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Out of hundreds of submitted applications the World Economic Forum selects each year about 30 companies in what is a rigorous process. “Since 2000, around 600 innovative companies [see here] from five continents have been selected as Technology Pioneers,” the Forum notes. What makes those selected few so unique?

According to the World Economic Forum, its Technology Pioneers program recognizes “companies – normally in a start-up phase – from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies, and are set to have a significant impact on business and society.” In order to be regarded as a ‘pioneer’ in a respective sector, the selected and thus recognized companies have to “demonstrate visionary leadership and show signs of being long-standing market leaders [while, above all] their technology must be proven.”

In general, more innovation leads to more opportunity, which eventually will result in a better quality of life throughout a further globalizing world, or in the Forum’s words: “New technologies and innovations are constantly changing and improving the way we do things and approach problems. Processes, institutions and industries that have been around and unchanged for decades are now being rethought and redesigned with the aid of technology.” While rather small, start-up companies typically lead the way, this year, a total of 24 companies across various industries have received the coveted label of “Technology Pioneers”. Among the recipients are also companies in the energy and clean technology space with highly interesting innovations/inventions.

To follow are the 2015 Technology Pioneers in the Energy & Clean Technology sector:

1. AutoGrid Systems, California, USA

The company’s “Energy Data Platform (EDP) gives utilities, businesses, communities and individuals the ability to fine-tune power consumption and costs with big data and cloud-based software.”

Benefit: Optimizing power usage reduces emissions by allowing for further integration of greater solar and wind capacity into the grid and by lowering the overall risk of power outages.

2. Cambrian Innovation, Massachusetts, USA

This company uses “bioelectric technology to cost-effectively clean wastewater and generate significant clean energy” – even, for example, at a CA brewery. Typically, its flagship product is “deployed at industrial facilities to reduce biological oxygen demand while generating the facilities’ electricity needs.”

Benefit: Water treated with this technology can subsequently be reused on site while reducing freshwater requirements and enabling water-intensive businesses to grow.

3. Genomatica, California, USA

This company develops manufacturing processes that “enable firms to produce the world’s most widely used chemicals in a “better” way with better economics and greater sustainability than petroleum-based processes.”

Benefit: Utilized manufacturing processes are intended to “convert a range of alternative feedstocks into numerous target chemicals that meet industry specifications” for markets in order to make downstream materials and “products such as petro-chemicals, simplifying and accelerating adoption.”

4. Mera Gao (Micro Grid) Power, New Delhi, India

This company operates low-cost micro grids that provide energy to India’s vast energy poor. “The company’s village-level lighting facilities generate electricity through centrally located solar panels, store the generated electricity in batteries and distribute it across the village to power LED lights and mobile phone chargers in customer households.”

Benefit: These facilities offer off-grid customers lower-cost and higher-quality night-time lighting than the widely used and relatively expensive as well as hazardous kerosene.

These companies serve as examples for the remarkable ingenuity in the energy and clean technology space. Solutions like the above on a broader and global scale will be required to tackle the energy-related challenges of our time.

In this context, the IEA offers in its report, Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP 2014), a long-term analysis of trends in the energy sector and accompanying technologies – including an annual progress report on global efforts to engineer a clean-energy transformation – that are essential to “achieving an affordable, secure and low-carbon energy system.” This report makes clear why touting interesting energy-related solutions is crucial. In ETP 2014 the IEA draws the conclusion that “while clean energy technology deployment in emerging economies has rallied over the past year – making up for declines in the industrialised world – the overall picture of progress remains bleak.” This is a stark reminder that we have a long road ahead. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stressed at the launch event during the Fifth Clean Energy Ministerial meeting the importance of a radical change of course:

“We must get it right, but we’re on the wrong path at the moment. (…) Growing use of coal globally is overshadowing progress in renewable energy deployment, and the emissions intensity of the electricity system has not changed in 20 years despite some progress in some regions. A radical change of course at the global level is long overdue.”

Consequently, only a clean energy revolution can break the long-standing link – according to the IEA – between economic growth and CO2 emissions. This, in turn, requires the development of more and more clean energy technologies to drive and feed the above revolution.