Earth Day 2018: decarbonized and in demand5 minutes
Three recent developments could help to spur investment in sustainable power and accelerate the move to a new energy system. First, one of the world’s most powerful investors called on some of the largest companies to do more to “respond to broader societal challenges.” In his 2018 letter to corporate heads, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink warned companies to understand the ways broad, structural trends, including climate change, would affect company growth potential.
At about the same time, New York City announced its goal of divesting its $5 billion holdings in oil companies from its pension funds. The announcement follows other states and municipalities in California, Texas and New England that have either divested in fossil fuel makers, written policy that promotes renewable energy or done both.
The third development is the rise of megastorms such as Hurricane Irma and Harvey. The storms helped to make 2017 a record year for insurance payouts—about $135 billion--linked to natural disasters and other catastrophes, according to global reinsurer Munich RE.
As thousands are expected to gather to celebrate Earth Day later this week, we ask, can there be a better time to invest in renewable energy?
Turning point for renewables
We are at a turning point as the devastation wrought by natural disasters and the dramatic cost reductions of renewable power, batteries and electric vehicle fleets are accelerating a move to a new system for energy.
Promising innovations point to a path forward. In “The Sunny Optimism of Clean Energy Shines Through Tech’s Gloom,” Wired Magazine highlights innovations such as microgrids, solar + storage tech and renewable energy calling clean power “the new Silicon Valley—filled with giddy, breathtaking ingenuity and good news.”
Panasonic plays a technology and manufacturing leadership role in the falling prices and improving performance of developments in this energy future: solar power generation, batteries used in both vehicles and for power storage and electrified driving. We may be best known for its lithium-ion batteries powering the world’s best known electric vehicle brands. In EVs, we are playing a leadership role applying manufacturing scale and technology improvements to the dramatic cost reduction in cylindrical battery cells. We’re making similar progress with prismatic batteries.
Manufacturing solar roof tiles with Tesla
Solar technology and manufacturing developments show similar promise in their ability to power the new energy future as battery tech. For instance, in Buffalo, New York Panasonic is collaborating with Tesla in the production of solar cells for building roof tiles—a product that integrates high-efficiency photovoltaics with roofing materials.
We’re also working with Toyota Motors on solar tiles for autos. Last year the global vehicle maker began using our HIT Photovoltaic for autos on Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles. These auto roof panels have a high output (approx.180 Watts) enabling them to charge the car’s lithium-ion batteries and 12 V batteries, resulting in a possible extension in travel distance and increased fuel economy.
Building energy diversity
Diversification of sources is critical to the sustainability and security of a new energy system. Hydrogen is drawing attention as an alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power. It is the most abundant element in the universe and reacts with oxygen to generate electricity. And because the only substance created during this process is water, it is very clean. For over 20 years, Panasonic has conducted R&D on hydrogen energy. It has commercial projects in Japan and Europe and sees promise in North America.
We’ll have more on decarbonized and in demand innovation in upcoming blogs.
Happy Earth Day!