Michael Lenox and Stuart MacDonald discuss new technologies in sustainability, biopolymers, and the circular economy.
Stuart MacDonald (00:10):
What innovations today do you see as essential accelerators to mitigating climate change that you’re most excited about?
Michael Lenox (00:21):
For a lot of industries, electrification is the path towards reducing carbon emissions. In transportation, what we’re seeing electric vehicles; for a lot of industrials, we’re seeing electrification of their processes. We haven’t talked about buildings, but the built environment is a significant greenhouse gas emitter. Switching everyone to electric heat generation, electric cooking, and the like would be another significant way to reduce emissions. They are of course dependent on our electrical generation not being driven by fossil fuels. The lynchpin to all of the de-carbonization efforts are decarbonizing electrical generation. Renewables are very exciting story, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. One of the big challenges we talk about this quite a bit in the book is as you get to a higher penetration of renewables on the electrical grid, you have intermittency issues. The sun doesn’t always shine. The wind doesn’t always blow. And so storage becomes really important. Battery storage is one potential logical solution to the problem. I’m very enamored with the notion of distributed power that as we continue our development of these technologies, the adoption by homes and retailers in the light with solar panels on your home starts to create opportunities for efficiencies and the electrical generation system that could allow us to have a greater penetration of renewables and avoid some of the intermittency issues. But again, that’s going to require investment in infrastructure. It’s going to require investment in smart grid. It’s going to require rethinking of how we structure electrical markets and, and the ways in which we are currently consumers of electricity. Our residential homes could be generators of electricity selling back to the grid. There’s a lot of needed advancement in electrical generation to get us there. It’s just absolutely fundamental and critical. It’s not everything. But to the extent we’re trying to electrify other industries doing this is going to be important. And if I’m right, that we’re going to continue to drive down the cost of things like solar generation. Also, it could be looking at a world where electrical prices are incredibly low, even lower than they are today. And that has huge benefits for getting these other industries to adopt these technologies over fossil fuels.
Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
MacDonald is the Vice President of Product Development at Minneapolis-based 2DegreesCooler™.