Way back in July of 2021, we wrote about the top 2022 sustainability trends to watch. Since then, a lot has happened, including the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland which saw many countries make new, ambitious sustainability pledges. As a result, we’ve curated this new list of six 2022 sustainability trends to watch. (To check out the original list, click here.)
1. Next-Generation Clean Energy Technologies Will Boom
The renewable energy industry has long been focused on the two biggest sources of green energy: Solar and wind. In 2022 and beyond, expect the commercialization of emerging technologies such as long-duration energy storage, advanced batteries, and green hydrogen. The formation of the new Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations is focused on supporting just such new technology, with billions of dollars in funding dedicated to research and demonstration projects.
Green hydrogen, in particular, is set to be one of the biggest 2022 sustainability trends. Green hydrogen has the potential to act as long-duration and seasonal storage of fuel available on demand to generate power. States and energy companies are ramping up renewable hydrogen production – soon, it may be as much of a household name as wind and solar.
2. Transmission Infrastructure Will Be a Top Priority
One of the main roadblocks to the clean energy transition is transmission development. Getting clean energy from where it is generated to where it is needed is a struggle, as the grid is either too outdated to support the new loads or there are no transmission lines installed at all. Up until now, transmission projects have been met with difficulties. The projects must have regulatory approval from every state they cross and are often met with opposition from landowners and environmental groups worried about damage to property and ecosystems. In 2022, however, policy and regulatory support, investments, and innovation will likely help move transmission projects forward.
3. End-Of-Life Management Strategies for Renewables Will Be Top of Mind
Renewable energy is all well and good, but what happens when solar, wind, and battery installations reach the end of their useful life? In 2022, early installations will approach the end of their useful life and need to be properly recycled or disposed of. By 2030, decommissioned solar panels could total 1 million tons of waste, and there could be 80 metric kilotons of lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) to recycle in the U.S alone. As a result, industry stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers have started exploring solutions for extending the life and increasing the performance, recovery, and reuse of products and materials.
4. Carbon Accounting Will Take Center Stage
More and more, organizations are understanding the importance of decreasing the emissions across their supply chain, not just in their manufacturing or offices. Carbon accounting is the process by which organizations measure how much greenhouse gasses they are emitting across three different scopes. Scope 1 encompasses emissions resulting from the direct activities of the company, e.g., fuel used by facilities that the company owns or operates. Scope 2 emissions result from the generation of procured electricity the company consumes, while Scope 3 includes the emissions from indirect sources in your company’s supply chain, e.g., purchased raw goods, distribution and transportation, employee commuting, use of sold products and end of life treatment. At WatchWire, we’ve seen a major increase in the number of organizations inquiring about carbon accounting, and we expect carbon accounting to be a top priority this year for any organization looking to reduce its carbon emissions and meet their sustainability goals.
5. Data Disclosure Will Become More Important (and Maybe Even Mandatory)
With so many companies and countries making net-zero pledges in 2021, data disclosure is bound to gain importance in 2022. Data disclosure keeps organizations and countries accountable, showing whether they are truly on track to meet their net-zero goals – or if they’re just greenwashing. Currently, the U.S. is looking at mandatory disclosure on climate risks, and for its securities and exchange commission to develop a rule by the end of the year. Meanwhile, The U.K. said it will introduce mandatory climate-related financial reporting for the first time.
5. Nuclear Power Could Make a Surprise Comeback…
Nuclear power is a topic that often sparks heated debated. Is it our ticket to a green energy future, or is it a terrible environmental mistake? Whatever your view, 2022 may see nuclear power rallying. Case in point: The European Commission has just proposed plans to label some nuclear power as green, arguing that nuclear is key to helping transition to cleaner power. Meanwhile, China, the third biggest nuclear energy consumer in the world after the US and France, is set to build its first small modular nuclear reactor to keep with its ambitious goal to lead the world in nuclear.
6. …And So Could Electric Stoves
Last but not least on our list of 2022 sustainability trends: Electrification. Electric stoves are often labeled as lesser than their gas counterparts, but all that could change this year. Recently, New York City announced a ban on natural gas in new buildings. Meanwhile, in May of 2021, the Biden administration announced a building decarbonization policy that seeks to accelerate electrification and support the market for heat pumps. The following day, the International Energy Agency recommended policymakers around the world ban fossil fuel furnace sales by 2025 and adopt building codes that would largely phase out natural gas use in buildings. As a result, natural gas stoves could soon become a relic of the past, replaced by their electric brethren.
Got Questions or Comments?
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