For years we have been hearing voices warning us about the bleak future that awaits our planet, a world that is heading towards a climate crisis. Experts and institutions that watch over the preservation of our ecosystem continually warn us about the dangerous terrain we are entering and the need to take measures to reverse this situation. And, at last, we seem to have decided to take heed. Recently, we have seen the emergence of a host of companies whose mission is to make our world more sustainable by using technology to, if not stop, at least postpone the climate crisis. As reflected in the latest edition of our Tyto Tech 500, the number of authoritative GreenTech voices increased exponentially in 2021. This is not an isolated trend in any one country, it is something we have identified in all the countries we analysed in our study of the most influential personalities in the tech space in Europe. The number of GreenTech influencers increased significantly in the UK (+160%), from 15 experts in 2020 to 39 in 2021. In Germany, the number of influencers grew by 47%, from 17 to 25. In France, the number of GreenTech influencers surged from 2 to 32, a growth of 1,500%.
Another finding that supports the growing impact of GreenTech experts is that out of the 17 technology sectors analysed, it is the fourth most prevalent in our pan-European ranking of the 500 most influential people. 7.4% of the people on our Power List belong to this category, which closely follows behind General, FinTech and ConsumerTech. Notable names on the list include Alok Sharma, Simon Evans, Peter Altmaier and Craig Bennet.
In our next edition of the Tech 500 we will pay special attention to this sector to see if, as expected, it continues to gain relevance in society and become one of the main topics on the technology agenda. In the meantime, we have compiled, within this article, some of the main trends in the GreenTech sector that we believe will become particularly relevant in the coming years.
Renewable energy storage
The current context of war in Ukraine has only served to underline how dependent we are on traditional energy sources and the imperative need to boost renewable energy generation. Although the cost of generating electricity using the sun and wind as energy sources has decreased considerably in recent times, the main barrier to adopting renewable technologies is their storage for long periods of time at low cost. Storage is critical because the generation of this type of energy only happens when the sun shines or the wind blows, and therefore we need an efficient and low-cost way to store that energy until it is needed. That is why we believe this will be one of the areas where most effort will be put in the short term.
Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS)
Reducing CO2 emissions is not enough to achieve carbon neutrality targets. It is also necessary to focus on technologies that capture CO2 from the atmosphere or other sources such as fossil or biomass-fueled power stations and store it for future use. Strengthened climate goals and new investment incentives are delivering unprecedented momentum for CCUS. In fact, in December 2021, the European Commission adopted the Communication ‘Sustainable Carbon Cycles’, which sets the long-term objective to restore sustainable and climate-resilient carbon cycles and depends in part on CO2 removal techniques based on CCUS. One of the main reasons why CCUS projects should be pushed forward is because it is complicated and costly for heavy industry (e.g. cement plants) to adapt to run on cleaner energy. But also to unlock the potential of hydrogen, a clean-burning gas that could replace fossil fuels, which can be produced by capturing carbon from fossil fuel gas before it reaches the atmosphere.
As mentioned above, hydrogen has an important role to play in the transition to a decarbonised economy, particularly in the mobility sector. Battery-powered electric vehicles are not the only EV that exists. Although they are still in their infancy, it is very likely that we will see an increasing number of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the future. These are cars that use hydrogen to power them and, in addition to being more efficient than combustion vehicles, do not produce environmentally harmful emissions. Car makers have been experimenting with this type of technology for years and the time may finally be ripe for this industry to take off.
Circular waste management
Waste management is far from new, but startups are now innovating to transform waste into new materials or products, upcycling existing waste into everything from fuel to clothes. There are already solutions that allow waste to be transformed into energy through processes such as gasification and anaerobic digestion. We will also see more and more solutions for wastewater treatment such as greywater recycling or electrocoagulation systems, which remove heavy metals, emulsified oils, bacteria, and other contaminants from water. Safe and sustainable waste management reduces the impact on the environment and will enable a greener future.
We will still have to wait a while to see if the efforts being made in these areas bear fruit and help us reverse the climate crisis. What is unquestionable is that it is necessary to bet on new GreenTech solutions because, as the wise Carl Sagan said: “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet”.
Featured image from Pexels.