We have a new President. Regulations will be changed, diminished or eliminated. What has not changed is the growing consumer demand for goods and services that align value with values.
What has not change is a disruptive, global technology revolution involving artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), renewable energy and batteries. We are on the cusp of these technologies disruptively reshaping our homes, cars, businesses, factories, farms and cities.
The question is if a government led by a president that has called climate change a Chinese hoax can limit or stop today's global, multi-trillion dollar Green Economic Revolution. Will gutting the EPA and emissions regulations block the adoption of electric cars and solar power? Will America really shift back to coal as a result of this election?
Price competitiveness is the growth driver of sustainability and clean/smart technology. Today it costs only 75 cents per gasoline gallon equivalent to fuel an electric car. Electric cars in 2017 will enter their age of affordability with the launch of the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla 3. This is a global trend. From Asia to Europe the world’s car companies are creating economies of scale in manufacturing and innovation that will make smart, autonomous and electric cars the least cost solution.
The electricity to supply electric cars is also on a technology track to becoming more sustainable and cheaper. Wind and solar energy is disrupting the utility industry because their costs are now at, or below, the cost of fossil fuel generation. It is the lower cost for solar and wind, not regulation, that is shifting the world’s economy from coal. The emergence of net zero energy buildings enabled by solar, batteries, IoT and AI will disruptively reduce the amount of energy consumption per human occupant.
Changes in government regulation can enable or retard technology economics. We may be entering a period where government policy enables coal for political reasons. That type of action, because it damages our country’s economic competitiveness, is not sustainable. The economic realty is that one solar and wind are set up, there are no incremental fuel costs and marginal maintenance and repair costs. Economically, that's something!
Declining battery costs, combined with natural gas fueled power plants, will enable renewable energy to bridge periods when the sun does not shine and the winds do not blow. Coal, even with government regulatory support, has a diminished future based on its decreasing price competitiveness against solar, wind, natural gas, batteries and smart buildings. The real question is whether U.S. politics will allow utilities and coal companies to create barriers to entry that artificially preserve coal's market share until its price disadvantage causes a consumer/voter rebellion on behalf of cheaper renewable energy?
Consumers are driving companies like McDonald’s into a revenue crisis. Consumers, confronting a weight/health crisis, are rejecting fast food loaded with fats, sugars, salt, caffeine and artificial ingredients even if they are offered at super-size-me prices. Today’s consumers, most especially millennials, seek tasty, price competitive and healthier food.
What consumers really thirst for are triple bottom products that are fun to use. Today, buying green feels too much like work. Plus, green products still can cost more than less sustainable products. Too often it is consumer guilt rather than fun that drives today’s green product consumption.
That is about to disruptively change. Smart/clean technologies are heading toward being engaging, liberating and fun. For example, autonomous electric vehicles will liberate us from seven year car loans plus deliver a huge fun factor. Consumers will be supplied with continuous choice in vehicles through mobility as a service. It will be fun and liberating to be able to pick among autonomous, smart and electric vehicles based on need, cost, convenience and fun. Lower emissions will be a “feel good” ancillary benefit.
The business bottom line is that CSR wins competitive advantage. It is the foundation of business success in the Green Economic Revolution. Look no further than Clif Bar’s 17 percent annual compounded growth rate to see how a triple bottom line focus builds business success. That is why companies from Google to Patagonia to Unilever place a strong focus on their CSR commitments.
This election has highlighted another key issue. There is a divergence in opportunity and alignment between urban and rural voters. Check back tomorrow to see how this issue might impact the Green Economic Revolution.
Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!