Innovation Creates Energy Opportunities

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Geoff Cutmore, Squawk Box anchor for CNBC and host of Energy Opportunities highlights the thoughts of some of the key voices in energy innovation.

With a growing global population, growth in energy use is inevitable. Experts are grappling for the best way to manage resources, often adopting new technologies to increase the production of low carbon fuel sources. This is no easy task and something that is one of the principal challenges being discussed on Energy Opportunities, a global brainstorm to explore the energy options of the future.

Sachs on bringing sustainable energy to the developing world

In building for a sustainable future, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University recently argued that there is no development without electricity. He noted that well over a billion people worldwide have no access to electricity and that until they do, they won’t be able to access high living standards or sustained economic growth.

Sachs finds energy solutions for the world a vast challenge – mainly because we need energy supplies that are secure, but also environmentally safe and low in carbon emissions. This transition to a low carbon economy for the world means the mobilization of new technologies and new kinds of energy sources.

Sachs does however note that there is a clear opportunity for developing countries to build systems that generate electricity from scratch in an environmentally friendly manner. Again, this is by no means an easy proposition. Mobilizing technology, re-thinking systems, global financing and social policies that bridge the gap between the rich and the poor are all pieces of a complex mix. But the puzzle needs to be solved, because it is crucial to global development.

Bazerman on clearing the hurdles to innovation

Innovation will play a key role in improving the world’s approach to energy, but as Max Bazerman, Professor at Harvard University and the Harvard Business School, recently pointed out there are many psychological barriers to action in this area. Scientists and policy makers have come up with great ideas to improve energy efficiency; Bazerman notes three problems in the way of progress :

1. Research demonstrates that people far too often focus their attentions on short term considerations, despite contentions that they want to leave the world in a good condition for future generations.

2. We interpret events in a self-serving manner that leads us to expect others to do more to solve energy problems. For example, emerging nations blame the west for its excessive energy consumption; while the US government blames China and India for failing to adopt smarter energy innovations

3. Positive illusions lead us to think that energy problems don’t exist or are not severe enough for us to action. In other words we stick our heads in the sand. These illusions are responsible for reducing the quality of the decision making in how to innovate and improve the situation through new technologies.

This calls for us to recognize and overcome barriers to action and encourage leaders to remove these challenges so that the fundamental changes can be made to the way we approach energy technology.

Lomborg on innovating the price of green technologies

The price of innovation is another key concern. With politicians incentivised to meet minimum emission targets, Bjørn Lomborg, Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, has recently pointed out that we could be wasting large sums of money on reducing carbon emissions by only a few tonnes rather than preparing for a truly low carbon future. A small number of solar panels and wind turbines may be a step in the right direction, but do not provide a full response to how sustainable clean energy solutions can be properly applied.

Innovating the price of green technology would help prevent this from continuing. The best way to make this happen is to stop investment in ineffective policies that have been followed for the past twenty years and look at allocating more resource into scientific research that breed game changing solutions.

Understanding the barriers to innovation

There is clearly an opportunity to innovate the way energy production and consumption is managed. However the first step in making new sustainable, low carbon alternatives a reality is understanding the very barriers that are preventing innovative solutions from being adopted on a widespread basis.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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