Friday, May 18, 2007

Vision 2020

Sonia Ambreen

The other day while at a technology meeting, someone characterized me as my company's resident visionary. Being a visionary is not all its cracked up to be. You have to be optimistic and yet at the same time, realistic about the progress that humankind is capable of.

Today, I had a working lunch with a board member of the Renewable Energy Association I co-founded 20 something years ago. As chair of the Vision 2020 Committee, I have so far limited the Committee's activities to a fine night of dining and drinking and talking.

It was a good night with everyone having their chance to speak their piece. Having done that though, the board thought we needed something a little less ethereal.

Here is my first shot at the Vision 2020 Statement. It should not be confused with the end product that the board will ultimately adopt.

Vision 2020 Version 2.1

One would be tempted to say that the world of energy is changing as it has never changed before. And perhaps it is true that the combined global forcing agents of climate change and looming resource depletion will cause a sea change in the energy world that has not been seen for a century, if ever.

There are many in the energy business who have watched the petroleum based infrastructure of the transportation sector and the carbon based stationary generation sector remain somewhat a technological constant during their entire careers.

Combined cycle plants and combustion turbines have constantly improved their heat rates, just as many automotive manufacturers have constantly improved their mileage and power. There have been thousands of advancements over the last 80 years in both sectors, but, in the big picture, nothing has really changed.

Electric companies still make electricity the same way they always have, and car companies still make cars pretty much the same way they always did.

A seasoned energy professional would therefore find it pretty hard to believe that things are going to drastically change in these sectors. But the seasoned Ferrier in the early part of the last century probably had a hard time imagining that his trade was on the verge of extinction.

Things do change, and every now and then they change a lot, and they change in a hurry. It is this vision of change that drives the following Vision 2020 statement.

Vision 2020 Version 2.1

In the next 20 years, we envision the following:

The World will initiate efforts to curb global warming first through cap and trade measures, then it will inact a global carbon emission premium as cap and trade programs fail to achieve the required reductions.

Some governments will initiate carbon controls and they will attempt to regulate the carbon emissions of individuals and companies through emission allotments.

World trade will be complicated and constrained by these various carbon emission regimes.

National Renewable Energy Portfolio requirements will be inacted which will call for perhaps 25% of all energy to come from Renewable Energy.

Existing State Renewable Energy Portfolio requirements will continue to be amended and increased.

Wind Energy will enjoy unprecedented growth into the next decade.

Biomass energy will begin to compete and grow in market share in the very near term.

More and more smart grid control systems will emerge providing even more efficient use of the electric infrastructure.

Telecommuting and telework will grow as the "office" morphs into a virtual office as we redefine our work habits.

Large scale solar plants will begin to be deployed by the end of this decade and they will become the energy of choice for the next 10 years.

Advanced second and third generation distributed solar will be deployed by utilities and end users at growth rates that will overcome all other energy sources by 2020.

After 2020, all new energy will be photonic.

At that point, a Unified Photonic Energy Web, complete with large scale capacitance, will emerge. It will unite the transportation sector with the electric sector, and all other forms of carbon energy will be decomissioned and phased out.

And the age of carbon will have ended."

I suspect that there will be a few folks on that board that may have something to say about this. Some will want windpower to last until every last hillside is covered. Some will want biomass and biofuels to continue, even as the need for food becomes critical. Some will want to build solar power plants past 2020 even though their time will have passed.

But in my view, if we are going to make it, this is the road we need to take.

Version 2.2 is still in the hatchery.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a futurist, but in my opinion space will play a role in the future energy market.


4:19 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

There have been some pretty interesting space energy projects suggested over the years.

Of course, an advanced civilization would be in space and use it for more than just communication, weather watching, and spying on each other.

Large Scale Solar arrays will work just fine in space.

They will also work just fine down here.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of these predictions sound right on target.

The historical resistance to energy change is great. George Monbiot talking about his new book today on Democracy Now said that modern cars average 21 miles per gallon. The 1908 Model T got 25 mpg. He says that in 100 years we've gone backwards.

Change is here. It has been building over the last decade.

So how do we lessen the friction and resistence to adoption? TKR

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

succinct and right on.

somewhere between a hope and a prayer. SP

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

comments are not working on the above piece. what's up?

anyway... great piece. Ms

3:30 PM  

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