• Reaching net-zero targets will require trillions of dollars of annual investment.
  • Experts believe the tech business sector will be crucial in helping to make carbon neutrality possible.
  • Tech pioneer companies are stepping up all over the world to help provide clean energy.

The race for the world’s economies to reach net-zero is on – but achieving carbon neutrality in the coming decades is obviously going to be easier said than done.

Last year’s UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, heard that reaching this goal will require 4 trillion to 5 trillion dollars in annual investment for decades to come. More than 450 companies from 45 countries representing more than $130 trillion in assets have committed to the decarbonization of the world economy. By the end of COP26, 136 countries, 115 regions and 235 cities had committed to net-zero by mid-century. The United Nations says 5,235 businesses have made similar pledges. Together these entities represent 90% of global GDP.

Infographic showing global net-zero pledges dates for transition to clean energy sources.
Few countries will be able to meet their net-zero pledges and transition to clean energy sources before 2050
Image: World Resources Institute

The tech task ahead

But the International Energy Agency has warned that half the necessary reductions in carbon emissions must come from energy technologies that haven’t yet reached commercial markets. Governments, NGOs and philanthropists are unable to meet this demand for funding. They cannot raise or invest capital at the scale required to make meaningful change.

So, behind the scenes, tech entrepreneurs are quietly building a greener future with emerging technologies and innovation that will change the way we live, and how we use natural resources to help avert a climate disaster. Here are 4 start-ups playing a vital role in the clean energy transition.

Many technologies in the prototype or demonstration stage today will be key to clean energy transition.
Many technologies in the prototype or demonstration stage today will be key to clean energy transition.
Image: IEA

Betteries

This Berlin-based company provides sustainable alternatives to fuel-based generators and propulsion systems. With more than 8 million electric cars, buses and trucks already on the road globally, and plenty more to come as demand continues to grow, the stockpile of used batteries is getting bigger. Betteries is working to prolong their life by upcycling them into sustainable and affordable multipurpose battery packs.

The “profit for impact business” is one of 100 companies from around the world selected for the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2022.

SolarGaps

The California-based firm is pioneering a method of energy distribution it says will power the homes, offices and cities of the future. It makes “smart blinds” with built-in solar panels that automatically track the sun and generate electricity from its energy. They also provide shade to cool down the inside of the building they are installed on, reducing air-conditioning usage by up to 30%.

Cambridge Industries

Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this innovative waste management and renewable energy generation company has developed the first waste-to-energy sustainable city park in Africa. It integrates biological materials from waste sources and polluting gases by creating next-generation bioreactors and insect farms. The facility is capable of processing 1,400 tons of municipal waste per day and producing 185 GWHr of electricity annually that will be exported to Ethiopia’s national grid.

SOLshare

The Bangladesh-based start up provides energy trading platforms to low-income households. Homes with rooftop solar panels can sell their excess electricity back into a microgrid network, and others can buy it. The scheme marries 6 million homes to 1.75 million electric rickshaws, allowing users to earn income from the sun. This “swarm” electrification approach allows people living in rural villages to become solar entrepreneurs and take energy generation into their own hands.

Chart from Startup Genome. Many more digital ecosystems are now capable of producing successful clean energy start-ups.
Many more digital ecosystems are now capable of producing successful clean energy start-ups.
Image: Startup Genome

Pioneering the future

The World Economic Forum believes innovation is critical to the future well-being of society and driving economic growth. Its Technology Pioneers Community was set up in 2000. It’s composed of early to growth-stage companies involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and poised to have a significant impact on business and society. The Forum recognizes a limited number of companies each year as Technology Pioneers and incorporates them into its initiatives, activities and events, where they bring cutting-edge insights to global discussions.