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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Solar Impulse co-founder's new project to push clean energy solutions to people in power

The World Alliance for Efficient Solutions will present ideas to decision-makers at Cop24 to encourage them to adopt more ambitious environmental targets and energy policies, Naser Al Wasmi writes from Bonn

Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard, is seen before landing in Abu Dhabi to finish its around-the-world flight. Reuters
Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard, is seen before landing in Abu Dhabi to finish its around-the-world flight. Reuters

Bertrand Piccard is used to his “crazy ideas” being seen as such by the international community but says the rest of the world are living in the past.

After circumnavigating the world in a plane using nothing but the power of the sun, the co-founder of the Solar Impulse 2 has launched a new campaign inspired by his carbon emission free journey.

At the climate change conference, Cop23, in Bonn this week, Dr Piccard announced the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions which will select 1,000 solutions that can protect the environment in a profitable way. The ideas will be presented to decision makers at Cop24 to encourage them to adopt more ambitious environmental targets and energy policies.

“The rest of the world is in the past, with old devices, old systems, old technologies that are inefficient,” he said on Wednesday.

“We’re so demanding to have the latest smartphones, and we’re not able to have electric vehicles, insulated houses, LEDs and everything we need to be cleaner. Nevertheless, all these solutions exist, not only the ones that allowed the solar impulse to fly around the world.”

Dr Piccard said the technology available today, if implemented, would divide CO2 emissions in half but the solutions are not available on the market. He is saying they are “hidden in startups, in universities, in labs, sometimes in big corporations, but not in the market.”

The idea for the alliance came to Mr Piccard during his non-stop five-day flight over the Pacific Ocean, where the pilot slept in 20 minute bursts and lived in a cockpit the size of a refrigerator.

“It started when I was flying above the Pacific and the Atlantic in the solar impulse, can you imagine the situation?” said Dr Piccard, wearing his pilot jacket. “You look at the sun, you look at the four electrical motors that turn with huge propellers, there is no noise, no pollution, no fumes, no fuel and you know you can fly, theoretically, forever.”

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Read more:

Solar Impulse 2 lands in Abu Dhabi as first zero-fuel flight around the world

Solar Impulse 2 completes zero-fuel journey around the world - graphic

National Editorial: Interest in Solar Impulse still strong

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The solar energy technology specifically engineered to fly the Solar Impulse pushed developments in renewable energy technologies that are being used today to make solar more efficient.

The alliance will aim to recreate the model, by tapping into those with technological ideas –be it in start-ups or universities—and link them with those who are able to invest and implement.

There is no shortage of “sustainability networks” and nothing quite as pioneering in his latest project relative to the Swiss's former endeavors, but what separates the 1,000 solutions campaign, as director of the UN body responsible for organising the Cops, Patricia Espinosa, said is Dr Piccard himself.

She said an organisation headed by a personality who has been known to achieve monumental tasks is exactly what is needed to bring together stakeholders in “the way humanity has always addressed its biggest challenges.”

“His personal accomplishments, are incredible, but his drive to develop energy efficient solutions, which could affect the entire world, is equally impressive,” she said “it will be the first to bring stakeholders from around the world to find solutions to the world’s most pressing needs,” she said.

Dr Piccard’s zero-tolerance policy towards countries’ complacency in adopting clean energy technologies is likely to propel members to believe that his projects won’t get bogged down by the bureaucracy so characteristic of network’s beholden to a global organization or national government.

Furthermore, there is tenacity about Dr Piccard, who was also the first man to circumnavigate earth in a hot balloon, in disrupting traditional energy usage that allows him a unique place in the environment community as somewhat of a “rebel”.

With with a track record like his and his very-wealthy friends in attendance, projects launched by Solar Impulse somehow have the goal-oriented effectiveness of business models as opposed to lofty intellectual forums.

“Now we come together for a new phase together, it’s always the case with my dear friend Bertrand, and it may sound trite but it’s crucial to take action at this point,” said Prince Albert II of Monaco, the tenth richest royal in the world.

He said the alliance will showcase new technologies to organisations with political power, such as the UNFCCC and the International Energy Agency, and business entities such as members, Richard Branson, Solvay and Nestle.

The profitability of switching to cleaner technologies is his selling point for the new campaign: that adapting cleaner energies is no longer a matter of being good to the environment, switching to energy-efficiency is a money-maker.

Although several of the high-level panel were absent from the launch – the secretary-general of Irena was sick in bed and the Prime Minister of Morocco was stuck in Bonn’s traffic stretched to capacity by the thousands of conference goers descending on the “sleepy capital” – their inclusion in the panel and those in attendance were a vote of confidence for the campaign.

Those who want to join the network can visit the alliance website