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Circular Economy, Planet, Climate Change

Accelerating the Energy Transition in the Circular Economy

ENGIE | Nov 06, 2019

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This article was originally published by ENGIE Asia-Pacific and is republished with permission. 

2019 has indeed been a defining year for citizen action on climate change. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s call for greater action has rallied support across the globe for governments and businesses to do more.

This fundamental ‘awakening’ stems from the change in personal attitudes toward tackling climate change at an individual level. A recent global study conducted by Ipsos found that globally, people are more willing to take personal actions to cut down waste, with four out of every five concerned about disposable, non-recyclable products. It also shows that over a third of people around the world perceive global warming as the top environmental issue facing their country.[1]

This mounting pressure at the individual level has economic repercussions in the way companies do business today and cannot be ignored.

At the consumer level, we are talking about people who are more perceptive in the way companies adopt environmentally friendly policies. Do these companies adopt sustainable practices? Is the product or packaging recyclable? These are the kind of questions that consumers are asking increasingly.

Individual awareness has spillover effects for employees. Workers too have begun to seek relevance and meaning in their work or projects. Are the organisational goals aligned with my set of personal beliefs in terms of sustainable practices?

Investors are also becoming more sensitive to the risks posed by non-sustainable activities and are quicker to hold companies accountable for the overall impact in the long run.

Governments too are enforcing regulations on errant businesses who fail to comply with environmental policies.

 

The Shift from Linear to Circular Economy

How can we reduce global CO2 emissions and shrink our carbon footprint with increasing urbanisation, population growth and material use?

A paradigm shift is therefore critical in the way we perceive economic growth and the energy that we use to fuel economies.

In a circular economy, an entire regenerative ecosystem is put in place to close the loop for energy and material usage.

Take for example ENGIE’s innovative approach to converting household waste to energy. Non-recyclable waste is incinerated, converting heat energy in the form of steam to supply electricity. After the combustion process, the incineration residue is recovered for use as material in road construction.[2]

ENGIE is also working with private enterprises to develop a circular economy using renewable forms of energy. First, we are boosting the use of biogas and biomethane which plays an important role in adding clean energy as a source into the energy market.[3]

Secondly, we are developing energy recovery on industrial and tertiary processes. ENGIE’s 320 district heating and cooling circular ecosystems around the world have addressed the needs of providing warming or cooling solutions for entire neighbourhoods. At the same time, electricity consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced.

Delivering conditioned air services to buildings connected to a central cooling network

The adoption of renewable energy technologies has also risen in markets such as Asia to meet growing demands. A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in July this year showed that Asia accounted for the most growth in renewable electricity generation.[4]

ENGIE is committed to helping countries achieve a sustainable mode of development despite the energy challenges faced with rapid urbanisation. One of the world’s fastest-growing economies that we are working with is Indonesia. Our ongoing multi-pronged strategy is to work through an ecosystem of partners to co-develop and scale renewable energy such as biomass power plants, microgrid development and solar power projects.

As a global leader in low carbon energy and services, ENGIE believes in accelerating the energy transition by offering energy-as-a-service to help firms achieve their environmental sustainability goals. We have also made strategic investments to help us scale our impact by identifying energy solutions for the future.

One such area is in the use of battery management technology which offers a new energy storage system using retired batteries from vehicles. This promotes the sustainability of future technologies such as electric vehicles, and creates a circular green economy to maximise the full lifecycle of products to minimize their environmental impact.[5]

In France, we have also recently made our first investments in the circular economy through the acquisition of a minority stake in Gecco.

Gecco specialises in developing innovative solutions by recycling waste from restaurants into renewable energies and producing new raw materials. This has created a local industry for converting used food oils into biofuels and bio-lubricants.

 

Renewable Energy – The Catalyst for an Ecological Transition Is Already Here

It is no longer enough to just focus our efforts on cutting down on CO2 emissions. Indeed, this is a step in the right direction but more must be done. Already we are seeing the ill effects of climate change manifested in Japan’s worst typhoon in decades.

The whole value chain in global markets must be relooked so that we can abandon society’s ‘take-make-waste’ linear economy approach. Individuals around the world have shown that we are ready to make this transition with shifts in consumer attitudes towards climate change.

Technology needed to achieve our zero carbon emission goals is already here. It is time that governments and organisations move to embrace an ecological transition, towards a rethink of energy with circular principles for our future.

 

[1] Ipsos: Climate change increases in importance to citizens around the world

[2] ENGIE: CONVERTING HOUSEHOLD WASTE TO ENERGY

[3] ENGIE and Biomethane

[4] IRENA: 1 July 2019 Renewable Energy Highlights

[5] ENGIE positions itself on electric mobility market in China

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