Renewable energy talk takes the stage at CES 2020

A CES 2020 panel says revolutionizing the world's energy supply is critical to combat climate change and sustain humanity.

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A  unified world system with increased renewables and more storage is essential, said Malta CEO Ramya Swaminathan, echoing the sentiments of her fellow "Renewable Energy Takes Center Stage" CES 2020 panelists. 

She cited a need for "massive disruption" worldwide, in regards to energy. In addition to policy mandates, there needs to be an increase in the cheapest form of energy, wind and solar, she noted, advocating the encouragement of thermal retirement and not the replacement of that retirement with fossils. 

Despite not having the benefit of hindsight, we need to look toward "long-time value creation," channeling our strength to adjust, which is a "major complexity," said Janet Lin, director of energy and digital at Panasonic, who noted that companies need synergy in the process of decarbonization. 

She acknowledged that Panasonic has a large portfolio taking up a lot of resources, but it is important for the company to consider environmental protection. "It's not just a reduction of energy wastes and manufacturing," but a goal of reducing emissions and ultimately "moving us towards circular economy based models."

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Lin cited an example of a battery being used for its primary source, but once it's taken out (i.e. electric car batteries), it should be repurposed for secondary consideration.

New Yorker and Siemens USA Chief Sustainability Office Martin Powell noted that Los Angeles has plans to carbon neutralize by 2050, with an all-electric vehicle fleet, and added that the question is how L.A. will do it, with 30 years of investments for this "amazing transformation." 

For the estimated three million Angelenos, the city will need 192k charge stations, "which means 130 stations [built] per week, every week for the next 30 years, just to get to that level" of supporting all-electric cars. 

Powell also emphasized how cybersecurity is essential because in the continuing development of smart cities, mobility networks, trafficking systems must not have a weak point which may be exploited.

He cited Hurricane Sandy as an example—should another disaster occur, cities need to have a specific set of protocols in place, how to get people out of the city. "The systems are vulnerable," he said, and "creating a secure hierarchy in that situation is key."

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Most corporations, he said, are in compliance with a Net Zero by 2030, but should "aim to do it faster," as "companies have responsibilities." 

Questions like "how our fleets can become electrified as fast as possible?" is a relevant one, Powell said. The American Society of Civil Engineers is working with Siemens to course low or zero-carbon footprints, notably, in public transport. 

People need to focus on real decarbonization, should be in agreement to buy virtual power and companies need to look within their own campus to reduce footprints, make sure buildings have better insulation, that there's solar in all parking lots, he said. 

Americans, Powell said, need to put more solar on rooftops, and cites how he often travels by train between his NYC home base and Washington, D.C.,  and is continually surprised that so few homes have rooftop solar.

"The next stage is storage," said Conner Prochaska, chief commercialization officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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The DOE, he says, "can't make solar cheaper," but can "say yes to wind power," "and to rebuild our grid."

"Let's "move towards zero emissions, storage is key, nuclear energy is key, it's beyond battery power now." 

The mission and challenge everywhere, Prochaska said, is for storage and for private industries to hit goals. "Our research," he added, is "purpose-driven to move us to the next step," to tackle the "biggest research budge, "fossil energy," and a "carbon capture, physical or chemistry." It's not just windmills, he said, "it's putting those windmills into water," innovation.

Twice Prochaska noted that the DOE is misnamed, and should be the Artificial Intelligence Technological Offices now. "We do advance manufacturing, 3-D printing, we've even 3-D printed a Shelby Cobra."

"Storage is not a 'nice to have,'" Swaminathan said, "it's a need to have," and cited the "attractive markets" (description courtesy of panel moderator Sime Jurac, commercial director, Bloomberg) of California, New York and Germany; the latter has a goal of exiting coal in two decades. "We need to balance reliable, safety and security." 

And while we can have an appreciation for what worked in the past, we must realize it won't in the future and embrace and not penalize new tech simply for being new.

"China," Powell said, "isn't focusing on getting rid of fossil fuels, but rather "on more renewable energy." Fossil fuels will go away as it is replaced by renewable energy.

Renewable energy needs to be "safe, secure, reliable and resilient," said Prochaska, who stressed the need for "cleaner tech" and the "utmost security."

For more, check out NVIDIA shows off autonomous tech for cards and robots at CES 2020 on TechRepublic.

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