Which Technology Will Most Impact The Future Of Energy? 18 Experts Share Their Insights

  • 29 June 2019
  • Sam Mire

Energy is the lifeblood of the modern world. The world as we know it wouldn't exist were it not for the likes of Tesla and Edison, and the energy sector only grows in importance as emerging nations develop. Modern technologies are invaluable to the security and growth of the energy sector, but which of those technologies is making the greatest impact?

These industry insiders weighed the question and passed along their takes. Here's what they have to say:

1. Steve Hoy, CEO of Enosi Australia

“Let's go with blockchain here to illustrate the

point about the digitalization of energy services.

It's our view that electricity was in fact first ‘digitalized' the day the first-meter reading was written down – or certainly when it was recorded in a computer system. But over the next 5-10 years, a much broader range of services will be handled online and by the participants in the decentralized system (ie homes and businesses around the world).  Blockchain technologies enable this decentralization by providing trustless certainty about energy transactions. This increases the transparency of the elements of electricity costs and prices, leading to maximal competition in each stage of the value chain. It will no longer be possible for (for instance) big generator/retailers to hide margins by shifting costs from generation to distribution or supply.

Blockchains or distributed ledger technologies are being used in Australia to allow community pools and P2P energy trading across an open access grid infrastructure.  End customers are setting their own prices and getting to see exactly where the market lies.  Not only are pockets of rent-seeking being exposed, but a new value is being created. We have one customer who bundles his excess solar production from his coffee roasting factory rooftop direct to his cafe owning customers, effectively selling his coffee with an extract energy boost.  It's brilliant marketing at the local level and shos  the energy is worth more in that trade than a regular feed-in tariff.”

2. François Le Scornet, President of Carbonexit Consulting

Francois Le Scornet“Among the different digitalization topics, the imminent deployment of 5G in the energy sector will be particularly impactful. On one hand, it will boost the deployment of new services around demand response for smart homes, equipped with sensors and smart meters. It will also support the deployment of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) on large production sites and on the Transmission and distribution network. This should result in more effective asset management, e.g. for Operation and maintenance (O&M) leading to fewer and shorter power outages and improved productivity and an even “smarter smart grid'”.

3. Victoria Brodsky, Director at Projects for Transformation

“Of course, blockchain for supply chain management in agriculture to ultimately reduce food waste is a promising trend, but we've yet to see it applied on a large scale. On the other hand, there are already a lot of AI and robotics applications being used to improve efficiencies in areas like microgrid stability, autonomous vehicles, and climate informatics, just to name a few. The key will be ensuring that these technologies do have a real impact, and are not indirectly contributing to climate change in non-obvious ways, and applying them at scale. I think that AI is on its way to doing so.”

4. Brandon Schwarz, CEO of Indeavor

“With the greater need for nuclear power, limitations on shift hours, and a skilled worker shortage, it’s easy to not comply to increasingly tightening NRC and API regulations. Investing in the right workforce management technology, particularly automated scheduling, should be at the top of any energy producer’s priority list. If you still rely on paper-based scheduling, you can accidentally assign an employee too many hours or schedule their shifts too close together. Besides putting the company at risk for fines, you are also putting that employee at risk for drowsiness. Automated scheduling reduces human errors in scheduling to ensure fairness.”

5. Özge Kutun, Business Development & Marketing Specialist at Nanografi 

“Graphene’s electrical conductivity is a thousand times better than copper, and it has a surface area so large that with 5 grams of it, you can cover an entire soccer field. These properties make the “wonder material” an incredible component to include in Li-ion batteries anode to double the capacity, charging 5 times faster, create lighter devices which could also be flexible. Thinking that almost every industry uses Li-ion batteries, and it is expected that by 2040, 54% of all cars will be electric, Graphane induced Li-ion batteries are the future of energy or at least a major part of it.”

6. Mike Bumgardner, PE, Principal at WBM Group

“The latest trend in energy that is currently developing is storage, particularly in batteries. As battery technology has continued to improve and costs begin to come down, energy storage makes more financial sense. From an energy consumption standpoint, batteries allow users to charge during times of low use or low energy rates and use that stored energy during times of high demand or high rates. From an energy producer standpoint, batteries allow utility companies to ride through peaks of high demand without taxing their generation facilities or increasing output. It allows for more stable use of energy. Batteries, when coupled with solar energy also allow users to store energy during the day and use it at night.”

7. Pablo Quintero, CEO at Clean Initiative

“The technology that will have the biggest impact on the energy industry is battery and storage. With utility companies moving towards time of use plans for their residential customers, batteries help reduce peak consumption levels that would otherwise cost the homeowner more than ever on their utility bill. They are also proving to be a lot more reliable than conventional generators in case there are power outages which are becoming increasingly more common. Combining battery technology with solar can be very attractive as it is more affordable than before with faster return on investment.”

8. Jeremy Leggett, Founder and Board Director at Solarcentury

“The biggest disruptor is going to be solar. The Lappeenranta energy scenario I describe above allots 69 percent of global energy supply to solar by 2050. There are many reasons why, beyond its status as the least expensive option, including its ease of use from pico scale to utility scale, its modularity, its efficiency (working adequately under grey skies, if not as well as in the sunbelt), and its suitability to act in strategic harness with other technologies, be it load-matching with wind, night storage with batteries, or pumped storage with hydro.”

9. Michael Hennessy, CEO of Wavelength Lighting

“LED technology has improved rapidly and increasingly become the most impactful solution when it comes to reducing energy consumption. Considering lighting accounts for anywhere from 10-25% of a building's energy use and replacing your existing lighting with LEDs will reduce your energy costs by about 90%, it's a relatively simple renovation project with significant results.”

10. Svein Tveitdal, Director at Klima2020

Solar and Wind will dominate within renewables the first years – later possibly Hydrogen. Land for BioEnergy might be surrendered for food production to feed a growing global population. CCS and new technologies to remove Green House Gases from the atmosphere will be crucial. Nuclear will continue to be part of the solution. The countries and industries that take a lead in investing in the green technology shift will be the future political and economic winners. Taxing pollution – not people – and promote renewable technology will speed up the process.”

11. Mark Ferlatte, CTO of Engineering at Truss

“Ironically, renewable energy. U.S. infrastructure is in a catch-22: climate change has seen the private sector race toward renewable energy, but it has complicated grid management and cybersecurity for electric and gas companies–making it a real challenge for utility companies that want to transition to a future-forward infrastructure. And that will require a huge internal shift at energy companies.”

12. Dr. Binu Parthan, Principal at Sustainable Energy Associates

Energy storage technologies will likely have the biggest impact on the industry. I expect energy utilities and suppliers to deploy electrical storage on the supply side to offset planned investments in electricity generation capacity and consumers – both businesses and homeowners to invest in on-site energy storage. I expect this diffusion of energy storage to be highly disruptive to existing energy business models. The cost of energy storage has been following a downward curve and will be accelerated by planned large-scale investments in battery manufacturing and  availability of second life battery packs from electric vehicles.”

13. Bill McKibben, co-founder and Senior Advisor at 350.org

“Solar panels. They get cheaper and more powerful all the tim–we're still very much on the steep part of the cost reduction curve. They can be employed one rooftop at a time, or in vast arrays. And since batteries are now getting cheap fast, the fact that the sun dips below the horizon at day's end is no longer a deal-breaker (and even less so if you were smart enough to put up some wind turbines too!)”

14. Morgen Henderson, Community Coordinator at Solar Power Authority

“Developments in technology have produced energy-saving gadgets, such as in smart home devices that turn off power to unused devices, and ways to harness natural elements, like wind and solar, and convert it to usable energy. Smart home devices are a well-known example of artificial intelligence in the energy industry, but AI is also used in microgrids to help keep things running smoothly. As AI technology continues to develop, we could see more small-scale, practical uses of it in energy-saving, as well as gather data that will help us gain insights that we can use to fuel decisions and actions concerning energy.”

15. AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond Limits

“Artificial Intelligence will have a significant impact on the energy industry. When machine learning is applied to drilling, information from seismic vibrations, thermal gradients, strata permeability, pressure differentials and more is collected. By analyzing this data, AI software can help geoscientists better assess variables, taking some of the guesswork out of equipment repair and failure, and even help determine potential locations of new wells. AI brings better predictive technology and efficiency and helps companies reach new levels of production without driving costs up.

Our wider vision of AI for the future of energy includes cognitive systems that intelligently and fluently interact with human experts and provide articulate explanations and answers.”

16. John Harper, Media Director at Green Solar Technologies

“Solar also has universal appeal on the political spectrum which further eliminates any impedance for growth as liberals embrace the positive environmental impact that replacing fossil fuel with clean renewable energy brings while the fact that solar energy will, one the average save homeowners $18,000 in energy costs of the life of the system has a strong appeal to conservatives.”

17. Bret Kugelmass, CEO of Energy Impact Center

“Nuclear is the only technology powerful enough for us to provide energy for a growing world, eliminate all air pollutants, AND sequester existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Historically, it's been handicapped by misinformation, antiquated radiation standards, and construction malpractice. But that's all changing. The accident at Fukushima proved a meltdown isn't a hazard to human health; environmentalists have done a 180 recognizing air pollution and heavy metals to be a far greater threat than radiation; there are 50+ startups in the US charging forward with innovative designs, and international demand is through the roof.”

18. Andrew G. Swapp, MS ETE, Director of Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College 

“I am in the Wind industry, as an instructor at a small community college, and as much as I would like to say wind will be the big mover and shaker I hesitate because of an ancient technology re-envisioned that kept people warm in the winter and cool in the summer before electricity was captured and harnessed for that purpose. As fast as wind and solar are moving I would seem foolish to say that passive solar and earth building will be what shapes energy in 2019 and beyond.”

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About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.