COP21: From solar power to geothermal energy, Paris Summit marks launch of wave of green industry bodies

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Business-backed Solar Council brings together regional and national solar associations from across the world, as new non-profit Energy Unlocked launched to support energy market innovation

A new council that aims to unify the solar power sector at an international level became the latest green industry body to launch at the COP21 Paris climate summit yesterday, as green businesses from around the world came together in support of a raft of new industry coalitions.

The Global Solar Council (GSC) brings together regional and national solar associations from across the world to share best practices and speed up the development of the global solar market.

"Our goal is to encourage the wide-scale adoption of solar energy through cooperation, education and training," said John Smirnow, secretary-general of the GSC, in a statement.

The secretariat and legal entity of the GSC are planned to be located in the US, with headquarters in China. Membership is open to all associations and companies active in solar power, with many associations already signed up including those from Australia, China, Europe, India, Middle East, South America and the United States.

"The GSC will provide a coordinated, international voice on behalf of these organisations," said Smirnow.

The group argues that the plummeting cost of solar provides an increasingly cost-effective way of fighting climate change, predicting the sector could provide 10 per cent of global power generation by 2030 if the right market condition are provided - up from just one per cent today. Solar now has an 80 per cent lower levelised cost than during the failed 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, the group said.

"Solar has a hugely important role to play in the international efforts to ultimately eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector," said Bruce Douglas, chairman of the GSC and chief operating officer of SolarPower Europe, in a statement.  

Solar power is also the most versatile way of producing electricity, GSC said, with great potential for poverty alleviation and rural electrification, as well having the most popular support of any form of electricity technology.

The establishment of the business-led GSC follows the launch last week by Indian premier Narendra Modi of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which brings over 100 countries together to boost deployment of solar technology around the world.

The GSC is just one of a host of new green business groups to launch in Paris. A new non-profit which aims to accelerate energy market innovation and drive a new era of low carbon growth was also unveiled last week in the form of Energy Unlocked, which aims to promote the role of energy system innovation in increasing the uptake of renewable power. The group was seed-funded by UK electricity supplier Tempus Energy with strategic support from NGO The Climate Group.

"We need much more than just innovative technology, we also need innovative business models," said Mark Kenber, chief executive of The Climate Group. "Energy Unlocked is all about supporting new disruptive businesses rapidly scaling up and helping us to reach critical tipping points. Whatever happens in Paris, companies and subnational governments are spearheading a new wave of clean global productivity."

The group plans to harness advances in smart metering, Internet of Things (IoT), storage, batteries, demand response, load-shifting, and grid edge technologies.

"Making our energy systems smarter and more resilient will change the game for renewables, enabling variable clean energy to out-compete fossil fuels, bridge any 'ambition gap' from UN climate talks and kick-start a clean industrial revolution," said Molly Webb, chief executive and founder of Energy Unlocked, in a statement.

Meanwhile, a new global lighting alliance is set to be be launched this week bringing together governments and industry leaders such as IKEA behind a plan to deploy 10 billion ultra efficient LED lights.

Under the plan, India will reportedly set a target to sell 800 million LED bulbs by 2019, while China will commit to selling five billion by 2018.

In further news, hundreds of governments, businesses and cities are today set to launch a set of major cooperative initiatives in a bid to accelerate the transition to a renewable electricity system.

Among today's announcements, which will be made during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Focus on Energy event, is the launch of the Global Geothermal Alliance, which has formed an action plan between 36 countries and 23 member institutions to vastly increase the installed capacity of geothermal power generation by 2030. 

Today will also see the launch of the Sustainable Energy Marketplace, which aims to provide a matchmaking platform for renewable energy projects and investors to connect.

Meanwhile, the Africa Clean Energy Corridor, which aims to attract investment in renewable power by facilitating the expansion of electricity markets across the continent, will announce efforts to expand its clean energy corridor initiative to western Africa. 

"The energy transition is underway worldwide but more action is needed," said Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in a statement. "To scale up efforts to the level needed, we must utilise all available technologies, increase ambition among all actors in all regions of the world, and mobilise the funds needed to enable the transition."

New IRENA analysis claims that a 36 per cent share of renewable energy by 2030 would give half of all emission reductions needed to maintain a two-degree pathway, with energy efficiency measures able to supply the rest.

It remains to be seen if the Paris Summit delivers the ambitious international climate change agreement green businesses have been calling for, but it has already delivered a wave of new business-led initiatives that promise to drive co-operation across the sector and boost the profile of low carbon businesses and technologies.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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