A Clean Energy Gold Rush? Making Sense of Clean Energy Innovation in a Post-COP21 World
BRUSSELS — On March 18, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States´ (GMF) Urban and Regional Policy Program (URP) hosted the event, “A Clean Energy Gold Rush? Making Sense of Clean Energy Innovation in a Post-COP21 World,” in coordination with GMF’s Brussels Forum 2016.
With the ink dry on the 2015 Global Climate Agreement in Paris, 194 countries have signaled that the next phase of the clean energy revolution has begun. Given increasing demand for new technology in renewable energy sources to keep the rise of the global temperature below 2°C by 2100, this presents an enormous opportunity for the clean energy industry. Developing and deploying clean energy technology will play a critical role in achieving any of the global climate goals set in Paris. But will all of these pledges result in a clean technology bubble or real change? The answer to that question is what the discussion aimed to determine.
The high-level panel discussion, moderated by NBC and MSNBC´s Richard Lui, featured the Honorable Mayor Dr. Eckart Würzner from the City of Heidelberg, Dr. Lawrence Jones the vice president of international programs at the Edison Electric Institute, Pedro Maria Martinez Cid the deputy innovation director at Iberdrola, and Dr. Julia Reinaud the director of research programme and partnerships at Industrial Innovation for Competitiveness. The participating audience included people from public (subnational, national, and international levels), private, academic, and NGO sectors.
The dialogue started with each of the panelists presenting their thoughts on where the clean energy industry will head as a result of the 2015 Paris Agreement and how cities, regions, and countries can lead the way in facing this global challenge. The thought-provoking discussion gave key insights on the perspectives from the different sectors represented by the panelists, all of whom stressed the importance of a cross-sectoral approach.
As part of the URP program’s interactive approach to convening, participants were polled electronically in order for GMF and the panelists to gain insights on where the audience stood on a number of policy issues that global cities, regions, and countries may face in the implementation of the COP21 agreement. Over 75 percent of those in attendance agreed with the panelists that there was now an increased demand for clean energy as a result of the agreement coming out of Paris; however, the panel expressed nuanced and complementary views on the exact path that this anticipated innovation will take. Wuerzner noted that COP21 was so important because it sent a clear political message, but that at the local level, citizens are pushing this agenda and empowering Mayors to act. Jones agreed that there is energy coming out of the agreement, but that ”hybridity” would be what drives clean energy technology forward. Going as far as to say that decentralized solutions won’t energize cities, but a hybrid solution will. Still, close to 85 percent of the audience agreed that cities will be more innovative than national governments in the effort to support cleantech.
Reinaud and Cid both agreed that the race to reduce emissions is driving the industry, but that regulatory frameworks at the national and local levels are needed to drive investment and support effective leadership. Many in attendance agreed with the panelists perspectives with 47 percent specifically agreeing that supportive regulatory frameworks would be the best way to support the growth of cleantech, followed by public-private partnerships (27 percent), access to capital (13percent), political will (7 percent) and incentives (7 percent).
With clear consensus from the panel that the clean energy revolution is here to stay, what emerged from the session was the need for leadership, citizen empowerment, and political commitment to sustainably develop and deploy the clean energy technology that will be critical to achieving the global climate goals set in Paris. As the official signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement rapidly approaches and COP22 in the not-too-distant future, the race is on to see which cities or regions can leapfrog from ideas to action.