Our members had a special treat this week, with an exclusive chat with Chief Futurist and Partner at Prime Movers Lab. Investor in Climate and Deep Tech. Speaker and Author on Energy, Innovation, and Technology, Ramez Naam.
We asked member and huge fan of Ramez, Alex Logan to give us his take on the event.
I have been a Ramez Naam fan since he spoke at SingularityU Australia Summit in 2018. It was refreshing to see that Ramez has maintained consistent messaging and continues to have high conviction on the future of energy. His graphs with actuals against predictions get crazier every time I hear him talk.
Key themes from his talk and discussion with members:
Future of Energy / Energy Disruption
- We’ve always thought clean energy would be more expensive than dirty energy. But, now it looks like clean energy will be the cheapest energy, and that changes the world.
- The energy transition will be a long process. It will take multiple decades to transition a 6 trillion-dollar industry. We won’t do that overnight, but we really have hit that point, with wind a few years ago, and with solar in just the last 12 months.
- Wrights law: As industries scale, they innovate to reduce costs
- New tech Flywheel: New technology is expensive, but if you get new markets + demand rises + price falls... which leads to new markets. The flywheel effect
The power of technology
- Solar panels that we deployed a decade ago were maybe 15% efficient, now they’re 20 or 21% commercially, and the very best in research are 50%.
- The very lowest cost electricity contract anywhere in the world has been solar, on multiple occasions.
- Where was solar first deployed at scale - Germany! Which is bizarre considering it has some of the lowest rates of potential in comparison to sunny locations such as Australia.
- Solar power isn’t alone. Solar is getting cheaper the fastest, but wind power has also become much more affordable, and much steadier.
- Now we build these giant wind turbines that are 130, 140 meters tall, and as we’ve move into higher elevations, the wind blows steadier and the wind blows faster, so you get more power.
- There's also innovation with building floating wind turbines to support deep seabed regions (such as Japan)
- Energy storage, also, has dropped in price by 95% over the last 20 years. And if it drops in price, that’s a 20 times price reduction, if it drops in price another 5 or 10 times, we will truly be able to store massive amounts of sun and wind.
- We need to be able to transmit energy over continent-size areas and we need to be able to store energy for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
Some key points that I took away from Q&A:
Policy in a start ups flywheel
- Throughout the presentation Ramez referred to the "flywheel" for clean tech start ups. It included "policy" as an element. Ramez suggested that this element is part of his decision making as an investor and advisor. "I look for sectors where there is clear policy momentum around the technology. This is obvious in clean electricity right now."
- Despite this, it seems hard to nail down whether this should be in start-up's strategy based on the time horizons Ramez mentioned (+5 years).
- There was a great question about what excites Ramez about the opportunity for increased consumer demand and advocacy, alongside increased supply. Ramez mentioned he tends not to back opportunities that require the consumer to make a sophisticated change as it can be extremely difficult and expensive to change behaviour at scale.
- Ramez is very excited the impact of ideas catalysed through large corporates in a B2B2C model. Enabling this through business partnerships can support scale and impact - AfterPay and Patch partnership are a great examples of this.
Alex Logan is Co-Founder of Cecil, a climate tech startup building software to simplify the development, management and monitoring of nature-based projects, natural capital.