Tansey predicts that, with transportation, we’ll see more electrification of vehicles — in part as a response to climate change pressures, but also because of deteriorating air quality in growing population centres, especially in Asia.
Low natural gas prices will make it tougher for alternative energy sources to compete, he explains; but the cost of solar will continue to decline, and advances such as glass that can harness the sun’s power — so skyscrapers could be covered in windows that double as solar panels — will propel its widespread use.
Industry will be the biggest beneficiary of new and better green technologies, as energy can account for more than a third of a business’ costs; and at the consumer level, our homes will continue to get smarter, with built-in systems able to detect when we’re in or out, and adjust lighting and temperature accordingly.
“The winning products will be the ones that make people’s lives better and that make people happier. The fact that they save energy is a nice byproduct,” says Tansey. “If we can make batteries better, and laptops better, and TVs better, I think there are going to be great opportunities for consumers to think differently.”
British Columbia has become a hotbed of green research, adds Tansey — and, widely considered an international sustainability leader, UBC has reduced emissions on campus by more than 30 percent in less than a decade.
“B.C. is a unique place in terms of the mix of energy issues and the level of innovation,” he says. “We’re a kind of incubator, and the whole province is a living laboratory for many of the issues that cities and countries are going to face around the world.”