Thursday, September 25, 2014

Electic Cars Spreading Faster Than Ebola

There are now more than 100,000 electric cars on America's roads. Two and a half years ago that number was just 345. That's an increase of 28,986% - a faster growth rate than Ebola which is currently doubling every 2-3 weeks.

This is a game-changer for transport and for electricity generation. Suddenly everyone realises that Elon Musk isn't in the transport business - he's in the battery business. His Tesla car was just a stepping stone to a much bigger idea - the idea that storage is the holy grail of clean energy.

Canny financial analysts can see this coming. Elizabeth Fry writing for Platinum Asset Management, says
Elon Musk’s plans to develop the Gigafactory are one of the most exciting stories around. He's putting himself front and centre of this move to use solar as a reliable source of power for everything from cars to aircraft. Everyone is going to need batteries. Tesla's plans to disrupt a trillion dollar car industry as well as a trillion dollar electric utility industry, stops and starts with producing cheap battery packs that allow solar energy to be discharged at night. No question, Musk has his eyes on more than cars. The car market is just the first hurdle.
Until now, discussion about the transition to clean energy has mostly been locked up in the domains of environment or science/technology, so it's great to see it spreading to the area of finance and investment. Now I want to see these discussions spread further and occupy space in domains like health, justice and economics.

As they say, the Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stones. Right now the Age of Coal is ending - and it's not because we've run out of coal. It's because something better has come along.

How do we stop things that spread exponentially? Governments are committing a lot of resources to stop the spread of Ebola. Similarly, incumbent industries are trying to hold back the flood of clean energy technology. Smart governments need to prevent this.
The US government worked with the car industry to announce policies that will limit CO2 emissions from cars. With the car industry onside and sensible policy settings, electric vehicles are thriving in America.

In Australia it's a very different story. Australia's clean energy uptake is struggling against the headwinds created by incumbents supported by national and state governments that prefer to stay in the Stone Age.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah acted on flood warnings

The IPCC's warning rings loud and clear in their report on the impact of climate change. They find that climate change is already being felt in all corners of the globe and some parts of the natural world may already be undergoing irreversible change.

The prudent response is to reduce the risk of further damage, get out of harm's way, or prepare for the worst. 

Noah prepared for the worst, but most of our leaders can't quite get their heads around the problem. Progressives are moving forward timidly, conservatives prefer to look to the past rather than the future, and those in thrall to fossil fuel incumbents are busy denying there's any problem at all.

Instead, the incumbents have managed (quite successfully) to cast doubt over specific and detailed forecasts to suggest that the risk either does not exist, or can be safely ignored - as though people should decide not to insure their house because the insurer couldn’t tell them when and how damage might occur.

As the effects of climate change begin to bite more sharply, perhaps we'll all move along the spectrum – progressives will adopt urgency, conservatives will move forward carefully, and the fossil-fuel incumbents will do an about-turn and cast about for a way to be relevant in the new clean energy future.

The sooner we all act like Noah and take the warnings seriously, the less damage we'll cause. And that will be good for the millions who live in low-lying river deltas. Millions of Bangladeshis who have nowhere else to go will be able to stay home. And wouldn't that be a good thing, especially for governments who are allergic to the thought of a million little arks sailing in their direction.