Shrinking Cities

One of the biggest challenges for the world this century is how to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who will flock to cities, especially in emerging economies. Coping with this human torrent will be fearsomely difficult but at least the problem is widely acknowledged. That is not true of another pressing urban dilemma: what to do with cities that are losing people.They are hardly unusual. Almost one in ten American cities is shrinking. So are more than a third of German ones and the number is growing. Although Japan’s biggest cities are thriving, large numbers of its smaller ones are collapsing. Several South Korean cities have begun to decline a trend that will speed up unless couples can somehow be persuaded to have more babies. Next will come China, where the force of rapid urbanisation will eventually be overwhelmed by the greater power of demographic contraction. China’s total urban population is expected to peak by mid-century; older industrial boom towns are already on a downward slope.

An abandoned street containing a rotting nursery or primary school is a sad sight. And declining cities have more than visual problems. Disused buildings deter investors and attract criminals; superfluous infrastructure is costly to maintain; ambitious workers may refuse to move to places where the potential clientele is shrinking. Where cities are economically self-sufficient, a smaller working population means a fragile base on which to balance hefty pension obligations. That is why Detroit went bust. So it is unsurprising that governments often try to shore up their crumbling smaller cities. Japan recently announced tax cuts for firms that are willing to move their headquarters out of thriving Tokyo. Office parks, art museums and tram lines have been built in troubled American and European cities, on the assumption that if you build it, people will come. For the most part, they will not. Worse, the attempt to draw workers back to shrinking cities is misconceived. People move from smaller to larger cities in countries like Germany and Japan because the biggest conurbations have stronger economies, with a greater variety of better-paying jobs. The technological revolution, which was once expected to overturn the tyranny of distance, has in fact encouraged workers to cluster together and share clever ideas. Britain’s productivity is pitiful these days (see article) but it is almost one-third higher in London than elsewhere.  Policies meant to counteract the dominance of big cities are not just doomed to fail but can actually be counter-productive. The most successful metropolises should be encouraged to expand by stripping away planning restrictions. If housing were more plentiful in the bigger conurbations it would be cheaper, and the residents of declining cities, who often have little housing equity, would find it easier to move to them. Rent controls and rules that give local people priority in public housing should go, too: they harm the poor by locking them into unproductive places.

A new kind of garden city

Even so, many people will stay stuck in shrinking cities, which will grow steadily older. Better transport links to big cities will help some. But a great many cannot be revived. In such cases the best policy is to acquire empty offices and homes, knock them down and return the land to nature—something that has worked in the east German city of Dessau-Rosslau and in Pittsburgh in America. That will require money and new habits of mind. Planners are expert at making cities work better as they grow. Keeping them healthy as they shrink is just as noble.

In the US at least, cities house poor people, often racial minorities or from lower classes, who global capitalism no longer wants to employ. The excesses of finance with harmful if not predatory mortgages, ended up kicking people out their houses, which become vacant and vandalized, driving people away from cities. Who will pay to restore or repair them? Excessive wealth inequality may favor a few high lifestyle metros, but also prevent capital from investing in places where the those who control capital seek only to exploit. Growing populations may keep property values inflated, but low and stagnant wages will not make cities liveable. Our biggest crisis is how to employ everyone, or if that is becoming more obsolete, to ensure that the productivity of the society is widely shared. Whether that happens in large metros, smaller cities or even repopulated and renewed farmlands is less important than that it happens at all.

Cities rise and fall. Take the former City States of Rome and Venice as two significant examples. This pattern will continue and the global pattern of key cities will also shift. Cities with strong economic drivers will prevail. Cities with attractive natural qualities will prevail. Cities which are well marketed and offer a better quality of life will prevail. Cities in countries whose governments offer significant financial and taxation advantages will prevail. Competition will always prevail at the Local, Regional, State, National and International level. Larger cities with characteristics such as those above will continue to prosper provided they can compete. Smaller centres located within short travel times to such cities will also benefit and transport technology here can play a large role. In addition locations with good cyber connections to people in such centres also have potential. The urban settlements patterns of the past and today will be quite different to those of tomorrow. Government will always have a regulatory role in ensuring that citizens are safe and prosperous and make a fair contribution to society. People will migrate to seek a better life. Those people captive to their own predicament and their country’s policies will be unable to move and policies of countries may restrict immigration. Humanity adapts.


Advent Of A Sustainable Economy

There is a symbolic movement of our times that is promising a new lifestyle. A lifestyle that is not only transforming the vision of the future but changing the way we do business and invest. It is a possibility where the energy is produced and consumed sustainably, the environment is clean, and all of nature is in its healthy state. I know this could sound very idealistic when we are constantly bombarded by bad news. But if we look deeper the sustainable revolution has inspired and compelled governments and corporations to make goods and services such as clean power, extend green tax credits and encourage local recycling mandates that affect our day to day lives. This trend has also resulted in a new race to create better and more efficient cars and buildings which consume less energy and resources. New and advanced methods of growing food, and developing medications with organic ingredients are influencing nutrition and health care sectors as well. More humane procedures, like using fewer chemicals and minimizing animal testing’s has been advocated by consumers and activists alike. Even Local counties and schools are encouraging their constituents to recycle and conserve, this has resulted in many of us reusing shopping bags, using public transportation paying a premium for locally grown organic food and driving a fuel-efficient car.

But then we must also pay attention as to who are joining the movement to “LOOK” good and who are actually participating to” DO” good. Green washing is another technique where many may use to fit and conform into the new trend. Following the investments and the money chasing green projects is one way to keep abreast with what’s happening in the world of sustainability. As an entrepreneur or consumer pputting your money where your heart is another way to ensure the brightest idea will not get anywhere with the wrong funders. Don’t get intimidated by traditional start-ups and their glamorous image. You are not in the business of looking good, you’re in the business of doing good! And this is particularly what makes you stand out from the crowd. Invest in your purpose, put your heart and mind to nurture that big idea. Slowly, but surely, you can get the ball rolling further than you would have ever imagined.

Many VC monies may come with lots of strings attached and loss of creative liberty to steer businesses in the right direction hence not getting get stuck on the idea of VCs and cash in the bank but with key partnerships and  resources instead could be essential. People, skills, relationships that bring the right mix together to co-create things which at the end of the day may increase capacity to help move businesses further that otherwise would have been paid for. The right partners will embark on a journey with you because they believe in what you do and will give time, skills, networks and passion. That may be worth a whole lot than just cash!. If we must need to go the traditional route and go for the big money – VCs, grants etc – being picky about who we are pitching to may be critical. Research the VC’s or foundation’s history of giving, their pre-existing conditions and their relationship with their beneficiaries. Before pitching, try to meet with them informally and see if you click on the same things. Do you trust that person after you have left the meeting? Would they be an enjoyable teammate? Do you want to share more with them and value their advice, beyond just the business side of things? If your answer is yes, then go for it. Investments will come pouring.

In short align your values and stay true to yourself, your mission and your vision.  Never compromise and never lose sight of the purpose of your business, organizations or projects. Be authentic in everything you do!  Authenticity reinforces your purpose. Funding will only make it flourish. But if the Mission of sustainability is not there then there is nothing that can flourish.

Curated By Naved Jafry

What Enterprises Need To Know About Creating Sustainable Development Goals


Which goals are key for businesses? What sectors do they address? Will they make any difference? Here are some insights on many of the 169 SDG targets which can come handy when building a SDG compatible organization. Where the millennium development goals were seen as applying principally to developing countries, the sustainable development goals will apply globally. What do businesses need to know about them? Ahead of the formal adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York, we wonder what are the SDGs, what do they mean for business and what impact will they have?
What are they?
The SDGs effectively replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were in place from 2000 to 2015. Whether you believe the MDGs were a success or not, they certainly became a fulcrum for global development. In 2012, at Rio+20, it was agreed that a new set of goals would be drawn up, based on widespread stakeholder engagement. The final 17 goals as agreed by all 193 member states of the UN cover a 15-year timeframe to 2030 and include 169 targets. “Unlike the MDGs, the private sector has been very involved in their creation,” says Simon Kingston, global development practice lead at Russell Reynolds Associates.
Which goals are most business-specific?
MDG sceptics long argued that the only reason people were lifted out of poverty from 2000-2015 was the economic growth of developing and middle-income markets, most notably China and India. In a sense, the SDGs build on that argument and embrace private sector growth as a means for development and poverty reduction. Goal 8 includes targets to achieve full employment for all, protect labour rights and tackle the Neet (people not in education, employment or training) crisis, the last of these by 2020. It also includes the memorable phrase “decouple economic growth from environmental degradation”, which could become the slogan for sustainable business.Goal 9’s “sustainable industrialisation” talks of a need to significantly raise “industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, and double its share in least developed countries” – a pro private sector stance (and arguably anti public ownership). “The important elements for business is that their role has been recognised,” says San Bilal, head of the economic transformation and trade programme at the European Centre for Development Policy Management. “They are not considered the bad guys any more. The discourse has changed – seeking to make profit is not seen as [incompatible] with development.”However, Rob Cameron, executive director of SustainAbility and former CEO of Fairtrade International, says: “Don’t overlook Goal 1, end poverty in all its forms, everywhere … the question becomes one of equity, and business will need to address that.”

Which sectors are addressed?
There’s a fair bit in the goals for the food and drink industry. Goal 12 includes halving per capita global food waste at the retail level and reducing food losses along production and supply chains. Goal 2 also seems to favour smallholder farmers over large-scale agri-business – “double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers … including through secure and equal access to land”. For the energy industry, fossil-fuel subsidies are to be phased out “where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts”, while increasing “substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix”. Water and utilities obviously have a direct interest in Goal 6 (ensure access to water and sanitation for all), while the fishing industry is targeted by Goal 14(conserve oceans, seas and marine resources).
Recurring theme of trade liberalisation
The removal of subsidies and trade barriers recurs throughout. As well as fossil-fuel subsidises, the prohibition of fisheries subsidies is called for in Goal 14. Goal 17 gives robust support to global business and free trade, and calls for meaningful trade liberalisation under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while the “means of implementation” section of the SDGs twice describes international trade as an “engine for inclusive economic growth”. We can expect to see the Doha Development Agenda come back to the fore.“Governments cannot ignore their responsibilities,” says Cameron. “There is no such thing as a free market, there never has been – government sets the rules by which commerce is done … that regulation has to shift.”
Sustainable business becomes mainstream
The circular economy, supply chain auditing and sustainability reporting – all come out of the shadows and into the limelight.Goal 12 calls for the 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production to be implemented, which promotes whole life cycle, cradle-to-cradle approaches among other things. Target 12.6 calls on member states to encourage companies to “integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle”. Expect to see a lot of activity around reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
Will the SDGs make any difference?
Not everyone thinks so. These are aspirations, not legally binding commitments. Bill Easterly, co-director of New York University’s Development Research Institute, has called the SDGs “a very big container of verbal fudge”. Many,including David Cameron, have decried the sheer number of goals and targets. “Let’s not be naïve,” says Bilal. “The SDGs provide a nice framework but in themselves are not sufficient to change approaches and attitudes … with 169 targets, the full implementation of the SDGs will not be possible.”However, even if they do preach to the converted, Kingston believes converts can now increasingly “influence their supply chain, through contractual arrangements, expectations and scrutiny. That’s the next generation of this agenda … What we’ve learned from the MDGs is having a shared framework and shared language is something one shouldn’t be too cynical about … and it is a revelation to see people like Paul Polman now in the middle of this, rather than the outside looking in.”
What happens next?
Following the UN summit, multi-sector working groups will form for each of the 17 goals. A UN business advisory council will also launch their website that will offer businesses a step-by-step guide to how they can address the post-2015 agenda and the International Chamber of Commerce has launched a guide to help companies contribute to the SDGs for a much promising future.

By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers


women on top 2With the American election cycle heating up, much attention is given to women’s rights and the female candidates campaigning to be the leader of the free world.But according to Harvard Business School professors, Francesca Gino and Alison Brooks the previous explanations for gender imbalance in high places have been twofold. Some scholars argue that institutional barriers are the key culprit. For example, research has found that people view women as less competent than men and lacking in leadership potential, and partly because of these perceptions, women encounter greater challenges to or scepticism of their ideas and abilities at work. Even in societies and organizations that value gender equality and invest in initiatives to reach it, women are underrepresented in most senior-level leadership positions. They account for less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, less than 15% of executive officers at those companies, less than 20% of full professors in the natural sciences, and only 6% of partners in venture capital firms.
Hence the question of our times is why does the gender imbalance in high-level positions persist?
A series of recent studies that were conducted with Caroline Wilmuth of Harvard Business School points to a new explanation: Men and women have different preferences when it comes to achieving high-level positions in the workplace. More specifically, the life goals and outcomes that men and women associate with professional advancement are different, we found. Other scholars believe the gender imbalance exists primarily due to innate differences in men’s and women’s perceptions, decisions, and behaviors’. For example, research has found that men are more likely than women to engage in dominant or aggressive behaviors, to initiate negotiations, and to self-select into competitive environments behaviors likely to facilitate professional advancement. In one study almost 800 employed individuals to list their core life goals (up to 25 of them) and then sort them into categories provided such as core goals as “things that occupy your thoughts on a routine basis, things that you deeply care about, or things that motivate your behavior and decisions.” Examples include: being in a committed relationship, keeping up with sports, being organized, or attaining power or status. Compared to men, women listed more goals, and a smaller proportion of women’s goals were related to achieving power.These findings dovetailed with the results of prior research that, relative to women, men are more motivated by power. These differences contribute to men holding higher leadership positions than women. Meanwhile, women tend to be more motivated by affiliation the desire for warm, close relationships with others than men, research finds.
women on topDo these different goals lead to different career aspirations for men and women? In another study, over 630 individuals who had graduated from a top MBA program in the last two years a ladder with rungs numbered from 1 to 10 and asked them to imagine it represented the hierarchy of professional advancement in their current industry. We asked them to indicate three different positions on the ladder: (1) their current position in their industry, (2) their ideal position, and (3) the highest position they could realistically attain. We did not find any significant differences between men and women in the current position they reported. And men and women reported similarly high levels for their highest attainable position. But compared to male participants, female participants reported a significantly lower ideal position
Hence according to Gino and Brooks, women tend to believe they have less time in which to attain a greater number of goals, they are likely to experience more conflict in deciding which goals to pursue and which to sacrifice or compromise. When one of their goals is brought clearly to their attention and seems attainable (for example, being offered a promotion at work), women are more likely than men to feel anxious about the sacrifices or difficult trade-offs they would have to make to give that goal more attention than others. Thus women may associate power-related goals (such as taking on a high-level position) with more negative outcomes than men which could help explain why women view a high-level position as less desirable than men do, even if it seems equally attainable.
In another study, roughly 500 adults in a wide variety of management and non-management jobs to imagine being promoted to a higher-level position in their current organization that would substantially increase their level of power over others. Participants predicted the extent to which they would experience nine different outcomes if they decided to accept the promotion. Some outcomes were positive (satisfaction or happiness, opportunity, money, and status or influence) while others were negative (stress or anxiety, difficult trade-offs or sacrifice, time constraints, burden of responsibility, and conflict with other life goals). Participants also indicated how desirable the promotion would be to them and their likelihood of pursuing the promotion. The results: compared to male participants, female participants expected the promotion to bring more negative outcomes, which led them to view the potential promotion as less desirable than men did and to be less likely than men to pursue it. However, men and women expected the same level of positive outcomes from the promotion. In a follow-up study of over 200 executives, again saw that women had stronger negative reactions than men to the hypothetical promotion but the same amount of positive reactions. Female participants also reported viewing the potential promotion as less desirable and indicated that they would be less likely to accept the promotion as compared to male participants.
Overall, the results collected from over 4,000 participants across nine studies showed a profound and consistent gender gap in men and women’s core life goals. Which may lead you to conclude that, that women are not ambitious or that women should not be offered positions of power. But such conclusions would mischaracterize the research. Being ambitious means having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed. But success, especially professional success, means different things to different people. To some, professional success means achieving power over others and making a lot of money. To others, it means being happy at work, making other people happy, or helping others. And for most people, it probably includes a combination of these outcomes with differing weights of importance. So, if one defines professional ambition narrowly as achieving power over others, then women are less ambitious. But most people especially women do not define professional success in this narrow way.
Based on these data, we cannot make value judgments about whether men and women’s differing views of professional advancement are good or bad, or rational or irrational for individuals, organizations, or society. It is possible that men and women are correctly predicting the differential experiences that they would encounter with professional advancement and are making sound decisions. It is also possible that women are overestimating the negative consequences associated with power, that men are underestimating them, or both.
Hence in conclusion we may safely say that one reason women may not assume high-level positions in organizations is that they believe, unlike men, that doing so would require them to compromise other important life goals. That is an assumption that is worth studying further.
By Naved Jafry & Premod Varghese
Courtesy Harvard Business School (Francesca Gino and Alison Brooks)


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The price drop in oil has been attributed to a variety of factors. First, there was an oversupply of oil related to the rise in domestic production from the U.S. and continued high production in the Middle East. The low price of oil is also having a major influence on the appetite for oil companies to invest in expensive new drilling operations, and even in existing oil fields, in areas that require a high oil price to make a profit. This includes the oil sands region of Alberta, where companies have been laying off workers and idling drilling equipment in recent months, as well as the Arctic. The temporary drop in oil sands drilling has climate benefits, since recovering oil from that region requires more energy than drilling in North Dakota or Saudi Arabia. The irony, though, is that this work is uneconomic with oil at such a low price. Shell may be banking on a price recovery in the near term, but that’s looking increasingly less likely given the market concerns about lower than expected economic growth in major emerging economies like China.
oilOil is also not widly used for generating electricity in most of the world, so the ramifications on electricity generation are more indirect, since low oil prices also tend to mean lower natural gas prices. In recent years, natural gas has replaced coal as the top electricity-generating fuel in the U.S., and it results in fewer planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions than coal does. To the extent that solar and wind power have been approaching cost parity with natural gas. But now a new factor is influencing oil prices, and may constitute a more significant threat perception that there will be a global decrease in energy demand or at least a slowdown in its growth, particularly in China, which would in theory, at least, reduce demand for both petroleum and non-petroleum energy sources. If there is less demand for energy, that is bad for every source,” according to Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
oil 4Historically high oil prices in the 1970s led to the first modern electric vehicles and tighter fuel economy standards, followed by lower oil prices in the 1980s, which coincided with reduced incentives for more fuel-efficient cars. Under the Obama administration, fuel economy standards were tightened once again, but they are up for review in 2017 and 2018.
On the whole, low oil prices may initially edge down appetite for wind and solar compared to what it would otherwise be but I think public opinion is changing and policies and purchases are now being driven towards an unpromising future of the energy sector based on oil. Question is when will this happen and how will the new future look like.

oil 3Contributed By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

Toxic Managers


It’s a double edged sword. We all want our managers to be predictable, productive and planned. But modern university style MBA training may many times may have the opposite effect on the wellbeing of our employees. Just like leaders are trained not born, Toxic managers may also be the result of bad training. Often toxic managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part. It’s pretty incredible how often you hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people walking out the door.
Here are the worst things that toxic managers do that send good people packing
Being indifferent to employee’s needs.
More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your production yield.
Disregarding the Meritocratic Process.
Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave.
Not honouring commitments.
Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should everyone else?
Ignoring and downplaying contributions.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.
Overloading the work flow process.
Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.
If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.
Discouraging creativity.
The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them hate their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.
Absent intellectual stimulation.
Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.
They fail to develop people’s skills.
When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” This is complete nonsense. Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.
Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.
They don’t let people pursue their passions.
Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm

Hence If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how your managers treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you or in modern terms with you.

Opinion by Naved Jafry & Premod Varghese

Significance of Storage For The Future of Clean Tech

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The renewable energy industry’s future can also be summed up in one word:STORAGE. Renewables are growing. Even many of my friends in the oil and gas industry concede that the energy mix of the future is going to look a lot different from the one we have now and renewables will be a much bigger part of the picture. The real question is how close (or distant) that future is. Based on current technologies, the conclusion of the fossil fuel industry is pretty darn far. In its 2015 Outlook on Energy, for example, Exxon XOM 0.64% projects that solar will grow by a factor of 20 and wind by five—but that by 2040 all renewables will still make up less than 10 percent of the global power supply. In its projections to 2035, BP BP 0.74% ends up in the same neighborhood.
battery 8The reason is that people really do want to be able to flip a switch and see the lights come on. Renewables (other than hydro, which has had its day) cannot deliver that; there always needs to be another source of backup power, which means fossil fuels or nuclear. Consider Germany. Even though it is investing heavily in renewables, it “will continue to need almost as many conventional power stations as before,” noted technology minister, Philipp Rosler. “When there is no wind, or it is cloudy, conventional power stations need to jump in and cover the bulk of energy consumption so that the electricity supply can be maintained securely. …At present, only flexible conventional power stations can do this.”
storage 5What renewables need to scale up to the very big time, then, is a game-changer (to use some consultant-speak). If solar or wind power could be economically stored, then released on command, that could fundamentally change the world’s power dynamics.This idea is neither new nor fantastic. Hydro has used pumped storage systems for decades; your cellphone’s battery is a form of storage. But the technology basically doesn’t exist for wind or solar. That could be changing. IHS, the respected energy consultancy, projects that energy storage will grow from a one-third of a gigawatt in 2013 to 6 GW by 2017 and more than 40 GW by 2022. In 2013, McKinsey estimated that the economic impact of energy storage would be at least $90 billion a year by 2025, and possibly much more (up to $635 billion) depending on how fast it is applied to cars. This is a drop in the bucket that is the $6 trillion global energy market but it is a drop that is getting bigger.

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In fact, as we have seen with both shale and solar over the last decade, decades of work and dozens of innovations can come together and create a tipping point where use dramatically increases. I think that could happen with storage. We are seeing many of the same dynamics.
Specifically, there are tons of experiments going on, ranging from a system that supports a 153-megawatt wind farm in Texas to one in midtown Manhattan that keeps a skyscraper cool, warm, and lit to one that provides backup support for isolated utilities in Alaska. Not all of these will work, or work well enough, cheaply enough to scale up. But that is true of any innovation; what matters is that lots of ideas are being tried. Some of them will succeed.
It’s worth noting, too, that the storage technologies that do exist are getting cheaper. In 2007, the cost of large-format lithium-ion storage was about $900 per kilowatt-hour; that is down to about $380, and could drop below $200 by 2020. There are other promising battery technologies that could leapfrog or at least complement li-ion, such as liquid metal, lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, sodium-ion, nano-based supercapacitors, and energy cache technology.
Finally, this is one area concerning renewables that the utilities are not fighting; in fact, they are investing. That matters, because we need the grid, and storage could actually strengthen it. Right now, utilities have to build extra capacity just to meet occasional peaks; the US typically uses less than 30 percent of capacity. If utilities could store power during periods of low demand, then release it during peaks, that would save a ton of money on capital costs, while also smoothing out frequency variations and providing voltage support. To venture into consultant speak again, that’s a win-win.
I am not a green-tinted Pollyanna. I know that there are lots of hurdles before storage becomes mainstream. As the hard-headed environmentalists at the Rocky Mountain Institute put it recently, there is no energy-storage business model at the moment that “offers anything close to a cash-positive scenario.” The McKinsey Global Institute cautions that there are many big issues that need to be addressed.
storageBut the big picture is this. There are many smart people, all over the world, working on energy storage. Investment in their research is growing. Costs are falling. Technologies are proliferating. And people want it. There is one word that sums up the likely consequence of those trends: progress.

Contributed By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers