Cities and Businesses Crowdsource Solutions to Renewable Energy Challenges

This post was originally published on Vancouver Economic Commission’s blog here.
Written by Juvarya Veltkamp, 
Green Economy Manager, Vancouver Economic Commission

What type of renewable fuel will emerge as the low carbon solution for commercial transportation? How do you make the case for renewable energy in light of inexpensive natural gas? How does a neighborhood business association structure a community solar project?

These were some of the questions being considered by over a hundred experts and leaders at the Renewable Energy Challenge during the GLOBE Conference and Innovation Expo this March. With over 10,000 investors, buyers, policy makers and leaders from around the world meeting to shape future markets, test policy approaches, strike deals and collaborate, the conference held in Vancouver, Canada, presented a pivotal opportunity for the world to take real, tangible action on climate change following the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.


Photo: Julian Fok

Much work remains if we are to achieve the goals set out by global leaders at the UN conference, better known as COP21, in Paris last December. The combined commitments of nearly all the world’s countries are not actually enough to keep a global temperature increase under 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees, which is critical to the survival of the world’s small island nations as well as many coastal and indigenous people, including northern Canadians. A massive amount of carbon reductions still need to be found if we are to close this gap.

This is where cities and businesses, and the leadership these non-state actors have already shown on taking climate action, play a critical role. Cities have jurisdiction over more than 75 percent of greenhouse gases, while just 90 companies have contributed two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions since the dawn of the industrial age – half of them in the last 25 years.

Cities including Copenhagen, New York and Vancouver have been stepping up to take action on climate change for decades, setting aggressive targets for carbon reduction and renewable energy. Businesses are also critical agents of change, harnessing the opportunities presented by climate action and bringing these opportunities to scale.

The Renewable Energy Challenge was a half-day workshop held as part of GLOBE where a mix of cities and businesses presented 10 concrete challenges to a respected panel of experts. These industry leaders included a mix of cities and policy makers; corporations; solution providers; funders/financiers; and subject matter experts, who then spent the afternoon problem solving and generating ideas to solve these real industry problems, and help move businesses and cities towards a renewable energy future.


Photo: Julian Fok

The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), the C40 Climate Leadership Group, Renewable Cities, CLEAN and the GLOBE Series partnered to host the Renewable Energy Challenge, with the goal of creating city and business connections that will help catalyze renewable energy projects.

Participants brought a spirit of curiosity and imagination to bear on the challenges, ending the afternoon with a round of pitching to a panel of judges, including the VEC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Sector Development, Bryan Buggey; Innergex’s Senior Director for Government Affairs, Colleen Giroux-Schmidt; C40’s Director of Regions, Simon Hansen and Renewable Cities’ Executive Director, Michael Small. Imaginative solutions spanned the gamut from an inclusive approach to building a community solar project, hiring local at-risk or marginalized residents, to an on-campus spa that leverages recovered heat from a university district energy system to revitalize tired students and professors.

The results will be published in a report – watch the VEC’s website for updates – and the city-focused solutions have the potential to materialize on C40’s ‘City Solutions Platform’ – watch the C40 website for updates. The City Solutions Platform is a collaboration between C40, CLEAN, and the International Cleantech Network (ICN) aimed at facilitating early engagement between cities and the private sector to accelerate the deployment of climate solutions. The City Solutions Platform will run for a period of 2 years and is made possible by the generous support of Realdania and industry partners Danfoss,GrunfosHitachiRTI, and Ramboll.

If you’d like more information on the VEC’s green economy initiatives, please visit our Green Economy Sector Profile..

The VEC is an active member of the C40 Green Growth Network, which focuses on city-city exchange of best practices on engaging the private sector.