As human beings continue to expand across the Earth, the effects of Global climate change will continue to be far reaching and impact every element of our society. Hurricane Sandy devastated the Caribbean and United States East Coast in October 2012, exposing millions of people and billions of dollars worth of economic assets to the dangers of climate change. It is estimated that 1.8 million structures and homes were destroyed or damaged, with economic losses exceeding $65 billion, nearly rivaling the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the most devastating to hit the Northeast coast of the Atlantic in modern history. For example, this includes nearly 19,000 small businesses in New Jersey alone sustaining damage approaching $9b. While many industries were devastated by the storm, it is estimated that most retailers with operations across this region, such as Macy’s and Target, felt impacts to their supply chain, with greater than 1/3 closing stores in concentrated areas of the Northeast in advance of the storm and throughout the busy holiday season. Interestingly however, while yes, physical inventory was damaged from the impacts of the rain and wind, the largest impact to this industry and many others resulted from sustained losses of power. In the years aftermath of the storm, some emerging power providers such as ‘Go Electric’ are looking at innovative ways to make the grid both sustainable and resilient and continuing the trend towards renewable energy that will propel our society through the 21st century.
Customers with above ground traditional power infrastructure experience ~1.5 power outages per year, on average, while those with below ground ‘traditional’ means of power generation or sustainable power sources (wind and solar for example) have experienced only ~0.1 outages on average during the same time period. With carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere up 7% since 2007, and the Earth retaining 816 terawatts of excess heat annually (enough for 50x the World’s annual energy needs), it is clear that our needs to produce power and operate our industries in a sustainable way will only further progress! While large power providers in the Northeast, such as ConEdison and Florida Light & Power have sped up their efforts in sustainability as a result of the aforementioned catastrophes, the environment is ripe for start-ups such as Go Electric and another upstart called Sealed to change the landscape in the Northeast and eventually the United States. Shortly after Sandy, New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie signed into law a piece of legislation referred to as ‘The Resurrection Bill’ for solar energy in New Jersey. With such connectivity between the private and public sectors in the historically regulated energy industry, pieces of legislation like this can spur great innovation in the space, and after great tragedy or disaster there can often arise opportunity for change and progress.
The aforementioned companies are all a part of the Urban Future Lab, a New York based accelerator that is nearly entirely focused on CleanTech, a category that mainstream traditional Venture Capital has largely overlooked, perhaps because Silicon Valley hasn’t experience the first hand impact of climate change in the form of devastating Hurricanes in late October / early November. Go Electric is an advanced power generation system that provides electric power during an outage and actively reduces electricity costs year round. Go Electric’s ERS generators can run on multi-fuel types, providing options to keep power generating during an extended storm or outage and would have done a great deal to help New York’s resilience to Super Storm Sandy. Additionally, Sealed delivers affordable and effective solutions including smart home technologies, insulation, air leakage reduction, and efficient heating and cooling systems through its network of installer partners in an effort to increase the speed to full sustainability. These two early stage companies are among the many that have arisen out of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the trend should only continue in the near term as we struggle to get a hold on one of the biggest threats facing mankind.
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