In the early stages of the Trump administration, DGA has identified these top five emerging climate and sustainability trends which we will be watching in 2017.
The Manufacturing Sector: Clean Energy and Competitiveness
As President Trump calls for making America’s manufacturing more competitive, clean energy represents a significant opportunity to do just that. The Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, a project of DGA, released a report last year which found that industrial efficiency could save manufacturers and other businesses $298 billion in energy costs while reducing carbon emissions by an amount equal to 46 coal-fired power plants. Many leading American companies already recognize these benefits: manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson, Raytheon and Whirlpool have pledged to cut energy use 25 percent, while others, such as GM, Mars and Procter & Gamble, have committed to increase their use of clean renewable energy.
Fortune 500 Companies: States Must Make Renewable Energy an Economic Development Issue
In the last five years, Fortune 500 companies and other large institutions, such as the military and colleges and universities, have begun to transform electricity markets by ramping up their purchases of renewable energy. In 2015, for the first time ever, these non-utility buyers bought more than 50% of the wind energy on the market. And now, these large customers are urging states to make it easier for them to buy renewable energy. Two leading trade associations, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), ranked all 50 states on the customer friendliness of the renewables markets and concluded that states that enable investment in clean domestic energy production are most likely to attract America’s largest job-creating businesses.
Policymakers from both parties have been weighing in. For example, during his State of the Commonwealth speech, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe discussed access to renewable energy an economic development strategy: “Recently, we met with the leaders from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, and they made it perfectly clear that they will only do business and create jobs in states that can provide renewable energy to power their operations.”
Additionally, after Iowa was ranked Number 1 in the RILA/ITI report, Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds said, “Access to low-cost renewable energy is a critical part of our economic development strategy. These job-creating businesses cite our access to low-cost renewable energy as a major reason for locating in Iowa.”
You can read more about recent corporate procurement trends in DGA’s latest blog post here.
Expanding Carbon Emissions from Heating: A Growing Climate Concern
Heating and cooling account for more than 30 percent of total energy use across U.S. residential, commercial, and industrial sectors at a cost of $270 billion annually. Globally, heating and cooling account for approximately 50 percent of total final energy demand, making it a significant contributor to climate change.
Even so, the supply of heat is largely ignored in the energy and climate change debate. Because heating and cooling comprise such a large percentage of total energy end use, it will not be possible for companies, states, cities, and countries to achieve long-term climate and energy goals without dramatically increasing the use of renewable sources of heating and cooling (e.g., biogas, biomass, landfill gas, solar thermal, geothermal). We expect more attention to be given to renewable heating and cooling in 2017, as many companies and cities are beginning to explore renewable heating and cooling projects for their facilities and buildings.
The Rising Need for Long-term Climate Technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Nuclear
In late 2016, the U.S. government released its plan for deep decarbonization by 2050, including reductions of 80% in greenhouse gas emissions, as called for by leading scientists. The U.S. plan envisions significant reductions in the electricity sector, using a balanced energy mix of renewables (55 percent), nuclear (17 percent), and fossil fuels with CCS (20 percent). This analysis and others shines new light on the importance of nuclear power and CCS, both of which have garnered bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and which we expect to continue in 2017.
Retail Sector: Transform Business Model to Enable Innovation and Sustainability
It is a tough time to be a retailer in the U.S. due to market pressures that include online competition and shifting consumer preferences. The adage “innovate or die” comes to mind – and in 2017, the retail sector appears poised to do just that. This will require new business models to enable innovation and sustainability – more peer-to-peer sharing, more partnerships with manufacturers, more product take-back programs, and a greater focus on the circular economy. This has serious implications for the climate: If just $1 trillion of retail trade were on a path to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent annually for ten years, it would remove the equivalent of France’s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere.