In The Pursuit Of Sustainability, New Challenges Arise

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And With Those Challenges Come Opportunities

There’s no way around it: the climate crisis is heightening. Our warming Earth has become a “do or die” scenario for all of humanity, and it’s been that way for years. It wasn’t until recently, however, that governments, private industries, and public consumers have (largely) been in agreement about a solution: sustainability across industries is key to combating climate change.

Minimizing impact on the planet should be the ultimate goal for all industries, including energy. There are, however, careful considerations to take when working to achieve that goal. As with anything, the pursuit of sustainability doesn’t come without its own hangups and questions. How do we ensure equitable access to sustainable technology? Is sustainability truly possible without unnecessary exploitation of other natural resources? These are just some of the challenges that face innovators in the energy space today. 

 

Where Challenges Arise, Innovation Abounds

As the Director of Schneider Ventures, I have been identifying and investing in ideas that demonstrate the potential to generate hypergrowth for over 10 years. My expertise lies in the energy and smart home domains, where I’ve noticed unique opportunities for — well, sustainable — development of sustainable technologies.

  • Looking Beyond Solar & Storage 

Solar and storage were once groundbreaking technologies, but today, they’re nothing new. Innovators are now looking to other climate tech that stretches the limits of what’s already been accomplished in order to reach aggressive environmental quotas. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to solar and storage — there are so many other technologies that we can exploit.

Some of those other technologies could include Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators, or RTGs, a type of nuclear technology used to power spacecraft. RTGs haven’t made their way into the Earthside energy market quite yet, but some research points to signs that RTGs could be harnessed as low-density, always on-batteries in the future. Alternatively, some energy players are vying to transform the grid using high-temperature superconductors, which could act like high-capacity transmission built at distribution scale. 

Given that these technologies are still in their infancy, they’ll require lengthy technical strides before they’re brought to market and made accessible. But the digitization of energy has made advanced energy tech more affordable across the board, offering a glimpse into what can be made possible once these tools are made accessible on a broad scale. 

 

  • Venture Capitalists Are Clearing A Path 

Venture capitalists have been working hard to stay ahead of the sustainability curve, even as the government steps up its own environmental regulations and requirements. Major players in the financial world, for example, have accelerated the push towards decarbonization.

More recently, asset managers have pushed in the direction of disclosing what emissions look like and demanding from their portfolio companies to share those disclosures. This has accelerated in the past two years, and it’s picking up even more speed with new regulations. When powerful finance players set a precedent like this, it creates a domino effect, incentivizing other industries to commit to sustainable practices.

What’s more, investors now have the opportunity to diversify their portfolios and invest in technology that has the ability to make a key difference in the future of energy and sustainability.
 

  • Collaboration vs. Competition

Organizations don’t always have direct control over their emissions, given that those emissions can occur across an entire value chain of suppliers and channel partners. Without effective collaboration across value chains, it’s nearly impossible to track and reduce emissions.

That’s a challenge and an opportunity, and it needs to be addressed in a cohesive manner. We should be addressing questions such as, “how do we share data? How do you enforce trust with people? How do you ensure you’re working for a common good and not pitting one against the other?” 

Ultimately, discovering more efficient modes of collaboration will create an ecosystem that helps, rather than hinders, companies in achieving their sustainability goals. 

 

The Takeaway

The pursuit of sustainability is rife with challenges, but innovators and purpose-driven individuals can capitalize on its opportunities to create diversified portfolios and develop fresh ideas for cutting-edge technology. However, as exciting as the developments in the clean energy space are, investing in things that are fundamentally different or tectonic in nature means slower returns. 

 

Achieving true sustainability means we’re in it for the long haul — and it’ll require patience and tenacity to make changes that impact generations to come. Worth the wait, in my opinion! 

 

by | Aug 28, 2021

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