9th Jul 2020

A Look Inside CLP Sustainability Research and Innovation

A Look Inside CLP Sustainability Research and Innovation

Over the past sixteen years, CLP has applied its continuous learning from its peers and international business organisations like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, with its own industry experience and power expertise, to achieve some major sustainability milestones and accomplishments. An industry leader in sustainability reporting and climate change, CLP was the first Asian-headquartered power utility to voluntarily set a renewable energy target and a 2050 carbon reduction pathway. Winner of several dozen awards for sustainability reporting and corporate governance, CLP is a model for research and thought leadership in forward-looking innovation functions for sustainability.

Recently, Dr. Jeanne Ng, Director of CLP Research Institute (CLPRI), provided an in-depth look into the relaunch of CLPRI in 2018. The mandate was clear – equip all colleagues across CLP Group with the knowledge and insights on emerging technologies and trends so they can make informed decisions despite the uncertainties at hand. She recalls that the CLPRI journey began with two parallel tasks: benchmarking other power company research institutes–understanding their directives, histories, evolution and future directions; and understanding the gaps within CLP that the Research Institute could fill.

Once these two lines of inquiry were fully understood, CLPRI sought to design functions to fill in the identified gaps with a focus on supporting innovation. “We didn’t want to just follow the learning curve of other institutions,” Jeanne recalls. “We carved out our own model to suit our company and regional market needs, and we stay open to constant evolution and change in order to find opportunities to get ahead of the curve.”

“For a company to be sustainable, it must continuously evolve and innovate. It can only do that if it has the capability to project the potential emerging trends and technologies across the changing business landscape.”

Read on to learn more how CLP ideates and executes projects, what new and exciting technology developments to watch, and many more topics.

How CLPRI Brings Research to Life

The Research Institute provides CLP with two main forms of research support. First, they serve as a place where teams come with pressing questions about emerging technologies, predictions and trends, and many other queries.

For initiated requests, CLPRI offers already prepared analysis, new desktop research, or new first-hand expert interviews. No matter the nature of the request, CLPRI is dedicated to sourcing insights and answers with rigor, depth, and thoroughness.

Outside of direct requests, the CLPRI self-initiates on important and emerging topics, in order to build a robust and always up-to-date knowledge base of substantive discoveries and context. This gives the team ultimate agility to respond to novel requests and questions.

Tracking Trends and Drivers

Though a young department, Jeanne explains that CLPRI has developed the capability to track trends and is “moving toward more deeply understanding drivers so we can project future outcomes and scenarios more efficiently and accurately.” In terms of energy-related technologies, CLPRI is actively tracking energy storage, advanced renewables, modular nuclear power, CCUS, and hydrogen.

In terms of trends, CLPRI maintains six areas of focus. The first four, generation, energy storage, transmission and distribution, and retail, are more traditional categories. The other two, material science and future societal and business trends, are newer, and knowledge in these specific areas is critical to strengthening CLPRI’s understanding of how, why and when technologies can or will mature and be commercialised.

When it comes to drivers, there’s a sustainability friendly acronym TREES: technology, regulatory, economic, environment, and social trends. These parameters guide CLPRI investigation, as they are crucial areas to understand for predicting scenarios. “It’s forward-looking,” Jeanne adds.

“We look ahead at least five years and beyond.”

This information is then, with the help of many other individuals and departments, turned into recommendations for decision makers and context for critical functions like planning and strategy. “To provide insights on technologies,” Jeanne adds, “we need to understand trends and drivers behind them. Our role is to enable the company to make good decisions for the future. We track technologies to discover the skillset needed in order to be prepared to implement or make decisions in new technologies. We need to be ready to make decisions on investments, operations, risk management.”

When drivers are examined carefully, sometimes it’s revealed that other factors, like economic circumstances for instance, are more the determining factors of trends than the technical viability of the technology itself.

Maturity Pathways and Policy

To that end, CLPRI currently has two major project focus areas. The first looks at how to identify potential technology maturity pathways. How a product or service matures can be tricky to capture. Take, for example, carbon capture and storage. “Everyone’s been talking about it, but it hasn’t taken off,” explains Jeanne. “Why is that?” Factors like economics, social acceptance, societal pressure and reluctance to let go of entrenched technologies and incumbent business models, play a part in predicting whether a technology will mature.

The second major CLPRI project is to examine how policy affects or hinders innovative developments in technology and business models. Keeping up to date and closely monitoring local and global policies help investing and decision making now and decades in the future.

Building Capacity for Corporate Sustainability

At the end of the day, as CLPRI continues to build its emerging knowledge and network capabilities for the CLP Group, a critical component of success is to ensure the delivery of relevant information and knowledge to the relevant stakeholders. Towards this end, CLPRI has set up a number of regular communications channels targeted at the C-suite as well as all colleagues across the Group. These are delivered through a variety of formats, including monthly presentations to the C-suite, regular expert seminars for colleagues, and hosting an intranet portal containing the latest information on energy-related emerging technologies and trends.

“All our decision-makers, as well as all our colleagues that make things happen, need to be well informed of the emerging trends that drive the changing business risks and opportunities for our business. Only when they are well informed can they make the appropriate decisions to ensure that our business continues to be the leading responsible energy provider in the Asia-Pacific region, from one generation to the next.”

Since its inception in 2018, the CLPRI has focused on bringing value by merging past knowledge, present needs and future possibilities. Learn more about CLP and its sustainability initiatives by checking out our websites, or feel free to contact us directly.

Related Stories