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The transformation of energy technology: learnings from CES 2020

Sponsored: Sustainability was a critical component of the innovative technologies shared at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Here are three takeaways.

This article is sponsored by Enel X.

Sustainability was a common thread at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. From improving energy efficiency to responsible recycling, more than 200 companies on the show floor had exhibitions focused on sustainable innovation. 

Through these exhibitors and the myriad conference sessions, the team from Enel X noticed three major themes emerge related to the transformation of energy technology.

 1. The future of transportation is electric

There is no denying consumer interest in electric vehicles is on the rise. In particular, the next two years will bring critical growth across sectors — first in the short term with personal vehicles, and then ultimately with rideshare and corporate fleets.

In a panel about advances in electric mobility, Lea Malloy, associate vice president of advanced technology at Cox Automotive, noted that EVs are growing in popularity among consumers for three reasons:

  1. they require less maintenance compared to internal combustion engine vehicles;
  2. they provide an opportunity to do good for the environment by decreasing carbon footprint; and
  3. they’re unquestionably fun to drive.

At CES, we also saw an increase in companies addressing consumer concerns to further drive adoption of EVs. Consumer focus is changing from gas mileage to driving range, charging infrastructure availability and battery health. In order to continue market penetration, electric vehicle manufacturers need to prioritize education with a goal of changing consumer expectations.

Also at CES, Enel X launched its next-generation smart electric vehicle charging product line for residential, commercial, utility and automotive customers in North America. This product line, built off the Amazon best-selling JuiceBox smart home charging station, will support the decarbonization of the energy and transportation sectors. It also will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by providing expanded speed, performance and convenience to EV drivers.

 2. Resiliency is just as important as recovery

Governments spend billions of dollars annually on disaster recovery. When preparing for emergencies and natural disasters, however, resilient infrastructure and technology is just as important.

During a panel on Ensuring Connectivity During Disasters, Boutheina Guermazi, director of digital development at the World Bank, stated that for every dollar invested in resilience, $6 to $11 can be saved in post-disaster repairs and recovery.

The communities that have the best odds at recovery following a natural disaster are the ones that embrace resilient technologies before disaster strikes, she said. Therefore, it’s critical that governments and businesses alike focus their efforts on finding a balance between both initiatives.

The resilience category at CES featured almost 40 companies that highlighted innovations that aim to tackle challenges such as environmental disasters, pollution and rising sea levels. From agricultural technology to water recycling systems, the increase in companies tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues signals the consumer technology industry’s growing attention toward climate change and sustainability.

Storage took center stage in a panel on the role of renewable energy, where Conner Prochaska, chief commercialization office for the U.S. Department of Energy, declared that "if we want to move toward a zero-emissions future, storage is key."

Solar-plus-storage solutions enable businesses to continue powering critical equipment amid grid outages and power quality issues. The ability to self-generate, store and consume power on site not only empowers businesses to be self-sufficient when the grid goes down, but it also gives them an opportunity to significantly cut energy costs. Additionally, onsite storage enables businesses to leverage new revenue streams by participating in regional demand response programs.

3. Consumers and businesses alike have a role to play in creating a sustainable future

One word in particular cropped up in multiple CES conference sessions: purpose.

Recent surveys show that consumer preference for businesses that express purpose and engrain sustainability into their supply chains is at an all-time high. In fact, a 2019 study sponsored by Enel Green Power found that more than half of Americans would be willing to pay more for a sustainable product. This proves that purpose is more than just a buzzword — it’s a non-negotiable requirement to successfully doing business today and in the future.

As more consumers put pressure on businesses to adopt sustainable practices, businesses are answering the call. In a CES keynote session on purpose-driven businesses, Unilever CEO Alan Jope stated that Unilever would become irrelevant as a company without behaving responsibly, as consumers will "vote with their dollars." He also noted that shareholders increasingly value purpose over short-term profitability, recognizing that sustainability is key to long-term success.

In the same session, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff shared that today’s CEOs must focus on building 100 percent sustainable supply chains, and said he expects in the future consumers will demand transparency into the ways in which products are made.

Enel X is proud to walk the sustainability talk through its emphasis on the circular economy: a paradigm in which raw materials usage is reduced to a minimum in favor of long-lasting renewable resources. The entire lifecycle of Enel X’s products and services — from material resourcing to waste disposal — is taken into consideration and looked at through the lens of opportunity for sustainable innovation.

One thing is for certain: the energy sector is in the midst of a fast-moving transformation. If businesses across sectors want to successfully ride the tide, they need to lean into consumers’ sustainability demands and be platforms for change.

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