Fuelling the green transition

Fuelling the green transition

An analysis of the patent literature pertaining to energy suggests we may be at the early stages of a new wave of clean energy innovation.

Pictet Wealth Management in collaboration with the Economist Impact

By mid-2021, any optimism about the curbing of Covid-19 was quickly tempered by waves of extreme weather events. Fires raging in North America and devastating flooding in Europe have served as a harsh reminder of a far graver threat than even the pandemic: climate change. As world leaders meet at the critical COP26 summit in November, emissions continue to rise.

There is already an impressive suite of technologies that can address decarbonisation. “Existing technologies will take us 70 to 80% of [the way to] net zero, but there’s always this deficit in existing technologies that will require some standout technology innovation, not just extension technology,” says Angela Wilkinson, head of the World Energy Council.

In the mid-20th century, the world moved from coal to oil and gas, not because these were less environmentally damaging (although they are), but as a consequence of their portability and because of the enabling technology of the internal combustion engine.1 The transition shows that new energy sources take hold when the right technical systems emerge to use them. Is innovation moving fast enough for energy innovations to take hold?

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