100 Sustainability Action Heroes

I was thrilled last year as Sustainia was launched during the Rio+20 conference with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway, and organizer of the original Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago saying: “Sustainia100 demonstrates that since the first Earth Summit in 1992 solutions and innovations to tackle this challenge have been developed all over the world. We need to make more people aware of these solutions and inspire more to act.

Raising awareness and inspiring more governments, corporates and investors to act are also the cornerstones of  WWF Climate Solverm,launched in 2008. The main difference between the initiatives is Climate Solvers’ focus on energy demand and supply solutions, and the call for action to support national champions in key countries . Sustainia looks at other sustainability challenges as well including health, fashion, food, education and resources, and there is only one global list including solutions from all over the world.

After an initial meeting WWF and Sustainia soon realized that there are many exciting synergies to build upon, and we decided to collaborate around raising awareness and inspiration through already commercialized solutions. I have had the honor to be a member of the Advisory Board together with WWF colleagues with expertise in energy supply, sustainable cities and energy access solutions for the poor.

To be considered a Sustainia100 candidate a solution must be more than just a vague idea or blueprint. All 100 solutions must fulfill the following criteria: Readily available; Positive environmental impact; Financially viable; Improve quality of life; and Scalable. Let yourself be inspired by the world’s largest bike sharing program in Hangzhou, gravity powered lighting in Sri Lanka, , solar energy powered water purification in Botswana, the first all-electric zero emissions car ferry in Norway and much more.

WWF Climate Solver was proud to have been part of compiling and advising on some of the inspiring Sustainia 100 cases this year. These one hundred real entrepreneurs and initiatives carry the inspiring message of thousands of solution providers - the innovations the world needs to deploy at scale to achieve sustainability already exist! They exist all over the world whilst commercializing these at scale is the great challenge of our time. We need financial institutions, governments and corporates all over the world to make this large scale deployment of sustainable solutions a reality. As it is now many of these brilliant solutions end up being just another inspiring niche project. We need you to shift investment flows from real sustainability problems to real sustainability solutions. So please sign WWF’s Seize Your Power pledge demanding investors to shift investments from fossil to renewable energy solutions.

And let yourself be inspired by the world’s largest bike sharing program in Hangzhou, gravity powered lighting in Sri Lanka, solar energy powered water purification in Botswana, the first all-electric zero emissions car ferry in Norway and much more. Seize your power and help these solutions grow even bigger in the years to come.

Arnold Schwarzenegger calls Sustainia 100 and Climate Solver enterpreneurs “the true action heroes of sustainability”. How can you support a true sustainability action heroes like John? There are many ways to do it, and you can start by spreading the word: that the solutions for tomorrow are already here – today.  

Stefan Henningsson, WWF, Senior Advisor Climate Innovation

Tempress - Cleantech Star 2012

Zeist - Tempress won WWF Holland's Cleantech Star Award 2012. The jury found the company from Vaassen the most distinctive cleantech company in the Netherlands. The award was presented during the third WWF Cleantech Symposium.

Tempress provides innovative machinery and associated technology for the production of highly efficient solar cells. "Tempress has proven that a Dutch company in a very specific industry has a unique world position," said the jury. The jury assessed cleantech companies based on innovation potential, as well as on their contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. The company received the Cleantech Award from jury Chairman and CEO of Siemens Netherlands Ab van der Touw. 

At the moment, the Dutch cleantech sector is 21st on the global ranking. WWF Holland would like to see the Netherlands in the top 10 by 2020. In order to achieve that ambition stable regulations, adequate funding and a strong domestic market are necessary. According to WWF Director Johan van de Gronden, "The Netherlands has a cleantech industry with a solid foundation and great potential, both in terms of innovation and the private manufacturing industry."  

Might success in Sweden inspire the Finns to reduce energy use in buildnings?

The following is another example of WWF Finland’s Smart Climate Solutions case studies.

Energy efficiency in buildings – low-energy and passive houses spreading in Sweden   

Description of climate policy measure Since 1990 the level of GHG emission from buildings has been reduced by over 70 % inSweden

The overall decrease has primarily been achieved due to a switch from oil to district heating, accompanied in recent years by an increase in heat pumps and pellet solutions. This development has been strongly driven by C02-taxes and high oil prices that have provided a clear price signal but a mixture of accompanying policy measures has also contributed to the high speed of conversions. Sweden has rather low emissions from the electricity and heating sectors but this is more due to choice of primary energy sources than low overall consumption of electricity

The sector of residential buildings and service organizations still consumes 36% of the total energy inSweden

Consequently, in June 2006 the Swedish parliament decided that the energy use in residential buildings and premises should decrease by 20% per heated unit area before 2020. In order to reach this goal, it is clear that more energy efficient buildings must be produced as well as energy efficient improvements must be performed on the existing building stock. One way to reduce the use of energy in buildings is to build passive houses and set corresponding targets for renovations.   Key challenges in implementation and drivers/reasons of success Passive houses do not require any new technology development per se and the key barriers hampering market penetration and growth have been primarily related to lack of coordinated information, knowledgeable passive house construction experts and uncertainty of future energy efficiency requirements. While the overall policy mixture in Sweden (including environmental taxes on electricity and heating oil, construction standards, financial incentives, public procurement and R&D efforts) has provided a sufficient framework for breaking the barriers, the market pull has been created by proactive forerunners from local level, cities, municipalities as well as private citizens and bigger construction companies raising to the challenge. An active dialog (facilitated by the by “Bygga-Bo-dialogen, launched 2003) between communes, construction companies, property owners, banks, insurance companies and the government has been an important part of providing the required knowledge base and coordination for a more sustainable construction and building sector in Sweden.  Assessment of CO2-emission reductions and if available any preliminary estimates of emission reduction costs (euro ton/CO2ekv)

Passive houses have the potential to cut the amount of energy required for heating by some 60% in comparison to existing construction standards for new buildings in Sweden. Depending on the choice of energy for heating, passive houses can consequently contribute to important emission cuts on national level. With regards to reconstruction of the existing building stock, on-going projects indicate that energy consumption can be reduced by over 50% through low-energy renovation solutions.

Presentation of existing estimates concerning ancillary (effects) benefits The international experiences from over 10 000 passive houses built in Germany, 3000 in Austria as well as 1500 in Sweden and Norway indicate that construction costs for passive houses are slightly higher but with good planning can be limited to only some percentages of the total costs. The higher initial investment costs are counterbalanced through lower energy costs in a rather short period of time. On the national level, the lower energy consumption of passive houses contributes to cost-efficient national mitigation efforts. In addition, combined with renewable energy (RE) systems such as solar (PV, active solar water heating) or small biofuel CHP (wood chip, biodiesel, pellet etc) and net metering, the passive houses can turn active – a development already taking place in several forerunner passive house countries.

Preliminary assessment of feasibility and any required modifications for similar policy measures in Finland The international lessons learned provide a good basis for Finland to enter into the low energy and passive house arena. In Finland, a clear and ambitious long-term target is required to provide the right signal for a sustainable building sector, covering both the reconstruction of existing buildings as well as new buildings.  The experiences from Sweden indicate that the market for low-energy and passive houses can rapidly be developed, as long as the right price signals and framework conditions are in place.  An energy efficient reconstruction of the existing building stock in Finland could contribute to energy savings of over 12 TWh, corresponding to cuts in greenhouse gasses of some 3,5  MtCO2 by 2020. 

With regards to new buildings, passive houses in Finland could cut the consumption of heating energy by 75-80% in comparison to existing construction standards. Several on-going national initiatives can be harnessed to guarantee that the required standards are set high enough (step wise low-energy, passive house and zero-energy), the country specific knowledge base is efficiently created and information nationally shared. Municipalities can take a lead role in creating sustainable and attractive living conditions for their citizens and the private sector. It is crucial that the forthcoming demonstration experiences in Finland are systematically analyzed, the results monitored and consequently education for the lacking construction expertise tailored and provided.


Styrmedel i klimatpolitiken. Delrapport 2 i Energimyndighetens och Naturvårdsverkets underlag till Kontrollstation 2008 In comparison to other OECD countries the Swedish per capita electricity consumption is very high, due to a.o. a high share of energy intensive industry and electricity as heating source in households.Passive houses in Sweden, Experiences from design and construction phase, Ulla Janson (2008) Marknadsöversikt för passivhus och lågenergihus i Sverige 2007. Ökande efterfrågan på energieffektivt boende och energieffektiva produkter September, 2007. Forum för energieffektiva byggnader. In Southern and Central Europe the upper limit has been set at 15 kWh/m2/year. In Finland, due to different climate conditions and geographical location, the limit is around 20-30 kWh/m2/year. According to the International Energy Agency, existing buildings are responsible for over 40% of the world’s total primary energy consumption and account for 24% of world carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Se also Promoting Energy Efficiency Investments: Case Studies in the Residential Sector, IEA (2008) E.g. at Brogården (Alingsås Sweden) the on-going renovation (2007-2009) of some 300 apartments built in 1970 is estimated to cut the energy consumption from ca 216 to ca 90 kWh/m2/year. Solfångare och fjärrvärme med miljövänlig flis kommer förse lägenheterna med varmvatten och den spetsvärme som behövs. Forerunner countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, UK, some forerunner US states with first experiences being gathered also in Sweden (see e.g.Frillesås Kungsbacka, Sweden). When your system is net metered, power that the system generates can be used first by your house loads, and then (if there is extra power) fed back into the utility grid to power other loads When you are drawing power from the utility (i.e. when your RE system is not supplying enough power for your electric loads), your meter will run forwards. When your system is feeding power back into the grid, your meter will run backwards.


 Energiatehokkuustoimet kasvihuonekaasupäästöjen vähentämisessä, Gaia Consulting Oy (2008)

 The on-going preparations of the national climate and energy strategy in Finlandand its follow-up covering specifically energy saving. National programs such as Tekes (Kestävä Yhdyskunta), Sitra (Energiaohjelma), Motiva (Energiatehokas koti) should also contribute to energy efficiency in buildings.


On the Road to Success

Our colleagues at WWF Finland are committed to help their government onto the path to a low carbon future. A recent initiative is to share Smart Climate Solutions case studies with them with the objective of influencing their climate and energy strategies and actions. I thought I’d share them with you as well to provide leverage for your own lobbying work.

First up is the German Feed-in Tariff System for wind and other renewable energy

The German feed-in system, the German Law on Renewable Energy (Das Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, 2000, hereafter EEG) laid down the framework conditions for rapid growth of renewable energy sources (RES) in Germany during the 21st century. The feed-in system, which guarantees the RES producers a fixed price per kWh fed into the grid, has been at the core of the German renewables success story – over tripling the amount of renewable energy since 2000. The leading renewable energy source in 2006 – wind power provided 30,7 TWh or some 5 % of total electricity production (see picture below, Mrd. kWh = TWh).


In practice the EEG legislation (amended in 2004 and regularly reviewed) obligates electric utility companies to purchase renewable energy at set rates over the next 20 years. These in turn are allowed to redistribute the additional cost to the general public in the form of higher electricity rates – hereby there is an equalization of additional costs from RES between all grid operators and electricity suppliers. The feed-in system, building on substantial R&D as well as market simulation programmes during the 1980s and 1990s introduced two innovative aspects to RES policy implementation, in particular i) a degression of tariffs, supporting technology learning, and ii) a stepped nature of tariffs, supporting financial efficiency.


While in Germany the tariff (in 2006 ranging from ca 5 to 57 €cent/kWh) is guaranteed for approved renewable energy projects for a 20-year period from the plant commissioning, from 2002 onwards new installation have received lower tariffs (degression rate ranging from 1-6,5%/year depending on RES technology) in order to retain the incentive for manufacturers to systematically reduce production costs and offer more efficient products each year. The stepped tariffs, by defining the tariffs for different technologies based on yield/generation costs of each plant (e.g. for wind power depending on site-specific wind yield) the price of the tariff mirrors the cost resource curve of the technology, which results in a reduction of the producer profit and therefore in lower transfer costs for society.


Key challenges in implementation and drivers/reasons of success


The international experiences of feed-in tariffs in several countries point to rapid increase of renewable technologies on energy markets unless hampered by major barriers (e.g. administrative, grid access). In Germany, a well suited additional support mix has been crucial for the overall success of the feed-in system. The complementary policy measures have included soft loans and investment incentives by the market incentive programme for biomass CHP, small hydropower, PV in schools, tax incentives (reduction of income tax granted in the federal tax law especially for wind energy investments) as well as soft loans by a federal investment bank. This framework has been administratively well coordinated on federal level by three key ministries, received strong political and financial backing on state level and catalyzed active cooperation in different technology sectors.


Assessment of CO2-emission reductions and if available any preliminary estimates of emission reduction costs (euro ton/CO2ekv)


The EEG has considerably contributed to annual GHG reductions in the order of tens of millions of tons. In 2006 the reduced GHG emissions, due to RES in electricity production was estimated to some 44 million CO2- tons. Looking at the economic costs of this energy sector transformation, the additional costs for consumers has been estimated to a mere € 0.007 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), corresponding to less than 4 % of the average consumer price for German rate payers.


Presentation of existing estimates concerning ancillary effects and benefits


With regards to economic ancillary effects the EEG has been the key contributor to the growth of the renewables sector into a over 20 billion euro business in Germany proper with in addition considerable export – in 2006 the export share of the German wind power industry raising to above 70%. Likewise the EEG has contributed to rapid employment growth in the renewables, approaching a total 250 000 employed. Even taking into account the negative transitional and structural effects in other economic sectors (incl. losses in purchasing power), the total positive employment effects reach some 70 000-80 000, with wind power leading the employment growth numbers. In addition, the EEG has contributed to improved energy security and cost-savings through avoided coal and gas imports.


Preliminary assessment of feasibility and any required modifications for similar policy measures in Finland


As the feed-in system can support a broad portfolio of RES technologies a system specifically tailored for the Finnish conditions could be rapidly introduced – taking into account the maturity and competitiveness of available technologies in Finland as well as the open energy markets. As in Germany the feed-in system could become a key policy measure in the Finnish national climate and energy strategy implementation.


The key criteria for success lie in the high price security and market stability, which creates the long term planning security for investors. The Finnish feed-in system could guarantee a dynamic market based premium and be differentiated in order to promote technology learning and market success in specific areas of global RES market growth, be it wind power in cold & arctic regions or distributed bioenergy based CHP solutions.


In this respect the German system with a stepped nature and degression of tariffs may provide some useful guidance for a Finnish system that should adapt to technological development and foster innovation. The international feed-in experiences from over 40 countries[6], covering close to 20 EU countries provide a solid basis for designing a Finnish system with lean administrative costs and coordinated network management with high stability and solid grid integration. The Finnish supporting policy mix will also need to be adjusted and diversified to allow rapid deployment of available renewable technologies.

 Erfahrungsbericht 2007 zum Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG-Erfahrungsbericht), November 2007.

 Feed-In Systems in Germany and Spain and a comparison. Dr. Mario Ragwitz (corresponding author), Dr. Claus Huber. Fraunhofer Institut für Systemtechnik und Innovationsforschung, 2005

 Through the use of renewables, in total (covering electricity, heat and fuels) some 100 million tons of CO2 emission were avoided. Almost 50% of this emission cut can be attributed to the EEG.

 Looking at the electricity price increases 2002-2006 in Germany, the EEG has contributed to some 13% of the total price increase during the same period. Erfahrungsbericht 2007.

 Erfahrungsbericht 2007 zum Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG-Erfahrungsbericht), November 2007

 Se e.g. International Feed-In Cooperation,