Energy Transition

Here are four innovative ways to generate clean energy

Entrepreneurs are looking at a variety of innovative ways of adopting clean energy.

Entrepreneurs are looking at a variety of innovative ways of adopting clean energy. Image: Unsplash/Jason Blackeye

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy

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  • We need to accelerate our global energy transition towards a cleaner, more equitable and secure energy system, or miss 2050 net-zero targets.
  • But thousands of entrepreneurs are working on innovative solutions that could help transform our global energy system, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Fostering Effective Energy Transition report.
  • Here are four innovative energy-generating solutions that can harness the power of clean energy sources.

How can we harness the energy that commuters produce while travelling to work? Or the energy that coastal blowholes generate, or even that produced by playing an interactive computer game?

The World Economic Forum's recent Fostering Effective Energy Transition report highlights how thousands of entrepreneurs are looking at ever-more innovative ways of generating clean energy, as the world looks to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Figure illustrating the average energy transition index and subindex scores, 2014-2023.
Global average Energy Transition Index and sub-index scores, 2014-2023. Image: World Economic Forum

Here are four solutions designed to capture and utilize the power of clean energy sources.

Energy-producing protective skin for buildings

Switzerland-based start-up Zurich Soft Robotics has developed a dynamic AI-controlled solar energy system for buildings that provides clean energy and shading.

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The modular panels can be attached to the facades of almost any building – either residential, commercial or industrial. The panels can move to provide adaptive shading, and solar tracking, reducing the need for cooling, heating and even artificial lighting.

An accompanying control system optimizes all processes, adapting to the energy demands of the building and its occupants, creating a pleasant environment, which in turn, brings well-being and productivity benefits.

The start-up has this year completed a fundraising initiative for its Solskin product, which has already been awarded several accolades. The system will be available to buy from the third quarter of 2023.

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How is the World Economic Forum facilitating the transition to clean energy?

Tracking footfall while harnessing kinetic energy

From a train station in Paris to Victoria train station in London – the source of Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook’s initial idea for a kinetic floor tile that harnesses human energy for off-grid electricity.

Tiles produced by Pavegen are stepped on by people. Their weight causes a rotational movement of an induction generator beneath the surface, creating clean electrical energy then stored in batteries to be used elsewhere. Just one step can create enough energy to light an LED lightbulb for around 20 seconds.

The technology can utilize the energy commuters generate getting to work, but it can also be used as a fun toy, while still generating valuable clean energy. At a recent tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, players competed in an interactive tennis game to generate the most electricity, which was used to help charge the tournament’s official fleet.

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Solving the nuclear waste issue

Nuclear energy produces zero carbon emissions, but has not been considered a clean energy thanks to waste. Uranium, the main fuel for nuclear fission plants, needs to be stored indefinitely, as it takes thousands of years to reduce its radioactivity. But one company is manufacturing nuclear fuel for its next-generation reactors made from existing waste produced by traditional reactors.

Newcleo is aiming to design, build and operate small modular reactors in France that run on mixed oxide fuels, which effectively closes the fuel cycle.

The company is currently developing lead-cooled fast nuclear reactors and plants to manufacture fuel from nuclear waste, all of which adds to energy security and decarbonization efforts.

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New ways to utilize the power of the ocean

Waves create a predictable, powerful and abundant supply of clean energy, and numerous companies are in the process of finding out ever more innovative ways to harness ocean power.

For the past year, a test sea platform that acts as an artificial blowhole has successfully produced clean electrical energy at sea off Australia’s King Island.

The UniWave200 device can harness wave energy by channelling water into and out of a concrete chamber. As waves pass the blowhole, the water will rise and fall inside, forcing the air to pass by an electricity-generating turbine at the top of the chamber.

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The technology could also be used on breakwaters and seawalls, doubling as a climate change adaptation, as well as a mitigation measure.

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