Renowned innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that within 20 years we will have our energy problem licked.
It’s solved. We just don’t know it yet. As he told Lauren Fenny of PBS: “One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. If you buy an iPhone today, it’s twice as good as two years ago for half that cost. That is happening with solar energy — it is doubling every two years…Every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world.
Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly — we are only a few years away from parity. And then it’s going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don’t care at all about the environment, because of the economics.
So right now it’s at half a percent of the world’s energy. People tend to dismiss technologies when they are half a percent of the solution. But doubling every two years means it’s only eight more doublings before it meets a hundred percent of the world’s energy needs. So that’s 16 years. We will increase our use of electricity during that period, so add another couple of doublings: In 20 years we’ll be meeting all of our energy needs with solar, based on this trend which has already been under way for 20 years.”
Of course, there are huge integration and storage issues that will need to be addressed. But his point about solar echoes what has occurred with “green” technologies such as the Prius. Consumer Reports recently found the Prius to have the lowest cost of ownership of any car. People buy it “because of the economics.” Similar things are happening with electric vehicles. Motor Trend just named the Tesla Model S it’s car of the year, and competitive in price with other luxury car peers. “At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel.” For Motor Trend, the environmental benefits are beside the point.
The same process is happening with LED lighting. Once the limited province of Cree and a few others, the technology is now rapidly moving into the marketplace in the hands of Siemens, Philips, and GE, and it has gone mainstream. In fact, global LED lighting sales grew from $2.7 bn in 2008 to $9.4 bn in 2011.
That’s what happens with good technologies.
via Forbes – Peter Kelly-Detwiler
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