The Energy Transition

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. These transitions represent the most impactful periods in human history. At the heart of this transition lies renewable energy.

Renewable energy technologies harness the power of the sun, wind, and heat from the Earth’s core, and then transforms it into usable forms of energy like heat, electricity, and fuel.

Govind Bhutada – What Are the Five Major Types of Renewable Energy?

That quote is from a recent Visual Capitalist article that describes the five major types of renewable energy. Given the growing focus on these sources of energy, the IEA forecasts that, by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is set to grow by 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800 gigawatts—equal to the current power output of fossil fuels and nuclear combined. This visual describes these five renewable energies.

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Innovation And Our Well-Being

In a post from 2016, I launched an innovation wheel that captured the activity of the second industrial revolution. This activity set the standard of living that much of society enjoys today. As I mentioned in that earlier post, in a brilliant journey through the economic history of the western world, author Robert J. Gordon looks at The Rise and Fall of American Growth. The book focused on a revolutionary century that impacted the American standard of living more than any period before or after. Our standard of living is typically viewed as the ratio of total production of goods and services (real GDP) per member of the population. But this measure fails to truly capture enhancements to our well-being. Human well-being is influenced by advances in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, energy, transport, education, health, work, information, entertainment, and communications. The special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what the author calls the great inventions. Clearly – as the visual depicts – the great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being.

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An Impactful Era Is Emerging – And It Becomes More Evident Every Day

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. Every day another series of breakthroughs can be found in the media. This astounding level of innovation speaks to the reality of an energy transition that is at the leading edge of a shift from our current era to the next. It also highlights the role that catalysts play in creating the future. In the energy context, the situation in Ukraine is a catalyst that likely accelerates the transition. For example, Denmark wants to build what it calls ‘Energy Islands’ to free Europe from using Russian fuel. This article describes how these islands were part of Denmark’s transition towards renewable energy, but tensions with Russia (catalyst) both expanded and accelerated their vision.

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Is The Age Of Fire Over?

In January, I launched a poll that represented a form of rehearsing the future. Rehearsing versus predicting allows us to envision possible futures. Complex adaptive systems contain multiple intersecting building blocks behaving and interacting in ways that make prediction impossible. Although we can’t predict, we can inform our rehearsing with an ever-expanding amount of insight and foresight. In addition, technology now enables us to continuously probe and learn. Learning our way forward through continuous learning loops enables rehearsing. To that end, the poll looked ahead and asked if people believed that artificial intelligence would ultimately be more impactful than fire, electricity, or the Internet. The results were fascinating.

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The History Of Energy Transitions

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. While energy may be the biggest piece of this emerging story, it is part of a bigger narrative in what increasingly looks like a phase transition. That notion of dramatic change is echoed by several prominent sources. For example, Alec Ross in his recent book The Raging 2020s speaks of a world that resembles the 1930s, a growing sentiment that maps to my research on the period beginning in 1920.

As the visual below illustrates, that 1930 date aligns with the energy transition. That period began the long transition towards our current fossil fuel era – representing a major transitory period for the world. This recent article reflects on the history of energy transitions and the drastic change in our sources of energy over the last 200 years.

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Climate Investing 2.0

According to this recent article, there is a surge in environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing, which is attracting record amounts of capital and bringing shareholder activism to the forefront. In contrast to the first wave of climate investing, this second wave will benefit from a more established ecosystem. In 2021, global venture capital funding for clean technology hit $43 billion, which was more than double the $20 billion invested in 2020. Experts believe that the trend is just getting started.

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The Journey: A World Of Ecosystems

In a continuation of my series titled “A Journey through the Looking Glass”, I will describe how convergence across multiple forces likely changes the organizing system of society. The focus of the post is on one element of this change: the way value is created and captured in the future. The post picks up from the last, where I explored the next phase of human development. The well-being discussion from that post flows naturally into a discussion about our life experiences. Those experiences will increasingly be enabled by ecosystems.

A WORLD OF ECOSYSTEMS

Yogi Berra is credited with saying that the future ain’t what it used to be. What a perfect way to describe a phase transition that completely changes the way we think about the future. In an earlier series post, I described the complexity, volatility, and uncertainty associated with envisioning possible futures. Indeed, the experimentation we often talk about in the context of innovation also applies to the future. While running for president in 1932 during the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt remarked:

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The Journey: An Historical Perspective

My previous post launched a series that will tell the full story of my reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a description of the series title and a look backward in time. This second post in the series will add to that historical perspective. Each subsequent post will feature a piece of our journey.  

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Present Future

Time is the dimension of historians and futurists, of chroniclers of what was, and speculators of what may be. Here is a truth: In making any decision, we are by definition deciding what to do . . . next. We must choose amongst known possibilities and paths, simulate outcomes and consequences in our minds. Another truth: At any decision point, 100% of the information we have is based on the past, while 100% of the value and consequences of the decision we make lies in the future, which is inherently probabilistic and unknown

Guy Perelmuter, Present Future: Business, Science, and the Deep Tech Revolution

That quote comes from a recent book titled Present Future authored by Guy Perelmuter, Founder at GRIDS Capital. The book takes a look at history and the future. The foreward echoes one of my strong beliefs: “when it comes to our endlessly unfolding future, the only certainty is uncertainty, and the only way to reduce uncertainty is to have a deep sense of history and reliable clues to the future.” That foreward was written by Josh Wolf, Founder and Managing Director, Lux Capital. He describes the book as follows:

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Futuristic New Cities

I believe the smart city represents the intersection of multiple emerging ecosystems. Energy, transport, water, food, health, and more, could come together to create a more equitable and sustainable future. At least that’s the mission of Telosa. A recent article via Oscar Holland describes the vision of billionaire Marc Lore:

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it.

Oscar Holland – Plans for $400-billion new city in the American desert unveiled

Per the article, the 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. It embraces a “15-minute city design” that allows residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes. The brief video describes the vision.

Astounding Levels Of Innovation: Energy

As we move aggressively into this period of great invention, we will increasingly marvel at astounding levels of innovation. Every domain will experience this phenomenon…and it is accelerating. The articles below make the point very clear. The most encouraging piece of these breakthroughs is growing evidence that our world of extraction is shifting ever so slightly to one of creation. Advances in materials science are critical to solving some of the worlds greatest challenges. The energy transition is underway.

Tesla aims to release $25,000 electric car in 2023, likely will not have a steering wheel

This wildly reinvented wind turbine generates five times more energy than its competitors

Experimental chlorine battery holds 6 times more charge than lithium-ion

What if walking around on your wood floors powered your home?

Hydrogen in aviation: how close is it?

Graphene innovation opens doors to low cost, sustainable, sodium-ion batteries

The Extraction Age Gives Way To The Creation Age

In their book titled Rethinking Humanity, RethinkX Founders Tony Seba and James Arbib describe a transition from an age of extraction to an emerging age of creation. The extraction age began with agriculture and continued through the industrial period. The authors describe the age of extraction as follows:

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The Good Future: A Perspective Via Gerd Leonhard

We must make the right decisions now, if we want a good future

Gerd Leonhard – The Good Future is entirely possible, and it’s our choice!

That quote from fellow Futurist Gerd Leonhard comes from a recent film he produced to convey optimism about our ability to create a good future. He opens with several statements that are core to my beliefs about our emerging future. He states that what we have done for the last one hundred years is no longer going to be suitable for the future. In other words what got us here won’t get us there. It was back in 2013 when I wrote about the structural change expected in the future. Much like my belief that structures and institutions will change, Gerd believes that the current system is unfit for the future, driving the need for a different logic. He mentions something that he has been saying for years: science fiction is becoming science fact. In exploring the possibilities of a good future, he starts with a question: what does good look like? He proposes a definition of good that includes relationships, experiences, the planet, purpose, and prosperity.

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Interview With Amanda Blyth – AIST Publications Manager

I had the pleasure of keynoting the AIME 150th anniversary event last week. In advance of that session, I did a short interview addressing five questions posed by Amanda Blyth, publications manager for the association of Iron and Steel Technology. The questions were in the areas of energy, digital transformation, sustainability, skills needed in 2030, and remote work. The interview can be viewed below. Note: I misspoke during the interview. When addressing the skillset question, I for some reason reversed our left and right brain characteristics. It is our right-brain that houses those characteristics that make us distinctly human.

What Does A Recent Trend Study Tells Us About The Future?

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trend study during SXSW. I just finished getting through this very comprehensive installment. In announcing this year’s report, Founder Amy Webb had this to say:

The cataclysmic events of the past year resulted in a significant number of new signals. As a result, we’ve analyzed nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. Rather than squeezing the trends into one enormous tome as we usually do, we are instead publishing 12 separate reports with trends grouped by subject. We are including what we’ve called Book Zero, which shows how we did our work. There is also an enormous, 504-page PDF with all content grouped together as one document.

Well, Amy was not kidding, there is quite a bit to digest. The 12 separate reports referenced can be downloaded Here. As I do with each look into the future, I captured some highlights from this year’s trend study. I will start however with an important observation that Amy made in the opening of the report.

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What Does 250 Years of Innovation History Say About Our Future?

“Without good stories to help us envision something very different from the present, we humans are easily stuck in our conventional mental programming.”

Per Espen Stoknes

That quote captures a phenomenon that has plagued humans throughout history. In a recent article, Per Espen Stoknes looks at 250 Years of Innovation and what it reveals about the future. History is indeed very revealing, a fact that explains why Futurists spend so much time in the past. Whether it is the Uncanny Similarities to the 1920’s or other Lessons from History, applying history is very instructive. That quote speaks to a status quo bias that has existed in every age. As the article’s author describes, we have a strong emotional bias that prefers the current state of affairs over change. That bias now hampers our response to an ecologically destructive future. The article views the topic through this lens.

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Sustainability: Not Just Talk Anymore

Sustainability is not a new topic. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have been in place since 2015 and were adopted by 193 countries. At the heart of these goals lies our desire to advance our Human Development. We may be in a better position to do so now then we have in quite some time. In fact, History tells us that the last time we experienced a period of great human development spanned the century from 1870 to 1970. While there have been notable efforts to realize these U.N. goals, progress has been slow. Let’s take energy as an example. It is a big part of the sustainability story and the Future of Energy has been discussed for years. However, progress towards that future has been slow. That could all change in the next decade. Several forces are Converging to accelerate the path of energy. One of those forces is a shift in orientation to purpose:

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Transforming The Energy Paradigm

Yesterday, I Wrote about the speed at which change is likely to occur this century. Paradigm shifts will happen regularly, in stark contrast to the past, where paradigms had a long shelf life. From health and education to energy and transport, paradigms will shift. The energy transition is big discussion topic today, and rightfully so. The most transformative periods in history have been tied to energy transitions. While renewable energy dominates the dialog, rapid increase in energy demand can negate those gains. This short video captures parts of this dialog. Visit this YouTube Channel to join the discussion.

Transforming The Energy Paradigm

The most transformative periods in history are linked to eras of energy transition. The most impactful was the emergence of fossil fuels. What does that say about what lies ahead? Have we entered a period of energy transition, and if so, are we on the cusp of another highly transformative period? Energy is just one piece of a very disruptive decade ahead – but it is perhaps the biggest piece. As we Accelerate Towards a new energy paradigm, what can we expect? One thing is certain: there are societal and geopolitical implications to consider.

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The New Map

I just finished another book and added it to my Library. Author Daniel Yergin explores the convergence of energy, climate change, and a world where an existing power is confronted by an emerging power. The New Map helps us understand global dynamics, historical perspectives, the entrenched role of oil and gas, the forces that are driving an energy transition, and the impact of a raging pandemic.

Daniel Yergin is a highly respected authority on energy, international politics, and economics, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author. He is vice chairman of IHS Markit, one of the leading information and research firms in the world, a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior trustee of the Brookings Institution, and has served on the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board under the last four presidential administrations.

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