The Climate Group
December 5, 2015

By Clare Saxon Ghauri

PARIS: Today Energy Unlocked was launched by The Cli­mate Group with UK start-​​up Tem­pus Energy on the side­line of UN cli­mate talks. The new not for profit orga­ni­za­tion will accel­er­ate energy sys­tem trans­for­ma­tion around the world.

In a room at the Museum of Mod­ern Art cov­ered in a mural painted by Raoul Dufy cel­e­brat­ing the pio­neers of elec­tric­ity, Molly Webb, Founder of Energy Unlocked addressed an audi­ence of gov­ern­ment, invest­ment and busi­ness lead­ers. Point­ing out how lit­tle progress has been made in global energy sys­tems since the room’s mural was painted in 1937, she stressed the cur­rent fossil-​​fuel based sys­tem has “too high an envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic cost” and still leaves 1 bil­lion peo­ple with­out access to energy. “Cli­mate change is an unin­tended con­se­quence of the energy sys­tem that was set in motion a cen­tury ago.”

If we want to tackle cli­mate change we need to change incen­tives and inno­vate. Energy Unlocked is a mar­ket builder and will ensure that the excit­ing com­pa­nies and inno­v­a­tive busi­ness mod­els that are already out com­pet­ing fos­sil fuels, are not locked out of today’s energy sys­tem because of the poli­cies that were cre­ated to sup­port energy sys­tems of the past. We are here to level the play­ing field,” Molly Webb said.

Acknowl­edg­ing Steve Jobs who said he would “give peo­ple things they didn’t know they needed yet”, she said pol­i­cy­mak­ers must level the play­ing field to set “com­pet­i­tive con­di­tions nec­es­sary to drive resilient, renew­able, low car­bon out­comes. We need to embrace dis­rup­tive inno­va­tion. This tran­si­tion can hap­pen faster than we think.”

The inspir­ing evo­lu­tion of energy must con­tinue, said Jim Walker, founder of The Cli­mate Group. “We are sur­rounded by energy inno­va­tors through the ages. Today’s chal­lenge is to unlock inno­va­tion in the energy sys­tem.” He told the audi­ence that The Cli­mate Group’s 2008 SMART 2020 report val­ued the oppor­tu­nity for smart grids, smart trans­porta­tion and build­ings at EUR 600 bil­lion in 2020, and with progress since then, for instance in stor­age and micro­grids, there is even more at stake.

Nancy Pfund, Man­ag­ing Part­ner, DBL Investors and an early sup­port of elec­tric vehi­cle and stor­age pio­neer Elon Musk, said ven­ture cap­i­tal must dis­rupt our grand­fa­thers’ energy sys­tems still in use today, “so we’re able to move from the past to the future, and from incum­bents to new inter­ests.” She reminded the audi­ence that Twit­ter and Google were inno­va­tions that came from ven­ture backed com­pa­nies. “Impact invest­ment really is a pow­er­ful tool to move soci­ety for­ward in a lot of dif­fer­ent ways. Now this dis­rup­tion and advance­ment is hap­pen­ing in energy with com­pa­nies like Tesla, SolarCity and Nest, who are dis­rupt­ing cen­turies of incum­bents and giv­ing us power and con­ve­nience in the fight against cli­mate change.”

But the lead­ing impact investor warned that this tran­si­tion will bring chal­lenges of its own, iden­ti­fy­ing the rapid suc­cess of com­pa­nies like Tesla being a “post­card from the future”.  She cau­tioned: “There will be com­pa­nies both old and new that won’t sur­vive, and oth­ers that can grow and force indus­try to rearrange a way for­ward. We are going beyond, to shared solutions.”

To read the full arti­cle, visit The Cli­mate Group.