by Brianna Crandall — December 4, 2019 — Nonprofit clean-energy advocate Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) recently launched a new report, Seven Challenges for Energy Transformation, during three connected international events in Delhi, Beijing and New York that convened the world’s leading energy stakeholders and catalysts to kick-start a global effort to accelerate the energy transition and mitigate the climate crisis.
The report frames RMI’s view on the most critical areas for collective action in the next three to five years that will keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. It identifies tipping points for rapid change that can be leveraged by both national and subnational actors across investment, breakthrough policies, cross-sectoral partnerships and more.
The report calls for decisive actions on the part of citizens, corporations, philanthropic institutions, subnational leaders, regulators and policymakers to work together in entirely new ways that leapfrog outdated boundaries by tapping systemic thinking and scaling new and existing technologies.
Richard Kauffman, chair of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), pointed out:
Working together, public and private institutions can harness market forces to dramatically accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies. I’m proud New York is showing how these partnerships are making good progress towards our climate goals.
Hosted in three of the world’s epicenters crucial to the energy transformation, the events — branded “EMERGE” — serve as a starting point for leading energy-sector thinkers and catalysts across India, China and the US to explore the seven challenges and develop innovative, market-led ideas that will transform global energy use.
Guided by the framework of the report, senior leaders from the public, private and philanthropic sectors will identify the highest leverage points to massively scale zero-carbon solutions together. This ongoing work — part of a multiyear effort spearheaded by RMI — is being undertaken via a series of global labs for stakeholders to forge powerful, cross-sector connections and drive exponential impact.
In addition to calling for more effective methods to rapidly scale renewable energy, speed new technologies to mass adoption, and double down on energy-efficiency opportunities, the report frames several imperative challenges, such as:
- Harnessing leapfrog improvements in urban systems and infrastructure to transition to secure, resilient and clean energy communities. This can deliver $2.8 trillion returns by 2030 and $7 trillion by 2050, annually, while reducing emissions by up to 90% over the same time frame. Greater electrification of efficient buildings and transportation systems offers primary pathways for cities to reach these goals and can be accelerated by stronger global networks of cities to support innovation and share best practices.
- Leveraging state-of-the-art data collection and analysis systems to improve the transparency, accountability and actionability of climate and energy data. A revolutionary “big bang” of innovations can occur by creating an integrated, open-source, global climate data system that puts powerful information in the hands of key actors.
- Redesigning industry to accelerate emissions reductions in heavy industry, long-haul transportation and aviation to set these sectors on decarbonization pathways. Climate-aligned financial sector commitments, plus policy incentives and market shifts that reward low-carbon solutions, are urgently needed.
- Accelerating the retirement of fossil fuel assets and increasing investment in clean assets via new tools and methods to manage risk, ensure access to clean energy, reduce transition costs, and mitigate negative impacts on affected industries and communities in order to maximize net value creation from global clean energy transformation.
RMI poses the question of how we can replicate what’s working at scale, improve design of new buildings and infrastructure, and increase turnover of inefficient assets. According to the report, “Wringing more work from less energy is a bigger energy ‘source’ than oil. To achieve well-below 2°C in the most cost-effective way, we need to globally triple the pace of improving energy productivity in the next decade relative to the last few years. Energy productivity advances health, development, and security, and can save trillions of dollars’ worth of supply-side and carbon-removal investments.”
Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, asserted:
The time for action is now. Climate scientists are telling us, plainly and clearly, that if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% to 50% by 2030, a world with only 1.5 degrees Celsius of average global temperature increase is still possible. Yet the window of opportunity to avoid the most severe consequences is closing quickly. This report, and our efforts to mobilize the world’s top leaders to solve it together, is a critical first step to bring about urgently needed change.
Seven Challenges for Energy Transformation is available for free download from the RMI website. Founded in 1982, independent nonprofit RMI engages businesses, communities, institutions and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, DC; and Beijing.