A solar panel installation sits atop the Esplanade Ballroom and South Lobby roofs of the Moscone Convention Center on April 19, 2016. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

It’s entrepreneurs’ time to shine with clean energy solutions

If the world is to head off the worst effects of climate change, we need innovative businesses to develop solutions. And those companies need opportunities to meet with the right people — including investors, policymakers and partners — in order for clean energy technology to be deployed far and wide. There are insufficient opportunities for the world’s clean energy entrepreneurs to meet, share best practices and collaborate on scaling deployment as fast as the market demands.

In June, clean energy companies will have a unique opportunity to show an influential international audience what they can do, as movers and shakers from 24 of the world’s leading economies gather for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial. As the first major gathering of international governments since representatives from nearly every nation on Earth hammered out a climate pact in Paris in December, it offers a great chance for startups and companies to share ideas and creatively collide.

For the first time in history, most of the world’s countries have agreed on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Now the real work begins — and governments cannot do it alone. Business needs and wants to play a part, and to take advantage of a large and growing economic opportunity.

That’s where the Startups and Solutions Showcase comes in. The only event open to the public during the Clean Energy Ministerial, the showcase is designed to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship. Some well-known Silicon Valley companies will be there, as well as innovative enterprises from six continents, representing countries including India, Mexico, China and Brazil.

The world is moving to clean energy rapidly. Since 2008, twice as much money has being spent on deploying renewable energy than has been spent to deploy coal, oil, nuclear and gas power. Worldwide, wind has quadrupled in installed capacity since the start of this century, while solar has grown seven-fold. In total, renewables provide 22 percent of global power capacity. And renewables are growing exponentially, while coal is declining and other fossil technologies are flat.

The $260 billion invested in renewable power in 2015 — compared to $130 billion on coal and gas power plants — needs to grow to at least $500 billion per year if we are to achieve the Paris commitments by 2040. So we need a lot more companies to back. We especially need businesses that can help emerging markets leapfrog over the dirty, centralized fossil energy systems of the past and bring in an era of clean electricity service. And we need a lot more deal makers to do the financing.

As an energy entrepreneur myself, I know from experience that success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I co-founded Sungevity with two partners, and together — with the support of clean energy policies in California, investors, and a great team — we grew it into the largest privately owned solar company in the U.S. From this perspective I see events like the Startups and Solutions Showcase as essential gatherings where connections are formed — connections that can build a business, and in the long term will change how we power the world.

We are living at an incredible moment. Technological developments, falling clean energy equipment costs, financial innovation and the need to move away from fossil fuels are uniting to move clean energy from novelty to ubiquity. We are replacing the dirty old energy sources of the past with clean, renewable energy sources. And more than that, we are building a new global economy, where clean energy is affordable and accessible for all. Come to Union Square on June 1 and June 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to see some of the world’s most remarkable examples of the great energy transition.

Danny Kennedy is managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund, a nonprofit organization working to ignite investment, support entrepreneurs and remove the barriers to advancing the clean energy economy.

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