Energy Sector Disruptors

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“One cannot change an existing system; one must create a new system that makes the old system obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller.

Implications of Climate Change on the Energy Sector
Energy sector analysts expect the next decade to see incredible disruption. The potential for emerging technologies to galvanize a shift away from fossil and nuclear fuels has never been greater. Simultaneously, according to many researchers the mission is already quite literally and certainly impossible. We are just 2 minutes to midnight in what researchers are calling the Anthropocene, Plutocene, or sixth mass extinction. GreenBiz author, Nigel Topping, sums it up as follows, “the need to act on climate change is the greatest potential cause of disruption faced by new and established businesses alike, and is also the greatest catalyst for innovation for those willing to harness it.”

Accenture is a multinational Fortune Global 500 company that provides services in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Accenture has developed a Disruptability Index to better understand the current level of disruption in the industries they serve and their susceptibility to disruption in the future. They discovered that the energy sector sits high in the volatility quadrant, where historic strengths can become areas of weaknesses. Out of 20 industries assessed, the energy sector rated as the most susceptible to future disruption (see chart):

According to on Implications of Climate Change for the Energy Sector:

  • Energy demand is increasing globally, causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy sector also to increase. The trend is set to continue, driven primarily by economic growth and the rising population.
  • Climate change presents increasing challenges for energy production and transmission. A progressive temperature increase, an increasing number and severity of extreme weather events and changing precipitation patterns will affect energy production and delivery. The supply of fossil fuels, and thermal and hydropower generation and transmission, will also be affected. However, adaptation options exist.
  • Significant cuts in GHG emissions from energy can be achieved through a variety of measures.
  • Incentivising investment in low-carbon technologies will be a key challenge for governments and regulators to achieve carbon reduction targets. Reducing GHG emissions also brings important co-benefits such as improved health and employment, but supply-side mitigation measures also carry risks.

Scientists, journalists, writers and researchers from many fields are proclaiming that solving the climate crisis means solving the energy crisis. It is clear that we will need energy solutions that can crack potentially the most impossible problem humanity has ever faced. This will require visionary systems thinkers who can implement just-in-time tech that brings about the end of big oil against all odds. Certainly, we must be realistic about what we are up against here. Four out of nine planetary boundaries have already been crossed as a result of human activity along with numerous other tipping points, according to an international team of 18 researchers that includes Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego Distinguished Climate and Atmospheric Scientist, Veerabhadran Ramanathan.

At the same time, we must also take care that being realistic doesn’t mean that we “stop being ambitious,” because “this kind of realism, applied to the climate and ecological emergencies, sends the message that we’re screwed,” says Guy Dauncey, author of Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible.

“Spiritually and emotionally it’s not in my makeup to accept defeat, so I have a problem with this, especially before we’ve even begun the rapid transition needed to tackle the climate emergency.” – Guy Dauncey

In this article in The Tyee, “OK Doomer,” Guy Dauncey introduces us to futuristic ways of thinking about integrating smart cities, renewables, the coming disruptions, and green energy economies. He says, “taken together, walkable cities, cycling, transit, EVs, heat pumps and Passive Homes offer an 80 to 90-per-cent energy descent without a single comfortable life being wrecked. So enough with the fear mongering.”

The Edge of Disruption
Another future thinker, Tony Seba is the author of “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”, “Solar Trillions” and “Winners Take All.” He is a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and an instructor in Entrepreneurship, Disruption and Clean Energy at Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. Seba says we are now on the edge of disruption (video) across the energy sector with never before thought possible technologies about to enter the picture.

The new tech, says Seba, will happen for purely economic reasons in the current market system. Seba says, just ask yourself, why do businesses automate? It’s simple, they do this in order to lower their marginal costs of operation. This is the cost to produce an additional unit after the fixed costs of infrastructure.  In the following video lecture, Seba introduces the new world of lost cost, clean energy disruption set to automate the future:

Further according to Seba, “overwhelming evidence points in one clear direction:  the industrial age of energy and transportation will be over by 2030. Exponentially improving technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, and autonomous (self-driving) cars will transform the energy and transportation industries as we know it. This disruption is inevitable and it will be swift. This is the clean disruption of energy and transportation” (video). As we transition into the digital autonomous era over the next decade things are projected to get cheaper to produce. As this trend permeates the value chains of our society we are rapidly approaching a new economic reality where these costs are approaching zero. That is what will drive profits today; not increased consumer buying power.

Learn more:

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  • 1:25 pm Feb. 8, 2020 – S. Cairns – (Updated terminology discussing TVP topics.)
  • 2:15 pm Nov. 8, 2019 – S. Cairns – (Updated and organized Early Disruptors page content, split long sections into 2 separate posts.)
  • 10:30 am Nov 3, 2019 – S. Cairns – (Updated and organized Early Disruptors page content, added JHAT videos and updated graphics.)
  • 9:45 pm Oct 31 , 2019 – S. Cairns – (Updated and organized Early Disruptors page, added resources and discussion.)
  • 7:15 pm Sept, 29 , 2019 – S. Cairns – (Added Early Disruptors page, introductory content outlines, and menu items and content write up. Please note: that this article was written with the assistance of energy sector analyst Dave Froman.)

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Note: This page is in a work in progress which will be constantly updated as with all wiki pages. It aims to introduce the topic of early energy sector disruption technologies as they are related to climate change.

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