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Exploring the Fourth Wave of Environmental Innovation
Header banner - Innovation and the Environment by EDF
December 18, 2020 
A window of opportunity is opening, but you might not know it from the pundits. It’s a defeatist idea that the country is too divided for President-elect Biden to get big bipartisan things done. On the contrary: Exit polls show Americans want rapid progress on economic growth, racial justice and climate change. Red and blue states alike have benefited from new jobs in the electric vehicle and renewables sectors. Most people strongly support rejoining the Paris Agreement.
 
As I recently wrote in the Washington Post, these are promising opportunities. If Biden combines three priorities (creating jobs, making the economy cleaner and more equitable, confronting the climate threat), he can rally bipartisan support and achieve his policy priorities. He can do the big things.
 
Speaking of ‘big things,’ in addition to the stories below, I wanted to share something you may have missed from earlier this year. Popular Mechanics ran a fascinating piece about plans for a 2,400-mile undersea cable to run solar power from Australia to Singapore. It’s an audacious plan, but it’s grounded in reality. Undersea lines already deliver all of the world’s global telecommunications, and extra-long, high voltage direct current cables are part of existing grids in China and Europe.
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Also worth your time...
Iowa farmer Scott Henry uses precision agriculture innovations

AI on the ground: More precise, efficient agriculture via Fortune  
Why it matters: Advances in agricultural artificial intelligence applications can make a real difference in a time of increasing drought, harsher weather, trade wars and decreased demand. One example that serves profit and planet: New harvesting combines from Deere & Co. use AI to harvest a field 45% faster using 20% less fuel.
 
AI in the sky: Loon’s balloons via Wired
Why it matters: Loon, a Google spinoff, uses a form of AI to keep its internet-delivering helium-filled balloons at the right height (65,000 feet), and the tech could be applied to balloons monitoring animal migrations and climate impacts too. The secret is something called “reinforcement learning,” a flavor of AI previously used in video games.
 
AI in the electrons: Energy distribution and storage via Forbes
Why it matters: “The market value of energy management systems is anticipated to exceed $45 billion by 2026,” Ariel Cohen writes. In the years ahead, Cohen explains, new systems will utilize smart sensors and meters to collect information, exploit cloud computing and use AI algorithms to turn data into action. 
 
Electric trucks, buses are gearing up for mass deployment
Why it matters: The convergence of climate change, environmental justice and post-pandemic recovery is the perfect opportunity to rebuild better by building clean. As Richard Kauffman, chair of the board of directors at Generate Capital and former New York ‘energy czar’ shares, electric trucks and buses are a potential high-growth, green-jobs industry that can create unprecedented economic and national security benefits.
 
Deep dive: The State of Climate Tech 2020 [pdf] via PricewaterhouseCoopers
Why it matters: Early-stage, clean tech venture capital investments increased a staggering 3,750% from 2013 to 2018, from $418 million to $16.1 billion. This in-depth report from PwC looks at the many opportunities ahead. From the report: “The market is heating up and it’s time for all stakeholders to help back the innovations the world really needs.” 
 

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I hope you and your family are safe and healthy as a profoundly challenging year draws to a close. The way forward, as ever, is together. I look forward to sharing more news from the frontiers of environmental innovation in the New Year. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions at innovation@edf.org.

Fred
 

Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn, and join the Fourth Wave of environmental innovation conversation on Medium.

 


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