The Inevitable Disruption of Energy and Transport

By 15 January, 2018 No Comments

Predicting the future isn’t always difficult. You just need to model the past and apply it to the world we’re living in, then follow the curve and project where we’ll end up.

Every major technological transition has the same features of adoption and disruption – the Gutenberg press vs scribes, the iPhone vs Nokia and Motorola, the Ford Model T vs the horse and carriage. The same applies to the energy industry and the internal combustion engine.

There’s a cumulative effect when you combine technological convergence, s-shaped adoption curves, and business model innovations. The factors aren’t simply additive, as our linear brains instinctively predict. Rather, they’re multipliers that compound to give us exponential advances and bring the distant future into the near term.

It’s the reason why the price of offshore wind fell by half in under 2 years – when multiple levers act together, we get an other-worldly rate of progress.

These disruptive technologies tend to follow ever-shorter adoption curves, due to the network effects of the internet, cloud computing, and global collaboration. There’s a virtuous cycle where a 10X drop in costs can drive demand, increase adoption, and result in further technological innovation and reduced costs.

Stanford University futurist Tony Seba has spent decades studying technological disruptions. In this fascinating talk, he draws from the patterns of the past to predict the near future of disruption, as it applies in particular to solar PV and transportation.

Citing the case-studies of companies like Apple,  Uber, and Airbnb, Seba projects the progress of companies like Tesla and arrives at a bullish conclusion where multiple exponential technologies like Lithium-ion battery storage, solar power, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles combine to eradicate demand for fossil fuels in the next decade.