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Why Venture Capital And Government Partnerships Are A Make-or-Break For Cleantech

Emily Dao

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Companies band together to form an environmental partnership

America has always been reliant on fossil fuels, with over 80% of its energy obtained from oil, coal, and gas. In 2016, CO₂ emissions produced by burning fossil fuels comprised nearly 80% of greenhouse gas emissions –and that’s not to mention their responsibility for 94% of total carbon dioxide emissions. Luckily though, with increases in emissions came cleantech companies, who hope to lead the shift towards cleaner, renewable energy.

However, for these newborn companies, finding funding can be a struggle. For the greater majority of startups in the environmental sector, partnerships are crucial to building and sustaining their companies.

The Venture Ecosystem for Cleantech

To better understand the venture ecosystem, The Rising spoke with Jigar Shah, founder of Generate Capital, a venture firm that manages over $200 million to back cleantech startups. Shah said he started Generate Capital motivated by his own experience growing his solar startup, SunEdison.

The Future of Clean Energy | The Rising

“We didn’t have a go-to investor when we started SunEdison,” Shah told The Rising in an email interview. “Generate Capital is that go-to investor and we want to make sure every entrepreneur that works hard has fair access to project finance for their ideas.”

Today, according to Generate Capital’s website, it currently invests in renewable energy, resources, food, and water, among other sectors. Evidently, it hopes to lead the change in renewable resources.

The Decrease in Venture Funding

Unfortunately, research shows investment in cleantech by venture capitalists has taken a downturn in recent years. A 2016 Brookings report found total VC investment in cleantech companies dropped by 8% since 2011. (That’s after a rise from 2008-2011.)

VCs have long been instrumental in moving the “resource revolution” forward. So with this decline in VC investment, how else can cleantech startups survive in the business world?

The Importance of Partnerships In Cleantech

A study conducted by the University of Maryland, University of Cambridge, and Technical University of Munich found government collaboration led to tremendous growth for cleantech startups. The report showed patenting activity rose by more than 73% when cleantech startups chose to work with the government.

The data doesn’t stop there. A Research Policy study showed that when cleantech startups licensed government-developed technology, financing deals would go up. Not just by a bit either – by some 155%. In perspective, that’s more than twice the amount of financing deals for comparable companies. Evidently, partnerships are essential to the success of cleantech companies.

Laura Diaz Anadon, Climate Change Policy Professor at the University of Cambridge, echoes a similar sentiment to these studies. She told Forbes, “Cleantech that comes from public-private partnerships will be essential for meeting global climate and sustainability goals.”

Conclusions

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s important cleantech startups continue to rewrite the nation’s energy narrative. However, cleantech startups can’t reach their full potential without partnership. Cleantech might be an area where returns aren’t as immediate for investors, but some funds are already on board.

Not too long ago, Al Gore’s Generation Fund raised a $1 billion third fund to fund sustainability startups. Shah’s Generate Capital is another leader in the sustainability venture space. As the space becomes increasingly popular, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more firms enter the space. The general consensus seems to be that money isn’t everything in cleantech, but it sure helps.

But altogether, it’s going to take much more than a couple of funds to truly create a sustainable future. To invoke real change, partnerships must be more open, and it’s clear to see public and private sectors need to work together. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing how things play out and what that will look like in the coming years.

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This Restaurant Giant Is Making An Ambitious Commitment To Sustainable Packaging

Avery Maloto

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With 12 Taco Party Packs and refreshing Baja Blasts, there is no question as to how Taco Bell attracts over 40 million customers each week in the United States. Unfortunately, each of these orders presents a more pressing issue: sustainable packaging. 

Each year, only 29% of all fast-food containers and packaging are recovered. The rest accumulates in landfills, unable to serve another purpose in their lifetime. Fortunately, Taco Bell wants to address the issue of sustainable packaging.

Kicking 2020 off with a bang, the fast-food giant recently released a plan promising a sustainable mindset. Here’s what its plan is all about.

Sustainable Packaging: Recyclable, Compostable, and Reusable Products Only

Last week, Taco Bell announced its goal to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025 world wide. 

With 7,000 stores open across the globe, the company sits as one of the largest fast-food corporations in the world. However, with this comes great environmental responsibility. Fortunately, Mark King, Taco Bell’s CEO, is already preparing for the company’s future.

In his own words, “As Taco Bell expands its footprint, our responsibility to drive positive impact increases.”

Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company's increased focus on sustainability. 
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau
Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company’s increased focus on sustainability.
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau

King adds, “Our business growth in the last decade has positioned us to create change for good and implement creative solutions for our planet, our people and our food. We’re excited to shake things up and make 2020 even more about what matters most: our purpose”.

Fast-Food Giant Eliminates Chemicals and Adds In-Store Recycling Opportunities

In order to achieve its goal for sustainable packaging, Taco Bell is altering many of its products. 

Moving forward, several things such as fountain drink cups to paper bags will no longer have PFAS, Phthalates, and BPA. Despite being found in many food packaging, there is an unsettling link between these chemicals and multiple negative health effects.

For example, research suggests that BPA, or bisphenol A, may cause cancer and affect brain development in the womb.

By doing so, the brand strives to increase its products’ ability to be recycled, compostable, or reusable. Taco Bell did not release any information on what materials they will be using in its future packaging.

In addition to this, Taco Bell will also be offering sustainable in-store options in the near future. As of right now, these changes include implementing recycling and/or composting bins into all restaurants (where infrastructure permits).

However, there is a possibility that the restaurant will soon be supplying reusable food baskets for dine-in meals.

Taco Bell’s Previous Actions On Sustainable Packaging

In 2019, Taco Bell banned plastic straws from all of its locations in Romania and Moldova. Unfortunately, the company does not have any official commitments on bans involving plastic bags or foam containers.

Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

There is no doubt that Taco Bell is ringing in the new year with ambitious goals. However, this is not the first time that it has tried to implement sustainable goals. 

In 2019, the fast-food giant publicized 7 of its prioritized goals. Surprisingly, almost half of them can be attributed to reducing its carbon footprint.

For example, Taco Bell vowed to work to ensure that all its beef is sustainable, as well as to improve recycling efforts and include menu diversity for those leaning towards a plant-based diet

Although already having successfully launched new favorites like the Black Bean Crunchwrap, it seems like Taco Bell hopes to continue this momentum.

As another one of its 2020 goals, the company is currently striving to be the number one QSR for vegetarians.

Needless to say, environmental activists, vegetarians, and flexitarians around the globe are all happy for these announcements.

It’s Time For All Fast-Food Brands To Use Sustainable Packaging

With its efforts, Taco Bell is one of many fast-food restaurants to begin adopting a greener mindset. Working with similar ideas, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway have already made sustainable commitments. However, there is still room for improvement in this industry.

Although there are many options for companies to reduce their environmental footprint, there are a few ideas that should be implemented as soon as possible:

  1. Reduce packaging or use of plastic wherever possible.
  2. Ditch hard to recycle materials such as polystyrene.
  3. Like Taco Bell, offer in-store recycling opportunities.

By doing so, monumental change can quickly occur.

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JetBlue Airways Will Become Carbon Neutral By July 2020, Making It The First In US History

Avery Maloto

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jetBlue promises to become carbon neutral in July 2020.

This year, JetBlue Airways Corporation may become the first large U.S. airline to go carbon neutral.

As the quickest way around the world, the airline industry engages with over 4 billion individuals each year. However, it is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Shockingly, a singular commercial flight produces more carbon dioxide than the amount that some citizens produce in an entire year. Taking note of the situation, environmental activists are putting the travel industry under fire and calling out its contribution to climate change.

However, amidst all of the criticism, JetBlue is choosing to step up to the challenge.
In order to do so, the company is set to invest in eco-friendly projects across the globe.

JetBlue Goes Green With Fuel Choices

In a press release publicized on Monday, JetBlue vowed to mitigate emissions and go carbon neutral by July 2020. With expanding efforts, JetBlue can offset 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road each year. 

As the leading project in its initiative, the company will be beginning to use sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco. Fortunately, the fuel is already fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology.

JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.
JetBlue commits to using sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco.

Sustainable fuels, or biomass fuels, are any fuels derived from a once-living matter. For example, wood, corn, and other waste from agricultural crops are used in its production. This provides a sustainable solution to fossil fuels being popularly used today. 

As of 2018, airplanes produce 11% of all CO2 emissions in the world and significantly contribute to climate change. However, by utilizing this alternative, JetBlue says that they can reduce each flight’s fuel carbon footprint by 80%.

JetBlue Makes Becoming Carbon Neutral A Group Effort

On top of its sustainable fuel swap-out, JetBlue stated that they will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org. As a U.S. nonprofit organization, Carbonfund.org focuses on reducing carbon emissions and creating climate solutions.

The airline company and the nonprofit have been working together since 2008. In the last 10 years, the two have already mitigated more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

On top of this, JetBlue now has new carbon offsetting partners. Adding to the list, EcoAct and South Pole are working with the company to promote carbon-neutral travels. 

Airline Goes Green On Land Too

As part of its carbon offsetting program, the airline company is engaging with projects around the world to mitigate the overall need for jet fuel. Focusing on areas that will opt for eco-friendly, renewable resources, JetBlue is striving to lower emissions in the atmosphere when possible. 

Currently, JetBlue announced support of carbon offset projects such as:

  • Forest conservation by declining plans that will convert forests for other purposes.
  • Promoting landfill gas capture (LFG) and converting it into renewable energy resources. 
  • Developing solar and wind farms to replace the need for fossil fuels like coal, diesel, and furnace oil.

JetBlue did not disclose the cost of any of its sustainable programs.

Collaboration Pivotal in Becoming Carbon Neutral Industry-Wide

According to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, the solution to this problem is a community effort. 

JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
JetBlue CEO wants other airlines to join in the fight to become carbon neutral.
Credit: Lori Hoffman/Bloomberg

“The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal,” said Hayes. “Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity.”

Hopefully, JetBlue achieves its mission and inspires others to do the same. If several other companies follow JetBlue’s environmental initiatives, the future of airline travels may be promising.

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Spanish Energy Company Invests $500 Million In South Australian Renewable Energy Park

Rich Bowden

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Recently, Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola announced that it would invest $500 million in an Australian renewable energy park. Set to be located in Port Augusta, South Australia, the 320MW hybrid solar and wind farm will be operational as soon as 2021. 

Why Australia for a New Energy Park?

Currently, Iberdrola already has over 30GW of installed capacity, in Europe, the US and South America. But at the moment, the company has very little presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Consequently, looking to Australia as a high-potential renewables market, Iberdrola believes its investment in the new energy park can be a good first step into the region.

Recently, Iberdrola’s Head of Renewables Xavier Viteri told Australian media outlets that his company has major plans for Australia. Indeed, Port August presents a great opportunity for wind power, and solar power is a formidable supplement, Viteri mentioned.

Perfect Location for Renewable Energy Park

According to DP Energy’s Australia Manager Catherine Way, the energy park in Port Augusta is “shovel ready”.

Based on the DP Energy website, the chosen location allows the project to optimize for balancing wind and solar generation. Moreover, its placement will allow for an approach that is more tailored to the needs of the electric grid.

Is the Australian Renewable Energy Market Coming Back?

South Australia is not new to renewable energy innovation. For instance, in 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk won a $65.5 million bet with the South Australian government by installing a massive 100MW battery in the state’s north within 100 days.

Iberdrola announced it will invest more in renewables throughout Australia. The announcement has boosted the Australian renewable energy market, which has experienced a recent downturn.

The question is: will Iberdrola’s new $500 million investment be enough to encourage other companies to bring back the Australian renewable energy market?

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