
Florian Henle, Managing Director and founder of Polarstern, says, “it is a great challenge to find partners with in-depth knowledge of photovoltaics, battery and heat technology. We work with Panasonic on various projects in order to find the best possible solution for our customers. A perfect example of this is our collaboration in the Future Living Berlin project.”
The Road Ahead to Net-Zero
Even with strategic partners working closely together, there is a long road to travel. The pace at which the growth of renewable energy can continue depends also on the demand for electricity. And with this increase in electrification, a growing global population, and increased economic development, the general consensus is that electricity demands will increase dramatically in the next decade – massively driven by the electrification of heating and mobility in the advanced economies.
The route to decarbonisation also hugely depends on continued advancements in energy efficiency, which will facilitate the transition to electrification even further. The ‘electrification’ of energy services such as electric vehicles in the transport sector and the increased use of heat pumps in buildings, will be crucial in shaping the world’s new, renewable-dominated energy system.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently released A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector to achieve Net Zero by 2050. According to the Roadmap, a low-carbon future begins with power generation and that by 2050 renewables will account for nearly 90% of global electricity generation. This requires huge investment, with the IEA estimating that investment will need to triple by 2030 to over $4trn – reaching over $100trn in the next three decades.
This investment will be driven by government and industry, and we also need to consider how we as businesses can and should invest in our own operations to truly facilitate change.
The importance of the RE100
The RE100 is the Climate Group’s global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to make the electricity for their business operations 100% renewable. This is a significant initiative and has the potential to drive an immense reduction in carbon emissions. In fact, RE100 member companies are already driving enough renewable electricity demand to power a medium-sized country.
Our membership of the RE100 is a part of a journey we have been making for over 100 years when the company was founded on the management philosophy, “to contribute to the progress and development of society through its business activities.” With a commitment to contribute to the decarbonisation of society and to produce more energy than consuming across scope 1-3 by 2050, we recognise that we need to approach it by starting with our own operations first. We look forward to sharing more about our initiatives and the way we have started to conduct this “journey” in the second blog of this series.
Looking towards COP26
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be taking place in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. It is one of many important platforms that facilitate opportunities for discussion and identifying synergies for strategic partnerships. Panasonic will be part of the Japanese Pavilion and we would welcome the opportunity to meet with existing and potential partners wishing to work together to contribute to an impactful global change.