"Is the Mass Market Holding us Back in Energy Innovation?"
A talk for IEEE, Austin by Joel Greenberg, Tech2energy.com.
In this talk, I take on the requirement by many status quo energy commentators that new technologies must scale in order for them to be considered as solutions to our energy problems.
It's my belief that they use the argument to actually damp innovation and therefore, retain their status quo position.
For example, gasoline didn't scale when it was emerging from being just a waste product in the second half of the 1800's. Indeed, the gasoline engine didn't scale when car designers in the 1890's, 1900's, and 1910's were choosing between gasoline, diesel, steam, or batteries for propulsion.
If scale was the main requirement for bringing the gasoline engine into the market in the early 1900's, we may still be driving Stanley Steamers in 2010.
In the talk, I discuss appropriate analogies from computers and telecom that may be useful to apply to energy. Looking back over the past 30 years, we can see times when the status quo was clearly about to change, even though the change wasn't so clear for those in the industry at that time. I argue that because of the confluence of economics, huge innovation in energy that hasn't been seen in a hundred years, and cultural factors that contribute to behavior change, we're almost at one of those inflection points in history.
The main idea is the future doesn't have to be like the present. With a combination of technology, economics, policy, and behavior change, how we use and produce energy in the next 10-30 years could be somewhat to significantly different than how we do so today.
To begin the presentation, I asked this simple question, "How many of you think that we have the best possible energy system today?"
It's a nice way to kick off the discussion.