3 urban energy innovations with global impact

Renewable energy and sustainable storage methods are arguably the most important changes the world needs right now to mitigate both climate change and global conflict. While great strides have been made on both fronts, there is still a long way to go when it comes to creating a zero-carbon energy ecosystem. Fortunately, some of the most innovative energy solutions are tested locally for global scalability.

1. Heat pumps to decarbonize buildings in low-income communities

In some cases it is not the technology that is innovative, but the creative approach to overcoming structural implementation hurdles. BlocPower – a World Economic Forum Global Innovator, recently ranked fourth in Fast Company’s 2022 Global Most Innovative Companies list – has proven that commercial electric heat pump technology, coupled with a holistic financing and installation model, can rapidly decarbonize buildings communities with low to middle income with no upfront cost to the owner.

BlocPower has installed electric heat pumps in more than 1,200 buildings in New York City, where the company is based, and now has projects in more than 25 cities across the US. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for the phase-in of electrification for 1.8 billion heat pumps in buildings by 2050. Only 180 million heat pumps are currently installed, or about 7 percent of the systems worldwide, but adoption rates are high growing, especially in China, Europe and North America. However, locally tailored financing and installation models are crucial to reach underserved communities.

2. Breaking record-breaking range for EV batteries

While electrification is key to decarbonizing buildings, sustainable energy storage is central to the development of an electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem, as well as mass transit and grids. There is a race among major automakers to develop and scale EV battery technology, but a two-year-old start-up, Our Next Energy (ONE), has drawn attention to its innovative EV battery design by installing it in a Tesla and breaking the world record for distance traveled on a single charge.

The Michigan-based company designed its batteries to use lithium iron phosphate (LFP), materials that are less harmful and more common, and has committed to manufacturing its batteries in North America. The company is backed by numerous high-profile mobility investors but is committed to leveraging the $7 billion provided by the US government to develop a US-based EV ecosystem, including battery innovation and supply chain development. The US market for lithium-ion batteries is expected to grow by almost 20 percent by 2030.

3. Battery storage networks that power entire cities

However, sustainable battery development is required for much more than cars and buildings. Melbourne, for example, has embarked on an ambitious program to create an interconnected network of medium-sized batteries in neighborhoods across the city. The idea is to store energy when demand is low and feed it into the grid when demand is high. The vision, called Power Melbourne, is about both achieving zero-carbon goals and economic development. Investing in the clean tech sector will create opportunities for research, education and jobs.

According to a recent World Energy Outlook report from the IEA, new jobs will be created in various clean energy sectors, mainly in electric efficiency, power generation, automotive and grid modernization. These four areas are expected to account for 75 percent of the 13.3 million new job gains, significantly offsetting the estimated 3 million jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry.

These and other urban transformation initiatives are the focus of the World Economic Forum’s Center for Urban Transformation, which opened in August. The center’s mission is to amplify and accelerate urban transformation projects such as those presented here and the full spectrum of city-based innovations.

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/3-urban-energy-innovations-global-implications 3 urban energy innovations with global impact

Adam Bradshaw

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