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Bold goals at CEM7: Philips projects 2 billion LEDs sold

While talks began at the Clean Energy Ministerial 7 in San Francisco, some 93 entrepreneurs and established businesses exhibited answers to climate change.

Energy ministers from around the world converged with business and NGO leaders and entrepreneurs in downtown San Francisco Wednesday for the first day of the Clean Energy Ministerial 7th gathering (CEM7) to figure out how to transition the world to clean energy.

But it was entrepreneurs and businesses that got things going.  In a vast tent in San Francisco's iconic union square across from where the ministers met, some 93 entrepreneurs and businesses exhibited their wares — everything from microgrids in a box to 3D printed electric cars.

Philips Lighting announced it will sell 2 billion LED light bulbs —  whose use could translate into an electricity savings equal to taking 60 coal-fired power plants offline — in the next five years, to begin delivering on CEM's "global lighting challenge" to bring energy-efficient lighting to people around the globe.

All Power Labs demonstrated its mobile mini-power plants: biowaste and agricultural waste gasifiers that not only generate clean energy for a locality but also sequesters carbon by producing biochar as a byproduct. Biochar is a carbon-holding natural fertilizer that when added to soil both enriches it and sequesters the carbon that would have otherwise been released into the air.

Meanwhile, startup described how it is building a global software platform to connect all the world's clean tech companies with the investors who might fund them and the renewable energy projects that need them — LinkedIn style.

And tiny 10Power, Sistema Biobolsa and Sustenersol Company showed how they are bringing electricity to rural communities in Haiti, Nicaragua and Tanzania, respectively.

These and dozens of other companies hailing from 18 nations as far away as Bangladesh and Sweden and Korea set up at the CEM7 Startups & Solutions Showcase —  are disrupting the electricity industry. They certainly challenge the notion that electricity is a stodgy, unchanging industry. 

Bringing on the clean energy transition is the point of the CEM7 gathering. That transition is necessary to deliver on the historic Paris Agreement reached by 195 countries in December to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Disruption will be the name of the game.

"Clean energy investment is poised for rapid growth," said Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Ethan Zindler, quoting a Bloomberg report. With or without the Paris Agreement, clean energy investment is on track to reach $6.9 trillion over the next 25 years, Bloomberg figured.

The 2 degree Celsuis scenario presents a $12.1 trillion investment opportunity.

But if the world chooses to work to abide by the 2 C ceiling, that "presents a $12.1 trillion investment opportunity," Bloomberg found in the update to its Mapping the Gap report about closing the gap between business-as-usual to meeting the Paris Agreement.

Let's take a closer look:

Sustenersol booth at CEM7

Philips and LEDs

Philips, the largest light bulb company in the world, said it is embarking on the 2 billion LED lights sold campaign to help fulfill the "global lighting challenge" launched at COP 21 in Paris by the Clean Energy Ministerial to deploy 10 billion high efficiency quality light bulbs such as LEDs as soon as possible to combat climate change.

"We area committing by 2020 to sell 2 billion LED as a way of really, really reducing energy consumption," said Bill Bien, head of strategy for Philips Lighting. Because LEDs require vastly less electricity than incandescent light bulbs, Philips equated the energy savings to that produced by 60 mid-size coal power plants "with emissions equivalent to 24 million cars."

"We are very confident that we can act, and help others very quickly determine how we can change business as usual," Bien said, adding that the company is committed to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2020.  

Sistema Biobolsa 

This startup is tackling some of rural poverty's two biggest problems: how to provide electricity in rural outposts where people currently have none and what to do with human and animal waste so is not a health risk.  Sistema Biobolsa has developed a biofuels digester that converts animal and human waste into energy that can power small electric generators. Sistema Biobolsa has its product up and running in Nicaragua and is slowly expanding across Central America.

Sustenersol Company

Sustenersol Company is deploying "solar microgrid in a box" kits in Tanzania. Working with U.S. company ZeroBase Energy, which provides the solar panels and the power system, Sustenersol ships the kits to rural villages where Sustenersol and its partners can assemble them in a few hours. The boxes hold solar panels, LED lights, and the power system (including an inverter, controller and lithium batteries) is housed in a metal box.

Fenix International

Fenix International developed a mobile payments system and wrapped it with a mini solar plus storage apparatus so that Ugandans can get off-the-grid electricity in their homes at an affordable, pay-as-you-go cost. Customers use an app in their mobile phones to pay the bill for the electricity usage that the same app records. The roughly 8 inch by 12 inch box has a battery in it that is electronically hooked up with a 2-foot by 1-foot solar panel the customer can put on the roof or in the yard to collect the sun’s energy.


Honeywell committed to invest $900 million in R&D and new manufacturing capacity to create alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — greenhouse gases with extra potency in a warming climate. Honeywell said it will use this money to expand production of what it calls "the broadest possible portfolio of reduced- and low-global-warming-potential (LGWP) alternatives" for use in refrigerators, auto air conditioning, insullation, industrial solvents and other places where HFCs are now used. Honeywell said it already makes LGWP alternatives available, but it will scale up.

EnergyAccessX: getting electricity to those without

Bloomberg states that if the Paris Agreement goal is to be met, the majority of the $12.1 billion in new investment must go to electricity projects in emerging markets.

In the developing world, huge swaths of rural landscapes are not electrified, leaving 1.2 billion people — or nearly a fifth of the world's people — without access to electricity.

So part of the challenge to the CEM7 gatherers is how to provide that energy to the globe’s rural poor and how to drive investment into clean energy in emerging markets.

It is a topic of huge interest, judging by the oversold EnergyAccessX event hosted Wednesday by Power For All, one of the preliminary meetings before the energy ministers actually gather. It was a full day of discussion — and sometimes argument — about how best to attract financial capital towards clean distributed energy projects in the developing world.

Nancy Pfund, the founder of DBL Partners venture capital fund, told the group that it will happen — that momentum in the innovation space is on task and investors will follow: "The 21st century is when people get access to distributed energy."

Dan Kammen, professor and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, said a lot has been achieved just by having the goal to do so, as the U.N. formalized in its Sustainable Energy for All strategy.

"The fact that the U.N. and many countries have targets and pathways is critical because it forces other groups to look at the questions" of what technologies might actually work, he said.

Many of the entrepreneurs exhibiting at the Startups & Solutions Showcase were addressing the electricity access problem with their off-grid electricity generation inventions.


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