Debates about energy should address what we should do, versus what we can do. Very few people take pleasure in polluting the planet, but there are limitations to renewable energy sources that leave us dependent on fossil fuels with environmentally harmful byproducts. What does this mean for our future as people who need to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time?
These industry insiders share their insights on what the future of energy will look like:
1. Steve Hoy, CEO of Enosi Australia
“Today's $1.6 Trillion electricity industry will gobble up the $10 Trillion overall energy industry, but it will do so through even greater decentralization – towards the edge of our power grids, and in a vast array of mobile electricity devices, drawing from renewable sources.
As demand shifts towards these energy services, the business models of the past will no longer suit. We believe entities other than specialist power corporations will find ways to provide these decentralized services in conjunction with the core business. Electricity will be ‘distributed' by those who can extract the most value from the commodity – Car manufacturers will charge your EV, your local school might provide solar power to the neighborhood, solar households might share with others less fortunate.”
2. Svein Tveitdal, Director at Klima2020
“The future of energy is definitively renewable. While the fossil industry will continue to fight to avoid “stranded assets”, climate science will make it clearer and clearer for the public – with young people as a driving force – that emissions have to stop. The politicians are squeezed in the middle. As the need for a much faster green energy shift becomes clearer to avoid full climate catastrophe – the marked for emission-free energy solutions will increase dramatically. The big struggle that will dominate the development to come will be on the pace of the shift to renewables.”
3. Victoria Brodsky, Director at Projects for Transformation
“The future of energy is the convergence of energy and the latest technology to promote sustainability across the spectrum of energy. The powerful energy, water, and agriculture companies around the world are realizing that the threat of climate change is a serious threat to not only human health and prosperity, but it's also directly related to their business economics.”
4. Pablo Quintero, CEO at Clean Initiative
“What we know definitively about the future of energy is we must move away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas as they are the primary sources of greenhouse emissions. The question still remains that if we are to stop using fossil fuels for our energy, what should replace them?
Nuclear energy is an alternative, but the risk of a reactor overheating can cause other problems that can be catastrophic. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar produce little to no global warming emissions, in addition, is creating safer jobs for our society’s labor force. In California, our goal is to produce 50% of our power from renewable energy by 2025 and 100% by 2045.”
5. Bill McKibben, co-founder and Senior Advisor at 350.org
“Sun and wind — because they're ubiquitous and cheap, and because they're the fastest way to deal with the climate emergency now overwhelming us.”
6. Morgen Henderson, Community Coordinator at Solar Power Authority
“Climate change is a growing concern and many people are now realizing how much we, as humans, impact our earth. Individuals, communities, and entire nations are implementing initiatives to reduce our impact on the environment. As such, we're seeing a big push for renewable energy. Some countries are pushing to phase out non-renewable energy resources and use only renewable energy. For example, Costa Rica has gone for hundreds of consecutive days at a time relying solely on renewable energy. I believe more and more countries will follow Costa Rica's example in the future, making renewable energy the norm.”
7. Brandon Schwarz, CEO of Indeavor
“Efforts to increase sustainability will only become more apparent. There is sure to be a greater focus on nuclear power, the most efficient and clean source there is. With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission providing strict guidelines for both fitness-for-duty programs and limitations on the number of hours an employee can work in a 24-hour period, however, these (albeit vital) workforce protections will inevitably lead to a complication in each organization’s scheduling process. Forecasting will need to be more accurate so the right number of workers are on site to hit their demands.”
8. Mike Bumgardner, PE, Principal at WBM Group
“The future trend that is developing in energy is related to microgrids and distributed power. We are experiencing an increase in requests to design entire communities that have their own localized renewable energy and storage systems. This allows the community to produce and use their own power without relying on external energy providers.”
9. Michael Hennessy, CEO of Wavelength Lighting
“The future of energy can be summed up in two words: sustainable and renewable. Implementing technologies that are sustainable, that serve the needs of those using the technology, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, will be crucial when determining where we should focus our time—and our money. In line with that, renewable resources, like wind and solar power, are certainly the way forward when it comes to where our energy comes from.”
10. Keith Phillips, CEO of Piedmont Lithium
“The future of energy is paired with the future of transportation. For over a century, gasoline and diesel have powered how we drive. But we are now seeing a very rapid change to electric vehicles. Bloomberg estimates that by 2040 – just 20 years from now – some 56 million electric vehicles will be in use, which will comprise a majority of global passenger car sales.
Lithium-ion batteries power electric vehicles, along with all kinds of
everyday gadgets we now take for granted, which makes lithium a fuel source growing in importance.”
John Harper, Media Director at Green Solar Technologies
“The future of energy is definitely with clean, sustainable and renewable energy and in particular solar. Solar energy is enjoying explosive growth as both homeowners, as well as those in industry, are understanding the many money savings benefits of investing in a solar system that increases your property value and saves thousands over time when compared to paying ever-increasing utility rates to the electric company which has zero return.”
12. Matthias Alleckna, Associate at EnergyRates.ca
“The future of energy in the decades ahead will be a combination of clean energy with traditional energy sources. Actually, natural gas is going to be a vital source in the energy transition. Many studies point out that a great part of the clean energy industry will have to rely on natural gas in the next decades to generate more renewable energy. We can see that there is a shift in the way people perceive fossil fuels, but it will probably take some time until the energy industry goes net-zero.”
13. François Le Scornet, President of Carbonexit Consulting
“I strongly believe that the energy sector decentralization, decarbonization, and digitalization megatrends will progress further. New business models experimentations will emerge in the power sector with the increase of behind-the-meter power generation by prosumers, more and more smart meters, maturing blockchain projects, e-mobility development, etc. Because digitalization acts as an enabler for the decarbonization and decentralization trends in the energy and power generation sectors, this trend is particularly important to analyze.”
14. Dr. Binu Parthan, Principal at Sustainable Energy Associates
“I expect a major shift towards low-carbon energy sources and an increased share and role for electricity in the energy sector. There will be an increased share of renewable energy generation in the energy mix, led by solar and followed by wind. This shift will be driven by electrification of transport ( starting with vehicle fleets) and increased use of electrical appliances – air-conditioning, cooking, etc. Climate change and environmental concerns will drive these changes and will be reflected in policies and regulations by governments and influence the direction of development of the energy industry.”
15. Jeremy Leggett, Founder and Board Director at Solarcentury
“It is going to be 100 percent renewable. The best piece of energy futurology that I know of so far was published on by a team at the Lappeenranta Technical University in April this year. It shows that 1.5˚C Paris-compliant zero-greenhouse gas energy from power, heat, transport and desalination sectors is possible, globally, before 2050. The model used computes the cost-optimal mix of technologies, based on existing locally available renewables, i.e. no further innovation assumed, and the assumption that is conservative to the point of silliness. This energy system – modeled hourly, globally, for the first time – is lower cost than current global supply.”
16. Adam Chapman, EngTech MCIPHE RP RHP, Director of VitoEnergy
“Hydrogen makes up 75% of all matter in the known universe. Being a gas it's cheap to transport, and the only byproduct of converting this into power is heat and water, both again useful.
Work is already underway testing the conversion of the natural gas grid in the UK under the ‘HyDeploy' program which is testing spiking the grid with up to 20% hydrogen. Prior to this, the HVAC giant Viessmann has been using excess solar in summer months to convert water into pure hydrogen and feeding this back into the grid albeit at much lower concentrations.”
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