This week I’m in Finland at a Chief Technology Officer’s forum organized by SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund.
After talking to some CTOs at these very innovative companies, you realise that technology has most of the answers. Today I’m very optimistic about the task ahead, a feeling I never get when coming out of conferences full of sustainability wonks or brand/marketing folks talking empty stuff…
* The main learning was confirming that technology, supported by strong product performance standards, will be a key part of the fight against climate change.
* I saw a presentation from KONE, an elevator maker, who says their new volume elevator models launched in 2012 consume 70% less energy in Europe, 60–75% less in Asia and 40% less in the US compared to the typical KONE elevator configuration from 2008. To put that in perspective, 40% of global energy is due to buildings and between 2% to 10% is related to elevator and mechanical stairs. Imagine if we came up with legislation similar to the car industry eg. Minimum energy performance, more taxes for elevators that consume more energy, more taxes for building that consume more energy…
* I also saw a new company called Eniram who has pioneered a system to reduce fuel consumption in cargo ships by collecting intelligent data to monitor vessel performance and then suggest a number of optimization actions such as going at the optimum speed, when the hull should be cleaned or using optimizing the engine. The global emissions of shipping are double the ones from aviation. $20m is the annual cost of fuel per year per cargo vessel. In this case, costs savings are already a great incentive and this technology is expanding. But if strong cargo vessel efficiency standards or taxation of fuel were more stringent, then the technology would be adopted immediately.
* Another interesting company is ST1 - a petrol retailer that is investing heavily in bioethanol from waste sources such as out-of-date bread, organic waste or food containing starch and sugar. Their next big project is making ethanol from saw dust. Again, these innovations have a strong business case but the reason why there are successful is due to mandatory blending of ethanol with gasoline. Again, a product standard regulation. Their blends high on bio ethanol have a carbon footprint of 80%-90% less than gasoline. Why would that fuel pay the same tax?
* I heard a mining company complaining that they know technologies that could cut the energy in mining by 40% but their customers won’t pay the price difference. Do you think that all these losers working on sustainable marketing would convince this mining company’s clients to self flagellate themselves and pay a premium or will product standards and best available technology regulation have to fix it?
* Another company, Tamturbo produces gearless, durable, high efficient turbo compressors. Around 10-12% of industrial energy consumption is used to make compressed air, so strong energy standards for compressors is key to drive innovation and product performance.
* Caverion gave a great presentation - a company that follows a full life cycle business model by designing, building, operating and maintaining buildings that are user-friendly and energy-efficient. They have a contract with the Swedish municipality of Kalmar, Sweden where they have guaranteed, to its town hall customer, savings of €21 million during 20 years of building upgrades. Here again, if we had policy to push local government towards more efficient buildings, these types of projects would not be anecdotes, but daily business.