New research, published at UN climate conference, reveals that water risks are impacting business and threaten plans for reducing emissions
Drought, flooding, tightening regulation and water scarcity and stress fuelled by climate change have cost companies US$14 billion. This is over five times the US$2.6 billion reported last year by companies providing information to investors on their management of and impacts on water resources.
These are the findings of a new report, Thirsty business: Why water is vital to climate action, from CDP, the global non-profit tracking corporate environmental performance.
The increase was largely driven by Japanese power giant TEPCO, who disclosed that nearly US$10 billion was spent in the past financial year addressing groundwater pollution from the Daiichi nuclear power plant following the 2011 tsunami.
Many companies disclosed drought-related impacts: General Motors disclosed spending US$8 million due to increased water rates and hydro-electric costs linked to drought conditions. Aerospace and defence firm United Technologies Corporation invested US$1.7 million in water-saving infrastructure across its six Southern California sites, where it expects water constraints will be “a permanent condition”. Diageo disclosed US$2.4 million in conservation measures at one plant, where it saw the average cost of liquid production more than double because of Brazil’s drought.
By 2030, the UN estimates global demand for water will exceed available supply by 40%.
Year-on-year trends analysis by CDP shows that companies are not adequately preparing for this future. The report highlights stagnant progress in key areas such as tracking water use and undertaking risk analysis.
CDP’s study is based on data provided by 607 companies this year in response to its request for information made on behalf of 643 institutional investors with US$67 trillion in assets.
Launched in Marrakesh during the UN climate talks – the first to take place since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement – CDP’s report findings also reveal:
– 1 in 4 emission reduction activities need water: 24% of the carbon reduction activities planned by business, which include switching to nuclear or developing carbon capture technology, are highly water-dependent. However, the majority of companies (54%) disclose that efforts to conserve water have led to GHG reductions.
– More water risks to come: Companies expect over half of 4,000+ water risks they have identified to materialize within the next six years.
– The energy sector is a major laggard and the least transparent about water risks: 77 of 109 energy companies asked to provide information to investors about their water risk management efforts failed to do so. They include Exxon, Chevron and Shell. Despite the sector’s dependency on water, 91% of respondents do not conduct a company-wide water risk assessment covering both direct and supplier operations.
– 24 companies have been recognized as pursuing best practice in water conversation and management: They include Ford Motor Company and Colgate Palmolive Company, who have been recognized for their actions by achieving a place on CDP’s Water A List leadership index. Ford have set a new goal to cut water use per vehicle by 72% in the next four years, compared with 2000.
CDP’s CEO Paul Simpson says: “This year’s findings offer two clear lessons for the private sector. Firstly, that water risks can rip the rug from right under business, posing a serious threat to bottom lines. Secondly, and crucially, that water will be a fundamental global commodity in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Every drop of clean, sustainable water will be essential for the emissions reduction activities countries and companies have planned. This is a wake-up call to companies everywhere to take water more seriously.”
Morgan Gillespy, the report lead author and CDP’s head of water, says: “For a long time companies have taken water for granted as a free and plentiful resource. But these assumptions are unravelling as the impacts of climate change gather pace. From the US$100 billion worth of energy infrastructure at risk from rising sea levels in Louisiana to Chinese industry facing tightening restrictions on water use, investors are right to worry about the impacts of water risks on their assets.”
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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