The Renewables Team: an inside look at the Clean Energy Coalition
In an attempt to create what is being described as an “economic revolution,” revolving around clean energy, some of the world’s most recognizable billionaire entrepreneurs have launched a new investment drive for renewable resources.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and Virgin Group head Richard Branson. Other investors include Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future,” the coalition said in its mission statement. “We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.”
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, made up of more than 25 investors from 10 countries, was launched in Paris as a part of the U.N. climate talks. The coalition is based on the principle that technology will solve our global energy issues and will be a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions and investors.
The group will mainly invest in early-stage clean energy companies across a range of sectors, such as electricity generation and storage, transportation, and agriculture. The initiative has been announced in conjunction with Mission Innovation—an effort from 21 governments, including Australia, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, China, and Brazil to double the amount of public money going into clean energy innovation.
It’s expected this will bolster governmental assistance in renewables, such as solar and wind energies, to $20 billion.
Earlier this year, Gates announced he would invest $1 billion of his private fortune in clean energy over the next five years. The Microsoft founder has also talked about energy poverty in recent years, suggesting that some of the investment could go to distributed solutions that bring modern energy access to the more than one billion people who live without it.
With off-grid solar solutions having begun to proliferate and become a profitable business, the time is now.
According to Gates, the world will use 50 percent more energy by the middle of this century than it does today; however, this is still problematic because most of this energy will be derived from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
“The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, hav made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future,” said Gates. “But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths – and that means we also need to invent new approaches. Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund. Both have a role to play.”
Zuckerberg believes the ongoing process toward achieving sustainable energy is too slow, while Branson added: “We must produce an abundance of clean, renewable energy and drive further innovation to make the next generation of energy more efficient. It will benefit the environment, our society, and the economy.”
Meanwhile, Hoffman said efforts to transform energy sources have struggled because they require collaboration between private and public sectors.
“The swords that cut this Gordian knot: breakthrough technologies built and deployed by entrepreneurial companies with global scope,” he said. “Making the right investments in the right innovations now is essential to solving this energy challenge for current and future generations across the planet.”
The group hasn’t yet put a total dollar amount on its level of investment, but acknowledged it will be focusing its resources on government-funded innovation that comes from countries involved in the Mission Innovation initiative.
Global investment in clean energy rose to $270 billion last year, which is the first significant increase after a three-year lull in investment. China led the way with $89 billion in new money for renewables, followed by the U.S. at $51 billion.
The tumbling costs of renewables – solar, for example, has fallen by 70 percent since 2009 – has helped increase installation, although experts have warned that dependency upon fossil fuels will need to be wound back more quickly if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change fueled by greenhouse gases.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, most of the world’s electricity can – and must – be produced by low-carbon sources by 2050. The panel said that renewables needed to grow from a 30 percent share today to 80 percent of power generation by 2050, with fossil fuel energy without carbon capture and storage technology phased out by 2100.
Executive director of the environmental group the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, said clean energy was already “winning the fight” against fossil fuels.
“Now, these incredible public and private commitments, which are historic, essential, and timely, show that the nations of the world – as well as many of the world’s leading visionaries and philanthropists – are committed to making clean energy even more widespread, even faster,” said Brune.
“What’s now clearer than ever is that our future will be 100 percent clean energy, and that dirty fossil fuels are merely riding out their final wave.”
This article originally appeared in the magazine edition of Business Review USA & Canada.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.