WHILE Pakistan ranks relatively low in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption, the country ranks high on indices tracking climate change risks. Renewable energy and climate-friendly businesses meanwhile are ready for enterprising entrepreneurs to take advantage of.

According to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan ranks seventh on the list of 10 most affected countries for long-term climate change risk, while the Asian Development Bank states ‘Pakistan’s projected temperature increase is expected to be higher than the global average and major crop yields such as of wheat and rice are expected to decrease significantly with water availability per capita decreasing to an alarming level.’

Simultaneously renewable energy is purported to have entered the mainstream. With renewable reaching price and performance parity and cities integrating renewable in their city plans — moving towards smart cities — the scope of the sector appears boundless.

‘My personal motto is do good, have fun, make money. And I don’t think those three things are in conflict,’ says Fred Walti

Global clean energy investment was $333.5 billion in 2017, up three per cent from 2016 and the second highest annual figure ever, according to Bloomberg, with Asia emerging as the largest-investing region.

A Deloitte Insights report notes: “These trends will likely continue to strengthen... The deployment of new technologies will help further decrease costs and improve integration.”

“Emerging countries that have a burgeoning middle class have a greater need to generate electricity and we have to find a way to make sure they find a sustainable way to do so. To some degree it’s not a political issue, it’s a business issue. Money talks; there is a lot of opportunity in clean technologies and global sustainability around the world,” says Fred Walti. “The question for governments is, are they going to buy it or are they going to build it?”

Mr Walti is the founding CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and now the CEO of the Network for Global Innovation. The Network is ‘a collaboration of entrepreneurs and other innovators driven by a common mission to slow climate change and build economic wealth at the same time.’

The necessity lies in not just governments, but entrepreneurs as well, understanding the business opportunity present in entering the clean energy sector.

“I will suggest that if you are going into business pick one that is going to grow for the rest of your life. The solar and wind business has been growing by somewhere between 25 to 35pc for the last five to seven years. From an economic point of view the more sustainable technologies can compete the more it will be natural for the government or cities to use them.”

“My personal motto is do good, have fun, make money. And I don’t think those three things are in conflict. Why shouldn’t you make money if you are doing something good? That will be the most lucrative part.”

But the question is, is the market ready for innovative, climate-friendly products? What if it’s too soon for the market to accept radical business ideas that do good and break the mould?

“You can’t force markets but sometimes change forces established industries to become more competitive,” he says, giving the example of Airbnb. An online hospitality service, Airbnb has revolutionised the lodging market by keeping hotel rates in check and making additional rooms available during peak periods.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m called a ‘serial entrepreneur’. That means I’ve tried to build 12 companies beginning when I was around 18. Of those 12 companies only one of them made a lot of money. So, one out of 12 is my track record.”

“When I started, people questioned everything. I was once asked by universal studios to help them develop a plan for this interactive internet stuff. I presented a plan stating I believed it would be a $5bn business in five years. I was practically laughed out of the room.

“Well guess what. Google today, Just Google, makes a hundred million dollars in advertising every day. So in a week they make more than what I was predicting. Now that’s a big opportunity. I think what you have to do is focus on what your passion is. What you’re good at. Then the money part will come. It’s not ‘make money, have fun, do good’, that’s not the order.

“But don’t plan on your first idea working out because it probably won’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it because you’ll learn a lot. I learnt as much on my way down as I did on my way up. Because you don’t just let your company fail, you fight every day to keep it running. That teaches you about things that you wouldn’t learn otherwise.”

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 19th, 2018

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