Here’s What Happened at the GreenBiz VERGE Event

Last week, I attended the GreenBiz VERGE event in San Jose, California, which brought together a multidisciplinary community pursuing the next frontier of sustainability built upon converging technologies.

As a senior writer at GreenBiz, it’s my job to help capture some of the main themes and insights coming out of the conference — no simple task considering the event’s plethora of conversations, demonstrations and connections. But after a whirlwind week covering presentation and discussions on everything from public-private partnerships to microgrids and space travel, I was able to generate some meaty stories on the latest and greatest in sustainable business and technology.

Here’s what I wrote about:

Public-private partnerships help cities increase climate resilience

On the first day of VERGE, I attended the City Summit, an invite-only event that brought together city, business and nonprofit leaders to discuss how they might work together to promote more sustainable and climate resilient cities. By viewing sustainability as an investment rather than a liability, local leaders are able to sidestep much of the political gridlock that prevents federal-level resilience policy measures from materializing.

Much of the discussion focused on how public-private partnerships are allowing cities to do more than they ever could do alone to solve resiliency challenges. To make these partnerships successful, participants generated some key strategies, including starting with a clear definition of resilience and how to measure it, cities should think like startups and get creative to finance resilience projects, among others.

Check out the full story on GreenBiz.

Utilities and microgrids can be friends

Microgrids have become a key part of the distributed generation movement, which is challenging the old-school electric utility model. As the cost of solar goes down and the capacity of energy storage goes up, these mini versions of the traditional power grid are sprouting up in communities across the world. Differing from solar-plus-storage in that they have more “dispatchable” resources, microgrids help can improve community resilience through energy independence.

At VERGE, several conversations touched on a how utilities and microgrids are moving beyond their initial tumultuous relationships to one of direct collaboration.

Check out the full story here.

Open data networks can unlock innovation

The applications of Big Data to promote sustainability and resilience are seemingly endless, including simulating climate change impacts, optimizing agricultural supply chains and improving building efficiency, to name a few. However, its potential is constrained by the availability and accessibility of digital information.

Even though there’s plenty of data out there, much of it remains closed to the world due to concerns about security by consumers or competition by businesses. Even freely available data may be unreadable due to a lack of common formats or searchability.

That’s why businesses and governments increasingly are pushing for open data policies to enable more collaboration, partnerships and innovation. This was a major theme at VERGE.

Read the full story here.

How NASA is helping to make sci-fi into sustainability fact

Some say that given the multitude of problems on earth, we should focus on saving this planet rather than exploring space; others argue that because we’re already doomed, space travel is the only way to ensure humanity’s long-term survival. But these aren’t mutually exclusive aims, according to the conversations at VERGE. Instead, figuring out the same systems that will allow us to travel to and settle on Mars also will help to tackle some of Earth’s most dire sustainability challenges.

Much to my inner sci-fi nerd’s delight, NASA had a prominent presence at the event, showcasing how the space agency is helping to develop technologies of tomorrow that may help ensure that there is a tomorrow.

Check it out here.

(Image Credit: GreenBiz.com)

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.