I had a chance to attend the inaugural Creating Climate Wealth Workshops Summit in Singapore on May 13-14, 2013.
This summit is organized by the Carbon War Room, which is founded by Sir Richard Branson with a mission "to accelerate profitable, entrepreneurial solutions that reduce carbon emissions at gigaton level." Creating Climate Wealth (CCW) is a global convening mechanism designed for entrepreneurs, innovators, capital providers, industry leaders and experts in order to identify profitable opportunities that climate change offers across diverse industry sectors. It aims to develop solutions (via focus group discussions) that are concrete, actionable, scalable and capable to accelerating and deploying clean technology.
As predicted, the main attraction was Sir Richard Branson, who joined a Q&A session on Day One in the morning. He took a few questions and one of them was mine (pre-submitted): "How to make cleantech as cool as Virgin". Although a very general answer, he alluded to setting aggresive targets, involving people and creating a sound business model around Policy, Capital and Technology. He also talked about other inititives he and his affiliates are embarking on related to climate change including the "The Virgin Earth Challenge", which is a competition offering a $25 million prize for whoever can demonstrate a commercially viable design which results in the permanent removal of greenhouse gases out of the Earth's atmosphere. He also shared how the challenge came about as his wife observed one day that "there must definitely one bright engineer/scientist who will figure this out".
The other prominent speaker of the morning was Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources,Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. He gave an brilliant insight into the climate change isues and also remarked at the outset that "Anyone who denies climate change is sadly mistaken". He observed that the inflection points for climate change action are: growing population, increased urbanization and end of the age of cheap resources. An important view was also that Water equals Energy as its become increasingly energy intensive to provide for water and Singapore itself is banking on technologies such as reverse osmosis of recycled water and desalination of sea water. Energy-Water-Food is becoming the nexus that has great challenges and hence also great opportunities. On the issue of the role of government in climate change mitigation, he cleverly admitted a sad truth: "No one wins an election for saving the world" and politician cant help but be focused on short-term issues within the nation. Businesses also have a key focus on bottom-line at all times and hence climate change is a problem that not many take very seriously. He also thought of a pessimistic view that a major environmental disaster maybe required to wake-up everyone to start demanding climate change mitigation actions from governments and businesses.
After the morning warm-up session and speeches, the participant were directed to their respective working tracks, which were divided as follows:
1) Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment
2) Maritime Shipping
3) Smart City Systems: M2M technologies
4) Waste-to-energy technologies.
In the working tracks, the participants (industry practioners, financiers, policy makers and academics) discussed about the goals and opportunities in each sector, analyzed potential barriers to progress and develop solutions and strong models for success. The idea was that each working track develops a high impact, tangible and scalable business idea or project that can be followed up by the Carbon War Room and its like-minded affiliates in the near future. Each working track presented their ideas to a "Dragon's Den", which would evaluate its potential for future adoption.
This is my understanding of the solutions presented at the end of Day Two:
In my view, the best idea came from the Smart City Systems track that devised a business model to install energy dashboards to meter and control residential energy consumption pattern in each home for free (to the user) and pay for this device by monetizing the data collected on user behaviour (to utility companies, telcos and media planners). If done in a morally responsible way (considering data privacy), this would be a great win-win solution for everyone.
The Energy Efficient Buildings track come up with a model, that looked quite similar to existing retrofit planning with an exception of some logical and methodical data collection/analysis and a financial model by setting up a SPV that handles the project with the property owner in order to attract debt and equity financing for retrofit projects.
The Waste-to-Energy track had a rather (self-confessed) revolutionary idea to tackle waste collection and segregation at the first mile, to avoid valuable losses and downstream costs of segregation. They also proposed a "green-coins" method for incentivising the people (common man) doing this via a curreny that can be exchanged for green credits and special deals.
The Maritime Shipping track advocated a method to overcome the perrenial lack of cash in the shiping industry via a financing model that resembles somewhat to the ESCO model in the buildings sector.
Overall, I think, it was an interesting two days when Singapore was hit by the absolutely brilliant people behind the Carbon War Room, including its president Jose Maria, its COO Peter Boyd, and with a tinge of its founder, the charismatic Sir Richard Branson. The working tracks had intelligent and committed people from the region, who in most cases came up with unique business models towards impactful mitigation of climate change.
Recreated from original blog post authored by Nilesh Y. Jadhav at Solarika.org