In July, the world’s first climate-focused non-profit accelerator was launched in London. Subak has brought together five companies working across the energy and tech sectors to drive forward research and policy change through collaboration and open data.
Energy thinktank Ember, transport research organisation New Automotive and software company Open Climate Fix, along with data science company Transition Zero and artificial intelligence (AI) company Climate Policy Radar, are all involved in the accelerator.
Subak presents an opportunity to create a data corporation that “will be open to the wider community and, hopefully, will also play a role in shaping and in contributing to the conversation about open data and what’s called a kind of digital ecosystem for the planet,” explained Dr Michal Nachmany, CEO of Climate Policy Radar, when speaking to Current± recently.
Her company works on the basis that in one way or another “everything moves through policy”, she continued. If, therefore, you can track climate policy worldwide, that information can be used to help policymakers drive change by providing readily accessible information on what works.
The start-up grew out of the Climate Change Laws of the World project at the London School of Economics, building on ten years of data that was manually tracked. It is working to track a wide range of climate data, including the development of energy generation such as solar and the transition to electric vehicles.
Climate Policy Radar has applied AI and machine learning to this concept, having developed a form of natural language processing capable of automatically analysing policy documents.
Research produced in September by Green Alliance suggests that British net zero policy is still off-track, with an emissions gap of 985MtCO2e over the fifth carbon budget period (2028-32) expected. It identified a number of policies coming through the pipeline around housing and transport that could help mitigate this gap.
Going forwards, analysis from Climate Policy Radar could help ease the introduction of policy around such key areas by providing examples and learnings from successful policy worldwide.
This key focus on the importance of policy is a driver for several of the other founding members of Subak including Transition Zero. This company was launched by Sriya Sundaresan and Matt Gray, who worked previously at Carbon Tracker, where they won a Google AI impact challenge allowing them to use satellite imagery to examine emissions in the energy sector. From this, the idea for Transition Zero was born.
“We’re a data driven analytics organisation that basically uses data science, machine learning and financial modelling to help inform business and policy decisions that relate to the energy transition, specifically in power and heavy industry,” Sundaresan told Current±. “Currently, our focus is on electricity and the heavy industry sectors.”
The company uses satellite imagery combined with machine learning to estimate the production and utilisation of power plants, especially for regions where data is not transparent or publicly available.
Transition Zero is hoping that producing this data will help encourage countries and companies to set ambitious climate policies by providing “data that highlights the risks of staying invested in fossil fuels, but also providing opportunities to understand how to minimise that risk and how to actually move forward,” Sundaresan added.
“The UK is far in a way ahead of many countries. But I still think there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of where the capital markets lie on fossil fuels in general, and how that is going to change over the over the next however many years, especially as climate becomes a more urgent and functioning aspect of the financial services industry. I think that is where we’ll probably have a lot of value here.”
Moving forwards, Subak is looking to expand its network of start-ups as well as further develop ways to collaborate. It offers up to £70,000 in unrestricted grant funding over the course of a year to start-ups, as well as continued financial support to maintain open data assets.