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Awards season is due for a refresh. While you wait to hear who got the nod for the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys, check out MIT Technology Review’s 15 Climate Tech Companies to Watch.
We’ve spent nearly half a year working on this new special project, identifying climate tech companies we think are worth paying attention to. These are businesses doing especially innovative work, scaling important technologies, or otherwise making waves.
The list is finally online—you can check out the whole project here. But before you dive in, I’d love to give you a quick peek at a few of the companies on the list and share why we decided to include them.
What: Gogoro builds scooters, the batteries that power them, and battery-swapping stations to help riders keep the vehicles on the road. Founded in 2011, the company’s operations are focused in Taiwan, though it’s expanding to new locations quickly.
The scale of Gogoro’s battery-swapping network is pretty astounding: the company runs 13,000 swapping stations in nine countries. Together, those stations enable up to 400,000 battery swaps every day.
Battery swapping in electric scooters at this scale is interesting enough on its own, but Gogoro’s smart charging system can also help smooth out demand on the grid. The company charges its batteries during off-peak hours and can even help return power to the grid when demand is highest.
Why: We often cover the push to electrify everything in the context of full-sized vehicles. But in many parts of the world, the electric revolution is zooming in on two wheels. Only about 14% of new passenger vehicle sales worldwide were electric in 2022, according to data from BloombergNEF. For powered two- and three-wheeled vehicles, the share was 49%.
Taken together, all electric vehicles on the roads worldwide are displacing about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, compared to if all vehicles were still powered by fossil fuels. Two- and three-wheeled vehicles make up about two-thirds of that, displacing just under 1 million barrels of oil each day.
In short, the market for smaller vehicles powered by batteries is massive, and Gogoro has established itself as a major player with an innovative way to get more people driving electric.
What: Ørsted is a key player in renewable energy, particularly in Europe. The company had installed 15.1 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity worldwide as of 2022, and it plans to triple that by 2030.
Ørsted has been especially central to developing new offshore wind power. The company operates wind farms in Denmark, Germany, and the UK and plans to expand to new markets, including the US.
Offshore wind tends to be more expensive than both land-based wind power and solar, but it could still play a central role in powering coastal communities. In the US, nearly 80% of electricity demand occurs in coastal states or near the Great Lakes, places where offshore wind could help meet demand. Offshore winds are often stronger and tend to be more consistent than winds on land, providing a more constant electricity supply than solar, for example.
Why: Ørsted is a great example of a company we included because of its work in scaling existing technologies. It has invested in commercial-scale offshore wind projects and helped expand the supply chains needed to support them. In addition, Ørsted is pushing into new technologies, like fuels that can be made using renewable electricity.
I’m also fascinated by the pivot Ørsted has made over the past 15 years. The company used to primarily operate fossil fuel assets; as of 2008, 85% of its heat and power generation came from fossil fuels. Today, renewables make up 91% of the company’s capacity.
What: Blue Frontier is building a new, more efficient air conditioning system by splitting up the work of cooling and reducing humidity.
The device uses materials called desiccants to suck moisture out of the air, reducing humidity. It then uses a technique called evaporative cooling to lower the temperature. (For more on how it works, check out this story.)
Blue Frontier is still in the early stages of building its technology, with two demonstration units running and a few dozen more planned for 2024. But it says its process is up to three times more efficient than a conventional air conditioner and could cut total energy consumption by AC units by 60%.
Why: We wanted to include at least one company on our list working on adaptation technology: something that helps people deal with the conditions brought on by climate change. Air conditioning fits that bill in a warming world.
Air conditioning is also a sharp double-edged sword: it makes up about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With rising temperatures and more people getting access to consistent electricity, power demand for AC around the world could triple between 2016 and 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. So more efficient options, including Blue Frontier’s, could be a major boon in efforts to meet electricity demand around the world.
I don’t want to give away too much more of the list, but we’ve covered a few of the other companies here before. See if you can remember or guess based on these hints—and I’ll link to our previous stories about the companies and their new profiles so you can see if you got it right.
I visited a high-tech facility for a seemingly low-tech product for a summer edition of this newsletter. [Answer]
Smaller versions of this old technology could help bring it new life, as I wrote about earlier this year. [Answer]
The future of urban heating might include an underground technology you’ve never heard of.
Thermal energy networks provide heating and cooling to multiple buildings using water-source heat pumps. They can be powered either with geothermal or waste heat, and several states across the US are planning or installing them.
Get all the details about how these networks work, and what role they could play in our energy future, in June Kim’s first story for MIT Technology Review. She’s joining our climate tech team for the next six months as a fellow, so be sure to keep your eyes out for more of her work!
Keeping up with climate
If you felt like something was missing this summer, it may have been the surprising lack of issues on the US power grid. Even as the country’s energy demand reached an all-time peak, the lights largely stayed on because of higher rates of renewables, good forecasting, and demand response programs. (Vox)
Many subway flood-protection projects are way behind schedule in New York. That news comes after a wild weekend of flooding in the city. (Bloomberg)
California has taken a big step toward making floating offshore wind a reality by committing to purchase huge amounts of electricity from early-stage projects. (Canary Media)
→ Here’s why the state’s wind boom faces huge engineering hurdles. (MIT Technology Review)
Crabs may not be the heroes we deserve, but they’re the ones we need right now. Scientists are working to build a crab army to help rehabilitate coral reefs off Florida’s coast. (Vox)
Mining accounts for as much as 7% of greenhouse gas emissions, but some copper, lithium, and nickel miners are working to power more of their operations with renewables. (Associated Press)
Michigan is seeing a push for solar energy, including projects that combine solar panels with livestock, like sheep, on one piece of land. Local opposition is slowing things down. (Grist)
→ Here’s why so many places are growing interested in these so-called agrivoltaic projects. (MIT Technology Review)
Climate change and energy
The race to get next-generation solar technology on the market
Companies say perovskite tandem solar cells are only a few years from bringing record efficiencies to a solar project near you.
Super-efficient solar cells: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Solar cells that combine traditional silicon with cutting-edge perovskites could push the efficiency of solar panels to new heights.
How one mine could unlock billions in EV subsidies
The Inflation Reduction Act is starting to transform the US economy. To understand how, we tallied up the potential tax credits available as the nickel from a single mine flows through the supply chain.
Heat pumps: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Heat pumps are a well-established technology. Now they’re starting to make real progress on decarbonizing homes, buildings, and even manufacturing.
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