19 for ’16: Biggest sustainability hopes for 2016
Now, for the next installment of our three-part VERGE series, we asked VERGE leaders a second question: "What’s your biggest hope for sustainability technology in 2016?"
Be sure to check back for our final installment featuring 20 provocative predictions for 2030. (The following has been edited for clarity and length.)
Corporates leading by example
Kate Brandt — lead for sustainability, Google
We plan to continue driving sustainability across our operations by designing our data centers to be as efficient as possible. Compared to five years ago we are now able to get 3.5 times the amount of computing power for the same amount of energy which means serving an active Google user for one month is like only driving a car for one mile. We are also working to create sustainable workplaces by developing tools like Portico, which we hope one day will help others make decisions about healthier materials for their space. We are purchasing and investing in renewable energy in ways that can lead to change in how the industry works.
We are doing this through purchasing more renewable energy than any other corporate buyer in the world (2 GW and growing) and by investing $2.5 billion in innovative, large-scale energy projects. And we are investing in solutions that we hope will make sustainability a reality for many like Project Sunroof and our partnership with with a San Francisco based startup named Aclima, in which we are attaching air-quality sensors to our Street View cars to measured for chemicals that are hazardous to breathe, like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Lindsay Baker — president and co-founder, Building Robotics
Sustainability as default
Robin Chase — co-founder, Veniam, Zipcar
Adam Lowry — co-founder and chief greenskeeper, Method
Davida Herzl — CEO and co-founder, Aclima
My sincere hope is for a call to action from world leaders and businesses alike at COP21, leading to a watershed moment for policy and sustainability technology in 2016. Many of these technologies offer the greatest economic opportunities we've ever seen. We must move beyond the term "sustainability," and come to understand that the health of our planet is fundamental to everything we do, and everything we are. Only this shared understanding, and solid commitments to action, can enable large-scale implementation.
Tom Werner — CEO, SunPower
At SunPower, sustainability drives efficiencies in all areas of our operations, from manufacturing to customer service. It enables us to reduce materials costs, enhance long-term performance of our technology, and offer customers the highest quality solar technology available on the market today.
We’re entering a new era of sustainability, one where we’re partnering with our customers and integrating data into every decision we make. The result is innovative technology that equally meets our customers’ needs and the needs of the planet.
Scaling low-cost batteries
Danny Kennedy — managing director, California Clean Energy Fund
Andrew Beebe — managing director, Obvious Ventures
Ev Williams — co-founder, Twitter, Obvious Ventures, Medium
Water and food solutions
Peter Gleick — president and co-founder, the Pacific Institute
Helene York — global director, responsible business, Bon Appetit at Google
The concept is new for the nation which owns some of the world's largest fishing vessels and has no regulatory backbone to protect overfished waters. Tuna fishermen descending from many generations of tuna fishermen are forming co-ops to set self-imposed moratoriums during spawning seasons because they see a threat to their livelihoods. (Albacore and mackerel populations have declined 74 percent in 40 years, according to a recent study.) Seaweed has long been part of the Japanese diet but "in addition," not "instead."
The relatively young NGO community is forming alliances with businesses, chefs and fishing interests, and employing effective conservation technologies, such as fish-aggregating devices (FADs), trying to define what "sustainable seafood" means in a uniquely Japanese way. If they succeed, the world will be on our way to paving a new food path for the future.
Andrew Liu — VP of new ventures, AECOM
Nicole Ferrini — chief resilience officer, City of El Paso
Antwi Akom — founder, ISEEED/Streetwize
Moving forward, we need to create a more equitable sustainable tech environment that addresses enormous age, race, and income gaps both in terms of jobs (who is being hired at Silicon Valley sustainable tech companies and beyond) and community driven data (bottom up innovation). My biggest hope for sustainability technology in 2016 is that we begin to better understand the relationship between social equity and climate justice and ask all communities the question: How can sustainable technologies and bottom up innovation help green our ghettos, our barrios, our favelas, and the fastest growing cities in the world?
Our democracy has been hacked and mobile and sustainable tech can help us reclaim our democracy from big money. Television can't do this because it is controlled by special interest. So we need the sustainable tech community to play a leading role in helping us develop bottom up solutions to reclaim our democracy and create a more sustainable world, not just for the 1 percent but for the 100 percent.
Other big hopes
Michael Berkowitz — president, 100 Resilient Cities, Rockefeller Foundation
Second, I hope that the technology developed better reflects the needs of cities. As more of the world’s population moves to urban areas, cities will have an increasing need for technology to help them achieve sustainable and resilient outcomes. Technology providers know this, but too often they assume they know what cities want, rather than asking them, or using all the available evidence. That has to change. Cities are leading the fight against climate change, and can't do it with the help of government alone. Solution providers need to work in conjunction with cities to develop innovations for a more resilient future.
Stefan Heck — co-founder and CEO, Nauto
Nancy Pfund — managing partner, DBL Partners
2. In 2016, more U.S. cities and states will follow in the footsteps of California, Hawaii, Las Vegas and others by announcing aggressive renewable energy targets.
3. In 2016, commercial and industrial will be the fastest growing sector of energy storage deployments, and will typically be paired with energy storage agreements with utilities, capitalizing on the advantageous nature of dual-customer economics.
4. We expect that Net Energy Metering policies for the vast majority of states will remain materially unchanged throughout 2016. This will be a result of strong and increasing public support for NEM, solar energy contribution percentages remaining in low-to-mid single digits for all states except Hawaii despite continued rapid solar growth, and PUCs recognizing that dramatic changes to NEM policy is not the right economic signal to send to the distribution generation industry, whose interdependence and collaboration with utilities is only just beginning.
5. In 2016, the drive for energy access across the developing world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, will primarily be met by distributed renewables, chiefly solar plus energy storage.
Frank Pennisi — VP and general manager, Honeywell Connected Buildings
Cady Coleman — astronaut, NASA
Stephen Ritz — founder, Green Bronx Machine
My biggest hope is that people do not lose their sense of hope, purpose and passion; that everyone everywhere continues their work with a relentless sense of grit, determination, resilience, optimism and a desire to make our lives and leave the world better than we found it — for us to own and steward our destinies and protect our planet. We are finally on the right road — I hope we stay the course and pray that people enjoy the ride.